31 May 2012

Not what I expected ...

Ever had a day that turned out being totally different to what you expected. I guess most people have, but there's no way I would have predicted today becoming what it was.

The day started out well, waking before the alarm clock after a refreshing sleep. The usual morning things happened and then it was off to school, where we got the day underway in a slightly different than usual way. My kids are learning a song to sing in a round for the end of year concert, and today they got it really well. Way to go 4th grade. Next week we might even put some actions with it. Then it was on to our Daily Language Review activity, and following a little pre-teaching, I ended up giving stickers to all except about 3 of my students (to get a sticker they have to get it all correct 1st time so this was something of a record). Language Arts and Khmer were next, and the day was proceeding pretty much as usual. After recess duty, and getting spelling tests under way, I headed down to the office to check over some photocopying that we ordered, ready for next year, and while I was there I found out that one of the students from my previous school, Logos, had been killed in a traffic accident overnight. I knew him slightly from my time there, and was able to juggle some things so I could attend the memorial service being held that afternoon. Several of our high school students at EWIS were friends with this student as well.

The memorial service this afternoon was an experience I will never forget. Such grief, openly expressed, over a young life lost. The whole service was in Korean, so I understood little, but one hymn they sang reminded me, that even in their grief, they were not forgetting the certain hope we have that Yo Han is with Jesus, and that one day they will be united again.

This evening, I was able to attend a gathering of a very different kind. The annual Logos awards ceremony was scheduled for this evening. It's a very important time in the lives of many students, especially those getting "honours" or "high honours". In the light of the events of the last 24 hours, the evening's program was modified. The students still received their awards, and a few special awards were announced publicly, but what followed was a precious time of remembering Yo Han and celebrating his life.

One of the teachers expressed it beautifully when he spoke of Yo Han. The essence of what he said was, "grieve for those who are left behind, for those who are missing Yo Han, but don't grieve for Yo Han, because he's gone on ahead to a life more full and more amazing that anything we can imagine". Yo Han knew Jesus, and it was great to hear of his personal and spiritual growth over the past year or two. Without a doubt, Yo Han is celebrating tonight. He is with the Lord, and those left behind have that blessed comfort of knowing they will see him again.

For now, I need to pray for those students at EWIS who knew Yo Han. I pray that they will know the comfort that only Jesus can bring. I pray that they will know the Jesus that Yo Han knew, because I know that's what he would want.

It reminded me of the time when my Dad died. Yes, I was sad, and I still miss him, but I don't grieve without hope. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my Dad is with his Lord and one day I'll get to see him again. Dad would have been 74 yesterday. I wonder if he's met Yo Han yet? I wonder if they are both worshipping our awesome, all powerful, all knowing, all loving God together. I think my Dad would enjoy Yo Han, because Dad had a "naughty" streak too. Dad wasn't perfect here on earth, but it is now, just as Yo Han is, not because of anything either of them did, but because of what Jesus did for them!

28 May 2012

The countdown begins ...

This time in 5 weeks I will have just one more sleep in my Cambodian bed before I begin the journey "home". Wow, this second half of the school year has flown by. We've had lots of fun though.

First there was Ancient Egypt, followed by Biomes, and now we're busy with Inventors and Inventions. We've also done heaps of mathematics, writing narratives and reports, lots of reading, plenty of homework and a few other things as well.

Currently in progress are written reports on an "invention", with a Biography Poster on an "inventor" to come next week. I hope we'll also manage to read another book in each Language Arts group. Lots of mathematics topics still to be covered, with some fun topics in there to finish the year off, and to top it off I'm looking forward to seeing what sort of "inventions" my students come up with.

I've also started thinking about "next year", requesting books, and thinking about an overview for the year. Also thinking about where I'm going to put all my students and their belongings next year as it looks like I'll have a bigger class than I did this year. Not big, but bigger.

Meanwhile, my tickets have been bought, and I've started some "going home shopping", as well as tucked a few things in suitcases already. I've registered and paid for a Teacher of Swimming and Water Safety course, and my First Aid course through the QAS.

I hope to get a newsletter and schedule happening in the next few days, but for now I still have some arranging to do and report card comments to write!

20 May 2012

Out of your depth?

Ever felt out of your depth in some of the tasks that you need to complete? Then maybe you can relate to some of my feelings about teaching swimming twice a week to my students at school.

Yes, I can swim. Yes, I can teach. So why do I feel out of my depth combining the two? I think the real reason is that there is a world of difference between being able to swim and being able to teach someone else how to swim. I've been attempting to do it for over 5 years now, but I always knew that I really didn't know what I was doing. Yes, I've read books on the subject, and even done a mini-workshop on it a couple of years ago, but that's not the same as really learning how to teach swimming.

This semester I've had the chance to work with a trained swim teacher (actually he's our PE teacher and for various reasons we've been able to have him help with 4th grade swimming), and I've realised just how little I know about teaching kids to swim. For that reason, part of my "summer" break will be spent completing an AustSwim Teacher of Swimming and Water Safety course. I've wanted to do it for some time, but the cost and finding a course that was on when I was able to do it have stood in the way. When I'm only in Australia for 4-6 weeks, fitting in professional development isn't easy. This time I decided learning how to teach swimming was a priority and so I'll be spending two days at Chandler learning how to teach swimming and water safety. A gift from my home church helped cover the costs. I may not be able to complete all the supervised practice that I need to for certification (at least not while I'm in Australia), but I should be able to do the rest of the course. I'm seriously hoping that when I return to Cambodia in August I'll be much better able to teach swimming and water safety skills to the 4th grade students.

Now let's hope it's not tooooo cold at the end of July when I'm doing the course. Remember, this is mid-winter in Australia even if it is my "summer break".

14 May 2012

Heart of Gold by Robin Lee Hatcher

Heart of Gold by Robin Lee Hatcher
Set in Grand Coeur, Idaho, a "rough and tumble" gold mining town during the Civil War in the USA, this delightful romance was a great read. Shannon Adair has come with her minister father to a place she initially finds very difficult. The arrival of Matthew Dubois's dying widowed sister provides Shannon with an outlet for her nursing skills, although the relationship is not without its challenges. Both ladies have suffered loss due to the war, but on opposing sides. Can friendship grow despite these differences? What about the fellows who are vying for Shannon’s attention? Will her grieving heart learn to love again?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading "Heart of Gold". The characters were well developed and believable. The way in which the characters changed over the duration of the story was appropriate and inspiring. The use of letters to Shannon's friend in Virginia was a great way to help the reader understand what was going on in Shannon's mind. Overall, this was a great read - enough adventure to make it interesting but not so much that it was not believable. I'd be happy to recommend it to others and I would certainly read other books by this author.

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.

09 May 2012

Did I mention I love shopping ... for books?

Today is another Cambodian public holiday. This time it is the Royal Ploughing Ceremony holiday. While we had a holiday, most shops and markets were open and trading as usual, so it was a good day to sneak in a little extra shopping. Actually, today I was shopping with a specific purpose in mind. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that one of the things I have set up in my classroom, thanks to some supporters and a great second hand bookshop, is a classroom library. The books in the library are all English. Today, I fulfilled a promise to my teaching assistant to get some Khmer books for the children.
First we went to the local market where we found a great selection of books. They were a quite a bit more expensive than last time I went Khmer book shopping (about 3 years ago), but we did find some great resources. We also went to one of the large international style bookshops where I was amazed to discover they have a whole new area of the store dedicated to Khmer language books.
Here's what we came away with. Somehow I doubled up on two titles but I'm sure they won't go astray. I'm looking forward to sharing these with the principal tomorrow morning and with the children. I know several parents who will be very happy to see their children encouraged to read more in their own language.
The books are a popular series of Khmer readers for children.

Biographies: These are in English and Khmer but most are about Inventors so fit with our current unit, and it will be good for students to read them in both Khmer and English.

Khmer folk tales: You can buy English translations of these for about 4 times the price!

Does anyone recognise the one at the bottom of this photo? Yes, it is a Khmer translation of a well-known children's story that has been around for many years.

These are to help our non-Khmer children learn words.

Some chapter books or compilations of short stories)

Non-fiction in Khmer! With great photos.

More non-fiction

This set of 9 books was just $7.

This is a beautiful story of friendship, and a reminder of the dangers of landmines (still a very real danger to people in rural Cambodia).

06 May 2012

Belle Voce Choir Spring Concert

Anyone who really knows me will know that music is important to me. I love to sing and I enjoying playing instruments, both for my own pleasure and for worship. This year I made a choice to dedicate Tuesday evenings to music, when I joined the Bella Voce Community Choir here in Phnom Penh. The choir is conducted by a talented Japanese lady, and for this concert there were 44 members from 17 different nationalities. We practised every Tuesday evening for an hour and a half (or so), plus a few extra Thursday evening practices in the weeks before the concert. Singing alto was hard work, but I loved it. It was great to be part of a group, and to not be responsible for anything except my own singing. We learned a variety of songs including some madrigals, several African songs, and a range of songs from Broadway musicals. There were times when we struggled to get our parts right, but we kept going and the reports I have received were that all our struggles were worth it. The concert venue was full, and there was plenty of applause.

A big thank you to our wonderful director and conductor, and another big thank you to our amazing accompanist. Without their hard work the concert wouldn't happen. Proceeds from the concert go to charity, this year to support a school working with disadvantaged children in the Toul Tom Pong area of Phnom Penh.

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to the next session starting again, as we prepare for the Christmas concert. I have no doubt Mari will have some great music for us to learn, and equally no doubt there will be some challenges in it. It will be fun!

Puzzling fun

As a teacher it is easy to allow your work to fill up all of your available time and then some, and to neglect the fact that our brains and bodies really do need relaxation for us to function effectively.

One of the things I do occasionally for relaxation, using when it's a longer "holiday" break like Khmer New Year recently, is to join a friend in tackling a jigsaw puzzle. This one I purchased for her as a Christmas present, knowing we'd probably end up doing it together. I was right. We started it during the Khmer New year holidays but didn't get it finished.

Here's where we were up to at the end of the holidays.

I promised not to touch it for the rest of the week (I didn't really have time anyway), so Friday evening we got together with the intention of finishing it off, and we did. With 1000 pieces, and a design that had lots of distinct sections, it was just the right amount of challenge, and we finished it off late that evening. Here's the finished product.

At one point I was a little worried that we had lost a piece, but then I found it on the floor. Not easy as the piece that was missing had similar colouring to the floor, but with the light in the right spot and looking from the right angle I spotted it. Very thankful! So that's one of the ways that I relax.