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Thursday, 9 February 2017

Students leave; you stay.  Except when you leave, too.

The earth is still turning and the stars still come out at night - but for a while it has felt like neither were happening.  And so after a lot of soul-searching, I've decided to take leave of (or leave) teaching.

I will not sound original at all when I say that teaching has drained me in a way I had not thought possible.  Perhaps it's also not original to say that it has also sustained me - but not quite to the same degree.  The cons have become a lot more obvious than the pros, so to speak. Over seven years, I have felt an incremental drain on my personal resources that I'm not willing to endure anymore (and endurance is indeed the right word). Fulltime teaching is a beast that I do not wish to ever ride again.

I want to teach, OH! How I want to! The students are on the 'pro' side; the enthusiasm, passion and thoughts of my students will be dearly and sincerely missed.  But I won't miss the tiredness, the lack of energy for my own daughter, the urge to lie on the couch all weekend (and all holidays, for that matter).  I won't miss the institutionalisation of education. It could be so good!  And yet it's not.

It's really heartening that there are some places that are starting to explore the creative possibilities of education in our time.  I've tried to document a few on this blog, and, throughout my career, I've tried to synthesise some of the ideas I thought were (and think are) really valid. But fulltime teaching of 130 students per year (and then another 130 students the following ... and then another the following ...) does not allow for the creative.  Conversations never really have a chance to develop a richness or a depth when you are busy relating to 130 plus of them. I suspect it can be attempted if you are parttime, and I hope, in the future, to have some sort of experience of that.  I am good at what I do.  I've won awards, had positive feedback. Students are upset that I'm leaving.  And me, too.  But it's a choice that's not really a choice anymore.

I'll miss the diversity group I've been teacher representative for.  But students leave, and you stay. It's an unusual model, watching yourself age each year as students all stay the same.  Year 9's are Year 9's every year.  And Year 13's leave at the end of each year. And you stay. 

So I'm choosing not to stay. I'm going to try and figure out a way that the art and creativity of teaching can endure without the feeling of endurance slowly eating at your humanity and energy.  I don't know how long it will take, but it's important enough to try.

Here's a photo essay of contemplation.  All of these places helped me in my journey towards making this brave decision.  I'm really sad, but I'm sort of happy, too.  And I think once I really leave, in two months, the happiness will be very real and very present.  Like these cows.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Nga Manu Korero Finals in Whangarei

During the last week of Term 3, Ahi Kaitai-Mullane represented our school and region at the Manu Korero National Finals in Whangarei.  To get there, she had to win the Regional Nga Manu Korero competition in Invercargill.  Which she did.  Ahi was representing in the Senior English category, and asked me to attend in support.  I was honoured to do so.

We were also supporting students from Otago Boys' High School, Otago Girls' High School and Kings' High School, who were representing in Senior Maori, Junior English and Junior Maori respectively.

It was wonderful to have students and staff from all four schools come together and work as one.  Too often high schools tend to compete against each other for students.  This was a refreshing change.  If only it could be like this more often! Imagine what could be achieved with collaboration rather than competition.  Anyway, I digress ...

Ahi's prepared speech was very powerful.
You should also watch the support haka from our four schools.  I'm the petrified one hiding in the back behind our very capable students (we had 24 hours to learn it).

We also managed to visit the Treaty of Waitangi grounds, which was pretty special.  I had a real sense of our history there, and it was made extra special by the fact that all Otago schools were on the grounds at the same time practising their waiata.

We had to do the rollercoasters!


Waiata at Waitangi

Our crew at Waitangi

Shae, Chelsea, Hope-Jane, Ahi and Emma represent Logan Park High School and Otakou/Murihiku

Otago schools unite

Whangarei palm trees


Matuas waiting

Waitangi treaty grounds

Where we stayed

More fantastic videos, including Ahi's impromptu speech, can be found here.

The New Zealand Spelling Bee (or 'Let's get Spellbound!')

Last year I won a teaching award through the New Zealand Spelling Bee organisation.  Janet Lucas has worked tirelessly for years to have this competition be the success it is, and last year's competition was the end of an era, so to speak.  Not that anyone knew it then.  Every year I ask students if they want to enter, and every year we have about 10 students sit the written tests, which get sent to Janet and marked.  We seem to have a strong tradition in spelling; in 2014, when I reinvigorated entries from Logan Park (it had fallen off the radar for a couple of years) we had three semi-finalists.  George Sebonadiere actually went on to win the national Spelling Bee after placing second in the regional semi-final.  You can read about George's wins here and here and here and here!

In 2015, we had three students go through to the regional semi-finals, but just missed out; the top two went through and one of our students came third.  This year, two students (repeat semi-finalists!) went through to the final stages.  But this year was different.

This year, the New Zealand Spelling Bee became 'Spellbound', a new TVNZ programme, complete with shiny lights, glitzy sets and Toni Street.  Wowzers!  What followed was two intensive days of 'welcome to television' and invaluable media lessons for the students.

Annie and Hugh, our finalists, were flown up to Auckland and then spent pretty much every waking hour of those two days at the Bruce Mason Theatre.  Hugh made the finals of the finals, but poor Annie had to wait around until 8pm (they arrived at 7am) to compete in here not-quite-final.

It was exhausting and different to what we had expected.  Hugh and Annie can both hold their heads up high.  They competed with grace and dignity and I was really proud to be able to support them up there.

There was a gorgeous sunset on the way home, too.

Monday, 25 April 2016

A question from a student

Today I received an email from a student who is working on a speech for Nga Manu Korero.  I'm sharing it here (and the answer I sent) because it made me articulate my beliefs.  It was pretty cool that the provocation came from a student!

My speech is about building relationships between Maori students and their teachers. I am writing about steps to be taken by teachers and students to build these relationships ... I was wondering if you could explain steps you, as a teacher, take to build relationships with students, especially underachieving and Maori ones. I'm asking you because I have been identifying teachers that have supported and inspired me.

Dear _____,
Great topic!  I think teaching is all about relationships - if you don't have that, you haven't really got anything. If a student can be themselves in your class (rather than leaving themselves at the door) you have a much more inclusive, diverse, interesting environment for everyone. Trust (through relationships) mean students will share, think and hopefully learn in your class!

I'm not sure there is a 'step by step' process that can be applied - relationships, after all, are flexible, fluid things that move and bend with time.  Change is all we can be sure of!  Having said that, these are some things that I've found important:

* Learning and pronouncing names correctly.  If we do this, we make a statement about our intentions - respect, care and integrity.

* Try to find what you have in common.  ANYTHING! Beliefs? Sports? Activities? Stories? This is how we all form relationships - sharing ourselves with others.

* Try to use what students value in their time with you.  Give lots of choice.  If work is relevant students will be motivated to learn.  So ... using you as an example: can we use your Manu Korero speech as an 'oral presentation' assessment for 3 credits? Can we use your drama monologue in any of our work/assessment in class?

Choose a range of texts that challenge as well as offering students chances to feel like they have views/perspectives to offer (if they so choose).  Although I like to try and incorporate Maori texts in class, it can be difficult (especially at senior level, when the stakes are higher).  I think Bernard Beckett, author and teacher, says it really well here:

* Your physical space (classroom) should reflect the students in it.  So lots of work on the walls.  When a physical space feels like YOUR space (as a student) relationships, respect and trust are likely to be stronger.  In a specifically bicultural context, I think it's important to have some reo up on the walls (although with all the building renovations, some of my words are falling off/have been ripped off the walls!)

* Again, in a bicultural context, it's important to use some reo in the class.  It might just be 'whakarongomai' or 'ka kite', but making the effort is important.

* If a student reaches out (conversation, email, whatever) always reply as soon as possible.  This shows a student that you respond when offered a connection point.

* Be as human as you can be.  Be yourself.  Try to connect.  My coffee/tea morning is me trying to access this as a teacher.

I hope that helps.  I have a great book called 'Culture Speaks' that you are most welcome to borrow.  I'll send a second email with some pics of it.  It's full of interviews between Maori high school students and the researchers (Professor Russell Bishop and Mere Berryman) about the stuff you're interested in.  It may help broaden your perspective even further!  If you would like to borrow it, just let me know.  

Ka kite!
Ms L

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Alice Miller School and Candlebark, Macedon (Victoria, Australia) #2

I'm going to post my musings written in Melbourne and Macedon here for you to peruse at your leisure.

Some of this is 'eek! I'm in Melbourne; how exciting' kind of stuff.  Some of it is about education. It's all raw (in that I've only run an eye over it - no hard core editing. So apologies).

The week before I left my student teacher Anne had been playing with haikus with my Year 9 class.  I was obviously affected by her fabulous teaching; I found myself writing haikus as the adventure progressed!

Australia day 1 - or, 13 Haikus

To my left is a bachelor party - they've hired out the whole house next door! Just my luck.  However, I must remember that although it's nearly 11 pm for my body, it's not even 9pm for the revellers next door.  Patience is a virtue and I AM staying in the most religious of places - The Nunnery in Fitzroy (for what that's worth - I could be on Mars right now and not know it: it's dark, warm and I have a bed (yay!)).  I also have ear plugs, so all should be well in Nunnery land.

The day of travel started (as always seems to be the case) with weather drama. Hurricane winds hit Dunedin (150 kms per hour at the height on the Peninsula) and flights were cancelled the night before (and the first flight in the morning because of it).  I was reminded of my trip to Wellington in 2015, to the NZATE English Conference.  It snowed in Dunedin, enough to stop me driving.  At 5 in the morning I trekked down High Street to meet a shuttle (they weren't going up the hills) and triumphantly arrived at the airport, to discover that the flight was delayed indefinitely because of ice on the runway.

This time, power and water cuts meant the Dunedin airport toilets were not flushing and, well, you can imagine. There were also a few grumpy international travellers who had obviously been put up in hotels for the night after cancelled flights.  This meant we had a flash aircraft, with movies, televisions and game selections. Sweet! I watched '45 Years', a film about a marriage of said length and the wife's discovery of her husband's first love pre-her. So, no toilet, but excellent celluloid.

Once in Auckland, things felt normal again (in the travel-zone normal way, I mean).  I had some sushi and a miso to calm body and nerves and reflected on the rough haikus that were starting to emerge subconsciously, thanks to Anne (my student teacher) taking a lesson on them with my Year 9 class.

Haiku 1 (the unintentional)
Stern-jawed Germans and
Perky Koreans bumped from
Cancelled flights.

And from there, they just kept on coming.  Thanks, Anne!  I think I will theme this trip as such.

Haikus in airports #1
Hurricane winds blew
Power was out; trees were downed
Chaos! Cancelled flights!

Haikus in airports #2
You take my water
But do allow my salad.
Land of Sails: Dorkland.

And then my dad replied via social media:

Haiku from Mike
Why leave my home? I
Travel vicariously.
Tell me your stories.

Haikus on planes #1
Woman in seat by me
A seasoned pro with face cream
Applied with vigour.

Haiku in airports #3
Here, it's oven-hot
A flag flicks at the blue air
One star more than us.

Haikus in hostels #1
Small but adequate
Pleasing clean sheets: not so the
Bachelor party.

Haikus in hostels #2
Aussie-voiced girl bleats
Outside my door; she's twenty
Years younger than me.

Haikus in hostels #3
My room by the stairs
Means I don't have the street noise
Trams will not wake me.

Haikus in hostels #4
My room by the stairs
Means I have the footfall noise
Travellers might wake me.

Haikus in hostels #5
No mosquitos yet
I'm surprised! I thought in Oz
Everything eats you.

After some time hanging in the duty free/food/hustle bustle area of the traveller zone (post-customs) I made my way to the gate. 40 minutes early.  It was great! Just me and the psychedelic carpet.

I was surprised at how quickly the flight to Australia passed.  Films helped again, and I indulged my cinematic proclivity with 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl', a Sundance winner from last year or a few years back. Another good choice! Not much to report here, except the young business woman from Melbourne ('well, from Sydney really - home is always where your parents are, isn't it?') who fixed her makeup four times during the flight and briefly read a book entitled 'Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office: Common Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers'. She had a nice photo of her and a man on her phone homescreen, though.  I wonder if he knows Melbourne is not home for her?

I breezed through customs like it was a domestic flight; either I look responsible and trustworthy or they were too damn tired to check people's bags. No X-rays or anything on the checked in luggage, which surprised me.  And then out into the Australian air.

I felt like absorbing the public transport, so jumped on the airport express bus into Melbourne instead of taking a shuttle straight to The Nunnery (hostel).  From the Southern Cross Station, all I had to do was catch the number 96 tram to stop 13 on Nicholson St.  What could go wrong? It was still light and so was my optimism.  However, once off the bus, the tram stops were hard to figure out, and the payment system even more confusing for a first-timer.  Relying on the goodness of humanity, I asked questions of the locals, except the first three sets were all, weirdly, from Geelong.  Apparently the population of Geelong trains up to Melbourne on a Friday night and rides the trams.
Big buildings.

So what with not feeling so successful at being able to tell a Melbournite from a Geelongian, I honed in on a lost looking German girl repeating the same exercise I had gone through minutes before with the 'Myki' machine at the closest Tram stop (no signs in the Southern Cross Station - you would think, but no). 'Myki' is the card for the trams (and the trains, too, I think - but that will need to be confirmed tomorrow) - like the Go Card in Dunedin and the Oyster in London. 'Nice German Girl' and I finally worked out how to do the tram thing (we finally found an ACTUAL person from Melbourne to explain it to us) and we parted ways, hopefully to successfully find our hostels in different parts of the city.

By this point it was getting dark, and I'd been off the airport bus with three bags, a jacket and boots in 27 degrees for nearly an hour trying to figure that next stage out.  The shuttle would definitely have been easier, but probably not as adventurous. And I think I would have spoken to fewer people - I really enjoyed those interactions I had.

The 96 tram pulled up, and on I struggled. Dark falls quickly! Now it was really feeling like a Friday night in Melbourne. Trams are free in the CBD (how choice!) so they're pretty packed, even when you move outside of that zone.

I managed to get off at the right stop, but forgot to reswipe the Myki card (I've been told it might not matter, so good), followed by walking into the bachelor party next to the proper hostel bit ('Nah, it's next door, love' - said in a brash Aussie male accent).

Haikus in the wrong accommodation (a stand-alone)
'You've got the wrong place,'
Said the groom's best man Nigel.
'That one's next door, love.'

And so I leave you, party sounds abating, skin a-cooling, bed a-calling.  Time to find the amenities in this olden day place of worship.  I hope the present-day residents are just as considerate as the nuns of time passed and days gone by! It's pretty soothing thinking about a worshipper living in this room.

Sleep haiku
I hope I don't wake too early
My body needs to rest now
Nighty night; sleep tight.

Airport flag.

Australia day 2 - or, Best Day Ever

Haikus in Hostels #6
Nineteen Nepalese
They come from Sydney to play
National soccer game.

Haikus in Hostels #7
The girl looks Aussie
But when she opens her mouth:
'... from Te Aroha'.

Well, what a day. It started with chatty English lads talking at 5 in the morning, but I didn't mind too much; that's 7am normal time.  So I didn't try too hard to get back to sleep.  Plus, I was keen to start the day.

Breakfast is free in this hostel, which is pretty amazing.  It's top quality breads they offer, too, and cornflakes and fruit.  Yum.  Over breakfast I met the Sydney chapter of Australia's Nepalese community.  They are down here to play in a national Nepalese football tournament.  I learned they are the reigning champions, although I'm pretty sure the chain smoking won't do much for their chances this year.

I left the hostel at about 9am and just started walking.  I walked through the exquisite park opposite the hostel and through to the Museum. Preparations were under way for a fashion show finale for Melbourne Fashion Week.  This city is buzzing with events!  From there I accidentally found myself on Lygon St (Italian food! This was a recommendation from a friend).  I wandered, crossed the road and found a neat Community centre with a library and Tibetan free trade coffee.  I'd like to state here for the record that all Melburnians have been outstandingly polite. I'm quite amazed, actually.  When I've asked for help or for recommendations, Australians are more than happy to oblige.

After a coffee there, I walked west, continuing my free and random explore.  I found myself on the University of Melbourne campus, and really enjoyed the Professor's Walk there.  I think it rivals Otago University as far as beautiful campuses go.
Cool plaques.  And the pink skechers, later thrown out.

I was spat out onto a main road and sort of headed south, wondering where the Victoria Markets might be.  I looked up.  There they were.  And that's the kind of day it was: query, look up, discover.
The markets were unreal.  I entered the food section, and was overwhelmed by the smell of fish and noise.  It was packed! Greeks, Italians, Chinese ... GOODNESS ME I'd find it easy to live here.  I felt a pang of nostalgia listening to the Greek fishmonger selling his wares, and that's indeed what they do. Nothing is passive; it's all yelling and attention seeking..  I was spat out the other side and wandered for a bit through the fruit and vegetable section.  I made a few choice sound recordings today, and here was one of them.  I bought three nectarines, three bananas, a potted of cherry tomatoes and a massive red pepper.  For $2.40.  Oh my word, fruit and veges are cheap.  As are the awful other parts of the market, although I did buy a hat.

I figured I'd best get myself to the Arts' Centre as 'The Silent River' was on at 1.30pm and it was already 12pm. This was the longest and most confusing part of the day, as I had to walk quite a way and Maps didn't take into consideration some impossibilities, like how the heck you get to the other side of the Yarra THROUGH Flinders Station.  I eventually ditched the Maps app and figured out a longer way around, which led to the discovery of the Southbank walk.  Gosh, it reminded me of London's Southbank!

It was another mission trying to find the main entrance to the Arts' Centre, but I finally figured it out.  As I headed for the doors the building next door loomed large, too; the Andy Warhol/Ai Wei Wei exhibition at the National Gallery of Melbourne! Perfect.  That's where I figured I'd head after the show.

The way theatre is treated in this place has to be see to be believed. It was like going to a slightly flasher Rialto cinema, with flashy lights and lots of people.  Again, the locals were so friendly; an older lady asked all about my journey and was very interested in what I was doing.  The art in here was awesome, too.


And then, the show.  it's a hard thing to write about properly at 11.30pm Australian time (my body is screaming for sleep now) so I'll probably save it and give more detail tomorrow.  It was the most moving, affecting theatre I've seen in a very long time (probably/possibly ever) and they well-deserved their standing ovation that went on and on and on and on ...

I was spat out an emotional wreck into the humid and grey air.  It was 4.30pm and the gallery closes at 5pm, so there was no chance of getting to the exhibition today.  I did have a decent look in the design store, though.  Some awesome stuff in there!

And them over the road in another of those 'just look up and the thing you are wondering about will be there' moments, I crossed the road and headed down to the banks of the river again, where walkways were packed tight with bodies for the Moomba festival.  There were lots of rides and attractions here, and I thought of my kids back home - they would have loved that.

But it wasn't really for me, so up the steps I went and headed for Federation Square.  The free wifi that was promised here was no good really, so I moved on fairly quickly down Flinders Street to do a reconnaissance for the John Grant concert tomorrow night.  I think I've figured the trams out (two trams with a crucial connection to be mastered tomorrow).

By now it was near to 7pm, and I was thinking food and rest.  I got brave on the train, and jumped off after I spied a little Indian restaurant from the tram.  The beauty here is the ease with which you can jump on and off the trams without having to pay anymore.  So I jumped off, had a banquet meal and a kingfisher beer, and then jumped back on again!

Haikus from Victoria Market #1
The sound of Greek rolls
naturally off the tongue.
Loving for Hellas.

Haikus from Victoria Market #2
I stand on the heel
of a Greek senior, but
she says: 'is okay'.

Haikus from Victoria Market #3
'One dollar one dol
are one dollar one dollar
kilo banana!'

Australia day 3

Haikus for the Homeless #1
When home is under
A train bridge, what can you do?
Buy 'The Big Issue'.

Haikus for the Homeless #2
Now I see the two
in the bed under the bridge

Day three and I'm so tired I feel like I'm going to pass out.

Today started with another great breakfast provided by the backpackers.  It makes such a difference knowing where your first meal is coming from without having to think about it.
I was in contact with my old friend Nina and we arranged to meet in St Kilda by the beach, but first I wanted to get to ACMI and the Cate Blanchett Manifesto exhibition, and possible Ai Weiwei and Andy Warhol.  Of course, with twelve manifestos, I was never going to get to the other before meeting Nina at 1.30pm.  The exhibition was excellent, but very cerebral and I felt my brain ache trying to fully understand Dogma, Surrealism, Constructivism, Conceptual Art, Dadaism etc etc etc.  It was a wonderful overload.

I jumped on the tram and headed south, which was great having only tootled around the city.  Nina and I met at a funky little cafe down the Main Street.  My word, there are a lot of cake shops in St Kilda! And I couldn't believe how busy it was, way busier than the city (or at least equal to Flinder's Station). We had a great catch up and Nina sounds happy in the suburb that made Kath and Kim famous.  I don't think she'll stay there longer than five years, though.  I bet she marries and has kids very, very soon.

I jumped back on the tram that took me directly to the National Gallery of Vic and Andy and Ai.  After an unsuccessful FaceTime attempt with Aaron, I bought tickets for the exhibition and headed in.  It was pretty surreal seeing the Warhol silk prints that made him famous!  Looking at his art was like viewing a piece of history; that which makes and made us.  Looking at Ai Weiwei's work was like looking into the future.  It was an ingenious decision to exhibit them together.


I was kicked out of there at 5pm with the other plebeians, so I jumped on the 96 tram back to The Nunnery. I ate leftover Indian food from the restaurant meal the night before and then prepared (physically and mentally) to go out again, for it was John Grant night at The Forum!

The venue is a lot like Sammy's in Dunedin; the stage has an amazing proscenium arch.  John Grant looked tired (if you ask me) and he admitted it.  I really loved it, but it was a pretty low key crowd (but appreciative, nonetheless).  I had to ditch John to get on the tram at 10.36, but I heard the first encore song, so didn't miss much.  His drummer was a stand out musician (I think his name was Budgie?) and I felt satisfied with the evening.  Even the trams went as planned! There are so many people around on public transport, it feels more than safe.

Now I'm back in my room after a shower, and I'm going to sleep like a baby.  I'd like to go to Fitzroy and the Museum tomorrow, as well as doing a dummy run to Southern Cross Train Station for early Tuesday morning.  I hope my texts work to Sarita!  I'm just about in the nitty gritty stage of the trip.  Bring it on!

Australia - day 4

Haikus for evenings #1
The frogs hum their song
as we dance on and off trams
It's safe as houses.

Haikus in Brunswick #1
The accented girl
Stutters over my order
'It es my first day'.

Haikus in Brunswick #2
Frustration sets in
No op shops to be found here.
Then there was 'Savers'.

Haikus in East Brunswick #1
This place, a shithole,
Like 'Depressed in Preston'. Tram:
I randomly exited.

Day four ... and my energy is waning.  Not so when I first woke: shower, breakfast, bag preparations, exit.  I decided to go exploring in Fitzroy today, so I headed out on foot (yesterday was more of a tram day than Saturday-the-mega-walking-day, so I figured walking again would be good. Today was Labour Day in Australia - a public holiday - so very little was open when I started to wander. But Fitzroy has some cool shops; I just couldn't get in to them.  After a frustrating hour or two wandering around, I jumped on the East Brunswick tram to see where it would go.  It started to look a bit dire and run down (and depressingly suburban) so I jumped off.  I experienced my first rude Australian getting on the tram; he was wearing grey marle trackies and looked like he had a hard life in suburban Melbourne, so I'm trying not to hold it against him.  But it seemed to set the tone for the day.  East Brunswick is not where I wanted to be, so I walked to Brunswick (that took about 25 minutes).  It didn't feel unsafe or anything, just depressed and suburban.  My idea of hell.  But it was good to see a different side to Melbourne, again.  I say again, because of the homeless folk I saw in the city. They were mostly under the bridges over the Yarra river.  It's a hard thing to walk on by, but what can you do?  I bought a 'Big Issue' at least, but even that felt tokenistic.

Vintage shop. Closed. Sob.

As I turned the corner into funky Brunswick, Savers beckoned me as a church would an evangelist.  Savers is Australia's version of Savemart and, while it wasn't a REAL Opshop, at least it was second hand clothing. The afternoon started to look better.  After an hour or so there, I found a cafe and sorted out food and drink needs.  I jumped on a tram back towards the city and managed to get off at a place that meant I could walk back to the hostel.

Dinner was a souvlaki at the local Greek joint in Fitzroy (another box ticked, although I would have loved to have seen the Greek precinct in the city.  Oh well, you can't do everything in three days!) which was pumping at 6pm - restaurants and music; it was very different to the early morning!

And now I pack for Macedon and phase two - the great educational unknown! After three days in my own world, I'm feeling a little nervous about the hardcore interacting and socialising I'll be doing.  But anyone can do anything for four days - amIright? It still feels strange that I've organised this trip and visits to these schools from a spontaneous idea.  I hope the spontaneity pays off!

PS Apparently I'm looking for the boy with the blue hair and following him.  It's sounding like my kind of place already.

Australia - day 5

It was an early rise today: 5.30 am to catch the 6.26 am tram to the station.  I bade farewell to my little Nunnery room, and off I went.  On arrival at the station there was the usual confusion (for me) regarding the myki card and where to touch it to ensure I had a valid ticket, but after that initial confusion - I'd allowed myself half an hour for such things between tram and train - I settled in, ready to rock, banana walnut bread and flat white in hand.

'Made in Victoria for Victorians.'

Haikus on the train to Macedon #1
The man sits; his case
a transportable work kit
He will gain an hour.

Haikus on the train to Macedon #2
They say it's easy
But I still don't know how the
Damn Myki pass works.

Haikus on the train to Macedon #3
Waiting to depart
The sky lightens like paintwork
An ice-cool palette.

Haikus on the train to Macedon #4

The Chinese Gardens
 have a thirty feet statue.
The gate looks like home.

I was greeted at the station by Sarita with a warm hug and an outgoing Aussie accent.  She is a dancer and moves like one, be it to explain something or to open a fridge door.

Dylan was the born-in-New-Zealand-to-Kiwi-
parents-but-moved-to-Oz-aged-four blue-haired boy I was told to look out for.  I had several conversations with him throughout the day - a cool kid really into drumming and music.

I met Anne, the VCE English and Drama teacher and learnt that our English is two subjects - English and Literature; Drama is also two subjects - Drama and Theatre Studies (the former being the study and creation of non-naturalistic forms of theatre; the latter realistic study and discussion, but not much performance necessary).  I was so privileged to participate in a 'whoosh' Romeo and Juliet for junior drama, discussion on Tim Winton's book/short story cycle 'The Turning' (my Year 12 level/Year 11) and persuasive text analysis/writing with (my level) Year 11(Aussie Year 10).  I also got to sit in on Skye's Philosophy class (Year 12 NZ - although a Year 11 student was in that class, too).
The timetable for Term 1

The school has just started up, and is finding its feet (as any new school would!) I think the evolution will be amazing: there are fabulous people in charge/teaching here.

After school, I was so blessed to be hosted by Sarita at her amazing home on Mount Macedon. I wandered up amongst the Eucalyptus trees, feeling like I was really NOT in New Zealand.  It is so good for the soul to see other forms of beauty.  Again, I'm struck by the human needs for both adventure and security.
Sarita's house in the Macedon ranges.

Australia - day 6

Today I presented my mihimihi at the staff meeting.  I ran through a few things about myself and the prize. 
I've been super lucky with Anne and her generosity with her classes.

Educational reflections: the kids are cool.  But fairly similar to our lot at Logan Park.  The big difference is the lack of pressure over uniform, hair and jewellery.  Students are not concerned about pushing boundaries in this way, obviously, as they have no boundary here.  It's really neat.  Ditto students and staff mixing in the kitchen/cafeteria, and calling staff by their first names.  Teaching has been comparable to Logan Park - the culture here is similar to the culture we have (but of course, we're bigger). Fees are $12000 a year (so $250 a week). This means some kids simply can't afford to go to Alice Miller.  I don't have a comparison with other Australian schools, but imagine they're not too far from what we have in New Zealand.

Students at this school seem to have a confidence or a willingness to 'do the work', even if it's challenging.  I'm thinking of a senior drama session I watched today and the writing the Year 10 (NZ Year 11) were doing.  Students are still working out what to bring to each class, and not having an indication of movement time (change of class) can mean some students are a bit tardy.  But not in a problematic way at all.

Funnily enough, one of the biggest reflections I've had (today in particular) is the role access to nutritious food has on a student's mental state.  The lunch food is ALWAYS out and it's great stuff - avocados, cheeses, crackers, wraps, lettuce, tomatoes,watermelon, rockmelon, bananas, apples etc. No student has to worry about where or when they will next be fed as it's right there and they can access it between classes and at lunchtime.  This means kids are really even and happy.  And teachers, as well.  Knowing that's there makes a real difference.
The kitchen.  I didn't get any food photos! Fail.

Tonight I'm feeling homesick for the first real time since I left.  It's taken 5 days, but it's happened!  I'm also thinking about my classes, rocking on without me.  That's weird.  
The classes here are very small (8 in Year 12 Drama, 10 in Year 12 English) and while that sounds pretty good, it's a really different dynamic.

I wandered around the grounds after school today, and discovered the soccer pitch amongst the Eucalyptus trees - amazing! It was hot today, and I really enjoyed the dry, Australian air. The weather has only been hot a few times over the 6 days I've been here.  the mild grey days in Melbourne were pretty Dunedin, actually.

There are two WOOFers staying in the cottages here at Candlebark tonight. They've been here for a while (well, she has - he's just up for a few days).  She is French and he is English.  They are both so very young.  Or I am now old, I'm not sure. Anyway, it means the thoughts I had about space and time and no conversations are evaporating.  I'm not really going to get that space until I'm home.

Only two days to go - one at Candlebark tomorrow, and then a final day at Alice Miller, before heading in to see the play 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' with the school.  Then I get myself to The Nunnery for my final evening alone before another early morning on trams, buses and planes (no trains this time). And home. Home, home, home.

Only four haikus today:

Haiku at Candlebark #1
Cockatoos fly free
Frogs chirrup their songs with joy
A hard day closes.

Haiku at Candlebark #2
The young couple are
Frying sausages without
the windows open.

Haiku at Candlebark #3
I even miss the
Nunnery with its city
vibes and low key air.

Haiku at Candlebark #4
I can see the plane
In my mind's eye; I'm boarding
and waving farewell.

This video is footage from a morning meeting at Alice Miller.  A student was running it and played a DJ set.  What a fabulous way to start the day's learning/teaching/being.

Australia - day 7

I woke after a great night's sleep, although getting rid of the fried sausage smells was pretty intense - lots of tea towel waving and I found the fan (why they didn't use it when cooking I do not know!).  Thank goodness they went out after dinner until about 1am, which meant I could deal to it. I woke, showered and had breakfast outside on the bridge, which was where I had listened to the frogs making so much noise last night.  Then I made my way up to the school.

Andrew was the first teacher to welcome me there, and I immediately liked him.  He was a Candlebark parent first; both his kids went to Candlebark and are now at Alice Miller.  Before becoming a teacher, he worked at the Melbourne Museum.  He was running the morning meeting (at which different teachers and/or students teach or tell the school about some aspect they know about or are interested in).  He told us about bones, and how they are cleaned!  Because that flesh has to come off somehow!  It was a very cool way to start the day and, even better, it was in the beautiful library.  John (Marsden) then introduced me to the school and made me feel very welcome. I wasn't sure how he felt about me sitting in on his class and being at his schools, but today he was really gracious.  After school as I was waiting for the bus he also took the time to ask how my day had gone.  And he said 'you look a little sunburned' to which I replied 'no, I'm just naturally ruddy'. LOL!
The Australian government likes to make it really clear.

I ended up following a group of Year 4/5s (NZ) around for the day, which was pretty cool.  Kids are kids are kids, but there's definitely a confidence in some of them that must come from attending such a supportive/human/nurturing school.  There's still the kids that find it hard to focus and have autism and are on the asperger's spectrum, but the school is a neat place to have these issues! It's the confidence that I mostly noticed.
Walking the 1000 hectares.

Again, I reckon always having food around when you need it makes a child's whole day different.  And, the thing I haven't mentioned yet - the cleaning at the end of the day.  It's really really really cool.  Kids know it's there responsibility and get on and do it. It was amazing seeing 100 primary school kids get stuck into their various jobs at 3.05pm (cleaning is 25 minutes at the end of the day).  There are heaps of animals at Candlebark, too.  Pigs, horses, cows, kangaroos ... yes! I saw my first ever kangaroos last night, and then, when walking at lunchtime, more in the bush! That was very exciting and I felt like I truly was in Australia.
What else ... walking through the the bush to the abandoned house 30 minutes away was a real highlight.  The bush is amazing - eucalyptus trees for acres and acres.  It's no wonder that bushfires spread so rapidly.  They look like kindling waiting to be thrown on a flame.
Today I was confronted with the idea that kids can't do English without drama.  That is, the visual telling of the story is a way that some kids have to enter a story.  I agree, but I'm not sure it's absolutely vital, but I'm going to muse/think/reflect on that a bit more.  Obviously it's  John's (Marsden's) theory, too, because it was the crux of his two hour lesson the other day.
I'm not as homesick tonight as I was last night, which is great. I'm back at Sarita's tonight, and it feels like home, which helps.  Well, like a home when you're at someone else's house.  Not home like home!

Tomorrow will be both my last school day and last day in Australia.  On Saturday I catch my flight to Christchurch at 9 in the morning and then it's just a hop, skip and a jump back to Dunedin. It's a pretty big day tomorrow though, as I'll be at Alice Miller all day and then am going with the school to a play in the centre of Melbourne!  I'm not sure how I'm getting back to the Nunnery, but I'm sure it will work itself out.

Until Day 8, Ka kite!
The amazing library at Candlebark.

Australia - day 8

Last day at Alice Miller and the play and the Nunnery.

It's amazing how after only three days in a school I'm starting to feel like I know the kids and can help them with ... stuff!  The Year 10 class (NZ Year 11) are working on persuasive text analysis and it's exactly the same as Unfamiliar text stuff at home.  So I've felt like a helpful person in this class, working with students one-on-one to put their essays together. I know stuff about this and can help!  That's a really great feeling.

I've taken a break this period to ensure I do some writing about today - it's pretty full-on otherwise as I'm going to 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' tonight with the school.  That's a play based on a book that is set in this area (apparently it's pretty famous - I feel like I've heard the title before, but I don't know anything about it). Plus, let's be honest, it means I'm in the kitchen when the food comes out for lunch - lunches are amazing here! There are two lunch sessions most days, and the second session tends to be more dregsy than the first (for obvious reasons).

I've thrown out my pink Skechers - the most comfortable shoes in the world!!! - because they got drenched lasts night in the rain.  They were starting to fall apart anyway, and I'll happily buy some more when I'm back in NZ.  But I do feel a little bereft.  In fact, the sun has now started to emerge from the consistent rain of last night and this morning, and I wondered if I could dumpster dive (well, rubbish bin dive!) and retrieve the shoes.  Desperado.

Last night's weather was incredible - thunder that rolled on for minute upon minute, and flashes of lightning.  It felt very different to a New Zealand thunderstorm!  I've made some pretty cool recordings whilst I've been here, and that was one of them (at 2 in the morning.)

Haiku at Alice Miller on the final day #1
The sky is grey but
My heart is not. Teaching is

Haiku at Alice Miller on the final day #2

Teens are all the same
Regardless of birth country
Whole school photo at the theatre on my last night.

Ka kite Melbourne.  Catching the 96 tram on the morning of my departure.