Saturday, August 21, 2004

graphic novels and comics

I have been interested in this area for ages and with the lastest flurry of presentations at conferences such as VATE and IFTE, I have begin a more thorough investigation - in fact I am buying up graphics novels at a steady pace - or at least tagging the ones I like for later purchase (when I can find some money). Our school librarian has some interest but, like me, has no money.

I have found some interesting sites for this kind of stuff. All of these contain resources and rationales for teaching comics in primary and secondary education. The most interesting is the homepage of the National Association of Comics Art Educators. Check out the 'exercises' page for some great ideas for the classroom. As a teacher of english language and writing, I found that these ideas are very relevant to writing classes as well as art type classes. In fact I presently do many of the same things in my writing classes. I also found the 'syllabi' pages excellent for ideas about developing my own 'new media' type course. I had not previously considered graphic novels and comics as a type of 'new media' (whatever that is anyway), but the idea fits comfortably into my own idea of non-traditional, or non-canonical text types. There is a huge amount of ezines and ecomics all over the place - flash and otherwise - that will make interesting food for thought in any course about new media.

Other good information at Scott McCloud's website, author of Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics.

Gene Yang (math teacher and cartoonist) has a website devoted to Comics in Education. He is doing a masters on using comics in education. His final project is a crack up! I wonder if Abr or Pne would be interested in this stuff?

Anyway, moving right on ...

using blogging in the classroom - articles

Some stuff that I've been sitting on ... via the First Monday ejournal. I realise there is plenty out there on these topics - far too much to ever valuably use or read.

The Educated Blogger

Spinning Yarns around the digital fire


Well, I am always interested in good writing about 'blogging in the classroom' or anything remotely associated with this idea - but this semester I have not had the opportunity to 'invite' students to blog. Despite this I have written an outline for a subject aimed at Y9 + 10 students called 'Digital Literacies and the futures of communications' which will be offered next year sometime. I realise the name is a tad overblown, but it was more tongue-in-cheek that anything else as I wanted something that would grab the attention of non-bloggers and non-technology users (most teachers at my school - unless using technology means checking your email once a month). In fact I want students to interrogate the idea of 'digital literacies' and the extent to which we might be living in a significantly different communications 'age'. Anyway, I guess I'm constantly on the lookout for resources and news articles I could perhaps use as discussion stimuli which this class (if it ever in fact runs).

Cyberdash has an interesting 'article' called Moving to the Public: Weblogs in the Writing Classroom

Thursday, August 19, 2004

repeat offender

Continuing from where I left off ...

The attitude of this young man and others like him is very frustrating. Today he gave me some other work he wanted looked at and I again said that I would try to get to it before the end of the day (I really need to stop saying this - "perhaps by tomorrow" would be a better sanity saver?) So sure enough, during periods 5 & 6 as I was collecting some materials for my last class of the day, our man appears at the doorway and, walzing into the office (uninvited, of course), begins to ask questions and basically expects me to drop everything else I am doing and attend to his every need. I am late as it is for my next class and am feeling tired and really over dealing with this student. I mention to him that I am busy at present and that I have another class to teach. He reaction suggests that he does not understand what I am talking about and has not listened to anything I have said. I begin to show my frustration.

I get angry and tell him that I am tired of his rubbish and that I think he is disrespectful and arrogant. He asks me, "Why are you all nice sometimes and then you change all of a sudden?", and "Why do teachers do that? Why are they nice to you and then they change and get all cut?" I think to myself, GOOD FRIGGIN QUESTION, YOU, YOU ... ACADEMIC!

As I think of it now, I smirk and chuckle to myself.

And for that I'm glad.

The problem is that on some level I kind of like this student. But at the same time I want to hit him over the head and say, "We don't need any more people like you in the world, any more stupid white men!"

He will finish school in a couple of weeks and eventually go on to make a lot of money and be influential in business (or something else meaningful and socially, politically, culturally or historically significant).

Well if George Bush can be elected President of the strangest nation in the world, ANYTHING is possible ...

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

congrats marty

Must say 'congrats' to my friend Martine. She found out last night that her play is being put on and that she has a fantastic director (best in the business I'm assured). Well done, M. You deserve everything. You are an inspiration and a fantastic example of a wonderful and committed teacher and writer.

shoot em ups

A student recently gave me a copy of Doom 3 and I have been sucked in. In the last week I have spent a couple of hours shooting things and blowing my cares away! Great stuff if you need a diversion. Unfortunately I DO NOT need a diversion.

Hipteach has the same trouble that most of us do - administrivia. Chin up it only gets worse - and then sometimes better.

Lots of student writing in the last couple of weeks. Some very good and some very BAD (of course). One student (who I have written about previously) in particiular stands out - not his writing unfortunately, but his behaviour and attitude. Over the last 5-6 weeks I have been setting regular writing tasks and workshops - students need to develop at least three and then choose their best two and then take these to a final stage. Most seem able to meet the deadlines and were given copious amounts of feedback - written and verbal. In fact colleagues often react with surprise when they catch sight of a peice of student writing that I have finished drawing and writing all over. I told students that they would receive as much as I could give them on the proviso that they met deadlines and made time to come and see me outside of class time to conference their writing. Our young friend decided not to meet only one of the deadlines and then choose not to use this piece of writing in his choice of two that I would assess. Instead he fronts up to the class writing period (students must complete some writing in class time so we can authenticate their work) with a completely new piece and then expects me to sit and read it right then and there. Problem is all those who took the time and made the effort to get me their writing when I asked for it are also waiting to see me for writing conferences.

So our young friend ends up basically wasting his time sitting waiting for me to have read of his 'pefect piece' (his words). I repeatedly gave him suggestiongs about things he should be doing while waiting, but these are tossed aside like so many day old papers.

Eventually, and against my better judgement, tell him that I will read the piece before the end of the day and that he could collect it from me then. (I have left out all the arguing and back chatting)

So later in the day, I SPEND ABOUT 15-20 MINTUES ON IT and it is basically rubbish about how much he hates another teacher and how hard his life is and how much he is suffering. There is no empathy or understanding of others pains and challenges, only a singly held view of himself and his own world (you will understand that this is the norm for this particular young man). I find some positive things to say (he did spell his name correctly!) and then wait for him to come and get his work.

So later during our discussion he basicall tells me that I don't have the right to tell him what to write, and that I don't understand the pressures that he is going through and that I am not listening to him. He ends with something like - "Well, it's hard when you don't give me any support or help in classtime ... !"

This is it for me. I get quite shirty (!) and ask him to leave. He nods and then, ignoring me, asks another question. I raise my voice for effect and ask him to leave (yes, yes, I might have said that he was an ungrateful little so and so and that he could get the hell out! but mmm ... )

Afterwards I'm left shaking.

Grrrr ...

Saturday, August 14, 2004

turning up the heat

E and i went to see Fahrenheit 9/11 this evening. The rest of the evening has been a little sombre. Whatever else he may be, Moore is a powerful and persuasive filmmaker. For all it's faults, it certainly has the desired effect and leaves one with a heavy heart - for all the rot in this world - and those that try to see things differently.

Here's to the Michael Moore's of this world - and all those who have lost someone or parts of themselves to war in all its forms and wiles.


Thursday, August 12, 2004

the rush begins

The Y12 (Seniors) have about 35 days of school left (and then their exam period), and the rush is on. Those who have refused my offers of outside of class help are now fighting each other off for my attention. It invariable happens - the day of reckoning comes despite all our efforts at putting it to the back of our minds. Those who have studied the art of procrastination are now contemplating life after high school without a decent qualification (not to mention the learning that should, and that occasionally does go along with any higher school certificate!) I have toyed with the idea of recording my earlier comments about the value of a regular work ethic, and then playing these back when one of these students knocks on the staffroom door - I've yet to actually do this, instead I find myself totally talked out by the end of the day. This afternoon I dozed off at my desk (everyone had left for the day and I was daydreaming). I felt a little put out about all this and was reflecting on the strange fact that I drive to work each morning (I realise I should be riding) feeling the infinite possibilities the day has to offer, and then by 3pm I am all hoped out - my head is aching and my throat is hoarse (obviously, I talk to much - or I'm yelling ... )

On top of this my Y7s are in a complete MESS. Now that I share them, it feels as though I see them once maybe twice a week. ABo has had a student teacher too - so the three of us have managed to confuse the crap out of the kids who now have little idea of where they are and what is going on. I'll have to speak to Abo and get this sorted out.

First Research Conversation

My research partner and I conducted (joined - listened - participated in) the first research interview on Tuesday. I was a little anxious at first, or during the the days leading up to the session - generally b/c I have not had enough time to prepare as well as I would have liked - but that's just one of those things ... Anyway, in the end it went off really well. The conversation was lively and rich, open and generally well focussed and critically reflective. I had been concerned about whether or not we would find and be able to promote the kinds of conversations that would be valuable, both to the project and to those taking part. It's big ask to come along to a session like this one after a long day teaching and still be able to offer insights and ideas to a couple of strangers - so I'm really grateful that these excellent teachers saw some value in taking the time to do this.

For some of them it seemed like an opportunity to talk about some of the challenges etc. they were facing vis-av-vis the VIT and the process of registration. Some really honest and frank responses that I'm sure the VIT would rather not hear. And it wasn't all negative talk - some mentioned some 'positives' of the process. Some suggestions were really interesting but perhaps understandable considering the pressure of the process (suggesting a return to expert 'observers' in the rear of the classroom with checklists assessing teacher proficieny!) There were a couple of Monash grads who are from the BD mould - funny how much influence this one person has had over the next generation of English teachers in Victoria - a huge influence - and such a positive one.

Anyway, I need to make some more detailed notes. We have another session tomorrow at another school.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

research moves ahead

I have been meeting with my research partner more reguarly to nut out these interviews we are running for the Portfolio project. I am excited and anxious about all this as our first session is scheduled for Tuesday. We should be ready, but I will need to leave school early this day to make it in time! Next school is Friday, so I'm expecting a busy week. B wants us to spend time after the interviews typing up our own reflections and comments, which will be interesting to compare with the data/transcripts.

All this talk about the VIT registration process has brought my own registration issues to the front of my mind. I need to take care of this ASAP - but I really don't know when. I cannot even remember what it is I'm supposed to do.

I'm hoping that these interviews will lead to some rich discussions and perhaps some opportunities for collaboration and dialogue outside of the project. In fact I've toyed with the idea of using blogging to enable those interested in doing so the opportunity to continue the conversations. I'm not sure how this would operate, but it may be work some thought.

Oh, and Debbie has just let me now that I am now a member of VATE Council. I wonder what I have gotten myself into ... ?

new beginning

E and I moved into our new home last Saturday and have begun to make it feel more like a home. ADSL is back on; bookshelves are getting back together (thank goodness), but the office is going to take sometime to get together. I have taken over the dinner table as a workspace - I hope E is OK with this - all she does these days is work and sleep - the baby is getting heavy.

Tough week at school - had a run in with a Y12 student - swearing etc. I realise that this is always a relative 'problem' - TLL wanted to make it a bigger problem that I thought it was - my biggest concern is the underlying culture of mediocrity that these students have bought into - this is much more distressing than bad language. Anyway, I'm glossing over the details, but it followed me for a few days - and I'm glad to be rid of it. I must admit that I probably lost control and said something that I shouldn't have - I regret this, and will do better. I'm not excusing that, but it's easy to be frustrated when you deal with student immaturity day-in, day-out. Not that all my Y12 are like this - because they are not. Perhaps only 3 or 4 of them (out of 20). But it often drags the whole lot of us down. I have been tougher on this sort of behaviour, but I need to try some different strategies. Most Y12 teachers are in the same boat - 'fighting' student apathy and ambivalence - but NO ONE says anything to anyone in 'student management' b/c they have absolutely no confidence that anything can be, or will, be done.

In other news, KB has taken over CW Y12 class indefinitely. CW is too sick and cannot come back to that kind of stress. At first KB approached me, but in the end decided to take it on herself - this has ment some big changes for her - going fulltime till Y12 finishes (8 or so weeks) and putting pressure on her English Coordination time. Students seem to have responded well and KB is happy about this - there was some concern about them just writing off the rest of their year and blaming the school and CW. It seems as though they have started working again and are even handing in a load of work - much to KB's chagrin.