26 November 2012

Teaching English in Missions: Effectiveness and Integrity

During the ACSI ICEC conference which I attended last week, I was privileged to participate in two workshops by Jan Edwards Dormer. After the second workshop, I decided to purchase a copy of Jan's book Teaching English in Missions: Effectiveness and Integrity, despite the fact that I'm not "teaching English" as such but rather teaching primary school, in English. I have to say, that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I was also challenged by it.

With chapters like If you can speak English you can teach it. True or False and "First, do no harm": An English Teacher's Hippocratic Oath, you might wonder what was being said. These two chapters challenge the idea that any native speaker can teach English, and that teaching English is always a good thing to do. After setting the scene in these two chapters, Jan goes on to provide some core information that all those involved in or considering English teaching as a ministry would do well to consider, covering four types of English ministry, some requirements for English teachers, some models for teaching English, and some building blocks for English classes.

The book is easy to read (I read it in two days), with thought provoking questions at the end of each chapter. At the same time is a professional read, with a useful range of appendices and a reference list for further reading.

For me, the challenge is to learn more about something I do daily, although in the context of providing general primary school education. I'm a native English speaker, and a trained teacher, but reading this book has highlighted for me how much more I need to know in order to be truly effective in the work God has given me to do.

If I've got you thinking and you'd like to read this book, it's available on Amazon.com.

18 November 2012

What does your weekend look like?

A fellow blogger posted this queston this evening, after sharing some highlights of her weekend, so I thought I'd rise to the challenge.

This weekend's activities are a reasonable sample of a "normal" weekend, although I'm not sure there's such a thing.

After a slight sleep-in (8am instead of 6am), and the usual morning routine it was off to my piano teacher's house for my piano lesson. The trip across was uneventful, although I did notice a larger than usual police and military presence along the roads. Lesson over it was off to school. Slight delay at one intersection as we waited from some unknown (to the road users anyway) dignitary to make clear passage.

I then spent about 5 hours at school, mostly grading papers and preparing homework for the coming week or two, as well as a little planning and preparation. Why go to school? Because if I'm at school I actually get school work done, where as if I stay home I get distracted by various other things.

Next was a trip to two of the bigger grocery stores, where I bought a large glass casserole dish, as well as groceries. Why two stores? Because I can rarely get everything I want at one. Both of these stores are about the size of an medium sized IGA, and cater primarily for the expat population. One has the best range of Cadbury chocolate (from Australia) available, as well as a few other things I like, while the other carries the best range of Arnott's biscuits, and also frozen meat. Neither had the deodorant I like so that meant another store needed to be visited this morning.

Prior to arriving at the first grocery store I experienced another traffic delay. This time, we actually got told to turn our ignition off as we waited for the convoy to enter the complex 100m or so down the road, plus one van at the gate near where we were stopped. There will be many more of these delays for folk who need to use the main roads during the coming days of ASEAN meetings.

Finally headed home to find our street turned into one big parking lot, with a large function happening further down the road. Access to our gate was completely blocked from the street, so I came up in front of the neighbour's gate, along the sloping footpath, then neatly executed a 90 degree turn in less than one metre of space. It was tight, but at least I got in. A quiet evening followed after putting the groceries away.

This morning, after another pleasant sleep, I jumped on my moto to go to a "convenience store" on the other side of the main road and down a few blocks. That was no problem. Yay, they had the deodorant I like back in stock, so I stocked up, as well as getting the drinks I wanted for the coming week. Loaded the back pack up and headed for home. Got almost to the main road and spotted road blocks in place, so detoured back to the alternative intersection which was also blocked. I joined the throng awaiting the passing and eventually got across the main road and back home.

The unusual event for today was guests for lunch. I had invited my piano teacher and her husband and daughter for lunch, and was looking forward to it. I made a variation on Apricot chicken, which we all enjoyed, including the extra unexpected visitor. No problem. I can find an extra chair and plate and I had enough food. Variation was required as some of the ingredients I would use in Australia were not available here (at least not where I looked). Didn't matter. It still tasted good and my guests all enjoyed it.

After that, it was time to head up to church so I could practice on the piano there. I've been doing much more practice at home lately, but the touch of the church piano is different to mine, so practice there is important. I made it through the service with only a few variations on the theme, then home.

So that's my weekend. What about yours?

17 November 2012

Public Holidays and so on...

If there was a contest for the country with the most public holidays, I'm sure Cambodia would be right up there at the top of the list.

Since school started on 3rd September, we have had a total of 7 public holidays and 1 teacher work day when we did parent-teacher conferences. So that means that in the first 11 weeks of the school year, we have had 7 five day weeks (i.e. no public holidays). We've had two 4-day weeks, and two 2-day weeks.

This week was supposed to be the 8th five day week, but alas, ASEAN has come to Phnom Penh, and schools are closed. We were officially notified on Friday that we would have to close on Monday and Tuesday. So that makes a 3-day week this week. Next week is a 2-day week (Monday & Friday with holidays Tuesday to Thursday), then a five day week, a four day week, and one last five day week to bring us up to the Christmas break. Hmmm.

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate the holidays. They help me stay sane, giving valuable catch up time, BUT they also make it hard to maintain momentum with my students. Have a look at this.
Week 1     5 days
Week 2     5 days
Week 3     5 days
Week 4     4 days (I was ready for that long weekend) (Constitution Day)
Week 5     5 days
Week 6     5 days
Week 7     2 days (The 5-day break was good) (Pchum Ben)
Week 8     5 days
Week 9     2 teaching days, plus 1 day parent-teacher conferences (Coronation Day & King Father's Birthday)
Week 10   4 days (Independence Day)
Week 11   5 days
Week 12   5 days (only now it's 3 days)
Week 13   2 days (Water Festival)
Week 14   5 days (Hooray)
Week 15   4 days (big concert that weekend, so don't mind that Monday is a holiday - International Human Rights Day)
Week 16   5 days

We haven't got the calendar for 2013 yet, but I'm fairly sure the holidays are a little more spaced out after Christmas, and we should be able to get some solid teaching happening. Life is interesting.

It's interesting, because this means we have a 16 week term! It would be way too long if it weren't for all those sneaky little holidays. So, what should I do? Well, I think that what I do is actually OK. I enjoy the holidays when they come, and do my best to keep some continuity happening in the classroom despite the interruptions. Keeping routines going helps kids, so when I can do that I do.

And as for ASEAN, well, I wonder what Aussie parents would say about school being closed for two days with only one weekend of notification. I wouldn't like to be a teacher there in that situation. Here, it's just part of life, and you do what you have to do. Either the kids will go to work with Mum & Dad, or Mum and/or Dad may just have to stay home too. Life is different here.

What about me? Do I get two extra days holidays. No, although I do get two shorter days (9am - 2pm instead of 7am -3pm). We need to get working on WASC, and hopefully I can get some grading caught up and some extra planning done.

As for those lessons I had planned for Monday and Tuesday .... Well, that will teach me to try and plan two weeks ahead. Some can be shuffled to Wednesday, and some will just have to wait until I return from ICEC in Chiang Mai after Water Festival. Life's like that.