November 2015. In the autumn of 2015 I flew to Cambodia to take up a teaching post in the city of Siem Reap. It’s safe to say I was more than a little wary of what awaited me, as the job posting had been nothing more than a Facebook ad, while the principal who’d interviewed me seemed… how can I put this… a bit of a character. But what the heck, I’d never shied away from taking a step into the unknown. Happily the character picked me up from the airport and that very afternoon we swung by F.B. International School with its vast open playground and kids in red and white uniforms.
November 2015. That teaching job turned out to be a real eye-opener for me. I’d heard about these kind of TEFL gigs, but had never experienced a cowboy school first hand. The facilities were pretty miserable to say the least, with cavernous undecorated classrooms, broken desks, ripped seats and air con units unfit for purpose. The silver lining though was the mostly wonderful kids, a playful, happy-go-lucky bunch who I quickly built a strong bond with.
November 2015. I’d never had a teaching job where I was required to wear a suit in thirty-degree heat. It had also been a few years since I’d had to drag myself out of bed at the crack of dawn Welcome to the real world, eh? After my years in China dealing with beginners, it was also weird to be teaching grammar again and conversing with kids who could actually carry a conversation! I’ll never forget this little guy Hokheng, AKA President Silly, a mischievous, bright-eyed little scamp with a thirst for knowledge and perhaps an even greater hunger for winding me up with the most hilarious questions and wrong-end-of-the-stick observations.
November 2015. A special word goes out to my Cambodian co-teacher Lorn, one of the kindest, most considered people I’ve ever met. My arrival can’t have been easy on Lorn, after all he’d been doing a great job teaching my classes and then suddenly found himself relegated to the role of assistant. Luckily the two of us proved to be a great team and our triumphant swansong came preparing the kids for their group oral presentations in front of the whole school. So much blood, sweat and tears went into those rehearsals: helping the kids choose a subject, building their vocabulary, fine-tuning pronunciation, coaching a sense of performance. In the end they absolutely nailed it with the best presentations of the day, even if I say so myself 😉
November 2015. I could write a book on my short two months at F.B. International School and indeed one day I will be documenting those crazy days in detail with the addition of my Cambodian short stories to the LL archives. From my borderline psychotic boss and his mass firings, to the school’s ridiculous rules and late salary payments there was never a dull moment. This last photo is of my final end-of-term class where I treated the kids to a viewing of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I’d ordered two large cakes from a local bakery and one girl brought in a tub of home-cooked fried chicken. Looking back I can’t help but feel that I let those kids down by leaving so quickly. If I could go back and complete the year, suck up all the madness I had to deal with… I would. If you’re reading this guys I’m so sorry, you deserved better.
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