Saturday, June 18, 2011

Leaving Eve

 "It's been so long since I've seen your face
And felt a part of this human race
You know, I've been living out of this here suitcase
for way to long."
- Ray Lamontagne "Joelene"

It's hard to believe, but I made it. Tomorrow morning I'll be on the ferry to Singapore never to return. (Well, some of my students really want me to come back when they dig up the time capsule, which seems unlikely money wise, but I told them I would try and, at least part of me, meant it.)

It's been a challenging year but I've learned a lot and have no regrets. If I'd known what day to day life here would be like I don't think I would have come but then I wouldn't have seen volcanoes erupting, Komodo dragons, the Baduy or Borobrodur. I would never have met the people who've made this experience so worthwhile: Adik, her friends in Banyuwangi, the Aussie photographer, the Sea Hermit, my students.

These last few months have been particularly difficult, very few things have gone the way I'd hoped, which sent me on a very long circuitous search for a place to land. In January I started searching for some way to begin working on my B.Ed when I returned but every step forward I was greeted with another obstacle. I tried looking for work but, few responses and a couple of scams later, I found myself back at the start with a possible full time job in education back home in Canada which would allow me to return to Uni to get some required courses to apply to the Faculty of Ed.

On the one hand, I would really like to see more of the world, but mostly I am ecstatic about the idea of staying in Canada, at least for a while. I have to agree with Dorothy, there really is no place like home. Of course, with the way this year's been going, there's still a very good chance I'll end up on this side of earth again come fall.

For now I'm off on a two week tour of Vietnam, my plans to see Cambodia and Laos having been, like so many other plans lately, not feasible due to financial and time constraints. I expect to resume posting with my 'Nam adventures sometime around the middle of July.

Until then, bismillah.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Schoooool's Out. For. Ever...

Well, not forever, but forever for 5C. We had our ups and downs but there was always something to learn inside our classroom and I'm going to miss them.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


There are many times I have been filled with doubts about my ability to teach. It doesn't help that I have endured scathing glares and outright hostility from teachers at the school, particularly when I refuse to do my students' work for them. I must concede, I am unconventional in my methods by comparison to most of the teachers here. I listen to my students.

When they complained about losing half of their PE time to Exhibition preparation, I contacted the PE teacher, I booked the gym and made up games to practice math skills. The kids dubbed it "physical math". We built a rocket ship out of materials from the recycle room to practice geometry. We played cards, had a riddle or idiom of the day and tried to identify the origins of English words (thanks to the interest sparked by "Akeelah and the Bee"). We documented the building of bee hives, researched further when they were abandoned, and dissected abandoned hives and did post mortems on bees.We grew bacteria in petri dishes, played video games and invented the word "plearning". We had a time machine to practice conjugating our verbs and a game show with it's own theme song to stamp out bad grammar.  We had debates on topics like nuclear energy and cheating, we put on plays and had an entire wall devoted to graffiti. 

None of this was in the curriculum or approved of by the Filipino teaching contingent and I was, more often the not, the subject of twittering, malicious gossip that on more than one occasion became the focus of angry staff meetings. And sometimes, often lately, when one or two of my students just doesn't seem to grasp some basic task or idea I've despairingly decided that the Filipino teachers are right, and I really am a failure.

I've been feeling that keenly this last week, after the PYP exhibition. The accusing, castigating attitudes, responses and glares of the teachers, who have been doing my student's work for them all through their primary years, upon seeing what some of my student's culminating projects look like when a teacher says, "I will guide you but I will not do it for you" have, I must admit, left me deflated.

But, I just finished marking our final English test. The last question was a long answer question to assess how well they've mastered writing in an essay format (Intro, topic sentences, supporting paragraphs and conclusion). I had told them it would be a question about a book we've been reading which was met with a chorus of "Awww, Miiissss!!!" So, at the last minute, I changed it.

Write a short essay with the title “Grade Five Was the (choose your own adjective here) Year Ever.” Remember, you will need to support this opinion with examples.

I knew I was leaving myself wide open but, while I got the odd suck up response and quite a few brutally honest responses ("Grade Five Was One of the Most Chaotic Years Ever" was one of my faves)  Ceci's almost made me cry:

Grade Five Was the Coolest Year Ever

I think grade 5 is the coolest year, that's because we had done lots of cool things. Sometimes when we don't like the activity, we make it fun and exciting. One way is to play it in a game, while sometimes we make it a challenging activity. I like challenges and interesting activities, that is why I think grade 5 was the coolest year.

Challenging activities are usually difficulty. Sometimes people think the more challenging it is the more fun it is. That's because we get to think hard, and solve the challenge. To me, challenge is just like a game. We get to play, if we lose the game, it's just the same as failing in a challenge. In 5C, we made activities challenging and we played it in a game. When we play we learn. To me, it's a very cool way to learn.

Some interesting and cool activities we did are time-capsule, doing maths in P.E., scavenger hunt and more. In time-capsule, we get to dig a container/box full of our things, we even write a letter to our future. In maths P.E. we learned maths while playing P.E., which I think is a unique idea. We made reading fun too, especially in dear time. We get to read together and learn new words. When we read Encyclopedia Brown, the detective chapter book, we get to solve the mystery together.

To me, all things we did were cool, unique and interesting because we made learning fun for all. And we made activities challenging and interesting and fun too! 

What I love most about it, aside from the fact that, for a ten year old, she has perfect essay format doesn't she (?) is that "we" did it. Together. All of us. In fact, of all of the responses, only two mentioned me at all ("Ms. Corinne is kind" Ha! I still don't know where they get that from. I'm actually quite evil to them sometimes and I would love to be a fly on the wall when it suddenly dawns on them, in four or five years, how I manipulated them. "Hey, she was totally making that threat up..."). In 5C it was about the students, never about the teacher or her ego or her fears. It was about "we" and "us". For me, it really was about "them" and I'm so glad that that's how most of them feel in the end.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Things You Should Know By Your 35th Year (Or How I Learned That I Still Don't Know Anything)

1) How to Breathe: I am trying to quit smoking for the second time. It's easier this time, but it's still hard.

2) How to Smile: Even though your heart is breaking. Even though it's broken.

3) How to tell a Joke: "Ms. What's the password"

4) How to Kiss a Sailor: The same way you kiss a pilot only you ought to curse when you come up for air.

5) How to Love: Ask me in another decade.