20 July 2012

Tales of Traffic

One of the pleasures of being back in Australia is driving a car.

In Cambodia, I ride a moto, rain or shine, that's just how I get about (unless I happen to walk, or very occasionally I take a tuk-tuk). Now since I'm rarely going any great distance, and with the number of cars, vans, trucks, and buses in Cambodia increasing at a very rapid rate, my moto is actually a pretty efficient way to get around. $2 fuel will get me through most weeks and sometimes even a fortnight. If it's raining, well, I just pull out my rain poncho and go anyway (occasionally I'll delay a journey if time isn't an issue and there's a high likelihood of the rain passing fairly quickly). On a hot day, it can be rather pleasant to go for a ride, since moto riding has a way of creating a cooling breeze. Cold weather - well, what's that. There were a few mornings a year or so ago when I was grateful for a light jacket on my morning trip across town but that's about it.

Now I'm back in Australia temporarily, and it's very definitely winter here. Take tomorrow for example: the forecast is for a minimum of 5 degrees Celsius, and a maximum of 17 degrees. Riding a motorbike in that sort of weather would be really chilling experience. I'm very grateful for access to a car while I'm here.

The other big difference between my Cambodian travel and my Australian travel is the distances. Today I covered about 500km. I went from Coffs Harbour, New South Wales to Toowoomba, Queensland via Brisbane. Alas, I needed fuel and got lost trying to find a service station when I got off the motorway. Never mind, I eventually found one before I ran out, and got back on the highway.

Now I'm not sure how the population of the greater Brisbane area compares with Phnom Penh, but there are plenty of cars. Sadly some had an accident this afternoon, and I didn't find out until it was too late to take an alternative route, so I was caught in a very orderly traffic jam. Why do I say it was very orderly? Well there were no motos driving down between the cars and on both sides of the cars, to start with. Not only that, the cars/trucks/buses all stayed in the correct number of lanes of traffic (2). Yes, there are definitely some things I like about Australian traffic.

Eventually we passed the scene of the accident, and here was another difference. There was no crowd of people hanging around. The fire brigade and police were there. The fire brigade seemed to be keeping things safe, and the police were doing their best to keep the traffic moving around the scene. I suspect the ambulance had already come and gone, and that there were other police trying to piece together what had actually happened before they cleared the scene and opened the road up to traffic again.

Once past the accident, the rest of the journey was pretty uneventful, and I thank God for a safe journey on a sunny day. Oh, that's right. The sunset was awesome! Couldn't stop to take a photo but it was beautiful, although the hour before it set was painful as I was pretty much travelling directly into it! Oh well, life's like that.

13 July 2012

Finishing the year

Ooops! It's almost a month since I last posted, and school has definitely finished.

So what did we get up to during the last two weeks of school.

We worked hard and played hard.

Mathematics assessment. We did a big mathematics test of the semester's work over two days, with interesting results. Many of the children did very well on the first half of the test, which was mainly computation involving word problems. The second half was not so well done, and showed me a weakness in the program. It was one that I was vaguely aware of, but it didn't really sink in until we did this assessment. We need to do my ongoing review. I've got a strategy in mind for this next year, and it will be interesting to see how it works. Part of the problem is that mathematics has a language all of its own, and when you don't use language regularly you tend to forget it.

End of year concert. The rehearsal was a marathon effort, but the children did really well. Then the concert in the evening was to a packed hall. We had over 400 seats and they were all filled, and the children sat on the floor at the front of the hall. The performance went well, and children and parents all seemed to enjoy the evening. My class sang two songs. The first was "Charlie Chaplin Went to France" which they sang as a round, complete with movements. The second was an Australian song, "Sun-a-rise" which they sang beautifully in unison. Well done grade 4K.

Reading assessment. Yes, I managed to complete running records for all of my students, including the three I know are not returning. I used RAZ-Kids for this, and it was great. With the aid of a good external speaker on the computer I was able to hear even the most softly spoken of my students clearly. RAZ-Kids running records are great because you can go back and listen again to be sure you record correctly the type of error that students are making.

Field trip. Despite major changes at my favourite bookstore, I was still able to take most of the students there to choose their end of year reading book for the summer. I bought a few extra books for those students who were not able to go, so they still got to choose from a selection of books.

Biography posters. The children did a great job on their biography posters, discovering along the way a little of what it took for people to come up with amazingly useful inventions. They also discovered that some inventors invented or contributed to the invention of many items.

The last day of school was a fun day. The children helped clear out the classroom, taking everything off the walls (in case of painting), and packing all their belongings in their bags to take home. For Khmer class they enjoyed reading the new Khmer books Dy and I purchased some weeks ago. After recess was the fun of choosing "Go For Green" and "Homework" rewards, and receiving their books and gifts from the teacher. They even had time to start reading their "new" books.

After lunch, we had one final treat, in the form of an ice cream and donut party, then it was time to say good-bye. Sadly it truly was good-bye for three of my students. One is returning to Australia, after two years in Cambodia, another is returning to Canada, and the third is moving to Siem Reap. I will miss seeing them all next year, and hope they do well in their new situations.

After the children had gone, and the goodbyes were over I returned to the classroom to finish packing everything up ready for the long summer break. I eventually finished, and with a little help from some of the guys was able to have everything stored and moved to the necessary positions by 6.30pm. It was worth staying a little longer so I didn't have to go back on Monday. Hopefully everything will still be there when I start setting up next school year.