Monday, October 20, 2014

Teacher Life - Snippets From The Classroom

I have been a teacher for almost seven years in Victoria, Australia, so I'm still really a newbie. In that time I have:
- taught at eight schools for at least a term, plus an orphanage
- taught in the Government, Lutheran, Catholic and Independent school systems

- taught almost every year level from Prep to Year 10.
- been a Classroom, Music and CRT teacher
- coached basketball
- taught after-school guitar and keyboard lessons (Mr C School of Rock!)
- organized basketball tournaments, school camps and school concerts

In other words, I don't let the grass grow under my feet.

I have often struggled, but it's been a fun and fulfilling ride so far, with most of my teaching experience in the lower levels. One thing's for sure, they certainly provide you with some entertaining material for social media. Here's a look back at some of the highlights of my teaching career back to 2010, as documented by my Facebook wall, with some photos at the end. Enjoy!

2013 (Grade 1)
I never imagined that my elementary knowledge of the Hindu gods would cause one of my little students to be very happy. The things you find out at P/T interviews (March 27th)

Got no voice, the day before parent/teacher interviews. Delightful. Thankful for the arvo off, since trying to control a bunch of Grade 1s while sounding like the squeaky-voiced teen from the Simpsons is just not easy (March 20)

The Essendon jumper will be getting a run in my classroom tomorrow. I have one little Collingwood guy in particular who will be copping it, who loves bringing in his Magpies lunchbox. Wouldn't be surprised if he takes a four day weekend (April 25th)

Ah Grade 1, you funny bunch. Mrs R was walking out the door after her last fortnightly class before going to have her baby and my bunch called out their farewell "Have a good baby!" As Homer J would say "Those are exactly my sentimonies!" (May 15th)

My Grade 1 class's writing task was to write a postcard from the moon. This is what one girl wrote (all spelling has been corrected): "Dear Mr Chalmers, I love you teaching the children, but you are a little strict. So you have to calm down a little bit. So when you are strict you have to breathe in and out ok? So, um, yeah, that is about it. Bye bye I will see you later." (May 12th)

Grade 1 chuckle to finish the term: We were reading a book containing Australian animals, and I asked the students to identify any animals starting with the same letter as their first name. One young fella saw a numbat, only he remembered it as "Numb-nuts". Close enough (June 28)

I read my class a book in which the main character repeatedly says "Swimming is stupid!". Cue collective horrified GASP! Ah my little ones, just wait until you see what other wonderful "rude" words the world has waiting for you to discover. Innocence... (Aug 30)
I LOVE Book Week dress-up day (one of the perks of being a Junior School teacher). I made a wacky Captain Hook, complete with spatula-hook and Homer socks. My class was transformed into Darth Vaders, Yodas, Princesses, Superheroes, Wallys, Pirates, Big Bad Wolves and Little Red Riding Hoods. The kids were (relatively) off their trolley today, so my original lesson plans went out the window. We saw a rabbit grazing on the front lawn outside the classroom and had a caterpillar hatch from its cocoon just as one girl was showing it for Show and Tell. It's enough to send anyone bonkers. Ah, weekend...(Aug 23)

My class invented a new 2D shape today. A 6-sided shape is a hexagon, so it follows that a 7-sided shape must be a "sexy-gon". Many chuckles were had for that one (Aug 22nd)

Show and Tell this week: favourite book. We then vote on which book for me to read out loud to the class. Something I never imagined myself doing is reading the book Bottoms Up, about a bunch of babies protesting about wearing nappies, and pointing out that animals don't have to cover up, so why should they? There was hilarity and craziness, with bums and undies galore! (on the pages of the book of course) Ah, Grade 1 (Aug 9)

Ah, the much-anticipated Zoo Day. One boy told me yesterday he was so excited "my heart is going to jump out of my mouth". We were blessed with a rain-free day. No bear-maulings, lion-chompings or snake-strangulations. All kids back safe and sound. My group of 13 were like an irrepressible "plague of happiness" (as one parent helper so wonderfully put it). They exuberantly swarmed from one exhibit to the next, ignoring signs telling them to be quiet and walk. It was fun to watch. Interesting reaction from some of my colleagues who shudder with horror at the thought of a Grade 1 excursion, but I'd do it over being in the classroom any day of the week. Fun times (September 11th)

Grade 1 boy: HAAA-CHOOOOO! (all over boy in front)
*2 seconds later puts hand over mouth*
Me: *Face palm*
(Oct 30)

A group of mum’s Grade 5 kids put together a show for my Grade 1s. I felt sorry for them as my kids weren't the greatest audience. They were leading into a couple of Christmas songs and asked "What time of year is it?"
The first kid said "2012, 1st of December." Incorrect, and missed the point.
The second kid said "2013, 2nd of December". Got the date right but still missed the point. They had to be prompted by the Grade 5s: "No, It's Christmas!" This was met with bemused silence. Looks like there are some kids out there yet to get into the Christmas spirit. I hope they're in a more enthusiastic mood for tomorrows show. (
Dec 2)

Hooray for the end of year teacher stash Thanks 1C, it was a fun year. (Dec 11)

2012 (Grade 3/4 and Music)

Another talent I didn't know I had - performing a two-puppet show by myself!! (and I didn't stuff up the voices) Fairly impressed...(March 30th)

Two days into the "holidays" (pffft!), 2 Term planners done!! Just gotta knock over literacy and maths, and the rest of the hols are MINE!! (April 2)

I was feeling pretty proud, had just finished doing a decent drum demo in front of my 5/6s, when I got this from one of the girls "Pffft! Justin Bieber can drum faster than that..." Consider my bubble well and truly burst (April 12)

Love doing the "blast from the past" with my kids at school - I've got them into Muppets, SuperTed, Peter Combe, McGee and Me, and Psalty the Singing Songbook - they love it! (May 26)

Just returned from a superb Grade 3/4 camp at Grampians Retreat – ½ hour of rain all week, kids were great, ate til I was stuffed and even went on the Giant Swing and Flying Fox (scared the crud out of me, but hey, if Grade 3 kids can do it, then so can I) (June 16)

*Grade 3 girl whacking herself on the back of the head*
Me: "What are you doing?"
Girl: "I'm trying to make my brain go down here (points to front of head) so I can see what I'm thinking."
It must be Friday...(Aug 24)

As the organiser, I want to give a big thanks to all players, coaches, parents and refs for making yesterday’s Portland Schools Basketball Tournament a great day. Behaviour and sportsmanship was top notch, and as an added bonus, our school took out the boys and girls Grand Finals. Werribee, here we come! (Sept 7th)

So proud of my 12 b-ballers at Hooptime in Werribee today. Results aside, it was a 5am four-hour car trip and a different level of basketball. Thanks to the parents for your "taxi-driving" and support...(Nov 9th)

Goodbye 3/4C. 'Twas a fun, interesting, challenging year with you. Never a dull moment. (Dec 14)

On the way home from church this morning my 3 kids break into a very loud rendition of "My Highland Goat"!!!! Thanks a lot! (Dec 30, from a parent)

2011 (Grade 1/2)
Trying to teach 6 and 7 year olds what jury duty means (or even how to say it) - priceless. Hello court tomorrow (ended up being two weeks) (March 8)

*A spider, so-tiny-its-almost-invisible, comes down among 2A students*
2A students: "Skreeeeem!!!"
*Mr Chalmers comes to the rescue and gently takes the so-tiny-its-almost-invisible spider outside*
2A students: "Skreeeeem!!"
I love my job (
May 28th)

Paying the price for letting things slide during school term - two tubs of kids books marked, 4 to go. (Oct 5th)

Nice decision to walk home from school today. Knee played up, poured down rain and got swooped by a couple of nasty times (Oct 28th)

Just tried a science experiment I'm doing with my kids this week, AND IT WORKED!! In your face, science!! (Nov 1)

Ah, the ol' Grade 2 sleepover. Sitting in the gym, drinking my Pepsi Max, pretending to do work on my computer, waiting for 23 cherubs to drop off into beddy-bye land. Ready for a lovely 6am start. The things we teachers do to create memories for our kids...(Nov 11th)

I told my students "IF" they wanted to get me a present at the end of the year, I don't really like that fancy Lindt/Fererro Rocher chocolate. I much prefer Cadbury. Seems they took me quite literally 

2010 (CRT Term 1, Grade 5/6 Term 2, Grade 1/2 Term 3 and 4)
I marvel at the crazy, dodgy things people do for money - I taught primary school ART today. (March 2)

I just worked 4 days in a row after not working for 2 months, and I’m stuffed. Soft as butter!!(March 5)

I’m definitely earning my money out on the CRT trail...(March 22)

I may have struck "teaching gold" and have a good 5/6 class!! Should be a good term 2 (March 29)

(seems I spoke too soon with that one, because two months later I wrote…)

I find it amazing how, when confronted by a consistently positive attitude, people with negative attitudes seem to rise up, resist and rebel. Even kids.
(May 31)

I am about to dress up as "Where's Wally" for Book Week at school. Ah, the things we teachers do...(July 26)

The school booked me into a first aid course....on a Saturday!! What the? Not impressed (July 30)

A principal is under fire for changing the word "gay" from the Kookaburra song. I've done it...SO SUE ME!! (Sept 2)

I just spent 12 hours over 2 days cleaning out my inherited classroom and office (who said men don't clean?) with my mates U2 and Coke. Good times...(Sept 21)

I was incredibly privileged to be able to share my Compassion sponsorship with all the Grade 1/2 kids at my school this morning. Praying something great comes out of it! (Oct 15)

Sorting classes for next year - feels like AFL trade week (Oct 20)

I am in awe of the incredible privilege (and responsibility) I have teaching at my school, being the main male teacher. (Oct 22nd)

I played guitar (!) in chapel at school today: 2 songs, no wrong chord changes, word perfect, all with a broken high E string....nice! (Oct 27th)

The Many Faces of Mr Chalmers







Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Generosity and Sacrifice in the Developing World

Last Sunday, the Pastor at my church in the Philippines asked me to share at the communion service that evening. For those reading this who may be unaware, communion is where Christians remember the death and resurrection of Jesus, which is basically the pivotal event of our whole worldview. We eat bread to symbolise Jesus' body broken for us, and drink wine or juice to symbolise Jesus' blood that was poured out for us so that we can be made right with God for eternity.

I decided to speak about the idea of 'sacrifice.' I believe that true sacrifice is an uncomfortable and undesirable idea to most people, because it:

- Requires us to give something up
- Involves a cost, and it always hurts

People in the developed world, where I'm from, are not good at giving things up. We are obsessed with our "rights"; things we think are ours, and NO-ONE is going to take them away from us. Even Christians, people who confess to follow this guy called Jesus.

Well do you realise what HE gave up?

I will always remember a Christmas service at Werribee Baptist Church a couple of years ago. Undoubtedly there were many 'once-a-year' Christians there that day, who came along expecting a nice peace-and-goodwill message about the baby Jesus, but Pastor Jeff Benson launched into the incredibly impacting reality of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus.

Jesus Christ left the comfort and perfection of eternal heaven. He entered the world through the womb of a woman, into poverty and infanticide. Because of His birth, His parents became refugees or asylum seekers in another country. Through His three years of travelling while telling people about the Kingdom of God, He had no permanent home and relied on the generosity and hospitality of others.

He was rejected and mocked by His own family. While He was popular with the masses, He also endured hunger, sorrow, pain, loneliness, betrayal, injustice and ultimately a criminal's death. Fortunately for us, the story didn't end there and through the power of God Jesus rose again and conquered death. 

Why did He do all that? For us. That is what we remember when we take communion. And when we talk about 'sacrifice,' He is the ultimate example. Now, the challenge for Christians is that we are not just supposed to applaud politely from the grandstand, but we are called to FOLLOW His example if we are truly His disciples:

"You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:5-11)

"Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23)

C.T. Studd was an English missionary who gave up a large family inheritance as well as fame and fortune as a cricketer to follow God to India, China and Africa. He is attributed with this quote that has stuck with me ever since I heard it: "If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him."

That basically sums up my God-inspired adventure that has been the last seven years of Compassion sponsorship and travels. You probably already know the numbers:
- 54 kids financially sponsored in 26 countries
- 31 kids visited in 12 countries

It is fair to say, from a first-world perspective, I know a thing or two about sacrifice. Giving things up for the benefit of others. Comfort, security, safety, time, money. I literally gave up everything in a material sense to move to the Philippines and work in an orphanage this year. Yet it all pales into insignificance compared to what I've received in return. God has used the generosity and sacrifice of people in the developing world to consistently bring me to my knees in gratitude, and provide the closest earthly example of His sacrifice for us.

I want to share with you some examples of sacrifice which I have witnessed and been the beneficiary of in my Compassion travels. Just in case some people get the wrong idea, which has happened in the past, I am in no way blowing my own trumpet or saying that these things happened because of me or in honour of me. It is purely and simply a response to the love, mercy and grace of God. 

(Click on the pictures to enlarge them)

I visited Olga in Mexico in 2013. To earn money her father drives a motorized tricycle, and he spends most of his income paying it off. On this day he took us on a ride around the neighbourhood, which I knew cost him money which I did not repay. It was a sacrificial gift to me. I was told he also sometimes gives free rides to some of the kids from Olga's Compassion Project who have no other way of getting there.

This is the mother of Jacqueline from Ecuador, who I visited twice in 2013. To earn income she makes clothes, and her two selling days are Tuesday and Saturday. One of my visit days was on a Tuesday, but she stayed home rather than going to the market so that Jacqueline could have her special day with me. 
This boy in Brazil (who I did not even know) stepped out of his comfort zone in a huge way. He learned a few words of English and spoke in front of a large crowd just so he could present me with a gift on my birthday. 

This is the family of John Dave from the Philippines. His father works as a bodyguard for the city mayor. He normally works every day to provide for his family, but he took today off so he could spend it with me and his family
This is the father of Princess Joy from the Philippines. He earns money by getting the stuff out of coconuts, called copra, and selling it. When I visited, he climbed a coconut tree and got a couple down so I could eat and drink from them (below). While I was enjoying the snack, I realised I was eating and drinking their livelihood; their source of income. I accepted their generous sacrificial gift and enjoyed it very much.   

This gift was given to me by the family of John Dave. It is a glass cube with a model of a big tree and house in it. They had it made especially for me. It proved a slight headache trying to take it on planes and buses and may be difficult trying to take into Australia, but it was such a special gift and I know it was a sacrifice for them. 
This is what I call my "Table of Blessing," and includes all the gifts I've received on my Compassion travels.
Cards, letters, photos, posters, t-shirts, CDs, drink bottles, scarves, dolls, foam Australian flags, tablecloths, painted plaster guitars. All so precious and given with pure love.

Finally, I've chipped in with my own story of sacrifice. Throughout my life I owned and kept two special childhood toys. I received Yellow Ted when I was born 33 years ago, and Sam the dog joined the family when I was 6 and in hospital for tonsillitis. It has been a privilege (and a very hard decision) to give both of my cherished childhood toys to two of my Compassion kids in the last couple of years. 

In September 2012 I gave Sam to Ana Cristina from Brazil (below). She is a precious 14-year-old whose family has gone through an unimaginably hard time over the last three years (read more here). Last week I visited Princess Joy on my birthday (above), and decided to give her Yellow Ted.

It was not done as some nice, feel-good gesture. I told them that I want them to always remember how valuable they are to me, and to God. My hope and prayer is that during the hard times in their lives, they will hold Sam and Yellow Ted close and cling to the one true sacrifice: Jesus Christ giving His life for us so that we can be made right with God for eternity.  


Monday, October 6, 2014

David in the Philippines - Highlights from Month #8 (September)

The 3 schoolkids (yes, that's right, 3 ) joined me on a trip to the Recycling Depot, better known over here as the "Junk Shop." All that cardboard earned us the princely sum of 24 pesos, or about 60 cents. We also went to the bank and then an ice creamy treat from MacDo. On the way to the bank we saw a man asleep in a doorway and of course we pointed and said out loud "Hey look at that guy!"
I am enjoying the last few hours of peace and quiet before this bundle of life and energy returns to make life interesting once again. She's been on a special holiday for three weeks, staying with a family in the US.
Dear Filipino schoolkids, if you insist on standing on the ROAD, when a tricycle comes along (ie me) instead of staring, how 'bout ya move out the way? Sound good? Thanks a bunch
Ah, it's amazing what two weeks of solid (and cheap!) weights and swim sessions does for your mind, body and soul. Well, I use the word "swim" loosely, although even 40 laps of turtle-speed breaststroke does the trick. Now I don't have to feel quite as bad about all those San Migs I drink when watching the footy on TV.

Body image is a crazy thing. In Australia, people go to great lengths to get tanned. In the Philippines, the shelves are stocked with "whitening" products. So I guess I, with my ghost-white guns, must be an example of physical perfection then, yes? All natural, no product required
That's it, time to get out of this country! I just heard my first Christmas song at the local mall - in September!

I was in the gym today, doing my crunches, curls, reps etc. when two young guys came in, sat down by the punching bag and one started giving the other a haircut. Now there's something you don't see at your local YMCA. Nice one Philippines

Just in case you thought I was joking about the Christmas thing...God help me! They seem to have gotten their "-ber" months mixed up.
I just went for a swim at a local pool, and among the long list of "No's" on the pool rules was "No whining". Yes, only joy and happiness allowed at our resort...or else!

Introducing our two local lawn mowers. Not long ago, this piece of land across the road from Ruel resembled a jungle or a forest. Get a couple of munchers in there, problem solved!

One of my favourite photos from this year. We were all upstairs watching Frozen and most of the kids were running around excited and crazy, but Mr B showed what he really thought of it all by falling asleep.

There must be a horrible predator creeping around my house. Today I went out the back to do my washing and I found the bottom half of a rat and the bottom half of a lizard, with no top half to be seen! (I'll spare you the photos). I may have a sleepless night ahead of me.

Today I celebrated my birthday (a few days early) with 16 of the Ruel kids at MacDo. Party hats and Happy Meal toys for all! Thanks for the generous donation Fiona Piccinato

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Visiting Princess Joy in Maydolong, October 2014 (pictures)

On Wednesday October 1st, 2014 (my 33rd birthday!) I visited 14-year-old Princess Joy and her family on behalf of her sponsor Dani Moore. I sponsored her from 2011 to the end of 2013.

To read about our day in more detail, please click here.

Please enjoy these pictures of our day together.

Enjoying her favourite food, spaghetti

Holding a photo of her sponsor Dani

Holding her child folder. This comprehensive record has detailed information about all aspects of each sponsored child's life: education, medical, letters and gifts, dreams for the future.

With Mama and the four youngest kids (there are three older brothers)

The Project - PH862

Supermarket shopping thanks to a monetary gift from Dani. They had only ever been able to window-shop at this mall.

The three youngest kids. That platform is where they sleep.

I made the decision to give Princess my treasured teddy bear which I'd had since I was born. It was to show her how valuable she is to me, and to God. I know with her three younger siblings, Yellow Ted will be well looked after.

The family makes money by getting the stuff out of coconuts, called copra, and selling it. So here I was actually drinking their livelihood. I accepted their sacrificial gift with gratitude, and it was delicious.

I bought Princess her very first cellphone! (with Mama's permission of course). I may be naïve, but I'm going to trust that it doesn't interfere with her studies or relationships

Her classroom at the Project.

With her three older brothers. Two of them pump gas at the local Petron gas station, and one of them works in construction

Her father chopping up a coconut

Being wacky with Yellow Ted

I gave Princess the choice of going to a swimming pool or the beach, and she chose the beach. It was such a simple time. We talked and let the waves wash over our feet, but she said it was her favourite part of the day. 

When Compassion kids turn 12, they all complete a Project called "My Plan For Tomorrow." This is where they think about their future goals and dreams, and Compassion helps them achieve. Princess wants to be a teacher.  

This is Princess's youngest brother. He came with us to Borongan, and was shy and overwhelmed out of his brain! Mama even had to feed him at lunchtime and he wouldn't open his mouth. Fortunately by the end of the day when it was time for ice cream, he started to relax

The farm house where they live and work

Princess's oldest brother with his three year old son