Teaching in Cambodia
We received wonderful feedback from Jennifer about her job teaching in Cambodia, after her course at Samui TEFL
I was offered a better position in Phnom Penh, Cambodia at an international preschool. I’ve been working for a few months now and I really like it.
My students are 2 to 3 years old and all Khmer. We follow a monthly lesson plan that wraps 4-5 weeks into a theme. We do crafts, sensory activities & are learning the alphabet and numbers 1-20.
Sometimes we can go to the playground if the weather is not too hot. The students love it when we go to the swimming pool.
Each week I write reports on their progress. We follow five developmental domains that categorise the students' progress over the semester. Our focus is on establishing a routine that they can follow into kindergarten. I recently completed report cards and we have parent teacher meetings in a couple of weeks.
The weeks are challenging, but I’m learning a lot. I work with a great team of teachers, teaching assistants and program managers.
I want to thank you again for Samui TEFL. You offered excellent content to use in my classes. In addition to on the job training, I am also using additional sources to update my Bachelors of Arts degree in Psychology and become more current with early childhood education training techniques.
I’ve included a picture from Halloween. The teachers were flowers, I was a Gladiolus 🌸 This is our unicorn craft from a few weeks ago.
TEFL can help you with your future career
You may be doing your TEFL course and teaching abroad as a ‘gap year’ before starting a career which you studied for at university. Many people will ask you ‘why do you want to teach English abroad? Aside from a so-called year off, how will it benefit you?’
Well, this is what you can tell them:
You’ll gain confidence
So many parts of this experience will help you to gain confidence – from travelling alone abroad to a new place, to experiencing new cultures, to doing something new, to learning to speak in front of people.
Your communication skills will improve
Techniques learnt on the course and practiced in the classroom thereafter, will improve your general communication skills. You will be far more aware of whether or not you have been understood, and will adjust the way you speak and listen to people in general. You will also become more confident speaking to large groups of people, as well as on a one-to-one basis.
Your time management skills will improve
You’ll become the master of checklists! There’s nothing like leaving behind your materials and wasting all your hard work and effort to make you more organised! Carefully planning your lessons according to a time schedule will also be great practice for time management.
You’ll become more aware of other cultures
As you’ve moved to another country, and are teaching students who are not from your culture, you will become acutely aware of the differences between cultures, and the pitfalls of dealing with people from other cultures. These include misunderstandings, doing things in different ways, and knowing that what is acceptable in one culture, may not be so in another culture. In the corporate workplace one day, this will be a valuable asset to have, particularly jobs where you’ll be dealing with international clients.
You will make friends for life – after meeting people you would never have met back home. These could be your fellow classmates on the TEFL course, your fellow teachers while teaching, or neighbours and other locals, as well as your students. Having an international network of friends and past colleagues can also advance your career in ways you may never know – as you never know where the future may take you.
You’ll mature and grow as a person
All the challenges and hardships of living abroad will give you a tough skin and mature you in ways that staying at home in a familiar environment won’t do. Moving out of your parental home is testing enough for many young adults – but doing so in a different country really challenges!
Well there you have it. There are many more reasons to sail away from familiar shores, but these reasons are ones that you can proudly mention in interviews and cover letters. So what are you waiting for? Email us at email@example.com for a detailed info pack.
All in good spirits -- Understanding the Thai culture of spirit houses
You'll see them everywhere. Ornate and colourful doll-size houses on stilts strategically positioned outside every home, business, school and in public areas. Other than making great photo opportunities for tourists, what is behind these impressive little structures that resemble miniature temples?
Spirits reside everywhere in Thailand, and Thai people go out of their way to keep them happy. Animism, or spirit worship is probably the oldest form of religion in the world, and when Buddhism arrived in South East Asia, it developed alongside the ancient spirit worship. Today many of the beliefs are knitted with Buddhism and form part of everyday life for Thai people.
One of these practices is the use of 'San Phra Phum', or spirit houses. The purpose of the spirit house is to provide an appealing shelter for the spirits who inhabit the area where the house or business is built. Permission needs to be granted by the spirits before a new building breaks ground. The spirit house is constructed first, to entice the spirits to rather dwell in their own home and not in the house or shop. There are guardian spirits of the house, the garden and the land as well as ones that guard specifically over rice paddy, bodies of water, and military forts. You may notice that Thais always step OVER the threshold when entering a house – never on it. The reason – they don't want to disturb the guardian spirit of gates and stairwells that resides there.
The construction of a spirit house can be simple, resembling a basic Thai bungalow home, or as intricate as a palace. They can be constructed of wood, concrete or brick, and roadside shops with hundreds of colourful houses for sale are a common sight. Construction itself is a specialised field, and only an expert spirit house builder would be considered. Not only is the building thereof his responsibility, but he also needs to be familiar with all the necessary rituals involved so that the spirit invited will find it an acceptable earthly abode.
San Phra Phum are often decorated with little figurines of people and animals, incense holders and vases for flowers, and some even contain furniture. One will often see figures of an elderly man and woman - they are the caretakers of the spirit house, who will always be there to look after the house. Anything that people need in life, spirits need too. So, symbolically, statuettes of horses and elephants provide transportation, and tiny ceramic or wooden dancers entertain the spirits, while figurines of pets provide companionship.
The position of a spirit house is very important, and many a well-meaning expat has unknowingly placed one incorrectly, upsetting the neighbourhood in the process. Important to remember – should you ever need to erect a spirit house, is that it should never lie where the shadow of the building will fall on it.
One can regularly see Thais presenting offerings to the spirits. Fresh fruit, rice, chicken or duck, beer, water and cold drink, keep the spirits' hunger and thirst at bay. Candles and incense, fresh flowers in the vases and garlands keep the house looking good which are sometimes strung with fairy lights at night for 24-hour visual appeal. Resorts in particular often boast elaborate spirit houses and generous offerings.
Spirit houses can be seen at dangerous curves in the road or places of frequent accidents. This is done in order to keep the spirits happy, and ask for the protection of all that use the road. A good example of this is on Samui’s ring-road just past Chaweng Noi, on the way to Lamai where a large, impressive spirit house overlooks the bend. Locals driving past hoot three times to acknowledge the spirits.
Because spirit houses need to be well-maintained, there comes a time when they need to be replaced. Old spirit houses cannot merely be dumped. The spirits are coaxed into the new house, and the old one is laid to rest in communal ‘burial grounds’ for old spirit houses, usually a location well known to be rich in spirit activity. On Samui, a road known as the Ghost Road is the local spot to offload broken spirit houses. It is a rather eerie sight to drive along this road, which is a back road to the airport, and see hundreds of discarded spirit houses. They are regularly removed by the owner of the property, but somehow the pile grows higher again.
One will often find colourful strips of cloth tied around large trees in forests or gardens. It is believed that spirits reside in old trees. Offerings are placed at the foot of the tree or in lower branches, and the bright ribbons are a symbol for others not to cut down the tree. At Namuang one waterfall, a large tree's base boasts offerings that include a rather generously proportioned bra, as well as other clothing items and shoes. Banana groves are the favoured haunting grounds of female spirits, so one often sees san phra phum along the road nearby.
Longtail boats are decorated with the same bright cloth and ribbon. Keeping the spirits of the sea happy will ensure a safe journey, and bring in a bountiful catch. In the same way, cars, trucks and taxis display garlands of flowers to protect the occupants of the vehicle on the journey. Most cars and taxis are also adorned with 'yan' – religious symbols painted usually on the ceiling of the car, by a monk to protect it and its passengers. Yan painting can also be found on the doors of houses to keep unwanted or ghostly visitors outside.
To be on the safe side, you may want to bear the following in mind: If you make jokes while eating, a ghost will steal your rice. In case you were planning to ... you should know that you will see a ghost if you bend down and look between your legs. Watch those yoga poses then...
Spirit houses may be fascinating. They may be beautiful to photograph. However, please remember that to others they are a place of worship, so show respect when taking pictures. Don’t put your feet on any religious figure such as a Buddha or spirit house. Don’t touch or re-arrange items in the house to suit your photo, and don’t take photos when people are praying.
© Rosanne Turner
Dealing with Culture Shock
Culture Shock – a much used term for those who travel. But what does it mean exactly?
Culture shock is what you experience after leaving the familiarities of your home culture to live in another cultural or social environment. Even those who are open-minded and well-travelled are not immune to culture shock. Symptoms include homesickness, anger, loneliness and boredom. Everyone will experience culture shock to some extend, but there are ways to deal with it and minimize the effects.
Firstly, understand what you are going through and why you feel insecure or anxious. You are faced with a different climate, unfamiliar with your surroundings, as well as people with different values, attitudes, lifestyles, and political and religious beliefs, and oftentimes, you can’t even understand them due to language barriers! Understanding why you feel the way you do will help you to overcome the feeling.
Once you understand, the next step is to accept and adapt to your new culture. Just because something is different, doesn’t mean it is wrong, so learn to do things the way the locals do, and accept that it’s the way it’s done in your new home.
Learn as much as possible about your destination before leaving home. Be open-mined and it will be easier to understand the differences and see things from a different perspective. If you know why people do things the way they do them, it’s easy to accept the differences.
Having a positive attitude can make all the difference. This goes with anything in life, but is especially true when travelling and interacting with new people in new surroundings.
Stay in touch with those back home. But… if you spend all your time connecting with family and friends back home, you’ll just keep feeling homesick and won’t feel up to making new friends. Rather spend your time exploring and meeting new people, and then you have something to tell loved ones back home.
Don’t compare your home culture to your new culture! Noticing the differences is normal, and can be fun, but see the differences as just that – different and exciting, not inferior to home. Take the opportunity to learn as much as possible about your new location and culture.
Keep yourself busy. Particularly enjoy the things you can’t do at home. Try new foods, swim in the sea, explore, make new friends, take full advantage of the time abroad, rather than being afraid and hiding in your hotel room. Don’t have regrets later by saying ‘if only I had done this or seen that…’
Laugh at yourself! If you get lost, just see it as a way to see a new place that you didn’t expect to see. Surrounding yourself with positive people can make all the difference. Don’t get sucked into the inevitable groups of ‘grumpy old expats’ who should have gone back home long ago, and now love trashing their new home.
There are different phases of culture shock, and knowing which you are going through will also help you to overcome it.
The Honeymoon Phase: This is a fun time, when all is great, exciting, and new. You embrace the differences, go out of your way to try the weird and wonderful food and relish meeting exotic new people. This phase can last days, weeks, or months.
The Honeymoon is Over Phase: During this phase, you start observing differences, however slight, and not always in a good way. You’ve had enough of the food, and miss home comforts and tastes. The local attitudes annoy you, and things are just so much better at home. During this phase, you may feel sad, irritable, angry or anxious. You miss holidays from home such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, and feel sad when you miss out on events such as birthday celebrations back home.
The Negotiation Phase: Now you decide if you will give in to negativity or power on past it to make the most of your experience. If you're successful, you regain your sense of perspective, balance, and humour, and move on to the next phase.
The All's Well, or Everything is OK Phase: You start feeling more at home with the differences in the new culture. After a while, you may feel as if the culture isn't in fact new, but that you belong here now, or you may not exactly feel part of the culture, but you’re comfortable enough with it to enjoy the differences and challenges. You don’t necessarily have to be in love with the new country (as in the honeymoon phase), but you can navigate it without unwarranted anxiety, negativity, and criticism.
The Reverse Culture Shock Phase: This happens to most who have lived abroad a while. Once you’ve become accustomed to the way things are done in a different country, you can go through the same series of culture shock phases when you return home.
Culture shock can present itself at any time, and it’s often the small things we feel the most – like navigating a grocery store with unfamiliar products in currencies we are not familiar with. Working abroad has its own challenges, as aside from day-to-day cultural differences, there are also the differences in the work place. For example, if you are typically organised and punctual, you may struggle to adapt working to a culture with a more relaxed working environment. Or, if you’re a woman, you may find it difficult to adapt in a country where there is gender inequality.
It’s most important to be patient – in time, things that once were strange will be the norm. Be kind to yourself, and don’t place high expectations on yourself until you have adjusted to your new life. While moving to a new country is daunting in many ways, it can be equally rewarding, and by not giving it a try, you’ll always have regrets.
Samui TEFL Blog