You wait for ages and then two or three turn up at once. Or they do for me, whenever I’m on a job-hunt.
I should probably explain why I decided on Siem Reap, Cambodia to live for a few months. For those of you who have read MinionTravels from its humble beginnings a while ago, I’ve been to a fair few places in SE Asia, so how did I make the massive decision as to where I was going to plant myself? Well, I have a friend who made the move a few years ago who I actually know from school. I sent him a message, months ago, asking for advice on how to pack up your life to go teach English as a Foreign Language. I’d already taken the plunge and got myself enrolled on a TEFL course in Summer 2015, when I was tearing my hair out in a highly stressful and deadline centric job in the UK, but I wanted some more practical advice from someone who had already done it. And where does this friend live now? You guessed it, Siem Reap. Secondary question, what does this friend do in Siem Reap? He runs an English School. Well that’s handy, I hear you say… So there you go, that’s why I decided to settle in Siem Reap.
On arrival, my focus was finding a place to stay. Once that was sorted, I needed to find something to do with my time, and finding a job took longer than I expected. Admittedly, I was being really picky since actually living in SE Asia is mega cheap. I’d saved up a fair chunk of cash from the afore-mentioned and hated job back home, and as soon as I’d worked my notice there, I’d managed to get part time work at a wonderful restaurant in my hometown over the Christmas period. This was purely in an effort to pick up some hospitality skills, should my teaching abilities be found lacking whilst travelling our wonderful planet. So yeah, finding paid work immediately wasn’t a major financial concern, it was more that I was getting bored without a routine and something specific to do. Idle hands and all that.
So I put word out that a) I was a native English speaker, which is very important in SE Asia for an English teacher, b) that I was available to start working immediately, and c) that I was only available for about 5-6 months. I think that was the bit that made it really difficult to secure work quickly. You see, the schools that I wanted to teach at were those that only employed trained teachers, not just backpackers looking for a quick buck so they could make it to the next city. These schools wanted staff to stay for closer to a year, rather than a few months, which is fair enough, but that seemed to be the primary reason that some schools and I weren’t a right fit. The other type of school I encountered were not bothered about my qualifications at all, nor were they concerned that I only wanted to stay for six months, max . They just wanted to make sure I could start immediately.
After a few weeks passed, each with a visit to a school, an incredibly informal interview and trial lesson, a few friends suggested that I embellish the truth, or bend it slightly in my favour. Maybe omit to mention my personal timeline, or say that I wasn’t sure when I wanted to leave Cambodia. Unfortunately, as the good British girl I am, this didn’t quite sit right with me. I’d had enough personal experience with colleagues in the UK leaving even when working their notice, and I’d heard stories from my education-management friends in Cambodia that they were caught short-staffed because a member of their faculty decided to just book a flight and leave. I knew from the moment that I left the UK that I wanted to be in Australia by July ‘16, and August at the very latest. The reason being that I only have this one opportunity in my life to spend up to a whole year in Aus with the visa I’ve secured. And, I have a wedding to attend in July of 2017 back home in the UK, so of course I want to make the most of my year in Australia, therefore… if I extend my stay in Cambodia, I feel like I’m cheating myself out of valuable time down under!
Anyway, the more time I was spending in Cambodia, the more I was experiencing these two different types of school. Furthermore, on each “interview” or demo lesson I turned up at, I got very strange looks. I cottoned on pretty quick, that whilst I speak with a very British accent (every Brit I’ve met has made some quip about the Queen’s English or RP or that I must be from the posh part of England…), I do not look the part. Especially after a couple of months in the SE Asian sun… I look much more Indian now than ever before! A few Cambodian people had simply assumed that I was a local, which incidentally has happened in other countries too, but that’s a story for another day. Seems that you can’t escape White Privilege no matter what corner of the world you find yourself in.
I managed to find out, from a friend of a friend, about a very forward-thinking Primary School that was actually only 10-15 minutes walking distance from my awesome new home… BONUS! They were following the British curriculum, there was a vacancy for a Year 3 teacher, there were literally a handful of really sweet kids in the class and I would be teaching Maths, Science, Art, Music and PE as well as English. Sounds perfect, and after a demo lesson with Pre-K to understand the attitude and culture of the school, they sent me on my way with a promise to call back soon.
At the same time, another friend had put me in touch with the guy running an American English High School in town. I was invited in for an informal chat, but I had to take a teacher proficiency test, plus a grammar test of my own. I did the tests in the morning, and passed them (hooray!), was asked to return for a trial lesson that evening so went home for a few hours to prepare my class. In the three or four hours between my tests and my lesson, the Primary School called me! They actually wanted to offer me the Year 1 class and invited me back for another demo/trial with “my” class in the morning. Oh man, what to do??
In the end, I went to the trial class at the High School, being very open with the guy running things there and telling him about my predicament. He came to observe my lesson, was impressed enough to offer me the job, but I told him I would go to the Primary School the following day and then make my decision. And so off I went to the Primary School first thing in the morning, I fell even more in love with the place and the awesome little kids, and I knew that my mind was made up. Check this out and see if you can spot yours truly!
So what about the third job? I was also approached to be a private tutor with my friend’s school. I tutor a lovely Korean girl twice a week now. Oh yeah, and I’m currently covering a class at that school for a couple of weeks either side of the Khmer New Year break. So, I’ve officially been “Teacher Deena” since Wednesday 23rd March, which means it took me 7 weeks exactly since I set foot back in Cambodia to secure paid work. And there’s no rest for the wicked!