Sunday, 23 April 2017

Top 10 Things Kids Deserve


Hooray for science!

Interesting story from a year 11 student

From the Crinkling News

The Australian War Memorial claims it helps Australians “understand the Australian experience of war”.But does it?

The memorial does not commemorate the conflicts between Indigenous Australians and the British from 1788, known as the “Frontier Wars”.

I and some fellow students travelled to Canberra last year to talk to the war memorial’s director, Brendan Nelson.

Dr Nelson told us the memorial was not the “appropriate” place to commemorate the Frontier Wars. However, this position is becoming increasingly isolated from the views of historians and many others.

Was it war?

In December 2013, the memorial said there was not “substantial evidence” that state colonial forces or military units ever fought against the Indigenous population of this country.

However, there is much that contradicts this. Over the decades, military historians have described the conflict that took place from 1788 as warfare.

And it has been reported that an estimated 22,000 first Australians and new Australians died.

Then there is primary evidence from Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s 1816 diary entry: “I have this day ordered three separate military detachments to march …”

There are also hand-written diaries, newspaper articles and personal accounts by the English. And, most importantly, there are the oral traditions of Aboriginal people with recurrent narratives relating to massacres and conflict.

‘Violent and tragic outcomes’

Larissa Behrendt, a Eualeyai/Kamillaroi woman, is a professor of law and director of research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology Sydney.

“Although the colonists eventually prevailed, Aboriginal people around Australia resisted incursions on to the land, often tenaciously, with violent and tragic outcomes,” says Professor Behrendt in her 2012 book Indigenous Australia for Dummies.

If these sources and voices are not enough, the Oxford Companion to Australia’s Military History declares: “Frontier wars were fought in Australia from the late 18th century to the early 20th century as Australian Aborigines battled British soldiers … for control of the continent.”


Dr Nelson asserts in a letter to us that “Australian-raised or home-grown military units … were not involved in … conflicts” between Indigenous Australians and British soldiers, colonial police and British- and Australian-born settlers.

Aboriginal people were killed, he says, by British soldiers or settlers or police, but not by the Australian military.

Is this correct? Perhaps, technically. But what if we think differently?

We openly regard our Indigenous peoples as first Australians, so perhaps it is time to reimagine the Aboriginal warriors as the first Australian warriors.

These Aboriginal people were born and raised within the customary laws of their nations. If the memorial does not recognise the new Australians – those British soldiers – as Australian military, the definition of Australian warfare should be reconceptualised to recognise that the first Australians could be considered an army defending their country.

Where should we remember?

There seems to be agreement that the Frontier Wars should be commemorated, but the memorial argues it is not the place to do so. Why not?

It is an almost sacred Australian institution and is visited by millions each year.

We gather there to remember the fallen. If Indigenous people from the Frontier Wars are withheld from this shrine, they will never be recognised and commemorated as equal Australians, the fallen warriors of this country.

Fear of remembering

Perhaps the memorial’s reluctance stems from fear, fear that acknowledgment of the truth about the birth of our nation will somehow bring us into disrepute.

Perhaps that fear extends to concerns about diminishing the Anzac legacy. Coming to terms with our nation’s history means understanding the truth of Australia’s foundation, which includes wars, discrimination and prejudice.

Perhaps this is a foundation our nation is not ready to face. The service of our Anzac troops and the battles fought in the frontier wars are separate, but connected.

“We will remember them,” so the poem goes, but we cannot remember without first acknowledging and accepting our past.

So every year, when Australia as a nation celebrates April 25 as Anzac Day, do we solemnly promise “Lest we forget”, or do we silently swear never to remember?

Nadine Walker is in Year 11 at Killara High School in Sydney. One of her subjects at school is Aboriginal Studies.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Gonski uncertainty

From the Sunday Age 
( Peter is an old pal)

Magpie Primary School, a small rural school on the outskirts of Ballarat, is preparing to lose two teachers next year due to the funding uncertainty.

Principal Peter Clifton said these teachers ran a successful literacy and numeracy program, which had been funded through the Gonski agreement but was now at risk.

"The program has had an enormous impact," he said. "Every prep and grade one student now sits above the national benchmark in literacy and numeracy. We are above average and we want to stay that way."

The anxiety has also spread to the Catholic and independent school sectors, which are warning of fee hikes and program cuts if any future arrangement resulted in some private schools having their funding growth curtailed.

Such concerns intensified earlier this year, when it emerged that the Commonwealth was examining how to pull back the generous annual funding increases locked into legislation by the Gillard government.

While federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham insists funding won't be cut in real terms, Independent Schools Victoria chief executive Michelle Green said some principals had put their planning on hold as they waited for Canberra to provide some clarity about how it would resource them over the next few years.

"Any sudden funding changes could result in unanticipated fee increases that many families and school communities will not be able to manage," she said.

Catholic Education Melbourne executive director Stephen Elder also warned that Catholic schools would consider cutting programs or increasing fees if the federal government abandoned its promise of annual school funding increases of 3.56 per cent.

"This could have a significant impact on families and on some programs, including fee relief subsidies for disadvantaged families or our initial teacher training programs," he said.

Canberra has long made it clear that it would ditch the fifth and sixth years of Labor's signature Gonski needs-based approach and replace it with a more nationally consistent agreement.

The Commonwealth had promised to finalise plans at a Council of Australian Governments meeting that was meant to take place earlier in the year, but was pushed back to June to accommodate premiers who couldn't attend – including Victoria's Daniel Andrews.

As a result of the delay, Victoria's own plans for a schools shake-up appears to have stalled. Last year, a funding review by former Labor premier Steve Bracks found that the Commonwealth's decision to renege on the last two years of Gonski could cost Victorian government schools around $1.1 billion. What's more, the review found, unless this decision was reversed the state would be forced to rethink its own funding regime in a bid to negate the impact.

But while state Education Minister James Merlino conceded in September that a rethink was needed – and said further details would be provided at this year's May budget – his spokesman told The Sunday Age last week: "We can't make informed decisions without knowing what the Federal Liberals are planning to do."

Mr Birmingham hit back on Friday, saying it was hypocritical for Victoria to demand precise details of federal funding "which they already know will grow from existing record levels, when they won't even outline their own scale of investment".

"The Turnbull government has consistently said that future schools funding arrangements would be concluded at the first COAG meeting of this year and that remains the timeframe we work toward," he said.

Australian Education Union Victorian branch president Meredith Peace said Gonski had been used to provide extra support and programs "and that has meant new staff have been employed. With no certainty, people's employment is in jeopardy."

Book hoarding.....oh no....there's a Japanese name for it!

From Huffington Post
Book hoarding is a well-documented habit.

In fact, most literary types are pretty proud of the practice, steadfast in their desire to stuff shelves to maximum capacity. They’re not looking to stop hoarding, because parting with pieces of carefully curated piles is hard and stopping yourself from buying the next Strand staff pick is even harder. So, sorry Marie Kondo, but the books are staying.

The desire to buy more books than you can physically read in one human lifetime is actually so universal, there’s a specific word for it: tsundoku. Defined as the stockpiling of books that will never be consumed, the term is a Japanese portmanteau of sorts, combining the words “tsunde” (meaning “to stack things”) and “oku” (meaning “to leave for a while”). 

We were reminded of the term this week, when Apartment Therapy published a primer for those looking to complete book-hoarder rehab. Several blogs have written on the topic before, though, surfacing new and interesting details about the word so perfect for book nerds everywhere.

While most who’ve written on the topic of tsundoku use the word to describe the condition of book hoarding itself, The LA Times used the term as a noun that describes the person suffering from book stockpiling syndrome, or “a person who buys books and doesn’t read them, and then lets them pile up on the floor, on shelves, and assorted pieces of furniture.”

Tsundoku has no direct synonym in English, Oxford Dictionaries clarified in a blog post, defining the word as “the act of leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piling it up together with other such unread books.” An informative subreddit provides even more context, explaining that “the tsundoku scale” ranges from just one unread book to a serious hoard. “Everyone is most likely to be ‘tsundokursed’ one way or the other,” it warns.

According to Quartz, tsundoku has quite a history. It originated as a play on words in the late 19th century, during what is considered the Meiji Era in Japan. At first, the “oku” in “tsunde oku” morphed into “doku,” meaning “to read,” but since “tsunde doku” is a bit of a mouthful, the phrase eventually condensed into “tsundoku.” And a word for reading addicts was born.

Speaking of addictions ― the term “bibliomania” emerged in England around the same time as “tsundoku.” Thomas Frognall Dibdin, an English cleric and bibliographer, wrote Bibliomania, or Book Madness: A Bibliographical Romance in the 1800s, outlining a fictional “neurosis” that prompted those suffering from it to obsessively collect books of all sorts. 

Bibliomania has a dark past, documented more as a pseudo-illness that inspired real fear than a harmless knack for acquiring books we won’t have time to read. “Some collectors spent their entire fortunes to build their personal libraries,” Lauren Young wrote for Atlas Obscura. “While it was never medically classified, people in the 1800s truly feared bibliomania.”  

Tsundoku seems to better capture the lighter side of compulsive book shopping, a word that evokes images of precariously stacked tomes one good breeze away from toppling over. While there’s no English equivalent quite as beautiful, no one’s stopping you from incorporating the Japanese word into your regular vocabulary.

“As with other Japanese words like karaoke, tsunami, and otaku, I think it’s high time that tsundoku enter the English language,” Open Culture wrote in 2014. “Now if only we can figure out a word to describe unread ebooks that languish on your Kindle. E-tsundoku? Tsunkindle?”





Oh dear.....

Friday, 21 April 2017

Those Ladybird books are crazy


Busy first week back term 2

Finishing Secret Garden character profiles 
Alison working with our Prep. Making a 'grinning gecko' 
ANZAC Day preparations in Ballarat

Thursday, 20 April 2017


Today we made carnival masks in Italian with Lucy.
This weekend I'll be working on a Monster Calls unit and I'm reading What Katy Did and requainting myself with Little Women for a unit in term 3.

Today I had my last breakfast hot cross bun for the year! 
104000 views.....cheers!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Big swing back to state schools in the ACT.

Canberra's public schools are clawing back enrolments from the non-government sector at a rate almost three times the national average after years of fightback against private high schools who once boasted the majority share.

More than 60 per cent of all ACT students were enrolled in a government school in February this year with the remaining split almost evenly between the Catholic and independent systems.

In high schools, 51.7 per cent of students were in the public system and about 48 per cent in the non-government sector. Private schools educated more than half the ACT's secondary students between 2011 and 2014 but the public system won a slight majority in 2015.

The Association of Independent Schools of the ACT said minimal growth in non-government schools - 3.23 per cent since 2013 and .59 per cent between February 2016 and the same time this year - is evidence of schools nearing or reaching capacity.

Overall public school enrolments grew by 13.8 per cent in the past five years and 3.85 per cent since 2016.

University of Canberra education policy researcher Louise Watson said it was impossible to pinpoint why government schools were gaining ground on their non-government counterparts but noted it was indicative of a national trend.

The 2016 national data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed government schools had 65.4 per cent of the enrolment share, followed by Catholic schools (20.2 per cent) and independents (14.4 per cent).

Professor Watson listed the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, salaried wages being incompatible with high fees and transparent data about school outcomes on the My School website as potential reasons why parents were choosing the public system.

"The ACT rate of change is almost three times the national level," she said.

"Government school primary enrolments in the ACT have increased 23 per cent over the last five years, which is extraordinary.

"All schools have been operating in an environment of school choice for 10 or 20 years now and government schools are clearly attractive to parents."

Association of Independent Schools of the ACT executive director Andrew Wrigley said he did not believe the data meant parents were shifting from non-government schools. Canberra Christian School, for example, recorded a 42 per cent increase in enrolments.

"The data reflects a situation that has been emerging for the last few years: that is, while there are certainly some spaces available in some year groups in some schools, independent schools are generally running at close to capacity in terms of enrolments," he said.

"Anecdotally, waiting lists are healthy, and parents are keen to actively choose independent schools for their children for a wide variety of reasons."

Catholic Education Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn director Ross Fox said enrolments were largely driven by demographics and said he did not believe the Royal Commission had an impact on student numbers.

Fourteen out of 29 Catholic schools noted a decline in enrolments, including a drop of 14 per cent at Sts Peter and Paul Primary School, but the sector's newest ACT school, St John Paul II College, saw enrolments increase 34.6 per cent after introducing a Year 11 stream.

"The biggest issue for Catholic education and growth in enrolments in the ACT is accessing land for a school at Molonglo to service parents and families in growing areas of Canberra," Mr Fox said.

Gonski was funded by the Gillard Government

Tuesday, 18 April 2017


Even Birmingham is backing away from this one. The gaul of these schools who have left state school to carry the burden of providing quality schooling for ALL to now show an interest in a segregation style school for koorie kids is gobsmacking! Of course the money has nothing to do with it? What religion will they have pushed at them? Will they cherry-pick students like they do now?

From the Sydney Morning Herald
Private schools would be able to create "satellite" Indigenous-only campuses that would reap hundreds of thousands in extra taxpayer funding under reforms presented to the Turnbull government.
As entirely Aboriginal campuses, the satellite schools would be eligible for maximum government subsidies, worth tens of thousands a year per student - regardless of the wealth of the parent school.
The idea is being pushed by the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia, whose chief executive Beth Blackwood played down concerns about segregation of Aboriginal students.
"It's not an isolationist approach. They do have opportunities to integrate with the wider school community," she told Fairfax Media, citing extra-curricular programs like sport and music.
"At the end of the day, if you're working in partnership with the Indigenous communities and it's something they want for their youth … then it can work."
In its pre-budget submission to the Turnbull government, AHISA pointed to schemes run by St Andrew's Cathedral School and Barker College - both in Sydney - that had achieved "exceptional results".
Education experts welcomed the interest independent schools were showing in closing the education gap, but said it was vital the plan be executed fairly.
Pete Goss, the director of the Grattan Institute's school education program, warned it could "create more segregation" if schools cherry-picked bright Indigenous students rather than opening a lottery.
"They have an obligation to take any Indigenous student who is needy," he said.
Mr Goss also argued schools should be prepared to cop a reduction in funding at their main campuses if they segregated the most disadvantaged students to a satellite campus.
"If you're going to ringfence, you ringfence on both sides," he said. "I don't think they would expect to have their cake and eat it too."

Tony Abbott has been in the news a lot recently as he continues to undermine Turnbull. Now might be a good chance to remember what a liar he is. remember this......

Start of a new term

Just started term 2. the kids got back into it as if they'd never been away. We have our Secret garden and Sinbad units to finish this week and then we can start new units: Howls Moving Castle for grade 4 and Hercules for grade 3. Im also working on a What Katy Did /Little Women unit and possibly something for A Monster Calls.
Some photos from the last few days.
Autumn down Humffray St.

Monday, 17 April 2017

It's starting in Arizona

From the Atlantic

Buoyed by Donald Trump’s championing of a voucher system—and cheered on by his education secretary Betsy DeVos—Arizona just passed one of the country's most thoroughgoing policies in favor of so-called “school of choice.” The legislation signed by Governor Doug Ducey allows students who withdraw from the public system to use their share of state funding for private school, homeschooling, or online education.

Making educational funding “portable” is part of a much wider political movement that began in the 1970s—known to scholars as neoliberalism—which views the creation of markets as necessary for the existence of individual liberty. In the neoliberal view, if your public institutions and spaces don’t resemble markets, with a range of consumer options, then you aren’t really free. The goal of neoliberalism is thereby to rollback the state, privatize public services, or (as in the case of vouchers) engineer forms of consumer choice and market discipline in the public sector.

DeVos is a fervent believer in neoliberalizing education—spending millions of dollars on and devoting herself to political activism for the spread of voucher-system schooling. In a speech on educational reform from 2015, DeVos expressed her long-held view that the public-school system needs to be reengineered by the government to mimic a market. The failure to do so, she warned, would be the stagnation of an education system run monopolistically by the government:

We are the beneficiaries of start-ups, ventures, and innovation in every other area of life, but we don’t have that in education because it’s a closed system, a closed industry, a closed market. It’s a monopoly, a dead end. And the best and brightest innovators and risk-takers steer way clear of it. As long as education remains a closed system, we will never see the education equivalents of Google, Facebook, Amazon, PayPal, Wikipedia, or Uber. We won’t see any real innovation that benefits more than a handful of students.
Many Americans now find DeVos’s neoliberal way of thinking commonsensical. After all, people have the daily experience of being able to choose competing consumer products on a market. Likewise, many Americans rightly admire entrepreneurial pluck. Shouldn’t the intelligence and creativity of Silicon Valley’s markets be allowed to cascade down over public education, washing the system clean of its encrusted bureaucracy?

What much fewer people realize is that the argument over “school of choice” is only the latest chapter in a decades-long political struggle between two models of freedom—one based on market choice and the other based on democratic participation. Neoliberals like DeVos often assume that organizing public spaces like a market must lead to beneficial outcomes. But in doing so, advocates of school of choice ignore the political ramifications of the marketization of shared goods like the educational system.

The first point to consider when weighing whether or not to marketize the public school system is that markets always have winners and losers. In the private sector, the role of competition is often positive. For example, Friendster, the early reigning king of social networks, failed to create a format that people found as useful and attractive as Facebook. The result was that it eventually vanished.

When businesses like Friendster fail, no significant public damage is done. Indeed, it is arguably a salutary form of what the economist Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction,” which is a feature of market innovation. But should all goods in a society be subjected to the forces of creative destruction? What happens to a community when its public schools are defunded or closed because they could not “compete” in a marketized environment?

In Detroit (where DeVos played a big role in introducing school choice) two decades of this marketization has led to extreme defunding and closing of public schools; the funneling of taxpayer money toward for-profit charter ventures; economically disadvantaged parents with worse options than when the neoliberal social experiment began; and finally, no significant increase in student performance. Indeed, some zones of Detroit are now educational deserts where parents and children have to travel exorbitant miles and hours for their children to attend school.

On the whole, neoliberalization is hardest on the poor. Market choice does, however, favor those who already have the education, wealth, and wherewithal to plan, coordinate, and execute moving their children to the optimal educational setting. This means the big beneficiaries of school of choice are often the rich. For instance, when Nevada recently passed an aggressive school-of-choice system the result was that the vast majority of those able to take advantage of it came from the richest areas of Reno and Las Vegas. As money is pulled from failing schools and funneled into succeeding ones, wealth can actually be redistributed by the state up the socioeconomic ladder.

Education is not simply another commodity to buy and sell on a market.
Market competition in the context of schools thus opens the possibility for a vicious cycle in which weak and low-performing communities are punished for their failings and wealthy communities receive greater and greater funding advantages. Americans should ask themselves a basic question of justice when it comes to the education system: Should it be organized around a model in which the more you win the more you get, and the more you lose the less you are given? Markets are by their nature non-egalitarian. For this reason, neoliberalization has been one of the biggest factors contributing to the growing inequalities and diminishment of the middle and lower classes.

A common neoliberal response to this is simply to say that economic inequality is the cost paid for individual liberty and personal responsibility. But the problem is that this discourse of individualism followed to its logical conclusion eliminates any public goods whatsoever. For example, if student funds are portable based on consumption choices, why shouldn’t the growing number of childless taxpayers be able to move their funding outside the education system entirely toward goods they actually consume, like dog parks or public golf courses?

This is the logical conclusion of Margaret Thatcher’s famous neoliberal pronouncement that “there is no such thing as society” but only “individual men and women.” The problem with this way of thinking is that education is not simply another commodity to buy and sell on a market. It is a shared good. Free societies need educated members to intelligently and critically deliberate over public life, select representatives, and help guide policy decisions. Market freedom is thus in tension with the freedom of democratic participation.

Many people recognize this fact and for that reason favor coordinating action and sharing costs through the government when it comes to goods like education, defense, public parks, transportation, public health, and the environment. Yet forming a shared collective action through government or a labor organization is the one kind of individual freedom that neoliberal philosophy does not tolerate. As the preeminent historian of neoliberalism, David Harvey, puts it, “neoliberals have to put strong limits on democratic governance … while individuals are supposedly free to choose, they are not supposed to choose to construct strong collective institutions.

It's starting in Arizona

Safe Schools political football and Abbott's continued hypocrisy.

The former prime minister Tony Abbott has welcomed New South Wales’ announcement the Safe Schools program will be replaced by a new anti-bullying strategy in the state’s schools after the federal government refused to fund it beyond mid-year.
Abbott stressed that, even though the strategy was implemented under his government in 2014, it was a Labor policy.
“Good that NSW is scrapping so called Safe Schools, a social engineering programme dressed up as anti-bullying,” Abbott posted on Twitter on Sunday.
The NSW education minister, Rob Stokes, said in a statement on Sunday the government was working on a replacement strategy, which would be available to teachers by term three.
“The Australian government, who fund and oversee the Safe Schools program, have advised that they will no longer be providing funding for the program by mid-year,” Stokes said.
The Safe Schools program with many conservative MPs criticising the program since its inception. But Stokes said it would be replaced with a program which still supported children who struggle at school.
“Bullying will never be accepted in NSW public schools – whether it be because someone is overweight, gay, based on the colour of their skin or for any other reason,” he said.
The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, said the program had been used as a “political football by conservative critics” but his party was interested in seeing the new proposal.
“If the NSW government wants to run anti-bullying programs in one way and not another, we’ll have a look at what that means,” Shorten said. “It is important that children go to school and are not bullied on the basis of their sexuality.”
Shelley Argent, the national spokeswoman for PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), said: “As far as social engineering goes, I think that was the last thing that [Safe Schools] is doing.”
“It’s not coercion. You cannot encourage a child to be gay. So by having this program in the schools, its benefiting those children by providing support and education to those who aren’t to be more supportive of their schoolmates.”

It should be noted that it was the Abbott government that implemented this program. It was announced and introduced to state education systems by Abbott government ministers. Government backbenches have claimed that Abbott when PM did nothing to curtail the program when it was rolled out. It should also be noted that it was Howard and Abbott who were responsible for putting the clergy into government schools in welfare roles. This is still fully funded by the commonwealth. 

Reading aloud to students

From the We Are Teachers blog

No one doubts the benefits of reading aloud to students. Walk into any elementary classroom, and you will find teachers reading to their kids.

By high school, however, this has usually stopped. Teenagers are expected to be responsible and take their learning into their own hands. This is, after all, ultimately the goal. We want to send out responsible, self-sufficient adults into the world.

I’m all for independence, but I still take the time to read aloud to my high school English classes. Heres why.

1. It’s fun.

When you listen to great literature, you experience and absorb the book in a different way. This is why audiobooks and apps like Audible are so popular. I love reading the old-fashioned way of ink on paper, but I also enjoy a good audiobook on my commute to work or when working around the house. So if adults enjoy being read to, why shouldnt students?

2. It allows students to truly hear the story.

When Im reading to my students, they hear things like word pronunciation, dialect, and pacing. This is a good thing. As a child, I read constantly. I mispronounced words or names because I only heard them in my head. Then you have those light bulb moments later when you realize youd read it or learned it wrong. For instance, how you pronounce the name Hermione from Harry Potter.

Dialect can also come out when youre being read to, like when someone is reading Shakespeare or Huckleberry Finn. When reading Elie Wiesels book, Night, I read every section out loud to my students because I pause when Wiesel writes a sentence fragment that has underlying, often tragic meaning. I slow down my pace and give the words the attention they deserve. This forces students to slow down and think about the words. The other day after I finished the section where Elies father passes away, one student told me that the way I read made the scene even sadder.

3. I know that students are engaging with the material.

I work in a school where my students are often more worried about what theyre going to eat that night or if theyre going to have a place to sleep. For many kids, homework is the last thing on their mind when they leave school. When I read out loud, I know that my students are actually readingthe material. They arent just finding a summary or looking up answers online.

4. Not all parents read to their kids.

This could be for a variety of reasons, like maybe they had to work or perhaps they cant read themselves. Either way, children might have missed out on that valuable time. It may sound silly, but I have no doubt in my mind that my reading aloud to students can help them feel safe and loved. We teachers often have to take on more than just the educator role when it comes to our students, and this is one way we can do that.

5. It helps me be a better teacher.

When we read the book together, I am able to pause them all in the same spot at the same time to discuss some aspect of the book. Sometimes I might discuss vocabulary and we use context clues to figure out the meaning of the word. Other times I might pause them to infer what an author means, or why the author set up the story like they did.

By doing this, I am able to meet multiple Common Core ELA standards in one class period. I do still have them work on critical thinking questions on their own, and some students choose to do this while I am reading and others wait until we are done. Either way, I am able to have them work as a class and independently simultaneously.

For my students in a tiny, rural, high-poverty school, reading aloud works. Not only are kids reading outside of the classroom more, but they are also learning more from the books we read in class.

When my sophomores find out my freshmen are starting To Kill a Mockingbird, they talk about how much they liked the book. They dont just tell me this, but they tell each other as well. Reading has changed from a negative experience to a positive one for my students, and, for me, that is how I measure success.

The most popular books. 
I've read them all except One Hundred Years of Solitude and Crime and Punishment.

Post Trump book!

Saturday, 15 April 2017


On this day in  1880 school became compulsory for 6-14 year olds in NSW. Required attendance at least 70 days per half-year. NSW were always behind Victoria!

Friday, 14 April 2017


If you are working over the Easter break then you deserve your penalty rates! I wouldn't support any business that didn't support its workers! ( Often the lowest paid workers in Australia) that why there are some places I'll visit here in Ballarat on the Easter holidays and some I won't!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Book buying trip to Daylesford and Castlemaine

Lovely Autumn day for a book buying trip and to organise advertising with the Courier for the next few months.

My haul

Betsy DeVos Is Taking Nearly $8 M from Dept of Education To Pay for Her Own Security - she's a freaking billionaire!
And just to rub salt in the wounds.....
'Since the Gonski Report, govt expenditure on non-government schools has increased by 6% p/a, compared to 3% for public schools.'

I love the binding on the spines of these books.
And this plan of Castle Dracula is very confusing!
Ken Boston has written another thoughtful piece on school funding for the SMH, I'll try to put it up over the Easter break.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Scripture? in state schools? Please NSW!

The debate over teaching 'scripture' in state schools in NSW took a turn to the ...peculiar today. Thank goodness we dont do this in Victoria anymore. Then again we don't have Fred Nile pulling the string here!
From The SMH

The state government has rejected the recommendations of an independent report into scripture teaching in NSW schools that would have forced providers to track student enrolment numbers and let students who opt out get on with their regular class work during scripture class time.

Less than one-third of high school students are enrolled in scripture, according to a $300,000 review of Special Religious Education (SRE) released by the NSW Department of Education.

But the department has rejected making substantial changes to the teaching of scripture after sitting on the review by ARTD consultants for almost 18 months.

A recommendation to permit the majority of students who do not take scripture to get on with their class work was rejected on the basis it was against the current Religious Education Policy; along with a recommendation to give high school principals the power to opt in to SRE, which was rejected because parents currently have the right to withdraw their child from SRE in writing.

In primary schools, participation in SRE is about 71 per cent, while almost half of all principals report a decline in scripture enrolments in the past four years.

But there is no way to test those enrolment figures, which are based on a survey of principals, because the department also rejected a recommendation to keep centralised SRE enrolment figures on the basis it would not be "the best use of resources to establish an additional statewide monitoring system for attendance in SRE"

In addition, the controversial 2015 change that removed the ethics option from the school enrolment form, which was viewed by ethics advocates as a sop to Christian Democrat MP Rev Fred Nile who holds the balance of power in the upper house, will stay, against the recommendation of the review.

"I am very pleased that today the NSW Coalition government has continued its positive support for SRE, which is so beneficial to our young people today," Mr Nile said on Tuesday.

The review was a recommendation of a 2012 upper house inquiry into ethics classes in NSW schools, which recommended the department publish the number of students taking part in ethics and scripture classes, or neither, and that both types of class be reviewed in 2014-15.

Education Minister Rob Stokes conceded the review heard some "concerning anecdotes" but said "there was no widespread or systemic evidence of problems in the present system of SRE or SEE [ethics].

From my Twitter feed
UK School Standards Minister @NickGibbMP talking #education reform and sharing experiences with @NSWEducation & @DETVic teachers

We do not want to be following the lead of the UK in education EVER!

Sunday, 9 April 2017


NAPLAN starts in May and the pro and con stories will be filling up column space and air time from now until May and then again when the findings are released.Its all very predictable.

The story below comes from Huffington Post. I agree with a lot of it. Results take too long to come through but it is improving, we are asking kids (especially those in year 3) to do things that we wouldn't normally expect them to do. (The writing test is a classic example of this. No teacher expects children, especially in year 3 to write a polished, thoughtful piece of writing in one hour without going through the draftinhg process. it just doesnt happen)

There are examples of schools, primarily independent schools, coaching and drilling kids in NAPLAN in the months leading up to the test but I don't know of many state schools that bother unless they are just familiarising the kids with the test format and writing persuasive texts with year 3, probably 2 years before you would normally do it. (Primary kids, unless you choose your topics well don't have the life experience to write decent persuasive texts. I know why they choose it because its easy to mark.) I have had some exceptional students do well in the writing test but most struggle with the topic and the time constraints. I dont have a problem with the Maths, Reading and English tests but I know many that do.

You can exclude kids from NAPLAN. Parents have the right to do that. I believe its a big thing in the ACT (I often read, in Huff Post about the gruesome NY state testing regime and the debate about those and the large numbers of parents who boycott it.) I'd suggest not boycotting NAPLAN.(I know some schools, again most independents who take that choice out of parents hands! Cant have that data looking ordinary or god forbid....bad!) as it is useful so long as it is not taken out of perspective. Teacher assessment over the long haul, with full knowledge of the child and the baggage they bring with them  always provides better data than one off exams.

From Huffington Post

With May just around the corner, so too is NAPLAN, The National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy. Australia wide, students in Year 3, 5, 7 and 9 will be assessed over the course of three days to determine if their reading, writing and numeracy skills are up to scratch.

If your own child is in one of these year levels, you may be feeling curious as to how they will measure up or consumed with nerves about whether their test-taking anxiety will raise its ugly head. Like me, maybe you're still hung up on the relevance of NAPLAN and why it exists in the first place.

We're told that NAPLAN produces valuable data, essential for initiating improvements in student learning. However the statistics provided are somewhat limited in use, partly due to their four month turnaround. More significantly, the data compiled can't compete with the rich observations made by an experienced teacher, which evolves over time and in different contexts.

We're told that NAPLAN doesn't dominate classroom learning. However, as you read this, classrooms across the country are knee deep in NAPLAN preparation. 

Carly, a Year 5 teacher, said: "The data may be useful to the government but not to me in the classroom. By the time we get the results in September/October, I know these kids and what they need far better than a piece of paper can tell me."

We're told that NAPLAN is just a little test, a part of life that children need to adapt to. Education critic Alfie Kohn refers to this mindset as the 'Better Get Used To It' principle. Sure, the experts in child development may be recommending against young children's participation in standardised testing but with it lingering in their future, we prioritise getting them ready nonetheless, with little concern for the damage.

Eight-year-old Keli, first-time NAPLAN participant, said: "The teacher told us that we need to practice getting it all done otherwise we won't be able to in the real test. I sat there and cried and thought about how hard tests are going to be in high school."

We're told that NAPLAN doesn't dominate classroom learning. However, as you read this, classrooms across the country are knee deep in NAPLAN preparation. They may be revising content or they may be taking mock tests. The sad truth is that there's too much riding on the results not to.

Accountability is a huge driver behind NAPLAN. The data is used to give schools and teachers a gold star or a giant red cross. But it ignores the obvious truth that we can't make children learn if they're not ready. Nor should we only value the style of teaching and learning that can be assessed in a written test.

Stephanie, an educator, said: "I don't know a teacher that doesn't give the students some practice of this test taking. We should be teaching concepts that make a difference, are relevant and motivate students for lifelong learning."

Anthony, an ex teacher, adds: "Kids get less of an education because so much time is spent teaching to the test."

Schools want your child to participate. The government wants your child to participate. But do you? And, even more importantly, does your child?

Here's where things get interesting. Did you know NAPLAN isn't compulsory?

Schools want your child to participate. The government wants your child to participate. But do you? And, even more importantly, does your child?

It's time to make a decision. To support NAPLAN this year or to avoid it? My advice is simple. Ask your child: "Do you want to participate in NAPLAN this year?"

If he or she says "yes", let them. Reduce the pressure surrounding the results and allow them to experience the process. If she or he says "no", support them. Ask for a withdrawal form at your school's front office. This one-page document simply requires you to write your child's name, school and year level, tick a box for which parts of NAPLAN are being sat out (all) and sign it.

Repeat this conversation each year that NAPLAN rolls around. Your child's answer may be the same or it may change. With their feelings valued and their decision empowered, the big hairy monster that is NAPLAN need no longer be a thing of nightmares.

PS Ive just been up at school and so far we've come out of the storm uscathed. We didnt even lose power! That's a first! 40 mls of rain yesterday. A photo taken yesterday just before the storm and the clean up continues in Murrwillumbah.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Sinbad the Sailor


This unit is based on the seven amazing voyages of Sinbad of adventure and danger, shipwreck and heroism, fabulous treasures and terrifying monsters have been brilliantly retold by the talented storyteller John Yeoman coupled with some sensational and wonderfully lively illustrations of Quentin Blake.

The unit which I have just finished is available now on TPT

The Famous Five and BONUS Swallows and Amazons unit

Available now on TPT