It’s a bit of a weird time as my old school in the UK is in the process of starting a new year. The staff are already back and the students are going them soon! I, however, have already been at work for a month (so what are you complaining about, slackers?).
My new school covers the whole range from preschool to end of High School. We use the American grade system, so that’s preschool to Grade 12. The longer lower building is primary and the C-shaped building with three floors is secondary. The two other covered areas you can see (left and right) are the basketball courts. You can’t really see the admin wing or the outdoor seating area as it’s behind the basketball court.
I teach grade 6, 8 and 9 (years 7, 9 and 10) this year. My classroom is on the top floor overlooking the primary building (so the view is a bit naff, however there are some brilliant views from other places).
You’ve probably spotted some differences from a typical UK school. First is the rows of air con units on the walls. Second, all the corridor spaces in secondary are external. There’s a really nice area on my floor in the corner between the two buildings. It’s a bit of a wind trap so you can sit there and not use any air con to keep cool. Third, it’s only accessible by dirt road. The photo doesn’t do justice to how poor the roads are.There was once, it seems a straight concrete road, but it’s broken up into chunks of uneven ground. Other parts are just mud. If it’s wet some spots are like cycling or driving over stepping stones. If it’s dry, it’s more like a fossilised coral reef. I either cycle or walk (my house is really close, it’s in the group of houses in the top right corner of the image). When I walk, sometime a kind colleague will pick me up. However, the journey is so shaky that often I wish I had walked instead.
It’s quite a small school. The number of students here is about the same as a single year group in my previous school. My largest class is 14 students. (If my former colleagues are getting jealous, just wait for the next bit.)
Gone are the days of cramming into small staff rooms or gloomy work spaces. Each floor has a teacher work space and resource rooms with (albeit dodgy) photocopiers. Admittedly, none of them seem to have a staple function. (And I tend to use my “outdoor office” unless I’m doing paperwork or it’s raining.) There are more staff toilets here than my previous school despite there being at least half the staff. We also have a covered outdoor eating area, complete with its own coffee bar that can do cappuccinos and iced coffee for 2000 riel (50 cents or about 35p).
Most the staff eat together during lunch and we have lunch clubs, where we order food from local restaurants. Tuesdays and Fridays are from Noy Noy, a noodle and dumpling restaurant. I get the fried noodles for $2. The noodles are freshly made and it’s really filling and tasty. Wednesday is pork and rice (which is actually a breakfast in Cambodia, but we have it for lunch), costing $1.25. This is provided by the parents of one of the Khmer staff. Thursday is the most expensive with the $3 curry club. But that includes rice, a bread, a meat dish and a veg dish. That’s four really decent lunches for $8.25 or £6.50. It’s only Monday I have to fend for myself. And if worse comes to worse there are local restaurants (like Jars of Clay) that deliver!
Furthermore, the campus is so clean all the time. There is a small army of cleaning staff and they clean everything. My desk and shelves usually perfectly ordered, because they tidy that up for me. My classroom gets swept and mopped probably twice a day and I found myself feeling shocked when I spotted one piece of litter today. Admittedly, Cambodia is really dusty (it’s a nightmare for electronics). Before it rains, the winds usually pick up and blows dust everywhere. Then it rains and you get dusty streaks on windows, etc. So, in Cambodia, keeping on top of cleaning is a bit more of a challenge. However, this extra manpower means that the school tends to look even better than a UK one during an Ofsted visit.
So , great facilities, small classes, fantastic food and great coffee on demand. Currently, I’m not complaining!