Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas Letter 2007 (another attempt)

Okay, by popular demand, a more serious attempt at a Christmas Letter for 2007, or at least a "Year in review" for us. You can read it online here.

Brisbane 9pm New Year's Eve Fireworks

Okay, these are quick, low-quality copies, but that's what you get when I took the photos only an hour ago! Enjoy.

New Year’s Resolutions

Next year I want to:
  • continue to grow in my relationship with God
  • continue my journey towards being the teacher God wants me to be
  • be an even better husband
  • learn to play drums
  • do more viola practice
  • (learn how to) do some rock climbing

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Catching up with friends

We drove back to Brisbane on Boxing Day, after a relaxing Christmas in Valla Beach with Nadine and Dennis and their family.

The drive back took us seven hours again, by almost the same route. We just took it easy, not wanting to get involved in any shenanigans or excitement—unlike (apparently) some of the other drivers on the roads that day.

The following few days have been filled with friends and laughter. It’s been really good to catch up with some old friends (Facebook just isn’t the same). We even saw Stuart last night, who’s been living in Kalgoorlie!

More family and friends in the coming week, then we go up to CMS Summer School on Mt Tamborine on Friday. We’re planning to be “in for visitors” on Thursday 3rd. Come visit us if you’re free, at Ian’s parents’ place: 54 Highcrest Dr (corner with Ranchwood Ave), Browns Plains.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wedding in Dorrigo: Tracey & Londe

Drove up to Dorrigo yesterday for Tracey & Londe's wedding. It was spitting and raining for most of the day, but stopped just as the girls arrived at the church (St Stephens, Anglican).

The boys turned up wearing cool black hats; they looked like Mafia boys. And then the bridesmaids showed up with matching white hats! They all looked very smart.

The reception was at the bowling club. Tracey's friends Tash and Bre from Darwin had decorated the hall very nicely. Laetitia and I got to know a few of Tracey's friends during the evening, including these two girls. Tracey's mum had made us Cottage Pie, and Tracey herself had made us some delicious chocolate cake; we were very well fed!

(More photos available here.)

We stayed the night up in Dorrigo, at the Dangar Falls Lodge, which is a twelve-bed building right next to the Dangar Falls parking and lookout area. Tracey had booked it for the week. On Sunday morning we walked down to the falls, then spent some time sight-seeing before returning to the Lodge with take-away lunch from a cafe in town.

We stopped in Bellingen to check out some craft places, both on the way up and on the way back down.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Drive to Valla Beach

We took a leisurely drive down to Valla Beach today. Rathdowney first, where we spent our third and fourth nights on our honeymoon almost ten years ago. Then the Lions Road over the range to Kyogle. We stopped for lunch at Wiangaree just north of Kyogle.

From Kyogle we drove down the Bruxner Highway to Grafton, then took the beautiful back road to Coffs Harbour, arriving there from the west down through the banana plantations. I like this road. It's quiet and relaxing, gorgeous gum forests to look at, enough hills and turns to keep you awake (unlike the sleepy 340km between Mackay and Rockhampton, which is otherwise very similar), and only a couple of towns to slow down for.

They're still working on the highway just south of Coffs, but it's much better than it was this time last year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


We went out for dinner tonight, with our parents, to “Zafron”, a Persian/Mediterranean restaurant on Brunswick St in the Valley. Let's just say they don't cater to vegans. Only one dish on the menu seems to be okay… but no such luck. All the rice is prepared with butter; no, they can't do up any more. The lavash bread is pre-stuffed with cheese and who knows what else. The chef came out to chat, but she wasn't very helpful. In the end she offered to mix and match a couple of items from the menu, including a few dips with some Turkish bread.

Our meals were served on very large plates, of a most interesting variety of shapes. But the servings themselves were not especially large. Laetitia and I basically shared a few slices of Turkish bread and dips, and a small helping of char-grilled vegetables. Laetitia's mum was disappointed that her “Lamb Shanks” turned out to be “Lamb Shank” (no plural). The flavours were certainly delicious, and the texture and preparation excellent… just there wasn't enough of it to satisfy. (And they charged Laetitia and me $15 each for the privelege. Our parents' meals were quite a bit more—the meal total for six adults was $120.)

Recommendation: Don't, unless you're a rich meat-eater.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Drive to Brisbane

We made it to Brisbane! That was a long drive. It's only 1000km, but it took us 13 hours. Okay, we spent over an hour at Vicki's in Rockhampton for lunch. And then just as we came through Gympie, the rain came bucketing down. We were all driving slowly and carefully (except for one or two drivers who apparently were in too much of a hurry to take care, even after driving past an accident on a bridge) through to about Caboolture when the rain lightened up. We just kept swapping drivers every hour or so.

This lovely park is in Malborough, about two thirds of the way from Mackay to Rockhampton.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Towards Reconciliation

We in Australia are part of a frighteningly racist society. Cherbourg School Principal Chris Sarra recently spoke at a ‘Towards Reconciliation’ Indigenous Education Conference. When I read the following excerpts from his speech, I was … well, okay, not really shocked. I did already know how racist people are. But I guess I'd hoped for more from fellow teachers.

Chris said (in part):

I had to challenge teachers and students who were colluding and reinforcing this notion that Aboriginal children were to be feared or despised, or at best helpless and pitiable … You see I wanted our children at Cherbourg to act like Aborigines and not like delinquents and not like no hopers. I wanted them to act like Aborigines and this was the space that we created for children and this is what we got.

I did challenge teachers about their restricted beliefs of children in school and I did say to them what I believe: that our children can leave here with a very strong and very positive sense of what it means to be Aboriginal and they can leave here with educational outcomes that are just as good as any other child in any other school in Queensland. I did say to them ‘if you don't believe this, then you will have to go’ and it is true that half the teaching staff got up and left.

Half the teaching staff did not believe that Aboriginal children could either (a) achieve a positive sense of Aboriginal identity or (b) achieve as well academically as any other children. I'm disappointed.

And just in case you agree with them, let's look at the results:

When I was principal at Cherbourg school, I saw the true colours of Aboriginal children … I saw Year 2 literacy improve from a point where no children were at expected reading levels in 1998 to a point where 52% of Year 2 children were at expected reading levels just two years later. I saw Year 7 literacy improve to the extent that all children were at rock bottom in state-wide diagnostic tests in 1999, to a point where 17 out of 21 Year 7 children were within the state average band for literacy in 2004. I saw unexplained absenteeism reduced by 94% within 18 months. I saw real attendance improve—62% in 1999 to 93% in 2004.

The bottom line for teachers?

Teachers in schools need to know just three things if they want to get great things from Aboriginal children: high expectations, high expectations, high expectations.

(Quotes taken from ‘True colours—strong and smart’, Independent Education, vol. 37, no. 3, pp. 8–10.)

Mathematics and science—different from other subjects?

Below is a copy of a letter I have written to the editor of The Independent Voice, a newspaper for QIEU members. I responded to an article written by Chris Seymour; you can read the full document on which his article was based (my letter is in response to section 3.4 starting on page 5).

Dear IV Editor,

Chris Seymour writes in part (IV Nov 2007, p.6) that ‘demonstrationg “knowledge, [sic] and understanding of concepts, facts and procedures, and applications of processes” [is] a narrow skill set … valuable for mathematics and science but prejudicial to English’ (and presumably other humanities subjects). Without denying the value of these criteria for mathematics and science, I would argue that in both mathematics and science, as in English, ‘visual literacy, affective and attitudinal domains and values’ are equally important.

Indeed, as a high school mathematics and science teacher, I have seen many students fail to gain knowledge and understanding of ‘concepts, facts, procedures and processes’ directly because of affective and attitudinal factors. Some cannot learn these concepts because, for example, they lack confidence in their own ability. Others do not learn the concepts because they choose not to (attitude). Yet others fail entirely to engage with the subject (particularly in mathematics) because they simply do not value such knowledge.

Certainly mathematics and science involve ‘aspects of visual literacy’, in the form of symbols and technical terms which need to be recognised and used appropriately. “Positive dispositions towards mathematics learning and active engagement with mathematical tasks are integral to thinking, reasoning and working mathematically.” (Mathematics: Years 1 to 10 Syllabus, QSA, 2004, p.1)

Please do not single out mathematics and science as different from other subjects because they supposedly lack any affective, attitudinal or value-related factors. We need to remember that we are actually teaching students, not subjects.

Yours faithfully,
Ian Bailey-Mortimer
(Teacher, Mackay Christian College)

Christmas letter 2007

Those of you who've known us for more than a year will know that we've published a substantial Christmas epistle each year for the last few years. However, what we've found is that most people don't actually seem to read it. We know this because they still ask us questions that we've already answered in our letter!

So instead, this year, if you want to know more about our lives in 2007, please feel free to call us, email us or read our blogs.. er, hang on, you're already doing the latter. :-)

Anyway, Laetitia and I will be on holiday for the next few weeks, so our internet access will be somewhat intermittent. I'll try to write blog entries when I can, and upload a few photos when bandwidth is available.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


There was this most gorgeous sunset that I saw from the gym carpark. Of course, I didn't have my camera with me at the time! So this fairly pathetic attempt at digital artwork will have to do. Sorry.

There really were these four pink-orange swathes of light beaming out over the dark grey clouds. It was awesome! God, you're a great painter.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Holiday plans

People keep asking me about our holiday plans, so I thought I'd just add it to my blog, and then next time I can just point people to this blog entry.

  1. Drive from Mackay to Brisbane
    1. Leave Mackay Sunday afternoon 16th or Monday morning 17th (depending when we're ready)
    2. Possible stopover between Rocky and Bundaberg (inclusive)
    3. Arrive in Brisbane

  2. Spend a few mad days in Brisbane
  3. Tracey's wedding and Christmas
    1. Drive to Valla Beach near Coffs Harbour Friday 21st
    2. Stay with Laetitia's sister Nadine and Dennis
    3. Up to Dorrigo on Saturday 22nd for Tracey's wedding
    4. Spend Christmas in Valla Beach
    5. Drive back to Brisbane some time before New Year

  4. New Year
    1. Probably go to some mad friend's New Year's party (any volunteers?)
    2. Spend a few relaxed days in Brisbane

  5. CMS Summer School 4th-10th January
    1. Drive up to Mt Tamborine Friday afternoon 4th
    2. Enjoy the cool air and good company
    3. Study the Bible
    4. Make new friends
    5. Drive back to Brisbane Thursday 10th

  6. Return to Mackay
    1. Leave Brisbane Friday 11th
    2. Possible stopover between Bundaberg and Rocky (inclusive)
    3. Arrive in Mackay

There may yet be changes to this timetable, and there's plenty of flexibility built-in, but that's the basic plan.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Poisonwood Bible, or Tata Jesus is Bängala!

Finally got around to finishing off The Poisonwood Bible. I found finishing it hard, and not only because the end of the school year got in the way. The last part of the book seemed … well, a bit weird, actually. To me.

The story is “about” a Baptist missionary family from the south-east of the USA, who go to the Belgian Congo in 1959, shortly before that country's independence. It is also, more accurately, about the history of that independence, and the nature of its effects on the local people and the international scene. It is about culture, mission, and human nature.

The story is told in the voice of the four daughters of the evangelistic patriarch (with introductory narratives by their mother). Right from the word go, I picked Adah as a mathematician—which says something either about me or about Barbara Kingsolver's ability to portray characters well. Actually, I think Kingsolver's characters are excellently developed and very cleverly portrayed. But in the end I think I liked Adah's perspective the most.

The first two-thirds of the book are a narrative of the family's arrival and gradual adjustment to the local culture. Then the critical event happens (sorry, no spoilers here). The last part of the book describes the aftermath and legacy. The mother and daughters each reflect on their experiences.

I do recommend you read this book, if you haven't already. It provides an illuminating perspective on the history of the Belgian Congo / Zaire / D.R. Congo. The cultural and historical processes involved are discussed clearly and critically but without absolute moral judgement. And it is also an enjoyable read (my earlier comment about the latter part of the book notwithstanding).

Young adult reading list: Suggestions wanted

I've asked this on my facebook account, but I know there are plenty of you who don't read that, so I'll ask it here too:

I'm building a reading list for my younger (13-14 years old) students for next year. So I'm looking for a variety of interesting, important and/or confronting books across a range of genres. What book(s) would you recommend?

School's out

School is over for the year—yay! I survived my first year!

I've sorted through all my paperwork for the year, too. My desk is almost clear again. I still have a stack of maths worksheets to sort, though, ready for next year. That's Monday's job. :-)

Now I'm contemplating how to go about selling my photos. I intend to submit a fair few to a stock photo agency. But I think I can do more. I think I'd like to talk to a business consultant about it. I have the skills I need, but I lack wisdom: I can budget, but I don't know what are reasonable amounts to expect; I know how to plan, but I don't know what are realistic, achievable goals; I can build a website, but I don't know what style of website will attract the most customers and achieve the best sales.

Do you know anyone who can help me with this? Please let me know.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The gym

I've been jogging to the gym lately, as my warm up exercise. Well, I've been trying to. But I can definitely see an improvement in my fitness: Today I managed to jog most of the way there, instead of my usual stop-start-stop-start. (The gym is about 1.5km from home.)

When we used to live in Brisbane I was walking 2km+ every day. When we first arrived in Mackay I was doing almost no exercise at all, and I noticed within a month or so a distinct drop in my fitness level. So it's good to be seeing my fitness improving again.