How I Came to Teach in Cambodia and Why I’m Staying

I have been teaching English here in Phnom Penh for three years and I really enjoy it. I know many other teachers here who enjoy their job and do it well, some much more experienced than me and some less.

However, I have also met many people who teach just for the money. I hear them complain about their job or their students but they never admit that they are actually just not cut out for teaching. Teaching anywhere in the world is a job that involves skill, passion and most of all patience. So I am shocked to see so many people who would never consider being teachers in their own countries doing it out here and wondering why they are having such a nightmare.

I personally think that they owe it to all the Cambodians who are sacrificing so much to receive quality teaching from native speakers to leave the teaching to those who actually respect the job, and enjoy it.

Before I came here I had been working for a few years as a Learning support Assistant, at comprehensive schools in Essex and Rotherham. My job as a LSA’s was to support all the students on the Special Educational Needs register, students with learning and/or behavioral difficulties, as well as those who didn’t always get on too well in a classroom environment.

Often I was rewarded by seeing someone cross a little milestone or discover they could do something that they didn’t think they could before. Other times I would end up in the middle of a year eight chair fight. It definitely was not a boring job. I would also cover lessons during short term absences (a good practice in the art of classroom management is to work as a cover teacher in a school on special measures). Unfortunately in the last month my LSA colleagues have been made redundant due to part of the huge government cutbacks in UK. I am sure they will be sorely missed like so many other youth workers whose jobs have been axed by the government recently.

Some teachers at the school I worked at in Rotherham were encouraging me to take the plunge and do a PGCE. I was not ready to settle so I decided to get TEFL trained and work for a volunteer school in Cambodia. Three years later, I’m still here.

It’s interesting to compare some experiences in schools here and there. Here, the desperation for children to speak English at such a young age, and to work so hard is mind boggling- half days in public school, half in private, tuition in the evening and/or Chinese school .

For many it starts at the age of three and doesn’t stop. These students are aware that they are very lucky to have their education and sometimes I wish these students could have been with me when I was trying to persuade some year tens to hand in just one, just one piece of coursework for their GCSEs. It would have been really interesting (although telling them that they were lucky for their education would have been similar to telling them to finish their peas because there were starving people in Africa-it wouldn’t have gone down too well!) .

At the volunteer school I came here to teach at I enjoyed classes with a mix of people from the Tuol Tumpoung community…. the mother and son that studied together, the man from a jewelers stand in Tuol Tumpoung market, two blind men who worked for World Vision…..young or old what they had in common was their stamina…squeezing in 6am or 7pm classes on top of their never-ending work/study/family life. The answers they all gave when I asked about their daily routine made me tired just listening.

In the UK it is accepted that some people are language people and some aren’t the same way that some people are math people and some aren’t. As native English speakers this is the luxury we are born into. At the school I work at here, most subjects (including math) are taught in English, so not being a language person is pretty much not an option.

Parents put a lot of pressure on their sons and daughters because they are aware of the advantage that being a fluent English speaker will have on their careers. During parent teacher conferences I have had some astounding requests from parents…..

“If he doesn’t know how to spell the word I want you to beat him”…… as their four and a half year old son sits squirming on the chair next to them.

“Please, I want him to know grammar….you must improve him on this” …referring to their five year old son who is currently going through a stage where he is just learning to make it through a whole lesson without ripping open his school shirt to beat his chest or sticking pencils in his classmates’ ears.

Respectfully telling parents that you cannot and will not beat their child is a very different experience compared to some conversations I have had with parents of students that I worked with in the UK.

What refreshed me most when I came to work here was the lack of red tape and paranoid parenting. I have worked in a nursery/ pre-school in the UK where you pretty much have to fill out a form to wipe a child’s nose.

My first paid job here after volunteering was at a small kindergarten. There were of course safety rules in place but in a much more laid back way…cooking with the kids in the UK was rice crispy cakes….at the kindergarten I worked at here I was delighted to watch the Khmer staff setting up a massive wok of boiling oil and letting these two and three year olds make their own tempura vegetables…. that definitely summed it up for me.

In the province I am still training myself to not intervene when I see babies playing with machetes and coconuts. I can’t wait to see what kind of parent I’m going to be myself out here but to be honest I probably will draw the line at machete play.

I have seen some children have accidents here but far more in the UK where there are so many more safety rules. Why is that? Maybe because everyone is so obsessed with the possibility of accidents in the UK that they actually make them happen? Similarly, no-one out here has a peanut allergy whereas at schools in UK have you have the obligatory mug shots of the kids with intolerances to nuts, dairy, jelly, fish-fingers etc…..

On the flip side there is often no recognition of any learning or behavioral problems here which is tough sometimes.

I have taught quite a few kids here with symptoms of autism who are also some of the brightest and most wonderful kids I have ever taught. I will be naming my son after one student, Pagna who holds a place in my heart because he really didn’t have the same social agendas as the others but was extremely intelligent and creative. He didn’t speak much but he would always show me the little dinosaur in his pocket and give me a shy grin. Nobody understood why he was unwilling to join in with class games and I had to urge my Khmer teacher assistant not to force him when she began threatening him by saying “Sing the song with your classmates or you are a bad boy”.

In the UK it would have been my job to build trust with him so that I could help him develop in his own way. I tried my best to do that but as I had another twenty-six hyperactive five year olds to deal with it was difficult. One day Pagna was not in class as usual and the assistant told me that the family had moved. I do often think of him and wonder how that little chap is going to get on with the whirlwind of study that awaits him.

Some of the funniest, sharpest people I know here in Cambodia are the students I teach every day. One boy in my kindergarten class never fails to crack me up. If he is asked to do anything other than draw his amazing monsters and robots he’ll say things like ‘I love you but when I do something like that it makes my brain hurt teacher’… which makes me think that if a five year old can say such amazing things in a second language at the age of five there’s no need for him to practice writing his ABCs.

I’m a teacher because I enjoy it and I can’t imagine being in a job that doesn’t involve exchanging ideas with people, especially young people. I’ll stop when I can hear myself getting like the jaded, craggy teachers I’ve listened to in staffrooms in the UK, and met here. If you don’t like people, you really won’t like teaching. If you don’t like teaching you will be rubbish at it. You will also spend all your time complaining and bore everyone around you. It does bother me sometimes knowing that I can find work so easily here because I have a TEFL a degree and some experience. It bothers me more that I could probably get some sort of teaching job here even without these things because I am a native English speaker and I am female. I wouldn’t even need any enthusiasm for the job in some schools.

The thing is, I respect the families and individuals who are investing so much time and money to their education with me and it would be massively disrespectful to teach here merely as a means to get by. I have been inspired by some wonderful teachers here and in the UK. I hope to see less people in Cambodia who roll in every day stinking of stale fags and beer or those who use the job to preach about their views or even worse those that use the channel of teaching to preach the Bible. It’s a major disrespect as far as I’m concerned and it makes me sad to see it.

Anna Spencer

49 thoughts on “How I Came to Teach in Cambodia and Why I’m Staying

  1. andyinasia Reply

    A wonderful read. Having taught here for over seven years, I find it very refreshing to read such positive views from a fellow expat teacher.

  2. Bethany Shondark Mandel Reply

    Lovely. I also did two teaching stints in Cambodia. I miss it very much.

  3. Dermot Sheehan Reply

    Great article, lovely to hear some positive angles after all the dire nonsense you generally get from people who have taught here. It’s worth remembering that there are many teachers and trainers here who work outside of the ESL scene though. Learning English is certainly important for Cambodians who want to move up the ladder, but it’s only one small step in the greater scheme of things. I’m proud to be involved in this greater scheme that I’m talking about.

  4. Gerard Reply

    Vocation vs Job.

    This account reminded me of the term ‘Vocation’. Long ago in my christian youth I was taught that a number of ‘positions’ were considered to be vocational, such as teachers, doctors, nurses, priests and volunteers; people who undertook work for the greater good of the community rather than for the ‘money’ they could earn.

    People with this sense of vocation do a lot more than their job descriptions, because their core ingredients are based on Love and a sense of Giving; to make the lives of the less fortunate a bit better.

    As Anna states above, she could so easily find a job teaching English in Cambodia without even having ‘enthusiasm’. If that is the case, then that is surely a true tragedy! Surely the ‘kids of Cambodia’ deserve better respect than that.

    Congratulations Anna.

  5. John Reid Reply

    Quote “It does bother me sometimes knowing that I can find work so easily here because I have a TEFL a degree and some experience”
    I dont understand why this would bother you? Explain?

  6. khmerhit Reply

    Very uplifting piece–thanks Anna! I used to be one of those dosser teachers myself, at the Yankee Doodle and Pannasastra and Toul Kok, etc….BTW, the paperwork in UK –same same in Canada– has something to do with the insurance claims against school administrations that started getting more onerous late last century. I believe. Others could tell you more, I’m sure.

  7. Meestah Teechah Reply

    “In the UK it is accepted that some people are language people and some aren’t the same way that some people are math people and some aren’t. As native English speakers this is the luxury we are born into. At the school I work at here, most subjects (including math) are taught in English, so not being a language person is pretty much not an option.”

    That statement is true for adults, but basically incorrect regarding children. The brains of children function quite differently when learning languages than those of adults, in a manner that facilitates language acquisition through social experience (exposure and use) without the need for intensive studying or with much relation to their personal proclivities.

    Have you ever encountered a child beggar who is able to speak English like she just arrived from Los Angeles? I did shortly after I arrived in PP and wasn’t as willing to simply wave them away without feeling guilty. She had an accent and some grammar errors, but she could have a conversation with more complexity and fluency than most Cambodians will ever manage. Intelligible and functionally competent. Yet there’s about zero chance that she had ever been to any school or studied it formally. Well, she’s sent out to wander around the tourist areas all day looking pathetic, and her exposure to English is significant, as is her use if she wants to earn any money. Hopefully some of these kids will remain bilingual so that it can help them later on in life – they should if they continue to use the language regularly.

    Yes, children can vary to a degree in their aptitude for learning a second language, but most are able to do so with remarkable ease simply through exposure and use, and they can become incredibly fluent in a relatively short amount of time. Adult learners, however, usually require far more concerted study efforts and in general they never achieve a native-like proficiency.

    Obviously, some kids will perform under the average due to various factors like learning disabilities or issues outside the classroom. But most children, born anywhere in the world, without regard to their first language or its nuances, are able to pick up a second language with some of the uncanny skill that was involved in their learning any language to begin with. It is one of the great wonders of the human brain.

    Learning a second language as a child actually increases the density of the gray matter in a part of the brain, and in earlier bilinguals moreso than late ones. The greater the proficiency, the larger the increase. The brain is reworked via the process of acquisition. As a child ages they gradually lose this structural plasticity and therefore their capacity for acquiring another language decreases.

    If you are interested in the subject, the area of study is Second Language Acquisition (SLA), and it’s sort of part of Applied Linguistics. Googling it will give you an idea about the various theories and so forth and what might be interesting to read, though the wikipedia page spends far too much time on Stephen Krashen (in my opinion, pet peeve, had to throw it in).

    If you have a student who is lagging behind in his English efforts and who is at an age where things should be falling into place (0-12 should be able to become effectively bilingual, past that things begin to gradually slow down). consider whether they have sufficient exposure (not enough time in an English only environment) or not enough use. If he is quiet, and doesn’t talk much, that’s problematic because it’s a guarantee that he is THINKING in Khmer, all day long, and his age makes it unlikely that he is carefully observing things in class and not just daydreaming. Essentially, if you’re alone with your thoughts and tuning things out, your exposure is about zero, as is your use. Is he quiet because his English is bad, or is his English bad because he’s quiet?

    Aside from that, I like the article and I agree that the people who are teaching just to get a paycheck need to change careers or go home. Not only are they doing a disservice to the students, they are driving down standards generally and flooding the market with unskilled (unqualified) labor which drives down everyone else’s pay. The sole fact of being a native speaker of a language does not qualify you to teach it any more than living near the beach makes you qualified to claim you are an Oceanographer or Marine Biologist. They should at least get their BA and a TEFL (a real one) or CELTA first, if not full licensure in their home country and some experience there – in a familiar place – before trying it here.

  8. Jay Reply

    Great article. But how many like you are there in Cambodia? Probably not too many. I would really be amazed if there were.

    • Meestah Teechah Reply

      Not enough, but more than you’d imagine. I’ve met a lot of people who are really dedicated and trying hard every day. Even people who aren’t totally “qualified,” but have learned the job through experience and realized that they really enjoyed it and are now doing really great. I was a bit harsh before on that subject, on second consideration. There are people who are unqualified in the traditional sense, who have become good teachers through experience and really are doing a good job. I’d say the problem lies more with the institutions and the administration than it does with the pool of teachers available.

  9. Sambath Bo Reply

    Thank you for all teacher that come to teach language us in Cambodia.
    And Cambodian welcome you all come back again!

    I have nothing to say beside this!

  10. Anna Reply

    John- I think it bothers me a bit because I feel very uncomfortable about getting a teaching job just because I’m a native speaker and not because I’m passionate about teaching. I still have a lot to learn, but I see this as my career.I guess training for a TEFL is enough to say that you want to take teaching seriously though. I know there are so many very highly qualified teachers here, I also know lots of people who don’t have any qualifications but are natural teachers. For me I think the point is that there are many who don’t care and often even dislike teaching but still do it just for cash here.
    Meestah Teechah-
    Thanks you have inspired me to start researching Second Language Acquisition I find that really interesting. So interesting to think about the plasticity of the brain in children and after reading your comment I have just been teaching my kindergarten class and realising just how much more natural their language acquisition is compared to teenagers/adults. I always thought that with older teenagers and adults the difficulty in learning another language was mostly to do with social hang-ups, feeling awkward etc but I guess the stage of the brain development is the biggest factor. How I wish I still had a brain that I could bulk up. I suppose that’s the problem with language learning in the UK…we don’t do it from an early age (in most schools anyway) so by the time it is introduced our brains have lost their plasiticity.
    It seems strange for me when I see children who are studying 10 hours a day 6 days a week and I wonder when they just get to play with their friends. I don’t know, its a different culture I shouldn’t compare it to my own where the idea of going to school on Saturday would be simply outrageous. I suppose it is the quality of the education not the quantity that is important.
    I think you are totally right about the little boy I mentioned. He was very much in his own little world. I don’t think he was sad though and he was only 5 when I taught him so hopefully he’s acquiring the language at his own pace and I just hope whoever is teaching him now isn’t forcing him to speak in front of the class because I know he found that an extremely uncomfortable thing to do.
    Thank you so much for your input, I am going to go and google SLA now!

    • Meestah Teechah Reply

      Great Anna, I’m glad the comment made you want to learn more – I was definitely being long/lecturing but sometimes people find those notions implausible if they aren’t presented with enough information. I took a class on SLA, and a related one on linguistics, so I know a *little bit*, but there are people who devote their whole careers to studying it, or some aspect of it. There are competing theories as to why things occur as they do, but the research generally indicates that children acquire language differently than adults do, using different parts of their brain etc. Brain scanning/imaging has provided a lot of interesting data. It definitely has broad implications for how languages should be taught. Keep up the good work and positive attitude with your teaching.

  11. Cyclo Reply

    A refreshing account to read! Working as a head in London, I came across some LSAs who were potentially great teachers and for the right reasons. Looks like she might be one of these terrific classroom practitioners.

  12. Dave Reply

    Working as a LSA in England I came across alot of “qualified teachers” who were terrible teachers and should have not been in classrooms as they were/are highly ineffective teachers, stressed and aggressive toward their young charges and doing more harm than good.

  13. Anna Reply

    Me to….I was so inspired by this amazing Irish History teacher and an equally excellent Scottish English teacher, plus a Yorkshire man in his 60’s who was a musician and had a heart attack in a year 10 class but went back to teach Science and held massive respect whilst being really funny in the classroom. All these teachers had their own personal dynamics in the classroom it was amazing to watch. I too saw many teachers, many of whom had been teaching for years, with the personality and enthusiasm of a slug, drab clothes, drab voice, drab teaching…or the other end of the spectrum the ones with a vein constantly pulsing in their neck creating tension and criticism out of thin air.

  14. Bitteeinbit Reply

    Anna, how many teachers are passionate about their job in the west? Many enter the profession without really knowing what they are getting into, and who can blame them? You don’t really know anything about the job until you’ve done a few internships, and those usually come later on during the degree. Even then, those probably aren’t enough to get good idea of what teaching is all about. We’ve all had “qualified” teachers who were terrible at their job, and others who were amazing. The number of teachers who are “not passionate”, as you put it, is staggeringly high even in the west. You’ve got people in their late 20s or early 30s counting the weeks till retirement. Talk about depressing. Cambodia is no exception. The only difference is that you don’t need to be qualified to teach, but as previously mentioned, being qualified doesn’t necessarily make you a good teacher…

    • Cyclo Reply

      Those are wise words. As a head of a special school, I’ve come across some truly gifted, passionate and talented teachers and LSAs. Sadly, I’ve also come across the “clock watchers” and those who see it as “just a job”. Recently, for example, I had to deal with some LSAs who were mocking these SEN pupils (autistic) on their Facebook pages. And as for the weak teachers, well, it takes up to 2 years to get one out of the system in the UK. It sure ain’t easy. Putting it simplistically, in any professional discipline, be it that of teacher, LSA, or whatever, there are the good and the weak. Think back to your own school days, I certainly remember those inspirational teachers who influenced me. From what she has written, Anna strikes me as one of the good ones without wishing to appear patronising. So the UK’s loss is most certainly Cambodia’s gain. Oh, and as for that little boy who may have symptoms of autism (my speciality in UK), a good starting point is to get a language assessment done in his first language just to check out if it really is an E2L issue. Keep up the good work Anna.

  15. khmerhit Reply

    Women are sought-after in PP and I suspect that Anna is teaching at one of the better schools, where she will be getting some support from her managers, and where the schedule may be varied. A lot of the schools in PP simply leave it to the teachers to get on with it, every day, all year round with hardly any — if any — holidays! Hence the clock-watching and the ‘attitude’. The conditions are not the same as in the west, let’s just leave it at that in defence of the so-called amateurs.

    • Lotus Malia Reply

      Khmerhit speaks the truth. I’ve been working with all ages of children and adolescents in various capacities (mental health hospitals, 5-star care centers, refugee adjustment programs) for over 10 years. Like you, I got my TESOL, came back to Cambodia and easily got jobs. I love children. They are my passion. Yet after working with 1 Cambodian and 1 International Montessori school so far (both less than a year old), I even se myself complaining and getting stressed more than I did working on a unit full of violent teenage boys! Why? Because The schools don’t employ the necessary staff required to take care of the school, all of which falls on the teachers.

      In my first month at this “first rate” Montessori school, I was instructed to divide the class of 28 current pre-k students into 2, set up the new classroom and purchase the necessary supplies, create the entire years worth kindergarten curriculum, assess all the students on each standard of the American Common Core (of which there are hundreds), and received literally 8 college textbooks to read as my training. The children knew nothing, I was chastised for teaching them to write (because the pre-school teacher from the previous year had “already done the ABC’s” with them) and there was no principal. Literally the business-minded manager (who was never seen) and the poor 2 administrative assistants essentially running the school on a Khmer secretaries salary. When you hear these trip of stories again and again from teachers, it’s no wonder they are stressed, exhausted, exasperated, and need someone to vent to.

      • Peter Hogan Reply

        The trick is to find a teaching job in Cambodia that *doesn’t* involve either working for or being supervised by Khmers.

        Sadly, when locals own schools it’s far more about the money than the education and as an educator, you have about the same status with your employer as the night guards outside the building. They couldn’t care less as long as the money keeps coming in and for them, running a school is no different from running a bus company or a noodle factory. It’s just about the money.

  16. Adrian Bear Reply

    Hi Anna.

    Thank you so much for this article. I am wanting to come to Cambodia myself. I have been teaching English in Taiwan for about five years. If anybody has helpful tips for me, such as a good school to work at or good areas to find an apartment I would really appreciate the advise.

    I am not looking to backpack through Cambodia. I am hoping to make it my home for a number of years.

    All the best.

  17. Anna Reply

    Hi Adrian,
    I personally think the Tuol Tumpoung area is good to live, close to a good market, good community feel, near a swimming pool/sports club and not too expensive. I like it anyway.
    Check out bong thom or camhr websites for teaching positions, or just take your CV around when you get here. It’s not a big place and you will hear of the schools with the better reputations fairly quickly when you get here.

    • Neal Reply


      I have only just found these posts….wonderful, the writing and the heart that shines through each and every story. I love that you still love teaching but I am not surprised as it was clear the reasons behind your interest were genuine and altruistic. What a blast you’ve had and how lucky your students have been. You have given joy and esteem to many and I am happy to include myself in the many. What you, Sarah and Nick continue to do makes me very proud and if you need any support I am about to embark on training CELTA graduates within a University Applied Linguistics Department and so have access to lots of goodies which may be of help. You’re a star.

  18. Adrian Reply

    Hi Anna.

    I’ve just re-read your post. Thanks so much for replying. If you would like I would really appreciate exchanging emails. I have one I use for teaching. It is [email protected]

    All the best.

  19. val host Reply

    hi anna
    ive just found this sitw n was happy to see a teacher after my own beliwfs n thoughts n passion. ur story about the little boy panga? who displayd aurism especially made me smile n sad. ive visited cambodia twice last year n am comin ova in feb to hopefully stay. im a twacher have cert in twfl n background in asd n severe n challwngin behaviours . im not sure how this forum worx but woyld love to chat to u 1 – 1. i realise u would b busy but with a bit of hope i hope we could contact. probably should but heres my email [email protected] hope to hear from u . keep smiling n havin fun

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  21. Chris M. Reply

    First, let me say that this is an absolutely wonderful post! I REALLY enjoyed reading it! I am a 32-year-old American man, and I will be moving to Phnom Penh next April to get my TESOL/TEFL certifications, and hopefully to begin a career teaching English. I was already looking forward to my big move, but after reading this, April of 2013 seems like an eternity! Thank you so much for posting this!

    • Jay Reply

      Chris M.

      Do you have the recommendation of a school in Phnom Penh to receive
      a TEFL Certificate as I will also be moving to Cambodia in April 2013.
      Thank you.

  22. Meghan Reply

    I enjoyed reading your article very much. I will be going to Cambodia in March for a tefl program and have been pretty excited about it. Today though I came across an article by another teacher in Cambodia who was so negative that it really got me down just reading it and had me thinking maybe I’m making a mistake. After reading this though, I feel a lot better and it just goes to show that there are actually people out there who do have a passion for what they do so I want to thank you for that.

    Best regards,

  23. Khmer Reply

    I am Khmer who has worked mostly with foreigners. Most of them are shock to see the bad side of Cambodia. Cannot blame them. We also have the good side. If you are getting to know us, we are fun, friendly, love to smile and help. You will like your work here if you don’t have too much expectation. Don’t compare us to a modern lifestyle in Bangkok, most of them does. Some people chit chat and share a good laugh with Motodop while some of them hate motordop that always asking them. They just make their living. Anyways, thanks to all my English teacher and you guys that come will with a good will. Even though my English is not good but it does open a great page of my life.

  24. Rodney Laing Reply

    Thankyou so much for sharing your story. I hope you continue the wonderful job you’re doing there for a very long time. They definately need more caring people like you!

  25. Cynthia John Reply

    Dear Anna,

    Hi, my name is Cynthia and I am from Malaysia. I do have a diploma in TESOL but do not know how to use it. What I meant was, I have tried various places to teach but never got any respond.
    Would you be able to assist me? Kindly email me at: [email protected]
    I read your post and I love it. I am married with 4 kids and I am 45years old.
    Looking forward to hear from you.
    Thank you so much. God bless.

    Yours sincerely,
    Cynthia John

    • Andy Reply

      I’d recommend you start with checking your applications and appeals for English-teaching positions for grammatical errors.

    • Kevin Rowland Reply

      Forget teaching kids, Sounds like you need to be taught basic spelling and grammar, thicko

  26. Steve Sabatka Reply

    Ms. Spencer,
    I’ve been trying to teach in Asia for a few years, now. I keep getting offers from schools that don’t sound legit.
    I have 23 years of SpEd teachingb experience. I am also certified to teach English and history.
    Any advice?

      • Steve Sabatka Reply

        One of the guys that answered said he offer me some “acting jobs” on the side.

  27. Ciaran Redmond Reply

    This was really refreshing Anna. I volunteered taught in Nepal for 4 months. I loved it, and became so close to my students. It was heart breaking to leave them! They were so eager to learn, man tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

    I had the fortunate or unfortunate run in with the book “Off the Rails in Phnom Pehn….” alongside my digging through this forum, I was a bit off put by the Cambodian ESL teacher community and was really wondering if it was worth it to show up and try my luck, as I am not the slightly bit interested in Girls, Gun’s and Ganja.

    I am so happy to find an intelligent, and passionate ESL teacher writing good things about teaching in Cambodia.

    I am in Phnom Pehn now, and will be passing out my CV shortly, your post helped me make the decision to stay.


    • Andy Reply

      Where did you teach in Nepal? I founded a school there in 2002. I miss it greatly myself.

      Re. that appalling book. It may have held a grain of truth 15 years ago but it bears no relation to reality now. Since you’re currently in Phnom Penh, you should have seen that for yourself by now!

  28. Daryl Hardy Reply


  29. elly Reply

    It was really interesting reading everyone’s comments, very insightful. From what I can see teaching in Cambodia can be very rewarding if you have the right attitude and actually enjoy passing on knowledge and working with people. Nice work Anna. I’m planning to move to Cambodia in October. I’m 25 years old and female. I have degree and a Trinity Cert TESOL but no experience. I’d really like to go to Siam Reap first but have heard it’s a lot more competitive for teachers. Shall I bother or just go straight to Phenom Penh.

  30. Dave Reply


    Great comments here. I’ve taught for 25 years in secondary schools and went to Siem Reap last month. Whilst there I went to a school for very poor primary children who’d slipped through the net and were attending a charity’s new school. Seriously thinking of moving out there in the next few weeks for a while as I’m now semi-retired. I’ve also put a website together for the charity – lots of interesting photos there!

    Have fun


  31. Paul Reynolds Reply

    Just wonderinG if anyone knows something about the Teach in Cambodia organisation.?Got offered job , Not sure if legitimate organisation

  32. Jimena Medina Reply

    Hi Anna, I really loved your article, and I’m thinking on teaching in Cambodia next year. Are you still in Cambodia? Can I get in touch with you, in order to ask you some questions I have? Thanks in advance,

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