21 December 2013

Yep, I'm human

This post is prompted by this one, shared by a good friend and fellow blogger.

In sharing the post, she used this quote from the original article:

When we tell only of our achievements, we do harm in two ways.
First, we imply we're above failure and therefore better or more mature than they are. Second, we imply that they're inferior because they struggle over issues that don't trouble us.  (Cec Murphy, 20 December 2013)

She followed her quote with this comment:

Ouch! Advice for writers, but it applies not just to professional writers, but those of us on FB as well as missionaries who write news/prayer letters! (W Marshall 2013)

As I read it, I thought of the e-mails that I get addressed to me as a "hero" and I thought how so often I share the positive things that happen, but share little of the negatives. Now, I'm not saying that I shouldn't share the good things that happen, but by only writing about and sharing the good things, I'm painting myself in an unrealistic light. Let me tell you now, I'm human.

So, humour me, and keep reading as I share some of the things I struggle with.

People often tell me I'm a great teacher, and that's encouraging. Trouble is, I know the darker side to my teaching. I struggle daily with the need to be "in control". Now, at first you might think being "in control" is a good thing. It can be. We all need a hefty dose of self-control, especially where kids are concerned. Where the problem comes is when I "over-control" and fail to allow the students the freedom to learn in their own ways. Over the years I've learned to relinquish some of that control, and to allow my students more freedom, but I also know there are days when I blow it. This need to be "in control" has been part of the cause of a tough first semester this year. If you read this and pray for me, then please pray that I'll be able to relax that "control" a little in the coming semester.

Another thing I struggle with is "reacting". When things go wrong, and kids do things I'd rather they didn't, I react. Again, I've made some progress in this area, but I admit that this year there have been more "reactions", and particularly loud voiced reactions, than I'd like. I'm ashamed of this, but I also know that God knows me, and understands me, and as I confess this, He forgives me. If I was to put this in a prayer point, I'd ask you to pray that I would be more like Jesus in my reactions. He was gentle and loving in all His corrections.

Well, that's enough for one post. I'm human, but I won't bore you with any more struggles. I thank God for a caring, thoughtful, compassionate principal who has greatly helped me recognise these faults, and who patiently helps me to overcome them. I also thank God for his loving forgiveness in my struggles. Most of all, I thank Him that He loves me just as I am, that love is so great that it wants to help me change. Thanks Lord.

04 December 2013

My new buddy

I just discovered it's three months since I posted anything here! Oops. Sorry folks. Life's been hectic. This year's grade 4K is really challenging me. Looking at some strategies to implement after the Christmas break to see if we can turn things in the right direction. I feel a bit sorry for the kids who have been doing the right thing week after week, because they haven't been able to have the fun that my previous classes have earned, so I'm also working on something to fix that.

Meanwhile I was feeling so discouraged today, and just plain tired, as well as frustrated with intermittent internet problems that I went for a walk down to the local phone shop, got a new sim for 3G internet and then treated myself to something fun.

Meet my new buddy. I haven't got a name for her yet, but I think she's pretty cute. In addition to being cute, she also has the responsibility of protecting my phone on the odd occasion that it slips out of my hand and hits the ground.

I also decided that the bright pink would make my phone easier to find in the depths of my handbag! Having spent the huge amount of 10,000 riel (less than $3) at the phone shop, I decided to also treat myself to a "Mango Chiller". An icy cold drink on a cool day (everything's relative here) was just what I needed.

So, what do you think I should call my new buddy?

02 September 2013

First Day Fun

Just a quick post to let everyone know I survived the first day of school today. I have 22 students on my roll, of whom 20 were in attendance today. It's going to be a great year, and I'm looking forward to seeing this group of students show just how great they can be. They just loved the fact that I gave them a test on the first day of school (kidding), and also handed out homework on the first day. I'm such a mean teacher, but with only 7 full weeks in the first 16 weeks of the school year I have to make every day count. Looking forward to a good night's sleep (I've earned it), and another day of fun and learning tomorrow.

25 August 2013

Post 300 - Farewell Summer Break

This post marks a landmark on my blog. It is post number 300. I hope all those who read it enjoy the glimpses they get of my life, mostly here in Cambodia but occasionally in other places. I look forward to writing more once school resumes for the students in one week!

Meanwhile, teacher orientation and preparation week starts tomorrow.

This last week has just flown by, with most of my time focused on two tasks.

Most teachers would be familiar with taking "running records" to assess student reading. This summer one of my projects has been updating our resources for this. There's been a lot of downloading, printing, and photocopying done, and there's still some laminating and then a lot of filing to be done before that job is complete, but it is well and truly on the way. My goal is to have that job finished by the end of the week, but I am somewhat dependent on other people to get that done.

The second task was one that has saved our principal a heap of work, and hopefully will make staff quite a bit happier. The principal, one of the Khmer teachers and I made some decisions about a baseline supply list, and the Khmer teacher and I went to the markets and got some prices. Later that day I went back to the markets on my own and placed the initial order. It was a big order, and was delivered the next day. With over 2000 books to be sorted and allocated, as well as other materials, I spent most of Saturday working on it. However I'm hoping the result will be a happy principal and happy staff. It won't be everything they want or need, but it will be a starting point. We'll see what sort of reactions we get tomorrow.

So now, I've got a few jobs to do and then I'm off to bed. Need to get a good night's sleep so I can be up bright and early tomorrow. Getting excited!

18 August 2013

One week to go!

It's hard to believe there is just one more week of "summer" holidays. Yes, this time next week I'll be getting ready for our Orientation week. At the end of this coming week I will have had eight weeks of "holidays". So how did I fill those eight weeks?

The first few days were spent getting my classroom ready for the break, and chasing up some outstanding photocopying for the next school year. Then I packed my bags and headed to Singapore for 5 nights, and Bangkok for 6 nights. I had a lovely time in Singapore and I need to write some individual posts about my time there (and share some of the photos), but in brief it included catching up with friends from Youth Choir days, visiting the Gardens by the Bay, the "Mummy" display at the Art Science Museum, Singapore Zoo, Singapore Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park, and the Singapore Botanic Gardens (including the National Orchid Garden). Singapore was a feast of cleanliness and greenery, although a little expensive. I will return. Bangkok was mostly time to just relax and enjoy the shops. I did make time for a medical checkup while there, but really just enjoyed lots of walking in air-conditioned shopping centres.

Once I returned to Phnom Penh I started doing half days at school, working on unit plans and preparation for the coming year. It was good to do these things without the pressure of needing to teach them immediately, and also to do some sorting, cleaning and tidying. There were a few days when I had a whole day off, and when I enjoyed being in the classroom the whole day. I also made time to catch up with friends, and do stuff I don't have time for during the school year.

I've got one more week of working at my own pace and then it will be "Orientation" week, filled with meetings, tracking down resources, planning with my colleagues and getting ready for the children to arrive. I'm feeling rested and ready for the year to begin, even if I haven't done all I wanted to do over the "summer". It's been a productive time, but also a relaxed time, and I'm happy with the choices I've made about how to spend this "summer". The next big holiday to look forward to is Christmas/New Year down under! :)

Farewell Booksneeze

For quite a while I enjoyed the privilege of writing book reviews for Booksneeze, a program where I received a free copy of a book in return for writing a review and posting it on this blog. Booksneeze have recently changed their requirements for bloggers, no doubt due to the demand for the program, and I no longer qualify. To qualify I'd need 30+ visible followers of my blog, and I have to be posting at least weekly. Alas, that means I won't be doing any more Booksneeze reviews. It doesn't mean I'll cease blogging or cease reviewing books on my blog but I want to say thanks to the "Booksneeze" program for the books I did receive and review. These days it's easier for me to get new books to read, thanks to my Kindle, and the availability of so many books for it either free or at minimal cost.

Farewell Booksneeze. It was great being part of you. I'm sure you'll continue to bless others who have more time for reading and writing than I do.

16 August 2013

Cambodian Ingenuity

A few weeks ago I was tidying my office at home, when I managed to snap all the supports on my stacking paper trays. This was very sad as part of the support remained inside the tray and I couldn't get it out, while I had no way of separating the trays (they weren't the kind that lock together.

Today I purchased some new trays, thinking I could use the old ones at school in situations where I didn't need them to stack, but needed to keep stuff together. Anyway, when I got home I had an idea, and so I headed to the hardware section of the local market, with sample in hand. I showed a few people what I wanted and a few said no, so I keep looking. Anyway, one man pointed me across the aisle to a lady who was selling all kinds of hinges, and door fittings. She very quickly found some door hooks which were exactly the right diameter, pulled out a pair of bolt cutters and chopped of the ends to the correct length. Perfect, so I got her to do another seven. I probably paid foreigner price for it, but it was worth it to be able to use the file trays properly, saving valuable bench space in the classroom, and these won't snap in a hurry!

24 July 2013

Look what I found today!

Even in Phnom Penh, there are a couple of places that I kind of enjoy shopping. Today I visited one, looking for a way to organise my resources for our math program, and also to possibly replace something I broke earlier in the day.  Well, I didn't find either in the first place I looked, but look what I did find.
Front view

Back view with beads flipped over.
When I spotted the first one, I thought about it for a minute and then checked the price. They were just $2 each. They only had five, so I decided to buy all their stock. I was glad I did, because a couple of them were either missing a bead or had an extra one. It was an easy process to move the beads so that I end up with four complete ones and then I also moved the columns with missing beads to the 10,000,000 and 100,000,000 places (which I may just remove anyway as we don't go past 1,000,000 in 4th grade) so even the fifth one is usable. I've got 4 tables in my classroom, so that's one per table and one to spare!

Now why am I so excited about this. Well, one of the tools that is used in our math program to help students understand larger numbers is the abacus. There's a printed version and students practice reading and writing four and five digit numbers using the abacus.

The next step from simply reading the number is telling what the number would be if a single bead is added to a particular place. Some of my students in the past have really struggled with this, especially when it comes to adding that tenth bead to a column which requires regrouping. When I spotted these little treasures, I thought, "That's just what I need for those students who need hands on practice".

Now if you look closely you'll notice there's a lot of writing on the front side. Some of it is Chinese characters (like the ones you can still see at the base of each column) and there was also a "Multiplication Table". Since I do occasionally get students who can read Chinese, and also the Multiplication Table would be distracting, I found a piece of coloured "contact" and covered it up. It was a bit fiddly, but all the loops come out and I managed to do it without losing any beads.

I'm still working out what to do with the base, but I know I've got some sticky spots somewhere that I can write the English letters on for represent each of the places that we will use. Now I'm looking forward to using them with my kids when school goes back.

Background writing covered with "contact".

27 June 2013

My sweet kids

I'm sure I've mentioned before just how much I love my kids, but just in case I haven't, well I do! I love them when they're good, and I love them when they're naughty. Fortunately they are much more often good than naughty! :)

Today, some of my kids just blew me away. During the year they have earned Kindness Cash by doing kind things, either to me or to their classmates. For example, a kid who is on-time every day, and pulls no "Go For Green" cards for a whole month is being kind to me! As a result they are awarded Kindness Cash. There are other rewards for not pulling cards as well, but this is a bonus. Kindness Cash is a school-wide program encouraging both kids and teachers to catch kids being kind.

Today the Kindness Store, where they can exchange their cash for various goodies, opened for the last time (well, there will actually be a catchup opening tomorrow for those kids missed out today when recess wasn't long enough). Four of my kiddos decided that, instead of getting something for themselves, they would put their "cash" together and buy gifts for the teacher! They came back after recess and presented me with two sets of flashcards (dinosaurs and world flags), a teaching clock, and a puzzle book. What precious, amazing kids we have at EWIS.

Now yesterday I debated whether I should keep up my tradition of giving every student in my class a book for the summer. The reason I debated was the shop I used to get my good quality second hand books from is no longer operating. :( After this morning's surprise from those sweet kids, I'm so glad I bit the bullet yesterday afternoon and went book shopping for them (and found suitable books for just $1 each). Every student in my class will get a book, and a small bag of sweets. Yep, they'll get lollies! But not until the end of the day, and only a few. Today I found Natural Confectionery Company jelly snakes and dinosaurs, and topped it up with a few milko type lollies. Each kid will get the sum total of 2 dinosaurs, 1 snake, and 4 other candies. I hardly think that will give them a huge sugar overload. They will also receive a letter from me and an individualised class photo.

I will miss these kids, but look forward to seeing them, like my previous classes, grow and mature as they progress through the school. I thank God for the opportunity to love and serve these precious children as they learn at East-West International School.

10 June 2013

Maintaining Momentum

With just 13 days left in the school year, and report cards already submitted, it can be a little hard to keep the momentum of learning going in the classroom. To make sure my students continue learning, while having fun as the school year draws to a close, we are working on two major projects.

The first is a follow-up on an activity we did early in the year. I didn't blog about it this year, but you can read about our Book Butterflies here. To finish the year I'm having students use a different poster, but with the same idea. This time it's called a Reading Response Web, and all the features of the book report are linked to the central box with strands of rope. I managed to add lines to my master copy to help the children work neatly, and have had A3 enlargements made from the mini-poster. The A3 size works well, giving adequate space, without being too big to manage in the classroom. It also displays well. This morning I actually chose books I wanted the children to read, as I wanted them to explore at least one different book to those they've been choosing for themselves. I've noticed recently that most students tend to get stuck on one series and stay with it until they're bored. That's OK! I did it myself (and still do sometimes) but I wanted them to explore some other choices as well. My choices were based on reading ability and interests, and I'm very much hoping they will enjoy their books.

Our other fun project is our final Social Studies theme for the year. We're studying Ancient Egypt, with a focus on pyramids and hieroglyphics. I'm taking a couple of approaches to this topic. First I'm using something called "History Pockets" which I've modified to meet limited resources etc. There's lots of colouring and construction involved and a little reading and writing. The photo above shows last year's finished products. All these bits and pieces are stored in a modified manila folder (fold up the bottom 2 inches of a foolscap folder and staple in place to make two pockets to keep all the papers and activities in). I'm also using two books from Reading A-Z. The first is actually a little easy for most of my students, but it was great for beginning to build vocabulary. The second is going to be challenging for all of my students, but I hope that by exploring it together they will learn more. I really enjoy being able to work a topic across both Science/Social Studies and English Language Arts. We also put a little bit of time into learning the Khmer vocabulary for the topic, so hopefully they can share their learning more easily with their families.

Next week is another short week, and we have our annual concert on Wednesday evening, so there will be much excitement. The grade four classes are combining to sing a couple of Colin Buchanan songs from his Egyptian trilogy, which they are really enjoying. More about that later.

31 May 2013

19 days to go ...

I'm having a hard time believing there are just 19 days left of the 2012-2013 school year. It seems like yesterday I came back from Australia full of a head cold, with lots of plans for the year and excited to have a new group of students. In just 4 weeks another year will be done!

So what's going to happen in the next 19 days?

  • Grades for report cards to be finalised and submitted by Friday 7th June
  • End of year concert - Wednesday 19th June
  • Ancient Egypt unit to teach
  • 5 Mathematics units to teach (think we might only get 3 and a bit done though)
  • Some Language Arts activities to finish up
  • Lots of fun and laughter
  • Making memory pages for my students
  • One last public holiday
  • Report cards to go home

What else? Who knows? God does, and He'll provide me with the strength to finish the year well and start preparing for next year.

25 May 2013

Something I've noticed a number of times in recent days ...

During the last few weeks I've seen something on a number of occasions that I hadn't seen before, or at least it hasn't registered. It reminds me of the deep sadness of death in a country where so many do not know Jesus.

Taken from the 4th floor of EWIS looking south.

In Cambodia, when someone dies, everyone in the surrounding neighbourhood knows about it. Funerals are very loud, and often block the whole street, for anything up to seven days. Back in March there was just down the road from the school. This is what it looked like. You'll see here that only half the street is blocked. Fortunately in this area we have fairly wide frontage outside houses, so half of this funeral was there, effectively shutting down two small businesses in the adjacent houses.

Street level.
Notice the white "flag" which is
another significant part of the funeral.
You can imagine the traffic chaos during peak hour when you've got lots of traffic trying to get past, as well as that being the time when many people come to pay their respects and so are trying to park as close as possible.
This I've seen quite often, so that wasn't what was attracting my attention today.

Today I saw the Khmer version of a funeral procession. Only I heard it long before I saw it. The mournful music and regular drum beats which seemed to be getting louder and louder had me wondering what was going on, so I wandered out of my classroom and down to the end of the building. One of the benefits of being on the 4th floor is the bird's eye view that you get of the street. Here's what I saw when I looked down. The all white clothes or white shirts with black pants/skirts are traditional mourning attire.

This open sided truck is a Khmer "hearse".
Along with the casket there will usually be several monks and mourners.
By waiting a little while I was able to capture
more of the scene. This was then followed
by mourners in cars, and also on motos.

I'm not sure why I haven't seen or noticed these before, but I am fairly confident they are heading to Wat Toul Tom Pong which is at the end of our street.

I share this, so that those who have never been to Cambodia might have a glimpse of daily life here in Phnom Penh. Jesus came so that we might have life, life in all its fullness. He also gave us the assurance of know His children will spend eternity with Him. I thank God that He has allowed me to know that life, and the certainty of heaven, and I pray that I might share both with those around me, that they too might know Him. Death is always sad, no matter where it is, but with Christ it is not without hope!

21 May 2013

Plumbing fun

Last night I went to have a shower before bed, to wash some of the humid, sticky, griminess away before heading for a cool night's sleep, but it was not quite that simple. So I turned on the water, and then pressed the button on the hot water system that starts the water flowing. That's when the fun started. Water was flowing all right, but not quite where it should have been.
The old
If you look carefully at the photo on the let you'll spot a silver butten, just below the body of the heater. There was nothing wrong with the button, it worked fine. Unfortunately the casing around it had split and so water was going everywhere. Equally unfortunately, I didn't have the connections to by-pass the system last night, so I took the easy way out and found another bathroom to have my shower!

Fortunately when the unit was installed I had made sure there was an extra safety net in case something like this happened, so I was easily able to turn the water off and not have to turn all the bathroom water supply off. The guy installing it thought I was crazy at the time, but now I'm glad I insisted.

The new
So I managed to disconnect the offending part and tuck it in a corner of my backpack. This afternoon when after school swimming was over I headed home, collected my helmet and headed out on my trusty moto. None of the first shops I tried was able to help me so I headed to an area where I know they had various bathroom fittings. First place said they'd have to order one in for me. Nope, that wasn't going to work. I kind of like my own bathroom! Next place was very helpful. I showed them the part, and what did they do? Did they have a spare? Well, not really, but that wasn't going to stop them making a sale. They did have a new water heater, so they pulled one of those down, found the necessary part, and sold it to me, along with the plumbing tape that seems an essential part of plumbing here in Cambodia!

Now, I'll bet that wouldn't happen in Australia! It's not exactly the same as the old one, but it's installed and works perfectly. In fact, I like this one better that the old one because it has a tap you turn on instead of a button to press. I'm thinking less pieces to go wrong is good!

18 May 2013

Short weeks

May is a month of short weeks here in Cambodia. That can be a good thing, and it can also be not so good.

So what's good about it? Well, all those public holidays scattered through the month give me a great chance to catch up on stuff. For example, last Wednesday I was temporarily completely up to date with all my marking. Yep, everything my students had done for me had been reviewed! Didn't last long, as they handed more papers in on Thursday and we did an English test on Thursday and Friday, but it does feel good when it happens. It also allows me to strategically take some specific time out without feeling guilty. That's important. It's well known that if we keep on and on working a full pace we'll eventually buckle under the strain. If we think back to creation, God planned our week so we would work for 6 days and rest on the 7th. Now, anyone who is a classroom teacher, especially at the primary school level, will know that it's not always easy to take that seventh day every week, but it's definitely God's plan. The trouble is, sometimes my Sunday seems like anything but a day of rest, even if I don't do any school work. If I happen to be involved in leading or playing for a worship service, well that can be stressful, especially if there are songs I don't know so well. It also takes time preparing for it, time that I might otherwise spend on school stuff. Then there's interaction with people, which is part of being part of a church family. It's good, but for introverts like myself it's not exactly restful! And then, sometimes I get to Saturday, and that's when I need my "sabbath" rest. I've worked hard all week, and I'm just ready for a break, so sometimes that's what I'll do. Have a "slow" day on Saturday and then get my planning and prep done before or after church on Sunday. Public holidays make it much easier to take a "sabbath".

OK, so that seems like there are a lot of good things going for the public holidays I get in May. What's the flip side? Again, it's a teacher thing, but I'll bet parents can relate to this one too. Most kids actually thrive on routine. My students learn much more effectively when we are in a routine than when we have days off at odd times. The first holiday this month was on a Wednesday, and that's even worse than one attached to the weekends. You just get moving on things, and then you have a day off and you have to start all over again. Hmmm. Should we move all the holidays to Mondays or Fridays? No, I like my mid-week breather.

The end of the year is fast approaching. We've got just 6 weeks to go, and of those six weeks, two have public holidays, so altogether I have 28 days of school! Eek. We've got report cards to write, a whole Social Studies unit to complete, the end of year concert, and probably somewhere in there we'll also have a major assembly. I also need to plan some fun things for my students, and restock my "Go For Green" shop.

So this weekend is a Saturday down day. Tomorrow's going to be busy, with church, picking up my old keyboard from the repair shop (so we can use it to practice for the concert), grocery shopping, and lesson planning for the coming week. Life's like that!

12 May 2013

Stress Test by Richard L Mabry MD

Why would someone kidnap a surgeon as he leaves the hospital, beat him up, then stow him in the boot of his own car, and head off to kill him? Then, when he miraculously escapes from the moving car before they have a chance to kill him, why would another staff member from the same hospital be murdered on the same night and the body left in boot of his car? What wants Dr. Matt Newman dead? Failing that, who wants him convicted of a murder he didn't commit so he's out of the picture for a long time?

Add to this mix a girlfriend who works for the DA and dumps him at the first sign of trouble, a new job that he can't take because he's a person of interest to the police, a Christian lawyer, a missionary brother, and a caring colleague, and you have the ingredients for a well written mystery.

I'm glad I chose to read this book when I could do so without feeling guilty (i.e. a holiday weekend), because it was hard to put down. The twists and turns of the plot kept me turning the pages. The underlying Christian message that God is in control was incorporated in a tasteful way, with enough detail for the reader to grasp the message without it being overwhelming. The medical content is sufficient for the plot, but not over the top. The characters seem realistic, from the central character, Dr Newman, to the corrupt cop, to the hired thugs, to the lawyer and all those other minor characters.

I can thoroughly recommend this book, and let the reader be warned, that the conclusion is not predictable. You will have to keep reading to the very end. I'll definitely be looking for more books by this author.

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.

05 May 2013

Bella Voce Spring Concert 2013

The last two weeks have been rather busy, but it has been fun too. With just two weeks to go to the Spring Concert, we were still struggling to pull some of the songs together, so we had practice on both Monday and Tuesday nights for the last two weeks, as well as one last Saturday afternoon. By Tuesday night this week, we were beginning to feel like it might all come together. We had one final rehearsal on Saturday afternoon at the concert venue before our performance that evening. The rehearsal went OK, but I knew there were bits I still wasn't confident of. I snuck a couple of minutes at the piano before the doors opened, and hoped for the best. Here are a couple of shots taken during that final rehearsal.

While the hall wasn't as full as it had been for the Christmas concert there was still a good crowd, and our program was well received. And as for those bits I wasn't sure of, well I nailed them during the performance. Musically we were challenged by several of the pieces this season, especially with the harmonies, but they were fun and I will miss choir practice during the coming weeks until we reconvene for our next season. Instead I will turn my attention back to my piano playing, and have some lessons and get practising again. We will also be starting to work on our class performance for the EWIS end of year concert, so I won't have time to be bored.

And to finish off, here are a couple of shots taken during the actual performance, thanks to a friend of mine.

PostScript: Here's a link to a video of the first half of the concert,
thanks to the folk at the InterContinental Hotel.

01 May 2013

If I could change one thing in the world, I would change … because …

I haven't posted anything about school lately, so I thought I'd share some of my students' thinking.
On Fridays we have a 40 minute time slot called Journal Writing. During that time we sometimes work on completing unfinished writing tasks and other times I ask students to reflect on their learning. Sometimes I'll give a "big question" for them to respond to. Last Friday, after the students had finished writing their "procedures", I asked them to complete two sentences, and then write a story about what the world would be like if they changed that one thing. Today I read their responses and thought I'd share them with you.
Some interesting points:
  • For 9 - 10 year olds, one thing can be a very big thing.
  • While some of the responses were similar, the writing was unique.
  • Many of the students were able to look outside themselves at the world as a whole, while a few were more self-focused. This is neat because it shows that we are making progress toward our school-wide goal of growing great thinkers.
So here is how they completed the sentences (compressed into a single sentence but without any other editing):
I would change the people will be kind to each other in this world because there are not many kind people in this world.

I would change people would be nice and be helpful to each other. I would change this because I want people to be happy.

I would change everybody into a happy life. I would change this because some people would have a lot of unhappy life.

I would change that the world was filled with peace and happiness because people all around the world wants happy, and it our duty to make them happy.

I would change that everyone is rich because I don’t want to see people on the street asking for money and the person that ask for money feel shy too.

I would change everyone is not poor because I don’t want all the people poor because when we poor our life is hard to live...

I would change the robbers or thieves. I would change this because I don’t want to see anyone got killed by the thieves or robbers, and I don’t want them to go to jail.

I would change everyone to have many money because I saw the crook steal the people everywhere.

I would change all the bad people like robbers, murderers, and lots more because I don’t want anyone to be robbed or murdered.

I would change how people treat animals. I would change this because I mostly see people treat dog by hitting it.

I would change a rain in foods, a drink, because the homeless people can eat and everyone don’t need to care about no food again.

I would change the environment because it’s good for us and there won’t be a lot of trash.
I would change the environment to be clean no trash and no pollution, because that keep us healthy and make fresh air.

I would change bad water to fresh water because we need fresh water to survive and right now we go only 0.6% of fresh water and everybody was worry that fresh water will disappear.

I would change about garbage and trash. I would change this because every time I ride my bike near the smelly street, it’s so smelly and dirty.

I would change that only Sunday was a weekend. I would change this because when I have tow weekends, I am so bored and there is nothing to do.

I would change so I have super national powers so I could be number hero and luckingest person ever.

I would change cars, so all the people in the world can dive a sport cars and not drive in old cars or small cars also poor people can drive new cars.

27 April 2013

The Survivor by DiAnn Mills

Why does a woman who survived a brutal attack as a child, but whose attacker was never found, want to tell her story in fiction. That is the question facing bestselling novelist, Kariss Walker. Does Amy Garrett have another motive other than just helping other victims come to terms with their lives by telling her story of survival?

As Kariss begins her research a number of seemingly unlinked events take place, including the bombing of a prominent business man's car, killing his wife and daughter. When Amy Garrett's car is also bombed, the FBI investigators start to wonder if there is a link between the two cases. They also wonder if there is a link to Amy's "cold case" which was never solved.

Add an unsuccessful coffee shop shooting, with bullets engraved with the victims' names, and these two independent, headstrong women end up sharing protective custody, only to have that go terribly wrong as well.

This book is full of twists and turns. Kariss's suspended relationship with one of the key FBI investigators adds a further complication, especially as Kariss has become a Christian and Tigo is still seeking.

I found it really hard to put this book down. Each chapter had new complications or intrigue. The characters were well developed, and the Christian content, while clear is not overwhelming. The supporting characters add depth to the story. The conclusion is not what you might expect.

With this title being the second in the series, I'm wanting to read the first one, and will definitely consider reading this author's works in the future.

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.

25 April 2013

Corrections or not???

With the majority of my students speaking English as their second language, it is an ongoing battle to have good English spoken and written in the classroom. In order to develop their writing and spelling skills we have a number of worksheet or workbook activities. As I check work, I usually mark errors with either a circle or a question mark and send students back to have another go. Sometimes I'll give them a clue as to the type of error they need to find, while other times I will simply highlight the directions and ask them to read the instructions/question again.

Today we had a discussion about why I ask the children to do their corrections. It was great to hear the reasons they came up with.

"To help us know where we went wrong so we can learn."
"So we won't think we got it all right and keep making the same mistakes."
"To help us learn".

There were others, but they've escaped my memory at the moment.

It would be easy just to mark things incorrect and let it go. It would take a little more time to mark it wrong and give them the correct answer. It takes much more time and effort to have the children do their own corrections, but it's worth it, especially when they understand and can verbalise why they need to do them. Also, since they know they will have to do the corrections, they have a greater motivation to do their very best the first time around, and to check their work!

17 April 2013

The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah Ladd

I'm so glad I was on holidays when I started reading this book because it was very hard to put down.

The heiress to a lucrative estate befriends the wife of a neighbour, and promises to care for the child of that friend when the friend dies in childbirth. Where is the father of the child - away at sea. With her 24th birthday looming, and with it a deadline by which she must be married or lose her inheritance, Amelia Barrett is faced with a dilemma. Her intended refuses to allow the child to remain at Winterwood after their marriage! When baby Lucy's father returns home for a short visit, Amelia makes an unheard of proposition. In a time when only men should propose, Amelia proposes that she and Captain Graham Sterling should wed, allowing her to continue caring for baby Lucy while the Captain is away at sea. What will happen? What will happen with the man to whom Amelia has already been promised, and who she has agreed to marry, when discovers she is betrothed to another?

Add to the equation Amelia's uncle, who is her guardian, her aunt, and her cousin, as well as the Captain's brother who has a propensity for drunkenness and gambling, and things get very complicated.

This book is well written, with the characters well developed and realistic. The plot has enough twists in it to keep you turning page after page. Amelia's friendship with the local vicar's wife has taught her to trust God, and as the story unfolds she discovers a deeper more personal relationship with God. Scripture quotes are appropriate and not out of context, which is so important in today's world. Not only will this book entertain the reader, it will encourage the reader to know the one true God who provides comfort when no other can. 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.

16 April 2013

A Matter of Trust by Lis Wiehl

Two dead prosecutors, a rebellious teenager, a homicide cop, a runaway teen, a screaming 4-year-old, two jobs, and a boss who seems more focused on election results than actual prosecutions are just some of the challenges facing single-mum Mia Quinn. With her husband killed in a road accident several months before the story opens, Mia Quinn is struggling to keep her head above water. She desperately wants to be a good mum to her kids, but also needs to find out who killed her best friend and colleague Colleen. Take a journey with Colleen and Charlie to find who killed two prosecutors. When her son is involved in a "flash mob" at the same time Mia has to decide whether to turn him in or keep quiet. What will happen? The twists in this plot will keep you turning the pages, as Mia and Charlie endeavour to leave no stone unturned in solving the mysteries before them.

If you are looking for a book with a well-developed primary plot and several sub-plots that will keep you turning the pages, then this book is for you. The characters are realistic, and the situations they face are also those facing many today. While Mia is not a Christian, her Dad has recently found Jesus and is doing his best to help Mia and show her that he has changed. The Christian content in this book is small, but the book is still well worth reading. In fact, it may be one you can easily share with non-Christian friends, knowing that the story is good, the gospel is stated clearly, but not in such a way that it will turn non-Christian readers away. An excellent read. In fact, it's so good I read it twice and enjoyed it both times.

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.

24 March 2013

Highlight from a Reading Log

One of the homework tasks I require of my 4th grade students is 15 minutes of independent or shared reading, followed by a comment in their Reading Log. They have a choice of the 11 response starters below and each week they must choose 4 different starters.

A.  The main idea of what I read was ...
B.  My favourite part was ___________________.
I like this part because ...
C.  My favourite sentence was _______________.
I like this sentence because ...
D.  This reminds me of ...
E.  I did not like the part when ______________.
I did not like this part because ...
F.  A question I have is ____________________?
I think the answer to my question is ...
G.  I wonder why _________________(character’s name) said or did ...
H.  I love the way the author ________________.
I like this because ...
I.   What I think will happen next is ...
J.  I agree (or disagree) with _________________ _______________, because ...
K.  I didn’t understand the part when ...

Yesterday I was busy reviewing the Reading Logs when I came across this gem:

"I love the way the author make new words for me. I like this because if I know alot of new words and how to spell them I would get my spelling test right every Thursday or I could be smarter than Miss Karen."

You can't help loving this student's thinking! This student is stretching himself with fairly advanced Chapter Books, and comments like this help me know he's thinking about what he's reading. Awesome. I love it when my kids use the strategies I teach them to take their own learning to the next level.

18 March 2013

Road Safety

Those who have known me for some time, and who receive my prayer letters will know that one prayer request that appears almost every time is for safety on the roads.

The Phnom Penh Post recently reported on a WHO report on Road Safety. The situation is not good, although Cambodia does appear to fare a little better than some other Asian countries.

For now, let's just compare Cambodia and Australia

Cambodia has 39,618km of roads, of which just 2,492km are paved.
Australia has 823,217km of roads, of which 356,343km are paved.

Cambodia has a population of about 15,000,000.
Australia has a population of about 22,000,000.

Cambodia has 1 372 525 registered 2 & 3 wheeled motorised vehicles.
Australia has 660 107 vehicles in the same category.

Cambodia has just 244 267 cars and 4-wheeled light vehicles.
Australia has 14 729 973 vehicles in the same category.

In Cambodia, motorbike helmets are mandatory for drivers but not passengers. The facts are that about 65% of drivers wear helmets and only 9% of passengers!
In Australia, helmets are compulsory for both driver and passenger and 99% of drivers wear them!

Sadly, the 2010 road tolls for both countries are not good. In Australia there were 1363 reported road fatalities, which is about 6/100,000 people, which is down from 9/100,000 people ten years ago. In Cambodia, there were 1816 report road fatalities, which is about 12/100,000 people, up from 4/100,000 people that it was ten years ago.

There are more and more motos and cars on the streets of Phnom Penh every day, and I frequently see more powerful bikes (250cc up) where previously most were 100cc!

In Australia >75% of seriously injured persons are transported by ambulance.
In Cambodia that figure is somewhere between 11% and 49%.

So where does that leave me? Well, it leaves me with a healthy respect for life when I get on my motorbike. I wear a helmet everytime I get on the bike, or even on someone else's bike. I never use my phone while riding. I am conscious that as I ride, I need to be constantly aware of the other road users. And most of all, I cover prayer for my safety as I travel on the roads.

I'm glad that I now live a short walk from school, so don't use the moto on the daily basis that I used to, but I do still use it regularly. For those who read this post, please continue to pray for safety on Cambodia's roads, both for me and my friends and colleagues. Pray that we will be safe and alert riders, and that God will continue to guard our safety as we seek to serve Him in this land.

23 February 2013

So what did we learn last week?

I promised back on Monday last week, that I'd share what the students learned about Chimpanzees during the course of our week-long mini unit. So here is the evidence that my students did learn something, as well as having a lot of fun during the week.

The finished poster
And here are some close-ups of some of the students' comments about their learning.

Definitely some great learning here.

More great learning
This student learned so much he/she needed a second shape!
Some great learning here.
Two students' thoughts
Another two students' thoughts
 If you want to know more about this great unit, check it out at the Disney Nature Chimpanzee website. You can download the great educators' guide for free. My students thoroughly enjoyed it, and I can definitely recommend it as a high quality professional resource.

Tenths and Hundredths and Pony Beads

So what do pony beads have to do with tenths and hundredths. Read on and you will find out.

In Grade 4K we've been learning about fractions. Over the years I've discovered that either they get it or they don't. Unfortunately, we use fractions every day, so kids do really need to get it. Over the last couple of weeks we've done a fair bit of work with ordinary fractions, and putting them on a number line, and comparing them. After Friday's test I know we need to do a bit more work on equivalent fractions, but this week, we are working on linking common fractions and decimals.

This week we've been working on tenths and on Thursday we started on hundredths. The first two days went OK, using number lines and linking common fractions with decimal fractions (i.e. 1/10 = 0.1 and 3/10 = 0.3 etc.). Then we started working on hundredths. They seemed to do OK with the lesson on Thursday, and everyone was able to complete the workbook activity, which had them colouring tenths and hundredths on a grid and then writing the fraction in hundredths.

So Friday morning before I went onto the new content, I asked them to tell what we'd be learning about. Responses were vague. Eventually I got that we'd been learning about tenths and hundredths, but to get the relationship between the two was almost impossible. So it was time to get out my new teaching aid.

Kids love hands on things, and these strings of pony beads are great for helping kids understand tenths and hundredths.

There are ten beads of one colour in a set, and ten sets of beads on a string, making 100 beads. They can be really useful for students in lower grades who are beginning to learn what 100 is, and they are great for 4th graders struggling to understand how tenths and hundredths fit together. I'd already modelled the concept using a square divided into 100 smaller squares, and the kids had done some work with that, but getting these out (and everyone got to "play" with their own), really helped them see. Each single bead was one hundredth of the whole string, and ten hundredth beads went together to make one tenth!

We'll see how much they remember on Monday!

P.S. A big thank you to Mary Kluck and Lesley Kimber for getting me the supplies to create these great teaching aids, and to Janet Singer for giving me a sample and showing me some ways to use them.

18 February 2013

Giving kids choices

The first installment
There is something to be said in favour of giving kids choices.

That statement is very broad, but then the whole idea of giving kids choices and helping them make wise choices has wide application.

In this case, I'm talking about reading. I was thrilled to hear a parent tell me today that it is no longer a battle to get her daughter to read. Yes!!! :) At the start of the year, and the first parent-teacher conference, this parent had confided in me that her daughter really hated reading. I made a few suggestions, and made two resources available. One of the resources was an on-line reading program where kids read books that are just the right level for them.  The other resource was my classroom library.

When I started at EWIS back in August 2010, I had no classroom library. Over the past 2 years, largely thanks to some generous donations and an excellent 2nd hand bookshop, I have built a collection of over 500 books, ranging from beginning levels through to advanced grade 5+ reading levels. The books include a variety of genres at a variety of reading levels.

While reading for 15 minutes each day is a compulsory part of homework, I don't tell the children what they have to read. I do however ensure they have access to books to read. Every morning the children have a chance to change their classroom library book (unless they are late for school). It has worked.

Ready for the start of this year.

In September this year, the student concerned was choosing mostly short stories in picture books. As the year progressed I've watched her discover chapter books, and she's now happily reading medium level chapter books.

So this post is in honour of all those who have contributed to the Grade 4K classroom library. It is the envy of other classes, and the students love it. Thank you all so much.

16 February 2013

Secretly Smitten: Love Changes Everything

Including:   Love Between the Lines (by Colleen Coble)
                    Make Me a Match (by Kristin Billerbeck)
                    Knit One, Love Two (by Diann Hunt)
                    Love Blooms (by Denise Hunter)

I just love it when I get four books for the price of one! What most amazed me about this set of 4 novellas is how four different authors can write four unique stories, while taking a single overarching plot through to a satisfying conclusion.

When a young girl discovers a set of military dog tags belonging to an older ladies sweetheart who had supposedly died in a conflict in Korea, three sisters set out to find out what happened. Along the way, each of the girls, and their mother discover true love in unexpected places. With a neat blend of mystery and romance, this set of four stories had me turning the pages when I should have been asleep. Set in a small country town called "Smitten", which is fighting for survival and desperate to gain selection as a tourist destination on the state rail network, with all the joys and challenges of small town living, this was a fun book to read. As for the conclusion, well I'll just say it was an unexpected, but happy ending. You'll just have to read it to find out.

Secretly Smitten is well written, with realistic characters, and five satisfying plots. Each of the characters also learns important life lessons, and there is an underlying reminder that God is in control, and He wants good things for His children.

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.

11 February 2013

A somewhat quieter than normal day

Today was a school day! Yes! Why did only 14 of my 22 students showed up for class today? I'm kidding, right? Ah, no, not kidding. Yes, I had a lovely day with the 14 students who did come to school today.

First of all, why were there so many away? Well, I don't live in China, but there are many people of Chinese descent in Cambodia, and both yesterday and today the markets were closed (apart from all the people who moved as much of their stock as they could outside or who had outside stalls) along with many businesses for Chinese New Year! Last year we closed too, but with so many holidays it was decided not to take this one (which wasn't compulsory like some of the others). Unfortunately for me, our local photocopy shop was one of the business that was closed, so I had to do a little improvisation, but we got there. After school I went to a big photocopy shop a little further away as was suitably impressed with the speed and quality of their work and the price was the same as well. The material I was copying was all designed to be copied, so no problems with copyright.

As I knew last week that I would have three students absent all week this week, plus one more definitely away today and tomorrow, I decided to do a mini-unit on Chimpanzees this week. It fits in perfectly with our Biomes curriculum content, and the material I discovered incorporates maths, science and language arts, so I'm not feeling bad about diverging from core curriculum for a week. Pity I wasn't more organised with my printing and copying.

Something I like to do, and which was suggested in the curriculum guide I'm using, is to start the unit by creating a KWL chart. For the non-teachers among you K = Know, W = Want (to know) and L= Learned. Today we did the K and W sections. At the end of the week we will complete the L. It's always fun doing this, and I usually discover some interesting knowledge already existing among my students as well as some erroneous knowledge. That was certainly true today. In doing the K section, I don't discard anything, but rather hope that, as the unit proceeds, the students will discover the errors themselves. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. Mostly it does.

So just what did my students think they knew about chimpanzees. Here's a snapshot of what I got on the whiteboard.

As for their questions. Wow! These kids had some amazing questions. Once again, I try to record them all, eliminating overlap as far as I can. Here's what I got down, and they actually had a few more which just wouldn't fit.

So what do you think of those questions? Aren't these kids great thinkers? I'm really looking forward to the rest of this mini-unit. I already know we're going to answer a lot of their questions. Hopefully they'll be encouraged to go searching on their own for those which we don't answer.

Tomorrow I plan to create a poster with this information, leaving lots of space for the L section. On Friday I'll give students small pieces of paper in various shapes so they can record what they have learned and put it all together. You might want to check back next week to see the final product.

Silent Night: A Rock Harbor Christmas novella by Colleen Coble

What do you get when you mix a rebellious student, a stray parachuter, a loving family and a search and rescue dog team? You get another great story from Colleen Coble. It's a while since I read the first book in the Rock Harbour series, but reading this book has me itching to read the ones I missed.

When Laurie turns up unexpectedly in Rock Harbor, followed closely by a search and rescue call out for Bree Matthews and her canine partner Samson, you can expect excitement. As Bree struggles to come to terms with a recent miscarriage and an unsuccessful search, while Laurie is confused by the desire of the adoptive parents to share her identity with their adopted daughter, Kade and Bree also seek to help the local sheriff solve a mystery.

So, will they find the parachuter? What about that missing girl? Look out for a surprise twist at the end of the story.

This short novella is great quick read. The characters are real, and the situations equally real. Once again Colleen Coble captures her reader’s attention with just the right amount of suspense, romance, and descriptive writing. While this is a Christian novella, there isn't a huge amount of Christian content in it, which would make it an ideal book for those wanting a good clean read.


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.

08 February 2013

"Gonna" - No, I have not forgotten my English grammar ...

I'm gonna do this! I'm gonna do that! He was gonna go to the beach. She was gonna have a swim.

No, I haven't forgotten my English grammar, but it is so hard at times to correct words like "gonna" in children's writing when I hear myself saying, "We're gonna have fun next week."

Now I know, and I'm sure most of those reading this know, that the word "gonna" does not exist and is a colloquialism or slang from of "going to". The difficulty comes when you are teaching English Language Learners in the context of mainstream English education, and you know that you say it that way yourself. Grrr.

Another thought. It is much easier to write correct English than it is to speak it. The difficulty is that my students hear me a lot more than they see my writing.

So what do you think? Are you "gonna" have fun this weekend? Am I "gonna" see you on Monday?

I guess the first step to addressing my oral use of this word in the classroom is realising that I'm saying it. Next I need to stop myself before I say it and say "going to" instead. Hmmm, I wonder how I'll go?

How would you go?

P.S. I just ran a spell check on this article and the only errors it highlighted were "Grrr" and "Hmmm". I guess that means "gonna" is acceptable English - NOT!