Tag Archives: Education

Peppermint and Lime Tea: Venting

I am not someone who can drink coffee or tea straight after it is poured – I prefer to wait until it is of a drinkable heat, and a very dark colour. This evening I thought I would try a new tea – Peppermint and Lime from Twinings, my go to tea brand. So while my tea is cooling and I eat my dinner (a laughable attempt at being healthy after a day of not – fish and vegetables) I thought I would write a bit, mostly to vent.

Today at work I volunteered to go over a section of curriculum, only to have one of my (much older) colleagues say that someone else should go over it, not me. I’m at the point in my career where I know I am good at what I do and I am confident in it, and I want something to be responsible for – a program, project, assignment. So to hear that from a colleague was very disappointing, not just because I wanted the task, but because it was just another example of how unsupportive that particular department is (I work in two, luckily). Because I teach in two learning areas I often have to divide time up with staff meetings. Some of the staff in one of those areas are not happy with me and another teacher because we teach in two areas and so the assumption is that we can’t fully put our attentions to one or the other. In actual fact me and my friend overcompensate in both subjects – teaching after school classes, writing assessments, collaborating and sharing resources with everyone – while the teachers complaining about us are the “clock in, clock out” types nearing the end of their careers. So it is frustrating to have other people thinking (and telling your boss!!??) that you are not pulling your weight. Especially when it is so abundantly clear that the opposite is true.

I have been listening to some podcasts this week however, one of them Truth for Teachers, and the biggest thing I have gotten from it so far is not to waste time worrying about things I have no control over. So while it is frustrating not to be getting support from colleagues in that department, I can’t do anything about their thoughts and feelings so why waste time worrying about them? I am a good teacher, and I don’t need their validation to remind myself.

Tea is ready! Tea tastes….Surprisingly good. I’m not usually a big peppermint fan but I’m trying to get to sleep soon so trying it out. Hope you remember not to sweat the small things, or worry about other people’s problems!

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Thursday Week 2

It’s getting to be the case that Thursdays are my most draining day of the week. Not at all welcome, considering from next week I will be adding an after school class to my regular work load, but we shall carry on regardless!

So in other words: This Thursday has been equally as gruesome, or at least the afternoon has been. Today I am grateful for my renewed organisation. I had maybe my best lesson this year with my year 10s because it was meticulously planned out. I mean, it did help that it was first period so their attentions and efforts were the most focused they are all week. But we did a great class discussion and brainstorm, then annotated an article about gender stereotypes, and then answered questions. And for the first time all year they were all sitting, working, SILENTLY. It felt really great to start he day off with a win like that.

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Class brainstorm
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Keywords and instructions for the lesson

Of course come period 4, my year sevens were completely distracted by what I had left on the board, because they have no sense of self control at all. As in a literal butterfly could fly past my window and they would almost all turn to watch it. Any suggestions on improving this are well welcomed!

Hope you all have had a good week, and here’s to Friday and wine!

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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

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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Party (appropriately) Time!

Hullo!

Me right now. Well not exactly, I’m still at school.

I can finally emerge from that dreaded teacher hibernation known as reports, as I have officially finished mine for the semester! made all the more difficult of course by my own procrastination in leaving myself piles and piles of marking, but I managed it and feel so so so SO much lighter as a result!

I had so many students who were working at an A or B level, but because they didn’t hand work in their grade was dragged down to a C or D, which is disappointing to me. BUT I do also get some satisfaction out of the look on their faces when they realise their laziness has in fact NOT worked out for them at all.

I thought I would share a couple of my comments for my advisory class. They have to be around 300 words and they are the kids I know best. These two are a male and female student on complete opposite ends of the spectrum, but I love them equally:

(Girl) is a creative and talented young lady who makes her passion for reading, writing and art known every day. I personally enjoy talking about books with her; it is heartening to see such a pure love for something so often taken for granted. Her involvement in cadets and the (company) project has allowed her to use her strengths to grow as a young person as well as for relationships that have been beneficial to her at school. (Girl) approaches her work with an individuality and surety that is rare for someone her age. While she completes all her work creatively and to a high standard, I would like to see her share that passion more within the classroom. (girl) gets along with everyone in advisory and though she expresses herself confidently in small peer groups, I would like to see her collaborate and cooperate with the class as a whole. At times (girl) does retreat into her work away from the collegial atmosphere of the class emerging when required. (girl) works well with others and has shown leadership across the year group. (girl) always seems prepared and if she isn’t she finds what she needs in order to complete her work.  She regularly organises her file into a neat, presentable state. I think that (girl) has the capacity to be successful in whatever field she decides to pursue. I think it will be up to her though to decide what she wants and to go after it 100 percent without letting anything get in the way.

And my other delightful cherub:

(Boy)has shown himself to be a very caring young man, always one of the first to want to help when one of his classmates is in distress. In one-on-one situations (Boy)has been able to communicate well with classmates, and I would like to see him work on forming strong relationship with everyone in class. I believe that once (Boy)finds something in common with someone, he is loyal to that and it allows him to relate to them in some small way. (Boy) had had some stumbles this year so far but what I so admire about him is his resilience and his eagerness to be at school no matter what. With his individualised program continuing to be developed, I think that (Boy)will be able to find things at school to work on and be proud of. When it comes to class work (Boy)relies heavily on guidance from teachers and mentors to complete his work and stay on task. (Boy)can be a polite, helpful and co-operative member of Advisory and the year cohort at times.  However, sometimes he engages in behaviour that is hurtful toward others.  This behaviour has decreased somewhat but he still can try to eliminate it all together to keep his reputation as a positive and helpful person intact. I enjoy talking to (Boy)and getting to know his passions. I think there are many opportunities for (Boy)at a school like (school) and I am excited to help him pursue them. Ultimately though it comes down to him putting in the effort to focus and communicate his needs and concerns. He has started to show that he is able to do this in small stints, the more we work on this the more successes I believe (Boy)will have at school.

I genuinely love these kids, and desperately wish I could teach them again next semester. Fingers crossed!!

Love,
Andrea

Top Ten Books That Should Be Movies

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme brought to  you by The Broke and the Bookish, which I endeavour to participate in regularly!

In my last week of summer holidays before going to work at a new school, i have been catching up on books, TV shows and movies that I have missed throughout the year. A lot of these movies in particular have been very much not worth the wait, or adaptations of much loved books that have not had that same level of love translated into their big screen outings. So for this week’s top ten, I thought I’d go with books that should be adapted (but only if they are done so exquisitely).

 

Continue reading Top Ten Books That Should Be Movies

Holiday Reading and Educating

My Goodreads challenge (of reading 100 books in 2014) currently sits on 76, meaning I have just under three months to read 24 books. If you know me in the slightest, you will know that this is a very achievable feat. My new job as an English teacher means that not only do i have access to an absolute plethora of texts (my reaction to being shown the book room: Why yes, I can see a use for these *drooooling*) but I also need to be sure to stay current and diversify my reading choices. So when school holidays came a callin’, I packed my school bag not just with marking and planning, but also what I believe is known as a “buttload” of books:

Pictured/on my list:

  • The Monogram Murders – Sophie Hannah
  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (currently reading)
  • Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn (not pictured but just finished read, and OH My GOOOD I love it)
  • Batavia’s Graveyard – Mike Dash
  • The Thebean Plays – Sophocles
  • Blackrock – Nick Enright
  • Macbeth
  • Stone Cold – Robert Swindells
  • The Old Man And The Sea – Ernest Hemingway
  • About A Boy – Nick Hornby
  • Rumble Fish – S. E. Hinton

Some of you may think “Happy Potter? Some diversifying missy!” and you would be right; however I am reading these (mostly) when my class is in the library doing silent reading, modelling successful reading practices to kids who would rather be on their phones.

I love going to the library for reading, and I’m very proud of the fact that I have recommended books to some of my years tens successfully (thank you Matthew Reilly!). Being a new teacher I feel like I’m still filled with a large amount of idealism and naivety about how much of an impact I can have. I get a lot of satisfaction from watching kids reading, and even more so from talking to them about their books. One of my year 11 boys is full of energy, a handful when he wants to be, and yet very sweet and helpful. He gets through a Half Blood Prince-sized book nearlly every day, according to his teacher from last year, and he is the last person who anyone would expect to be pestering me to go to the library, and yet he does! Just one of the things I love about my job, seeing that love and overwhelming appetite for reading in kids that I teach.

One more week of holidays left (not long enough), but I can’t wait to get back. I teach one class each of years 9-11, and am picking up the top year 11 class in about a month when my colleague goes on holiday. So far my broad plans for them are: Year 9: Introduction to Shakespeare (using an episode of Doctor Who and Macbeth, being a class of all but 3 girls), Year 10: Sports as a genre of film and books, starting with Friday Night Lights and touching on rite of passage and creative writing, Year 11: Comic books and superheroes, exploring the moral identities and representations in the genre.

Any advice is well welcome, as well as any thoughts on my holiday reading! Teachers out there,  what text types would you use with classes that are 95% male? My previous experience has been exclusively girls, so I have been struggling a little with what to engage the boys with. Hope you had a great weekend!

 

Love,
Andrea