When Christian TEFL trainee, Ken Snider shared some photos of his time teaching English in Cambodia, we couldn’t wait to hear more. In the following Q&A, Ken tells of the delights and challenges, and what motivated him to take a TEFL course.
1) Why Cambodia and what were you doing there?
My wife and I were introduced to Cambodia about 4 years ago through some friends who have close links with a Christian mission called TransformAsia. We joined them on a work group when my wife helped to paint a wall and I helped to build a chicken coup! Our involvement since then has progressed to the extent that last year we spent 10 weeks living at the David Center orphanage near Anlong Veng in northern Cambodia (the last refuge of the Khmer Rouge) with 60 kids aged from 4 months to 20 years and ten staff, only one of whom could speak any English. We had gone thinking that we would be helping the kids with their English reading but we soon discovered that they couldn’t read even basic English so our time was spent teaching elementary and beginner level English to four classes a day. Fortunately we had done an “Introduction to TEFL” weekend about four years ago so at least we had a slight idea of what to do, but we were still very much “flying by the seat of our pants”!
2) What were the biggest challenges there?
The biggest challenges were the fact that we couldn’t speak Khmer, the heat (38 degrees C in mid-March), the lack of electricity (3 hours in the evening by generator) and as I’ve noted above the fact that we hadn’t had any real training in TEFL so lesson planning became a challenge – by week eight we had pretty well run out of ideas! We focussed on teaching simple functional English so that the kids could at least answer the sort of questions which western visitors might ask.
3) What’s the most memorable thing about your time there?
As you’d expect, the most memorable thing was the enjoyment and satisfaction of living among and teaching the kids – including the fun we had playing games such as “Simon says” and bingo to aid our lessons. Despite our very limited ability to communicate, we grew to care a lot about each of the children and by our final week we had the great satisfaction of having some of them able to tell a simple story about themselves (“I am a boy from Cambodia. I have black hair and brown eyes. I go to school in Anlong Veng…” etc). Oh, and another vivid memory is of the two scorpions which we found (on different occasions) in our bathroom!
4) You’ve since decided to enrol on a TEFL course – why?
I “retired” a few years ago but am not yet ready to sit down and rest. In fact, retirement gives us opportunities to learn new skills and to do more. Our visits to Cambodia have shown that there is a demand for learning English and a lot of satisfaction to be found in teaching it. A TEFL course seems like a good way to acquire new skills and the learning involved a good way to keep those “little grey cells” honed. I was particularly keen to find a fully accredited distance learning course and the fact that Chrstian TEFL is accredited by ACTDEC was an important consideration for me.
5) What’s next for you after the course?
Our church intends to offer English language tuition to people who have been rescued from trafficking, refugees and asylum seekers and I’d like to be involved in that. I’m also hoping to volunteer to help with English tuition for Gurkha soldiers ( I worked in Nepal for nine years) which is taught at a barracks not far from where we live. No doubt there will be more visits to the David Center orphanage in Cambodia and opportunities to do some lessons there, and there is an English language course being offered by a mission organisation that I know of in Nepal so perhaps an opportunity there too. So I anticipate opportunities to use my TEFL training both at home and abroad…
Thanks, Ken. I am not sure Christians ever really retire…
Interested in teaching English? You may also want to:
View Christian mission placements in Cambodia
See the 120 hour accredited, online TEFL course that Ken took
Enjoy the conversation on our Christian TEFL Facebook page