Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Thursday, 31 July 2008


Bursitis. Right shoulder.Blinding, screeching, showering sparks of pain. Like blossoming fireworks radiating down to my wrist. going to bed.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008


Remember how I once said there was no Starbucks in Australia? Well I was wrong. There are 61 Starbucks stores who employ 600 staff. But its OK 'cause apparently, according to the radio this morning, they're closing 'em all down.

Further Update: Apparently there are 85 in Australia so they are only closing most of them down. Different radio station in the car on the way to work....

Work? Work??? Hell, Am I at WORK??????? Better go do some.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Veterinary Emergency?

"Mum, Mum," called the BA in alarm, "something's wrong with Morticia!!!"

Morticia was stretched out on the ground with her tail in the air in obvious pain as she was meowling piteously. What on earth was the matter? Should we call a vet?

We petted her. She responded, but immediately lay down again and kneaded her front paws as soon as we stopped. She didn't seem to be in pain as we picked her up but persisted in this disturbing behaviour.

I was feeling panicked. Had she damaged a tendon or a muscle in a jump? Had she eaten something she shouldn't have? Lord knows she chews anything left lying around and there was a reeeeeaaallly hot curry left out on the kitchen bench. Perhaps she had got into that and was feeling the 'burn'? Perhaps eating the big cat's food had made her constipated? Perhaps he had given her one too many cuffs across the hind quarters?

I know what you're all thinking. How dumb can one woman be, right?
Well, in my defence all I can say is that all our previous cats have been spayed! It took me looking it up on Google (see photo above) to confirm that my little, baby kitten is in fact in heat!

I feel quite emotional.

I also feel a trip to the vet coming on.

image credit

Friday, 25 July 2008

The End of a Long Week

Well thanks for the maths ideas folks and keep 'em coming. I'm still considering a prize for an idea I end up using and whilst I have a few ideas for the ladies, I am a little more stuck if any of you scientific type gentlemen come up with a winning project. I don't suppose you fancy a stylish knitted cushion cover do you? Naaaah. But don't despair! I will come up with something!!

I am happy to report that we have made it through the first week and my new classroom is almost feeling like home now. As is to be expected, the usual suspects of a 'room move' have gone missing: my set of scissors, a DVD, my set of glue sticks. Do you realise that glue sticks are like currency in the school setting? I had a boss in the UK who used to bribe us with glue sticks. I'm not kidding.
"Anyone who volunteers for this extra duty gets a free gluestick!" (hands fly up all over the room)

There have been no major meltdowns amongst the kids unless you count the VIQ (Vocational interest Questionnaire) which was an adventure in itself. Basically the kids have to fill in an online questionnaire which endeavours, through tricky questionnaire-type techniques like asking you the same thing twice, to determine which career interests you. Now this exercise sounds relatively simple but is, in reality, fraught with skill levels to challenge even a native english speaker of tender years. For example, how would your 15 year old self respond to the idea of

"consulting, analysing, planning and implementing strategy for the introduction and marketing of innovative products with production clients and prospective retailers."
Very appealing/ Like/Indifferent or Dislike?

Where was the button for 'Fail to Comprehend'?

There were many traps for young players, especially those with english as a second language and limited comprehension at the best of times. Consider for example, this question:

"Maintain and care for laboratory animals in a research facility."

Now most of the kids immediately saw the word 'animals', thought "I like animals" and hit the Very Appealing button. Another example was

"Organise finance and administration for sports and the arts."

You guessed it. Every prospective football or soccer player saw 'sports' and hit the Very Appealing button. As a result of this I spent a double lesson going through the quiz, question by question, trying to explain what each item was really about. There were 140 questions.

Any of you who are familiar with my Year 10s and their inability to follow directions will understand how harrowing a task this was. Firstly, some of them resented the suggestion that they didn't understand the questions so they were resistant to the whole exercise. Then came the inevitable chorus of 'where are we up to?' and 'I LIKE that one/That's ME /NO WAY that job SUCKS' which followed every explanation and which required precious seconds to settle before we continued on. Of course from time to time I would look across to one of the girls to see that she had replaced her questionnaire screen with MSN or a picture gallery of some rapper.....but apparently that was alright because she was 'ahead of us'. *sigh*

By the end of the lesson I was hoarse from explaining financial management and engineering 40 times and customer service and the printing industry 35 times. Hopefully, there is enough relevant detail in their answers to help the careers counsellor point them towards the right subjects next year. That's what the whole thing is actually about.

To celebrate surviving the first week back, Himself and I attended the Roosters' Gala Ball on Friday night where we had this rather nice (I think) picture taken. My husband actually brushes up ok in a suit I think!

(warning: girl's paragraph)
Unfortunately I am forced to report that I no longer fit into my ball gown. Well, I do fit but it is not a good look. As a result I wore the black baby doll we bought at Harbour Town Mum but because I am self conscious about my footballer's shoulders I also wore a jacket. Himself convinced me to take it off while we were dancing (yes, I actually got him onto the dance floor) and of course told me I was 'the most beautiful girl there' which was kind on one count and a downright lie on the other and I will leave you to figure out which is which! :-D

Finally, because we have been a bit short on pictures of the Baby Angel lately, here she is with both cats, yes, you read right, BOTH cats in the same room. And although Morticia seems relatively calm and ready for a cuddle here, I can assure you that she has once again simply taken the highest ground and is eye-ing Pippin off, awaiting her opportunity to attack.

Hasn't she grown though?

image credit

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Give It Me Baby...ah huh huh...

The brilliant Elisa with her comments about Maths Projects from days gone by has made me think. I have a huge on-line resource with you guys right here at 'The Flaming Sword'. So come on. What Math projects do YOU remember as being interesting and engaging? Don't worry about ability levels because I can always modify the content if I get a killer idea!

Perhaps I should turn this into a contest? Give me great Maths ideas from your youth and I will organise a give away of some sort. Let's both get thinking on that................

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Highway To ????

Year 10 and I are goin' on a road trip!!!!!!!! Not literally of course. That would be a virtual road trip in order to........er..........funnily enough Himself asked me the same question this evening.

HS: So what are you actually trying to teach them through
this virtual road trip?
Me: Nothing! I am simply trying to engage them in a meaningful activity which involves them having some sort of opportunity to use maths in a meaningful way! If they happen to learn anything along the way I will be
giving mighty thanks I can tell you!!

Of course, Year 10 asked me if we were actually going on the trip. Of course they did. Bless them. So did my Head of Maths. "Are you taking them away for the term?" he asked straight faced. He is very amusing for a mathematician.

To backtrack a bit. Do you remember I mentioned that I'd made a step towards engaging the kids a bit more? Well it turns out that the mother of one of Small Boy's 'Street Mates' (yes, the four that are always at our house) is a maths teacher at quite a prestigious school here in Adelaide. I did know this but like many maths teachers, I had failed to put two and two together and realise that she just may be a great resource for me!

On the middle weekend of the holidays we were taking the boys to the football and she called in to drop her son J off.
"You're a maths teacher," I stated. (duh!) "Do you have any good ideas for projects to motivate failing learners?"
"Funny you should ask! I won a prize last year for 'Motivating Middle school Maths'."
(Chorus of angels start singing "Won't you come home Bill Bailey.....")

Generously, she gave up her Sunday afternoon to sit with me and share units of work, bounce around ideas and generally commiserate over the poor skills of my Year 10 class. As I had suspected, every idea she shared would have to be modified mightily before my babies had a snowball's chance of grasping it but some of those ideas were so creative she got ME excited!

For example, she worked with a Year 10 group, one year, to produce a Murder Mystery Film involving a whole lot of crime scene investigation maths: measuring handprints and heights and developing a generalisation about ratios between the two; measuring the drop in temperature in a cup of coffee over time in order to pinpoint the time of the crime; analysing the shape of fake blood splatters in order to determine direction and height of impact etc etc. How brilliant is that?

Unfortunately, most of the activities she had planned assumed prior knowledge waaaaaaay above the level of my Year 10s. Nevertheless, she had other great ideas and we were able to bounce modifications off each other. For example, I mentioned that I'd thought of trying a 'World Trip' with the kids where they had to : look up the cost and availability of flights, book accommodation within a budget, read a timetable enough to get around a foreign town etc etc.
She had done an 'Around Australia' trip with a group of kids at another college and suggested I start with this. Thinking more carefully about my own group I realised I would probably be better off starting with an 'Around SOUTH Australia' trip. Hell, we probably shouldn't even consider leaving Adelaide!!! :-D

We also came up with a few ideas for other projects which I may try with Year 9 who have a better skill level.

And so I bravely introduced the idea to the students today (well, half of them anyway. As usual many of the class were absent) and guess what? They seem enthused by the idea! We had some terrific discussion around the question of which car would be best to take. Fuel economy/efficiency was a hot topic and, interestingly, many of the boys had not heard the expression although they certainly understood the concept once I demonstrated it. Some were amazed to learn that loading up a car with luggage and passengers would increase the fuel consumption. Some were amazed to learn the word 'consumption'!

We had a whole discussion around accommodation. Would the initial cost of hiring a caravan be offset by savings on hotel rooms? What about sleeping the in back of your car? Do pubs in the country offer accommodation? What do caravan parks charge for electricity?

In their typically chaotic style, the question of 'where to go' did not come up until the end of the lesson.

Even with this level of interest and engagement I had to stop them 15 minutes from the end of the lesson to do a few aerobics on the spot. They just couldn't quite sustain concentration for the whole double. This aside it was a promising start. We now have to suspend activities for a few lessons while we complete some Vocational Interest Questionnaire which will assist the staff in steering the kids toward subject choices next year. I have opted to do this over two lessons to try and keep up the inertia we have developed through today's lesson by devoting half the double to work on the project.

So wish me luck. So far it's been ok although I stayed back until after 6pm tonight sorting out my 'new' room :-( cos I didn't do it in the holidays. I hate not knowing where everything is.

Have a great week everyone and I'll check back in when I've got all these exams marked!

image credit

This Is It Folks, Over The Top

Thank you to all those who wished me well and are eagerly awaiting news of 'the first day back'. Mondays are always better than most days because I have my mainstream History class and I was able to happily congratulate them on their exam results. Did I mention that half of the class got B and above??? Today will be the killer because
a) the Maths classes start again
b) I haven't finished marking their exams and can't really be bothered as they are going to be so awful (the few I sampled before the hols assured me of that) and
c) I went to bed last night and didn't do the thorough prep which assures me a good lesson; actually who am I kidding, even thorough prep doesn't ensure anything with these guys :-)


Wish me luck for today!!

Monday, 21 July 2008

It's Here: Semester 2

Guess what? I'm due back at school tomorrow. (Well, today according to the clock). I have marked all the History exams (half the class got B or better!!!) but haven't finished all the Maths exams (almost can't be bothered. They are irrelevant). I didn't get in to set up my 'new' classroom. I am unsure as to what I am doing for History as I left the books at school. Think I might take 'Cabaret' in and play them the 'Fatherland, Fatherland' scene.

Meanwhile, Bette and I share a general desperation.

Still, it's been a good holiday. I've read things, seen things and caught up with people. I've eaten too much and exercised too rigorously (ooowwww my calves).

Here's a couple of quick recommendations. "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time"; the BBC series "Jekyll" and "Batman: The Dark Knight".

I'm off to follow in Bette's footsteps, tear my hair out and stare depressed at this term's curriculum.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Help Me Out Please

My friend Natalie over at The Benson Family and Other Stuff is having a competition give away for her 400th post. There are some really cute appliqued towels up for grabs and if you go over there and leave a comment I might get my name in the draw TWICE!!! So do me a favour and pop over before tonight (Sat night US time) and be sure to tell her you're not really interested in the towel yourself ;-D

Phrase Friday

Just when you think they are 'all growed up'....

Heard this morning.

(knock knock)

Me and Him: (from the warmth of a sleep in)
Come in.

Small Boy: (brandishing a good ole fashioned six
shooter) Stick 'em up!!!

Himself: (pitifully holding his hands up)
But I didn't do it!!!

Small Boy: (pauses, puzzled) Didn't do what?

* sigh* I guess there aren't enough cowboy movies on nowadays.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Mission Accomplished

Here it is. Finished. About to be demolished. It ain't perfect but he recognised it and seemed unbothered by the inaccuracies of the design.

The Bestie suggested today that I attend a cake decorating class as has another friend of ours, the Divamissal. D has a 4 year old son and a set of twins so she will be making birthday cakes for some years to come methinks; it makes great sense for her to attend classes.

For me it is different. I pointed out to The Bestie, the obvious flaw in her suggestion.

"You see if I attend classes people will start to expect great things of me. This way, if I produce something half way decent people are impressed and say things like 'and she doesn't even have any training'!!!! Why would I give that up for people to look disparagingly at my less than perfect cakes and say 'you'd never think she's done a whole course on it..'Here he is, our big 10 year old as we sing Happy Birthday for him. (I really like this shot).

And here he is blowing out the candles. (This looked better bigger).

Tonight was a BIG improvement on last year's birthday debacle. For those of you who remember, you will be pleased to know that tonight he took his bed time limit with good grace, played a quick game with his brother, had a shower and was tucked up ready for prayers without a third word (well they all need a second word don't they?).

Happy Birthday Not So Small Boy! We love you!!

Ve Haf Vays Off Making You Vership!!

Is it just me or does anyone else find the almost 'cod- gestapo' accent on the Pope very, very funny??

Hail Mary unt Sieg Heil!!!!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

What Am I Thinking?

Tomorrow is the Small Boy's 10th birthday. I am going to try and do the Kung Fu Panda. I am certifiably insane. I'll let you know how it goes.....

Monday, 14 July 2008

Best Shot Monday: The Photographer

There was a lot of squealing and giggling from the girls visiting last week and Small Boy was nowhere to be seen. When I stuck my head around the corner this is what I saw.And this is what I would have seen if I was a dog. (Apparently they don't see colour.) And THIS is what he was taking a picture of. And THIS is what I had to take a picture of.... For more looks at Monday from wild angles, pop over to Tracey's. I assume she's back!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Powerful Stuff

One of the things I love about holidays is the opportunity to do some of the things I don't have time for during term time.

In the first week of my holiday I have encountered two things which have touched me deeply. This post is about the first: a movie called 'The Freedom Writers'.

For those unfamiliar with the film, it is the true story of a 'first year out' high school teacher in 1994 California post Rodney King and the ensuing race riots. Hilary Swank plays the idealistic Erin Gruwell who is faced daily with a class of 14-15 year olds who have been labelled 'at risk' and 'unteachable' by the rest of the academic staff.

For these kids, school was irrelevant. They lived with the constant spectre of gang warfare and racial violence. They came from homes where domestic violence and poverty were common place and where high school graduation was akin to flying pigs. Everyone had written them off.

Of course, as you can imagine, Erin Gruwell managed to turn it all around and, after working for four years with the class, most graduated and some went on to college. They published a book called 'The Freedom Writers' Diary' in deference to the sixties civil rights movement 'The Freedom Riders' and eventually formed a foundation to promote the use of innovative teaching methods in schools throughout the USA. Again, as I'm sure most of you can imagine, this film strikes many chords for me: disinterested, unteachable pupils, a teacher who makes a difference. Except that currently of course, I have not made a difference.

So, what did this film say to me?

Firstly, and rather uncharitably, I felt pretty damn snitchy because Erin Gruwell is an English teacher and my mean and bitter soul says, 'oh yea, well it's easy for an English teacher to be relevant. Try touching their souls with Maths!!!!', and to some degree this is justified. However, it is also a cop-out. What Erin did was meet the kids 'where they were'. She validated their experiences and created a supportive classroom environment where they felt accepted and safe. She gave them voices and she provided opportunities for relevant curriculum.
I wonder whether I do this.

The other aspect of the film which really had an impact upon me was the attitude of the other members of staff at the school. Erin Gruwell had to use her own money to buy books for her class because her Dept Head would not allow her to waste 'valuable' school texts on her bunch of miscreants. The rationale was that the books would be 'too hard' and that the kids would destroy them with graffiti etc anyway. When she asked for funding to take them on excursions she was told it was a waste of time and money. As a result she funded the first excursions herself and the kids raised the money for others. They also raised money to bring people like Miep Gies to the school, from Europe!!! When, after two years, Erin asked to take the class through into their final years of high school she met with massive resistance from senior staff. She was told she didn't have the seniority or the right to teach senior grades. She was told that if these students went on and failed in other teachers' classes, it was HER fault, not theirs. She was told that her methods were impractical and inefficient and did not meet the needs of the majority of students. Far from being impressed at her achievements with the pupils, the management were resentful!
Fortunately the local Board of Education disagreed with them and the rest is history.

All of this forces me to reflect upon my own attitudes, pride and, dare I say it, prejudice as a teacher. Whom do I align myself with here? When I think of all the whinging I've been doing of late, with respect to my classes, I feel ashamed. Am I like the teacher who thinks everything is 'too hard' for my class and in the process dumbs it down so much that they become disengaged? Do I want to 'blame the kids' for their inability to learn rather than taking on board my own pedagogical weaknesses?

I don't have any answers yet. I am still wrestling with the issues this film 'brought up' for me. Recently, people I love have been suggesting that I should 'give up' teaching the Special Ed kids. 'What do you get out of it?' I have been asked. 'You don't seem to get any satisfaction.'
Sadly, this is true. But is it necessary for me to get satisfaction out of this job? Is that what I'm there for? When I think about why I do it, the answer that pops into my head is that it's like a puzzle I need to solve.

I want to find a way to make numeracy relevant to these kids. I want to do this because I know it will eventually empower them. Sure, modern society provides a myriad of scaffolds and support structures which mean we don't have to be able to add up, read an analog gauge, count back change; but this is illusory. To get stuff done in life you have to have a concept of number, space and measurement: to figure out the best value credit card, to choose the phone plan best suited to your needs, to enlarge a pattern because you've put on weight, to figure out how much fertilizer to mix with water in the watering can.....to get a job which pays above the minimum wage.

Right now I feel like Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker. I can teach the kids to parrot methods but there is no generalisation. There is no connection between the process they use and the real life situation it applies to. Like Annie Sullivan I am waiting for the moment when the pupils one by one put their metaphorical hands under the water pump and make the connection.

"Oh Mrs A, is that why we've been doing x?"
"That's like when we did y!"
"Mrs A, Mrs A, this tape measure is just full of decimals and fractions!"

There are many differences between the situation of Erin Gruwell and that of my classes. Notably, the Freedom Writers were not specifically kids with Special Needs, apart from their social and emotional needs and a lifetime of avoiding study. My kids do not get shot at on a daily basis. My management team are supportive and flexible and they respect my opinion! Oh and did I mention that she teaches ENGLISH!!!!!!!!!?? :-D

But I have been challenged to put aside my stereotypes. To try and find ways to meet these kids 'where they are'. To stop whinging and get on with the job of finding ways to engage them.

I made a step today but I'll tell you about that later. For now, go and watch the movie which is a truly inspirational experience and then keep me in your prayers!

Edited: Headbang said this

"But is it necessary for me to get satisfaction out of this job?"

That's Al-anonic thinking at work. Doing good and making yourself miserable need not go hand in hand. I'm not a trained teacher, but my understanding is that the emotional environment of the classroom is as important as the structure of the materials when it comes to engaging students. If you feel no satisfaction, it may, indeed, show up in the class results. More important, perhaps, than any clever new pedagogical sleight of hand.

I feel the need to clarify. When I say I am not getting 'satisfaction' out of the job, I don't really mean that I resent being there or dislike the pupils. I am really rather fond of all of them. What I mean is that I am trying all sorts of things to get concepts 'through' to them and so far nothing is working. This leaves me feeling frustrated but not about to 'give up'. I mean headbang, do you give up on the Cryptic Crossword just because it is a tough one this week?
[ btw: whether or not headbang actually does the Cryptic Crossword I neither know nor care, it is a metaphor! and that was an exclamation mark. because I'm like that]
I suspect however that you may be right in that my own frustration is a clear message to the kids that they are, once more, 'not getting it'. This reinforces their belief in themselves as failures and so the cycle continues. Mind you, I do plenty of affirming and encouraging but I guess that sounds lame against the emotional gutscape of simmering frustration.What is needed is a change of attitude! As well as curriculum. More on this later. Meanwhile, here are the fraction bridges I promised (still awaiting the last one......) and here is my display board. As of the second to last week of term I have had to move rooms to make way for a new computer lab so I will have to spend some time this holiday 'doing up' the new space. Actually, that move could have contributed to the stress of the final two weeks of school now I think of it............

B*gger: 19/20

Having done the BBC Quiz, I was feeling pretty damn pleased with myself until I rushed the second to last question asking what was missing from this sentence:

"I've found my long
lost brother," said Amy.

I said an exclamation mark :-(

I think having long and lost on two different lines was a bit low really............

Friday, 11 July 2008

Apologies To Chris: I Am Not As Clever As I Think I Am.

After being such a 'know it all' on CDV.com, I found this on Dawn's blog and I am entirely put out because I did not score as well as I would have liked. How did you go? I was only 'Advanced' not 'Genius' level. There I can admit it.
How about all you lurkers and non-commenters? Do the quiz and post your result. I challenge you!

(This means you family.)

Right I am now off to do Sinead's BBC English Quiz......

Grammar Quiz

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Snuggling With Animals

Couldn't resist this shot. Hard to believe that sweet little face is capable of such mayhem!!!!

Pippin (the large cat) never gets a moment's peace. The minute he strolls in the door (actually, he now skulks through the door looking furtively around) she leaps upon him. He hisses. She stalks him. He growls. She leaps to high ground and swipes at him from above. He is thoroughly miserable. He can't even eat his food without Morticia stalking and biting his tail!!

Himself, who prior to the arrival of Morticia was Pippin's greatest critic (it was he who coined the term 'The Anti Pet') is now his greatest defender.

"That little cat needs to leave him alone! She needs to be disciplined not to attack him all the time!!! Poor Pippin. He's never allowed inside (not true: he chooses to absent himself) he used to have the run of the place and now he's got to wait for people to open doors for him. He's taken to sleeping under the tree!!! He's turning feral! SOMETHING should be done about that little cat!!!!"

"Yes dear."

And of course it doesn't help that Morticia's favourite sleeping place is in his chair. Himself's chair that is. The office chair that he occupies day and night. When it's vacant ;-)


"Yes dear."

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Boy Meets Kitchen

So it appears I am not the only one going through a creative phase at our place. Small Boy is here for the first week of the holidays and to ward off the ever-present and predatory 'boredom', which waits to spring at you from behind every doorway and item of furniture, I suggested he cook something. He, like his father, is not intimidated by the kitchen and fancies himself as something of a Jamie Oliver. He particularly likes cutting things up. When faced with the prospect of choosing something to cook however, he was phased.

"I don't know what to choose!"
"Try looking through a cook book."

(I have approximately 2 000 000. A workman once remarked that I must be a good cook as I had so many cook books. I felt it indicated the contrary. If I was such a good cook I would not need so many cookbooks!)

"I don't know which one to look through...," a definite whine was creeping in now," which part do I look in..."

I don't know why I was so amazed that he couldn't look through the book and choose something without assistance. This is exactly the problem I have. It's why I hate cooking. I HATE deciding what to make!! I especially hate it at 6pm on a weeknight when I have returned from a day of decision making around gormless teenagers. However, we are on holidays and so I was able to calmly point him towards a 'desserts, cakes and biscuits' book with plenty of options to choose from. He decided upon this.

Strawberry Shortcake a la Small Boy. Not damn bad I say!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I got out all the ingredients and he weighed and measured everything out. I had to explain a few terms, like sifting, kneading and beating but he did most of the hard work himself. He put this together while I was making dinner so I was already in the kitchen and able to demonstrate when he needed it, and leave him to it when he was fine.

Even more excitingly, he set the table and helped serve up without complaint. It was just like The Waltons!! Mind you, this was in marked contrast to the night before when he completely jacked up and refused to help the others set, clear or wash dishes without his father bellowing at him. Still, I recall even John-Boy was recalcitrant at times....or maybe that was Mary-Ellen.

Anyway, if he keeps producing things like this we are going to have to increase our trips to the gym!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Crafty Tuesday: A Knitted Cushion

Hello from the icy wastes of Adelaide! It is freezing (well, relatively) here at the moment and, happily for the dams and rivers, it has been raining!! My first post back from blogging Siberia, where I have been since the end of school, is a crafty one. In fact, this is the reason I've been in blogging Siberia.

Since school got out on Friday I have been in therapeutic soul recovery mode. And what do I do when I need soul therapy and when I have time for said therapy? I make something.

However, what on earth inspired me to make a knitted cushion is a strange series of random linkings indeed. I actually picked up a cardigan the Bestie had knitted some months ago when we were enjoying our weekly pizza night at her place last Wednesday. She is a great knitter my Bestie, having created some amazing garments over the years, but in latter times she has developed an aversion for sewing things together. I on the other hand quite enjoy the final process of sewing articles up so I took the cardy thinking, I'll get that stitched up for her in no time. Unfortunately, the BA suggested we visit a local craft store on Saturday to purchase a quick unpick so I could finish a job for her (does anyone else lose quickunpicks at the rate I do????) and I spied the knitting section. Inspired by the Bestie's cardy I perused the patterns for an almost, but not quite entirely, dissimilar garment. I didn't find one. But I did find a pattern for cushions! It looked like the 'cardigan sew up' would have to take second place.

Back at the ranch, I had two cushion covers which were disintegrating rapidly, aided by children who callously cast them to the floor or use them as 'stepping stones' in various games. Perfect! A quick, easy project with a practical outcome (cushion covers I actually need) which would serve ideally to transport my mind and humour as far from the classroom as possible. To aid and abet this flight from reality I called upon a recent canny investment: the entire first season of The Waltons ( 6 double sided discs) purchased for the grand total of $15.00!!!!!!

So as I knitted my little heart out, I pictured myself in the well scrubbed homely parlour of The Waltons mountain home; the smell of baking on the air, children cheerfully completing chores and me rustically producing my own home accessories.

I did mention it was a flight from reality didn't I?

Anyway. I have finished it and I am quite pleased with the result. I am not sure how robust it will be or how it will cope with cat hair and cushion fights, but I am currently coasting on the satisfaction of finding a home made solution to a practical problem. I have bought more wool in a tweedy, greeny, brown colour to do another!

This then is my contribution to Carrie's Crafty Tuesday and I cannot tell you how good it feels to have made something again! I haven't done it in awhile. Do you have anything crafty to share this Tuesday? Take a look over at Carrie's and see what others have been up to.

Thursday, 3 July 2008


Yesterday was a new low.

The Year 10s had their exam which, I might add, I had stayed at the school til 8.30pm the night before, preparing. I did two versions as the range across the group is enormous. It involved lots of visual cues, diagrams, physically cutting and pasting pictures of shapes divided into fifths, quarters etc. The horrendous effort involved in putting it all together and trying to predict where they would trip up and metaphysically putting in 'ramps' was exhausting. So imagine my delight when, at 5.58pm, I paused in the mammoth task to phone the BA and make sure all was well at home only to hear the system close down automatically behind me. It does not autosave. Neither, it appears, do I.

The irony is that the system warns you of imminent shutdown and allows you to cancel this and continue on if your workaholic soul so desires. This is fine if you are looking at the screen when this 10 sec warning flashes up and not talking to your beloved daughter about possible dinner plans. I lost around 45 minutes worth of labour intensive work.

It was lucky there were no other good Christian teachers around to hear my language; the Lord and I are still working on that aspect of my flawed character.

So that was pretty depressing. But the REAL low came today when they attempted the exam. Three of them came to my room afterwards to berate me for making the hardest exam ever for them. And I mean berate!

"Mrs A!!!! That exam was SO HARD!!! There was nothing from what we did in class!!!"

"Yea Mrs A! All we do in class is play games and do tables and there was NONE of that in the exam!!!"

(actually there was a question directly related to the playing of a class game...but I guess they missed it in their panic. I don't know how as I had actually used their names.)

I checked over what they had attempted later that afternoon and was mortified. The results are going to be bad. Very bad. Questions which we had completed in workbooks in a repetitive and hopefully cumulative fashion, may as well have been written in Dutch. The place value of decimals still has no meaning for most of them. 7/10 as a decimal is apparently 0.12. Why? Where did the 1 and the 2 come from? 50cm x 50cm tiles required to cover a square metre? One apparently. But you'll still need 500 of them to tile a 35 square metre floor. And if they come in boxes of 20, you'll need 100 boxes. Again I say....why?

Many times when kids make mistakes you can follow the erroneous logic. For example, one question asked them to order the decimals from smallest to largest. This was one girl's response.

2.5 2.03 2.36 2.63 2.035

Not one of them is in the right place. But wait dear reader. There is logic. The first number is the shortest (ergo the smallest) the last is the longest thus the biggest and the other three are perfectly ordered in the middle. Thus we normally find some mistaken thought process in an answer.

Not so in some of these exam answers.
How many hundredths in a whole? 1000.
How many tenths in a whole? Also apparently 1000.

All of this was exacerbated by a discussion with their previous maths teacher who had managed to get them all to score between 70-80% on their exams. >:-(

I came home feeling like a complete failure. How was he able to get them to remember things and I wasn't? I curled up on the sofa and went to sleep telling everyone to 'leave me alone!'

In the cold light of morning I decided that despite the scores on their exams last year, they really hadn't learned very much as many of the things we had repeated this year....and it was as if they'd never seen them before. I mean, no point answering the question correctly in an exam and then not recognising it next time you trip over it is there? (We shall leave the small matter of what I retain from my Matric double maths course for another date.) So I tried to cheer myself and to think of what I could do differently.

Back at school, my mainstream Year 10 History class did their exams. I marked them at the hairdressers last night and I feel once more justified to take a pay cheque!! They have done reeeeeallly well! :-D

Happy Happy Teacher :-DDDDD

More of this late. I must away to face the last of my nemesis today. The Year 9 Maths Exam :-(

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Overheard Today

"Miss, do you help people because it makes you feel good about yourself?"

"No. It makes me feel frustrated, inadequate and as if I should be driving a truck for a living."

"Miss, sarcasm isn't nice you know."

"I wasn't being sarcastic."