Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I have a job!

Next year I will be teaching at Calvary Christian College. No, not the one in Townsville; we're trying to escape from the humidity, remember! This is the one in south-east Queensland, at Carbrook, just north of the Logan River. I will be teaching senior Physics, and some combination of Maths and Science.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I'm not allowed to say this (here)…

I'm glad I don't work for Education Queensland.

They have a new (as of October 2009) Code of Conduct, which applies to all their staff including teachers, administrators, janitors, even (to the extent that they are able to) contractors. The new Code is generating some response in the media, due to some parts of Section 2.2.2 “Protecting Students from Harm: Sexual Misconduct” (p.11–12).

Overall, I think the policy is fine. I understand and agree that my “interactions with students must be and be seen to be professional at all times” (p.12). However, there are a couple of points they make that I think are unreasonable, short-sighted and probably unenforceable. First:
“You must not use internet social networks such as Face Book [sic], My Space [sic] or YouTube to contact or access present students enrolled in any school or institute.” (p.12)
I originally joined Facebook because it was something my students were doing and I wanted—professionally—to find out more about it, so as to be able to relate to them in their world and their language. Indeed, I was explicitly encouraged to do so by my supervisors at my school. And I found that after a while, some of my students began using Facebook as a way to ask me for help with their schoolwork. It was a medium in which they felt comfortable enough to ask questions. Now, part of my professional job is to build a relationship with my students within which honest communication and dialogue can take place, a relationship within which they feel safe enough to ask questions and learn from the answers. And I'm very comfortable using digital media as a means to communicate; after all, I was using electronically-mediated social networks years before my students were even born! So why not use a contemporary internet social network as a means to provide another avenue, another option if you like, for my students to contact me if they wish?

But it goes a step further. In a recent incident in Adelaide, two young girls lost in a drain used Facebook to ask for help. That's right, they had mobile phones and were in service range, but they updated their Facebook status rather than calling triple-zero. Now, leaving aside the wisdom of their choices, consider: perhaps a teacher, i.e. a responsible adult who knows them and cares about them, might see their status update and be able to get help to them? In this case, they fortunately had another young friend online who saw and called for help. Good teachers care about their students. Not just about what happens in the classroom. We care about their lives.

Of course, I soon discovered that Facebook was also a good way to get back in touch with many of my own old friends. I have grown to like the way I can keep in touch with so many people without an excessive effort on my part. But some of my personal friends (e.g. from church or other family friends) happen to be students. At state schools and private schools. And TAFE and universities—for crying out loud, some of them are older than I am! And now all Education Queensland staff, including teachers, are not allowed to use Facebook or other internet social networks to contact or access (whatever that means) students in any school or institute.

However, I am quite capable of setting up my Facebook account so that my friends can see everything, but my students can only see as much of my private life as I choose to share with them. Which brings us to the second point:
“If you use internet social networks in your personal time you must ensure that the content is appropriate and private, and that you restrict access to specific people who are not students.” (p.12)
Now don't get me wrong. As I just said, my Facebook profile is set up to restrict access, especially from my students. And I never initiate contact with a student on Facebook. But even my blog is an internet social network that I use in my personal time, and it's not exactly private. I'm also trying to establish a photography blog as a means to sell some of my better photos. Making that private defeats the purpose! In fact, technically, using email is a kind of internet social network. How far will this wedge eventually be pushed?

Bottom line: My employer does not own my personal time. If I choose to use it to build a publicly accessible profile on an internet social network, that's my business, not theirs.

Speaking of my business, I am also a private tutor to several students. As part of that professional relationship, we have exchanged contact details. Which also contravenes the same section of the new Code…

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Making dinner

I enjoy cooking.

Today I came home already feeling a bit run down, the shopping wasn't done yet, lots to do, gotta go out at seven, time is short… One of those days. Oh, and since Laetitia's going to do the shopping, I have to make dinner too. And there's almost nothing in the fridge to make it with.

Rummage around for ingredients. Change my mind a couple of times about what to make, based on what I (don't) find. Oh, and when the shopping comes back there'll be things to put away, too.

But once I actually start cooking— I dunno, I just start to feel better. Is it the smell of the spices? The frying garlic? The soothing action of stirring the pan? The sound of the onion sizzling in the warm oil? Actually I think it's as much the creativity: God the Creator has made me in his image, and I thrive on making something out of—well, not out of nothing; out of the raw ingredients that God has made.

And by the time dinner is ready, I'm feeling much better. I enjoy cooking.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Parting is such sweet sorrow…

I cried today.

I took a minute to tell a couple of students that I wouldn't be around next year. These are two who I've taught, tutored and encouraged since they were in Year 8 in my first year here at MCC. Two who have particularly taken to, and thrived under, my style of maths teaching. Two who I have had the privilege of watching grow and mature. I would so love to stay so I could see them continue to grow and flower into beautiful young ladies, as I'm sure they will over the next few years.

I wanted to let them know before they heard rumours—I'm sure there must be some floating around the school by now. All the staff know I'm going, thanks to a not-so-subtle hint from Craig at staff devotions on Monday. Many of them have children at the school.

I just wanted to let them hear it direct from me first. And after we talked about the situation, and I walked away heading back to the staff room… I cried.

I'll miss them. And many others besides.

Monday, October 5, 2009


For most of my life I was 57kg. I got to that weight by about age 16, and stayed that way for years, regardless of how much I ate or what exercise I did (or didn't). Now 57kg is okay, if a little on the thin side for my height.

In 1997 I was living in the USA for a while, without my usual distractions to entertain myself, and with a nice friendly gym within walking distance. So I decided to join the local gym to see whether I could put on a little more muscle. For the first few months my weight stayed around the same 57kg (except of course I was measuring it in pounds), but I could feel the difference as my muscle tone improved. And then gradually, bit by bit, my weight began to rise. By the end of the year I was up to about 63kg…

And then I got sick in February 1998. I seemed to lose about 6kg in two weeks! (Yes, if you're wondering, that was the start of my new diet regime. Suddenly things I'd been eating all my life started making me sick.)

So I was back to 57kg. Fast forward several more years.

In 2006 I was in Brisbane, finishing off my studies in Education, and looking for a new job as a high school teacher. The job God provided was in Mackay. With the stress of finishing my uni course, moving to a new city, starting a new job, finding somewhere to live (not easy in Mackay), my first year of teaching… my weight started going down again. I was punching new holes in my belt (to make it tighten a little smaller). When I got all the way down to 53kg, I decided I'd better do something about it.

And I did. In August 2007 I joined the local gym.

Since then I have gradually been building back up again. Like the previous time, back in 1997, the first few months were more tone than bulk. But the weight gains did come with continued effort. Last year I celebrated with friends when I reached 60kg—it was, for me, a milestone worth marking. In the last couple of weeks I've been consistently over 68kg.

My goal is to be comfortably over 70kg. And I realise that I may not make it—the gains are getting harder and slower, I'm definitely fighting my body's natural inclination to stay thin. But I'm highly motivated: I'm fitter and stronger than ever before, I feel great, and my wife loves the improvement in my looks…

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Invited to dinner

Twice this week, Laetitia and I were invited to dinner by friends from church.

On Tuesday we spent the evening with Miranda and Lawrence and their three children. Miranda cooked us a delicious meal including a fabulous white cake for dessert, in spite of her nervousness about cooking for our special diets. We met their dog Boaz, ate outside on the back patio, and finished the night by watching Shrek the Third on their (rather large) TV.

On Saturday we spent the evening with Fiona and Craig and one of their children (Brandt). Now Fiona once ran a catering business. She (and Craig) cooked up a veritable feast! There was so much food! She had gone to some effort to prepare menus for us and all, printed on fancy paper:

(I've scanned the back of Laetitia's menu at the side, so you can see the back of the fancy paper.)
We took some photos of all the food too:

Over dessert we played 500 (teaching Brandt how to play in the process). Oh, and we also met their dog Tess, their new puppy Electra and their cat Sonic.

Thanks Miranda and Fiona for fabulous meals and great company—and for taking such care to feed us so well.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

We need to move

One day in February this year, I came home from school during the day to find Laetitia having to hold herself up against the wall for support, and I knew then that this would be our last year in Mackay. It was time to move to somewhere less humid.

Laetitia's heart has a leaky valve, and with the high humidity here in summer (tropical monsoonal wet), each year she has found it a little harder to breathe than the last.

If it weren't for the summer weather (and the high cost of accommodation), we'd much prefer to stay in Mackay. We really like the people here: we've made good new friends, we love our church family, we've found clubs and hobbies we enjoy. I've really grown in skills and character through the support of my colleagues at work.

But now, it seems it's time to go.