Thursday, December 22, 2011
Sunday, December 11, 2011
I have learned a lot about myself while here both as a person and teacher. Most importantly my relationship with God has deepened. When you live in a foreign country you have no safety net. Sure people will help you out but your family and close friends are thousands of miles away. Also, I have made some great friends, but there hasn't been someone who's been in my same position, a young single male American teacher in an Australian school. I've been forced by my circumstances to talk with God about how things are going. Also, I've had to trust God a lot more. Whether it's just getting to some place or feeling out of place at school, God has been a constant aid. Living in a foreign country has forced me to rely on him.
Those are some beginning thoughts on my experience, more to come.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
This morning and afternoon I was at a staff metting and luncheon. I had to say goodbye to everyone at Maranatha. It has been such a great experience teaching there. I wish I could have stayed, but I'm being called elsewhere.
The last week has been probably the hardest week I've spent in Australia. It is hard saying goodbye to people. With classes ending, it's been a very light week. I'm beginning to reflect on my experience in Australia. At some point I'll write some thoughts on my experience. Right now I'm doing my best to just enjoy the last couple of days.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
I haven't blogged for a long time because I was at camp for five days. We lived in tents and were in the Otways, a beautiful area. It was a mix rainforest, forest and coast all on hilly terrain. We got some beautiful views. It also goes along the Great Ocean Road. We lived on food we brought. My diet was English muffins, oatmeal, some bars, water and 2-minute noodles. Glad to have real food now.
The weather was a mix of rain and sun shine. It was sunny one minute and as we started to put on sunscreen it started raining. Other then some bad weather we also kept awake by koalas. Those animals make the worst noises at night, even worse then the students who stayed up all night.
The students were well behaved overall. There were fourteen of them, both girls and guys. Of course there were moments that I was an unhappy teacher. Yet, overall it was a good experience. We had some good times and good memories. I'm glad I went. It has helped me become a better teacher and leader.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
I'll be gone for almost the whole week. I am going with the year 9 students to the Otways for a camping trip. It'll be an exciting time of rafting, mountain biking, bush walking and trying to survive. I had to pack all my food for the week. I hope it goes well.
Happy late Thanksgiving. I was able to celebrate two thanksgiving. One with a fellow teacher at his home on Thursday and another on Saturday over in Geloong with the Fishers, Blackwoods and other RPers. There is much to be thankful for!
Monday, November 21, 2011
Other then a slow week, I've begun to get to know the students a lot better. It was hard at first because I didn't know any of the students or staff. Though it's hard because I won't be teaching here next year, I've been able to develop a rapport with some of the students. I think that's what I enjoy most about teaching right now, is the relationships I've been able to have with the various students and staff. I thought I was more interested in content. Though I still enjoy it a lot, it's really cool taking concepts and ideas and giving them to students. It's a great feeling when a student tells you that they were learning while you taught or when you see their faces light up when they understand a concept.
The staff are very enjoyable. Aussies like to make fun of each other a lot, which is more in tune with my personality. I really enjoyed getting to know the staff when we went on camp. It was some very good times. It'll be hard to leave in a couple of weeks now.
I've put up some pictures on my google+ account, most of them are of camp.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Living in a foreign country has forced me to rely more on God. Living by yourself does that to you. You hope you make the right decisions and that things fall into place, but only God can make sure things work out okay. It's been a good life lesson. I think any time we are put outside our comfort zone away from people we trust and love, we are forced to rely more on God. It's hard to learn because it's not easy, but growth in Christ comes about through these types of times. It's like weight lifting. You have to break down your muscles in order to get stronger. It's a bit counter-intuitive and painful, but we become stronger from it.
Friday, November 18, 2011
Currently I've had some issues with hay fever, back pain and heart burn. Thankfully we don't have school today so I've been able to recover a bit. Also, I finished my portfolio for student teaching which is rather exciting since it takes a lot of work. If it doesn't pass I can't pass student teaching. I hope I did a good job. Very happy I'm done. Now to finish a couple books.
Currently I am reading "Moby Dick," "The Imitation of Christ" and "The Scottish Covenanters." I'm hoping to finish Covenanters by the end of the week. Don't ask me why I'm reading Moby Dick, I don't know why either.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
I am of course rather tired from having to stay up late a couple nights in a row and then having a full day with excessively energetic kids. Year 8 kids are a fascinating bunch. They're about to embark on the epic voyage of high school yet still have brains of primary school kids (elementary school kids).
Next week all the school will be taking tests or are in revision so I get to do something very cool. I get to work on curriculum development, the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. All of this will be from an Australian perspective, but it'll be fun. Though I am not an expert on either era, I love developing curriculum.
I'm hoping to go on the Great Ocean Road this weekend, but if I don't, I'll try to do something exciting, perhaps ride a kangaroo.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Today I visited the Immigration Museum. I took a train to the city. With the exception of a slight detour because of rail work, not much happened on the way there. The museum itself wasn't to exciting. A lot of it was repetition of the same thing. There were some interesting stuff though. For me it was good to get a better knowledge of immigration in Australia. Australia is coming out of a history of a very racist immigration policy. It was good to learn more about this background. I'm still processing Australian culture. There is a very western, you could say traditional, culture, but it is also a very diverse countries. I saw a lot of different types of dress in the city.
I also went to the Queen Victoria Market where I bought a couple things including some fruit. The market is pretty cool. They sell a lot of food and other random stuff like clothes and trinkets. It feels kind of like the state fair but no cows.
On Monday I'm going on a camp with the students to Phillip Island. I will be learning how to surf so it should be an exciting adventure. Apparently, there are a lot of sharks there. My students at Westlane made sure to remind me to be careful of sharks, and I shall!
Friday, November 11, 2011
God's will for your life is not very complicated. Obviously, living a Christlike life is hard work, and what following Jesus entails is not clear in every situation. But as an overarching principle, the will of God for your life is pretty straightforward: be holy like Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, for the glory of God. (61-61)
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
My lunch breaks at Maranatha is usually spent in the staff room eating (usually not sweets) and talking with other staff. It's usually when I learn about the interesting Australian lingo and then forget the moment I walk out the door. I have learned to say "lollies" and "chocolate" rather then use the umbrella term "candy." Aussies enjoy poking fun at people so my American expressions have become the object of humor a couple of times, all in good fun of course, I think. The favorite so far is "I'm gunna go to the mountains over there." I'm not quite sure why that's funny.
When I am in class with the students, occasionally a couple students will break out into laughter and it's usually because I've said something "American." Believe it or not, Aussies think that the midwestern non-accent is an accent.
This week has been pretty busy with various stuff, including figuring out Australian phrases. I taught year 8 and year 9 this week. Year 9 had a test! Tomorrow I am going on an "excursion" with year 9. We're going to be going to some memorials as part of remembering the 11th of November, the date of the end of World War I. It should be a good time. I'm not quite sure we're going. It is a good thing I am not the one in charge.
Just to note, I have not been able to post pictures online because 1. The internet at school blocks facebook. 2. It takes up a lot of bandwidth to upload them at home, and we are only given 20 gigabytes a month. I don't want to use up all that to post photos. At some point, I will try to upload some photos, but currently, you will just have to see my words.
Friday, November 4, 2011
Since I've been here for almost four weeks now, I've started to feel a bit more adjusted. The first two weeks were hard. I felt physically dizzy with everything new going on around me. So much is different. Now that I am a bit adjusted, things are going much better.
It's been tough adjusting to the schedule here, and learning how Australians communicate, specifically non-verbally. It's extremely hard for me to read body language and facial expressions here. Of course it's easy to spot obvious ones, but it can get really hard sometimes in conversations. Also, Australians don't get to know people right away. They are a bit distant. They'll joke and talk, but you can tell their is a certain amount of distrust that one has to overcome.
Everything is going by very quickly. I can't believe I'm already almost halfway over! I have only five weeks left. At first I didn't think much of Melbourne. It was just another city, but during the past two weeks, it's really grown on me.
This next week, I'm switching up classes. I'm going to be teaching year 7 (7th grade), a combination of environmental science and english. They're going to be researching the Canadian wilderness and are reading a novel called "Hatchet." It'll be an exciting and tough switch. Junior high is a different world. The week after that, camps get started.
I'm also reading "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas A Kempis, "Just do Something" by Kevin DeYoung, "The Love of Wisdom" by Spiegel and Cowan. All are good books so far. I'll probably be posting a book review on DeYoung's book soon.
In conclusion, here is a quote by A Kempis that I have found to be very good:
"What is the reason why some of the saints were so perfect and contemplative? Because they laboured to mortify themselves wholly to all earthly desires... We seldom overcome any one vice perfectly and are not inflamed with a fervent desire to grow better every day; and therefore remain cold and lukewarm in religion.... If we esteem our progress in religious life to consist only in some exterior observances, our devotion will quickly be at an end. But let us lay the axe to the root, that being freed fomr passions, we may find rest to our souls. If every year we would root out one vice, we should sooner become perfect men." (Ch. XI)
Thursday, November 3, 2011
People walk a bit slower in Melbourne. They don't walk as fast as Americans do, especially teenagers. The other teacher and I had to call back to keep some stragglers from falling behind. Australians seem to be a relaxed group of people compared to Americans. They're also not as competitive, though they are competitive about AFL.
There was a horse race today so we saw a lot of people who were dressed up. When I mean dressed up, I mean your nicest suit and tie and flashiest dress. Plus, some men and women both wore fashionable hats, like those hats you'll see the queen wear. It was quite a culture shock to see so many nicely dressed people walking around the streets. It was like everyone was coming from church.
Also, Melbourne is a very diverse city. It is the most livable city to live in according to The Economist. It's a very diverse city in terms of its ethnicity and nationality. Around 35% are from abroad. There are many Greeks there as well as Asians. There are also many Sudanese and Egyptians who are starting to come, fleeing from political unrest in Africa. I have a couple students from those countries. I never expected to have such a high diversity of students. On the excursion alone, three of the students could speak two languages. (Vietnamese, Hungarian and Arabic.)
Over the weekend, I went on a camping trip with the Frankston Congregation. It was a good time to get to know them, and begin to get to know what it's like in "the bush." I saw some cool insects though no crazy animals. And yes, I have seen quite a few kangaroos though they don't live in people's backyards.
Monday, October 31, 2011
According to wikipedia, John Blanchard is a Canadian director. This is not the John Blanchard who wrote this book. Blanchard is a British writer and apologist. He also preaches. His focus is "popular apologetics." He has written thirty books, two of which have been well received, including "Does God Believe in Atheists." (Hereafter, "Atheists.") It has "voted 'Best Christian Book' in the 2001 UK Christian Book Awards." It seems to be very popular, at least in the UK.
Blanchard has three theses in his volume, first to trace the history of atheism in western philosophy. (Blanchard does dive a little into eastern religion but not much. This is a volume of western philosophy.) Second, he provides an account of negative apologetics. Third, he moves into positive apologetics.
I appreciated Blanchard's bullet point summary of his definition of God. This is a slippery definition, and I think Blanchard does a pretty good job, kind of.
His first thesis is interesting. We often hear about books tracing the history of God or people's belief in God but not of atheism.
Also, Blanchard's reading style is easy, fun and fairly clear.
Lastly, kudos to him for writing so many pages. It's a big book.
That's all that the nice things I have to say about "Atheists." Two things need to be noted. When I began reading this I was expecting a very good book since it has received such high acclaim. Second, somewhere in the introduction Blanchard mentions this is a higher level book, for those on the collegiate level. Hence, I was expecting a good book. My expectations were not fulfilled.I was a bit shocked by some of Blanchard's citations and lacking sources. This is the opinion of someone who just has a B.A. in philosophy and these criticism don't alter Blanchard's argument but our perspective of his argument.
I was surprised that when Blanchard quoted one of Plato's dialogues, he didn't even cite a translation but a British newspaper. Throughout the book, I noticed, Blanchard quoted from this same paper, the Daily Telegraph. Maybe it's just a British thing, but I didn't know it was okay to rely on a newspaper for your citations in an academic book.
Also, Blanchard's sources were poor. He quotes from R.C. Sproul, Gerstner, Geisler and others of the same sort. Thumbs up. Great guys to quote. No problem. I got uncomfortable when Blanchard failed to cite authority's on Aristotle, Plato, Heraclitus, Kierkegaard, Comte or Sastre. It's not that these writers are bad writers or thinkers. It's that you should be quoting much more widely then them and cite authority's of the writers your'e dealing with. For instance, if Blanchard discussed and cited what writers were saying about Plato and Atheism then it would have made for a better read. Instead, Blanchard gave just a light showing of what Plato thought and how it relates to atheism.
So far, my criticism's of Blanchard's book are a bit petty. I mean so what if his citations and sources are poor. What about his argument?
Before I get into my criticism of Blanchard's argument, I want to note that their is a bit of wisdom we ought to think about. Luke 16:10 says "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much." The general idea is if you can't do well with the little stuff, how can we trust you with the big stuff?
Blanchard is not careful with these small things, so why should we trust his argument?
On to the Argument
As I said before, their are three theses in "Atheists." I will deal with these three arguments in two parts. First, his history of atheism.
Why, as a theist, read a history of atheism? Hopefully it is to acquire a better understanding the intellectual history of that belief. In the case that I would want to have a better understanding of this narrative, wouldn't I want to read an account that is friendly to atheism? Certainly Blanchard doesn't fail to give an account, but I don't see the point of it.
My intention would be to read about the history of atheism and acquire an understanding of it. Why would I want to read a history that is going to paint atheism in a poor light? That's not going to help my understanding of atheism. Certainly, it'll influence my thoughts on not wanting to be an atheist. But I don't see the reason to read the book to learn about Blanchard's first thesis.
Blanchard's two latter theses have to do with positive and negative apologetics. Cool. I didn't notice anything unique about Blanchard's various arguments. I think if you opened up a basic intro to apologetics, you would find pretty much the same thing.
So instead of going through 700 pages to listen to these arguments, why don't you read something a bit smaller?
In conclusion, Blanchard's book had some great potential. It could have been very interesting, but because of a lack of research and not being unique in it's content, I would not suggest this book to anyone.
If you want to find out about the history of atheism why don't you read an atheists perspective on it? If you want to learn about apologetics, why don't you read a smaller book?
Friday, October 28, 2011
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Teacher Class Load
Teachers at Maranatha usually take a few more classes then what I have, but they do less grading and don't have as many loopholes to work through. I haven't heard any teachers complain about lots of grading to do or bureaucratic problems. Also, their are fewer students which makes the load a lot more manageable. Generally with a smaller class you can go through material quicker, grade faster and have less discipline issues.
My two biggest struggles so far have been understanding accents and learning how to properly discipline students. For my first two weeks I had to ask people to repeat themselves a lot. I'm understanding better, but occasionally I'll struggle to understand a phrase. Discipline has been an issue. I am a bit surprised since I did not have much of problem in the States. The main reason for this are the student's attitudes.
I am used to students not doing something and having to tell them about four times while threatening consequences before they comply. The students here are compliant yet they still try to get away with stuff. They're a bit more sly. Their rebellion tends to be quieter. For example, the biggest issue I've had to deal with is students talking out of line and not listening while others are talking. That's not to big of a deal, but I haven't learned the right way to get the students to consistently be quiet and listen to each other in class.
I don't want to come down too hard so I've avoided dishing out detentions, calling home and raising my voice. On the other hand, glaring, snapping my fingers, waiting and looking at them isn't working consistently. As I continue to adjust, I think I'll discover various ways to communicate what I need the students to do and not do in a better way.
Schedule for the Weekend
Melbourne has a public holiday on Tuesday for the Melbourne Cup (A major horse race) so we have a four day weekend coming up. I'm planning on going on the camping trip with the Frankston RP church. It should be a good time as long as I avoid getting a sunburn. The sun is much stronger here.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
For lunch we had some fish and chips. I think fish and chips in Ireland and also England are better, but I haven't been told where I can get the best fish and chips in Melbourne. So, I'll refrain from making a final judgment on the quality of Aussie Fish and Chips.
It was an enjoyable time. On the way back a tantalizing question popped up in my head. "What is a road?"At first I thought it could be a piece of land that has been flattened with asphalt, but there are roads that don't have asphalt. Also, it can't be a piece of land which many people travel on since trails are similar, and you have to provide some sort of number which is a bit absurd. So now I am stuck with this major philosophical quandary. The dictionary helped a little saying "a way leading from one place to another" but that would then have to include airspace and waterways which I'm not sure if they should be included in the definition.
If arguments about what is a road aren't very interesting, it may be interesting to know how people turn left in Melbourne. (The equivalent of a right turn in the U.S.) Instead of getting in the left lane and simply turning like most cities, some streets in Melbourne have the car turning left get in the middle lane, stop in the middle of the intersection, wait until the light turns red and before the other cars begin coming, turn and go. It's a bit strange but according to Peter Melbourne is the only city in the world that does this. I'm not sure if it's a very practical way of turning, but perhaps it has something to do with being on the left side.
I have driven in Australia for the first time. There was no other cars around, and I did a good job. Peter Repse, who I live with, said that he had a good time laughing while I drove. I found it very strange and almost scary, like a nightmare. After I finished, the whole right side of my body felt overstimulated because you drive on the right side. It was an experience. I didn't crash so I think I'm ready to take on the highways.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
This evening I went on a nice cool run with Pete who I live with along with his family. On the run I saw my first kangaroo and then a bunch more. Kangaroos are protected animals in Australia so there are a lot of them. We saw them in a national park that's near the house. Kangaroos don't live on the streets of Melbourne. In the national park there are a lot of them. Kangaroos are quite odd animals. They have big hips, big feet and really big thighs. It's really neat to see them jump around because they're very fluid and smooth. Also their ears can turn completely around. They are very strange animals. Pete told me he has hit a couple with his car. I hope we don't hit one while we drive to school.
On a more educational note, I thought that it would be good tell how Maranatha's daily school schedule works. It was extremely confusing for me at first. Once I realized that it's similar to a college schedule I began to understand it a little better. The teacher and students don't meet at regular times or places. They meet for a total of five periods a week, but it's mostly at different times and places. For instance, today I met with my year 10 history class for periods 6 and 7. I'll next meet with them for period 1 on Thursday. We won't meet on Wednesday. Sometimes I'll meet with them in a different classroom. It's a bit of a struggle to plan since it's hard to wrap your head around that type of schedule. Overall though I think I'm starting to figure it out though. It gets more complicated when you look at the whole term, but that will be for another post.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
In Australia most public and private schools are not big on sports. Unlike the United States you don't have major rivals or huge powerhouses. Rather, if you want to be really good at a sport, you have to join a club or a special school. It's an interesting adjustment for myself, but I kind of like it in a way since the students are more focused on school and not sports. Yet, you don't have the comradery that comes along with having a team.
With that said, I'm glad I scored a goal today but not happy with how sore I'll be in the morning.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Monday, May 23, 2011
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Friday, May 13, 2011
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Sunday, May 8, 2011
The innocence of mere ignorance is a poor thing; it cannot, under any circumstances, be permanent, nor is it at all valuable as a foundation of character. The true preparation for life, the true basis of a manly character, is not to have been ignorant of evil, but to have known it and avoided it; not to have been sheltered from temptation, but to have passed through it and overcome it by God’s help. (p. 113)
Monday, May 2, 2011
Sunday, May 1, 2011
- Ear plugs - good ones. Having complete silence and a barrier to distracting chatter helps you concentrate on getting your work done quickly and efficiently. See this article on silence and concentration.
- Miniature white board - I was surprised how helpful it was to have a small white board to draw/write out ideas or review information for tests.
- A pen and paper - it is very irritating to arrive at the library and realize you forgot the most basic tools of school.
- You Power cord - I hate it when my computer battery dies out, and I don't have my power cord with me.
- A Timer - I have found that having a timer motivates me to get work done. It becomes a race to see if I can complete a task in a certain amount of time. It cuts down on procrastination and improve efficiency.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Monday, April 25, 2011
I hope you're having a great day. I like great days. When I was a young child I used to count out how many good days I had. Today was a good day, I used part of it to read your book. I'm so sorry about it. I bet you feel awful about that terrible mistake you made. I know it is hard to admit mistakes. It happens to me all the time, but I think it's really important you tell people about this. A lot of people respect you and listen closely to what you say. I think if you announce it like you did with your latest book, that trippy video, things will be fine. I like those glasses by the way. Mine are just like them, kind of but not really. I have really bad eye sight.
In the video, start out with how your day went and how excited you were about writing out all the notes for your new book in one afternoon People would be excited to hear the story of how your book was written. You could explain how much time you spent that afternoon writing out all those notes and were exited about how big your book was going to be. Then you transition into how you decided to email your notes to someone. I don't know who you were trying to email them to. You should probably say who. Also, figure out a really neat transition, perhaps take off your glasses in one epic shot. Those are sweet glasses. Taking them off will only add attention to them. Once that's all through, tell us what really happened when you sent that email. You accidentally sent your notes to the publisher who thought it was the final book and then published it! That's why everyone is so confused and frustrated.
I realized this when I got about halfway through the book. Giving just one line to "beautiful" or "this age" didn't seem to flow well. I hope you can come clean though. With your glasses, everyone thinks you're cool, and I think people are starting to think I'm cool since I have glasses kind of like yours.
Lastly, I am worried that your actual book might be too long. I think as you expand on these notes, perhaps you should leave out discussing some of these topics, narrow it a bit. I had a philosophy professor suggest to me about writing papers that it is important to "narrow, narrow, narrow your topic. After you think it is narrow enough, narrow it even more." Also, there is no such thing as a stupid question, but there are bad questions. Comb through your notes and think to yourself, "does this question progress my thesis?" I hope this was a good letter, and you enjoyed it. Good luck with your actual book. I'm looking forward to it.
Friday, April 22, 2011
Lately, I have heard people indirectly talk about three different purposes for theology. The first is one of preserving the truth and continuing church tradition. The second is to try to see God better and the last is to enjoy God.
In my personal experience, the reformed tradition of Christian theology consistently promotes the first purpose. Other theological traditions may hold to this view, but reformed people tend to promote this purpose vigorously.
The second view is found in my personal journey with other students at Taylor. In our class discussions and paper writings, I have noticed that we have been clawing at the doors of mystery, looking for the lock and key so we can get in and see more of God.
The last view was opened to me by a friend who explained that because we have the blood of Christ and Christ lives in us, we have nothing to fear when doing theology. Rather, we have so much to enjoy.
These three views of the purpose of theology often try to contradict each other though no logical contradiction exists. There is no contradiction in carrying on the tradition of truth and enjoying truth. Nor is there a contradiction in trying to see God and enjoy God.
Often those who carry these individual purposes add on personal vices that inhibit their ability to appreciate the other two purposes. Those who claim to carry the truth often are afraid of trying to discover new truths that seem, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “puzzling or repellent.” Those who are trying to find that key hole to see God often are frightened of not finding it. They are needlessly weighted down by the anxiety of ignorance. Lastly, those who attempt to think theology is for the enjoyment of God look down on the past. They see tradition as something broken-down and impersonal. The first one is cowardness, the second is depression and the last is “chronological snobbery.” All three of these vices are not fit for God’s holy people and put a veil over the value each purpose has.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Monday, April 11, 2011
Secularism is taken seriously in French society... Schools are strictly non-faith, and all public bodies must be free of religious influence. As recently as 2007, a public outcry resulted from the disclosure that a senior government minister had sought informal advice from a Catholic priest on matters of policy."
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Part of the reason for the increase in academic cheating is because it is so easy. For instance, I could easy cut and paste most of this blog post, or any of my blog posts from other blogs and claim the work is mine. I just wrote an essay this past weekend, and could have simply copied part of a wikipedia article or online source if I wanted to. No one would know.
There is controversy as to what plagiarism is and if it is wrong. In ethics, there are dilemmas and gray areas, cheating is no exception. But in this post I want to discuss two harms that occur with plagiarism.