0

The Scientist in Me Needed to Make a Graph….

My lack of blogs has severely affected my writing skills. In fact, I feel that they have already deteriorated and I am remorseful about the fact that I haven’t written. I have created a simple line graph to illustrate the phenomenon of my reduced compositional output: 

 

Image

 

Fig.1. Although the scales are completely bogus, it is clear to see that as the amount of bloggable material occurring increases, the time available to blog about the bloggable material decreases. Conversely, when the amount of bloggable material is small, the time in which to blog about it increases. 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
1

Friendship is for kids

IMG_1182 IMG_1183 IMG_1188

Friendship is a recurring theme for high school children and it is referenced constantly in the education literature about hidden curriculum. The hidden curriculum is a term for those things that children learn at school outside of the curriculum mandated by any Department of Education. Friendship is an important contributor to mental health and self-esteem for teenagers and it can also be a badge of popularity. For many students, it is not the quality of the friends they have that is important, but rather the quantity of friends they share moments with, or the quantity of photos taken and posted to social media. Most people will agree that it is important to have friends and that it is important to be seen by others as having friends.

As a school student, I would have said that I was friends with a great many people, and those I was closest to, I termed ‘best friends’. As an adult, my perception of friends is very different from that teenage view, and I often feel that I have very few friends. In fact, despite giving advice about quality relationships and correct treatment of others, I have plenty of people I deem ‘friends’ who do not treat me well, and there are other people that I am sure I do not treat well due to a lack of interest in them. I sometimes find myself wondering if they would call me their ‘friend’. The Book of Faces thinks that I have 300+ friends, and yet I socialise with a small group of people who do not share the same interests, beliefs, morals and viewpoints as me. It is wonderful to interact with and learn from such a diverse range of people, but there are times when I hide my own thoughts and opinions from them so as not to cause offense or seem lesser than them. As a teenager, I would have said that honesty was the most important aspect of friendship.

My teacher alter-ego takes from me a great deal of emotional energy and so I have fallen out of those circles of people who socialise by partying in night clubs every weekend. My friends and I have physically moved apart from each other as well, sometimes to different countries, to chase our careers, and we have deprioritised our commitment to each other. By moving out of my family home and into share accommodation, I have taken on the responsibility of maintaining ties with my family as well as the responsibilities of caring for myself and the share house. Social interactions with housemates are usually polite, but extended politeness is a mechanism for masking discord.

Who are my friends then? When am I being friendly and when am I being polite? How do I measure how much I care for someone and how can I measure how much they care for me? I think that it IS important to find a measure for the level of friendship you have with someone, because that measure dictates the acceptable intimacy and frequency of interaction. This measure becomes particularly important when cementing friendships with attached members of the opposite sex. I have always found it easier to converse with males. I have a simple biological answer for why this is, but it may not be the correct answer: I am not competing with males for mates and therefore I am not intimidated by them. Since this is a fairly candid post, I should also admit here that I do find the males I want to mate with intimidating and I avoid all conversation with them where possible! The only other time I struggle with males is when their mate would prefer them not to become friends with a female. I then have to find a way of keeping my distance and acting ultra-appropriate. That is definitely NOT friendship. I find many females intimidating and it takes me longer to form firm relationships with them. Perhaps that is why I forgive so many of my female ‘friends’ when they neglect to make time for me or when they do not reciprocate the effort I put into organising social events or asking after their wellbeing. It took me so long to make those friends in the first place that I do not want to let them go.

 

At the moment, I have no easy answers for which of my friends are actually friends and which ones are not, but despite experiencing only transient feelings of intimacy with others, I still have people to go climbing with, people to go to yoga with, and people I love teaching with and eating with. I have people to discuss novels, movies, politics and environmentalism with and I have plenty of people with the expertise and life experience to enrich my knowledge and challenge my opinions.

The Book of Faces reflects these relationships and displays many photos and check-ins attesting to my status as a friend of many who frequently enjoys outings with others. I am not condemning social media as a facade of friendship because I do not believe that this is so. Many people do take that point of view, but I think that social media has given opportunities for relationship development that would not exist outside of these websites. Social media allows friends and families separated by distance to converse regularly and it also helps with ice-breaking during the early stages of any friendship or co-worker interactions.

I am grateful for social media, and for the people who take the time out of their lives to share some company with me, but most of all, I am grateful to the rare few who ask how I’m going, chat to me for no purpose and acknowledge me when I am sad. Thank you to the people who share their inner thoughts with me as well as a movie theatre, staffroom, novel or climbing rope. I hope I am meeting your standards of friendship too.

 

0

How do YOU medicate?

ImageImageImage

 

 

Everyone has had a fat teacher before. In fact, it is rather rare to get a skinny one, and the skinny ones you do find are either health nuts, or they haven’t been teaching very long. I remember being a  prac student and looking at how unhealthy the majority of teachers were. I must admit to commenting that there must be a positive correlation between years spent teaching and weight in kilograms. Even the leaner teachers I observed looked overtired and sick. I remember being embarrassed for them and wondering why they didn’t bother to look after themselves as adults. 

Now I know why.

STRESS

Teaching is very very stressful, and non-teachers sometimes struggle to understand how it can be. Teaching is emotionally draining, the deadlines for creating and marking work and writing reports are continual and at the end of the day, even driving requires more brainpower than you wish to expend. Additionally, your popularity is important. Parents, students and other staff members must perceive you as reliable, competent, knowledgeable,  reasonable, fair and consistent. I possess none of these attributes when conversing with people I consider to be deliberately ignorant, and unfortunately it is not only  students who fit into this category. 

I know there are healthy ways to burn off this stress, and in fact I usually do find healthy, helpful ways to release stress and invigorate myself for the following day. Exercise is the easiest and most effective stress-reliever and it also lifts my mood a great deal. Taking some ‘me’ time to go indoor rock climbing with friends or to attend a yoga class once a week can keep me happy throughout dealings with the the most belligerent of work refusers.

 

Here’s the catch: exercise DOES take time, and time is in short supply. So when I can’t manage to squeeze anything else into an overloaded schedule, I turn to many unhealthy and addictive substances and pastimes.

1. Coffee

2. Chocolate

3. Tea

4. Chips

5. TV

6. Shopping

 

Keeping a blog is my new attempt at stress-relief that will not directly make me fat and poor. Again, it’s time-consuming work, but my current goal is more: 

ImageImage

 

and less: 

 

Image

How do YOU medicate? 

0

An Adventurous Journey

Image

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award has been running in NSW, Australia since 1962 and it first began in the UK in 1956. The Award has three levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold, open to participants between the ages of 14 and 24. Hopeful Dukies must commit themselves to volunteer work, learning a skill and maintaining a level of physical activity. They must also complete Adventurous Journeys of increasing length and difficulty. An Adventurous Journey is typically a hiking/camping trip, but it could be anything requiring teamwork and survival skills.

A child who wants to gain their Award can choose to hike with an external provider, or, if they’re lucky enough, a dedicated co-ordinator might exist at their school. Our school has two such co-ordinators. A male teacher with plenty of navigating and hiking experience who has no trouble getting absolute compliance from every student, and a female teacher who maps out the hikes, recruits supervising teachers, convinces the Principal to let us go, and motivates and helps the kids to complete all of their paperwork. At our school, year 9s complete Bronze, year 10s complete Silver and year 11/12s complete Gold. There is plenty of room for crossover if kids don’t fit the same timeframe as others, provided all paperwork is finished and submitted by the 25th birthday of the applicant.

I do not have the Award at any level.

However, this weekend, I got to facilitate fifty year 9 students with getting theirs, and it was pretty amazing!

I was nervous and excited when I was recruited to the Dukes team at the end of last year. I was concerned that I would not be fit enough to finish a Bronze overnight hike, let alone a weeklong Gold hike. It only took me one term as a teacher to gain weight, become unfit and to catch every disease the students got. My immune system is better equipped for the school environment now, but I have not gained back the fitness level I had prior to teaching. I was also concerned about the dynamics of student-teacher relationships outside of a school setting. After discussing my inexperience, we decided that I would begin this year with the Bronze students and follow them through to Gold so that I could progressively learn the whole process and become a co-ordinator as well as a walker.

This weekend was my third hike with the Bronze kids and they have really grown! The first was a day walk to prove that they could hike. One sprained ankle and four girls who vehemently refused to urinate in the bush were the only major events. However, it became apparent after this hike that six teachers alone could not control such a large group of students. So the existing female co-ordinator cut a deal with the Gold Dukies: as part of their own volunteering, they could come along on the Bronze hikes as mentors and helpers. Those students have proved invaluable in teaching me the do’s and dont’s of Dukes, the customary card games and how to read a map. For the second Bronze walk, each teacher took a group of ten year 9s, and the year 11s met us at night. This was where I made my first rookie error: I gave the Bronzies the maps and told them to lead on. We hiked for quite a while before they decided they were lost and turned to me for directions. I managed to locate us on the map with a small level of confidence, but had to admit that I did not have an easy answer for the way out. We would just have to keep moving until we found a way down the sheer cliff face in front of us. They turned on me at this suggestion, so I had to call a more experienced male teacher who had done the walk before. He scaled the cliff face with a few fit kids and took us back to the track we had missed. That night, the kids were cheering him and complaining that I had gotten them lost. They complained to the female co-ordinator that they did not want to be in my group anymore and the most cutting remark made to me was “you shouldn’t be allowed to come if you don’t know where you’re going”.

That event completely destroyed my confidence and my group were led out the next day by a Gold girl who I will call Lana. I still went with them and she made me feel better by telling stories of all the other teachers getting lost and making sure that we controlled one of the maps. She also told off any kids who were dissing me and she was the first to ask me to walk with them on their major Gold walk next year.

Yesterday, I got back from an overnight hike with the Bronzies, but this time, the Gold kids were with us from the beginning. Each team consisted of a teacher, a Gold kid and 10 Bronze kids. I was teamed with Lana again, and we had a wonderful time with our group. Nobody got lost, and we all made it, but I was right about being unfit! I think the only reason I made it was because we took a backup car, so I only had to carry a daypack. The first day, we began at Teralba and then took the Great North Walk to Glenrock. This meant marching 18kms on the first day to camp near the beach. The promise of swimming was the only temptation that kept some kids walking, which is unfortunate because when we got there, the beach was full of bluebottles and we had to ban swimming:

Image

There were still plenty of beautiful things to see though and we discovered that some packs had been filled with soccer balls, iPod docking stations and frisbees. The second day, we only had to hike 6kms to reach Newcastle, and there was time to swim at Bar Beach on the way. The best part was that we got to hike 3kms along the beach. Walking on sand is hard going, but it was fun to show the kids the sea stars, snails and dead bluebottles on the way. The other interesting part of this trip was the amount of kids who sought me out to ask Science questions. It was nice to see them actually interested in learning in an outdoor, social setting.

By the end of this hike, the Bronzies had regained confidence in me, I had more confidence in myself and I definitely want to be included on the Gold walk on Fraser Island next year, because Lana is an amazing young woman, and so are the other Golds.

I strongly encourage every person with the opportunity to undertake the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, to help their kids to undertake the Award or to sign up for the Dukes team at their school. It’s an amazing experience, and you get to see some awesome sights:

Image

Image

Image

0

The Essential Bits of Kit

At the end of your teaching degree, you step out into the world with a piece of paper that declares you qualified to inculcate young minds with Science learning:

Image

However, on your first day as a teacher in a school, you feel more like this:

Image

During prac, when you’re teamed up with another teacher, you collect a great deal of resources from them, learn to develop your own resources and build confidence standing in front of a class. But it’s not really teaching and it’s not really you managing their behaviour. You also never end up paying the same amount of attention to detail that you do when you’re on your own.

Here are the things you really need when the responsibility is all yours:

Inspiration from the 21st Century:

YOUTUBE CHANNELS: 
AsapScience

MinutePhysics

MinuteEarth

EarthTouch

Veritasium

WEBSITES
TED talks

HSC online

BBC bitesize

TALE

Zenpencils 

ABC Splash

FACEBOOK
I Fucking love Science

ScienceFriedArt

ScienceAlert

TheEarthStory

Creativity

Designing interesting lessons and experiments takes a lot of mental power. You have to ensure that they are scientifically rigorous, but engaging enough to keep teenagers entertained for 50 minutes. I use a lot of role plays, information search activities and electronic simulations. You also have to be able to dope an experiment and judge the level of detail you will require in the results.

Designing punishments also takes a lot of mental power, and this is where it helps to be a little evil. The last thing you want is to be a predictable teacher. You need routine and predictability in the environment, but your students should NOT be able to press exactly the right buttons to elicit an entertaining response. There is no point getting angry with a student or a class. Instead, you should ALWAYS find a way to get even. Here are my personal favourites: the bitch-stare; writing dashes in a corner of the board without explaining what they are; making a student sit alone or with someone who is not their close friend; sitting next to a student and silently completing the work you have just given the class; an apology letter to the student who has been maligned; copying from the dictionary the true meaning of the word ‘faggot’ and then explaining why it is unacceptable; generating adjectives to replace the use of ‘fucken’; a 1-page essay explaining how student behaviour contributes to learning; a lunchtime scab duty where a plastic bag must be filled with rubbish (environmentalism AND public humiliation); phone calls home. If none of this is successful, I write hidden insults into their report comments. This does not help the situation, but it is in line with my personal philosophy: nobody gets something for nothing. It also makes you feel better.

Flexibility

Always have a backup plan. Take textbooks or worksheets with you in case the kids are too feral to undertake a prac. Keep a group work activity up your sleeve to use if NOBODY will complete individual tasks that lesson.

NEVER be flexible with an instruction or punishment though. If you don’t stick to your word, the kids will soon learn how to manipulate you. That is a bad thing.

An Alter Ego

The easiest way to hold a position of authority is to act like you belong there. This requires gaining careful control of your facial expressions, your voice and your body language. You have to ensure that you avoid telling your students much about yourself and focus on telling them everything about Science. There will always be a class that you get close to who you break this rule for, but your average student should not know where you live, your marital status and what you do for fun. Let them think you go into power-saving mode at night in the staffroom. If they ask questions about  you, just ask them the same question. It’s an easy deflection that usually works.

Here are some examples of items that help you to maintain your Science persona:

Image

Image

Image

Here are some essential wardrobe items to help you maintain your ‘appropriate teacher’ persona:

Image

Image

These are the ideas and things that have really saved my life!

Please feel free to contribute below anything else that you have to add 🙂

0

I am a boring person

It is report time, and this is how I feel right now : 

Image

image: dreamstime.com

Why are reports difficult, you ask? Well, I am a high school teacher and that means that I teach five different classes of students. I am not at all hard done by here, either. Teachers who job share teach more than this. If the average class contains 28 students, this means that in the space of about a month I have to write 140 report comments. It takes all of my vocabulary to euphemise them. It also takes all of my diplomacy. In fact, I can safely say that interacting with real people might be difficult for me over the next two weeks. I am sure I will forget the words to use because they have already been used up, and I will forget to be polite or to ask how they are. I will probably just talk about reports, because that is all I have been doing. 

 

What if I were to meet someone new over the next two weeks? What if I run into the future love of my life? After five minutes of social interaction with me that basically just turns into crazed teacher talk, they will figure out that I am deeply boring and never want to speak to me again. I probably wouldn’t remember much about them anyway, so if we met again, they would remember me, and think me double crazy for being completely different AND not remembering our previous encounter. 

 

Should I resign myself to this new life? Feeling like an outsider all day whilst chatting with teenagers, walking on eggshells when interacting with other staff,  hiding my opinions that I’m too young to have and  being completely unable to impress new people. Will that ever change? 

 

Here I am at age 24, and I am completely old and boring. With the small surplus on my next pay, I may just have to invest in a zimmer frame.