Wishing you a very merry Chrissy

Finally, I have some time to write what have been going on for the last couple of weeks. It seems like a while ago, so here goes! There has been a lot of awesome Chrissy celebrations with my work friends and then I got a cold from late nights studying writing an essay, going to work early, hanging out with kids and their germs and feeling run down. So last weekend was pretty quiet, which gave me time to catch up on wrapping prezzos and all that jazz. Then came the last week of my teaching placement, which was intense as it was all about wrapping up so all the kids work, placing their crafts in their goodie bags, getting the kids ready for the singing presentation to their families with a fabulous spread of food and saying goodbye to the kids who were transitioning to school. I have to say it was full on!

I have enjoyed my time in early childhood hanging out with the 3 to 5 year olds. The educators I worked with planned a tie dye afternoon so that the children could wear them for their performance, the one on the left is the one we all tied together with rubber bands for the kids and used the tie dye kit and the one on the right is using a food dye which worked just as well. It was very well executed where we used lids of big plastic boxes and the kids used the bottles of dye and just spread it on their t-shirts. You would think 3 year olds this is gonna be crazy but we managed to do it in a good amount of time and not much dye was on the kids, as for me I had blue hands for days!

The other fun project I managed to make with the kids was vegan gingerbread – this was a tricky one, as the dough was a bit dry as we could have messed up the ratio of flour to wet ingredients which was nut butter and golden syrup. This cooking project was with very enthusiastic 5 year old children who were eating the dough scraps that even fell on the floor. Their biscuits are cut out here and they were cooked but were quite dry when they came out of the oven, so it was certainly an interesting experience! Next time, I would consider smaller groups and doing the project multiple times.

The gingerbread house on the right is made by my daughter who loves to bake, she did this one over a weekend with making the gingerbread one day and the next day we researched the royal icing which would be the mortar to hold the house together. It was an very delicious recipe which is even better as we could snack on it after we took some pics.

I also finished my tree skirt for our makeshift tree this year! I managed to wrangle a bunch of leftover yarn to make this very colourful crochet tree skirt which is sitting underneath our stash of pressies this year. For a family who was pretty disorganised about Chrissy I feel we managed to get it together reusing the paper from our move gift wrap!

And our house is looking amazing, we can imagine checking out James working in his study, checking out who is coming to visit down our hallway, looking through windows while doing the dishes and looking up we have a roof! It is so exciting to see the progress since our initial deep dig in the ground and now the house is framed and ready for its details of the windows and doors, the black charred timber, weatherboard and brick for the exterior. The beautiful recycled timber Tasmanian Oak floors and the kitchen and bathroom with their terrazzo floors. We even went shopping for the kitchen yesterday and trying to find a stovetop and oven that will serve our cooking adventures, so good though so overwhelming!

Its time for a break now, so our builders will have time off and be back into it after New Years where we will see much more unfold. I am so happy to be back home and to be able to wish my friends a very merry Chrissy at long last 😀

Working mum/teacher life and cat rewards

Finally taking some time out to write what I have been up to for the last couple of weeks! This is the first time in ages that I have posted intermittently here but life is a little bit busy at the moment. I am nearly half way through my first teaching practicum in Australia and I am just loving it. It is exhausting but the kids are so engaged and enthusiastic about everything, whats not to love! For my lesson with the kids I created a table with books, insects and magnifying glasses for the 5 year old class I am working with. It is called Insect Detective and since introducing it to them on Monday they were engaged in finding insects in the yard. We watched a video (the technology requirement for the AITSL teaching standards) and we were off into the yard with our clipboard, identification sheet and pencil to go out and count the insects in the yard. I have to say it was an astounding success as all the kids participated one way or another and it will create a connection to the natural world that makes you appreciate it that little bit more.

The rest of the time in my prac I have been observing the children, recoding conversations and making christmas crafts. I especially like this craft my mento teacher found where the kids went outside to collect sticks from the playground and then had to sort them in order from smallest to biggest. I love how it has a maths element to it and the kids were really enjoying it too, especially the last part where they get to decorate the tree with sequins and glitter. I have been coming home covered in glue, glitter, paint and dye and I cannot believe that you can be paid to hang out with kids and create! The cool thing is that this experience in early childhood is showing me how important early childhood educators can be for a little human, they are little sponges and the good behaviour that you model as a good citizen these children can replicate and this is where the magic happens. Humanity needs more places that are welcoming and diverse like the kinder I am working at and I am realising the profound impact an educator can have on children in their early years.

I am supposed to be writing an essay at the moment but I wanted a break from the grind and the opportunity to look at my life. Sunday I went to the Cat Lovers Show with the family. I was so excited to see the cats from Catmantoo and there was so much stuff to buy for cats as well. We found a great cat cafe near us in Preston, where we will get out next fur baby. It was a super day out with lots of cats but no pats! Well we could go to the adoption centre and pat some cats but that was a bit dangerous as we would love to adopt more kitties!

Busy little bee

Checking out what has been happening in my life over the last couple of weeks and it has been full! It has been over a week since I posted what has been happening here and since I had an assignment due last week and then I had to start drafting an essay with my hubby out of town there was a lot going on!

I have been enjoying the volunteering at my daughters school and seeing the progress of the kids felt animals! They came out so well, with each animal having a personality of their own 😀

Our house has made some incredible progress with the carpenters adding on Level 2 which is the kids rooms. We are so happy to see that there is so much happening on the build and we can start to get a feel for the place now.

This artwork had the best pun by Tinky the artist:-
It was a filthy job, but the rubbish removalists thought it was their best work yet.
Barek artwork on found signage
Sea spirit

Today, which is Sunday Funday, we enjoyed some family time out, before it goes all crazy for the next 20 days when I start work full time on my prac. Today was a lovely 24 degree day and we went out into Collingwood to Off the Kerb gallery to see the Barek exhibition that is showing for a short time. We so wanted to buy another piece of his work but as we have not unpacked what we already have in our art boxes for the gallery space in our house we decided we will go visit him in the studio when we see what space we have to jazz up. We all love his work and especially the pieces on the found signage.

I reckon there will be sporadic times of posting over the next four weeks, as I start my teaching prac for Uni where I have be documenting my experience constantly plus I have an essay to write for another subject and I have this great media unit I am doing at the moment too. So up until Chrissy it will be full on. Gotta get to bed early for my big week this week!

Our House Build begins

This week the demolition began on our house. We met with our architect and builder on Monday and then our builder got his spray can out all over the house! Today (Saturday) we went to check out the progress, as the demolishers were at the house on Wednesday. So now you just see the frame of the front of the house (this is taken from the alleyway out the back) with a little bit of roof. There is still some more demo work to come next week, and it is very exciting. We will drop by again next weekend, and peek through the back fence to see what is going on as it is not safe for us to be at the site.

The rest of my time this week has been here at my desk studying away writing two papers. A 2500 word essay on socialisation and another 1500 unit plan for English. Man there has been no escape and now I am behind one week in my readings but I will have next week to catch up! I got this great screen to keep me hidden from distractions but still it is really noisy as I am right near the kitchen. The bonus is that I have the fridge right in front of me, which is great! I have had to do hand sewing or knitting. after dinner, as I have been hammered with too much time on the computer – researching, writing and editing. Every morning I have been going to the gym for a bit of stress relief and it really helps with sitting down most of the day – I do not think I could ever do an office job again in my life. Still I am enjoying myself with this B. Ed as it is so comprehensive, as a lot of the theoretical components I can totally relate to. My plants have been keeping me happy at home while I have had to keep my brain focussed with my fave store in Coburg is the health store with their collection of bush flower essences – aaaah, just breathe…

What I have been doing when I have not been studying? My Saturday morning is looking after the chickens at my sons High School. They are so fun as they have a friend, a big black pig called Gigi who always wants to eat everything!! The family enjoyed the antics today when I was feeding the pig, as I was trying not to step in big mud puddles and get some treats to the chickens. I have to plan some strategic moves with distracting the pig, with her treats, when I give some treats to the chickens! And of course, in the evenings making dinner is a little creative outlet where I have been enjoying the tortillas from La Tortilleria – where I found some great videos from them this week. This fish taco is a baked Hoki taco with a zucchini slaw, topped with BBQ sauce – tasty!

So I had better get back to business as my assignments are due Monday and I need to get busy tomorrow!

The Entitled

This morning on the way to school I was chatting to my son about quitting my Education degree due to the frustration of the education system in place that is following the style of the United States. Australia looks up to Mother America and loves to follow in their footsteps and this included standardised testing and reporting to ACARA – based on NAPLAN (the literacy and numeracy multiple choice test). I read this book on the weekend about a teachers struggle with the changes in the education system and it left a horrible feeling in regards to motivating myself to finish this teaching degree. The book is directly from a teachers perspective, things I have also experienced in the classroom but on a grander scale – the kids behaviour and the lack of responsibility from the parents with regard to modelling good behaviour to their children. I aways like to weigh in the positive and negative, but this book really had an effect on me that had me reeling with disappointment with the Australian education system to a point where I felt it was pointless to complete my degree, as the changing tides point to standardised testing and more reporting where the time devoted to actually teaching is pretty minimal. Though this teacher put her heart and soul into the profession she was burnt out mentally and physically after 16 years. Within the book, her teaching experience spanned classrooms in the beginning with the UK, Canada and different schools in Australia.

My son said to me, “Mum why do you want to throw away all the hard work that you have done for the last 3 years?”
I told him, “I read this book last week and I am very disappointed with the state of education in Australia, plus my friend shared with me an article about parents bullying teachers because their kid got in trouble.”
He said to me, “You mean parents who are entitled?”
To which I responded, “Yes, these parents who do not take responsibility to discipline/give consequences to their own children but who love to complain if their kid gets in strife.”

As a strange twist of fate there was an article in the Good Weekend last week that was given to me by a teacher friend of mine. After reading the article and examining it from an educators perspective who are trying their best to work with the class of around 24 children, where each child has their own needs as individual learners there needs to be consequences/firm discussions regarding behaviour. As a parent you just have to take the responsibility and act appropriately – I mean, the parents behaviour in this article is just ridiculous, what kind of modelling is that to their children? To me it screams I am a squeaky wheel and if I chuck a tantrum I can get what I want. Sure you can, fool, but not without the litigious consequences and these parents are getting sued for their bad behaviour and they deserve it. If you cannot raise your child to be a responsible human being in society than why bother having children, seriously!

After reading this I had to do research online to see what is in the media about teaching in Australia and it is so depressing, a few searches online just leads to negativity. There is a teacher shortage in Victoria and they are hoping to enhance the reputation of teaching through raising the ATAR (score required to enter the degree program) to entice school leavers. I have to agree with the article above that the approach to employ mature age students within teaching is the way to go as I think if I had attempted to teach when I was just out of school it would have knocked my socks off and I would have been in hospital.

Now with some experience in the classroom (albeit within a class where the students want to be there working as an art teacher) and my full time job in 2017-2018 as a Teacher Assistant has helped me analyse where I wanted to be. Ideally, I would love to be in an environment very similar to our school in California within a child led environment with a focus on project based learning and inquiry. I am trying to find these places in Melbourne but they are few and far between. I have to say we are lucky my daughters inner city primary school embraces the model of creativity, collaboration and communication within their projects and I was happy to see this when the students shared their work 😀

When studying at Uni, it seems you are looking through the profession with rose coloured glasses and the focus is on the learner. Whereas in reality the teaching environment is a tough one with issues of bullying from both parents and students. This is something that our society needs to get over and we need more shining examples in society like Jacinta Arden. We need parents to have the guts to be responsible for their kids behaviour and model good behaviour. Before researching behaviour and psychology, I would look at kids at the park and wonder why the behaviour was so off, then I would meet the parents think to myself, “I get it now, you are a bit off yourself.” This translates to the classroom and the behaviour resonates from parent to child and from child to child, and I have seen some interactions that have me wondering, “Where on earth made you so entitled to behave like this?” And then I meet their parents! This ongoing feedback loop and the expectations from teachers is just so unreasonable. In a professional environment, would parents behave this way? Maybe?

Writing this has helped me gather my thoughts and think about my future with 12 subjects and 4 practicums to go which means I am less than half way through my degree program, so maybe I can continue and work as a social experiment? Though really there needs to be a heart in teaching and you need to love it – and yes I do love being with the children and seeing them learn, it makes me happy to see them smile and share their learning with enthusiasm. In amongst all this stuff in the media there is no real mention of the most important factor – the learners in a classroom. Which at the end of the day is what matters the most about teaching, the children. As a takeaway at the end the book Teacher by Gabbie Stroud, it says:

The best answer I can give when I’m asked to suggest solution is that Australia needs a dramatic re-imagining of what education could be in this great country. Fundamental to that re-imagining is time spent dreaming and considering what is possible. We need to contemplate not only what we should teach our children, but also how we should teach them. And we must start valuing our teachers.

I have decided I will carry on and get through it – if only to encourage students to be lifelong learners and appreciate that learning is a process which can be fun. To Australia, let’s break out of the mould and the failed education systems around the world (who focus on data and test scores) and innovate learning in the classrooms using school models such as High Tech High, take notes from real life education visionaries such as Ted Dintersmith and watch his film Most Likely to Succeed and follow exemplary education examples such as Finland and New Zealand. Oh and I found a secret to the optimal learning environment is where the teachers, parents and the students stand together as as a community of learners, at our last school in California – where everyone is involved and respected. These are the exemplars I will call upon to propel me forward and complete this degree program to eventually exercise these approaches with students in 21st century learning environments.

A week full of farewells

What a week it has been, there has been so much happening and it is only the first week of December. I have ridden the emotional rollercoaster of saying goodbye to the friends I have met here. Thinking about my time here when I knew no one at the beginning of our time here to now where I have had celebrations from Saturday with friends. To saying farewell to a week of many lasts – I did my last sewing workshop at the local library to the hardest being my last class of teaching sewing to the kiddos at our amazing school community. The picture above is artwork gifted to me from a friend in my dance class saying we are just a straight line away! 

Last week I did a tote bag workshop at the library with my friend G who will be taking over the class from me. I am so happy to have her taking over as she is so creative and will have some fabulous projects in the future. We also did the felt ornaments workshop last Monday and that was a fun one with all of these beautiful ornaments the library community made. 

It was so hard to keep it together for my final Arts Focus class yesterday as I have been involved with the program for the 9 years we have been at our school. It is such an incredible program run by parent volunteers who teach different classes of 27 Kinder to 5th-grade kids. I feel this program is what motivated me to start my teaching degree which I totally love. Our community project of the quilt is super cool and the kids are given the opportunity to buy it at the silent auction. The LED cuff in the centre was made by a Kinder with thanks to a new teacher and volunteer who helped make it happen. Yesterday with the last class I made a video of the pipe cleaner dolls with a cool projector and tablet straight to the massive LCD TV in the classroom so the kids could see what was happening – I just love the technology. It works so well as I am about to hand in two video resources for my assignment that I made for the Australian Curriculum for digital technology and design and technology for the subject Teaching Science and Technology. I am always amazed at what the kids make and how creative they are, with this experience I have a feeling that this is something that I will want to do once I graduate. 

I also said goodbye to my friends at Top Hair and Nail – a sanctuary where I go to for some pampering and relaxation. Here is my cool hairdresser Toy and there I am out with my new do at a bar on Thursday night celebrating our first session of Arts Focus for the school year and my final session for Arts Focus, so sad but I am also happy for the kids who had sewing with me and how much fun we had together. 

The bittersweet emotion that is manifesting from the move home to Australia is intense but I feel that we are connected to each other by our little machines and we can always see what we are all up to. My good friend in Melbourne mentioned that I will keep in touch with my peeps even though we will be so far away and with some luck, we will have visitors coming to Melbourne to say hello! I have been crying so much and feel a deep love for the community I have built here and saying farewell is way better than saying goodbye. I have received so many beautiful comments from my friends here and it will be strange not to be living in the Valley but now it is time to write a new chapter of our life with our family. 

What does this yellow bench represent? Well, the remodel of our yellow and blue house in Melbourne. It is getting there as we spoke to our architect and the structural engineer is working on the plans and then tendering for a builder will happen in February and here’s to a smooth transition to build phase and the building can start in March/April. For now, the interior scheme is wonderful with a garden that reflects our being with fluffy native grasses and an entertainment area. So with all that planning underway I will wait patiently and be ready for the next phase of the building – yippee!

But first, the big move to Australia and a rental property for the next 12 months, then get the kids settled into the school (which I am sure they will love) and for me studying in the background and recreating a network. It is quite overwhelming but I am breaking the to do list down and this weekend I need to start packing for the summer and the next 4 months until our stuff arrives. Currently, the Melbourne weather is 36 degrees Celsius (96.8 degrees F), its gonna be hot – I cannot forget the swimsuit!!