Andy Minnett

Teach Enrich Empower

It was a Holiday in Cambodia!

Hi my name is Andy I’m 26 and from The Lake District in the North of England and I have just finished my first teaching assignment abroad in Cambodia.

My journey began in February 2015 when I decided I’d had enough of a long career in Automotive Sales.

First stop Cambodia….

The school I was on my way to visit, I had found online through the website Work Away.   When I arrived in Siem Reap which is the main city in Cambodia, I dubiously took a tuk-tuk on the 5km journey out of the city and into the suburbs of Cambodia. Arriving there, we turned off the main road and along a long dirt track towards a group of wooden shacks. I got the tuk-tuk driver to call the contact I had for the school. I then saw the headteacher in the distance and walked over. I said to him ‘Nice place you’ve got here, where is the school?’…He said, ‘this is it’.

The school was like no school I had ever seen. The playground was made from orange/red dusty sand. The school was simple but had certain beauty at the same time. It had no walls, more like a nicely engineered wooden shed with a whiteboard at the front and no walls.  Next to the school was a pagoda where the local monks lived and a tall ancient temple. He asked me if I wanted to see where I would be living? We took about a 5-minute walk, through a couple of rice fields along a dirt track until we reached what was the village.

When I arrived I was introduced to the most experienced girl on the teaching team who was due to be leaving in only 3 days. She said, so you’re my replacement, I best teach you what to do.

At this point, I was probably quite glad I had done my TEFL course because in only a couple of days I would be taking all the classes by myself.

I wasn’t sure what to expect about teaching Cambodian children but my classes ranged through 4 classes from age 8 to age 18. We would begin class at 8am and finish teaching at 6pm with a 3-hour siesta/lunch break in the middle of the day.

I found that when I was teaching, that it helped make my understanding of the information that I had learned from the teaching course, sink in better. I understood once I was reading the school textbooks, how things like the ‘P-P-P’ method was used and how to introduce new language, perform controlled practice and freer practice.

The children were adorable and so hilarious. They would laugh at everything I did, even if it wasn’t supposed to be funny. The older students would ask to take selfies with Me, probably to show their mates what a cool teacher they have (I hope!)

I found the Cambodian life fairly easy to withstand. I’ll admit sometimes it can be hard to ensure eating noodles for breakfast followed by rice for lunch and rice for dinner every day, but at the end of the day, that is the way it goes. Overall the food which was cooked by the wife of the family I was living with, was delicious. Apart from the time I found a chicken’s foot in my soup but again, that’s the way it goes.

Since leaving my voluntary position in Cambodia, I am now planning to make my way to Slovakia where in 2 weeks, I am beginning my first paid teaching position in a language school for primary and kindergarten children.

My best advice for anyone wanting to do what I have just done is to try to finish your TEFL course before you go travelling. I was still doing mine for a few weeks once I had arrived in Cambodia and it was a bit of a hassle.

I feel that volunteering in a developing country like Cambodia, will not only be much needed help for these sorts of countries but also the perfect, no-pressure environment to practice your new teaching skills. Win/Win basically.

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