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Benign Chicanery [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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(no subject) [Jul. 9th, 2011|09:20 am]
I'm going through a lot of stuff right now. It's liberating, exhilarating and terrifying but a long time coming.

I am having swings between mild despair and positivity. I am in a positive stage right now, because I feel the most ok about myself I have in memory, I think. I'm surprised at the wonderful friendships I have cultivated that are helping me through. That's a pretty cool thing to realise.

I realise all this is pretty vague right now. I hope to be more explicit in future.
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Change in posting frequency and style [Sep. 1st, 2010|07:05 pm]
I'm going to try to start using this journal as a teaching reflection outlet. I need somewhere to vent frustrations and reflect on what's happened during the day and what I want to do better. This may not be the best place for it (I find LJ's archiving annoying), but we'll see.

This might get boring or clog up friends pages, so I thought I'd give you all a heads up.

If you'd prefer me to put that stuff on a friends filter, just comment any time. I still might occasionally post non-work related stuff (my posting is occasional enough as it is at the moment) - but mostly I'm using twitter now. This might change at any time, of course!
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Update [Jun. 18th, 2010|11:27 am]
I can't believe it's been nearly three months since I got my job! It's been a wonderful time. I've been sick a fair bit with viruses and infections of all kinds (kind of to be expected as a beginning Early Childhood teacher, especially in a setting where you're in such close contact with the kids). I've been feeling a bit crap about missing so much work, but I had a lovely call from my new co-teacher last night saying how much the kids miss me - apparently she got in trouble yesterday for not "pausing" a story she was reading to let a child go to the toilet - they said that "CAM always lets us pause!!". I find that really gorgeous because for one I don't always let them do that, and secondly that's the stuff they were pulling on me when I started about their old teacher ALWAYS letting them play instead of doing work etc. The first time I was sick for a few days I came back to work to find all these get well notes from them on the wall. I miss my little babies!

By far the best part about this job is the genuine relationships I can build with children. I can give hugs when they've hurt themselves or are upset, I can take the time to explain the reasons why I won't let them do something. Nearly every situation has resulted in them understanding and agreeing -  kind of amazing when it's so easy to think of children as unreasonable by default (and needing to be told) in the mainstream system. We've had a few meetings about issues that have come up and they are so good at discussing their concerns and coming up with solutions (with guidance, of course).

My planning sessions on Fridays have been really valuable. I now feel cautiously confident with the process of kids learning to read. It's pretty fascinating and complex, and so exciting to teach and experience.

The other staff have been wonderful so far. They are so supportive and aware of my situation: being a beginning teacher, earning how to do Early Childhood, the first time in an alternative environment, and with a big class for this kind of system (18 kids). The parents have been by and large pretty amazing too. I have had more than one comment of "we're so glad you're here, Cam".

There have of course been rough patches - difficulties with parents, challenging children and the pressures of sometimes mixed messages about what the school is about and how they do things - nothing I'm not coping with, though.

Stable job has meant a car and a cat, as well. I need the car to get to work, unfortunately, but it's certainly opened up a lot of freedom for other times.

Also cat! He is ADORABLE. He's 14 and from an acquaintance who had to move into a retirement home. He has settled in beautifully after a few weeks of cat wee roulette and odd behaviour. Now he's just an attention-whore-cuddle-bunny who loooooves us. He's a black shorthair and looks a bit burmesey and I LOVE HIM. Pic here: http://twitpic.com/1mvfkl He isn't actually as big as he looks there.

Oh also! I have been performing improvised comedy. It is less comedy than it is improvised. The first week was terrifying but now it's just awesome fun. My peak so far has been as a singing bartender, solving such problems (through song) as being chased by Ninjas, being left at the altar and having an uncontrollable left hand. The solutions? Apologise for urinating in that priceless vase, marry the barfly woman next to me and have me administer acupuncture in your left buttock.
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Life update as promised [Nov. 11th, 2009|06:42 pm]
Career stuff is going pretty well. I had a 7-week contract back in August, at a school very close by, with a delightful Year 6 class. They liked me (even the cool boys!), I liked them. The deputy principal of the school gave me a shining reference, too. I had a great time on that contract - I looked forward to going to work. I organised myself so that I did all my work at school and had evenings free. It's the most confident I've ever felt about my vocation.

This term I haven't had any contracts apart from a 6-dayer. I've been doing relief teaching but haven't really been getting as much as I would like. I thought given the schools fighting over me last term I'd be fine for work this term - maybe I need to do another drive-around, or preferably, ring-around.

The principal of the school where I do most of my relief teaching (and have done 2 contracts) told me she's very keen to have me there next year on a year-long contract. The district office has control over permanent positions, and since I haven't listed on my application form that I am willing to go anywhere in the state, I am unlikely to get a permanent position. That's fine with me. A year-long contract would be perfect. Sam is tied to Brisbane for two years with his PhD, and after that he's thinking of applying for post-doc positions overseas, so I don't know that I want to be in a permanent job at the moment. 

Anyway, she says she can't guarantee anything, but she's doing everything she can. I've applied for two specific private school jobs so far, and have another couple on my things-to-do list. I'll also apply to do a Graduate Certificate in the middle years of schooling (Years 6-9 approximately) part time, in case that all falls through. I've found I really like teaching Years 5 and up, and it's an area that's becoming more common as a focus. I might do something in science or maths as well, or both, not sure yet.

I'm still weighing up what I want to do long-term. I know I want to be in education somehow, so I'm pursuing experience there (just like the beginning of the year). I have bursts of ideas often (psychology, linguistics) but I'm not ready to leave teaching yet.

Career is my focus at the moment. I'm missing socialising a bit, but that should change in upcoming weeks.

Sam and I have just booked a 6-day trek at the end of the year through the Tarkine rainforest in Tasmania. I'm really looking forward to it but have to train a bit - 15kg packs, 9km a day. I miss contact with nature and am hoping the trip will be restorative in a lot of ways. We're doing the usual family Christmas thing in Sydney, too.

This post was a bit boring. I'll try to write more often, but friends are gradually drifting away from LJ in favour of Twitter and Facebook. I have some issues with Twitter and I do a bit of cross-posting to Facebook, but I still like LJ.
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(no subject) [Oct. 19th, 2009|03:20 pm]
I think I need to start journalling again. I like LJ because of the threaded comments.

Should I do a life update y/n?
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Teacher pay is a feminist issue [Aug. 13th, 2009|11:33 am]
Originally posted on my Tumblr. Sam reposted it on his blog Public Polity.

The low salary of a primary school teacher is one factor causing me to rethink my involvement in the profession. I’ve been thinking about why teachers are paid so poorly.

Think about labour that has historically been classified as women’s work: Teaching (especially early years and primary school), nursing, maintaining a home, childrearing and cleaning. All of this essential labour is still predominantly performed by women, much of it unpaid or poorly paid.

The feminist movement has seen women demand that this work be valued and, where appropriate, paid accord to its value. Australian society is behind on valuing and remunerating teaching in particular, and I suspect the historical devaluation of women’s work is a contributing factor.

I’m also wondering whether the level of teacher pay at the moment is a legacy of how much women were willing to work for in the following (simplified) historical scenarios:

Young, unmarried woman teaches primary school to keep herself until she gets married
Mother of grown-up children returns to teach to keep herself occupied while husband works to keep family fed
Wife with school-aged children finds teaching has the perfect hours to supplement husband’s main income
Much has changed since these scenarios became all but history. Teaching is increasingly complex. I am expected to cater to 28 individuals’ emotional, academic and social needs, working almost all of the time as the sole adult in the room. Teachers must be counsellors, health professionals, parents, IT experts and special educators – not in a romanticised metaphorical sense, but in the most concrete. Who would do this job, given its status, salary and severe stressors?

The teachers I have worked with have been extremely dedicated and likely to burn out, people who do the minimum to get by, or people who lie somewhere in between. None of these positions are good for students or society. Teachers need the conditions and reward to make the profession sustain those people who are best at the job.

Society at large and the government that reflects and creates it must get past its false idea of teaching and face the reality: Teaching gives birth to every other profession. Teachers are custodians of the future in an extremely literal sense. Women aren’t going to do your thankless work for peanuts any more, so start paying women (and men) to do it properly.
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To my U.S. friends [Jun. 21st, 2009|05:09 pm]
 Sam and I sometimes play guitar and flute together. For years we've giggled at the title of a medieval Scottish piece we play called "Whip my Toudie".

Now I've reached breaking point: I must know what a toudie actually is.

Google only found this article which may shed light:http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-870364_ITM
but the crucial piece of information is only available to people in the US with library barcodes. Please, anyone from the U.S.,  help us out and bring us the light of knowledge.
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What my Year 3 students thought of me [Apr. 30th, 2009|07:37 pm]
I gave the Year 3s some evaluation questions. Here are the most interesting answers I received. In brackets, I added what the student said when I asked the questions verbally.

Warning, contains moderate course language from a 7-year-oldCollapse )
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Things that have made me happy recently [Apr. 27th, 2009|09:03 pm]
  • Wearing long, snuggly pyjama pants for the first time since September.
  • Watching Dexter with Sam and Luisa while eating rosemary chips, raspberry hearts and apple lollies.
  • My new couch, comfy as a big supportive cloud.
  • Overhearing my Year 7 boys discussing how I was the best teacher they'd had this year, then hearing them deny it and blame each other when I asked if they were talking about me.
  • Lending an understanding ear to friends.
  • Extended kitty stays on my lap.
  • Going crazy taking kitty photos with my new camera.
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April career update [Apr. 12th, 2009|08:33 pm]
Thursday marked the end of a 3 week contract teaching Year 3. It was exhausting, rewarding, crazy, and I learned a lot. It was at a really great state school very close by, 30 minutes door to door when I took the bus. The principal is excellent and the staff friendly and generous - everything you could want in a school. They offered me another contract, 5 weeks at the beginning of next term with a 6/7 class. Thankfully I went to uni with the guy who taught them the majority of this term (the teacher is on personal care leave that will possibly be extended even further beyond my 5 weeks). He said you couldn't wish for a better class. I went down to introduce myself and they seemed a lovely bunch. Apparently they can't wait to have me as their teacher, especially the girls! They've had two different male teachers this year so far.

The Year 3s knocked me around a bit. I became quite fond of them, and they worked hard for me and achieved a lot. I think I was too soft on them though, at the expense of my sanity many days. I suffered constant tattling about anything from the person sitting next to them not writing neatly enough to serious bullying and nastiness. I also felt like full-time mother to 23 needy children, hearing every minute of the day it seemed about extremely minor injuries that I couldn't do anything about. I certainly tried to give my attention to students who needed it the most at any given moment, both personally and academically, and it seemed that I succeeded. I just went insane in the process, and had a few crackdowns.

Here's what I learned:
  • set expectations way more clearly than I think I need to - behaviourally and academically, at the beginning of each day and task.
  • be firmer, for my own sake
I'll write more about what I learned in my next post, where I'll share some of the feedback I got from the kids. At the end of my internship last year I gave the students a sheet asking them questions about what they learned, what was too hard, what they liked/didn't like about the work and about me as a teacher. I've found it to be so valuable, and reassuring above all. More later!
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