27 June 2011

Summer School Begins

Don't you just love it when you put things in a safe place where you know you'll be able to find them, and then you can't find them. Not the way I would have liked to start Summer School, but we all survived and I think everyone had a good day.

Once we got settled in the classroom we work on the K and W parts of a KWL chart. K stands for Know, and the children recorded all the things they already knew about inventors and inventions. Then we moved to the W (What) and the children listed some of their questions that they would like answered. This was valuable for the teachers as we discovered some of what the students already know, which was pretty good. After that it was time for recess, which we had downstairs all together.

After recess, we did our first hands on activity for the week. We made Super Starch. If you've never made Super Starch and you're looking for a fun, if somewhat messy activity for a hot summer day or even weekend, this is great. The trick is to get the right ratio of water and cornflour. Once the mix is right, the material will solidify as long as you keep working with it, but if you hold it still in your hands, it will return to a liquid state! Have a look at the fun we had.

Yes, their hands did stay pink or yellow for a while (in fact I've still got a yellowish tinge to my hands), but as you can see, they had fun. After cleaning up, we headed back to the classroom to start building our invention vocabulary and reading our inventions book. That was really interesting. We're looking forward to reading more tomorrow.

The final activity for the day was "Grip ball". I'd bought the velcro paddles and balls some time ago in Australia, and they'd been in storage for a while, and Summer School seemed the perfect time to get them out, so I did. We don't seem to do a lot in the way of small ball skills here, so it was fun for the children to use the paddles and balls. Here's some photos of the action. See if you can spot the balls - in most cases they are a pink and green blur!

Stay tuned for more Summer School fun! By the way, I found the things I'd lost this morning and now have misplaced some other things! Aaaagh. Just as well my head is tightly attached to the rest of my body!

24 June 2011

Last Day of Third Grade

Well, today was my last day as Third Grade teacher at East-West International School. Next year, I'll be a Fourth Grade teacher again. This has been a fun year, and I've learned many things alongside my students. Here's a glimpse of our day. Sorry no photos today.

Settle in, and distribute memory cards to students. They enjoyed reading the messages I had written for each of them at the end of their memory page. I keep the originals and they get a typed copy with a personal note at the end, along with their own photo. Usually I try and have a proper photo, but having moved house, they just got black & white photos printed as part of the document. They didn't mind.

After that it was time for a jigsaw puzzle marathon! Students worked in pairs or on their own, on puzzles ranging from 24 piece to 100 pieces. I'm looking forward to giving them some new 100 piece puzzles to work on after the holidays (purchased at a "leaving" sale recently). Several students completed some really challenging puzzles (a puzzle full of cupcakes, and another that is just lollies (candy)) and all enjoyed themselves doing them.

After recess, we divided the class as we would for Khmer/English lessons, and I think the Khmer classes played games in Khmer (totally appropriate for the last day of school), and the English classes packed up all their books and papers in their backpacks to go home, and helped me clear the walls of posters and vocab frogs and other assorted items. They also did some cleaning of laminated items as well. Those not otherwise engaged were busy enjoying a final silent reading session. Meanwhile I continued sorting and packing! One disadvantage of  changing grade levels is that I need to move classrooms (up to the 4th floor - even more exercise next year), and that means everything has to be packed up into boxes to facilitate the move. I kept running out of boxes! Life's like that.

Anyway, back the report on the final day. Next came lunch, and then I went on the scrounge for some more boxes, and also went to buy more packaging tape. I knew I had two more rolls at home, but I'm just not quite sure where they are yet! I've still got quite a few boxes to unpack! My colleagues very helpfully agreed to let me continue packing through swimming (normally we have four teachers swimming and a spotter) but since we were having a free swim today, they said three would be OK. Thanks N & M. That meant I had most of the classroom library packed by the time the students came back from swimming and PE (boys swimming & girls PE after lunch), and also had their gift bags set out and the books all displayed ready for them to choose from. That was a fun time, and I think everyone went away happy. I didn't hear any complaints. Finally, they had about 15 minutes to enjoy sharing their new books with each other or starting reading them! We headed downstairs then, and it was time to say Goodbye. Happily there were no tears. At this stage we expect most of the students to be returning next year, although one is definitely leaving to go to Australia to live. I will miss her, but she's promised to e-mail! Even if I just get one e-mail that will be fun!

Finally I headed back to the classroom to continue the packing process. I didn't quite get finished, so will have to go back tomorrow or Monday afternoon. Monday morning sees the start of Summer School. So far we have 22 students in our Grade 3-5 group. I'll be working with another teacher and a Khmer assistant. Our theme for Summer School is science & inventions, so it should be lots of fun!

Tomorrow I have lots of jobs to do, running around across town, like getting my moto serviced, trying to replace a part of a fan that got broken in the move, and other jobs like that. For now, it's time for bed. It's been a busy week, and I've got a rotten cold just to top it off! Hopefully I'll be better by Monday!

23 June 2011

Last week fun

I can't believe it is the last week of school for the year. My third graders are almost fourth graders. It seems not long ago I was just meeting them, and I'm getting ready to say "good-bye" for the Summer! So what has the last week looked like. There has been some work and lots of fun. There has been acknowledgement of achievements and challenging to continue the achievement over the summer.

Happily Monday was a holiday (which was much needed since I moved house on the weekend), and so I spent some time doing some Summer School planning with my colleague, and then it was out to get an Internet connection organised. Back home in time to get the washing machine installed (only it couldn't happen because I'd not got a very important base for the machine), and to do some preparation and more unpacking.

The project I assigned for the children this week to write about what they have learned this week. We brainstormed all the topics we'd covered (well most of them anyway) and then each child took one or more topics to write a paragraph or more about what they learned and how they learned.

On Wednesday morning, my Kookaburras reading group presented a Readers' Theatre as a culminating activity to their reading of "Frog and Toad are Friends". We were happy to be able to present it to both of the Kindergarten classes, and also our principal. Well done Kookaburras!
Kookaburras with their puppets

Readers' Theatre presentation to Kindergarten
On Wednesday afternoon we had a celebration of the children's progress in learning their basic number facts (addition, subtraction, and multiplication). Each child received a personalised certificate documenting their level of achievement and a goal to work towards over the summer. Here's some photos of the children with their certificates.

Today we had a fun day. The first part of the day was taken up with students writing their final copies of their "paragraphs" about their learning. Next the boys went to PE and the girls had one last swim. Then came recess, and then the first excitement of the day, Ten Pin Bowling. Since the venue was only a 15 minute walk away we walked. It was interesting to hear some of the children say it was the furthest they had ever walked. Walking is something that you don't do unless you can't afford any other mode of transport. We made it safely, and everyone had heaps of fun. Here's a few snaps of our bowling "teams".
Team D
Team Dy

Team K

Team L

Team S
And here are a few other snaps from the morning.
Check out that style!

Come on bowling bowl GO!


Waiting and watching the scores.
We walked safely back to school in time for lunch, and all agreed that they had had fun! :)
After lunch it was time for some quiet time - finishing off the unfinished pages from the morning or reading silently, before the final excitement for the day - MOVIE TIME! Thanks to a very helpful lady at the local market I was able to obtain a copy of "The Mouse and the Motorcycle" which my Cockatoos had been reading over the last month, and thanks to another friend (and a cooperative electricity supply) we were able to watch it on "the big screen". All the children enjoyed it, and the short bonus film that followed.

Tomorrow is the last day of school, and it will be tinged with sadness as some students leave us to go to other schools and other places, but it will also be a happy day of making final memories and sharing in more fun! Speaking of which I've still got a really big job to do before tomorrow, so I'd better get on with it! Bye for now. Karen

20 June 2011

Moving house Cambodian style!

Hooray, I'm moved! No more 20 minute moto rides to or from school each day (more in peak hours). I can walk to school. The last two weeks have been somewhat hectic, but thanks to some great help from a very good friend, I'm happy to say the move was accomplished with no disasters. I was very grateful for the loan of a truck from the owner of our school, along with a driver, and the help of some of the guards/van assistants and our PE teaching assistant. It took two loads, but we were all done by 1pm. I then took all my helpers that I could out for lunch, which they really enjoyed, and gave them a small (by Australian standards) cash payment for their help. They all walked away with big smiles on their faces. Here are a few snaps of the second truckload. I will admit that "Yes, I have a lot of stuff!".
Cheerful workers! Note that table has a glass top!

No, we didn't lose anything along the way.

Casualties were minor as far as I know. I still haven't opened the "glasses" box, but I'm hopeful.
So far my bedroom is almost organised and the living room is reasonably presentable, although there are still some items that need to be unpacked for that room. I have my computer and printer set up, so I'm able to get some school work done as well as communicate with the world. My goal is to having everything unpacked and put away by next Sunday afternoon. We'll see how we go. It took me two weeks and a motivating helper to get the packing done, but I'd really like to be fully set up by the end of next weekend. I think it's doable!

Thanks to all who have helped with the move, either financially or in prayer, or in practical ways (like inviting me over for dinner or going out for dinner with me or helping with the move or packing!). God is very good to me, and I thank Him for providing all the assistance that I needed, and for giving me the strength I needed as well.

15 June 2011

What a week! And it's not over yet.

Hooray, I got the keys to my new apartment today, and delivered them to the company that will install the air conditioner and hot water for me. They'll drop the keys back to be at school ready for the big move on Saturday!

This week is flying past. It's Wednesday night already, and I'm wondering what happened to the last few days. Here's a quick snapshot

Sunday afternoon I attended the wedding reception of a colleague. Yes, that's right, the reception. For those not familiar with Cambodian weddings, only family and very close friends are usually invited to attend the ceremony (which often starts at 6am in the morning), then a much larger number are invited to the "reception" in the afternoon or evening. This isn't always the case. Christian weddings tend to be a little different, although often with some elements of the traditional Khmer wedding. The reception is often held in a "tent" on the street outside the bride's family home, but on this occasion it was held at a large function centre (along with several other weddings in different floors of the same building). The bride & groom and their attendants welcome the guests at the entrance, but rarely actually get to sit down and enjoy the meal. In this photo the groom is probably wearing his third or fourth outfit for the day, and his bride was wearing a beautifully matching gown in the same royal blue. Most people dress up for weddings, so I did dress up a little. I rarely wear long pants here, and the shirt I'm wearing is a special one not worn for every day. I even left my hair down! After an hour and a half of very very loud music, as well as some interesting food, some colleagues and I headed home. The music was good quality, just 3 times the volume it needed to be (that's normal here).

Monday was a busy day at school, with students writing comments to go on their report cards, as well as the more usual things. After school a colleague and I headed to Central Market, where she needed to pick up some t-shirts for our school concert on Thursday evening, and I needed to buy some. My colleague got most of her needs, and I placed an order for mine, then we both raced the rain home (and didn't beat it). In fact, we were both very glad we had rain coats on, as we had a wonderful tropical thunderstorm, with drenching rain. Fortunately I managed to get home before any of the roads I needed to take were flooded!

Tuesday we got the report cards finished, and had a usual Tuesday of school work, finishing the afternoon with a practice for the school concert. Having done "bush dancing" as part of our music program this year, my class will be performing the Virginia Reel. The practice went well, but in the excitement and busyness of that, as well as after-school Maths program, I forgot to send the report cards home! Ooops!!! I did however manage to get back to the market to pick up my t-shirts, and also some for my colleague that she couldn't get the day before. This time I arrived home with seconds to spare! In fact the rain started about 15 seconds after I drove through the front gate! Later I walked around the corner to a new "supermarket" (think a small independent grocery store in Australia - definitely no Woolworths or Coles), to get some laundry detergent and a few other items. That was necessary so I could wash the "new" smell out of the t-shirts. Having packed most of my clothes for the move, it was easy enough to find coat hangers to hang 24 t-shirts up to dry. That was Tuesday night.

Eek, it's Wednesday already. The day passed much as usual, with no major excitements in the classroom, but at least I remembered to send the report cards home today. Then it was time to dash to the bank so I could pay the first 2 weeks rent, and pick up the keys to the apartment. Done! Drop the keys off to the A/C installer, and then home to prepare music folders for Sunday. Yep, playing piano for church the day after I move (Whose idea was that? Oh, that's right it was mine, so I could go to the wedding last Sunday night.). That job almost done, a friend arrived for dinner, and to sort out her music for the morning service. She helped fold the 24 t-shirts, and then we enjoyed my helper's cooking!

Now it's time for bed! Tomorrow is going to be one very busy day. Concert practice in the morning from 8.00 to 9.30am, then usual Thursday routine, then the concert tomorrow evening. Here's hoping everyone arrives on time, and the concert goes smoothly. Friday night I'll have to finish packing, ready for the big move on Saturday. Next blog I'll hopefully be able to share some highlights of the concert, and maybe some photos of the move! Bye for now. God is good. He cares for me in all the little and big things that are part of my days, even when things don't go smoothly, I know He is with me, guiding me through each day. Thank you Jesus!

10 June 2011

One week to go!

No, there's two weeks until the end of school, but just one more week until I move house!

I'm really excited about this move. I will be living just one block from school, so no more twice daily trips across town in peak hour traffic. The new apartment is also completely separate from both the apartment above and the apartment below, so I'm hoping that I won't have to endure some of the smells and noise that I do currently, where the kitchen has "walls" that are open above about 7 feet to the internal staircase up from the ground floor (which is open to their kitchen). At least not as often anyway! Also, if I accidentally leave something at home, I will be able to go home and get it. Currently that would take the better part of an hour, so I just have to do without, and that hasn't always been ideal or pleasant.

However, between now and then, life is going to be busy, busy, busy! Tomorrow is my own, but Sunday afternoon I have a colleague's wedding to attend. On Tuesday afternoon, report cards will go home, Wednesday afternoon I pick up the keys and pay the first two weeks rent, and on Thursday we have our Grade 1 to 8 end of year concert. Sometime Thursday or Friday the air-conditioning and hot water units will be installed, so I'll have to find time to check those as well. I'm definitely not going to have time to be bored.

Praise God for His provision of sufficient finances to cover the costs associated with this move. He is good, and He provides all we need, and even meets needs we neglect to give Him, but try to handle ourselves. God is good. Nothing I could do could ever make me good enough for Him, but He loves me anyway, and cares for me in ways beyond my wildest imaginings. Thank you God!

The highlight of this week was the arrival of our Scholastic Bookclub orders yesterday morning. The children were greatly excited by that. There was some frustration with the number of "out of stock" items, but in the end most of the children who ordered books received them. We're looking forward to a truly "international" catalogue next school year, with the hope that there will be no "unavailable" items and less "out of stock" items.

Well, I'd better go and get those grades finalised and into the computer so I can finish the report cards off tomorrow! Maybe I'll pack a box or two tonight as well. We'll see.

08 June 2011


This evening as I sit in my apartment, enjoying the freedom of quiet time alone with my computer, with the breeze from the fan keeping me comfortable, I got to thinking about how we so often get things out of perspective.

One of the things that prompted these thoughts was reading a special friend's blog. As I read of her struggles, as she and her husband continue to love and care for her 18 month old with special needs as well as their three older children, I had to think how blessed I am. There are days when I'm tired, when I don't want to think about moving house, when I wonder how I'm going to get all my grading done and my reports completed, when I can't wait to move house because of the "yucky" (to me) smells coming up from downstairs or the sounds of the screaming toddler also coming up from downstairs, when I just feel like I've had enough. Then I read my friend's blog. Or I read another friend's blog, of her struggles with juggling raising three active boys in a country of small houses. What do I have to complain about? I don't go to bed at night wondering how many times I'll be wakened by the needs of child whom I love to pieces, and yet wish he didn't have to struggle so hard just to live. I don't have to consider anyone else when I plan my holidays, much less 3 active boys! I really do have it pretty easy!

God has given me the gift of singleness. Yes, I do think it is a gift. There are times when I long for the companionship of a partner, or the joys of raising children, but what I really know is that God has chosen me for the place where I am now. I know that marriage and parenting are not easy, but there are benefit too! The same is true of singleness.

Being single I have a freedom to serve God in ways that might not otherwise be possible. I also know that the only person that I can lean on, knowing He will never let me down, is God. Would I be tempted to lean on a partner when I should be leaning on God. Quite possibly. Would I be serving in Cambodia if I was married with kids? Probably not, although I know many who are.

So, when things get you down, or it just all seems too much to handle, have a look at some of the other people around you, and know that God gives us just what we can handle. To my friends whose blogs I've mentioned, you guys are amazing! Yes, I know you are very human, but I also see you lean on the only One who truly understands, and am encouraged and challenged to do likewise! Thank you my friends.

The Final Summit by Andy Andrews

The Final Summit by Andy Andrews

“The Final Summit” was a little disappointing, but still a good read.

Imagine travelling through time and meeting with hundreds of famous people from through out history. Imagine the challenge of finding one principal that will “save humanity”. That was the task facing David Ponder and the other "Travelers". Faced with a trickling hour glass, and opportunity only to seek the advice of five of the hundreds of Travelers, the task seems overwhelming. Will they discover the principal? Who will come up with it?

The book is scattered with stories from history as well as deeply thoughtful discussions. There are famous quotes and challenging ideas. There are believable characters, and an unbelievable, yet strangely believable setting. The stories and ideas are woven together to keep the reader turning the pages to see what will happen next.

If you have your own idea about what is necessary to “save humanity”, then this is a great read. Be prepared to have your ideas challenged and to be inspired to action. The main disappointment I had with this book was the emphasis on what humanity can do to save humanity. If you can accept that, then this book is definitely worth reading.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.