Gone With The Wind Part 1

Today I was looking through my Goodreads “currently reading” list and realised that I have around 10 books on that list! I am chronic in starting a book only to take a break from it for a while, a LONg while it seems, and then have to pretty much start from the beginning because I’ve forgotten what it was about! I am also chronic in reading/re-reading books in a series in an effort to pad my Reading Challenge (Deltora and Series of Unfortunate Events, I’m talking to you!) for the year, which now sits at 78/85 books,  but having all those unfinished books on my list does get to me at times.

I don’t know quite what it is that makes me put books down after starting them. Obviously being busy at work has had an impact – I rarely want to read at home after my brain is wired all day – but other than that I am curious as to why. The books that are on my “currently reading” list are a range of classic and non-fiction books, some of them library books that I started but never got around to finishing. I know that with books like Kavalier and Clay and All Quiet on the Western Front the reputation of them being “classics” can feel daunting at times. I know that I have Anna Karenina, The Iliad and Heart Of Darkness among many others sitting on my bookshelf for years, waiting for the right time for me to read them. Whether that time is when I’ve had my fill of puff, chick-lit/mystery books or when I’m in the school holidays ready to be challenged OR simply when I have the motivation to want to tackle one of these mighty works.  Continue reading Gone With The Wind Part 1

Taking Stock: Spring edition #1

After a tumultuous few weeks (really months) I am starting to feel like I can rejoin the land of the living. Work has settled down (though my pile of marking is ever-growing),I’m feeling sliiiightly better about personal life stuff and I’m deciding to focus on the stuff I have in my life that is pretty great. I’m lucky to have a job that I love, a nephew who adores me, friends who will help me if I ask and about 300 books, not counting ebooks, in which to escape when times get tough.

Cooking: Banana bread this weekend. I bought a huge bunch of bananas last week that I felt a bit bad about so I found an easy recipe for banana bread on Tastemade (my new obsession) and it’s delish!

Drinking: I’ve been enjoying a Brown Brothers moscato thing that I love, but that apparently tastes like Passion Pop? Never tasted it myself (surprisingly).

Reading: Torn between what to start next – Gone With The Wind, Anna Karenina or The Odyssey. Yikes but I want to push myself. Continue reading Taking Stock: Spring edition #1

Broken, empty and lonely.

I came to a realisation yesterday morning. The events of the past week, and the past month and a half, have pretty much left me empty. Not empty in the sense that I am an emotionless husk of a woman, but empty in that I have nothing left to give at the moment. In general I am someone who is always giving to the people around her, generous with my time and efforts, and rarely expecting things in return. But I’m not an emotionless husk of a woman, I like to have my efforts acknowledged at the bare minimum if not appreciated. Lately it feels like all I do is give and be patient and understanding without receiving any of the same support. Continue reading Broken, empty and lonely.

Friday Five: Favourite texts to teach

Long time no post (as always)…

My year 8 class is currently studying a book that I studied when I was their age, and we are all loving it so much that I started thinking about the other texts that I enjoy teaching, and that I have (in my short career) used with a range of year groups and schools.

  1. Tomorrow, When The War Began
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    My year 8 class is in the middle of a comparative essay assessment for this text. We read the book, watched the TV show and the film over the last five weeks (plus school holidays). TWTWB is a novel that I really got into when I was in high school, and it is a book (and series) that is so unique in its plot, writing, characters, themes and issues. That idea of “what would you do if your country was invaded” is something that should seem inaccessible to teenagers today. But the way that John Marsden tells the story of Ellie and her friends is so compelling and vivid, so emotional and raw and above all else real, that I think it uniquely appeals to teenagers. The group of characters all have their flaws and are so different that I think everyone can identify with at least some part of a character. I used to live near a local airport, and whenever I read book one and then heard the planes flying at night, i would freak myself out so badly!
    This is also a series that I can never put down; once I read the first book I often read the other six within the week, and the same happened when I was teaching the book this term – I spent the first week of my holidays engrossed in guerrilla warfare and teenage terrorists.
  2. The Princess Bride
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    My year 8s looked at this movie at the start of the year, looking at characterisation, genre and film conventions. I adore this movie, and (selfishly) as a teacher I don’t like to teach texts that I don’t know or like. So when the opportunity came up for my year 7s last year to start looking at narrative conventions and characters, I had the idea to show them this movie. They loved it, after complaining at first that it was sure to be an old black and white movie, if it was made in the 80s.. I got them to do a character analysis on how one character in the story changed as a result of the events in the movie, some of them crafted some exquisite responses!
    I have also read the book, which quickly became one of my all time favourites as soon as I started reading it.
  3. The Outsiders
    2626920066_091dc0a914_zI first read The Outsiders when I was in year 10. I was amazed that such a seminal, rite-of-passage text that resonated with my male classmates was written by a girl no older than I was (at the time). Since then, I have used that text with my mostly male, disengaged classes. I have found that they identify with at least something in the novel, whether it is the loyalty and devotion of the three Curtis boys, the hero worship of Dallas Winston or the lonely bravado of Johnny. I think The Outsiders is a book that you could study on many levels; whether it is to introduce themes and issues as I did this year with a hard year 10 group, plot and conflict with my year 9s last year or parallel characters and debating with my year 9s in my first semester of teaching.
    The Outsiders was one of the first books that I remember reading in high school that I know have had lessons stay with me into adulthood. It was Ponyboy and Johnny that I turned to when facing my first novel study with my first “smart” class, and it is the lessons that they taught me that I try pass on to my students.
  4. Invictus

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    yes, i know this is the actual event, not a picture from the movie.

    This one is a bit more personal for me. I saw this movie with my brother and my dad at the movies, and I left crying and proud to be South African. As an English text though, I think that Invictus has a lot to offer. It explores issues of racism, class systems, sports, politics, history and civics. I first used it with a hard year 10 class last year, and they looked at it more as a film study, with issues and themes the main focus. My year 10 class this year was very similar. We had previously watched a documentary called Pacific Warriors (my class has a lot of rugby specialist program kids) looking at the issues of inequality and funding in sports. I think the kids get a lot from Invictus, from looking at a moment in history and events that seemed too unreal to be true, to being able to watch a good sports movie.
    I also like to teach it because it allows my students to get to know me a bit better. My family lived through a lot of the circumstances in the movie. My granny was a great hockey player who was not allowed to represent South Africa because of the colour of her skin, my mother was a great ice skater who was on her skating team as one of the “token” two coloured girls, and my grandpa would constantly talk about how great Madiba was. The movie is very real for me even though I have never really lived in South Africa, and I think lets my students see me as an actual “person” with a history and heritage that I am proud of. We also have a giggle at me being near tears at the end of the movie EVERY. SINGLE. TIME i watch it!

  5. Guardians of the Galaxy
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    This one less as a “study” text, more as an “end of term” text. I have shown this movie at the end of terms since it came out, and every single class i have shown it to (8,9,10,12s) have enjoyed it. I adore it, and i think it’s perfect in its quirkiness!

Hope your Friday is less chaotic than mine! Would love some suggestions for go-to English texts, my tendency to stick to the familiar can at times be limiting…

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It Is Not Me; a teacher’s refrain

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I had a day today that was certainly not up there with the best. First it was period three, my second lesson with a new class in a subject that is out of my comfort zone, and then last period with a class that is 95% full of apathetic sacks of potatoes.

I try to pick engaging topics when I can, and when I can’t I try to deliver the content in ways that downplay how dull it is. I know it can be difficult to concentrate last period of the day, but the outright rudeness is absolutely astounding to me. My colleague who I share this particular class with (I take English and she does Humanities) came into the office at lunchtime saying “Diabolical. The year tens are diabolical.”
I of course have this class the very next period, so good news to me!  Continue reading It Is Not Me; a teacher’s refrain

Important Puppy News (sorry Mum!)

Back at it again…

I had a rather good school holiday break. I caught up with friends, went to a few new events and was able to recharge for the new term. Definitely didn’t do as much school work over the break that was necessary, but again, my own fault and something that I will work hard to catch up on this week (thank goodness for DOTTS and being part time!)

Probably my biggest news of the last few weeks (pretty sad, I know, ha) was that I made the decision to get a puppy! I finally realised that hey, I am a grown adult who no longer needs permission if she wants to get a puppy. Except, you know, the permission of the owners/real estate agent of where she is renting.

I have a general list of the breeds of dogs I would like, but I think what’s most important is a dog that I connect with. I’m not saying that if I connect with an St Bernard that I will take it home (unfortunately while I have always wanted one, my yard is much, much too small) but that to me is more important than it being a pure bred anything. At the moment I’m looking at bulldog/spaniel sized dogs; big enough to hold its own and be a good cuddle, but small enough to fit through the existing pet door at my house (as well as small enough that she won’t get bored in my little yard). I’d also like her to be resilient enough to be able to be home alone; as a teacher while I do get regular holidays I am at school roughly 7.30-4. I had the idea that when I do get a dog, I would get it at the start of school holidays so I have that two weeks (or six weeks depending) to bond and get her acclimated to my house and me.

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Chewy looks like this. I’m in love. 

One of the ladies at work brought her ruby King Charles Cavalier in today, and I have fallen in love with her. Her name is Chewbacca and her fur is exactly the colour of Chewbacca! One of my best friends has had Boston terriers and bulldogs for years so I’m used to them as well (on my list, but NOT those ridiculous tiny French bulldogs that are in vogue of late). My grandpa had a Pomeranian that only passed away a few months ago at the age of 16 and while she certainly was a feisty little dog, I don’t know if that was her or if it was the temperament of the breed.

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My granny and grandpa’s Pomeranian Sally Spectra. Yes, my grandmother named her after the fabulous Bold and the Beautiful character. 

My oldest friend is a vet nurse who has a gigantic heart that wants to take home all the sick animals that come into her clinic. She has been waiting for me to get my own pet for as long as I’ve known her (which is almost all my life, literally. I do not actually remember not knowing her!) and when I told her that I had a cat (technically housemate’s cat) that I picked up and everything, she thought it was the funniest thing ever! M knows me as an animal-friendly person who has never really had a pet of my own. We had a budgie and hermit crabs when I was younger, and I was always at M’s house with her dog, cat, rabbit, fish and birds. Her cat in fact was the only one that I willingly pet and was affectionate towards; when I was little I pulled the tail of my cousins’ cat who reacted accordingly (with claws) and ever since I have had a healthy respect and distance towards cats. Tom, my housemate’s cat, is an attention seeking sook who wants to be the centre of the universe so when I first started going to my friend’s house, Tom would make himself familiar to me, sometimes against my will! He would curl around my legs, jump up on me, rub himself on me. I remember one time I was lying down and all of a sudden BAM! Cat on my face. Now that I live with him he quite literally is my child., with all the attention and care I give him. When I first moved in he would pat his paws all over me and my stuff, and when I asked about it J said that Tom was “claiming [me, I’m] his mother now.” Which, awww, but for someone who was decidedly NOT a cat person, Tom has turned me into a cat person. Or perhaps just a Tom person. Either way, it has gotten to the stage that I know I will be more upset over Tom moving out than my best friend/housemate J moving away from me.

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BUT getting back on track. My vet nurse friend M is very excited to come puppy shopping with me, though she also said “I’m super excited for you and it’ll come when the time is right. You’ll just be so smitten with her wherever she is”

So whoever she is I know I will be super excited. “Puppy” has been on my birthday and Christmas lists consistently every year. Not every year when I was a child, every year including this year. I’m very excited now about the possibilities and having a new fur baby. And definitely not Googling “are frangipanis toxic to dogs?” instead of working. Definitely not.

Hit me up with great puppy breeds, or tips. This frangipani thing is flummoxing!

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Friday Five: Term 1 at a new school

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While my lovely year 12s are on the computers in the library, and I am taking a break from the bottomless pit that is my marking, I thought I would reflect on what I am grateful about on this, the last day of school.

Being at a new school I was nervous initially about fitting in, about getting back to upper school after a year immersed (and I mean IMMERSED) in lower school students. I didn’t know if I was good enough to teach alongside a “proper” English department (last year me and my colleague were pretty much ignored and alone in planning/reporting/assessing despite having three well-experienced English teachers at the school). I worried about my ability to handle challenging behaviour management issues and trying to keep my emotions in check while getting to know students.

I have loved my first term at my new school. The kids I teach (admittedly on the better side of our school’s standard) are for the most part wonderful, and even the most troublesome ones have never been malicious or nasty. The staff are amazing, greeting you happily whenever they see you and always checking that I am getting on okay. My English department is beyond amazing. The Head of Learning Area has been so kind and generous in making sure myself and E (fellow grad/newbie to the school) are getting all the help, opportunities and resources that we need. Colleagues are always willing to give advice on problem students, re-read assignments to help figure out grading and all around offering support.

The kids, especially my year 12s, have been beyond expectations. Here are a couple of my favourite moments from my kids this term.

  1. One of my years 12s A started playing music after we finished working one day, turned out to be one of my favourite songs EVER. Same thing happened the next lesson, and when he was in charge of the Friendship Week music playing at recess. It’s as if he has taken the playlists directly off my phone, and I listen to some pretty obscure and uncommon 90s and 2000s hip hop/R&B/rap/soul.
  2. Every Tuesday afternoon with my year 12s having to allocate 5-10 minutes at the end for “Walking Dead Talk.” It’s a lot of fun for me, but also as a teacher kind of funny seeing kids who claim they can’t do essays and have trouble analysing texts, spout off diatribes about who Negan killed and was Glenn really dead and look at the symbolism of certain props, characters, sounds and gestures. #everythingisenglish
  3. Assigning my year 8 ACE (academic achievement/extension) class autobiographies, and then reading them and learning so much about my kids. Also seeing some of the lesser engaged ACE kids pull out autobiographies of an insane level, well beyond what they appeared to be capable of. I say it all the time to kids; you write better when you are writing about what you know and love, and this assessment was perfect for my class in that regard.
  4. The moment at the start of the term when I assigned my ACE class homework to post on a discussion what their favourite books were, and upon reading the responses realising that I had a class that (mostly) loved to read and loved to read similar books to me. And when I took them to the library for silent reading for the first time and they sat reading for an hour, uninterrupted and silent. This is after a year of trying to do the same at my old school with rarely any success.
  5. Doing an in class essay with my year 10s, and while most of them couldn’t be f-ed doing anything, watching those who had done their notes and tried their hardest connect the dots and write their first essay. AND then reading the essay of my favourite year 10 F, who had impeccable notes and finished her essay in one lesson, and who wrote so lyrically about theme and the loss of innocence and characters, and linking to other texts. I literally clutched it to my chest when I say what she had written.

 

Hope you have a wicked last day of school teacher friends!

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Hell is teaching in a heatwave with no power..

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The power went out at school yesterday, leaving more than 1000 teachers and students suffering in a 40+ degree day with no air-conditioning.. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the pleasure of being around young adults during hot weather, but there are two things main things to know:

  1. They do absolutely no work whatsoever
  2. They smell. 

Continue reading Hell is teaching in a heatwave with no power..

New start, new ride

Just a quick one on this glorious Wednesday!

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Today was my first day at a brand new school. Last year I formed a pretty significant bond with my advisory as part of the Big Picture Education pedagogy, and I was dreading having to leave them and start fresh. I’ve never been a big fan of change, and I had settled in so well at my old school that I ended up in a panic on the drive down to my new school this afternoon.

However my old school was nowhere near perfect (it is solely the familiarity and the students that have me missing it). So as soon as I got all my induction information and realised that I could finally be in an environment where I could learn and not have as much premature responsibility as at all my previous schools, I was a LOT happier. I loved being a part of a Big Picture school because of the emphasis on knowing your students and having a strong relationship with them, which is one of my biggest strengths as a teacher by far. My relationships with those kids were some of the best in the school, and I am very proud that in my farewell speech my line manager told everyone how I was a big sister figure for the disengaged kids especially,and that I was frequently the only one they responded to and would complete work for. Even now it brings me to prideful tears thinking how far I was able to bring those kids, though they are coupled with fearful tears knowing some of those same kids will go backwards without someone investing that same amount in them as I did.

As great as my student relationships were though, the staff were another story. Not dissimilar to my previous two schools, often I was left to my own devices with a huge amount of responsibility for someone only two years into her careers. The English department was nonexistent both in support and function. I would have my reports all ready to go with very little guidance, only to be told I had done them wrong and I should have been told the correct way to do them.

My new school already has a vastly different feel amongst the staff. The English department head has been amazingly helpful and there are a lot of existing systems in place for personal and professional support. One of my personal beliefs when it comes to teaching is that I will be less than useless in looking after and educating kids if I am not looking after myself. I struggled a lot in my first two years with that, overworking myself and taking on a lot of duties that were beyond me, and only recently finding a balance between work and self care.

Maybe that’s why I was hesitant and on edge this afternoon before arriving to school. I had finally found that routine and balance only for it to be swept out from under me without being able to do anything about it. I like to have control over things, and I do tend to panic first before letting go and enjoying the ride. Hopefully I have the panic all out of the way now, and can enjoy being at what seems to be an amazing school.

Hope you all are having an awesome week and that you Australian teachers are taking care of yourselves ahead of a new school year!

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Life Update Time! (Taking Stock Jan 2016)

Life update time! I head back to work next week which I find myself kind of dreading. But I have had a great summer (non-relationship-wise) and I’m ready to take on some new challenges.

 

Cooking: A lot lately as I (again) attempt to change my eating habits. I find that I struggle to enjoy cooking for myself, but I adore cooking for other people! Below are the last two breakfasts I made for my housemate, very proud of them if I do say so myself!

Breakfast_made_for_boy_who_had_to_wake_up_early._Am_I_the_greatest_housemate_ever_Perhaps______breakfast__scrambledeggs__eggs__bacon__toast__mushroom__spinach__tomato__best__wifematerial__yoohoosailors__pretenditshealthypancakes

Drinking: Water from an old Mount Franklin bottle. Is that whole “don’t reuse bottle water bottles” thing still a thing??

Reading: Wonder Woman: The Twelve Labours. Side note: How bad ass does Gal Godot look in the Batman vs Superman trailer?!

Wanting: so many, many things. Let’s go with motivation for now..

Looking: at the old Casablanca poster above my desk, finally hung up!

Playing: that Covet fashion game (I’m pretending it’s helping me be more fashionable!), Pandemic and Ticket To Ride . I am OBSESSED with Tabletop at the moment!

Deciding: if I want to go run myself a cold bath. It is SO HOT that sometimes I do that first thing in the morning, just sit in the bath to cool down. The cat has started sleeping in the bathroom (apparently over his previous bath trauma) which goes to show, evaporative airconditioning= NOPE!

Wishing: that my housemate was not moving out in two months, or that he asks me to move in with him (HA!) or that he just gives me a really nice birthday before he moves.

Enjoying: that the cat and I have gotten into a perfect routine this holidays. And that I know all his facial expressions and postures, and he does what I want (finally!) at one word, AND that there has been no inside pooing. Victory!

Waiting : for my younger housemate to come home, so I can tease him about his lady dramas.

Liking: the new organisation of my desk. I cleaned it up nicely yesterday to give me a good workspace. Naturally the rest of my room remains less organised!

Wondering: if I can pull myself together enough to clean up the rest of my room. I-think-i-can i-think-i-can i-think-i-can….

Loving: My boo.

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Pondering: waking up early tomorrow to try get into my school routine. ORRR do I sleep in as it is one of my last holiday days?

Watching: The Office (US) S05 E09 The Surplus. About to head into an Agents of SHIELD catch up too.

Hoping: a fairy comes and waves their wand over me and makes me look like I did four years ago. #fatty #badday

Marvelling: at other people’s abilities to be hella into their fitness and health. Very, very envious.

Needing: To find some motivation.

Smelling: the bowl of frangipanis on my desk from my trees in the backyard. Another reason I wanna stay in this house!!

Wearing: pink singlet, green undies, black shorts. And I’m only wearing the shorts because my housemate is due home soon!

Following: Ashy Bines on Instagram and Snapchat. She’s annoyingly perfect looking, and yet so accessible and down to earth about herself and her ups and down.

Knowing: I need to do some more planning and reading for school. My first year teaching HASS (Humanities and Social Studies) so I’ve got a lot to catch up on!

Thinking:  that I want to go on a cruise this year. My Hawaiian trip was cancelled as my aunty changed the cruise we were all going on from one in the school holidays to one during the term! Sad that I can’t go with my family, but the cruise they are now going on is far better value. BUT I do still want to go on a holiday this year sometime.

Feeling: like the weather has cooled down a bit and the air con is actually working properly!

Admiring: friends that are changing their lives and making better choices than me.

Sorting: out my possessions into keep, give away, throw away piles. Biting the bullet, organising, cleaning, the whole thing.

Buying: Too many books that I do not have time to read. It’s a sickness!!

Bookmarking: ideas and things I want to buy for school. I do love me some stationary and resources!

Disliking: that I still get itchy eyes and hayfever from the cat (and all the cat hair and dust in my room!).

Opening: my iTunes to find that all my music has disappeared. Joy.

Giggling: at a photo frame I found this morning with an odd brand name (inside joke hehehe)

Snacking: On nothing at the moment!! Trying to kick the habit and eat regularly enough that snacking doesn’t happen.

Coveting: a house. a car, a boy, a holiday, a size 10 body.

Wishing: to have the resolve and commitment to stick to my plans to change habits, even when I am feeling conflicted and down.

Helping: myself by deciding not to go to the shops to buy dinner and snacks.

Hearing: my text tone go off as my housemate asks me to let him in. The silly boy left his keys at work, so all weekend he has been pestering me to see when I am at home.

Hope you have all had a great start to the new year! Any motivation suggestion slay it on me, I suck balls at motivating myself!

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It's useful being top banana in the shock department.