Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Transport providers in Mackay

What is it with the transport companies around here?

Last year when I took my year 12 maths class ten-pin bowling, the maxi-taxi didn't show up—well, actually, they did, after we'd already waited almost an hour, given up and made other arrangements. (They have a reputation for being late, apparently.)

Yesterday when I had 25 students at Slade Point for a chess competition, our bus home didn't arrive. Eventually, after a couple of phone calls, they sent us another bus. The replacement bus arrived at 3pm (and we're supposed to be back at school well before 3pm!), and the driver tells me they “had some trouble with the other driver”.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Satellite photo

I was browsing the Bureau of Meteorology website and found this lovely image from 5:30am Friday morning, right during the middle of our big dump of rain. Mackay is somewhere under that big mass of white over the north-central Queensland coast.

Satellite image originally processed by the Bureau of Meteorology from the geostationary satellite MTSAT-1R operated by the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Notice you can already see trouble brewing off the north-west coast of WA.

Image acknowledgement: Satellite image originally processed by the Bureau of Meteorology from the geostationary satellite MTSAT-1R operated by the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Mackay floods

Okay, I suppose it's time I made a blog entry about the flood, eh?

Friday morning about 3-4am it started bucketing down. We could barely get to sleep for the sound of the rain. The view at dawn was bleak and wet.

It's raining

Apparently at 5:30am there was still no water in the classrooms at the school. By 8am it was over a metre deep. It peaked at around 9am. Looking through the small gap left in the window of my usual classroom and seeing the plastic furniture floating around was quite an experience!

Rising floodwater

The floodwater rose visibly while we watched. In the space of 15 minutes we watched it move up a road sign. Before an hour was up, the sign was completely submerged.

Through traffic keep Through traffic (No traffic sign)

We went for a short walk. At the end of our street we saw some drivers taking their cars where no small car was ever meant to go: through flood waters across the street. There were waves breaking against the kerb of the traffic island!

How not to drive

At the Gooseponds we found a raging torrent. Seriously, the speed of the current was pretty scary; it's normally a placid little lake. Usually you can walk along a concrete path underneath the Maplethorpe Bridge, but not today.

Gooseponds "Creek"

We lost power at around 10am. We got a little of it back in the late afternoon, and I mean exactly what I wrote: enough for the radio to play, but not enough for it to light up its display; enough for precisely one of our inside lights, but not enough for the fridge, phone, microwave, toaster or anything else. Finally at around 8pm we got full power back.

More rain fell overnight, but not nearly as much as on Friday morning. Apparently Mackay received the equivalent of about a third of the usual annual rainfall in the space of 6 hours! When I went to the school this morning, the floodwater was still deep over the oval and rugby fields, but was no longer in the classrooms. I spent the afternoon at the school, helping with the clean-up. Sad sights abounded: ruined resources and waterlogged textbooks, filthy furniture, chipboard as soft as tissue paper… but by far the worst was these pianos:

Soggy pianos

Tomorrow, more cleaning up in the afternoon. Church in the morning—if we can get there.

By the way, you might also like to read Laetitia's blog about the flood, and there are more flood photos up on Flickr.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Year 12 camp

End of week two! Hoorah!

Last night I went out to the Year 12 camp—just visiting for the evening. The students have been there since Tuesday. They say it's been hot and sunny every day, pouring rain every night, and 100% muggy without a break. Certainly that's what I experienced: muggy and hot when I arrived, then soon after sundown a big storm blew in. The lightning was still flashing off the coast hours later while we were driving home.

My students were happy to see me there. As well as playing cricket and card games (and tricks), they insisted (but actually I didn't mind, it was quite fun!) I try the big swing. This was basically a rope contraption with a small seat. You sit on the seat, they winch you up to about 4-5m above the ground, then you pull a short rope and suddenly you're free-falling into a swooping swing. It was exciting! I was pleased I could enjoy it; I haven't been able to enjoy such things much since I had vertigo in 2001.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Welcome to Term 1 2008!

Week 1 of Term 1 is over. Phew! I have five classes this year, all maths: Year 8 & 9 Maths, Year 10 preparation for Maths A, Year 11 Maths B and Year 12 Maths A. I also have a Year 8 HFG (house family group—our school's name for a home group/form class/…). This is much less work for me than last year, when I had six classes, including a Year 8 science class. This year I have six spares a fortnight instead of about three and a half.

My Year 12 class is made up mostly of students I used to teach last year. I am delighted to have them in my class again! (After losing them in Term 4 last year, thanks to a rearrangement of classes due to changing numbers of students doing Maths A vs Prevocational Maths.)

My Year 11 class promises to be great—if I can keep them all from failing. There are two Maths B classes in Year 11, each with about a dozen students. It's a fantastic situation for the students. But if too many of them drop back to Maths A, we'll have to combine the classes in order to make a new Maths A class (the current two Maths A classes are close to full).

In Year 10 I have 28 students. This is a lot! In the one lesson I've had with them so far, I had to keep them in for 15 minutes because they couldn't stop talking. That's okay, they'll learn. I'll give them a seating plan on Monday. I'm much more confident of my ability to cope with this class now than I was last year, with a smaller but equally disengaged and talkative Year 10 Maths A class!

In Year 9 I had hoped to get my previous (then Year 8) class back, but I didn't. That's okay. In this year's class of around 27 I seem have up to a dozen students who are much quicker than the rest; I'll have to work hard to stay ahead of them, finding appropriate challenges to keep them engaged and learning. I also have about half a dozen who really struggle, several of whom are already on the point of giving up.

And that brings me to Year 8. In sharp contrast to last year's enthusiastic and energetic group, this year's cohort are quiet, shy and a bit nervous about this whole high school thing. In my first Year 8 maths class, they made almost no sound at all for most of the lesson (and we have 100 minute lessons—that's a long time for a group of 25 twelve-year-olds to stay quiet)! My HFG are very slowly starting to come out of their shells.

In terms of my teaching skills, I can really notice a difference from the start of last year. My stress levels are so much lower! Not only do we already have somewhere to live, a friendly church and local friends, I also have a much better idea of what I'm doing in the classroom. My self-confidence is much higher. I know what to expect, and (most of the time) how to respond. And, of course, I'm no longer a “new teacher” and therefore the students aren't quite so eager to check me out and see what they can get away with.