Tuesday, October 19, 2010


"Teacher Megan, I like to drink cocktails."

Now, I am in no way a newbie when it comes to dealing with absurd comments from five year olds. And now that I teach a room full of English Language Learners, the risk for adorable, hilarious comments greatly increases. But the above sentence is something I was not expecting.

The statement was uttered by a precious little Dutch boy who speaks English, a little French and Khmer (Cambodian). His father owns a beach hotel here in Sihanoukville and apparently my student has been frequenting the bar with the guests, maybe when Mom and Dad aren't looking. All jokes aside, I seriously doubt that he is actually drinking real cocktails. He assured me that there was no alcohol in them. But don't worry, he could still describe them to me in full detail (for a Kindergartener). He really likes the pink ones and the green ones.

He is quite the chatterbox, and usually tells me about many things, but usually his conversation pieces include legos and computer games. As inappropriate as it probably is, I actually enjoyed the fact that he is taking our conversations to a more "adult level." But if he all of a sudden learns the name of certain gentlemen such as Jack, Jim, and Jose, we may need to have a parent-teacher conference....

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Same Same But Different

"Same same but different" is one of my favorite sayings that I have picked up from the kids who sell bracelets on the beach. That and "Open your heart, open your wallet."

When they are trying to get you to spend money on what is essentially string they have braided together, they like to use their best English and marketing skills to make the sale. They tell you this bracelet cost $2, and then you say, but I only paid $1 for this one, its the same. And then they inform you "same same but different." Yeah, its the same but it's different, but mostly it's the same. I have been pondering this little phrase and have come to realize that it applies to a lot things here in Cambodia, especially at the school. Allow me to elaborate on some things I have observed:

1) There is still that one little girl in class who immediately decides on the first day of school that she is also the teacher, and will then commence to repeat everything you say and boss all the other students around.

2) The person who works the hardest and often gets recognized the least is the lady who works in the office. I'm just gonna go ahead and give a shout out to Romdoul (here in Cambodia), Ms. Wendy, Ms. Kidd, and Ms. Donna. All the greatest office staff I have ever known!

3) There is a general sense of mayhem and confusion the first two weeks of school.

4) Power outages are just as inconvenient and infuriating, even when you can pretty much expect a couple a day here. One major difference with this is that the power outages I dealt with in the states were a result of either hungry or bored squirrels. Here, they are just something else that happens during the day.

5) The school has one "passionate" (to put it nicely) parent who has many opinions about many things.

6) Meetings can dictate your day, whether you are planning around them or waiting for them to happen.

7) When children don't understand what you are saying or what they are supposed to be doing, they misbehave. Holding their attention, even when they don't understand a word you are saying, is a refined art.

8) Bakeries are wonderful and happy places that just smell like comfort. In Cambodia, and actually Asia in general, you may find some unexpected ingredients in what you may perceive to be a delicious pastry. Savory is often opted for over sweet.

9) The support and friendship of the people you teach with is crucial. It is more interesting and fun when you all come from all over the world.

10) People are nice. Especially when you take the time to get to know them. Once you do so, it doesn't matter if you are the same, or different, or the real truth: "Same Same but Different."

And bonus, they sell t-shirts here that say "Same Same." I'm hoping that I will maybe find one that says "Same Same but Different."

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Extreme Makeover Classroom Edition: Cambodian Style

In this post you will find some visual aids as I regale the transformation of my classroom. This first picture is the view from where I live, the dorms of Life University. The small building with the red roof is Life International School. The larger building is Life School (a public primary and secondary school) and also house Life University Language Institute:

This is a close up of Life International School. My door is just left of center on the bottom level. Nursery, preschool, and Kindergarten are housed on the lower level, and Grades 1 through 4 are on the upper level.

Here are the "before" pictures of my Kindergarten classroom. I have to be honest, a few tears were shed at the prospect of having to completely redo and set up a classroom, especially since I spent the last 3 years at Center Point perfecting my classroom. Also, I made the mistake of looking in a lot of the other rooms of the school before looking in mine, and mine definitely needed the biggest face lift. The biggest obstacle was the large white circular desks, which we call offices. They were designed for the students to take tests in, but my room seemed to have become the dumping ground for all of the left over ones. It seemed like there were hundreds of them in there. I didn't foresee using them, but there was no way to get them out. I had to get super creative, as you will see in the after photos.

The above shots were taken this past Monday. After five days of moving furniture, and with the help of a pack of construction paper, a laminating machine, and $10 spent at the local book/office supply store, here are the results. I am pretty pleased with how things turned out. More importantly, I realized that there was no need to get worked up about being planted in a classroom with little to no materials and that isn't organized the way I want it to be. I've made it work twice now, and I can do it again if I have to. God is good, all the time, and I just need to remember that he will never ever give me anything I can't handle, as long as I am relying on Him.

Enjoy the after shots!
This is the view from the door. The "offices" pushed together on the right have hooks stuck to them and will be where the kids hang their backpacks. Notice the lovely birthday balloons on the back wall.

The front of the room and my desk. The desk in the other picture belongs to my partner teacher, who will be teaching the kids the Khmer language and will help me with translating, etc.

Renovated teaching area. More mats to come soon to create a large area where the kids can sit.

More renovated teaching area. Days of the week, months, and numbers were all made by hand. Other stuff is just bits and pieces I found in the room.

This piece of furniture, which was trapped behind a bunch of the offices, will be cubbies for the students to keep their books, home of the future classroom library (once it gets shipped from the states), and storage for materials.

Word wall (above) and behavior management system (below). Both mounted on the wall space that I created by pushing the white offices together. One bonus to this set up is that everything will be at the kids' eye level, which is ideal.

It's a definite improvement in my mind, but there are still several things I want to do. This will take patience though... but as I'm here for the next 2 years, I will have plenty of time to exercise that gift! I truly am excited about what the Lord will do in this room over the next two years.