24 December 2011

Last Day Before the Holidays!

Holidays are finally here, but it was definitely a different "end of year" to those at many other schools. To start with, unlike at home in Australia, it is not the end of the school year, so we aren't have end of year concerts or graduation ceremonies or any such things. Secondly, as a secular school in a mostly Buddhist country, celebration of Christmas isn't exactly high on the agenda. Then, in addition to that, the holidays are only two weeks long! The weather isn't that different to what I'd be experiencing at home in Australia, although maybe it's a little cooler than some Christmases (though warmer than it may be this year).

So what did we do for the last day of school. Well, I don't believe in last days being one big holiday, but I do believe in having some fun and making the day a little different, so instead of a 35 word spelling test to start the day we had a mathematics test! Don't worry, it was a short one! After that we did some editing, and then split for our Language Arts time. The first group is reading "The Mouse and the Motorcycle" by Beverly Cleary, which they are really enjoying, while the second group are reading "Fudge-a-Mania" by Judy Blume. They are having a lot of fun with that. I've given each of the children a character, so when we read aloud, they read aloud what their character says. As well as making the reading more fun, it means they have to stay focused or they miss their character's lines, which is embarrassing.

Next comes recess, and then it was time for our "Go For Green" class auction. Highly prized items were a plush puppy, and pencil cases filled with coloured pencils. "Angry Birds" rulers were also in demand. Several of the children seemed to be collecting a variety of rulers, which was interesting. Bendy pencils were also popular, so I stocked up on them again today. After everyone had spent their "tickets", we did a "cubby" tidy out, and I sent home any bits and pieces that needed to go, along with quite a bit of returned work, and school calendars. Once all was tidy, and belongings in backpacks ready to go, the children were given a double length "Fun Friday" so out came jigsaw puzzles, games, and even a book or two.

After lunch, the children went back upstairs to collect all their belongings, then came downstairs again for a surprise. By the time they arrived, I had served up 21 bowls of chocolate ice cream! Now that is a quick way to put a smile on the faces of 21 nine or ten year olds! They enjoyed their ice cream followed by a quick game before it was time to go home!  What a great way to end the year. They had earned their treat, and they all appreciated it. While I'm enjoying the fact that I'm on holidays for a couple of weeks, I'm also looking forward to their return in two weeks time! School is hard work, but it's fun too. I love my kids, and they make all the effort worth while. Praise God that He has chosen this way for me to serve Him, because it's a privilege to serve Him by teaching children.

21 December 2011

Teaching might not pay much, but the rewards are awesome!

I love that this year I've had the opportunity to teach many of my 3rd grade students in 4th grade. We work in two groups for English Language Arts, and one of my groups is currently reading "The Mouse and the Motorcycle" by Beverly Cleary. It's a fun book and they are enjoying it. Having used the book last year with a different group of students, these lessons are easy to prepare for, but that's not what I'm enjoy the most. This afternoon I had a chance to take a look at one of my student's written responses to some questions about the first two chapters. If I didn't know better I'd think I'd picked up the wrong book. I am so impressed with this student's work. I'm not saying he has interpreted and answered all the questions "correctly", but he has used complete sentences, and his responses show some thought. His handwriting is incredibly neat, and it is obvious that he is really taking a great deal of pride in his work. I'm really looking forward to writing his report card soon. What a privilege to make a difference in this youngster's life, and to see such growth in his abilities and maturity.

Then this afternoon my class were working on a social studies activity. We had spent time last Thursday exploring Egypt through our atlases, using half a dozen pages with maps and charts giving all sorts of information, from climate to economics. Yesterday I provided them with a note-taking worksheet, with 4 boxes headed "Draw It" and 3 lines for each box, headed "Write It". I turned the students loose with the atlases again, working with partners, and asked them to write and draw about what they learned from the atlases. They didn't finish yesterday, so I let them have another session this afternoon. When the time came to say "pack up", I was greeted with groans. They were really enjoying what they were doing. Some were finished, and had started a drawing on the back, while others have taken them home to finish off tonight. I've had a quick look at the finished ones and it's amazing some of the things the students have noted. Definitely an activity to repeat. Learning is supposed to be fun, so it's great when the students think it is.

Two days to go! I wonder how much more learning we can pack into those two days. We'll fit some fun in as well. Time for trading in "Go For Green" and "Homework" tickets for treasures like bendy pencils, sets of coloured pencils, and other fun items. And there's a special treat coming on Friday afternoon, but I'm not telling what it is or it won't be a surprise! Stay tuned for photos of the day before the holidays!

13 December 2011

Weather Report

For those of you who think that the weather in Cambodia is just hot, hot or hotter, well I have news for you. There are actually 3 seasons here in Cambodia. The hot wet season, the cool dry season and the hot dry season. We've just been through the hot wet season and are currently enjoying the cool dry season. For the record, everything is relative here! Consider this.

Today we reached a maximum of 30 degrees Celsius, and tonight it is forecast to get down to a low of 19 degrees. Brrr! Some of my students were wearing their winter coats this morning! After all it did get down to just 25 degrees overnight. I will admit that I did not enjoy my cold shower this morning by candlelight. Yes, the electricity was off this morning when I woke up, and as my bathroom is an internal room I needed a candle in there. To get hot water I need electricity, since we have small wall heaters rather than the big storage style heaters that are common in Australia. It heats it as you want it, so if the power is off, so is your hot water. Cold shower this morning was a bit chilly.
Will we swim this week? Hmmm. We'll see how many boys turn up without their swim suits tomorrow because it's too cold! Mind you, the pool never gets particularly warm as it is pretty much enclosed and gets very little sun.

It's been funny watching people's comments on Facebook about the cooler weather. Some are saying it's cold, while others are just enjoying the pleasantness of lower than usual temperatures with low humidity. It is a pleasant change after the hot and sticky weather of the rainy season. As I said earlier, everything is relative! When it has been 35 degrees Celsius or hotter, with humidity between 80 and 100%, then 30 degrees with 50% humidity is truly very pleasant.

Wherever you may be reading this, I hope you are enjoying pleasant weather, and if it's not so pleasant, then I hope you have a more pleasant time coming up to look forward to.

11 December 2011

What are you doing for Christmas?

This seems to be the question on everyone's lips at the moment. Quite frankly, I'm tired of it. Christmas is about two things. First and foremost it is about the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in human form, so that He could pay the ultimate price for our sins. That part of it I always appreciate. When I think about what He left to come to Earth with all the limitations of a human being, and then paying that ultimate price of a painful death and separation from His father, how can I not be thankful and want to celebrate. I can't. I really want to read that precious story to my students and have them know the truth of what Jesus did for them. Not really an option for me unless God provides it in an unusual way. So I'll just show them His love. He placed me in this school for a reason, and so I just trust that He will give me the opportunities that He wants me to have.

The second thing that Christmas is about is families. My family is thousands of miles away, and the best I can do this year will be a Skype video call (but probably just an audio call). The last Christmas I had with my family was 5 years ago, in December 2006, and was Dad's last Christmas with us. One day I'll have Christmas with my family again, but meanwhile God's called me to Christmas in Cambodia.

So what will I be doing for Christmas? There'll be a church service on Christmas Day, and I'll Skype the family, and hopefully I'll find some friends to spend some time with. I'll probably enjoy some guilt free reading time, maybe watch a Christmas movie, and hopefully cook someone a delicious Christmas dinner (or go out somewhere for a special meal). For most Cambodians it will be just another work day, even though it's Sunday this year as well.

Do I begrudge others their Christmas celebrations? Not at all. I'll be celebrating too, but in a quiet way.

As I've been writing this, I've also been thinking of those who cannot celebrate Christmas openly for various reasons. I can't begin to imagine what it would be like to not celebrate Christmas at all. There are people who can't. Now that would be really tough. I also pray that God will show me a way that I can make Christmas more special for someone else. Stay tuned to find out how I do end up celebrating Christmas. I'm sure I'll have a lovely day.

By the way, what are YOU doing for Christmas?

09 December 2011

Planting seeds

Sometimes, as a teacher in a secular school, I wonder what impact I'm having for God's kingdom. Yesterday, God gave me another opportunity to simply plant a seed, for Him to water, nurture and bring to fruit. Three times a week I have to do duty (supervision). On Mondays I have fun with the grade 3 boys on the playground equipment, and on Tuesdays I help make sure everyone eats their lunch and stays seated until it is play time. on Thursdays, I'm back at the playground equipment, but this time with my own grade 4 girls, and often they like to just sit and chat while they eat their snacks. (When school starts at 7.30am and lunch isn't until 1pm, a decent snack at recess time {10.10} is important). Yesterday, one of my girls asked me what I thought was most important about Christmas. The door was wide open, and I quickly responded with "celebrating Jesus' birth". Two of my students promptly responded "yes, that's important for me too!", while another said "presents"! Fair enough. I didn't say any more, but it was just one of those special moments in the course of a day. While I do have several students from Christian backgrounds, I also have many who are not, and so I need to be a little careful how much I say. Instead I just love them, and hope that they see something special in my love, and know that Jesus is the reason I have so much love to give them.

02 December 2011

Contemplating Curriculum

This week has seen a new task added to the "To Do" list! One of the joys and challenges of working in an International School is that we do not have a curriculum set by an external body, such as the state or federal government. Instead, the school develops its own curriculum, taking into account current research, and various publicly available curriculum documents. It's a joy, because we can really try to make sure the curriculum meets the learning needs our our particular student body. It's a challenge because it can be time consuming. Either way it's important.

Our current curriculum at East-West has been in place for about six years, so as part of our Accreditation process we are now reviewing that curriculum. First subject off the block for primary school teachers is Language Arts. This is a really interesting and useful process. To start with, it forces one to really read the current curriculum, and think about how it is working well for us (and especially for our students) and also to consider if there are some things that could be improved. While our student population is largely English Second Language learners, we have a curriculum which is based around native English speaking standards. This isn't a criticism, it's a fact. I personally believe that is a good thing. We want our students to be fluent English communicators, and having native English speaking standards definitely helps us work toward that end. It's also interesting to have a look at what other curriculum documents are saying, and seeing how they are similar and how they are different. Sometimes the differences are really just in the way the outcomes are expressed, because they ultimately mean the same thing. Sometimes the differences are quite pronounced, and students on one curriculum are learning things earlier or later than their counterparts on a different curriculum. Which is best for our students?

This week, a colleague and I started looking at the Grade 4 Language Arts curriculum, while colleagues across at other grade levels do the same thing for their grade. So far it has been really interesting to see just how much of what I have been doing this year actually addresses the curriculum really well. Hooray! I'm doing something right. We'll see what the rest of the review brings out. I'm sure there are things I'm missing, so this will help me find those gaps so I can better meet the needs of my students. It was also really good to hear the other teacher (who isn't currently teaching fourth grade but did teach it last year) identify a number of points as being important that I feel are important. Positive reinforcement is valuable for teachers as well as students.

The last time I was involved in curriculum review I dreaded it. This time, I'm enjoying it! Thanks to God for bringing me to this point, and to giving me the strength each day to serve Him by teaching my precious students, and to do all the other jobs that go along with teaching. He is good, and He is my source of strength and peace.

29 November 2011

Grade 4K is alive and well.

Wow, I can't believe it's over two weeks since that last blogging feast!

Some of the things we've been doing in Grade 4K include learning more about using maps, which has been heaps of fun. The children brought in various maps they found around home, and I had a few more to share. We also looked at world maps and discovered lines of latitude and longitude. Not easy. Some have got it, while others will need a bit more practice. Today we had fun, making 100 piece world map jigsaw puzzles, then unscrambling the names of the oceans and continents, and then putting the names of the continents in the correct places. More fun is still to come. Comic-strip Map Skills worksheets have been enjoyed.

In Mathematics we did some work on grids and maps and direction to support the Social Studies work, and now we're working on shapes. Lots of fun, especially with some great on-line tools and a data projector.

In Language Arts we've been busy with our Write Rights (thanks to Writing A-Z), and studying Recounts.

Outside school, I enjoyed a colleague's engagement party on Saturday, and am looking forward to a concert next Saturday evening, by a community choir. I've been in the past and they are usually excellent productions.

Christmas is fast approaching, so a Christmas newsletter is high on the priority list, and so is a little Christmas shopping.

So that's it in a nutshell. There's still a post to come on my "mini-holiday", but it's time for bed now. May God bless each person who reads this, and especially those who pray for me and my students.

12 November 2011

What's it like to be really cold?

Living in Cambodia does not offer many opportunities for our students to experience what it is like to be really cold, in the way that people who live in places like Canada or the Snowy Mountains or Alaska experience for several months of the year. On Tuesday this week both classes of Grade 4 students had the chance to experience a little of what it's like to be in a frosty environment. We took everyone who was at school this week to visit the Diamond Island Ice Sculpture Show. It was a great opportunity for these children to experience what it would be like to live in a much colder place. OK, so we were there for less than an hour, but it still gave them a taste of being really cold (as opposed to what they think is cold, like when it gets below 25ÂșC). The children had great fun enjoying the ice slides (and so did the teachers). This was definitely a fun field trip. We'll have an experience to refer to now when we discuss those cold biomes later in the year.

All snuggled up in our warm jackets.
Double Fun
Watch out! You're about to get bumped!

Friends sliding together

This fellow didn't have long trousers, but it didn't stop him having a great time.

Riding the ice train!
My awesome TA. This was a first for him too.
The other Grade 4 teacher with one of her students.
Yep, I got in on the action too. This time with one of my students.

Book Butterfly Posters

 Our first big Language Arts project for the year was reading a novel and writing a book report on it. Last year I bought some Book Butterfly posters, which provided the framework for the project. The children loved working on the posters, although the writing part was challenging for some of them. For one student who has only been learning English for one year, I modified the task to allow him to draw some of the details for each part of the poster. He is an amazing artist, and so his poster is one of the samples below. I'm so proud of all the students' work that it was hard to choose which ones to post, but I have chosen a few to share with you. Scrap booking templates come in very handy for preparing lines to write on. As you'll see from the samples, every one is different, just like my students. We'll do this activity again toward the end of the year, when hopefully they are all able to read a more advanced book, and will provide a more detailed report. The other great thing about this project is that, as the children read each others' posters they discover great new books to read, and that makes for a happy teacher.

Brain Hats

Grade 4K has recently finished learning about the human body and particularly about the nervous, respiratory, digestive, and circulatory systems. One of the fun activities that we did to help the children learn about the nervous system was making "brain hats". First they coloured all the parts, then comes cutting, followed by glueing, and finally putting it all together. Here are a couple of snapshots of the process and one of the finished products.

Coming soon to you ...

Having changed schools over a year ago, and with my last prayer card/photo having the name of the other school on it, it was well past time I prepared a new prayer card. One of the joys of this current age is the ease with which these can be produced. Digital photos and photo editing software are fun, so it's not even really a "chore" to do it.

A friend took some great photos for me in Thailand when we were there during my "summer" break this year, and now the same friend is heading down under, so the time to get the photos printed was now! Have had a delightful day on Wednesday, playing Scrabble on Facebook, reading, and doing not a lot else, I finally got round to editing the photos. Eventually I came up with something that I think works well, and is also a little more generic than the previous one.

That done, I headed out to the photo shop, and requested a sample be printed. They said they could do it in an hour, so I tootled up the road to my favourite stationery and  bookshop, and happily filled in the hour, and managed not to spend too much money. Next I tootled around the block back to the photo shop, where they had produced the sample. It looked great, and so I ordered and paid for 150 prints, and said I'd be back on Saturday to pick them up (as I was planning a couple of days out of town.

I then headed home where I actually looked carefully at the photo only to discover a small error. Here's basically what I was looking at.

And here is what it should have looked like:

Can you spot the error?

I quickly phoned the photo shop, but alas, they had already finished printing the photos for me. Bother! OK, so I'll have to go with plan B. Now all my beautiful photos have a small sticker on them correcting the error.

I picked the photos up this afternoon, and then spent the afternoon stickering! Took a while to cut and stick 150 stickers, but it's done now.

Why do I do this? Because there is no way that I could serve in the way I do in the place that I do without the prayer support of many folk. Folk who pray often like a photo of the person they are praying for (I know I do), and so they will soon receive these photocards.

06 November 2011

Just an ordinary week ...

Sometimes I wonder what to write about, and yet, I sense that God is in the ordinary as well as the extraordinary.

This week started with a Monday holiday, which is always pleasant. It gave me a chance to catch up on some grading and planning, and to enjoy some down time over the weekend. On Saturday afternoon I received a text message inviting me to join a BBQ at Logos on Sunday afternoon. With Monday off, I felt comfortable doing this, so I enjoyed a swim in their big pool, and catching up with friends and colleagues from that side of town. A very pleasant way to start the week.

Tuesday it was back to school, knowing I would be missing two students, and discovering that another was away was not totally unexpected. My challenge for the day was a student who arrived half an hour late for school. Since we are starting each day with a series of spelling pre-tests, it's a pain when students are late. The next day the same student again arrived half way through the test, and so had to wait until the test was finished before he could join us. That may seem tough, but this student has a history of being late at least once a week, and often more. The test then has to be made up sometime, and with our packed schedule, that usually means Friday afternoon. Not my favorite time for testing!

The rest of the week was pretty much just an ordinary week. Thursday morning I sent one poor kid home when he was sick at recess time. He didn't come Friday either, for which I'm grateful in a way, because that means he has time to recover fully and is less likely to share bugs with others in the class.

Friday had one scary event. We divide the class into boys and girls for swimming, and while the girls swim on Wednesday, the boys have an extra Khmer lesson, and then on Friday they swap over. Unfortunately, our classes are not evenly balanced with boys and girls. I have 8 girls and 13 boys, and the other class has 7 girls and 12 boys. That means our girls' swimming class is a pleasure, and the boys class is a real challenge. With 12 boys down the deep end of the pool (and I mean deep - I cannot touch the bottom for quite a good area of the pool), I usually number them off, and then they swim in smaller groups. I'm glad I had done that on Friday. There are some important rules about the deep end, and one is that students cannot go down the deep end unless they can swim the width of the pool twice without touching the bottom, so the kids in my group can all swim to that extent. There is also always a teacher in the water at the deep end with the students, and a spotter on the outside. Unfortunately on Friday something happened and one of my boys decided to panic. He was actually very close to the shallow end at the time, but because he got scared and panicked, he was in trouble. Fortunately, God prompted me to turn around from the other student I'd be watching closely, and spotted the problem and was able to get him out without a major problem, but it was a lesson for me. After discussing it with the other teacher, and knowing that a very capable Khmer assistant is available on Wednesday when we swim, I requested permission to swap the boys' and girls' swimming days, and to have the Khmer assistant work with us on those days. Permission was granted and I hope we won't have any more scares like that again. Just goes to show, that you can never let your guard down in the pool, even with capable swimmers!

So that's the end of just another ordinary week. The week ahead is actually just two days, and on Tuesday we have a field trip to an Ice Sculpture Display. The children will enjoy this, and it will give them a chance to experience what it is like to be in a really cold environment, which will help them understand a little more what life is like in the Arctic biomes when we study them later in the year. Stay tuned for photos.

28 October 2011

Incredibly Blessed

This evening I am feeling incredibly blessed. It's a fact that I am incredibly blessed anyway. Here are just some of the reasons why am incredibly blessed every day:
  • a comfortable, safe, secure, dry (well mostly) place to live;
  • plenty to eat (too much in fact sometimes);
  • a comfortable bed to sleep in;
  • airconditioning;
  • a great job working with delightful kids;
  • a family that loves me;
  • friends; and
  • above all, a God who cares about everything that happens in my life, knows me through and through, and loves me beyond anything you can imagine!
So why, today, am I particularly feeling incredibly blessed. Well, it's like this ...

Earlier this week, two of the girls in my class came to me and said, "Ms Karen, we didn't give you a birthday party last year, so we want to have one for you on Friday. Please can we do it?"
"But my birthday's not until January!" I replied.
"But we didn't have a party for you last year, so please can we do it on Friday?" was their passionate plea.
How could I say no? Actually it was reasonably easy to say yes, because I knew two of my students had birthdays coming up - one today and one tomorrow, and having taught them both last year, I suspected a cake would arrive for him sometime during the day, so it made sense to have a party this afternoon. So I said yes, and they gathered some support from their friends and this afternoon they had their party.

After lunch we packed up the classroom, and headed downstairs, since I don't think it's fair on the cleaners to party in the classroom. The children collected their goodies, and I collected Vitu's cake from the office and we started to get organised. First of all, I organised the children for a game of "Cat and Mouse", which they just love, starting off with the birthday boy and girl as the cat and mouse. Then we gathered around and tried to light the candles, failing miserably, so sang "Happy Birthday" anyway, then cut the cakes. Here's some snaps of the cakes before we cut into them.

So Vitu and Whattey enjoyed a special treat for their birthdays, and I was privileged to be so loved by my students. They had also made some cards for me, which I unfortunately left on my desk at school, but they were equally precious and I'm looking forward to reading them again sometime soon. So I had an extra birthday this year, but I refuse to become another year older until the end of January 2012!

Now that's enough to make a teacher feel pretty special, but then something else happened this afternoon which was equally blessing. The postal system here in Cambodia is somewhat different to that in Australia. If something is addressed to a post office box there is a fairly good chance that it will arrive (although that's not always the case). In the event that a parcel is sent, several things might happen. First it might just get put in your box (if it's small enough), and you get to discover it when you open the box. That has happened. Alternatively, it may just get sat on the counter, and you need to check the counter regularly just in case something has come in. Sometimes there will be a slip in your box to tell you it's on the counter, sometimes not. Then, they might decide that they need some revenue, and in that case, you will get a yellow slip, with a price on it that you have to pay, in order to collect the parcel. That's what happened to me this week.

The guy whose box we use found a yellow slip in the box, and so he dropped it into the school office so I could go and claim the parcel. I finally managed to do that this afternoon. Well, it took them a while to find the package, and when she finally handed it to me, it was alive! Yep, it was crawling with ants. I'm not sure whether they were Cambodian ants or Australian ants, but they were definitely alive!!! The parcel was addressed simply to Karen K, and since I'm the only Karen who uses the box we were fairly sure it was for me. Well, I opened it in the Post Office to do my best to get rid of the ants. What I discovered was a card in an envelope and a small package of crystallised ginger! Unfortunately in ridding the package of ants, I inflicted further damage on an already injured finger, accidentally bursting a lovely big blood blister on my first finger of my right hand. That's OK. It was messy, but I found a packet of tissues and a bandaid to solve that problem, found a zip lock bag to put the package of ginger into (I was fairly sure I'd got rid of all the ants by that time but I wasn't going to risk it otherwise), put the card and envelope in my backpack and headed out to meet two of the Khmer staff from school, so we could check out a field trip possibility for the students. From there, I headed off to my tutoring job, and finally got home around 6pm.

While I was eating dinner I finally had a chance to open the card. I should mention that when I got the package, the senders details were limited, but I thought I knew who it was from. Well, when I finally opened the card and read it I was blessed to discover that this sweet package, and note had come from someone I don't actually know. This person has been reading my blog, courtesy of a mutual friend, and had taken the time, and effort, to put together a special package for me. Sharon B., I discarded the post pack at the Post Office because of the ants, so I don't have your address, but please know that your thoughtfulness was greatly appreciated, and gave me a special thrill! I will enjoy the ginger! Thank you!

What a blessing this was. It may seem like a small thing, but the thoughtfulness of it was a big thing for me. We do not know how the little things we do impact on other people, but doing small acts of kindness can bring big blessings! Who can you bless today? I'm not asking you to bless me. I've been blessed beyond imaginings. Now I'm thinking about who I might be able to bless in a similar way! Thanks again, to Sharon, and also to our incredible God for his awesome blessings every day.

26 October 2011

Parent-Teacher Conference Fun

Today was the first day of our first set of Parent-Teacher conferences for the year. At East-West we do a conference around the end of the first quarter and sometime in the third quarter, and then formal report cards at the end of each semester. The conferences are a great time to meet parents, explain a little of how things work in the classroom, and answer any questions they have. Each conference is just 15 minutes long, and I'm a little proud to say that we were only running 15 minutes late at the end of 10 conferences. Not bad going.

This year I decided to get some input from the children into the conferences. Some children attend with their parents and others don't. I'm easy either way, although I think it's really good when the kids do come. Anyway, back to the children's input. Each week on Friday we have a journal writing time. Sometimes we use the Six Thinking Hats to guide the children's writing, and other times I give them a prompt. For the conferences, they had six questions to answer.
  1. What have I done really well?
  2. What have I discovered I really need to work harder at?
  3. What is the best thing that has happened in class this year?
  4. What is the worst thing that has happened in class this year?
  5. What do I really want my parents to know about me in class?
  6. Is there anything I don’t want my parents to know about me in class? What is it? Why?
This proved to be a really interesting exercise, providing me with some useful information to inform my planning, and also providing some great material to discuss with parents. Last weekend I typed up the students' responses, and then at the bottom of the page I added a section titled "From the Teachers". In that section I have four items to comment on:
  • Strengths
  • Progress Made
  • Things to Work on
  • Something I enjoy about "student's name" ...
I then printed each student's page out, and they could take it home at the end of the conference. All the parents seemed very happy to receive this. I think it was especially useful where only one parent came, because they have a written record that they can take home and share with the other parent. Unfortunately they are only in English, but I know the children can read it even if the parents can't read the English, so they still have something to talk about at home. 

And now for something totally different! The title of this post was "Parent-Teacher Conference Fun" for a reason. During the second last conference the heavens opened, and the wind blew, and we had a huge storm. The wind was blowing so hard and it was raining so heavily that the water was literally flowing down the hallway. The water was actually flowing into my classroom, which is more than 10 metres down the hall from the open end of the building. Yes, I mean flowing into the classroom. It came 2-3 metres into the classroom. We literally paddled to the table for our last conference. In fact I did that one alone, while Mr Dy graciously attempted to keep the water from invading any further. He was scooping it out, but as fast as he scooped it out, it came back in. Eventually the rain lessened and the wind eased, and we were able to make some headway. I went home and got my mop (which is easier to squeeze out than the school mops), and headed back. By the time I left, after doing a little prep for tomorrow's lessons, the classroom floor was almost dry, except where it continued to trickle in under the door. Looks like it's going to be an early start for me finishing off the cleaning process and getting the classroom set back up again. I love rainy season!!!!

Well, having share that little adventure, I've still got 10 more conferences tomorrow and that means I have ten more sets of comments to finish off, so I'd better get on with it! Goodnight.

22 October 2011

Children's Fears

In Grade 4K, each week, on Friday, the students have time to journal. Sometimes they use a variation on the Six Thinking Hats to prompt their writing, and other times I give them a question to answer or a topic to write on. One of the topics that I chose was telling about the funniest things the students have ever seen, and another time it was about the kindest thing they have ever done. A couple of weeks ago I asked the children to write about what they were afraid of, and also to think about whether this fear was helpful or not. Today I finally made it a priority to catch up on reading their journal writings, and it was really interesting.

Some of the kind things the children had done were precious. Like the child who, in the absence of her older brother, set up the dinner table in a special way to make her mum and dad feel special, or the child who did all she could to help her older sister feel better when she was sick, or the boy who cared for his younger sister. I love these kids. They are so precious, and they so much want to do well.

As I read the stories of some of the things the children feared, I found it sad to repeatedly find stories of fear of ghosts, scattered among fear of big dogs, and snakes, and other more usual things. For me, it was a reminder of the "reality" of ghosts in the belief systems of many of the children I teach. We recently had the Pchum Ben holidays, and that is a time when people make special efforts to appease the spirits of the dead. On top of that, many of the children have access to cable television, with what seems to be an abundance of television shows that features ghosts or people coming back from the dead. These fears are very real to the children, especially to the Cambodian children.

Please pray for me as I work with the children. I cannot specifically talk about my faith with them, but I know that God is using me here. I also praise God that I know that, in Jesus, I have the greatest power possible to protect me from the whiles of the evil one, who loves to attack those who are sharing God's love. I praise Him that I have no need to fear, because his perfect love casts out fear. Pray for the children too, that they will come into contact with others who know and love Jesus, and that they will also come to know and love Him.

Remembering Dad - Part 2

In my first post, I focused largely on Dad's professional life, and that was an important part of who Dad was, but I think that the most important part of my Dad's life, and one which I'm glad he shared with me, was his love for Jesus.

From as early as I can remember, we shared family devotions at a mealtime each day. A Bible reading, a comment, and a prayer time. We also acknowledged God's provision each time we ate a meal, as together we said grace.

As far as I know, Dad was a member of his local Baptist church from his youth. During my life, I remember attending church as a family. Prior to their marriage, Mum and Dad both attended West Preston Baptist Church. The first church I recall attending as a family was Regent Baptist Church, and then, after we moved to Glenhuntly, we attended Ormond Baptist Church, both in Melbourne. After the move to Townsville, we attended first Central Baptist Church, and later Currajong Baptist Church. I recall Dad being actively involved in church life, including being a part of the diaconate, and church treasurer. For a time he was also involved in the management committee of the local children's family group home. As a teenager, and before my sister attained that status, I remember attending the occasional evening service with Dad, although I know he regularly attended both. After the move to Brisbane, Moore Park Baptist Church was their church home until the move to Armidale, and finally to Coffs Harbour. In each church family, Dad was no "pew-warmer", but an active participant in church family life. Over the years he continued to take on the role of both deacon and elder, and I know his Godly wisdom was appreciated by many who came into contact with him. In fact, I think that the last thing Dad did before he was admitted to hospital just prior to his death, was a prayer meeting with the other elder from Boambee Baptist.

Dad's faith wasn't just about going to church though. His faith was an integral part of who he was, and I have no doubt that the principles he learned through his growing years as a Christian led to his being the patient, principled, perfectionist, planner that my sister took delight in describing at his funeral.

Particularly during our years in Townsville, I remember our family hosting visiting missionary speakers. My parents actively supported missionaries as much as they were able to, and when I choose to move to Cambodia, to serve my Lord here, I knew it was with their support. I will never forget Dad's words when I asked how they felt about me continuing to serve as a teacher here in Cambodia beyond the first six months. Dad said, "We just want you to be doing what God wants you to do." How much more support than that can a person ask for. Thank you Lord for Christian parents who were willing to let me go.

In fact, the letting go occurred much earlier than that. It was during our teeinage years in Townsville, we developed our non-denominational attitude to worship. While my home church in Australia is still a Baptist Church, I am grateful that my growing years enabled me to experience worship in other denominations (Anglican and Methodist/Uniting), as well as the interdenominational atmosphere of Scripture Union camps. When our own family church didn't have a suitable youth group, Mum & Dad were very happy for us to attend another group that had more young people in our age group, Central Uniting Church. A while later, when I felt I didn't really fit in at Moore Park (our family church), Mum & Dad again allowed me to stretch my wings and find my niche at Kenmore Baptist.

There is so much more I could share about Dad, and maybe there will be another post in the days to come. Meanwhile, I hope that those who read this will remember a godly man, who loved his family, and taught them to know and love the only true God. What greater legacy can a man leave than a family that knows Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Thanks Dad!

Thank you God for taking care of me

Owning a moto, and riding one is never without risks. This morning when I headed downstairs I could smell fuel. Hmmm. That could be ominous. I didn't want to look but did and noticed that my moto was sitting in a puddle of dubious colour. My first thought was, "I do not need this". Anyway, I did my first couple of errands, and then returned to the house, and was greeted by a somewhat concerned tenant from upstairs. OK, thank you. I dropped off what I was carrying, picked up my helmet and moto keys and headed back downstairs. This has happened before, and it is usually a perished hose between the fuel tank and the engine, so I thought I'll see if I can get to a servo where they have helped me with a similar problem before. Moto started OK, and I made it safely there. When I got there, I was fortunate to find someone who spoke a little English, and discovered they would not be able to help me there. I pleaded for help and this young man offered to help me find a mechanic, hopefully just across the road.

We set off, with him pushing the moto and me walking along beside, and after 3 false stops, he managed to locate a moto shop who were able to repair the problem. We had had to walk quite a way, but he did not seem concerned at all by the time I was taking out of his morning. Having found a mechanic, they wouldn't give a price until they made sure they knew what the problem was, so this very pleasant young man, concerned that they might try to rip me off, stayed until he was sure the problem was fixed and he was able to get a definite price for me. As we waited, he asked if I was a Christian, and when I said yes, he told me that he was also a Christian, and told me the church he attended. I couldn't help but think how gracious God was to me this morning, in providing me with an unknown protector. When I offered to pay him for his help, he politely said no, and, having assured himself that all was in order, headed off to visit his sister and her new baby (born in such a hurry the baby was delivered in a tuk-tuk on the way to the hospital).

Isn't it just awesome to know that God cares about the little things as well as the big things. The other amazing thing, was God's protection as I rode to the servo. The fuel was actually dripping across several electrical connections! That could have been nasty. Thank you God for your daily protection in all aspects of my life.

15 October 2011

Remembering Dad - Part One

Born on 30th May 1938, Malcolm Donald Kimber was the third child of Robert Ernest and Gladys May Kimber. On 15th October 2007, he went home to be with His Lord, joining his parents and both his older siblings. He was survived by his beloved wife Lesley, two daughters - Karen and Jennifer, and his younger sister, Beth.

Each year, around this time, I find my thoughts turning even more frequently to my Dad. Many of the people who are now part of my life never met my Dad, and that makes me a little sad, so let me share with you a little bit (or maybe a long bit) about my Dad.

Dad was born in the middle of the Second World War, and so grew up in those post war years when so much change and development happened in Australia. His father worked for the railways all his life, while his mother fulfilled home duties as much as she was able. I want to share an edited version of what Dad wrote, in November 1980, about his early years.

He was raised in West Preston, a suburb about 5 miles north of Melbourne. Preston was a dormitory suburb, with some light industry. Preston's main claim to fame was the black soil in the flood plain of the Mary Creek, which was found most suitable for test cricket pitches at the MCC and other Melbourne grounds. Fortunately the family home was above the flood area, but Dad remembered several quite severe floods in the 1940s which changed a minor creek into a raging torrent for 2-3 weeks at a time.

Malcolm started school at the age of 5½ at the local state primary school. After 6½ years of primary school, he took what he considered the logical family step toward an engineering profession and started a four year course at the Preston Technical School. He completed the course with a Diploma Entrance Standard Intermediate Certificate, which allowed him to move on to senior technical college. At that point, he discovered that he would actually have to do some study in order to pass exams. After 10 years of full-time and part-time study, marriage, and the birth of their first child, he eventually graduated with a Diploma of Electrical Engineering. Well done Dad!

There are many family stories about the young Malcolm, including the fact that he was Grandma's favorite, and it couldn't possibly have been him who swung on the clothes line, giving it it's characteristic lean. Nor could it possibly have been Malcolm who, having raced his billy cart down the driveway across the street, crossed the road, sped his own driveway, negotiated the corner of the garage, and continued speeding down the path until he collided with the wash house door! Not Malcolm. He would never do a thing like that. "Not fair Dad! We only got half the run you did. We had to stay inside the front gates."

On 19th January 1963, Dad married his sweetheart, Lesley Nancy Buzacott, and together they moved into a brand new 3-bedroom AV Jennings home in the fast developing suburb of Bundoora. A year later they were joined by their first daughter, Karen Joy (me), and two years after that Jennifer Dawn came along.

Dad's first job in the electrical/electronics industry was as a laboratory technician, with a  company called Trimax Transformers, manufacturers of magnetic components for the then infant electronics industry. From their he moved to the Commonwealth Government Aircraft Factory where he spent 5 years in the missile trials section, discovering that the electronics industry was developing so quickly that technology would be out of date in less than five years. During that time he largely worked on the Ikara anti-submarine missile program. Observing the pace of development in the electronic industry, Dad made a choice to move sideways into an alternative field of engineering where his knowledge would have greater longevity.

In June of 1968 he joined the Melbourne office of WE Bassett and Partners as a Project Electrical Engineer. During the first five years with the company, he rediscovered the usefulness of much of his previous studies, as he work on major projects such as the development of both Monash and Latrobe Universities, being involved in the design of teaching, library and laboratory buildings with associated back up services, power distribution, telephone systems, etc.

One special project (in my memory anyway) that Dad was involved with during that time was the water jet that is an integral part of the Captain James Cook Memorial at Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra. In recognition of his involvement with that project, Dad was invited to attend the official opening, and so, on 25 April 1970, he met Queen Elizabeth II (we've got photos to prove it!). Mum joined him for the trip, although she didn't get to meet the Queen.

In late 1972, Dad was invited to go to Townsville, to join the new office being opened to service major projects in the sugar industry. A year later, he was made Manager of the Townsville office, and in July 1975, an Associate of the company. In addition to sugar industry projects, Dad was also involved in projects with various shires, harbour boards, hospitals, a large hotel building affectionately known as "the sugar shaker" and the James Cook University.

In 1980, the time came for transfer to the Brisbane office, where he worked for the remainder of his time with Bassetts. During that time, Dad and Mum had an opportunity to spend 3 months in China, where Dad was involved in development of the Shanghai Environment Liquid Waste Project. In the middle of that visit, things happened in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, and I clearly remember several anxious days during which I was unable to contact Mum & Dad. They were fine, but in those days, long before Skype, and even widespread e-mail, it was a little disconcerting to see the news and not be able to contact your parents. At a time when many were leaving, Mum chose to stay alongside Dad, and I know she has some interesting memories from that time. Dad also had the opportunity to travel to the USA for work as well. During his time in Brisbane, I have strong memories of going to visit his office in Old Parliament House. Yes, Dad was one of the engineers involved in the refurbishment of Old Parliament house, and once again was privilege to attend a function involving Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

After 25 years faithful service, Dad was asked to retire early, at just 55 years of age, during a time of downturn in the construction industry. This wasn't easy, but Dad retired gracefully. This was not to be the end of his working life though. He was not ready to retire!!!

After a break, and a battle with prostate cancer, Dad and Mum made the decision to move to Armidale, NSW, where Dad opened his own consultancy business, M.D. Kimber and Associates. He was widely respected for his professional work, and continued to work on a variety of projects. After a number of years, and with more and more of his work being on the coast, the company was moved to Coffs Harbour, where Dad continued to work as a Consulting Electrical Engineer until shortly before his death.

To be continued ...

09 October 2011

70 years young!

On the 10th October 1941, somewhere in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, a beautiful baby girl was born. Lesley Nancy Buzacott was the first of seven children in the family of Richard Norman and Nancy Isobel Buzacott. Growing up during the post-war years, Lesley completed her Intermediate Certificate and went on to employment in clerical positions.

On 19th January 1963 Lesley entered a new phase in her life when she married Malcolm Donald Kimber at Balwyn Baptist Church. What a beautiful bride she was! On the 29th January 1964 Lesley and Malcolm became parents for the first time. Karen Joy was joined on 21st February 1966 by Jennifer Dawn, and as years passed it became clear that the two girls were to be the whole of their family. Lesley was a stay-at-home mum for many years, supporting her husband as he continued to study, and doing those multitudinous tasks that mothers in the 20th century did. She washed, ironed, cooked, cleaned, helped with homework, volunteered at the girl's school, and even made many of the girls' clothes, especially their special "Sunday" outfits, and even school uniforms. She also sewed gymnastics display costumes; special curtains and matching desk chair covers, and pillowcases; cushion covers; took classes to learn patchwork and applique; and was a Girls' Brigade officer.

Sometime after moving to Townsville in January 1972, with the girls both at high school, Lesley refreshed her clerical skills, including updating to use an electric typewriter, and did some part-time work at the W.E. Bassett & Partners office. She was a great typist, and became adept at preparing "spec's". Lesley also did some part-time work with Scripture Union, in their office in Townsville, and helped out with preparing church bulletins etc. I can still remember Mum "cutting stencils" on her typewriter, then printing off copies using the Gestetner machine. It was a sometimes messy and physically demanding process (I remember her handcranking the first copies through), but one she did well.

In January 1979, the time came to move the family to Brisbane, so Lesley headed of with Jenny, in the little Morris 1500, loaded to the roof, so Jenny could start school at St. Peters. Malcolm joined them in May, and Karen at the end of her year 12 studies. Throughout their married life, Lesley and Malcolm were active members of their chosen local Baptist Church, providing hospitality to visiting missionaries, and to others in the fellowship. Lesley has been a dedicated Girls Brigade officer at various times, and often served outside her comfort zone.

Over the years, I find it hard to remember a time when Mum didn't have a veggie garden. In Armidale it was often a battle with the rabbits as to who would actually get to eat the produce, and there was more than one close encounter with a snake! Mum still has a large garden, entailing much hard work, and providing yummy produce, although it is hard sometimes when the local kids pinch the fruit off her trees before it has a chance to ripen.

During their time in Brisbane, Lesley discovered the joys of card making using rubber stamps. When she moved to Armidale, she became the local agent for Print Blocks, and enjoyed teaching others the joys of card-making. She continues to make beautiful cards to celebrate special events for family and friends.

Some years ago, Mum and Dad moved from Armidale to Coffs Harbour, into their "retirement" home. They shared several happy years there, before Dad went home to be with the Lord almost 4 years ago. Having worked in a nursing home for several years (partially fulfilling a long-held dream of becoming a nurse by working as an AIN), Mum was able to make Dad's last days more comfortable, by caring for him in the living room of their home. THANKS MUM!

After almost 45 years of married life, (and more than 47 years in relationship with each other) Mum was alone. I'm proud to say she has made a wonderful success of living alone, and while I wish it wasn't so, and I know she misses Dad badly, she is doing a great job of getting on with the life that God has given her.

In July of 2008, Lesley made the long journey to Cambodia, to get a taste for herself of my life here. We travelled over together, and enjoyed a trip to Siem Reap as well as keeping busy with back-to-school activities. I hope she can return again sometime in the future. This wasn't her first trip overseas, but it was her first since Dad died, and she made the return 12 hour journey alone. Previous adventures included China for 3 months (they were there during the 1989 Tianamin Square protests), Norfolk Island and New Zealand). She has since managed a trip alone to New Zealand to visit one of her sisters. Onya Mum!

These days, Lesley has a busy and fulfilling life. She continues to be an active member of Boambee Community Baptist Church, serving the church family by producing the weekly bulletins, operating the computer & data projector, and (until very recently) helping maintain the church grounds. Mum also enjoys playing golf and is an active member of the Sawtell Golf Club, playing with the veterans, and "doing the handicapping". She also plays socially with some other senior ladies, rides her push bike, and does lots of walking (weather permitting).

Mum, this one is for you! I'm proud of you! I hope that your 70th birthday is a very happy one, and I'm sorry I can't be there for it. I also hope that God blesses you with many more very happy birthdays!

02 October 2011

Post Number 200

What do I do with auspicious post? It's hard to believe that I have written that much, but I hope it has helped those who read it to know me a little better, and given some glimpses of my life as a primary school teacher here in Cambodia.

Actually, this post is going to be a reflective one. Sometimes it's good to reflect, especially if it helps us to move on to better things. Being a reflective teacher is important.

I've heard it said many times that "the teacher who fails to plan, plans to fail", and I definitely agree with it. The longer I've been teaching the more I see the importance of planning. I've learned that the plans don't have to be in great detail, but they do need to have enough detail for me to know whether my students have learned what I hoped they would learn. At the same time, planning is not enough.

Once the plan has been executed, it's extremely valuable to take some time to reflect on the plan. It doesn't have to be documented in great detail, but it does need to be done. Some questions I've learned to ask as a reflective teacher are:
  • Did the lesson work?
  • If not, why not?
  • Was the content appropriate?
  • Did I start from the known, or did I jump straight into new material?
  • What could I do next time to make it work, or make it work better?
Often our reflections will not be about the content, although sometimes that does need to change, but about how the content was presented.
  • Could I have done this in a different way?
  • Would doing it differently have made it easier for the children to grasp?
Then, there are the reflections about ourselves as teachers. Our children learn so much in our classrooms, and much of what they learn is not academic but emotional and social. We also need to think about how the children think and see the world, and how this might be different to how we see the world.

Consider the whole concept of telling the truth. I don't know about you, but people who lie to me really annoy me. Yes, they get under my skin. Yep, I get angry. I'd rather tell the truth and face the consequences than lie (well most of the time anyway), and that's what God wants me to do. At the same time, I live in a country where the culture places a great deal of importance on saving face. Culturally, it is acceptable to tell a lie and save face, or to tell a lie to avoid hurting others, or to tell a lie to protect someone else. This is really hard for me to deal with, but it is something I need to work on. Someone said to me that these motivations, in the context of love, should be stronger than telling the truth. I'm not sure I agree with that, but I'm thinking it over. A thought that I'm finding easier to work with, but still not easy to do, is to consider these questions:
  • "How can I make it easier for someone to tell the truth?".
  • "How can I make telling the truth a safe thing to do?"
  • "How can I be sure that a person is confident enough of my love for them that they will tell the truth?
For my own truth telling, maybe I need to consider these questions:
  • How can I say this so it does not hurt the other person?
  • Do I really need to say it at all?
As I reflect on these things as a teacher, I'm also reflecting on them as a person. I thank God that I am a work in progress. One day, some great day, I will be as He truly intended me to be.

In the meantime, consider the words of Paul in Colossians 4:2-3a, 5-6.
Continue praying, keeping alert, and always thanking God. Also pray for us that God will give us an opportunity to tell people his message.
Be wise in the way you act with people who are not believers, making the most of every opportunity. When you talk, you should always be kind and pleasant so you will be able to answer everyone in the way you should.

I pray that I will remember this throughout the day tomorrow and every other day as well.

22 September 2011

Just thinking ...

As Pchum Ben holidays draw near, my heart goes home, and I feel a little down. It's absolutely nothing to do with the actual holiday, but more because it reminds me, that it was on the Monday morning, just after the Pchum Ben holidays in 2007 (my first year in Cambodia), that I was woken at 5am by a phone call to tell me my Dad had gone home to be with our Lord.

It's interesting that it should be this particular holiday that reminds me of his leaving us, because for the Khmer people, this holiday is all about feeding the ghosts of your deceased relatives, and making sure they are happy. I'm so grateful that, because of what Jesus did for us, I do not have to deal with anything like that. In fact, I know exactly where my Dad is, and am certain, without a doubt, that he is at peace, and enjoying life beyond anything we can imagine. He's with his Lord, and I know that one day, I'll get to see him again! I know that, because the Bible tells me it is true. I know the Bible's true because God has proven it to me again and again. God's the epitomy of trustworthiness! He can be trusted when no-one else can.

Since the Pchum Ben holidays are based on the lunar calendar, it's actually another two weeks until the anniversary of Dad's death, but I can't help but think of him at this time. Four years on, I still miss him, and I know Mum misses him even more, but I wouldn't wish him back either. Dad's last 16 months were not easy, as he battled stomach cancer, but through it all he never lost hope, and I know that God blessed him and used him during those months. I know that in all things, he knew that God was in control, even if he didn't like the way things were going.

I also thank God that neither Dad or I had to earn our place in heaven. Jesus paid the price for both of us, and so many others as well. Thank you Jesus. Thank you for your peace which passes all understanding, even in the face of loss and grief. Thank you!

20 September 2011

Rainy season challenges!

This afternoon I went out for a while to help a colleague find some essential items in town. We took a tuk-tuk, which was a pleasant change for me, and while we were in the store the rains that had been threatening came down quite heavily. The tuk-tuk driver had already installed wet-weather gear on the tuk-tuk, and donned his raincoat, so when we came out there was no problem. We arrived safely back at school, and I headed upstairs to tidy a few things up in my classroom before heading to the markets and then home.

Hmmmm! That's odd, I can hear water dripping, and it sounds awfully close. Looking up from my desk, I noticed that water was steadily dripping into the classroom (well, actually it was running for a while). Now Cambodian construction is somewhat different to Australian construction, and so we have these lovely big sliding glass windows, set into the walls, with virtually no eaves or awnings to provide shelter from the rain. Some houses have awnings, and others have a ledge above the window to prevent some of the water running in, but the windows on the school have nothing like that. If you look at the photo, you can see the ledge around the top floor, but you'll also notice the rest of the windows are pretty much flush with the walls, with no protection. The other catch of course is that it depends which way the winds and rain are coming from. We've had plenty of heavy rain already since school started, but this is the first time I've had it in my classroom. Obviously the wind was blowing just the right way today! It's almost impossible to guess which way it's going to come. Life's like that.

Still, I've got plenty to be grateful for. First of all, where it has come in is the area where the children usually sit on the floor - fortunately I have foam mats for them to sit on, instead of carpet (can't you just imagine if the stink of wet carpet), so I just lifted all the mats up this afternoon when I realised, and I'll get the floor mopped over in the morning. The mats will have air-dried by then. Easy fixed. The kids won't even know there was a problem. Second, because it's my floor area, there were no books in that area, so no books got wet. Third, it was just the window leaking, so it's clean water (not sewage like many get in their homes when it floods here). Fourth, I discovered it this afternoon so could move the mats and get them dry overnight. Fifth, it is only coming in through the windows, and I don't have to cope with the roof leaking in totally unexpected places! Now that I did have to deal with for a couple of rainy seasons at my old school. Sixth, it happened after school, so the children weren't in the classroom, getting wet. So, with lots to be thankful for, I'll finish this post off by mentioning the fact that the rain also cools the atmosphere and makes the air temperature much more pleasant (even if the humidity is still 100% or nearly so). Got to love the rainy season.

Can it be fixed? Who knows! Just another one of the joys of Cambodian construction standards (or lack of them). Mind you, this building is one of the better ones I've seen here. I'll just work around the problem. Praise God that He truly is teaching me to be content with whatever He gives me, and in whatever situation He places me. I never used to be this flexible. God is changing me, little by little (as the old chorus goes).

Little by little every day
Little by little in every way
Jesus is changing me, He's changing me.
Since I've made a turn about face
I've been walking in His grace
Jesus is changing me!

He's changing me,
My precious Saviour,
I'm not the same person that I used to be
Well it's be slow going,
But still there's knowing,
That one day, perfect I will be!

16 September 2011

Three weeks in ...

After three weeks of school, routines have been established, expectations clarified, and we're really moving now on learning all the things a fourth grader needs to learn. This week I finally managed to print the children's photos for their "All About Me" posters, and they have now been displayed on the wall outside our classroom. They look great, and are attracting lots of interest from both my students and others who happen to walk along the hallway. (See photos below).

The big project each child is working on now is a "Book Butterfly". These are some lovely book report posters that I got from Scholastic last year, as a great way to start the year. Everyone is reading a book of their own choice, and writing a poster about the book. I finally finished the full-size sample today, so now the children are even more excited about doing their own.

We've also been busy learning about our body, and some of the systems that keep us alive. Yesterday the children enjoyed discovering a little more about "Why we yawn?" and the fact that scientists actually don't really know! Next week we'll look at broken bones, and then start making some "Read and Write Booklets". Should be lots of fun.

One of the biggest challenges I'm working on with the children is "Reading Directions". Some of the children are really good at reading questions or directions and completing assigned tasks, while others seem to be totally unable to read and follow simple directions independently. Others try hard, but struggle because their English doesn't quite allow them to be fully independent yet. Starting next week, I'm going to do some specific activities on following directions, which I hope will help.

I'm enjoying teaching "Go Maths", and I think the children are learning well. It's not always easy as some of them are not confident in basic skills, while there are others who are excellent with basic facts, but struggle to apply them in new situations. The joys of teaching.

This week I had some wins, and some losses, but overall it has been a great week. God is good, and I thank Him for the opportunity to love these children, and help them learn, as well as to learn from them.

12 September 2011

Welcome to Grade 4K

I've been promising some photos of my classroom, so here they are, finally!

To give you a little context, I'll start with a photo of the main entrance/exit on the corner, with our school signage, as well as photo of the buildings. This gate is only open for the beginning and end of day. At all other times, access is via the side gate between the two buildings in the second photo.

My classroom is on the 4th floor of the big yellow building. Most of our classrooms, as well as our library are in this building. The ground floor is open, and this is where staff motos are parked and the children play at recess and lunch times. No sports field or oval here. The domed roof in front is our basketball court / PE area.The sides are fenced all around to prevent balls escaping!
The stars on the door are all different, just like the children's names that are on them.

Come on in!
Everyone has a number. The goal is to keep a green card all day. To do this, students need to keep the rules. Generally they do fairly well. Consequences are not fun if you get to orange or red cards.

Looking for a good word to describe something a classmate has done well. Look no further than the positive words posting. These were made by my students last year.

Like most classrooms, things can get a little noisy at times, so now we have the "Noise-o-meter".
Loud is only permitted on special occasions. (Soft Voice now has an extra title - Partner Voice).
This is the Language Arts poster corner, with some great posters on the parts of speech, thanks to one of the previous 4th grade teachers, and 6-traits of writing, as well as the Noise-o-meter.
Developing ways of using the 6 traits is coming up very soon in our Language Arts program.
The desk in the corner belongs to my very capable assistant, Mr Dy.
And here's my messy corner. I can tell I took this photo on a swimming day from the extra bags in the corner. Notice the umbrella hanging from the window bars. I don't go to school without it at the moment, as the rainy season is well and truly in progress.
Backing onto my desk is the classroom library. This is what's left on the shelves after each child has two or three books on loan. They have one in their "boxes" to read in the classroom, one in their homework folder for home reading, and at the moment they have a third book for writing a book report.
Here are as many of my treasures as I could get in to the photo. We start the day sitting on the mats, taking attendance, listening to a story, or doing some other whole class activity. They may not look very happy, but they are. For some reason they don't like smiling for photos as a rule. Still haven't worked that one out.
And here are a couple of the boys reading those books for their book reports.
Wondering where the children keep their books and belongings? As you can see, we don't have individual desks, so instead each child has a "box" in the shelves along the wall just inside the door. These boxes are open, so there's some necessity for tidiness. It's a bit hard to hide a messy box than to hide a messy desk. Mostly they do fairly well.

Thank you for taking time to visit Grade 4K. I hope you enjoyed your visit and come back sometime soon.