By Shalia and Chance, Teachers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
How are your students?
Shalia: I like my students a lot. Currently, I teach Kindergarten 1, which are 4-5 year olds. They all have their own personalities and fill my class with laughter and energy. Their English is very good and they love to tell me what words in English are in Khmer.
Chance: I am currently teaching 3rd grade. They are full of energy and the things they say are very funny. They are very fluent in English and are very intelligent. They are also very wholesome and constantly tell me what a good teacher I am and that they are excited to come to school.
How are your colleagues?
Both: Our colleagues are pretty welcoming. We have a mixtures of teachers from a variety of places – some are native to Cambodia, some are from the Philippines, some are from the U.S.A like us, and some are from South Africa. We get along with everyone pretty well and when we first started, they would constantly help us out when we needed it and mentored us through everything.
Is it difficult to manage your workload?
Shalia: Sometimes. For the kindergarten department, the teachers don’t really get a break other than an hour lunch. So we’re constantly teaching and don’t really have a lot of time to set things up or prepare for the next day. All teachers have a day where they get planning time at least once a week though, which helps out a lot. I just wished I had a bit more time to prepare activities and crafts for my class than what I do have time for.
Chance: No, it is not very difficult to manage my workload. For the primary/graders department, there are not as many teaching hours because in the afternoon, the students take Khmer classes. So I have a lot of time to plan in the afternoons and prepare for the next class.
Is classroom management an issue?
Shalia: For me, it sometimes is difficult even though I have 2 Teaching Assistants. But that is mainly because I have 2 students who have autism and so a lot of the time, instead of helping me manage the class, my TAs are managing those 2 students. But most of my class is not very hard to manage unless it’s just one of those hectic days where they have a ton of energy and are finding it difficult to listen. During those times, I just have to do an activity that gets them moving so they can concentrate a bit more.
Chance: Not really now. In the beginning, I found it more difficult because I was new to teaching and did not really have a lot of experience on what to do when your class was not listening. But since, I have learned a lot of skills and now am able to manage my classroom efficiently.
What is an average school day like?
Shalia: We have a set schedule. In the mornings, all the kindergarten department does morning assembly – this includes Pre-K, K1 (my class) and K2 – which is where we have the students say hello to all the teachers, do calendar, do the weather, and then they have a chance to dance or do an execise or do a game. Afterwards, we go upstairs and I do circle time, which includes sight words or letters, and math. Then we have snack. After snack is outside time/swimming on Fridays. We then do writing, social studies, arts, lunch, and then naptime. During naptime, I have my lunch break. When I come back, the students are just waking up and it is snack time. Then we go outside, do circle time, writing, art, and then free time until it’s time to go home.
Chance: On an average school day, I teach English. The kids then have their snack break for 15 minutes. Then I teach them Math and then they have recess after for 30 minutes. When we come back, I will teach Science/Biology/History for 30 minutes and then the kids go to lunch. After lunch is free time for 30 minutes. Once their free time is over, they have Khmer class, so I am no longer teaching. My responsibility will then be whatever afternoon duty is given to me or planning that I need to get done.
What is the most enjoyable thing about going to school?
Shalia: Teaching my students and playing with them during their outside time. They say some of the funniest things as well as play the funniest games when they have free time. It’s kind of the highlight of teaching kids, for me.
Chance: Seeing the students because they are so excited to learn and see their teachers. Their positivity is infectious, so it’s definitely something I look forward to everyday.
What is the least enjoyable thing about going to school?
Both: Waking up early.
If you could change one thing about school, what would it be?
Shalia: Having a bit more time for planning. I do think it is a bit unfair that the kindergarten teachers don’t really get as much free time as the primary teachers. It would just be a lot more helpful since we have to plan a lot of fun activities and my kids do crafts 2 times a day, but I literally have to work on those crafts on my weekend in order to have them prepared for the school week.
Chance: Communication. A big issue is that a lot of the time, the management team doesn’t communicate on what is expected of us in certain situations. It kind of just felt like we were thrown in and just had to learn everything on our own or by asking other colleagues.