Thursday, January 29, 2004

Students Return

Well, students returned to school today and what a hive of activity it was. Most things ran smoothly, and my faith in my abilities has slowly begun to return - thank goodness. It's probably the long holidays - forgetting some aspects of the job - well perhaps not forgetting, but some things seem to dim or are put on the backburner.

So it was with pleasure that I began with my new year 11s. Seem like a nice bunch - at the moment - heaps of girls. I took in a frying pan and my old SIGG drink bottle for a free writing exercise - this seemed to work very well and provided just the right amount of 'oddness' that can differentiate a class from others (in students' minds anyway). A couple of kids read their stuff. We followed this up with a newspaper photo on OHT - of a young Russian soldier voting - and the kids had a go at 'reading' the image. We also did some impromtu speaking on some topics I managed to jot down a few minutes before (socks, grass, boys and men, pasta, nu-metal etc.) They seemed to understand the point or were at least willing to have a go. We finished by looking at a newspaper article about a successful y12 last year and the tips she gave for success at VCE. Perhaps well do a SWAT/goal thing tomorrow and then begin reading some of 'Maestro' in class.

Year 7s were interesting - quiet and shy and nervous. They all seem to have new shoes that are rubbing or that are not worn in yet. It was quite fun having this lot - they look so innocent and fresh faced. No problems with those that have been identified as 'special needs' yet - I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to get to all that. We wrote a letter and talked about an assignment (Kerry threw this at me earlier in the day - I was typing up an Allan Griffin type survey but didn't get finished - perhaps for my y8s next week?) Marilyn Watson was also in this class as an integration aide - and I'm sure she'll turn out to be a great help.

Yr12 after lunch was cut short by a meeting called by Tony. I planned to take them through the same stuff as the yr11s but we only made it through the writing and the reading.

So not a bad day. In fact during lunchtime I was on a high - I remembered why I love this job. Kids and great relationships.

One interesting story before I go. I have the Knights twins for English (Brad and Chris) - I don't know these boys at all other that what I've heard around. In the morning after homegroup, Brad wonders up and says in a half joking, half smart-arsy way,

'I have you for English. Are you Qualified?' I was on my toes and returned,

'Why don't you wait and let me know in a couple of weeks what you think?' This seemed to satisfy him. In class later that day, Chris has a go to - in front of the whole class -

'Have you every taught y12 English before?' This didn't surprise me either, so I told everybody that if they were unhappy in a couple of weeks to come and speak to me, that they were also free to make suggestions and comments etc. This seemed to be enough for them.

I think teaching this bunch will help be get tougher. I have KO'D back too, which I'm happy about (I think).

So I'm a sonnet

I am the sonnet, never quickly thrilled;
Not prone to overstated gushing praise
Nor yet to seething rants and anger, filled
With overstretched opinions to rephrase;
But on the other hand, not fond of fools,
And thus, not fond of people, on the whole;
And holding to the sound and useful rules,
Not those that seek unjustified control.
I'm balanced, measured, sensible (at least,
I think I am, and usually I'm right);
And when more ostentatious types have ceased,
I'm still around, and doing, still, alright.
In short, I'm calm and rational and stable -
Or, well, I am, as much as I am able.
What Poetry Form Are You?

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Will it always be this way?

The school year begins tomorrow, and classes the next day. I've been sitting at my desk all day trying to work through some preparation issues and wondering how I ever managed to do this job last year. At times I panic, thinking I'm bound to fail and that I'll be swamped - afterall I only taugh parttime last year and fulltime just must be much harder? Who knows. Katrina keeps telling me I'll be fine and that she found it hard to imagine studying while teaching as I managed to do.

I have been thinking about my year 12 English class and worrying about giving these kids the best opportunity I can; about fitting (cramming) everything in; about this new VASS position I have been given and wondering how (and what) I'm supposed to be doing.

I have enjoyed reading the assigned novels for this year - but I would have liked to have read them a couple more times - of course I will have a chance to do this throughout the year, but it would have given some small comfort to have had this at least under my preparation belt before beginning. Just by way of reminding myself what they are, here's the list:

Year 12 Text List
1. Stolen (Jane Harrison) - play text
2. Gattaca (Andrew Niccol) - film text
3. Girl With A Pearl Earring (Tracy Chevalier) (new text for 2004)
4. Triage (Scott Anderson)

Year 11 Text List
1. Maestro (Peter Goldsworthy) (new for 04)
2. Billy Elliot (Stephen Daldry) - film text
3. The Divine Wind (Garry Disher) (new for 04)
4. Macbeth

I think this is a fairly interesting list and I'm looking forward to arguing the pleasures of Chevalier with some bogan y11 and y12 boys.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Howard Fires First Salvo - State schools are povo

Yep once again we have a national election looming and Howard takes a calculated swipe at government schools and teachers. Of course he doesn't have to say much for the circus to begin - media, teachers, his cronies, academics, parents - everyone with some stake (small or large) in education has subsequently weighed in to the debate.

Basically, Howard has said that the movement of students into the private school system (and there are various figures going around) is because government schools are 'too politically correct' and 'too values neutral'. Howard also says govt. schools often take an 'antiseptic view' of many issues (like banning Santa, or not having nativity plays). He pinches the 'choice' nerve to gain cheap polictial points.

I wonder how someone can be politically correct and values-neutral at the same time? It would seem to me that political correctness assumes a belief in something. Of course, Howard is talking about his belief that his own values are not taught in schools. In 'The Age' editorial (22 Jan) does a nice hatched job on Mr Howard's nonsensical and ridiculus argument.

There are many others too - below is a short selection.

Some worse than Howard's comments, such as Kevin Donnelly's mess in 'The Australian' (21 Jan) 'Teachers Unions Fail the Grade'. Donnelly seems intent on having a go at just about everything except Howard's education policys. But I'm sure not many people read it - very poor. Sounds a bit like a student essay.

Gerard Henderson adds his two cents worth - more in terms of what he sees as Labor's challenge in education with the coming election and the movement of students to private schools.

Richard Teese has a go back at Howard in 'The Age' (Jan 22) 'Go to the bottom of the class PM'. He makes some interesting comments about the image and status of some private schools and how this can portray the tappings of moral value while actually hiding the fact that these schools often struggle with teaching values in today's culturally pluralistic world. Rather than these trappings of moral and ethical values, Teese suggests that human relationships are what really counts, the creation of which does not depend on where you go to school, but how you do at school. He argues that success for all students helps build a platform for moral and political values, where failure tends towards authoritarianism.

There is another interesting article from Jennifer Buckingham, 'The Age' (22 Jan), "Schools' performances should be made public". Some interesting examples of education funding decisions overseas, and some explanation of Howard's assumptions about the reasons parents are increasingly sending their kids to private schools. I'm not sure it I like her angle on school reporting etc. but it seems this is something that government schools will never fully get away from - 'the accountability thing'.

Anyway, there is selection of views. What do you think?

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Some other writing

While you are busy digesting the article I mention below, here are a couple of other recent publications. Both are co-authored with Katrina.

One was written as a result of our participation in the Monash University Teaching History Fellowship, run by the brilliant Rosalie Triolo. It has been published on the National Museum of Australia (NMA) website, and is called "Storytime in the Classroom: Lessons from Museums" (link). It has a history focus, but argues for the use of narrative and metaphor in the classroom.

The other is a short piece we were asked to write for the propaganda organ ('iteach') of the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT), a new (2003) teacher registration and regulation body. We were asked to write about our experiences of teacher education and what we believe is the best way to prepare teachers. I'm not sure it's what they wanted, as the institute is currently conducting a 'review' of teacher ed courses in Victoria, probably in view to suggesting changes etc. So we felt as if there was an undercurrent of 'can you please bag your teacher ed course'. I mean I don't know for sure if that is what they really wanted, but that is my feeling (speculation, OK). Anyway, in the end they published what we wrote with no real editing. You can find it here. You may need to flick throught the newsletter and find 'The Beginning Teacher'. I'll post a copy here later.

Part of the problem, or suspicion, with the VIT is that the institute sells itself as 'independent' but it's board is half made up of unelected (but apparently 'representative) government appointed experts (9 + the secretary of the Dept of Education and Training or nominee), with the other half being 'elected' members (10) - see here for the policy. I'm not sure where or when these 'elections' took place, but I was never asked! I'm not really sure what to make of this, and as yet things have been fairly quiet in terms of happens etc. so perhaps this year we will see and understand more.

Anyway, that is a couple of things that I've been working on lately, in between writing my thesis and teaching and everything else.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Some Moore about me

Ok, perhaps you would like to know more about me ... perhaps not.

Last year was a busy one. My first year of teaching was excellent, tiring, and crazy. Highvale is not a bad school and I feel like I've certainly settled in well. The English faculty has been excellent and supportive and have helped me feel as though they valued my contributions. I feel like I've been able to give quite a bit to the faculty as well.

In addition to work, I also studied for an honours degree in Education (at Monash Uni). It has been a very rich experience. I was given a H1 for the effort and asked to apply for a PhD scholarship. I'd love to do some more research, but I think this will have to wait a couple of years. There have been a couple of promising outcomes from the research and from my collaboration with a number of talented colleagues, including a journal article in English Teaching: Practice and Critique, v2 n3. The article is called Reframing Beginning English Teachers as Knowledge Producers: Learning to Teach and Transgress. I co-wrote this with my colleage Katrina Mathews, who is actually studying for a Masters and teaching English and History at a local High School. This online journal is mostly the work of Terry Locke, a teacher educator and academic at the University of Waikato in NZ, who has set up a web called Critical English Online, as a way of promoting discussion and dialogue about English teaching.

Anyway to the article is a good way to understand some of the issues that some beginning teachers face as they enter the profession. We wrote it in response to the lastest International Federation for the Teaching of English (IFTE) conference, held in Melbourne during 2003 (July). Katrina and I helped organise some of the workshops at the conference as part of a teacher group we were co-opted into by our good friend Brenton Doecke. This teacher group is called the PIC group (professional identity and change). Brenton was our English Method lecturer while at Uni, and subsequently my honours supervisor (and Katrina's masters supervisor). He's all round nice guy too. The rest of the PIC group has been helpful too (Graham, Helen, Marion, Jill, Seamus)

As well as this bunch, there was also some input from Barbara Comber and Barbara Kamler, noted academics and researchers. Barbara C (Uni SA) and Barbara K (Deakin, Vic) were good enough to invite Katrina and myself to participate in a ARC funded research project that has been investigating teachers' ability to research and write about their own practices.

Anyway enough about all that.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

OK, so I'm a English Teacher. I'm currently working at Highvale Seconday College. You can follow this link but if you are not a student or staff member you won't be able to access much.

A Film to Remember?

This evening E and I went over to the Ls and watched this crappy Mandy Moore film called 'A Walk To Remember'. Well I say crappy but, you know how those dodgy movies just seem to pull you in and your hanging on every word, even though you know what every word will be. Maybe I actually like Mandy Moore and just need to come to terms with it? Perhaps that is one of the big questions I can explore with this blog? Yep, tackling the biggies here folks!

Anyway here is the film website

OK that was just a test hyperlink don't get excited.