21 February 2012

Electricity cuts and God's goodness

One of the "joys" of living in Cambodia is the unpredictability of electricity supply. The last month or so, it seems to have been more unpredictable than usual, by which I mean there have been more blackouts than previously experienced.

This afternoon the electricity was on when I headed down for lunch duty at 1pm, and off by the time I headed back upstairs half an hour later. Grrrr! The lesson I had planned required electricity. Life's like that. Just as well I had a backup plan. We opened the window, and got on with it. It was still off during the after school program (I'm doing my second term of multiplication games), and by then any benefit of having the air-conditioner on earlier in the day was well and truly gone. I'm just glad my classroom doesn't get the direct afternoon sun or it would have been much warmer.

I dropped into the office before heading home, and made a comment that I was heading home because it was highly likely that I would have power there and could at least sit in front of a fan and work. I also commented that God had been very good to me in terms of electricity since I'd been in Cambodia. I said this, since most of the places I've lived have been on electricity lines that seem to suffer less cuts than other lines.

Here's the question. Was I right to acknowledge this as God's goodness to me? Just because other people (who also know and love and serve Him) experience more power failures than I do, does it mean God is not good to them. What do you think? Should we say that God is good to us when we experience good things, and others experience more difficult situations. Are we saying He is less good to them, or that for some reason they haven't earned His goodness?

Here's what I think. God is good. It is His nature. God works in our lives in His perfect way. He doesn't dictate what is going to happen to us, but He does choose to bless us, and to work ALL things for good for those who are called, according to His purpose (Rom 8:28).

So has God been good to me in leading me to live in places that have a reasonably reliable electricity supply? Yes, I think He has. Has He been good to me in other ways. Yes. Was He any less good when I went through that difficult time 2 years ago? No. In fact, as I look back at that time I can see many examples of His goodness in the dark times. Was He any less good when He chose not to heal my father's cancer on this earth, but took him home? No. Yes, it hasn't been easy adapting to life without Dad around, especially for Mum, but God was good to us during the time of Dad's illness in many ways, and continued to be good during the years that have passed since then.

If the power went off right now, would I rant and rave and blame God and say He's not good any more? I hope not. Was God good when the power was off this afternoon? Yep! Even if I didn't enjoy it that much, God was still good. After all I could have been out in the hot sun, with no shelter, and nothing to drink. Now then I might have a reason to question His goodness. Does God change? No. So does His goodness change? No way. So, should I acknowledge God's goodness in everyday good things, even if others are having not so good experiences. What do you think? I'll be interested in your comments. Meanwhile, I'll finish this post by trying something I've never done before and adding a YouTube clip of a favourite song on this topic. Enjoy!

17 February 2012

Friday Night Moves

After a busy week at school, it seemed like a good idea to go out for a quiet meal with a friend this evening. I headed to a favourite restaurant as soon as I had finished tutoring, and enjoyed dessert and a delicious mango shake (sans milk) while I waited. Since I knew it would be a while before she arrived, I packed some papers that needed grading into my backpack, so it was also productive time.

We enjoyed our meal together, then I suggested we go for a walk. The Phnom Penh riverside has been "renovated" in the last couple of years, and it's now a popular place for locals and tourists alike to relax in the evenings. As we wandered along, we heard music, then stopped a while to watch "Friday Night Moves". The photos aren't great, but here's what we were watching.

At the front of the group is a guy who shows everyone what moves to do. It's pretty low impact with many of the moves in the style of traditional Khmer dancing (most often seen at weddings). It was fun to watch the little kids trying to follow along what the adults were doing. Sometimes it was more active than others (depending on the music) but everyone seemed to be having fun!

And just in case you were wondering, no, I didn't join in!

07 February 2012

Holidays are for ...

One of the great things about teaching at a school in Cambodia with a largely Cambodian student population is that we take all the Official Cambodian Public Holidays in the correct day. Now in May, this is a bit of a nightmare for getting any actual work done, with Tuesday off the first week, Monday and Wednesday off the second week, and Monday through Wednesday (3 days) off the third week, but you are unlikely to hear me complaining.

Today was an important day on the Buddhist calendar: Meak Bochea Day. This day particularly commemorates Buddha, and his teachings.

So what about me? I don't celebrate Buddha or his followers. Well actually, for me it was a perfectly timed "Pupil Free Day" when I got into the classroom and got my grading caught up, made sure I was ready for the rest of the week's lessons, and recreated some of the documents I lost in the great flash drive disaster!

I think, for the first time since the start of the school year, all completed class work that needed to be graded is done! That said, I have a big project about to hit my desk and one of my next top priorities is to set up the grading worksheets for it. I have been reviewing student work informally during the course of the project, to inform teaching of the rest of the project, but I haven't actually done any formal grading. Fortunately it's a half class project so I should be able to tackle it without feeling overwhelmed.

All this is just as well, because it is now 3 1/2 weeks until my next one day break (a Thursday), and after that it is 4 1/2 weeks until Khmer New Year and a 6 day break (including the weekend). In the past we've had a whole week for Khmer New Year (with a weekend either side), but because of the timing this year we only get Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Monday this year. Life's like that.

Well, it's time to finish. I'm in great need of a good night's sleep before I tackle the coming week. It was hot today! With no students in the classroom, there was also no a/c, so I'm fairly tired, although it could have been worse - the power could have been off so I'd have no fan, and the funeral ceremony that went for much of yesterday could have gone on all day today (instead of finishing around 10.30am) which would have meant keeping the classroom door closed, thereby reducing cross ventilation.

Good night all.

05 February 2012

Just thinking ...

It's been a while since I wrote a reflective post, but this week I've been doing quite a bit of reflecting. I guess writing report cards can have that effect.

I wrote all the comments about a month ago, before all the grades were finalised (this is necessary to facilitate translation into Khmer), so this week has seen a massive effort to finalise grades. The task was complicated by the death of a flash drive, taking with it much of the electronic grading that I had done (and which I hadn't backed up onto my hard drive - silly me). Fortunately, in most cases, I had a hard copy of the grades as well. Anyway, it's done now, but as I mentioned, it did motivate me to do some reflection as well.

How would I score if my students had to give me a report card. Maybe I should ask them? It would be interesting to see what they think. Meanwhile, how do I think I'd do.

Our grading system is fairly simple: 4 = Good, 3 = Satisfactory, 2 = Acceptable, and 1 = Needs Improvement. The key premise is that if a student is doing everything you ask them to do, then they get a 4.

So here are the categories and how I'd grade myself:
  • Respects teachers and friends: 3
  • Presentation of work: 4
  • Organisation of work: 4
  • Completion of work: 4
  • Completion of homework: 3
  • Attitude: 4
  • Behaviour: 4
  • Punctuality: 4
Hmmm! Now why doesn't the teacher get all fours. Well, the short answer is, that I'm not perfect. I praise God that I'm a work in progress. One area that God has been particularly nudging me on over the last month or two is the respect issue (not for teachers and friends, but for my students). I love my students very much, and generally speaking I'm fairly respectful of them. I treat them kindly and acknowledge their differences. I do my best to listen to them, and to be fair in my interactions with them. There are times though, when I'm less than respectful. Sometimes I don't give them a chance to explain why they did something they shouldn't have been doing. Sometimes I get impatient with them, when it's really not their fault. Sometimes I embarrass them in front of their classmates. Sometimes my tone of voice is harsh and unkind. I don't shout at them, but I'm not soft and gentle with them either. Do I like that I'm like this? No way!!! That sort of behaviour does not reflect Jesus well, and I truly need to be aware that for many of these students "You're the only Jesus, some will ever see."

As for completion of homework - I'm very good at procrastinating over grading some pieces of assessment, so that's an area that I need to work on. I'm way better than I used to be, but there's still room for improvement.

So where to from here. I thank God that He gently leads us to reflect on those things He wants to change in us. I know I'm a perfectionist, but I also know I'm not perfect. This week, my prayer as I start each day will be the same: Please Lord, help me show You to the children in all my actions and interactions. Please help me to be quiet and gentle with the students while still giving them clear boundaries and reasonable consequences. Please Lord, help me to be more patient.

That last line is a dangerous one. So often we hear that God has answered it by placing people in situations that further test and refine their patience rather than just magically making them more patient. I've got several situations that are testing me in that area already, so I'm also going to be trusting Him, in line with 1 Corinthians 10:13, not to give me more than I can handle in His strength.

So that's the "Behavioural and Work Habits" part of the report card. There's usually more to report cards than that. You're right. Next come the specialist subjects, which are simply graded on Listening and Participation, and finally there are sections for four of the five key academic areas (English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies). English Language Arts and Mathematics are divided by content areas plus a grade for effort, while Science and Social Studies we grade on Effort, Understanding of Concepts and Ability to Discuss concepts.

The specialist subjects are graded by the teachers who teach them, so the only one I have to worry about there is swimming, and fortunately most of my students love swimming, so it's not hard. Completing the academic section of the report cards always leads me to reflect on how I'm assessing students, and sometimes that leads to changes in assessment and record keeping practices. Each time I do it, I can usually find some way of making the record keeping more helpful for the report card writing! I think I've done that, so we'll see what happens next semester, whether my ideas were helpful or just a pain in the neck to keep up with. I'm hoping they'll be helpful.

02 February 2012

Max on Life: Answer and Insights to Your Most Important Questions

Max on Life: Answer and Insights to Your Most Important Questions

Grouped under the headings of Hope, Hurt, Help, Him/Her, Home, Haves/Have-Nots, and Hereafter are 172 life questions that either we ask ourselves or we ask of others, followed by clear, Scriptural responses from Max Lucado. Each response is one or two pages long, and includes at least one, scripture reference.

This book is a break from Lucado’s “traditional” story-telling writing style, allowing the reading to choose questions that are relevant to him/her at a particular time. While I enjoyed parts of the book, most of the content was fairly predictable. That predictability, however, makes it a useful book to pass on to non-Christians or new Christians who have many questions, because you can be confident that the answers they will find in this book are Biblically sound. The shortness of the responses makes them easy to read, and they will provoke thought or provide comfort. The topical and Scripture indexes in the back of the book will help readers find the answers to their questions.

While I have enjoyed this book, and I think it serves a purpose, it is definitely not my favourite title by this author. Got questions, and looking for some thoughtful answers, then yes, pick this title up. Looking for inspiration, then it’s probably not the title for you.

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.