Sunday, August 21, 2005

The highs make it all worthwhile...

Typing up feedback for my year 12's on their writing folio SAC today has reminded me that I need to remember the wonderful moments that are still happening in my professional life, even when life has become a little tougher than usual.

It is my year 12's personal writing folio pieces in particular that bring this home to me. We don't draft the writing folio pieces at my school (yes, I want to change this, too)but I had some wonderful discussions with my students about their writing process- conversations that have been one of the major highlights in my year. Consequently, their statements of intention (the only thing I'm allowed to look at and discuss with them) are works of art that convey to me the students' level of engagement in their writing and the fruit that has come from our discussions as my students have experimented and succeeded with interesting structures and complex imagery and symbols. It will be interesting to see how my students' statements are received during crossmark tomorrow, as they are quite a bit longer and more detailed than usual. Then, there are the pieces themselves...

H's piece, for example, who has reflected on an important family tradition- the making of the Christmas pudding. Her narrative begins with an image of a tattered scrap of paper, bearing the precious recipe, on a ship bound from Ireland six generations ago. Her descriptions of the present family festivities are connected with the voice of her grandmother, the family figurehead, with snippets of the recipe to show the passing of time. I love the image she creates of her grandmother and great aunt, as children, leaping up to tap the puddings while they bob gently to and fro in the laundry. H is my patriot- her notion of 'Australianness' oozes from her writing- the love of the bush, Banjo, Lawson and brumbies that she has inherited from her father.

Then there is D, my scruffy little soccer player, who writes the most beautiful, evocative prose that you would never expect to come out of this quiet, but cheeky boy (I wish I could write like him). Until this year, he has gotten C's in English, which flabbergasted me until he explained, "I just never tried before now, Miss". I can't understand how he has managed to hide his lovely prose, though. He writes about sky diving- the rush that allows him to break free and reflect on his day to day existence.

L is a wonderful percussionist, one of the best in the state for his age, and of course writes about his love for music in his writing folio. He begins with a series of drumming terms, syncopated and scattered across the page, before describing his love for music. He uses the metaphor of a small child, that he must nuture and care for, feed with hours of practice, commitment and responsibility to allow it to grow. It is his best piece for the year, because he is writing about his passion, and I have enjoyed talking about music and this piece of writing with him.

J is intense, a scientist, who stresses over calculating enter scores and wanting to get everything 'right'. Her descriptions of the rural university that she longs to go to is juxtaposed with what she sees as the cold architecture and bustling hub of Melbourne that could steal her away from her roots. Love and respect for the rural landscape comes across in many of my students' writing. I have always loved the city, but I occasionally envy the memories and experiences many of my students have of waking up to the sound of kookaburras and looking out the bedroom window to see gently rolling hills.

K spontaneously hugs me after every sac result she gets back, grateful for C+'s. She struggles to fit her ideas and words into a tightly structured text response essay. She has written a lovely narrative, though, describing her relationship with her art teacher, her mentor, and reflects on the way in which 'stray paint drops' can allow her to create and explore her own identity. This has been a particular triumph.

There are many other students, of course, too many to describe in this space. I need to make sure that I don't forget that they are the real reason why I teach, they are ones that I really want to spend time with each day (well, most of the time). I don't know why my short career still seems to consist of these perilous lows and exultant highs- never anything in between. It's kind of exhausting! It seems to match my interior- I think that I mostly come across as fairly calm and placid, but that really only hides the turbulence within. Still, as long as I keep having these highs, then I think I must be doing okay. At least I know I teach the most wonderful students in the world (and don't even think about arguing with me).

Saturday, August 13, 2005

What kind of girl am I?

Of course, no one can really define me through the use of a quiz (or anything, really). But, if there's anyone out there who wants to cook me dinner, perhaps they should visit this site!

What is your world view?

You scored as Postmodernist. Postmodernism is the belief in complete open interpretation. You see the universe as a collection of information with varying ways of putting it together. There is no absolute truth for you; even the most hardened facts are open to interpretation. Meaning relies on context and even the language you use to describe things should be subject to analysis.



Cultural Creative














What is Your World View? (updated)
created with

Sunday, August 07, 2005


If only Howard and Bush had inquiring minds...

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Inquiring Minds

I'm about to solve all the problems of the world in a single blog. Or, at least, I will start to make sense of some of mine, and hopefully those of a few others, as well.

I've been trying to figure out for ages how to 'create' the professional environment that I want to work in. I have a few 'strategies' that I am working away at, but it's not easy. I have often felt frustrated by the way that I can experience a few wonderful, fulfilling professional relationships and still not feel like that is enough, because I want everyone to experience these kinds of relationships.

Driving home from MU yesterday, I figured out what the 'common denominator' is in the fulfilling professional relationships I have, and the mysterious absence in all the other collegial relationships that I want to develop further. Are you ready for this? It's a real doozy... The answer is:

A shared love of inquiry

That's it! Saw open everyone's skulls and pour in a splash of inquiry, and the world would suddenly be a better place.

I've come up with a list of factors that are particular to these 'relationships of inquiry', based on my relationship with my year 12 partner:

1. A willingness to listen,
2. The confidence to admit one's own weaknesses and gaps in knowledge,
3. A willingness to share your ideas and understandings
4. Having confidence in the other member(s) to question and think critically about what you have to offer,
5. A willingness to question and be critical of your own practices,
6. Having confidence in each other (and giving each other the occasional supportive pat on the back)
7. A desire to learn,
8. A desire to learn together,
9. An ongoing collaborative process that you reflect on together from time to time, to see what good things are springing from it, and,
10. TIME to talk with each other.

So, that's my preliminary definition of a relationship of inquiry, collaborative inquiry, or whatever you choose to name it. That's all you need, really. It's not about agreeing about everything, or even necessarily having a similar perspective- my colleague and I certainly don't agree about everything, but we agree about enough things- the shape of our learning processes being at the top of the list. It's only a very rough first draft- I'll probably add to it and refine it over time. I'd be keen to hear what others out there think of it.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Mis(s) adventures in the Maccas drive thru...

Driving home from parent-teacher interviews and feeling a bit peckish, I decided to detour via the local macca's drive thru...

Cashier: Hi, what can I get you?

NB: A cheeseburger happy meal, thanks.

Cashier: Would you like a boy's toy or a girl's toy with that?

NB: (silently thinking) Oh... my... god... She's joking, right? What century are we living in? Post feminism era, gender equity... and good old maccas still thinks that it's ok to have separate toys for boys and girls. Why not ask me if I want a skateboard or a pony? But a boy's toy or a girl's toy? And I suppose it's not difficult to guess which one would be pink and which one's blue... I can't wait to tell my year 10's when I see them next- they've been discussing binary oppositions and stereotypical representations of masculinity and femininity. They'll be outraged...

(after a definite pause)

NB: (aloud, with a nonchalant wave of her hand) Whatever.

(The cashier hands her the girl's toy- a stuffed pony.)

* * *

Then, to add insult to injury, I stop at traffic lights and a dimmy van full of confident young lads decide that they need to roll down the window and wink and wolf whistle at me to prove how masculine they are. I won't tell you what I felt like telling them they could do with their 'boy toys'...

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Thought for the day?

"We don't know what women's vision is. What do women's eyes see? How do they carve, invent, decipher the world? I don't know. I know my own vision, the vision of one woman, but the world seen through the eyes of others? I only know what men's eyes see."

-Vivianne Forrester (What Women's Eyes See)

At the moment, I'm not even sure I know my own vision...