Friday, 26 September 2008

holiday, wine and Rwanda.

It's 2 weeks of spring holidays and I'm relaxing. Last term was hard. I was so exhausted, but the end is in sight! Four weeks of teaching, a week or two of revision, exams and that's about it!

I've done more work these holidays than the previous ones. I'm teaching my History class about Rwanda, and researching it has affected me more than I thought it would. I actually stopped sleeping, so I decided I had better stop reading for a while! It's pretty haunting stuff, but I think it's important to teach kids that these things go on in the world and that they're so privileged to live in wealth, freedom and safety.

But I've taken the time to chill out, the weather is finally warm and sunny, so I made a trip with a friend to some gorgeous wineries to taste the local produce. Now I can't wait for Summer.

P.S. the smart board is a hit with my Year 11s! Hopefully it's helping them learn as well!

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Hanging head in shame...

It has been too long - I've been overwhelmed at work and suffering from serious winter blues and so blogging has been the last thing on my mind. When I write, I really enjoy it. I feel the real me is freed and I can say and do what I want. Yet I don't do it enough.

Taking on two new classes half way through the school year has been more work than expected, especially since the history class has meant I've had to make up all my own resources. I'm enjoying it, but this is the point where all the students and teachers are sick, tired and really flat. As the kids say, CBF... (if you don't know the meaning, have a guess!) We're hoping that the staff student footy match next week will boost the enthusiasm of everyone in the school community (especially as the staff have no chance against a team of 17 year old, athletic boys!). Footy here is AFL - Australia's own variety of kicking and running with a ball. It's a religious experience for many people here, not me, though the players do look good as they run and jump around the field...

We have excitedly had data projectors and smartboards installed in some of our senior classrooms, so that we can use this technology regularly for learning. However, it has come to my attention that "technology" for most teachers equates using PowerPoint slide shows to teach. Both classes that I have taken over relied on this method of delivering information more than any other. The students have come to expect to learn in this way. The teachers have simply read the textbook, drawn out the key points and delivered it to the students in a more visual, more digestible way. It seems to be just an updated version of what we call "chalk and talk" - or teacher centred learning. I understand the need to do this at certain points in teaching, but does doing this regularly actually help their learning?

My concern is this: is this method just adding to the increasing literacy troubles of students? By taking notes from a slide-show, the students can get by without having to read more complex texts, it seems as if this way of teaching is aiding their laziness. In history, I have added required reading to the curriculum and the students find even a page of writing too overwhelming. These are 17 year old students who are soon to be sent out into the real world.

Friday, 11 July 2008

School's back (nearly)

Two weeks has flown and it's back to school in two days. I found out today what most of my allotment will be for next week (finally), I get to teach Year 11 History (Yay!), but they are yet to give me one other class. What will it be? (PLEASE, not some junior* class!!!)

SO... any great activities for teaching the Cold War, just let me know.

I'm now thinking of claiming my Summer trip to Cambodia as a work-related tax deduction (visited the Killing Fields to see the extent of Pol Pot's devastation on the country - direct result of the Cold War). Don't know if I'll get away with it...

*US translation: junior refers to Yr 7 & 8 (13/14 year olds)

Monday, 7 July 2008


- my city (on a brighter day than the ones this week!)
I've spent a week doing not much - and it has been so lovely! I've cleaned the apartment, cooked, rearranged furniture, slept, had my niece and nephews for a sleepover (cleaned again after that!), slept some more, spent time with friends and stayed up late to watch Wimbledon (the final started an hour ago and it's now 12.45am). I really should go to bed.

Another week of holidays, but I have marking and planning for next term to go. The difficulty with work is that I'm not even sure what classes I'll have!

In the last two days of term, our senior history teacher left the school for another position so the school has two weeks to cover his two classes. I've been asked to take one of the classes, but I haven't been told which class yet, which is a little ridiculous. The Year 12 History class is "Revolutions". They study the American first then the Russian. I'd be focusing on the Russian revolution, which I've studied, but I know nothing about the American Revolution (something about taxes?) and I'll have to help the class revise for their final exam. The Year 11 class is 20th Century History post 1945, which I feel much more equipped to teach because it was my University major. Regardless, I haven't taught either before and will need time to prepare. When I know what I'm teaching, I'll be asking for help. Any history teachers out there?

I have been teaching two Year 10 and two Year 11 English classes this year, but it looks like I'll be losing at least one Year 10 class in favour of a Year 11 or 12 History. I hate changing classes mid year. It's not fair on the kids (especially if they get a dud teacher. I'm not the most brilliant teacher in the world, but I do okay and the kids like me). I've also started preparing for next term, which is annoying. But I understand the school's priorities. It's easier to cover a Year 10 English class, than a Year 12 History class.

I hope I'll find out in the next day or so. Call me a control freak, but I just can't quite relax until I know what the deal is.

Better go to bed, falling asleep, can't tpye prporely. Though Federer is about to lose Wimbledon for the first time in forever.

'Till next time!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Why do I teach?

Holidays have arrived, after the final crazy weeks of term, in which our principal has left for another school and two of my favourite colleagues have also resigned. I have two weeks of hibernation ahead (coinciding with the coldest week of winter we've had). Two weeks of considering "Why I do this job" whilst trying to reestablish a more balanced existence.

California Teacher Guy
asked me if had come up with any answers for "Why do it do this job?" I have to say, if anything the question seems to be just getting bigger.

My immediate answer is cliched: I do it for the kids. There is a lot of truth in this for me, though. I see a value in teaching in a part of town where higher education is not the norm, where some students are the first in their families to finish high school, where parents have never read a book. I love seeing that moment where understanding clicks in a student's brain and after weeks of complaining about studying Shakespeare, they say "You know, this is a pretty good story." I like being a patient ear for students who don't often get it elsewhere. I like helping students realise that there are many more possibilities for their futures than just getting a job.

But the biggest problem I have at the moment is the travel. I'm driving an hour and a half each day, over 70km, with skyrocketing petrol - this will soon cost $2500 a year. It's tiring. There are many schools closer to home that would make life easier, but the schools where I live are in higher socioeconomic areas where tertiary education is the norm and students are driven to achieve the ambitions that their parents or society expect of them. Around here, there is little difference between state and private education, so the temptation to work for a private school becomes greater (though the idea grates against my moral code).

I guess it is a moral issue really, ties to the strong values of social justice my christian upbringing instilled in me. Why do I teach? Because the idealist in me wants to make a difference, to make the world better, to help those who need it and appreciate it. The cynic in me is growing stronger though, but I desperately want to stop it from taking over. Unfortunately, I just feel so worn down, after four weeks of illness. The question I need to ask now is: Is it worth the sacrifice?

On a lighter note: a couple more Dumb and Dumber stories, one that made me giggle while trying not to smile, the other that made me roar with laughter:

Dumb: While introducing Macbeth to my Year 11 English class, we began to discuss themes and symbols and the role they play in the text. Most students were contributing to a discussion about what themes were. When I asked "what is a symbol?" Dumb replied, "Isn't it the round, shiny thing on a drumkit?"

Dumber: I was visiting a colleague's classroom on the last day of term while taking some photos of the school and I saw Dumber leaning on a chair that was still upturned on the table from last night's cleaning. Dumber was discussing something with the class and distractedly stuck her fingers into the hollows in the legs of the chair (the rubber stopper bits always disappear). After a few minutes, she realised her fingers where completely stuck. She stood up with an upturned chair sticking out behind her and began shaking it to try to get it lose. By this point, most of us were in hysterics watching her, but she still couldn't get her fingers out and only freed herself when a teacher and a student pulled one end of the chair and as she pulled her fingers out. True slapstick comedy to liven up an otherwise mediocre day.