hold all my calls

With the understanding of my administrators, I cancelled today’s classes because the rampant cheating I witnessed during yesterday’s exams has me sobbing today.

I was able to maintain my cool throughout the day despite having to have a student escorted from the room by security.

But this morning, a second after Facebook showed me a picture of Leni on her first day of school three years ago, all of my composure collapsed.

three years ago today

The honesty and self confidence present on her face were absent on the faces of so many of my students yesterday.

I know I should not take their amateurish chicanery personally, and yet perhaps because I have dedicated myself to fostering integrity & curiosity, it wounds me sometimes.

My direct boss is a remarkably gentle senior Cambodian educator. Less than a minute after I entered his office this morning, he had his arms wrapped around me, and he too was sobbing. It was so unexpected and validating, but also foreign as Cambodians are trained to never display anything but equanimity in public.

Graft, cheating, plagiarism, corruption, call it what you want – is systemic across Cambodia. Even students from the poorest families know they can essentially bribe their teachers for answers and passing grades.

Graft, cheating, plagiarism, corruption, call it what you want – is systemic across Cambodia.

Over the years, I have had students offer money, apartments, and even sexual favors in exchange for extra points and the “outside classes” that are ubiquitous across Cambodia. I always laugh it off, but that is not at all to say I fully comprehend this environment.

Today, Leni is having an end-of-the-term party at school before taking a two-week summer “vacation.” I wish she could stay home with me today instead and make peanut butter cream cheese brownies, but I know how much she loves being a student. During the frequent and protracted religious holidays throughout the year, she asks me, “Why do all of the schools close for so many days? I want to go back to school. It’s good for me.”

“Why do all of the schools close for so many days? I want to go back to school. It’s good for me.”

She starts 4th grade in October, and I am so excited for her.

postscript

The brownies are in the oven, and I am thinking about my kid.
In some strange way, I wish my colleagues and students could have witnessed two middle-aged men, both lifelong educators, wiping tears & snot from their faces this morning as they consoled one another and spoke to each other in a mishmash of English and Khmer about the daunting environment that fuels us to persevere.

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