Thursday, February 26, 2004

pasta, theatre and students

Tonight, D, K and I took some Y12s to a production of the play Stolen by playwright Jane Harrison (discussed below). We grabbed some pasta before the show and met the students nearby and walked them down to the Malthouse theatre (playbox). Warm, barmy evening, some great pasta, some good kids, an interesting and challenging play, good conversation - a great way to finish up a fairly crappy day.

I'm just feeling fairly run down and it's beginning to show. I spoke to KOD (student) today about a few issues (this little lady has plenty) and she remarked that I looked terrible and needed some sleep. When students begin noticing the bags under the eyes, it's probably time for a good sleep.

Being tired, I noticed myself getting annoyed at things more easily, being less patient and forgiving. Being less inclined to push certain things - for example, my Y12 class in the afternoon today were not really rowdy, but only a little unsettled, so rather than fight to get them quiet so we could begin the lesson I simply left the room as quietly as I could and went and sat down in the staffroom ... had a chat to HN and CJ and then went back in after a few minutes. This seemed to work. NS (student) came out looking for me, 'What's wrong, Mr Bulfin?' It's kind of funny I guess. I just hate getting heavy when they are mostly good natured kids and most want to do well. Same old conundrum. Of course while this class is happening, some other silly students from another class are playing around in the computer 'pod' and need to be spoken to. Arhh.

Not very soothing.

During Y11 earlier in the day, JL (troubled student) decides to mock a young chinese student who is on 'roll monitor' duty. I'm not having this today (or any day) and so I ask him to wait outside. Whlie I'm out there HN says I have a phone call. I decide to take it. Afterwards find JL standing up outside the room. I had asked him to sit down and he says 'I'm not a dog, I'm not goina sit'. Fine, whatever, so he gets shirty and walks off as I'm speaking to him. I decide not to hit him in the back of the head and that it's not worth it (and that I would be showing the same kind of disrespect that he has just shown). Class continues without JL.

I arrange a meeting with the YLC (year level co-ord) and we get over the issue and seem to have moved on, as JL was back in class after recess and we were speaking again.

Other than this, the day was fine. And like I've already said, the theatre tonight was excellent.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

working 7 till 12 ...

Things have been very busy lately - but we all know this refrain. As the VASS coordinator (I've been given the name 'VASS Man' or 'VASSectomy Guy' by some staff) I've been hard at it getting all the VCE enrollments up to date and schmick. So this afternoon when most things were finished I found myself with some time to actually prepare some lessons! I don't want to relax to much though as there is plenty more to do - of course.

During the rush to get all the information entered onto the database, I have had time to think about why I took this job on in the first place. Sitting out in the back room, alone, keying in subject enrollments and class lists has not been an epiphany, but has helped me realise that I might have been wring about taking this job on. Despite the fact that I can find my way around a computer, and you may think this strange indeed, but I am not turned on by data entry. Now don't get me wrong, there are parts of this new role that I am enjoying - getting to know others in different ways, interacting with more senior students, etc.

The year 7s have been on camp this week and this has also given some of us a little breathing and head space. They are back tomorrow thought and I'm still behind on my corrections. I think I've had their work for a couple of weeks now! They are very cute. I never thought I would be saying this - I always thought it was a strange thing to say - but now I'm a believer.

Anyway, over the last couple of days it seems that I've missed quite a bit of action. The AEU has called a 24hr stop work on March 3. It seems that this has arisen over the negotiations for a new pay/conditions agreement with the delightful Bracks Government. The AEU made a claim for 30% over three years, and the govt retorted with 9% over three years plus a cut in 'holidays'. They want teachers to go back to school after the summer break one week early. Read The Age report.

As well as all this, there is talk of the govt. wanting to INCREASE teaching hours. This is interesting considering most days, I and many teachers I know and respect are spending the whole day at work and then putting in a number of hours every evening. The last couple of weeks I have worked from 8am to 11.30pm with perhaps a dinner break, or picking up Emma from the station, or something like that. I'm not sure where I could fit more in. In some areas of work, the busy times are like the tides: in teaching it always seems to be hightide. Not that this is a complaint, only that is is frustrating to hear comments about increasing teachers' workloads.

The AEU website had some interesting comments about what union types have seen as a failure of the VIT to measure up to its stated aims of advocacy for the profession, in relation to the PM's comments re: value-neutral schools.

Anyway, today I read that Highvale is about $150,00 in debt to the Ed department. (Schools hit by funding shortfall). Alex (our principal)is quite open about this, but it was another thing to read it in the newspaper and understand that this is widespread issue - senior staff who cost more, and funding policies that seem to encourage schools to hire younger teachers and put experience out of range. Complex issue of course. One one side of the coin, the govt is obviously attempting to encourage schools to vary their staff and have a range of young and older more experienced staff, but penalising those who sometimes through no falt of their own have ended up with more senior and expensive staff is nonsensical. Especially when this means that the school suffers from a loss of programs, resouces, etc. Latham has offered to develop a differnet funding formula.

Also found a follow up to Howard's comments about value-neutral public schools: Ray Willis, Principal of Melbourne High School.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

The art of happiness?

Ross Gittins has written an interesting article comparing what many of us have suspected and known for years: that experiences are more valuable that possessions.

I almost always enjoy Gittins' take on the world and his refreshingly different approach. Often his writing stands out from the rest of the paper for it's 'reality' and groundedness.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

stolen - they took the children away

The other night, E and I were in town (Melbourne) seeing the wonderful Beth Orton and the truly surreal M Ward. While we were transfixed at the show our car was broken into - the rear driver side window was smashed - and all our stuff stolen. Laptops, bags, files, diaries, house keys, invoices etc. all gone. We have parked in this area before (almost once a week for more that a year) and didn't ever think it might be a risk. We often leave our stuff in the car and are careful to push it under the seat or whatever, but we have an XTrail so we don't have a covered in boot section and this has often caused us some worries.

So anyway, we were stunned for a couple of minutes and then I had a walk around the nearby park to see if perhaps any of the non-pawn shop stuff might have been dumped. NO. After filing a report with the police we headed home in a dazed kind of silence.

I guess I'm not that upset about the laptop - I mean it has heaps of my teaching stuff on it, old student work and resources that I can never replace, but I was more upset - or felt angry but whatever it is in someone that allows them (or gives them permission) to take something that is not theirs. I was hoping (and still am in a way) that when they (?) discovered I was a teacher that they would do the noble thing and return my things - perhaps anonomously. NO

We tried to get the window replaced yesterday and after dropping the car off a the workshop and coming back 2 hours later nothing had been done. They had run out of time.

Anyway, so I had my won 'Stolen' experience this week. Of course, it was really nothing - most of the valuable stuff (about $7000 worth) was was owned by DE&T and Telstra. We will only really be up for the cost of the window ($560).

Yr12s are responding well to Stolen and most want to see the production. I am pleasantly surprised and hope that they can exercise some tolerance if they have different opinions. I still need to give them more work though.

Yr7 Jack Game said that he likes English because 'we' don't get much work and can talk more freely in class. Once again, the cry of not much work rings out. Is this to be my personal challenge forever? How much work can y7s handle? How much work is useful?


Monday, February 02, 2004

working for the weekend?

This back to school thing sort of has me swamped. I just need a couple of hours to get my head around a couple of things and I might feel a little more comfortable with life. Of course this is the refrain of every classroom teacher and it is an impossible dream.

Despite this, things are coming along nicely and all classes are responding well.

I got to school this morning and was ready to begin Stolen with my y12s but Karen had had a flash of brilliance and had devised a scenario task as an intro to issues such as Aboriginal dispossession etc. Worked really well and has set the scene better than I could have anticipated.

In y11 a young lass won $1000 from Nova Radio station. I was disciplining some latecomers and she had answered her phone when my attention was diverted (silent ringing!). When I asked her to put it away she mentioned that she was on Nova and was being asked a 'scenario' question worth 1K. Within seconds the whole class was focused on the conversation. Needless to say that after all the screaming and carrying on, 'Maestro' was not that appealing. Nevertheless we persevered.

VASS problems today too. I'm beginning to realise that this job is much bigger than I previously anticipated (perhaps I didn't anticipate very well?). Alex wanted some data and reports today and I was unable to get these as my laptop is a piece of rubbish. I'll have to wait till March/April for another - Jan says I need to justify my need for a ibook and that my media interest may do this. So I had Mario on the job this afternoon trying to figure out the problem. I think we may have some improvement.