26 October 2010

A day I could have done without

Life continues to be an adventure. I woke this morning to the sound of thunder and rain. Now that makes it really hard to get up, but I managed to get out of bed and get organised for the day. By the time I left for school the rain had stopped, so I packed the raincoat in my backpack, along with all the other goodies for the day, including my peanut butter sandwich for lunch, and headed off to school. The road at the end of my street was slightly flooded, but nothing major like a week ago, and so I wasn't expecting anything out of the ordinary as I headed to school. I got part way down my new route (which is about 5 minutes shorter than the old route), and found the road was partially underwater. It was interesting to realise that the concrete blocks down the centre of the road were also providing a mini dam in some places, and fortunately for me I was on the high (dry) side. I did end up going through water for about one block, which was more challenging because of all the potholes that I couldn't see to avoid. I eventually arrived at school only slightly damp to just above the knees and definitely on time.

The first part of the morning went well, with story time, handwriting, changing library books, and problem solving. I also had the fun task of playing postman for my children. Over the summer break we had arranged to exchange letters with students in an English school in Great Britain. The letters arrived last week, and so today I distributed them to the children. This was very exciting for most of them, since generally they had never received any mail before. Later this week we will be writing replies, which will be fun.

Recess saw me on duty in the playground, and the children having lots of fun! I haven't forgotten I promised photos of them skipping, and had actually hoped to get some good ones today, but the skippers were in a different area of the playground to where I was supervising. They are coming.

After recess we have our Language Arts time, and the first part of the lesson went really well. The children were busily planning their stories when I was summoned to the office. Late last week we were asked to bring out passports to school today, and somehow I forgot. I arrived along with the other teachers who for various reasons had also been summoned to the office. After considerable time we were interviewed, and answered some questions. Just before lunch time, myself and a colleague were asked to go with the officials, and so began a lengthy visit to a local police station. That gave me a chance to get to know my colleague a little better than I might otherwise have. We answered questions, and thumb printed the interview record, and eventually we were allowed to leave, and by 3pm we were back at school. I praise God that He kept us safe, and that He kept us calm and patient. I think that the thing that I was most concerned about my absence was what my students would be thinking, and I pray that they will not have been worried by the whole situation (in reality they probably knew very little). God is good. I could have been alone, but not only was I with a colleague, but I was with a colleague who shared my faith. It could have been a very hot day, but it was overcast and relatively cool, so we were not as uncomfortable as we could have been. Lunch was definitely very much enjoyed when I eventually got it at 3pm this afternoon.

Well, that's it for today. I praise God that He was with me through this experience, and that it ended in freedom. The experience has certainly made me appreciate our Khmer staff. I'm not sure what God's purpose in today's events was or is, but I do know that He will use it for His good.

24 October 2010

What's happening in Grade 3K?

This week some of my students have had a lot of fun writing "David" stories. No, I'm not talking about David and Goliath. I'm talking about a very normal, naughty little boy. The first story in the series is called No, David, and the second, which we had lots of fun reading this week, is called David Goes To School.

Imagine if you can, all the things a little boy could get up to which would be unhelpful in the classroom, and you have David. After we read the story together, several times, I challenged my students to write me a David story. Possible topics were David Goes to the Farm, David Goes to the Market, and David Goes to the Zoo. They had a great deal of fun doing this, and are now at the point where they are publishing their stories. Next week, we will take our stories down to the Kindergarten classes, so the children can read them to a real audience. Some of these students have very little English, or at least limited reading and writing ability, and so the task has really challenged them, but they have risen to the challenge

Tomorrow, I plan to share one of my favourite books with the children: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Have you had days like that? I know I have, but tomorrow is not going to be one of them. How do I know that? I know it will be a good day, because I'm giving it to God, and I know He will guide me through the day. There's a possibility "bad" things could happen, but I know that God can use whatever happens for good, so long as I let Him. I hope that my students have a great day.

It's also going to be a good day because I have a new bell for my classroom, which I plan to teach the children about. If the bell dings once, it will mean be a little quieter. If it dings twice, it will mean be a lot quieter, and if it dings three times then everyone must stop talking until the bell dings again. Hopefully I won't have to get to three dings! This also means that my clapping pattern can be used consistently when I want the children to stop talking, put their pencils down, and look at me. This will usually be because I need to give further instructions or because it is time to transition.

Well, it's time I stopped rambling on, and finished some planning for tomorrow so I can go to bed!

11 October 2010

It's an adventure following Jesus

Some of you might recognise the title of this post as a children's song that was popular at STBC for a number of years. Following Jesus in Cambodia is definitely an adventure. Some days are more adventurous than others. This afternoon, while I was at the gym, I had a chance to see some Australia news, and I noted with interest that South East Queensland has been deluged again. I just checked the TRC website, and it's great to see the dam levels slowly increasing (even if some of it is coming from the Wivenhoe Dam). Why was this so interesting? Because the rain has been the cause of adventures for me today!
I headed down to school about 8.45am this morning, noting that traffic was back to its normal chaotic self, after several peaceful days over the holidays. It was overcast when I left, but not raining, and I arrived safely. I'd been there about an hour when the heavens opened, and we received a torrential downpour. It eased after about an hour or so, and I was able to get down to the photocopy shop about 2.30pm without getting too damp. When I left there, I put my raincoat on, and headed up to the gym through reasonably gentle rain. I spent about an hour at the gym and by the time I left it was raining heavily again. Based on past experience, I felt it would be best to take the long way home (it's higher ground), which I did, and so I didn't have to go through any flood waters until I was about one block from home. The semi main road which runs parallel to my street was still OK, but once I turned off it, I was in water (over a foot deep in places) all the way home. In fact there had been so much rain that the water was up to the top of our driveway. The photo below was taken previously, and gives you some idea of just how much rain we have had. The whole street was a river this afternoon. The day this photo was taken there was at least some road visible in front of our house.
When I got in to my apartment, it was to be greeted by pools of water across the kitchen floor. Fortunately the floor is tiled, and it just requires mopping, but I've just mopped it for the 3rd time, and it's likely to continue accumulating all night! Where does it come from? It appears to seep through the wall, which may have been waterproofed at some time in the past, but it no longer is! At least it's clean water.
So my prayer for tonight is that it will stop raining long enough for the water to drain away. I can handle going through dirty water (often mixed with sewerage) on the way home, but I really don't like doing it on the way to start the day.
I also feel for those people, and there are many of them, whose homes are flooded with this dirty water, or who don't have a decent roof over their heads, and so will have a very damp night tonight.

08 October 2010

Playground Fun

Last weekend I was very extravagent, and spent $3.50 on an 18 foot long skipping rope. It's a proper skipping rope with handles and is bright yellow and black. On Tuesday this week, I was on playground duty at recess, and I took the skipping rope downstairs with us. The children were really excited, and it didn't take long to get the fun started. Not long after the 3rd graders started enjoying themselves I had 4th and 5th grade students (with whom we share recess) lining up to say, "can we play too?". It was great to see the children all playing together and having fun. Even some of the teachers were getting in on the fun. I'll have to say this was one of the best purchases I've made here in Cambodia (after all those books of course). I'll try and take a photo next week to add to this post.

04 October 2010

A Monday in the life of Grade 3K

It’s only Monday, but it’s been such a good day that I thought I’d write about a day in the life of Grade 3K at East-West International School.

The bell rings at 7.30am and all the children line up in their classes (from Pre-school 1 to 8th grade). The principal says good morning to all the children, and they say good morning to her, and to their classroom teachers. Then, since it is Monday today, the children (and Khmer staff) sing the Khmer National Anthem as the Cambodian Flag is raised. Those who don’t know it are expected to stand still and quiet out of respect for our host country. After this, the children are dismissed to their classes with an encouragement to learn well.

After climbing 3 flights of stairs, the children reach our floor, and then they take off shoes and backpacks, and bring water bottles and homework (including classroom library books that need changing) into the classroom. Once they are settled on the mat I take attendance, taking this time to personally say good morning to each student by name, and then I read aloud part of a story to them. At the moment we are reading The Magician’s Nephew, by C.S. Lewis. Sometimes I will get the children to make predictions about what is going to come next, other times we’ll talk about new words, and other times we will just enjoy the story together.

The next item on the day’s schedule is a whole class language arts time. On Monday that is when the children prepare their spelling lists for the week, as well as noting any other homework that is required. This is an interesting time, as all the children are at different stages in spelling, so they each have an individual list. This list might include words they got wrong in written work, vocabulary words from our current Language Arts theme, as well as words from our Core Words lists. The teacher has to check each list before they go home, since it is very easy for the children to copy a word incorrectly, and if they learn to spell it incorrectly it is so much harder to then relearn the correct spelling. Preparing the lists takes longer or shorter times depending on the child, but all lists have to be finished by 9am when the children head off to ICT and library. Children who finish quickly have the opportunity to enjoy some silent reading time. This is also the time when the children change their classroom library books. ICT and Library lessons give me one of my three short preparation periods for the week, so I usually try and get some papers graded, future lessons planned, or even some filing done!

There is just ten minutes between ICT/Library time and recess, so this is usually silent reading time. Recess lasts for 20 minutes and the children usually enjoy the break playing downstairs under the building. After recess, we have a two hour block during which the children have one hour of English Language Arts and one hour of Khmer instruction. They are divided into two groups based on language ability, so the Khmer teacher and I each have half the class at a time. This is a great time because it allows for more individual attention to students, and for better differentiation of instruction. At the moment we are working on a “recount” of a visit to a hospital, and all our English language activities have been focused around a short piece of writing. I’m enjoying this, and getting some great ideas for building Language Arts units.

Lunch follows at 12 noon, with 20 minutes for eating and then 20 minutes for playing. Today I was on playground duty for the second 20 minutes, so I have to make sure I eat my lunch before the children are released from the eating area. Unfortunately today it poured rain during our lunch break, so part of the playground was not able to be used, but with a large part of the playground under the building there is still plenty of space for active play (although Australian students would find it very restrictive).For those who remember the posts in my original classroom at Logos, there are several of these and a staircase in the middle of the play area, but the children still manage to have lots of active fun!

Lunch is followed by two 50 minute lessons. I take the other Grade 3 class first for mathematics, while their teacher has my class for Science/Social Studies, then we swap over and I have my own class for mathematics. We then have 10 minutes at the end of the day for final notices and packing up ready to go downstairs. It’s essential the children are downstairs in the waiting area by 2.30pm as there is very limited parking in the streets around the school, so we aim to have the children picked up as quickly as possible. Each afternoon the principal and her Khmer colleague are at the gate to say good-bye to the children individually in traditional Khmer fashion. I love that she does this.

Finally, just before 3pm, when the majority of the children are gone home, we are free to head back to our classrooms, to prepare for the coming day, pack up, and head for home!! I’m not sure why I feel that today was such a good day, but I do know that it seemed to go smoothly, and I’m looking forward to another busy day tomorrow! Maybe it was just a good day because most days are good days. I thank God for his strength throughout each day, and for all the lessons I am learning along the way.

* ICT = Information and Communication Technologies, which is more than just computers, but it does mean the children get to use the computers in the computer lab.