Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

It's Here.......Thanks Mum!!!!!

Oooo-er, very cool eh? My Mum bought me this in Ireland after a recent trip. It arrived today. I think I'll get some wear out of it for sure. Just perfect for this chilly weather we're having. Thanks Mum!!!!!!! The BA loved her card too. :-)

Took our big, bad tempered cat to the vet today to make sure there was nothing more wrong with him than a bad case of stress and resentment of local feral cat interlopers. There wasn't. We've been given a spray to spray around the areas of the house where he normally lurks. It's supposed to calm him down. We shall see. Lately he's been hissing if you so much as look at him :-( Himself calls him The Anti-Pet.

The last few days of term are bearing down upon us. Year 10 exams have started and year 8 and 9's start on Thursday. I hate this 'revision' period. The lower ability groups have no interest in exams and no desire to revise or take any of it seriously so it turns into a recipe for challenging behaviour. The theory behind exams 'right down the grade levels' hinges on the idea that it gets them into practice for when exams really matter (year 11 and 12). The Boss gave a talk on revision practices in assembly on Monday and pointed out to the kids that efficient revision does not simply involve reading your notes through.

This is a big issue.

Do any of us remember being taught revision techiques explicity in school? I do hope it happens. My revision used to consist of retyping my lecture notes and doing old exam papers, although never for English; I just used to rely on pretty good stream of consciousness for English :-)
What about you older folk? Did anyone teach you how to revise for exams or was it just hit and miss?

One of the girls in my Care Group today told me that she had 'revised' by doing an old exam. "How did you go?" I asked. "Notsure," was her response,"I didn't finish it!" Had she got it 'correct this far', I enquired. She didn't know. She hadn't marked it and she hadn't attempted the bits she didn't know.


The Nanny State strikes again. They will not 'try to find an answer' because they believe the only way you can get support is by 'asking a teacher'. So much for independence. Lord help them on the day that there is no teacher or alternate adult standing around to answer their questions.

In other excitement, I was working up for my next career as a security guard again last Friday.

One of our young lads, with Aspergers, flew through the door of my classroom and launched himself at another pupil, putting him an incredibly effective headlock as I discovered when I tried to prise the two of them apart. The other pupil, realising I was not going to get him out of this predicament imminently, squirmed around in the other guy's arms and started laying into him in no uncertain terms! Somehow, and I don't know if I can claim credit for it, they separated and as I was sending the 'victim' to the other side of the room out of the way, the first boy spotted a 4 foot long penshelf from the whiteboard, dislodged in the scuffle, lying on the floor. Before you could say 'Bedevere's your uncle', he had scooped it up and proceeded to charge across the room wielding it, lance like, at the other pupil!!! I don't know what he would have done if I hadn't leaped on him but suffice to say a number of students scattered wildly as he approached.

I ended up cuddling him from behind and pinning his arms while I tried to encourage him to calm down. When I eventually let him go he gathered up his things and allowed me to shepherd him down to the Office. It took some time afterwards to debrief the class which I think we did successfully. There were some interesting comments amongst the predictable lack of empathy from many teenagers.

When a specific group of pupils complained that this lad shouldn't be in the school because he was 'unpredicatble' and could hurt people, another, gorgeous young kid spoke up. He has a non-English speaking background and with his 'practical' grasp of English announced to the class
"But he only attacks people who 'piss him off'." Out of the mouths of babes.

The 'specific group' who were complaining were the ones who deliberately wind this kid up, waiting for a reaction. Well, they certainly got it that day. I am happy to report that the 'victim' who of course turned out to be the perpetrator (he'd thrown something belonging to the Asperger's boy onto the top of a high locker) was also suspended until this morning.

But sheesh. I'm not sure I signed up for this gig. My next professional development course had better be assault response training!!

Best go and write an exam. Why not?

Friday, 26 June 2009

Where were you?

Bobby Kennedy: 1968
Not sure when I first heard but vividly remember walking to school as he lay dying in hospital and seeing a heart drawn in chalk on the pavement with the words 'Pray for Bobby' inscribed.

Elvis Presley: 1977
Sitting in my dad's Holden Kingswood at the intersection of Cross Road and Goodwood Road, taking my younger sister to school.

John Lennon: 1980
Sitting on the beach at Barwon Heads in Victoria. A child ran up to a nearby parent calling out that John Lennon had been assassinated. I thought they had made a mistake because no-one assassinates pop stars.

Princess Diana: 1997
Putting a video on for my two year old early on a Sunday morning in the summer. I was heading back to bed but I couldn't work out why the news was screening pictures of the Royal Wedding from 1981 so I stopped to watch.........

Paula Yates: 2000
Driving with my friend Claire to pick up our children from a party. I was so sad but almost unsurprised. I had been devastated by the death of her partner Michael Hutchence too but I can't remember where I was when I heard about him.

The Queen Mother: 2002
We'd been in Spain on holiday and returned to England to be picked up at the airport by our friends. Back at their house the radio announced plans for her funeral. We were stunned. We hadn't heard she was dead. "Where have you been?" asked my friend, "it's all anyone's been talking about for days." Well, we'd been in SPAIN!!!!!

Heath Ledger: 2008
Arriving in Glenelg for our first staff gathering of the school year I heard it on the radio and texted the Bestie immediately. Again we were in shock. We had both adored him.

Michael Jackson:2009
Walking into the school library this morning, frantic and flat out trying to complete a modified exam for a 9am start. A host of students greeted me with the news...and their opinions. Fascinating.

At 11 years of age my bedroom walls were plastered with pictures of the Jackson 5. Even today the strains of "I'll Be There" bring a lump to my throat. My parents bribed me to good behaviour with promises of the 'Going Back To Indiana' soundtrack! (I still have it) Somewhere along the line Michael lost the plot. Mightily. Actually he went out with less of a a bang than a whimper it seems to me; but when he was flying high we were all watching.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Theme Thursday: Repetition

Well, everyone has to collect something don't they?

This started, right down the far right hand side of the picture, as a gift from my Middle Sis when I arrived in the UK, pregnant and at a crossroads. For my birthday that year she gave me a pair of Victorian shoe lasts she'd picked up at an antique fair. A year on she came back from Turkey with a fancy pair of embroidered Turkish slippers (unfortunately just out of shot), not quite in the BA's size but as close as she could get at that time. It started a 'thing'.
"I'd like to collect little shoes," I said.

Since then Middle Sis has brought me shoes from Ecuador, Greece, India, Egypt, China, Holland and (another South American country which currently escapes me)! Other friends have given shoes from their own countries; Taiwan and Korea and places they have visited, Japan and

I haven't added to my collection for a while now but I am very pleased with the repetitive sets of little toes pointed upwards on my dresser.

To see what others have made of 'Repetition', click over to Cheese Party and say hello to AmyJo!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

What Was Wrong With Learning The Piano?

Watch This If You Are A Family Member or have nothing to do for the next 3 minutes.

Announcement: Alright friends and relatives, the Baby Angel aka Ringlets Starr/Keithette Moon/Joan Bonham performed for the first time tonight as the drummer for her 'class band'....and I do not mean class as in quality :-D

Firstly, may I say that as a mother who takes photos of her kid, having a drummer for a daughter is a real bummer. Not simply because I will never get to make spangly lycra costumes for her to dance in or because guitars are cheaper and quieter nor yet because listening to her practice is no longer melodious and soothing; no, the reason having a drummer for a daughter is a bummer is because she right up the BACK of the band and VERY difficult to shoot!!!!!

So during this lengthy video, shot with my DSLR because we forgot to take the proper video disc recorder, I spend a good deal of time trying to dodge the guitarist who kept covering her face up with the neck of his guitar and trying to avoid the not insubtantial singers who kept swaying their hips across my lens. There are some serious focus issues here too folks due to the automatic nature of the camera; but it does give you a taste of the Baby Angel in all her glory.

Her comment was "OMG, note to self, try not to look like that when concentrating!"

I was pleasantly surprised by her ability to keep in time!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

So It's Overdue? Meh.

On the back of my education discussion, one of the girls in my Care Group had something interesting to say this morning.

She was bemoaning the fact that none of her peers seem to care about assignments or exams or grades. She was explaining that she had come, this year, from another (more expensive) independent school where everybody 'tried' and the standards were high. She has been appalled by the fact that our kids are lazy and apathetic and that she is now easily top of all her subjects because she likes to do well.

"When you say to them...you haven't handed it up? They just say 'Meh'." (visualise that with a shrug)

So it's not just me then.

The thing is, if this is what it's like at a school where parents pay for an education, what must people in state schools have to deal with? Mind you, I shouldn't generalise, I'm sure at some state schools they have a more motivated clientele! How do we turn it around though? What difference can we make? I mean, there is obviously an attitude from home coming through here. It's the whole 'path of least resistence' thing. Parents want an easy life and find it uncomfortable to get their kids to 'do' anything they don't want to.

Well guess what folks? When they handed you that baby and the Flaming Sword that went with it, there was no guarantee that you wouldn't burn your fingers from time to time. That the sword would not be heavy and the child less than delighted by its radiance!

Sometimes good parenting means your kids hate you, they are not happy and they have to work at life! We have currently been putting a bit of that into practice here at Chez Arizaphale where the Baby Angel, at 14, has been falling into the old trap...."my work is not as good as I want it to be so I won't hand it up at all".

Sometimes when kids are given these 'free choice' topics they are overwhelmed. They have grand ideas and then very quickly realise they are not going to get it completed to the level they had imagined and so the wheels fall off. Here's some examples:

Science: Choose an experiment you would like to do. Design the experiment documenting the steps you took to carry it out. Write a report on the results.

Sounds great right? An experiment on ANYTHING you WANT!!!!!!!! Just like they do on TV in those science mystery programs or on forensic shows or...or....
I could do something on what happens to plants that have been exposed to radiation...or something on electronics...I LOVE electronics!!!!!

But what to choose?

As any scientist will tell you, most experiements are pretty boring on the face of it and generally hard slog. Choosing something which can be done within the time frame of say 4-5 weeks is a big ask and it means the type of experiment you can realistically do is pretty mundane. Not what the kids imagine when they first see the task and so they leave it, because they can't think of anything grand or complicated enough....and theyleave it.......and they leave it.......

Here's another one:
English: Write a song and design an album cover to go with it.
(I think this one is supposed to get them to use media skills they have been studying)

Write a song? just like that? Write A SONG?????????

Again, the excitement! The flushed faces, we love music, we listen to it non stop.....we get to WRITE A SONG!!!!!!! Do you know how difficult it is for your average Joe to write a song? The BA has a double edged sword. She is a good writer, a deep thinker and a lover of indie music. The challenge to write something exceptional is very real. Everyone is expecting it. OMG OMG The Pressuure!!!!!!!

And so nothing gets started. Deadlines go whizzing past with a satisfying sound; to paraphrase Douglas Adams. This parents, is where your Flaming Sword must parry and slice:

You will sit down and start this.
Here are three ideas....choose one.
You will not be going into town with your friend until I see this much accomplished.

And they will rail. They will kick and scream and cry and tell you 'you don't understand me'. They will promise faithfully to do it after...later...whenever....

And your life will be Hell. For awhile.

But what you are communicating to them is that it DOES matter; that it does take blood, sweat and tears sometimes; that anything worthwhile is usually not easily gained. It is these lessons that they will take into life with them; into Year11 and 12; into University or their apprenticeship or their first job.

But people! IF you say, 'never mind' or do it for them or believe their adolescent promises of 'later' and don't show them how to prioritise; that is what they will take into school with them and then into life.

Think about the long term not your immediate discomfort. Parenting was not always meant to be fun. Do your kids and society a favour and give them a WORK ETHIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here endeth the lesson

Crafty Tuesday: Best Friends

Yes, it is scrap booking time again. This week for Crafty Tuesday I give you our latest project from Friday night Scrapbooking Workshop.

We started off with these funky embellishments (let's face it, scrapbooking is all about the embellishments! photos mess everything up :-D)

Actually, the 'model' we had to work from was a hen's night and the embellishments were all about 'bride-to-be' but it didn't take too much imagination to pick a new theme.In the end I wasn't very happy with the page, it was too cluttered, so I shifted one of the embellishments off onto the facing page and my plan is to re-organise the layout with one or two more shots and do a double page spread.I'll let you know how it all works out.

By the way, did you notice the 'names'? The labels do have the kids names on them, in the same funky lettering, but I am getting to be a dab hand at wiping them off with 'Paint' nowadays :-D

As always, Carrie has been busy whipping up super craft over at Barely Controlled Chaos and many of her commenters are worth a look too if you love a bit of craft, like me!

Sunday, 21 June 2009

SOOC Saturday: Because You Haven't Seen Him For Awhile

I don't know why I haven't taken many shots of the Small Boy lately. I think it's because he's usually off up the street with his mates or at footballl or basketball on the weekends. Maybe it's because the BA and I have been doing a lot together, without the boys....

Anyway, I took this one last weekend. He's playing for a new football team with his friend from Two Doors Up and this is his new strip.

I also took several of his socks pulled up so high they looked like tights but he wouldn't let me post those. Mind you he never said anything about not posting THIS one....What? WHAT? Oh get off my case AFM...there are no exposed body parts here and he posed for the photo after all! Quite different to the Baby Angel's builder's bum shot.

But oh my goodness. Hasn't he grown.

They do that when you're not looking.

This is a' Straight Out Of Camera' shot. Melody at Slurping Life invites you to join in sharing SOOC shots every Saturday. Go over and check some out and perhaps join in?

Friday, 19 June 2009

Break In Transmission

We apologise for this hiatus in posting, but this weekend I must complete 3 classes worth of reports including grades, comments and a Care Group.

After that I have some exams to modify and more than a couple of my own to write as well!!

On a very warm and fuzzy note, I modified an exam for one of my frustrating, problematic Year 11s yesterday. Today as he scanned through the pages he was about to attempt, he looked at me with big eyes and said "Wow, did you write all this just for me???? That must have taken you AGES."

It's moments like that.........

Adios buddies....I'm off to that big Excel markbook in the sky for a few days.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Body Clocks and Bloody Cats

My body clock is messed up again. I am sleeping from around 9pm til after midnight then rousing myself for a decent 2 and a half hours quite focused work. As a result I am a little more prepared and sane than last week but I keep passing my husband as we enter and exit the bedroom going in different directions.

It's tough in the evening to avoid sleep though as the log fire is piled high and the family room is so cosy. I love my big, fluffy leather sofas! It's like sleeping on a cloud.

And since I'm just rambling now before going to bed, I thought I'd tell you about the Cat Wars MkII which are going on at our place currently.

Some months back we spotted two really cute kittens over the fence and realised the neighbours must have got themselves a Christmas present. The kids of course tried to lure them over and pet them but they wouldn't have it. They came into our garden of course but we couldn't get within 3 feet of them before they bolted next door. Well, this was all very well until we realised our cat food was disappearing at an alarming rate and then we started surprising them, helping themselves at the bowls in the kitchen.

To put this into context, our kitchen is well inside the house, not just as the back door. These guys have to sneak in through the cat flap, through the laundry, up the hall and into the kitchen before they can taste the rewards of their clandestine efforts.

Having shoo-ed them out once or twice we started to get irritated by their persistence. No2 Son threatened to dunk them in the pool if he caught them or peg them with his slingshot. I was initially aghast at these inhumane suggestions but......

These little buggers are incredibly resilient! They have been the recipients of Himself's roaring and stamping, the very thing which, when we were first married, so traumatised our older cat Pippin. They have been corned and chased with brooms. They have been caught and thrown (literally) out the back door. Has it made ANY impression on them? Well, I dare say we won't ever get to pet them any time soon but they sit at the back door and look in at us! Their cheek is unbelievable.

We have taken to closing the laundry door at night so that if they get in, at least they can't get to the cat food. As a result, when I open the door to let our guys out in the morning, one of the two of them usually streaks out the cat flap leaving behind his comfortable bed on a pile of laundry!

At least this has encouraged me to complete the washing and leave the floor bare, cold and uninviting :-D

Seriously though, we are starting to wonder whether they DO belong to next door or not. We don't see our neighbours much. They have one of those electronically sealed houses and everything seems to happen at midnight or 5am so we haven't had a chance to pop our heads over and ask. I am beginning to suspect they may be ferrals from the same litter although they are vastly different; one being a fluffy apricot/brindle tabby and the other a Russian Blue cross with short fur and grey and white markings.

We are losing patience however and these two cute little eating machines may soon be taking a one way trip to the RSPCA if they continue to camp in our patch!!!!! I mean they are ALWAYS here! Do their owners not miss them??????

I'll try and get a shot of them although they tend to move fast when I am around due to the broom incident. Meanwhile I'd best try and sleep some more.....

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

In Which I Am Forced To Confront My Cynicism

Following from my despair at the lack of initiative of the younger generation and my affront at the dumbing down of the curriculum, I received some interesting responses to my horror at the idea of trivial internet based assessment tasks for Shakespeare.

Jill (a pre school teacher) from Twipply Skwood said this:

Actually I'll bet the Romeo and Juliet myspace pages could produce some interesting stuff. You know, they'd have to do the blog entries and bios and interests and all that. They could think up what to substitute for certain categories - like there wouldn't have been any movies for them to have for favorite movies, so what would they put in that area? They would have to make a page for the parents so R&J would have "friends". It might be a kind of neat project - like maybe whoever was done with their regular work ahead of time could do it for extra credit or something. :-) :-) :-)

A Free Man (a University lecturer) said this:
I know you disagree, but I think that the latter idea is a really good one. You have to get kids interested, engaged and if you use their choice of media to do so, they'll be more interested. Do you remember the Leonardo DiCaprio/Clair Danes Romeo & Juliet? Got a whole generation interested in Shakespeare, but it certainly didn't deviate that much from the intent of the author. You could do the same thing with modern social media. Although MySpace is a bit dated, Facebook would be the way to go. The more I think of it, the better idea I think it is. The kids would have to read the play in order to do a decent job. They may not read it in a traditional classroom setting.

And Just Jessie (a brilliant home school-er with two super intelligent, creative boys) said this:
Okay, I think they're on the right track, they just need more depth. The avatar thing could be cool if they flesh it out more. Make them draw their own and put them in period clothing and in a scene from the play. You know, sort of make them think it through. Could be a good thing.

Due to the fact that they are all qualified professionals (although I think they are all also Gen-Xers) I considered their ideas very carefully.

Yes, they have merit.

I mean, how different is an avatar from the 'Wanted' posters we did for characters in novels back in primary school? The implications of transferring life in Elizabethan England (or Verona in this case) to MySpace or Facebook is loaded with opportunities for humour, originality and creativity.
With a bit of research.

And this is where I come up against it.

A Freeman: You said that setting this project would encourage them to read the play in order to do a decent job. You assume that they even CARE about doing a decent job! And let me tell you, nothing will make them read that play if they do not want to. Hell, even when you read it to them it does not dent their e-clad psyches. (Thank heavens for Baz Luhrman I say.)

Jill: You suggested setting it as an extension project or for extra credit. Unfortunately we have enough trouble getting them to hand up even the most basic of projects let alone doing something for extra credit.
The Y Generation are all about 'that'll do' , 'good enough' and 'maximum result for minimum effort'.

Jessie: 'Sort of make them think it through'? You have hit the nail on the head. They have no desire to think anything through and the nature of this assignment encourages this.

Look, as an older person with life experience; a familiarity with Shakespeare; a love of spoof and plenty of exposure to irony and satire in a range of genres; I can think of so many things to bring to this project. Unfortunately the pupils we teach have very few of these attributes.

I think it would be an excellent extension project for an advanced group; a group with skills. My concern is that as English teachers we should be developing skills and skills will not develop spontaneously and without practice.

The problem with giving this type of task to the mainstream of students is that it encourages superficiality. Myspace does not have a spellchecker or a requirement for anything written there to make ANY sense at all. I know. I have seen some of the pages belonging to my daughter's friends. Hell. I have seen my daughter's page! Avatars, like wanted posters, are a primary school activity. They require a student to understand only the most basic qualities of a character and do not encourage exploration of motivation or personality traits which drive a character to make certain choices.

I know technology and the use of familiar, popular cultural tools can motivate kids but we risk sublimating the wealth of history and literature available to our species by moving down the road of 'least resistance'. Use technology where you can to get your message across but do not allow it to replace the original form of the message altogether. Use technology as a vehicle for expression but not as a way to avoid having anything to express.

If you want to add a 'pop' flair, ask them to construct a series of email exchanges between the lovers in the language of the day! At least then they will need to familiarise themselves with the text, construct a narrative of sorts and formulate grammatically correct sentences. Without txtspk.

I would like to set a task for student teachers. Analyse the 'Create a Myspace Page' task and list the elements of the english curriculum that it either teaches or assesses. What steps would pupils need to take to complete the task adequately? eg research skills, reading the play, analysing, summarising. Do they have the skills to take these steps? If not, how would you structure the task to ensure that they were supported in developing these skills?

On a less cynical note, for pupils with learning difficulties, a task like this could remove the fear of the written word and provide a comfortable context in which to experiment with ideas.

Thanks for the thought provoking comments folks.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

It's Happening In English Classes Too

On the back of my post regarding the evolution of maths teaching, a friend who teaches English reported a conversation which occured in a faculty meeting last week.

Young, enthusiastic Gen X teacher: So, I've been thinking. With Shakespeare, as an assessment piece, we could get them to make an avatar of either Romeo or Juliet.

Second young, enthusiastic Gen X teacher: Yeah! OR we could get them to design a
My Space page as if they were Romeo or Juliet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At dinner as we were discussing this, Himself said "Well, it's a different world..."

Only if we LET it be my dear. ONLY if we let it......................

Friday, 12 June 2009

Theme Thursday: Sunshine

A rushed Theme Thursday this week as I sit here in the freezing cold in front of the bar heater (eeek $$$$$$$) ! Sunshine is a dim memory at the moment although we are loving all the rain.
This sunshine was back in January on Noarlunga beach when my sister and her kids were here from the UK. That's Ginger, recently turned 10, and the Small Boy who, thinking back to the last weekend, appears to have grown significantly in the last 5 months!

Boogie boarding is a wonderful pastime on the beach in summer: it's not as difficult as surfing, nor does it take you out to the dangerous shark infested deep waters (;-) you think I'm joking don't you?) but it offers a sense of satisfaction and a minor thrill as the near shore waves carry you onto the sand. I think the faces tell the story.

So I'll get back to work and the bitter chill of an Adelaide winter, while you go on over to Cheese Party and see what sunshine is warming up the other hemisphere!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

I Had Always Suspected There was A Connection

Heard tonight on SVU

" The victim was beaten so badly in the crotch that his scrotum ruptured and he suffered lacerations to the penis."

"So where is he now?"

"Oh. He's in a medically induced coma to take the pressure off his brain."

Monday, 8 June 2009

The Evolution of Maths Teaching

Maths Question 1970

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100.00. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

Maths Question 1980

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100.00. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80.00. What is his profit?

Maths Question 1990

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100.00. His cost of production is $80.00. Did he make a profit?

Maths Question 2000

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100.00. His cost of production is $80.00 and his profit is $20.00. Your assignment: underline the number 20.

Maths Question 2009

A logger cuts down a beautiful tree because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our planet. He does this so that he can make $20.00. Do you think this is any way to make a living? Topic for class discussion after answering the question: How did the birds and animals feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers).

*Thanks Mum for sending me that one!!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

I Despair of The Younger Generation

Exhibit A: found on an assignment I was marking today. An assignment mind you! Not a test. Not something undertaken under pressure. No, an assignment given with two in class lessons for working on it and more than a week's worth of homework time allocated.

So what happened to phoning a friend? Asking a parent? Asking a teacher at lunchtime or during the lesson even? Looking in your text book for similar problems? Even looking on the internet?

What is going to happen to this world when this lot are running the joint? I ask you!!!!!!

Saturday, 6 June 2009

SOOC Saturday: Faithful Cat

This cat thinks it's a dog.

That's Himself's legs back there in the shower.

It is uncanny how much that cat loves him! I feel somewhat slighted.

Melody and the gang have more candid snaps to share over at Slurping Life. Check it out.


Thanks for all your expressions of sympathy over my little rant last night.

I'm feeling a bit sheepish today however. My sister phoned from the UK today and really grilled me over how serious I was about changing jobs. She has good creds on this count as she was a secondary German teacher and, having moved from a lovely school in the countryside near Leeds to an inner city maladjusted teenfest establishment, wisely quit teaching altogether to take up a highly satisfying job in University Administration. Her message of course is this: what am I doing to change my situation?

The more she hassled me, the more cagey I became and I am forced to ask myself why?


1) I don't really WANT to change jobs. I have experienced a great deal of change in my life (as attested to by my mother's address book entries under my name) and some fairly major change in the last 10 years so actually, I am reluctant to upset the status quo. Also, the stress involved in learning a new job is almost as daunting as the day to day stress of the current one.

2) I don't like to leave something I haven't conquered. I know, don't tell me, I am a self confessed control freak but I also don't like to be a 'quitter'. What I really want is to be good enough at my job that these recalcitrant children will sing my praises and proclaim me as the marvellous teacher I am. OK, maybe it's less about control and more about vanity. (again)

3) I like my colleagues, I like my work environment (mostly) and I like my role as House Co-ordinator. (Have I mentioned recently that we are leading the race for the House Cup????)
But are these things enough to compensate for the constant frustration I feel and the effect that it's having on my health, weight, alcohol consumption and self esteem?

4) I am a little nervous of the prospect of rejection. As in, no one else will want me.

5) The very act of seeking alternate employment is time consuming and I have enough to do as it is. I know. This one is pretty lame.

6) This year the musical is Annie and I'm the stage manager and costume coordinator again. I have been trying to get them to let me understudy Miss Hannigan but there is some ridiculous policy about students having to play the roles. ;-)

At the end of the phone call I had to acknowledge that if I am not prepared to do something about it I must stop whinging.

But what the hell. It's my blog. If you get sick of the whinging you can skip those posts :-D

image credit
Had to laugh. This is a promotional shot for a play called 'Sheepish'. The world's first play about an openly gay sheep. Bwahahaha.

Friday, 5 June 2009


I am going slowly, but inevitably, insane.

The monotonous drill bite of relentless stupidity, laziness and sheer teenage bloody mindedness that is my clientele, is forcing me jaw grindingly towards the abyss.

I hate my job.

I hate it so much that it lies like a death weight in my stomach and claws at my intestines when I try to breathe.

When will it end? What do you have to do to get a result? How much assistance can you give without doing the test for them?

I am so frustrated that the need to primally scream is almost life threatening. If I don't, I may spontaneously combust.

My problem is that I am a problem solver and this problem ain't getting solved.

My initial idea was to give them what they needed at their level so that they may experience success and be motivated to progress.

This was an abject failure. Teenagers do not like to have their weaknesses pointed out to them, even if it is not explicitly done. In simply providing a curriculum which is matched to ability, you emphasise the current inability. No one thanks you for this.

Next I tried to provide relevant tasks which gave opportunities for skills to be practised and consolidated in a meaningful context.
"This is baby stuff!" they moaned and continued to be unco-operative.

So I gave them work from the year level text and reinforced it with multiple practice papers.
"This is BORING." they protested.

So I turned it into a game.
"This is BABYISH."

In an ability streamed group they resented being dummies and became behaviour problems. Now in a mixed ability group they continue to write themselves off and don't complete tasks which could help them succeed. Even with work scaffolded to the nth degree, they are so sure they will fail that they do not even try. And I am exhausted by trying to make them.

In our tests this year, we have been including worked examples to jog their memories and to overcome the comprehension and literacy difficulties some kids experience. Has it helped? For some maybe, but overwhelmingly there is a large group who simply DO NOT ENGAGE with the example. Seriously, it may just as well have been written in invisible ink!

What are we achieving in this monumental struggle? It feels like we are trying to move Mt Lofty with a shoulder shove. I sense resistance. I do not think that all parties to this endeavour are on the same page. I suspect Mt Lofty is QUITE HAPPY WHERE IT IS!

So why, why, why am I knocking myself (and my dear supervisor who has been working hard with me to create differentiated tasks/worksheets) out in this classic example of a power struggle when it is unquestionably evident who is going to win???????

I want to go back to primary teaching and I want to teach reading again.

Is it vanity to want to do something you know you were good at? Perhaps.

If so, bring on the mirror.

Theme Thursday: Family

I have been 'torn' by this theme Amy Jo. Should I give you a tour of photos past? My ancestors? Or at least my relatives? Actually I don't think I have any ancestors although rumour has it we are related to Robbie Burns.

Mind you, so is most of the NE of England. I believe he was rather prolific.

No, instead I opted for a single shot which illustrates all the ups and downs, odd balls and quirks that lurk in every family, ready to leap out at a moments notice or at least when someone says 'Say Cheese'!!!!!!!!!(My brother-in-law wonders what he has done to deserve this family)

Click over to Cheese Party and contribute your own version of 'Family'.

Thursday, 4 June 2009


I'm sick.

I've been off work for three days, with one ill advised sojourn back into the World of the Working for Wednesday. (It was all those 'w's you see, I couldn't resist.)

I might have Swine Flu. Well.......I might! Some people in Adelaide do have it you know.

Such a shame it had to be 'Swine' Flu though, isn't it? I mean, I wouldn't mind getting 'Tiger Flu' or 'Gazelle Flu' or even cute little fluffy 'Kitten Flu'. Heck, I think I might even want to get 'Swan Flu'. But 'Swine Flu' is just not attractive.

Which just about sums me up at the moment.

So, what have I been doing with my forced R&R? Well, Monday I slept and watched 'The Sound of Music.' We had been to see Prof J's daughter performing in her annual school musical on Friday night. (Say, come to think of it, last time I saw you Prof J, I came down with a cold the next day!!!!! Hmmmm. Suspicious methinks.)

But back to 'The Sound of Music': an ambitious project for a High School Musical, especially an all-girls school.
Prof J's very beautiful and talented daughter (let's call her J Jnr) was, slightly to her chagrin, cast in the role of 'Rolf' the telegram boy. She had wanted Leisl. You see kid, being five foot eight never got you anywhere in the world of show business!

She took the stage confidently and flawlessly delivered a beautifully sweet version of 'You Are Sixteen' etc etc etc. During this time I fumbled for my camera and got a few fuzzy still shots before I remembered that I had video capability; just in time to record the entire performance of the other girl.

.......Who turned out to be a 'belter'! Shame they couldn't have swapped voices for the roles actually. Or height.

I kept my camera at the ready however, remembering the powerful scene at the end of the movie where the Captain and Rolf 'face off' in the churchyard. I was determined to capture her performance for posterity.

Well, I did.

Unfortunately, the stage show and the movie vary on this point, amongst others. I guess you don't get the nuances of the emotional interchange from a distance....

All in all though, it was a fine effort for a school production. You had a whole family of beautifully attired Von Trapp children, you had hills (look, up there behind them!),
you had a wedding,you had politics,

and of course you had nuns. Something for everyone.

Speaking of which:

The Baby Angel and I were fascinated to see a note from Maria Von Trapp in the program! Apparently, someone on the school board knew someone who knew the lady in question and so an email was sent and a congratulatory telegram received wishing the girls 'good luck' with their production and thanking them for keeping alive the Von Trapp family name. Now, I had thought she was dead......and the BA hadn't known she was a real person at all.....so we were intrigued by this. The BA spent most of the show whispering "Did this really happen? What about this bit? Did THIS really happen?"

Of course my nosy, 'history geek' streak took over and when we got home I hauled out my 40th Anniversary DVD Edition of the Sound of Music (now with MORE special features!). Sure enough there was a Von Trapp Family documentary. It turns out there was a daughter called Maria (nicknamed Mitzi) in the family. It was this Maria who had written to J Jnr's school.

Now, for those of you just as interested in these movie/real life things as I am:

  • Maria married the Captain at 22, he was 47.
  • They were married in 1927.
  • It was not a marriage of love initially on her part although she' grew to love him' over time.
  • The family lost all their money in 1935 in the collapse of an Austrian bank.
  • Performing as a family choir was initially a way of making a living.
  • The Von Trapps did not flee Austria over the mountains but rather quietly took a train out to Italy in 1938. They had been asked to sing at Hitler's birthday party and declined. The eldest boy had been offered a job as a doctor in a position left vacant by the sacking of a Jewish doctor. The family saw what was coming and chose to leave before things got worse.
  • None of the children had the names assigned to them in the musical
  • Maria was reputedly a bossy, domineering woman with a quick temper while the Captain was a quiet, depressive man who whilst never working again after the end of WWI, somehow kept the family together with his gentle nature. He died of lung cancer in 1947.
  • Maria Von Trapp sold the rights to her book and story for a mere $9000 when the family were in financial straits. She was given a small percentage of royalties as 'goodwill' by the film makers. She always regretted having given away creative control of the story.
There now, you see what you learn when you are sitting at home sick?

My second day at home involved ironing. A LOT of ironing.

And today I have been sorting photos and playing on the internet.

At some point I will have to do some marking......

Found While Sorting Photos Today

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Crafty Tuesday: Look Away Now If You Can't Bear Scrapbooking

Something for Crafty Tuesday! Oh boy oh boy!!!!

On Sunday, just before I was struck down with the dreaded lurgy (I don't think it's Swine Flu but you can never be sure, oink oink) I attended a whole afternoon of scrapbooking indulgence.

The first thing we had to do was this little 'project'; a sticky notepad folder. The front was meant to have clever embellishments in the shape of a gift tag with meaningful words stuck on but I stuffed mine up so when I got home I pulled it off and found a Little Nutbrown Hare to go on it instead. I really should listen to the instructor more carefully, and frequently.
This is what it looked like when you undid the bow.
So that was pretty ordinary :-) But my Mum is getting it in the mail for her birthday and I know she will love it because I made it for her especially and after forty blah blah blah years she still loves the little handmade presents I make her. Don't you Mum?

I did do something else with my afternoon however. I actually added some pictures to a page I did a while ago.

I personally don't like the overlapping photos idea much but Himself with his designer's eye said I needed some way to pull the page together as all I had to start with was Dorothy the Dinosaur. :-D

Not much to show for myself I suppose but I had a lovely relaxing time doing it. And I won the raffle so I got some free papers and stickers and that can't be bad right?

Want to see more craft? Click over to Barely Controlled Chaos for Crafty Tuesday.

Netball Is NOT Basketball!

OK you Yanks. Here it is in black and white.

Netball and Basketball are two VERY different animals.

In netball you cannot run with the ball. As soon as you take possession you must not move your grounded foot until you have disposed of the ball. You have 3 secs to dispose of the ball although at top level the girls pass on before their other foot hits the ground. You cannot bounce or dribble the ball. You cannot knock the ball out of someone's hands like in basketball. The 7 team members have designated areas on the court and they cannot venture out of these areas. Only two team members may shoot goals and must do so from within the semicircle around the net. There is no backboard on the goals.

Apart from that they're identical :-D

Check out this link for some video of the action!

Or my more detailed post if you're still confused by the rules.

Everyone clear now? :-)