Fellow Reflection: The Power of Asking & Listening

Meet Puthipisey Sokunthea, a member of the founding cohort of the Teach For Cambodia Fellowship. She was born and raised in Phnom Penh, graduated with a BA in Teaching English as a Second/Foreign Language from the Institute of Foreign Language, and is now teaching grade 7 English at Sampov Poun High School in Kandal province. She shares her recent reflection.

I grew up silent. Silent in voicing what I need and what I think. Silent because I did not know my worth and my potential. Silent because no adult in school cared to ask me why. Today, I’m going to tell you two stories. One is about a time when someone listened to my voice, and another is about a time when I chose to listen to someone else’s voice.

In 2017, I gained a new perspective when I interned for Teach For Cambodia. I can recall vividly a day when a person genuinely asked me a question and listened to my thoughts. The person turned to me and asked, “What do you think of this? I want to hear your thoughts on this.” With that one genuine question, I felt like someone actually wanted to hear my voice. For the first time, I felt worthy. For someone who was rejected by many for having her own thoughts, this was a very big deal for me. I wondered: As a child, if I had been asked this question sooner, would I have grown up doubting myself? I wish that growing up someone had asked me questions and listened instead of telling me to stay silent.  

During Teach For Cambodia’s intensive training program, I met a child named Maret in my practicum class. Maret was silent for the first few days of  class. As a teacher, I was very curious why this child who always got the answers right on the quizzes, was not talking much in class. Curiosity got the best of me, so I asked “Hey, love. Is there anything you want to tell me about? I would love to listen to you.” Suddenly, the child started talking about everything that he knew… his lessons, his classes and the school, even what he thinks about society! I was impressed by his thoughts. After that, Maret was very active in class. His behavior had such a positive impact; everyone became as energetic about learning as he was!

You see, it only takes one genuine question to enable a bright, young mind. What might happen if all of our students have the opportunity to feel that their voices are heard? Collectively, this founding cohort has 5,200 students to teach. Imagine if we could enable these 5,2000 minds to share their thoughts by asking just one question. Could we transform this whole nation?

Thank you so much to those who have asked questions and most importantly, have listened to those voices.

I have asked questions and listened. What about you?