Friday, February 29, 2008

Home from Year 7 Camp

I have not been on a school camp for a number of years and forgotten how satisfying they can be but exhausting too of course.I have just returned from 2 nights and 3 days from a Year 7 camp at a very comfortable permanent camp site by the bay. There are expert instructors on site who offer a number of fun and exciting specialised activities for the students such as a high ropes course and snorkeling. Teachers also run less demanding activities like archery and sports activities. In spite of my advanced years I managed all my designated activities quite satisfactorily and had some great chats with students.The sort of relaxed atmosphere that you never get at school. Our students were very well behaved and I got to know my own yr7 English class so much better. I've finally sorted out all their names and made friends with even the quietest ones.

Me as a Writer!

My year 11 English class will be starting their first writing piece next week for their Creating and Presenting Folio - based on the lyrics of Paul Kelly.they asked me if I could produce a sample piece of writing for them and I came up with a biography of a family member as an example of informative writing. It was fun to write and I include it here for your possible interest.

Paul Kelly Inspired Writing Folio Piece no 1

Statement of Explanation :

It was mainly Deeper Water that gave me the idea for this piece of informative writing:

On a crowded beach in a distant time

At the height of summer see a boy of five

At the water’s edge so nimble and free

Jumping over the ripples looking way out to see

My Intended audience: Members of my family who would be very interested to read about Stanley’s life. Also my yr11 English students to give them a sample of the sort of writing they could do for this first Writing piece on informative writing.

My Purpose in writing this biography is to provide a brief over view of Stanley's life – to highlight the huge changes he had to undergo as a child – both geographically and emotionally. I want to also focus on how much he has achieved in spite of the obstacles he faced. Stanley has always displayed a passionate attitude to life, his family and his environment. He has never taken anything lying down and has always been a fighter – so I see him as a sort of a protester. (Our theme for Yr11 is "Passion and Protest". )

One Man’s Journey

Stanley was born in Alexandria, Egypt, the year after World War 2 ended. He lived in the bustling and multicultural city of Alexandria, home to expatriate Greeks for centuries. His family were in fact relatively recent arrivals. His father had come as a child from Turkey – escaping the excesses and violence of the new Turkish nationalism. His mother’s family had arrived in a more gentle and circuitous manner from the nearby islands of Chios and Cyprus.

Stanley was an only child for his first six years of life and was much adored and cherished by his parents, only surviving grandmother and a lively extended family. A sweet and well behaved child he was happy to welcome a tousled haired mischievous little sister, Tina, who was born in 1952.

Frequent trips to the nearby ocean beach, grandly named Camp Caesar (in honour of Julius Caesar who set up camp there when he was courting Cleopatra) developed in young Stanley an enduring love of the sea and surf. He was also treated to excursions to the mainly American cinema by his twin cousins. Other highlights of his Egyptian childhood were being spoilt by kindly Arab servants and eating treats of salami and olives from his Uncle’s grocery store, situated on the ground floor of the family apartment building. He attended a Greek school where he also learnt French and Arabic but especially loved maths.

This happy childhood idyll was soon to end however. At the age of eight, the family was obliged to leave Egypt. Now this country was also experiencing nationalistic fervour and turmoil and Europeans, once the mainstay of Egyptian wealth and tolerance, were no longer welcome. Some of the family moved to Greece but Stanley and his parents decided to follow an uncle to Melbourne, Australia.

Now begins a challenging time for the little Greek boy from Egypt. He arrived at Carnegie Primary School knowing no English and in those days there was no special consideration given to non English speaking students. In fact, in 1955, Stanley was the first Greek student to arrive at his school and it was sink or swim. He looks back on this time as a confusing period as everything people said to him at school was unintelligible. He remembers being teased about his multisyllabic surname and being called Stanley“half- potato” as the nearest approximation they could manage for his name. He remembers a kind girl who walked home with him and taught him the names of objects in the street. The only word he already knew was “football” and he quickly fell in love with Australian Rules football although his father had been a soccer champion in Egypt. One subject at school he could make sense of was the universal language of numbers – maths. Maybe that’s why he grew up to be an accountant.

Stanley's high school days are fondly remembered. He loved the social aspects, was a keen participant in all sports and became a school leader in his senior years. A charismatic teacher introduced him to the Greek writer, Nikos Kazantzakis and he read an English translation of Zorba the Greek as well as Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. He remains today a keen reader of English although his written Greek (not his spoken Greek) has unfortunately been forgotten. At nineteen years of age, Stanley matriculated and joined a city firm of accountants where he combined work and study and finally qualified as a chartered accountant. At twenty-six years of age he married a blue eyed, blond Aussie girl who was also a high school teacher of English - now he had his own personal language mentor – not that he ever appreciated her suggestions!

Stanley has now been married for thirty-five years, has three grown up children and two cherished grandchildren. He is still working hard as an accountant and many people depend on him to help organize their finances and complete their tax returns. He has travelled to Greece and visited his relations three times and even travelled to Egypt, Turkey and Cyprus to pay homage to his family’s journey. However, he has no regrets that his family decided to come to Australia all those years ago. He just hopes we can look after this beautiful country and world so his grandchildren and their children can enjoy it too.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Oh. I have an audience!

Really - although 2 comments are from encouraging friends (thanks) it gave me such a buzz to think there are people out there reading my entries - whoo! Better watch my p's and q's. Which reminds me about the WRAP course I am teaching this year to year 8's - The Writing and Reading Approach to Literacy based on the program developed by Romalda Spaulding. This approach takes the alphabet and breaks it into 70 different phonograms or codes which encapsulates the English Language. Along with 29 Rules, handwriting focus and a whole lots of other fun things this is a really exciting insight into how children can learn spelling and reading. It address the 3 pathways of learning – seeing, saying and doing – not all of which are satisfied in the old “Whole language” approach which has dominated the way language has been taught in primary schools for a long time. So there are many children who have not had their learning pathways opened up and end up in high school with big gaps in their reading and spelling and writing competency. So, with a number of colleagues, I recently completed 2 certificate courses in how to deliver this program and have started delivering it to a group of yr8’s who have been identified since leaving grade 6 as needing extra assistance. I have felt enthused and even inspired but inevitably this is wearing a bit thin in the face of student resistance and lack of cooperation amongst some members of my class. Because we have started with the easier phonograms some are complaining that this is babyish. I tell them it’s going to get harder – and so it will. The King of the phonograms has 6 different sounds- “ough” (oh,oo,uff,off, or,ou ). I’m just home from a parent info night about this program and only 4 sets of parents out of my 17 students turned up. However, I’ll be hanging in there and things can only start getting better.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Today is Monday and my day off for the week. I have been relatively productive although the idea is to rest and not do too much. Trying to sort out the new Yr 11 English course is a bit of a headache. This emphasis on students using their text as an inspiration for their Writing Folio can be riddled with pitfalls and invite very waffly responses. We're doing the lyrics of Paul Kelly (wonderful Australian singer/songwriter) with the theme Passion and Protest. Students will be asked to write in various styles about subjects they feel passionate about and or want to protest about using these songs sa a starting point. There are actually lots of ideas generated from the Kelly lyrics ranging from indigenous issues to relationship complications, love of place or cricket icons.
Anyway, for my day off I have been thinking a bit about school stuff as well as doing a bit of cleaning up around the garden (never ending). Oh, and had a marvellous sleep in which didn't happen over the weekend. So it's not all hard work. Must go now and do some shopping before dinner.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Strike Day - all for a good cause

I was contemplating doing the right thing and attending the rally but I piked. I was tempted by my friend to have a shopping day instead. not very wise as I am losing money today so I shouldn't be splashing it around. however we went into a factory whare house in abbotsford and picked up some amazing price reductions. Had a pleasant lunch in Carlton too. Can't see us getting our much needed pay rise in a hurry however.
Still feeling great about the apology yesterday. We were given permission to bring our classes down to the Library and watch it on the big screen. Our library was just as hushed and reverential as Parliament house. hopefully our kiddies appreciated the significance of the occasion. As our former GG Dean commented to Kerry O'Brien later, it is certainly the first step in a long drawn out process. Marvellous to see that photo in The Age of the ex PM's and lovely Malcolm. totally appropriate that Howard stayed away.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Searching for inspiration

I've tried a few times to get a blog started so I hope this one is more enduring than my earlier attempts. I have a colleague who is a very dedicated bogger so she is my muse. I have just had a few days away from school what with Friday off (my sister-in-law's father's funeral, yet another reminder of our impermanency here) the weekend and Monday is my glorious one day off a week. Saw my beautiful grand kiddies yesterday - they are growing so quickly (5yrs and 9 yrs). I went for an early morning swim - my usual k swim at the local pool. then picked up some nice TS tops from Myer. Finished reading Atonement today - wonderful, the film is only half as good as the novel. Will try now and insert my avatar.