21 November 2015

Quick updates

Several weeks ago, I posted about the puppet theatre I'd created out of poly pipe, along with some photos. At the time I didn't have any of the finished product, so here's one taken during our assembly rehearsal.

The assembly went well, and the audience seemed to enjoy our presentation.

The next photo is one of nature's little gifts to me. I spotted this beauty on the way upstairs one morning. I love the symmetry in these creatures, and what was particularly amazing to me was the way the colour in this moth's wings was a perfect match for the wall it had landed on.

The last couple of days at school have been somewhat painful, as construction workers set about dismantling the scaffolding outside my classroom. Here's what it looked like by Friday afternoon. They're not finished yet, but hopefully it won't be too much longer, and I'll be able to open the blinds and windows and let some daylight and fresh air into the room.

Finally, my students have been busy on their culminating project for our Map Skills unit. In the past I've had them complete a poster about their country as well as the map, but this year I've chosen just to have them complete the map. Here's what they've come up with.

Next week each group will have to present their country to their classmates, and try to convince them why it would be good to move to their country. Later I'll display them in the hallway, with a written piece for each group, and the option for students from the grade 3 to 5 classes to vote which country they would like most.

Reflecting on passing time.

This week it has been a privilege to see parents posting photos on Facebook of their children's high school graduations and formals. These are children that I once knew quite well, having watched them grow from babies, through toddlerhood, and into primary school, and taught them in Sunday School and Kids' Club. They are now young men and women, on the verge of exploring life beyond high school. It is delightful to see their growth and evidence of their growing maturity. In May 2016, I hope to have the privilege of seeing some of my first students (3rd & 4th graders) graduate from high school. It is exciting to know that many of those students I had in my first class have gone on to become young men and women of faith and integrity.

At the same time, it makes me increasingly aware of the passing of time. It's now nearly ten years since my first visit to Cambodia, and in January it will be nine years since I came to take up my first teaching post on a six month contract. While I was prepared for it to be longer than six months, I don't think I had any idea that it would be this long. I have grown so much over those nine years. I've learnt so much about teaching, and about working with people, and about living in a country that is not my passport country. It hasn't all been easy. In fact there have been times which were extremely difficult for me. Times of pain. Times of uncertainty. Times of anger. Times of grief. There have also been many great times. Times when I've seen the lights go on for a child - the "Ah, now I get it!" moments. Times when I've seen children discover the joy of reading. Times when I experienced God's grace and forgiveness. New friends. Fun times with old friends. I've learnt that it's not necessary to be totally in control of what's going on in my life. I've learnt that I'm not really a very adventurous person at all.

People sometimes ask me how long I will stay here in Cambodia. My answer to that is "As long as God leads me to stay."  How will I know when it's time to move on? I'm not sure. I just know that God will make it clear to me. Meanwhile, I have a desire to see continued growth in the education of Cambodian children, and to do all I can to help the young people of Cambodia grow, learn, and make a difference in the future.

This school year has already proven challenging, but it has mostly been good. I have been challenged to think about the ways that I teach my students, and how effective that might be. After four years teaching the same grade level, it is possible to be stuck in a rut, so that's a good thing. It doesn't mean it's easy, but it is good. I will be a better teacher because of the challenges I've experienced this year. I've also been challenged again in the way I interact with colleagues, and that's a good thing too. So thankful that God is slowly changing me. He is so patient.

It was good to take the break from study this semester. I wouldn't have chosen to do it, knowing that I'm proceeding slowly anyway, but it was necessary. Now I'm looking forward to getting back into the study routine again. Time passes. It's good to "stop and smell the roses".

04 November 2015

Getting creative

It's hard to be creative when you're battling a head cold, but that's life when you're a teacher. Mostly it's easier just to keep going yourself than to prepare material for someone else to teach. Add to that the complication of a Grade 3-5 assembly on Friday led by Grade 4K and you'll get a picture of life for me at the moment.

Let me show you a few pictures of just a few things that have been happening in Grade 4K this week.

First of all, an update on the chair bags. The students think they are great. Here are some photos of them in use, with homework folders tucked in the bags while student complete their Homework Planbook for the week.

The big chairs!
Previously these folders would have been on the floor under the chairs.
Now they are much safer.
And the small chairs!.
Several years ago I purchased a set of Scholastic Book Report Posters called Book Butterfly. Check out my original post about these here. Happily as well as the original posters, they come with a black-line master so I've been able to continue the project, using A3 photocopies. This year each of my English Language Arts groups read a different novel (largely as a read-aloud with lots of discussion along the way) and then each student completed a book report on their own. Here are this year's posters. (These were finished a few weeks ago, but I only got them marked and displayed this week.)

This afternoon my students had some fun as they showed me a little of what they have learned about landforms. I randomly paired the students up, and equally randomly allocated them a "landform". Along with their allocated "landform", each pair received a 15cm x 20cm  piece of black foam core board as their base, and each table was given a tub of "Kiddie Clay".
Here's what they produced.
Teachers aren't supposed to have favourites, but I was most impressed with the peninsula, complete with lighthouse, the volcano and the mesa. Considering they had about 40 minutes, no tools and only the five colours of clay you see above, I thought they did a pretty good job.

One of the things my class is doing for assembly is a puppet play. I've been experimenting with using a clothes rack for the "theatre" but it's not quite big enough, so today I decided to get creative. I walked down the end of the street, and round the corner to where there are several local plumbing supply stores. I was on the hunt for poly-pipe, and I found it. Unfortunately, one of the parts that I had hoped to find is not available in Cambodia (at least that was what I was told), so I ended up with some spare bits, and something not quite as sturdy as my original plan, but I think it will work. Since they'd already cut the pieces before I discovered that I could get three-way connectors I brought the pieces home and here's what I came up with.

I've actually got a dark brown sheet at school already which I'll be using for the front piece, and some fabric that I'll use for the backdrop, but I used bedsheets here so you can get the idea. I need to dismantle it and put it together again in the classroom tomorrow for a test run, then I'll dismantle it again to move it to the assembly location. I'll try and remember to take some more photos when we rehearse tomorrow afternoon.
My original plan had cross bars linking front and back frames at the top, and another bar across the bottom at the front for stability. I just had a thought that if I were to get four more T-connectors and cut both front and back supports into two pieces, I could get those extra cross bars in, but hopefully this will work for Friday. The picture below might make that clearer.