The students seemed to be blissfully unaware they weren’t going to see us anymore.
Perhaps too young to properly understand, most of them don’t even know where Cambodia is on the map, let alone Australia, and for me, that made it easier.
terrible at goodbyes.
Today marks the last day of teaching for us and it’s been somewhat of a bittersweet experience.
We began the internship rather smug with our school.
It seemed the friendliest, the location was great with lots of cafes and good food places nearby and we were a short walk to the Russian Market, with plenty of options for nick nacks and general market shopping.
We were given school tee shirts to wear so we didn’t have to worry about ‘smart clothes’.
Our timetables were pretty easy going and they said early on if we needed time off for sightseeing to just tell them and they’d work something out for us.
They bought us food, local sweets, went out of their way to make us feel welcome and included.
But the rose tint faded once we began actually teaching.
I’m not quite sure what I expected.
I think I was a little unrealistic – in my mind there were cosy reading corners, the children put their hands up and I could ease in to a teaching style as quickly in the classroom as I did in the pool.
But there were more times I wanted to scream with frustration for all the help I thought I was being.
I could see the children who needed extra support, had ideas and the patience to help them, but in the fast flowing river of businesses operating as schools, I was just fishing on one bank of the river, lucky to catch anything when I did.
It wasn’t the life changing experience I thought it was going to be, not in the way I thought it was going to be a least.
My throat was sore from telling them to sit down and be quiet and I was as sweaty as I am after a gym sesh.
The headaches would come partway through the lesson, and forget trying to play games and be interactive – they just weren’t disciplined enough.
Laregly I’m talking about one class, the others soon became a pleasure to teach, but my experience was 80% class 008.
Then the school itself began to feel like a prison.
While the other schools had security working until our curfew time in the week, the shutters at our school closed when school did: 7:30pm.
If we wanted to be out later than 7:30pm – around dinner time – then we had to call one of two people to open the shutters and let us in.
It was easy enough, but an unreliable system, particularly when they’d often leave their phone charging in a different room and not hear us, ignore our calls entirely, or just not understand the phrase:
“Can you open the school?”
It was frustrating and while no one ever said we couldn’t be out past 7:30pm, it was always easier to just make sure we were back before we were locked out.
I began to feel very isolated and trapped.
The two feelings that usually lead to me doing something rash like moving to another hemisphere.
It was exhausting in its way, only having our bedroom as our private space, and then losing that sense of privacy when the kids worked out where we lived.
We were both down, and out of sorts and each day got a little harder and dragged a little longer.
We escaped for a week when we thought the budget could stretch (and Zac was still ill), and it helped, but we couldn’t do it forever.
It was back to a routine of teaching, frustration, nap, teaching, frustration, eat, depression.
Then we discovered Netflix worked and that relieved the tedium somewhat.
But it still didn’t feel like home.
Mostly I felt two faced, I’d smile to the teachers and say I was happy, I’d enjoy some of my classes, but my 008 was always hard and after that class I always wanted to go home, say I hated teaching, I hated being here.
The next morning it would start again, a class I enjoyed, that feeling I was wrong, that’s it’s actually ok and I’m enjoying it, followed by 008.
And then we finally had that relaxing weekend I’d been yearning for and, perhaps too late, I snapped the right way and started to enjoy the challenges my kids threw at me.
I was stricter with them and commanded more respect, began sending kids out who were being little shits and stopped molly coddling and spoon feeding them.
I should have been less concerned about offending the students and the teachers from the start: tough love seems to work, on these kids at least.
So today we taught our last lessons.
Teacher Big, or Zac, played games, while I took my children on a safari (in the classroom of course, but it turns out hyena’s are a big hit with 7 year olds).
And I’m sad we’re leaving, in a way.
It seems like I’ve only just really started to come in to my own and start teaching the way I want to, the way I think works best.
It’s no wonder student teachers have so many placements, even if it comes naturally, it doesn’t come easy.
In fitting tradition of our time in Cambodia, we’re lying in bed listening to one of the biggest storms we’ve had for a few weeks.
I’m thinking over our internship here and I’ve learnt so much more than I thought I ever would.
I do think I want to teach in a classroom eventually, but for now, I’ll stick to swimming.