SamesamebutDifferent in an International School

We might all speak English but clarifying questions are essential.

Cover teacher, supply teacher, temporary replacement teacher, relief teacher (all one and the same).

Assessment: in some countries the focus is on summative assessment, so plenty of clarifying needed around the assessment of learning (summative), as learning and for learning (formative). Everyone needs a reminder that a tree doesn’t grow just because you measure how tall it is.

We all eat three meals but what descriptor is used for which meal: breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner, supper…… and ‘in betweens’ called snack, morning tea, recess. And remember, the main meal of the day is very different in different cultures. Furthermore, the time we eat is different. Everything is earlier here in Cambodia. White tourists may still eat out after 7pm, 5.30pm is more standard for locals to eat.

’This year and next year’. Australians refer to the calendar year but  most in the HOPE school community refer to the school year which now means for me next year starts in August (problematic when I am thinking I’ll have things in place for next year…..time is running out).

Seasons: in Australia, Summer is a clear and evident season. Cambodia only has two seasons: wet and dry (currently…. hopefully…the start of the wet season). But with so many northern hemisphere connections school will go on Summer break in late June and return for the new year in August. As for Spring and Fall, they are talked about but make no sense to me at all in this context.

Dressing for work: while I aim for SMART, I don’t always achieve it. There are some practical considerations: riding a motorbike to work doesn’t lend itself to pencil skirts, heat and humidity means one layer  is enough and gravel, mud and water (in the wet season) make heels impractical. Makeup is minimal as sweat takes its toll. And currently I am a swimming teacher for 6 lessons a week so happily PE gear is quite appropriate.

I live in the world of testing and examination acronyms! ISA, PSAT, WIDA, IGCSE, IB, CAT 4, GPA … name a few. What is important depends on your pathway. Some of our Year 12 students receive unconditional offers based on internal school results, for others the transcript (with a grade point average calculated from year 9, 10, 11 and 12 results) that is key. Timely and valid assessment is critical. And if you happen to be returning to Korea it is likely they will ask for your primary school reports also!

I continue to learn that I must speak slowly and clearly. Whilst our language of instruction is English, for many staff and students this is their second or third language. Current teaching staff come from America, Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, England, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Korea, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam and Venezuela.

Our student body comes from more than 30 Passport countries.

BUT there is so much that is ‘same same’. Children are children. Mostly nice, some more conscientious than others, occasionally naughty, sometimes unkind, but largely enjoying school and wanting to do their best.

A difference relates to their thankfulness. They have a clear and evident understanding that education is a gift and an opportunity that is still not available to everyone. They understand that their teachers have made personal sacrifice to be here and that their parents make a sacrifice to access a HOPE education.

It is their open and regular expression of this that becomes part of the encouragement our staff need to keep going when the going gets tough. Our staff here are clearly ‘called’ not ‘careered’ but they are still human beings who need to be affirmed.

CHERYL FLIGHT.                                                                                 SECONDARY SCHOOL PRINCIPAL                                                   HOPE School                                                                  

STAFFING AT HOPE UPDATE                                                                  We have had some successful staffing interviews and have now filled our Primary School teaching position, one middle school specialist, an English/SOSE teacher and an ELL support teacher.

We are still without a Siem Reap Principal, a Phnom Penh Primary Principal, a music teacher, a PE teacher, a Business Management teacher and a Maths/Science teacher. We also have two maternity leave positions: High School Art for three months and a teacher/librarian for 6 months.




Keeping it ‘Riel’ (currency of Cambodia 4,000 riel = $US1)

So, we are one year on and as David and I reflected over Brunch this morning we thought it was important to be real in terms of what living in Cambodia means for us.

What is hardest?

Not being with our family and friends. It is challenging to be distant as people at home continue ‘doing life’ and we miss being part of it. The incidental conversations, time to ‘be’ in one another’s space, sharing in the highlights and lowlights, just journeying together. We have lovely people to live and journey with here……but it is not quite the same as those who know you so well that you don’t have to share conversation to be on the same page.

What is easiest?

Not much to be honest, but it is ‘easy’ in that we know that we are in a place and space where we can contribute in a real and useful manner. Having said that, things are only not ‘easy’ because many things are just a bit different from home. In reality we have a comfortable place to live; a fantastic workplace; access to good food; transport; a lively church community, opportunities to get out and about, a skilled hairdresser; someone who comes to clean our house; someone who will not only cook for us, but deliver the meals hot to our door for a fair price; and we are surrounded by caring co-workers and school families.

Highlights of the past year

  • Hosting family and friends to introduce them to our school community and our home town of Phnom Penh. Seeing our kids at Christmas was a particular highlight!
  • Seeing some good progress in various areas at work. David has made some amazing progress in different areas of the facilities,  building on (pardon the pun) the work of those who have gone before him. I have had the chance to refine various areas of our schooling approach, and I am pleased to see a stronger consistent focus on good teaching and learning. Student voice in the school is growing and care for the health and wellbeing of students and staff is at the forefront of decision making.
  • Travel opportunities:  we have had the opportunity to spend extended time in Thailand, Vietnam and Sri Lanka this year. For the first time in our working lives our holidays align. I have also attended professional training in Singapore and Malaysia. It is wonderful to expand our understanding of this part of the world.
  • Working with students, families and staff from around the globe.We are so much richer for the multicultural community we are in; we have learned new education language – task, cover, set… and the fact that I inevitably use Australian colloquialisms that draw blank looks; new food – river snails were not a highlight, new cultural traditions – Water Festival, Pchum Benh; new expectations and new things to laugh at!

And finally, keeping it ‘riel’ we continue to live a relatively wealthy existence. While we work at a mission school and receive a living allowance rather than salary, when I checked on the Care Global Rich List calculator this morning, our combined income continues to put us in the top 4% of income earners globally. We know that we are living far more comfortably than many of those in our immediate community as our life includes so many elements that are still inaccessible to many here in Cambodia:  we have electricity (and air con.), running water, a home which does not flood, access to health care without needing to pay before receiving service, access to three meals a day, and enough income to take holidays, eat at restaurants and pay for recreation.  We are indeed fortunate!



Cheryl Flight

Secondary School Principal

HOPE School.