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A Day in the Life: A LanguageCorps TESOL Classroom in Cambodia

It is our pleasure to introduce an exerpt from LanguageCorps teacher Margaret Ulrich, currently teaching English abroad in Cambodia.

RePosted from her blog “Awkward American Traverler”, which you can Check out here:

Any idiot knows what happens when you assume. So why do I keep feeling like the only ass here?

My latest blunder came from teaching at an orphanage. I assumed I’d be teaching little darlings. But I was what, class? Very good, kids, I was wrong.

Part of our training for the LanguageCorps certificate included two weeks of student teaching. For three of us who stayed in Phnom Penh—some moved to either Thailand or Vietnam—we were assigned to teach at an orphanage called SSD.

Forget about the eight-year-olds trying to concentrate, I couldn’t figure out whether I was supposed to teach or feed the chickens.

After pulling myself together, I wrote my name on the board, gave them my warmest Fraulein Maria smile and tried to start at the very beginning. Clearly, I hadn’t yet shaken my delusion of eight studious children hanging on my every English word.

And then in walked James Bond..

Cambodian kids have a habit of nicknaming themselves after celebrities and, lucky me, I had a self-proclaimed 007 in my class.

He was just that. I would turn around for two seconds and he’d have disappeared leaving a wake of disruption, beat up one of the little girls, or managed to take apart an entire computer keyboard—where he procured it is still a mystery to me—and pass out the parts like tokens.

This all happened the first day. In one hour.

After the class from hell, my supervisor told me that Bond, James Bond wasn’t even supposed to be in my beginner class, but the intermediate. So the next morning I put on my big girl panties and kicked out that mothe— I mean, that dear, sweet boy.

*Now would be the part of the cartoon when you pull out an oversize needle that twinkles at the end emphasizing the sharp point and tap my dream bubble, bursting it into a million pieces. POP!

When James Bond went to kill a different class, I assumed (again) that my class would be perfect. Really, kids are all insane and the only way to control any of them is with straight jackets and muzzles. I’m aware of how that sounds.

The alternative is playing lots and lots of games. They also loved rewards like Hello Kitty stickers and stars by their name on the board. And, little by little, I started to notice they were actually a pretty good group of kids.

I’m going to break my vow of anti-assuming, but I’m going to assume that kids act like kids anywhere in the world. They get bored easily, want to joke with their friends, love playing games and hate taking tests.

After accepting these facts, I figured out a successful TESOL class is made up of two words:

Controlled chaos.

It took a few days, but fun and rewards equaled moderate attention spans and happy maniacskids. What more can you ask for?

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