Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas dreaming

My creative side is going a bit crazy at the moment. I decided that, given I couldn't find a nice one anywhere, I would make a topper for our Christmas tree. So I went into Riot to get some ideas and got a lot more than I thought I would!

I know how I want the topper to be constructed, so that's all planned out. Unfortunately, I walked past the shelves with all the felt on them. You see, I've made things from felt before and I really enjoyed doing it. So now I'm sitting there in the shop, looking at all those amazing colours and imagining all the stuff I could make from it!

I'm planning all sorts of Christmas decorations, and hopefully there will be photos! As soon as reports are done. I'm really not so keen on the report-writing thing.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

AWOL again

No posts this week. Reports are due on Friday and I'm far too tired and busy and stressed.

See you all next week!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday dreaming

4 weeks left until the Summer holidays. Can't wait! I have so many plans.

There is the aforementioned gardening, the cycling (for fun rather than for getting to and from work!), a potential weekend away, Christmas with the family, NYE with friends, my birthday...

So much to do and enjoy! =D It will totally rock.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Couchy goodness

Our couch is old. I inherited it from my former housemate who wasn't able to give it away to anyone else, and we just happened to need a couch.

This couch was so old and decrepit that you couldn't sit on it without at least two extra cushions, and even then you would get pins and needles in your legs if you sat in it for too long.

It is an old couch.

So, last week, I decided I'd had enough. I wasn't going to sit on this thing which was probably ruining my back and goodness knows which other aspects of my health along with it and I wasn't going to put up with it any more.

Now, we can't afford a new couch, so we took the old, worn and deformed cushions to a place which cuts custom foam and asked them to please replace it for us. So they did.

This couch is now AMAZING. We didn't get the most expensive, bouncy stuff (I think it's called endura-foam or something ridiculous like that and is guaranteed to outlast your couch); we went for the firm, medium-grade foam in the seat cushions and the cheap stuff in the back-rest cushions.

I can't begin to describe the difference. It is a beautiful thing to sit on. It still looks like utter crap without the throw over it, but it is so unbelievably comfortable!

I am utterly thrilled by this, and at the same time utterly freaked out at the gradual realisation of just how domesticated I've become!

Monday, November 21, 2011


I think gardening is going to be my new hobby this Summer. I actually have a garden that I can see and that I can use for entertaining, so I have reason to do something with it!

My parents were never particularly creative with their lawn space. They had a verandah which they used for drinking coffee on in Summer, and they had some grass that got mowed and a few plants around the edges. That was about it. Even barbecueing happened on the verandah.

I have no verandah, but I have fenced-off lawn which I absoluely intend to use!

I don't think the previous tenants really looked after it very well. It was mown when we moved in, but a lot of the soil has bare patches that mainly consist of clay (I've added gypsum to it but it may not have been enough) and a depressingly high proportion of the greenery is made up of weeds (those flat, dandylion things that just seem to take over).

So I've been weeding (combination of chemical and manual) and I've sown some lawn seed which I hope will take. I've also made little shelves on legs that I've hammered into the ground, against one of the walls, with the intent of putting lanterns there for evening entertainment.

I want to have a nice garden that I can sit in and have guests in, and I'm looking forward to working on it more :-)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Looking forward to Christmas

So for the first time in a number of years, I'm really looking forward to it. You see, working in retail kind of ruined it for me, and there were a number of factors at play:

1) Playing carols incessantly for over a month. This is a sure-fire way to annoy just about anyone that goes into your store. If not initially, then definitely by the time Christmas actually rolls around. If it doesn't drive your customers mad, it will drive your staff mad. There is no need to play carols for any more than the last two (maybe three, if you're really into the whole spirit thing) weeks leading up to it.

2) Playing the crap remix carols CD. On repeat. This one needs no elaboration.

3) Beginning to sell decorations in July. Not all stores do this, but I've seen it. In fact, selling decorations before November is utterly stupid and annoying and should not happen. It just makes the season less special.

4) Irate shoppers. If you are a Christmas shopper who has left all your present-buying until the last minute, then for heaven's sake don't take it out on the retail staff! They are already over-worked and stressed out. No, they cannot order more stock in for tomorrow because you missed out on the last toy due to your own tardiness, especially if tomorrow is already Christmas Eve. This is not the only toy sale that happens throughout the year, so for goodness' sake do some of your Christmas shopping earlier on in the year!

This is now the third year running that I have not had to work retail at Christmas. I have, as always, bought my presents early. I'm going to be avoiding shopps that are playing carols for as long as possible. I'll be spending Christmas day with my family.

I am, at last, looking forward to enjoying Christmas again!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

We need more options.

In yet another fun rant about education in Victoria, I'd like to vent my spleen about how difficult it is to get rid of "problem children" in schools.

Politically incorrect though it may be, the simple fact is that some kids really are a problem. There are some students who are rude, nasty, and a bad influence on their peers. I have students who are generalliy nice and reasonably well-behaved. While their friend, the Problem Child, is away. As soon as that child turns up, the kid you were finally making some progress with forgets all that good behaviour and all those rewards and falls under this influence. You are back to square zero.

These Problem Children are the ones with no respect for authority, and not just that of the teacher. I've seen them lash out at co-ordinators and nothing short of calling the parents in is enough to make them behave, because they know that there isn't much we can do.

We can give lunch-time detentions, but they don't really care because once that's over, it's over. Back to normal.

We can give after-school detentions, but parents have to be given 24hrs notice. This is done by giving the student a letter to take home. I've found more of these letters ripped up and in the bin than I can count. I'm also quite used to the phenomenon of the student mysteriously being ill on the day that their detention is scheduled for. So this is not a credible threat, and not one which works well past about year 7.

We can suspend them, but the grounds have to be extreme. Students are well aware of how difficult it is. They can swear at teachers, be as rude as they like, say things that would get them questioned by police if they did it out on the street, and yet they get away with it in schools. So that threat doesn't work past about year 8.

Expelling students is nearly impossible. They cannot be expelled unless they can go to another school, and I've had a student say "What are you going to do! You can't expell me! No other school will take me!", and he was right.

We can't ask students to leave, because they can't leave unless they are at least 16 and have a trade or apprenticeship to go into.

You can't get them moved into a different class because classes are so damned full that there is no room for movement. So threatening to remove them from their friends doesn't work either.

The simple fact is that, if you have students who are not only poorly behaved but also savvy, you're pretty much stuffed and so are the students who could do so much better if they weren't being disrupted by these Problem Children.

We need more options. We need more consequences. We need to be able to actually send them off for intensive behavioural therapy, and have it be on-going.

The bottom line is that we need more support, because when you've had that kid shout at you, at other teachers, at school leaders, and then still have them show up in your class the next day, you start to lose hope. It's crushing to think that they can get away with abusing people in that way, and yet they do.

This needs to change.

Monday, November 14, 2011

No more kids, please.

In this next enstallment of what appears to be a series of rants about the education system here in Victoria, I'm going to get angry about the day before the Melbourne Cup.

We spend Cup Eve (first Monday of every November) babysitting because less than half the students show up. Those that haven't shown up are usually away on family holidays in anticipation of Cup Eve, but some students have parents who insist that they come to school.

You see, the parents send them to school because it's a school day. And it's a school day because parents send their kids to school. Or something.

But the bottom line is that, on this day every year, we have had to keep our massively reduced classes occupied from 9am until 3:30pm. We can't continue lessons as normal because our grouping systems are disrupted and we'd have to re-do anything we taught that day in the next lesson anyway. We can't book science pracs, plan tests, or anything of the sort. We can't even invent new groupings specifically for that day because we have no idea which students will be there and which won't.

So instead of being able to do something useful, like marking or planning or report-writing, we're sitting there keeping kids well-behaved and on task, whether that task is a worksheet or a video or a game. Instead of doing Professional Development (a requirement of teacher registration) or catching up on things we need to get done, we are looking after students who don't want to be there any more than we want them to be there.

I have, thankfully, had it confirmed by my local MP that this will be changing next year and going back to school councils deciding when the pupil-free days will be. What I'm left wondering is why, given that teachers were against having three of the four in term 1 to begin with, did they not just listen to us in the first place?

Still, at least it's been fixed.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Gorrilla in the making.

Dear Society,

Please realise that there is nothing "gross" or "disgusting" about body hair on women. I would very much like to stop worrying that I'll get judged by people (or even have to explain why it's not gross) because my legs don't look like a nine-year-olds and I happen to have a dark patch in each armpit.

Most sincerely,


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Reinventing the Wheel

"Reinvenging the wheel" is a very common phrase in teaching, and it's one that has now most definitely come up again in my school.

It appears that textbooks are being phased out, which is of concern for a number of reasons. The key two are that:
1) We have no guarantee that the new laptop system (which is being implemented next year; all students in some year levels will have their own laptop) will actually work, so removing textbooks removes a valuable backup plan
2) Textbooks are an incredibly useful tool for educating students and for keeping teachers from having to invent curriculum that is already there.

The key reason that was given for this change is this perceived notion of teachers exclusively teaching from the textbook, telling the students to read a section and then answer the questions.

Bollocks. Sheer, utter, bollocks. For one thing, the Science textbook we use is utter, usless crap. Half of it is badly explained and the other half is factually incorrect. It mostly ignores physics and what physics is in it is utterly dreadful because all the authors were primarily biology teachers.

So the book is only a vague guide on what we will be covering in the topic. It helps keep us on track and give us a visual guide as to where in the topic we are, the questions in it are often very useful for topic revision, and often they are excellent for getting students to actually read and interpret information. For them to learn to find useful bits of info and synthesise, rather than just regurgitating facts (the number of times I've had them complain about the answer not being directly in the text is staggering; I had to point out that hey do actually need to think about what they're reading and writing).

So yes, we use the book and we often get the students to answer the questions from it so it is great because we don't have to invent the questions ourselves. But it is also useful as far as practicals go (we only need to point the lab techs to the page in the book rather than having to write up all the materials ourselves).

Now, this is a useful kick in the pants because it is forcing the faculty to look at its resources and how to pool them, rather than having scattered unit plans and things all over the school and the staff network drive but it in no way makes up for the loss of this valuable resource.

Furthermore, I am insulted by the view of the leadership that we are doing nothing but textbook work. I don't know wich teachers they've been observing, but it sure as hell wasn't anyone I've worked with. This will now mean a lot of extra work over the next few months and a lot of stress, especially if there are technological failures of the kind we've had over the past two years.

I'm sorry guys, but you need a backup plan whenever you implement something new and untested, like this laptops-for-everyone scheme. I see no evidence of a backup plan for when hundreds of students try to all log on to a network at the same time - something that hasn't actually been tested yet.

Ultranet Training Day, anyone?

Monday, November 7, 2011

In Soviet Russia...

Here's how it's supposed to go:

- Teacher assigns task
- Student completes task
- Student gets rewarded


- Teacher assigns task
- Student doesn't complete task
- Student suffers consequences

Somewhere along the line, a few of my students got the idea that this is not how it works. You see, they somehow think that if I let them do whatever they like, they will reward me by doing work. Yes, that's right. Them working is now a reward for the teacher.

After a student asked me if they could go sit in a different part of the learning space and was denied this request, he actually said "Fine then, I won't do any work!" and it's not the first time something like this has happened with students in this particular group.

How on earth did they get this idea? How many teachers would have had a cajoling attitude which gave students the impression that they can get away with this? How on earth are their parents bringing them up?

I find this quite alarming.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Life is CRAZY

So I've had a lot to do and very little time for blog-worthy stuff.

Since my last post, I have

- Found a new place
- Moved into it
- Had a heart procedure (very minor - it was keyhole and I was back on the bike in a week)

I am now preparing for my physics exam, which is on Monday (PANIC!!!) so the business doesn't really go away.

I'm going to try to start posting regularly again ASAP. I've got a post scheduled for Monday, so stay tuned!