14 June 2017

Share your world - Double whammy - June 5 and 12 questions.

What’s your strongest sense?

I'm not sure I have one, but probably go with smell. I'm very sensitive to perfumes, even picking up with kids uniforms are washed or ironed with strongly perfumed products.

Which of Snow White’s 7 dwarfs describes you best? (Doc, Happy, Bashful, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dopey)

Depends on the day - sometimes I'm definitely Grumpy, but most of the time I try to be Happy.

If you could be one age for the rest of your life, what age would that be?

I'm enjoyed my late 40s and early 50s, so maybe 50 is a great age to be, settled in a great job, and at peace that I am where God wants me to be.

List of Jobs You Think You Might Enjoy: Even if you aren’t thinking about a career change, it can be fun to think of other jobs you might enjoy.  [Remember:  This is SYW where even your dreams can become reality.]

I might enjoy being a principal or deputy principal. I'm hoping I'll enjoy being an elementary coordinator (primary Grades 2-5) which I guess is a bit like a "deputy". I think I'd also enjoy being a full-time librarian, especially working a school library.

What do you do when you’re not working? If you are retired, what do you that is not part of your regular daytime routine?

Study, Facebook, play Scrabble, read books, occasionally watch a movie and do some cross-stitch, make some cards, and go for walks.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Pay off the rest of the mortgage, invest some in my superannuation for the future, and establish some scholarships for the children of our Khmer staff at our school. They know the value of a good education, but find the fees are a struggle.

What makes you laugh the most?

A funny movie or a good book. Sometimes my students - especially when I muck around with them.

What is your biggest pet peeve with modern technology?

The pace of change. What I bought 3 years ago is out of date, and at times incredibly slow. I do have a second peeve with technology and that is the way that it impacts on face-to-face relationship time. I so often see people together at a restaurant/coffee shop and they aren't even communicating because they're playing with their devices. The same goes for parents who give kids devices all the time rather than spending time doing non-technology things with their kids.

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I'm grateful that the end of the school year went well, and I'm looking forward to heading to Australia for some cool weather and time with family and friends.

Share Your World - Friday 26th May 2017

Life's been totally crazy with the end of the school year, plus Professional Development activities, so I'm somewhat late posting this, but better late than never.

What one thing have you not done that you really want to do? 
Some day I'd like to ride the Indian Pacific Railway from Sydney to Perth, and also the Ghan from Adelaide to Darwin.
How often do you get a haircut?
Once a year, when I'm in Australia.
In regards to puzzle what’s your choice: jigsaw, crossword, word search or numeric puzzles?
I enjoy them all. Crosswords are great to challenge the brain, jigsaws are great for holidays, I give my students word searches most weeks to help them learn their spelling words, and I do enjoy the occasional Sudoku.
How many cities have you lived? You can share the number of physical residences and/or the number of cities.
Six cities (Melbourne, Townsville, Brisbane, Roma, Toowoomba and Phnom Penh), two states of Australia (Victoria and Queensland), two countries (Australia and Cambodia), and eleven physical residences (2 in Melbourne, 2 in Townsville (if I count boarding school for a year), 2 in Brisbane (not counting house-sitting), 3 in Roma (nurses' quarters, friend's place, plus my own place), 2 in Toowoomba, and 4 in Phnom Penh.
Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I'm grateful the opportunity to learn heaps more about the International Primary Curriculum, and I'm looking forward to heading to Australia in the coming week. This time next week I'll be on my way!!!!

School's out

Another school year is over. School officially finished on Friday afternoon at 2.30pm. We had a good day, and the children went home with a bag of goodies, including a new book to read and a memory page, plus a bouncy ball and a sticky stretchy creature, a few lollies, and whatever they chose to buy with their "tickets". We also enjoyed ice-cream and movies. The day before they helped me start packing up my classroom by pulling most of the posters off the walls, and I sent home all their workbooks and notebooks. Alas, I still had work to do! First I have to finish the documentation to handover to their grade 5 teachers. I also had to finish designing our new Elementary Library, and prepare detailed documentation of the new furniture we will need so it can be made while we are away for the summer break. The other massive job was to pack up my classroom, sort out what I would leave for the new teacher and what would go with me to my new office, pack everything that had to be moved, and organise for the move to happen.

I just realised that some of you reading this might be wondering why I am moving out of my classroom and into an office. After ten and a half years of teaching, I'll be exploring a new role next year as Elementary Coordinator (Primary - Grades 2 to 5). I'll be working closely with the other Elementary Coordinator who will be responsible for our Early Years programs (Nursery to Grade 1). Together we will be trying to replace the Elementary Principal who has just left. Some of my key responsibilities will be reviewing curriculum and supporting staff as they implement the curriculum. I'll also be work on our WASC self-study for our next Accreditation visit, which is due in 2019.

Back to today. I finally finished packing everything at about 5pm yesterday, having run out of boxes on several occasions! This morning, four young men were waiting for me to arrive to carry out the move. First they moved a number of items out of the office, then they moved all my stuff into the office. While they were working on that, I went and did an interview with a prospective new student. When I finished that, I returned to my old classroom to discover it was almost completely moved (only a couple of things left which they possibly didn't know needed to be moved). I went downstairs (my new office is on the third floor). I was very satisfied with their work. Here's what my office looked like at 11.30am today!

I plugged away throughout the day, and managed to sort the boxes the contain my classroom library from the rest and put them to one side to deal with in July, when I come back from Australia. I then managed to unpack most of the rest of the boxes. I hit a glitch when I couldn't find the shelf supports to go inside my cupboard, which I knew I'd put in a safe place. They were found eventually, and so I've got one cupboard sorted! The big bookshelf needs some work, but I did manage to sort a lot of stuff as I unpacked it, so that's not too bad. In fact, there are quite a lot of things that still need homes, but the photo below shows just what I did achieve. Tomorrow I'm planning to do a few other jobs, then Friday I'll tackle the office again and see if I can get it to a point where I can be productive with a few other jobs that need to be finished.

19 May 2017

Share Your World - Friday 19th May 2017

Time for another round of Share Your World. The original posts are much earlier in the week, but I'm thinking Friday evening is a good time for me to do this, so here are this week's questions with my answers.
How many languages do you you speak?
One, English, but I can speak enough Khmer to get me around and navigate shopping in the markets. I wish I had more, but time for language study hasn't been high on my list of priorities unfortunately. Teaching, planning, preparing, marking and studying have a way of eating up your time.
What are you reading, watching, listening to, eating?
Reading: Kicking Eternity by Ann Lee Miller (a Kindle freebie)
Watching: Nothing - the TV is almost never on
Listening to: The sounds of fans whirring - it's been another hot humid tropical day
Eating: Fresh pineapple - deliciously sweet!
What was the last photo you took with your phone?
My main phone doesn't have a camera, and the only photos I have taken on my mini-tablet/phone were evidence of a student's violent behaviour taken a number of months ago. Thankfully that doesn't happen very often. On my pocket camera that lives in my handbag the last photos were of my students constructing boats entirely out of recycled materials. They did a great job.
What is your favourite time of day?
Bedtime, when I put the air-conditioning on and take my Kindle and do a little reading before sleeping. I've also been enjoying walking time in the late afternoons early evenings lately.
Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 
Well first of all I'm grateful we had a four day weekend last weekend, during which I snuck in some pampering. Love that I had a manicure & pedicure, plus hair wash (complete with scalp massage) for just $10 on Tuesday afternoon. An occasional treat. Secondly, I'm also grateful for e-mail and prompt and helpful responses from AustSwim about license renewal and professional development. Finally I'm grateful for a visit from a professional librarian who was able to make some really helpful suggestions for designing a new elementary library.

What I'm looking forward to in the coming week is having my report cards finished, and getting to work on the nuts and bolts of the design of our new elementary library.

12 May 2017

Share Your World - Friday 12th May 2017

A couple of Facebook/Blogging friends have started doing this, and I thought it might be a fun way for you to get to know me a little better, and if you like to join in by answering the same questions in the comments that would let me know you too. Whether I'll be able to keep up with the weekly posts or not I'm not sure, but I'm going to give it a go. Each week a new set of questions are posted on the originating bloggers page. Anyway, enjoy!
When you’re alone at home, do you wear shoes, socks, slippers, or go barefoot?
Here in Cambodia I go barefoot, but when I'm in Australia (since it's usually winter) I prefer slippers or slipper socks. Having lived in Cambodia for 10 years I've pretty much adapted to the cultural practice of leaving outside shoes at the door.
What was your favourite food when you were a child?
Hmmm. That's a long time ago. I think Roast Dinner figured pretty highly, especially with Lemon Delicious (or Little Pud as Mum's family called it) for desert.
Are you a listener or talker?
Both. I do my best to be an active listener, and I enjoy a good chat. I've learned to speak confidently in public speaking situations. The more I think about it (which I'm not supposed to do in this post), as a teacher I'm probably a talker!
Favourite thing to (pick one):  Photograph?  Write? Or Cook?
Photograph - I love getting the camera out and capture the beauty of God's creation. 
Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 
This last week I was very grateful for my midweek holiday on Wednesday, and I'm really looking forward to my four day weekend. I'm also looking forward to having my report cards finished and proofread by the end of next week!
If you are interested in joining this blogging challenge, just copy and paste the above questions into a new post and answer them. Then put the link for your post here: Share Your World

11 March 2017

Relaunching Scholastic Book Club at East-West

Back in December 2016, after receiving approval from the school admin team, I enquired about re-introducing Scholastic Book Clubs at East-West. A lovely lady in the UK contacted me, we set up an account, and our first flyers were sent by DHL in early January 2017. On 26th January 2017 packages of forms, envelopes, and covering notes were distributed to staff with the hope that they would get their students excited about being able to order books. Orders came in over the next week, and on 8th February I got all the orders entered into the computer. A total of 257 items were ordered, over $2,500 worth of books. We then received 20% of the value in rewards and I was able to order 17 books/packs for the school library/teacher resource area. It took a little while to work out our payment processes, but it eventually went quite smoothly, and the order was processed.

Meanwhile Scholastic changed shipping companies, and that was definitely a learning experience. DHL had previously handled the whole process and delivered books to the school door, with no hassles over customs or anything like that. We'd heard from at least two schools that their orders were coming through very reliably with no hassles. First there was a delay in the warehouse due to the change over. Scholastic staff were quick to respond to my enquiries and very helpful. Eventually our shipment went out on 22nd February with the new shipping company. That same morning I get a distressed message from a colleague at another International School saying she had received a quote for over $500 to have her order (similar in size to ours) cleared through customs. I quickly contacted Scholastic and they said the orders were shipped in such a way that we shouldn't have to pay that but to let them know if there were any problems. We got a tracking number and that enabled us to see where the boxes were. They moved fairly rapidly from the UK to Singapore (via Germany and China), arriving in Singapore less than 36 hours after leaving the UK. They stayed in Singapore for 4 days before finally arriving in Phnom Penh on Tuesday 28th February. We were notified of their arrival and advised that we would need to arrange customs clearance through another company since the shipping company handling our delivery didn't do that. The shipping company delivered a packet of photocopied forms to our office and then marked the delivery in their tracking system as "delivered".

Meanwhile we'd been keeping the lines of communication open between us and Scholastic and been told that we would have to pay the customs clearance since it couldn't be invoiced directly to Scholastic in the UK. Scholastic assured me they would cover those costs, even though we were going to have to pay them up front. We went ahead and got another company involved and they said it should take about 3 days to get the shipment cleared through customs and delivered to us. Then we struck another problem. The packages were addressed to me using my initial and surname, but to get them through customs a copy of my passport was required. As you might imagine my passport has my full name on it and the staff at the shipping company said that because the names were "different" it could be a problem. Thankfully customs did accept our documentation and at 7pm last night 10 boxes of books were delivered to the school. Now, as you can imagine there aren't many people around at school at 7pm, and on this occasion there were even less than usual since some staff had gone away to attend a wedding. Once again God provided. Unbeknown to me until about 6pm, a High School "sleepover" was happening at school last night. Not looking forward to carrying 10 boxes upstairs myself, I thought I'd see if I could enlist some help from the high school students attending. At 7pm, when I got the phone call saying the truck was at the school, the teacher supervising rounded up 9 boys as well as carrying a box himself, leaving me with nothing to carry up the stairs to the 4th floor except myself. A big thank you to the Grade 10 boys and their supervising teacher. 😊
The boxes as they were when they arrived in my classroom.
So now I could finally get down to the fun stuff. Yes, I got to open and unpack all ten boxes of brand new books. Those who know me well will know how much please that brought. It was fun! I was glad I'd asked the boys to bring our "backpack" table into the classroom. By the time I'd finished all the tables in my classroom were covered in books and I'd had to rearrange a few other shelves to get some extra space as well. Here they are.

Having done that, I settled down to complete one more job before heading home for some rest. There were 270 plus items that needed to be checked off against the packing slip to make sure none had gone missing along the way (when you look closely at some of the boxes you'll understand why I needed to do that. I almost managed my 10,000 steps yesterday as I covered a lot of ground tracking down titles. Happily everything was there. 👍 At that point I called it a night, turned off the lights, locked up the classroom and headed for home.

This morning I undertook the first stage of the distribution process, matching the books to the individual student orders. Scholastic made this much easier for me by providing a series of "bookmarks" which each listed up to five items that a student had ordered. These were much easier to read than the original order forms, and four hours later I had finally finished. I've already delivered one batch to a classroom (I noticed a teacher in his room when I went past to go to the bathroom so I dropped off the books for both his class and the other class at that grade level since I was running out of boxes).Here's the rest of them, ready to go out on Monday morning. There are going to be some very excited students on Monday morning!

Next, I want to share what the school has gained from our efforts. Scholastic Books offer us 20% of the value of the books purchased as a reward for our school. With that 20% plus a donation from one family I have been able to get 41 hardcover books, and 79 paperback books for our school library and teacher resource room. I have no doubt these will be received with great excitement in the library.
Finally, my classroom library is getting some new books as well. The Science Vocabulary Readers have been purchased with one of our upcoming IPC units in mind, a couple relate to a unit we've already done, and others just looked good. I could easily have spent more, but I set myself a limit and this is what I got within my budget. I confess I've already read the National Geographic "Ape Escapes" book from cover to cover and it is good.

The other good news we've received in the last few days is that Scholastic are returning to DHL for shipping to Cambodia! That means we'll be doing it all over again, although hopefully with a few less hassles. The first time of doing anything is always a challenge, but in this case I think it has been worth it. Thanks to all those who've helped, supported and encouraged through this "first" and to those who prayed those books through.

01 February 2017

One month in

Today marks the beginning of the second month of the calendar year, and having just observed Chinese New Year I thought it would be good time to reflect on the goals I set at the start of this year.

The first goal was to increase my physical activity. I'm doing okay on that one. Some days it's really hard to get those 10,000 steps in, having reached that goal only 12 of the last 30 days, however I have managed it on eight of the last ten days, so that's progress. 20 flights of stairs a day isn't all that difficult with my classroom on the 4th floor and no lift (elevator). My record is 52 flights in one day, but getting even 10 flights on the weekend is a challenge if I don't go to school. Netball resumed, and I played last week, but this week was holidays. Hopefully next week I'll be able to play again. My biggest strategy for getting my 10,000 steps in is to finish school early enough that I can walk home the long way (about 3500 steps) and get home before dark.

The second goal I set myself was reading the Bible in one year using a structured plan. I'm really happy to report that doing these readings is becoming a habit. I've managed not to get more than 1 day behind at any time, and I've got myself back on track each time. So far I've completed Genesis and am part way through Exodus, and am nearing the end of Matthew, as well as small daily passages from Psalms and Proverbs.

Alas, I have been distinctly undisciplined in achieving the third goal, and this is something to keep working on. I really do need to limit my social media and computer games time. Definitely something to keep working on, so that I reclaim time for piano practice, school preparation, and other forms of communication.

For Chinese New Year I'm adding one more goal, which is a medium term goal. That is to lose the last 5kg to get my weight back to a level that puts me in the "Healthy BMI" range. My goal is 5kg by Khmer New Year (about 3 months). so that's less than 0.5kg per week, which is a safe and sustainable way to do it. I was encouraged today by a mum who noticed that I'd lost weight since last school year, which was really nice to hear.

Now, it's time for bed! A good night's sleep definitely makes for a happier teacher.

Happy Chinese New Year.