The Kids: I can’t say enough about how cool these kids are. They have been students at Liger for nearly 3 years now, so communicating with them in English is straightforward as long as I avoid advanced vocabulary. In many ways, the kids form a diverse group – they are from many different provinces, substantially different financial backgrounds, and their temperaments run from sassy to sweet. What sets them apart from any other group I have seen is their ability to think and act as a group. The students are quite attuned to each other, and intercede on each other’s behalf on a regular basis. The implications of this are quite astounding. From large actions, like standing up to bullies, to small actions, like regulating each other in a classroom, these kids have one another’s backs. Many teachers at Liger have remarked that they spent almost no time on classroom management, which allows them to spend the vast majority of their time actually teaching! When I compare this to my experiences in US schools of any age, I just can’t imagine how teachers in the US manage to get anything done!
The Staff: Not surprisingly, students that are so incredible are partially a product of the excellent team of staff members working to make Liger the place that it is. There are about 10 members of the education team, both Khmer and Western, who teach all of the subjects that form the more official curriculum at Liger. In addition there are several people that teach a class once a week, either at Liger or at another school. For example, many of the Liger students are involved with a video editing class that meets at an international school in Phnom Penh each week. Supporting the educational staff are all of the people who make Liger continue to function normally so that teachers only have to teach. Among the many people who work to support the students, there are house moms, a nurse, a chef, his wife (who is the go-to person if you need ANYTHING done, especially if you are lost in a tuk tuk) and many cleaners and landscapers.
Programming: Teaching my programming class is the highlight of my day. We spent the first four weeks covering theory, and last week and this week we are working on projects in small groups. The range of projects, especially after only 4 weeks of coding experience, is remarkable. One of my favorites is an interactive grammar study guide to help study for the end of year grammar exam. There are six lessons programmed in, with a menu to choose a lesson and a variable number of example questions with an optional quiz at the end of each lesson. A few groups are trying their hand at building games, with mixed success. Games have a fair amount of complex background code that requires an intricate knowledge of how different objects within the game interact. One group has successfully built a pirate ship game that involves two keyboard-controlled agents that can move on one axis and shoot at each other. Another group is creating a Tic-Tac-Toe game that is interactive. It will be exciting to see what each group can finish as the school year winds down.
Why is this place really so awesome?
I am a computer science major for many reasons, including my aversion to writing. While I am thrilled to share as many of my experiences with you as possible, I am afraid that I struggle to share the true magic of Liger with you. It’s something intangible –that sense of community, of belonging. Knowing that everyone here is here for the students. Knowing that these students are being given a chance of a lifetime, and seeing what they are doing with that chance. Knowing that your being here makes a real, measurable impact on the students. This is an experience I cannot fully share with you, but just wait –these kids are changing the world.