Backpacking Teacher

Travel, teaching and things in between. Saigon is the focus for now.

Archive for November 2008

I’ll miss Sunday morning coffee at the beach

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One of the things I’m going to miss about Sydney, when I’m in Saigon, is the semi-routine I’ve developed of having a Sunday morning coffee at the beach. I love this opportunity to grab some fresh air, have a good solid breakfast and to talk about the week. This morning it also gave me the opportunity to try out this new app on the iPhone called livecliq. The app allows the phone to film (at an admittedly poor rate of frames per second) and then sends the resulting video file directly to the livecliq website. From there friends can view the videos or you can, as I have here, embed them in your blog or website.

This short video is of the beach at Maroubra this morning.

….mmm ok… livecliq won’t embed directly into wordpress blogs yet. This link will take you to the video in the meantime: LiveCLIQ



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November 23, 2008 at 5:53 pm

Students win Business Studies Competition run by University of Newcastle

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NSW Minister Jodi McKay was on hand at the Award Presentations for the Year 11 Business Studies Competition (2008), 14 November, conducted by the School of Business and Management, University of Newcastle. The final student presentations and the awards session were held at University House, City Campus.
Pictured with the winning team holding the $2,000 prize cheque is Clint Marquet, Kip McGrath Sales and Marketing Director, and The Hon. Jodi McKay, MP.


As a teacher I take pleasure in seeing the daily accomplishments of the students I teach. From the kid who suddenly sits up in class and gets involved in a new activity after appearing apathetic in previous lessons to the gradual improvement in another student’s writing ability, the real pleasure in teaching comes from these moments. It is a rare profession that lets you see, on daily basis, the growth and development of others. Sometimes I’m involved in a student’s growth and often I’m not but I still enjoy seeing students become informed young adults.

Occasionally however a more obvious moment of achievement arises. This can be students who excel at external examinations or are lauded by the school community for outstanding achievements. This week my Business Studies class had such a moment as we all celebrated the win, by three of our class, of the Business Studies Competition run by the University of Newcastle.

The three students involved had reached the final four in what was a hotly contested competition. Over 200 students had entered from schools all over the state. The competition involved preparing a Business Plan for an innovative product and their job was now to present that plan. Their presentation involved multiple facets including powerpoint, product demonstrations, display of prototypes and even a mock commercial. In my mind they completely outshined their more conventional opposition.

I won’t go into the details of their product as they are currently investigating how they might license their idea but suffice to say it was simple but innovative. As their teacher I couldn’t have been prouder. That pride doesn’t stem from anything I did. These three self motivated individuals would have won the competition with or without me. The pride stems from seeing three individuals whom I have spent the last year teaching conquer all before them. That’s what I like about teaching – seeing students that you teach, grasp the world and know that it is theirs if they want it.


The Hon. Jodi McKay, MP, presenting the finalists Certificates at the awards presentation for the Year 11 Business Studies Competition (2008).
For some background on the competition:…


The photos are originally sourced from:


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November 21, 2008 at 4:35 pm

A travel map – too many places, too little time

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create your own visited country map


When I first started travelling I carried around with me a map of the world. I had the intention of tracing the route of my travels so that one day, in the future I would be able to hang it on a study wall where I could look at it and contemplate on my travels. Things change and I’m not sure where that original map is but this website got my thinking about that map again. So, in memory of my long last map of travels I present to you this rather less exciting (and kinda dull) version of my travels. I notice a few evident gaps that I’d like to fill at some stage. I want to visit the ‘stans. I will fill in Vietnam and no doubt Cambodia and Laos very soon. I always wanted to see Machu Picchu and, looking at this map I’m just going to have to get to more of Africa at some stage. Always so much to see isn’t there?


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November 16, 2008 at 7:18 am

Posted in map, travel

HSC Marking: The good and the bad

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I have just finished an exhausting two weeks of HSC marking. For those not in Australia, HSC stands for Higher School Certificate and is the final secondary examination in the state of NSW. The examination is the final, rather daunting conclusion to the last two years of secondary school. I often describe it to my students as their right of passage. It’s certainly the closest thing contemporary society in NSW recognises as the change from child to adult.

Marking is done en mass in a set location. It’s an interesting process to go through as all sorts of secrecy surround the actual exam papers. No comment on individual papers is, understandably, allowed.

In order to become an HSC marker you need to be currently teaching the subject. You apply through the Board of Studies Markers Online website. Your principal is normally required to verify and support your application. Markers generally comprises a mix of new markers (me) and those who have been marking for years.

The experience of marking was rewarding in many ways. I walked away realising that I do teach (or try to teach) my students the right information and, importantly, how to use that information in answering exam questions. I was also impressed by how well organised the marking system is, how many check and balances are put in place to ensure students are fairly treated and finally I was impressed by my fellow markers. They were professional and collegial. They felt for the nameless students we were marking and it was often that you’d hear the groan that meant a student who’d performed well in part of a question had misread, and therefore, bombed out on a latter part of the question.

What I wasn’t so much impressed by was how poorly some of the exam questions are worded. How often questions are worded or presented in such a way as to confuse students rather than to try to measure their level of knowledge. I wasn’t particularly impressed by the quality of many of the responses although, to be fair to the students studying this particular subject, it has more to do with the overwhelming amount of material they have to cover than their ability. Nonetheless it is surprising how many students spend two years at school preparing for exams such as these only to write half a page, a page or, in some cases nothing. I’m sure that says something about our system I’m just not sure what.

…and now I get my life back after having spent two weeks working all day, all night and all day Saturday. 🙂

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November 9, 2008 at 12:44 pm

The uncertainty that comes when you decide to live overseas

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Over at ottsworld Sherry Ott is going through a dilemma. From her blog it’s clear that she’s given up a successful corporate life for a life of travel and adventure. An inspiration to us all. Now having run short of cash she’s decide, rather than to return home, to continue her adventure by teaching English in Vietnam.

The only thing is she’s going through this period of doubt over whether or not it’s the right decision. She’s even turned to the internet to see if you can help her make up her mind. So why not go to and vote for one of the three options ottsworld has posted. Or, better yet, perhaps some words of encouragement. Having made the decision before to live and work overseas and then again recently choosing to do so again I know how easy it is to second guess your decision. Perhaps ottsworld is just going through the negotiation stage of culture shock but she’s clearly an experienced traveller and would be well aware of this. Whatever the cause it would be a strange person indeed who didn’t question their decisions.

If, like me, you admire Sherry’s courage come join me in voting for her adventure to continue. Hell, who knows, perhaps in a few months I’ll be asking you if I should stay in Saigon 😉

Photo used under creative commons licence:

Written by backpackingteacher

November 2, 2008 at 5:15 pm