Friday, May 30, 2014

Passion and teaching

I watched this on the ABC today.  Love his passion for his students.  Makes my heart rise up and want to do better (and I have an uncanny desire to stand on a chair and shout, "O Captain! My captain!").

A wonderful bear

Thursday, May 29, 2014

It's a dog's life

I came home from dropping the kiddies at school and went to look for the dog.  This is how the boys had left her before they went to school for the day.

Loved much?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Embarrassment 101

So I quite truly humiliated myself this afternoon.  Sigh.  I publish this in the hope that laughing at myself will make me feel a little better. Here's the deal.

A while back, our staff were reminded that children are not allowed to play ball games beside the main car park at school pick up time (health and safety issue).  It is, however, a very popular down-ball spot and so the rule has been much overlooked in the past.

This afternoon, I arrived at the main car park and found there was no duty teacher yet.  "Must be running late," I thought.  So I cast a watchful eye across the place and thought, "I'd better deal with those down-ball students".  I dutifully reminded them not to play in this area afterschool etc. and they politely moved away.

And then it dawned on me.  Horribly.  I wasn't working this afternoon.

Therefore, I didn't have my staff card around my neck, nor was I carrying a hat or a yard duty folder or any tiny piece of equipment that would easily identify me as staff.  Instead I was carrying my keys and my black handbag.  So as far as all the parents nearby were concerned, they just saw another parent tell a whole group of kids to stop playing a perfectly charming game of down-ball because of some "rule" about afterschool games that they've never heard of before.  To make things worse, the kids were not in the level of the school I usually teach and so they probably didn't know who I was either.

It dawned on me as I got a rather strange look from another parent.  I could hardly cry out, "It's okay folks!  I'm a trained professional! Nothing to see here!"

I found my children and beat a hasty retreat.

I meant well, I really did.

It was just a reflex action.

Think I'll pick the kids up from a different spot tomorrow.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Richie Rich

My minister preached a good word on Sunday from James 5:1-6.  You know: all that comforting stuff like, "Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you."  Right on the money, shall we say?

Anyway, this same weekend, my husband told me a story he had heard recounted by Peter Costello recently (ex-treasurer of Australia).  Costello remarked that when people thought about the question, "Who's rich?" it is never them.  It's always someone with a bit more than they have.  Costello was having a meeting once with Kerry Parker.  At the time, the Australian dollar had just taken a hit and Packer was complaining about it to Peter Costello.  "Do you know how much this has cost me?" Packer asked.  And then said something along the lines of, "I'm not rich, you know!  I'm no Bill Gates!"

So am I rich?  Surely not? Take this little test to see where you land in the global rich list.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Lucky iron fish

Iron fish used in cooking to improve health

Cambodia has a big problem with iron deficiency: 44 per cent of the population suffer from it!  A novel project is making great progress in tackling the problem.

Read about the lucky iron fish.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Monday, May 19, 2014

We are nearly half-way

Nearly half-way through the school year.  I know.  Because I've submitted all my mid-year exams for photocopying and bundling.  So we must be.  Here's the difference between the start and the end of the school year (so you know where we are headed).

Saturday, May 17, 2014

How Not to Get Things Done

Mark history assignments in front of an open computer.  Stop after each paper and check stuff online.  Spend longer checking than marking. It's that easy.  Now you too can Not Get Things Done.

Blogging about not getting anything done helps too.

Ring of Thrones? Game of Hobbits?

Medieval confusion.

Long live the heart

Need to Breathe.... The Heart

Friday, May 16, 2014


I'm teaching medieval history at the moment.  A fellow-teacher showed me this:

From here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

People are wrong on the internet

I sighed loudly as I went to get my pyjamas out from under my pillow.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"Someone is wrong on the internet," I said.  I've been cranky about a post for about a week from an author I used to like but who has disappointed me in their attitude towards something.  I'm trying not to dwell on it (and I have resisted the temptation to jump into the comments and try to set the world to rights) but it keeps ticking me off.

My husband understands this.  He knows the solution.

"Just look at cats for a while then."


That's the answer.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

And for Mother's Day

Oh, I know it's a Google glass ad....but it's lovely.  Enjoy!

HT A Holy Experience

And if you haven't already watched Kevin Durant's MVP speech, you must.... watch to the end.

What if you were sentenced to jail for 13 years and just didn't show up?

So, this guy was sentenced to jail for armed robbery.  He didn't show up and they forgot to go and get him.  Then after 13 years, his release date came up and they suddenly realised he wasn't there to release.  So they went to go and get him.  What happened to him in those 13 years?  What should happen to him now?  Here's the story from Daily News .  HT A Holy Experience.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Dear well-meaning-Anglo-Saxon-Australian Christians,

Please stop welcoming people from other cultures to your church.

Sometimes, in a sincere effort to be welcoming, well-intended words that do the opposite and put up barriers of which we are unaware.  If we always stay at the level of a "welcome" we can in fact keep people at a polite distance from "us".  People can find themselves on the peripheral of church relationships for many years even in churches that are "friendly". One of the ways in which we can improve our multicultural relationships in churches is to pay more attention to the language we are using when we speak about culture.

I'd like to share a few real-life examples (with names and details altered for anonymity) in the hope that they will stimulate further thought about how we can be inclusive.  In most of these cases, people made well-meaning assumptions which resulted in some cultural clangers.  Take a statement like the following:

“When we look at our church today it is very multicultural – well, there’s William and his family who are from Africa, and Jane who comes from Asia – and they have joined us here.”

What’s wrong with a statement like this being made in a church service? It's obviously well-meant and it's unlikely to be offensive.  But is it inclusive? Well, that depends on the situation of the people listening.

Notice firstly that there is an “us” that William and Jane have joined (which makes them by extension “not us”). William and Jane, if they are new to Australia or only here for the short term, might feel touched that they are being welcomed. However, if they have already been in the congregation for a number of years, or are long-term residents of Australia, they might not feel comfortable being singled out from the front as examples of people who are not “us” but who are welcome to join “us”. Just how long does a person have to be in a congregation to become part of the “us”? 

Note too that William is from Africa and Jane is from Asia. That might be okay if you don’t know them very well (but in that case why are you singling them out in the middle of a service?) but by the time you know them a bit, you should know that Asia and Africa have a range of wildly different cultures. A person from the Philippines does not have the same culture as someone from South Korea. Life is different in South Sudan than South Africa. Australians are different to Americans. If you are going to “shout out” cultures, don’t give the impression that they all seem the same to you.

A possible alternative along the same theme might be: “We rejoice that God’s family is not bound by one type of background or country or language. We know that God has called us from many different backgrounds and that we worship together with one Lord and Saviour.” Emphasise the togetherness, not the difference. Work on the “we” not the “you” and the “us”.

A visitor spoke to our congregation and said, “I’ve met a man here today from Africa and another man from the Philippines.” And then went on to talk about how great it was that people from other cultures were now attending our church. The man “from Africa” had been at this church longer than my family had. The man “from the Philippines” was born in Australia, whereas I was born in the Philippines. It was a case of their outside appearances determining which cultural box they “belonged” in.

Another visiting speaker was talking about how missionaries were called to go out to the ends of the earth but “now” the ends of the earth had come to Australia. For example, they gestured to a family near the front and said, “Are you from Burma?” No, they weren’t. “Vietnam?” No, they weren’t. The family didn’t answer immediately because it’s a long story (their parents are from different countries and they have each lived in several). Finally, someone else in the congregation called out one of their previous countries of residence and we could move on. This family have been in Australia around 20 years. Their teen-aged children have lived all their lives in Australia and only been overseas on a holiday once. But this day, they were treated as newcomers again because they looked different. It was awkward.  The take-away point is don’t make assumptions about people’s nationality or cultural identity based on how they look. If you don’t know, ask privately in a genuine conversation.

I have also heard it announced at a particular church that the next lunch would be a “multicultural one” and we should bring food from our own cultural background instead of “normal food” (an exact quote). Um. Were all our previous dinners not multicultural? And what exactly is “normal food”? And what if I was born in Australia but I look Chinese and like to cook falafel? Specifically designating a dinner as a multicultural feast is not a bad idea per sea – if fact they can be wonderful occasions. Just be careful how you market them or you’ll end up sounding like you are giving permission for people to bring strange food that you will enjoy as a novelty instead of sharing a meal together.

One last example: a girlfriend of mine was born overseas but came to Australia as a very young child. She has the typical appearance of a person from that region of the world. She is married to an Anglo-Aussie and they are in church ministry. She told me she still frequently finds that people will approach her to have a conversation and, when they realize that she speaks English with an Australian accent, they are visibly relieved and some even comment, “Ohhhhh, you’re Australian!” It’s an understandable reaction and she glides on through it. But when it happens to you over and over and over again, it’s not helpful.  She's also been asked when visiting other congregations how she is adjusting to "strange Australian ways".  She politely explained that they were her "strange ways too".

So how can you foster diversity and inclusiveness in your congregation? Start with hospitality. I think whether people are eating together in their own homes is a real touch-stone for how meshed together a congregation is. If the cultures in your congregation only sit side-by-side in the pew and never side-by-side at the table or the BBQ, you have a church with multiple cultures not a multicultural church.

So, invite people to your house. Invite people who are recent immigrants and can barely speak English. Invite people who have been here 40 years or whose families go back six generations. Invite people of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds and get to know them. Don’t worry about what food you like to cook. They’ll survive. Just share yourself. And be brave and invite just them. It is a frequent experience of people from non-Australian backgrounds that they primarily get invited to Anglo-background houses only when there is a group invite, possibly because it feels less daunting for the hosts. Last year, each time we invited people to our house whose background was a country other than Australia, we were asked, “Who else is coming?” When I replied, “Oh, no one! We just asked you guys,” they were surprised. One family told us months later that it had made a real impact on them that we were eager to ask just them. I don’t think it had happened before even though they have worshiped at our church for many years.

I hope the above doesn’t sound like a rant. I know when I read articles about what not to say to a cancer patient or someone who’s grieving, I get terribly anxious about saying anything at all because I’m sure I’m going to go and make a complete mess of it. There’s no way I want to give anyone the same anxiety about cultural matters in the church. And I am far from a model of wonderfulness either – I’m sure I’ve put my foot in it in this area as much as anyone else. But we do need to be conscious of what we say because the Bible directs us to speak in a manner that encourages and builds each other up (1 Thess 5:11). So let’s remember that it’s not your church, their church or my church. Jesus owns all cultures. We should by all means welcome newcomers to church, but then we should seek to move beyond welcomes and grow into talking about how we belong together.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Dig a dahlia

Here's a sweet little tale on generosity. I think reflecting on how others are generous helps me think more creatively about how I can be generous too.  Anyway, on with the story.

My good friend, Dora lives out in the middle of whoop-whoop on a farm with her family in a very soggy bit of Victoria.  Recently, they bought out the place next door when their neighbours retired.  Her next-door neighbour was a fan of dahlias.  He had planted 8000 of them.  Dora didn't really need 8000 dahlia bushes but she also felt it would be such a waste to graze the cows on them or plough them over.

She rang every horticultural society she could think of to see if anyone would like to come and get them.  Even the Dahlia Society of Victoria didn't want to come and get them.  Maybe only the cows were left to love them.  Then Dora struck on a brilliant idea.

She decided to host a "Dig a Dahlia" day.  She advertised far and wide and invited the whole world to bring their shovels and dig up her dahlia bushes for $2 each with all proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Foundation.  She planned it from 10 till 4 and the first people arrived at a quarter to 9 and the last people arrived at 8 pm.  They raised over $4000.

Before the big day, Dora phoned her old neighbour.  She didn't want him to hear second-hand from the newspaper that she was digging up all his treasured dahlias.  Explaining her plan, she asked if he'd like to come on the day and give people some advice about caring for the plants.  He was thrilled. Dora told me he looked 10 years younger as he went about on the day chatting with fellow dahlia lovers and sharing his secrets.

Isn't that lovely?  Here's one of the local papers write-up and some photos of my beautiful friend with all those gorgeous dahlias.