"It is a good divine that follows his own instructions; I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done than to be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching."
Portia, The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene II.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thinking about Christchurch, not about pedagogy...

Towards the end of period four on Tuesday my colleague from the next classroom came in to tell me that there had been a big earthquake in Christchurch.  I put the overhead projector on and logged on to www.stuff.co.nz so we could check out the news. Throughout period five, my Year 13s attempted to work on analysing the first chapters of novels from their chosen genre, interspersed with exclamations at the newest photo showing up on the whiteboard or the latest news update.  I made desultory attempts at assisting them with their work while, in some kind of weird role-reversal, I gave most of my attention to the Twitter and Facebook feeds on my iphone!

I stayed on line checking the news while I worked until I headed off to my piano lesson at five o'clock. My piano teacher and I watched the news on TV after my lesson. After dinner I went to my church choir practice where we opened our rehearsal by praying for those in Christchurch and their families and friends. I spent a lot of time with my iphone behind my music, secretly checking earthquake news on Twitter and Facebook and texting friends in Christchurch.  I have cousins in Christchurch, and I went to bed on Tuesday still not knowing if they were safe.

Yesterday we had a school assembly in the morning where we talked about what had happened in Christchurch and said karakia for those affected.  Our principal spoke about the impact on us here in Otaki as we wait for news of friends and whanau, and also the need for us to think about our own earthquake preparedness, family plans, etc.  Many of our students here at college have parents who commute to Wellington to work.  My own partner works in the city.  What would we all do if there was a big earthquake in Wellington and they were unable to get home for days?

Travelling to my chamber choir practice last night the woman I car pool with told me of a local family whose daughter has died in the Christchurch CBD. I arrived home to my partner's announcement that his employer has him on standby to go down to Christchurch.  He works in IT and may be needed to go down and get computer systems back up and running.  He had to pack a bag and take it to work today in case.

By the time I went to sleep last night, I had heard news of my cousins and most of my friends: all safe.  But I had been shocked at seeing more photos, interviews and coverage.  I was desperately worried about my friend Jill who I had boarded with in Lyttelton some years ago when I was doing my teacher training.  Her house was only a few hundred metres from the timeball station, which had been badly damaged, and I couldn't contact her.  I had no news of my friends and tutors at the NZ Graduate School of Education, which has its base in an office building on Kilmore St, right by Cranmer Square.  I wept at the photos of the shattered Catholic Basilica, where I sang in the choir for six months; and Oxford Tce Baptist Church and the Cathedral, where I have sung at RSCM services in the past.

Today my temper has been short and it has been hard to stay positive - I found myself over-reacting to student behaviour.  I know I was tired and worried.  A phone call in the afternoon showed again what a small and closely-connected country we are: my dental appointment had to be rescheduled because one of the dentists in the practice has gone down to Christchurch where his partner is still missing.

I am relieved to say that I am now 99% sure that my friend Jill is okay and I have spoken to one of the NZGSE directors and heard that they are all safe.  I have been in touch with friends from the choir at the Catholic Basilica, and they are safe too.  My partner was not required to go to Christchurch today and probably won't be  going tomorrow.

I sat down this afternoon to blog about my teaching, but the earthquake is all I can think about.

I have written all this to show how huge the impact of this tragedy is on all of us here in New Zealand. It really is a 'national' disaster. Since Tuesday afternoon I, like many others outside Christchurch, have carried on with my job and my daily life.  I may not be in Christchurch, I am not aware at this stage of anyone I personally know having died or having lost someone close to them - but I am not 'unaffected'.   I am still prepared for the possibility that someone I know may be on those lists when they are released. I have lived in Christchurch; I know people there, I know the city.

Like all of my colleagues and most of the students here, the suffering of those most closely impacted is never far from my mind. The people I am feeling desperately sorry for at the moment are those whose friends and family have died and, most particularly, those whose loved ones are still missing.  My thoughts and prayers are with them.

Ki o koutou tini mate, haere, haere, haere atu ki te po.  He mihi nui ki nga whanau pani - arohanui ki a koutou mo tenei aitua o matou katoa.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Year 13 - Unit: Chapter One

My Year 13s are working on analysing genre and style in the first chapters of novels.  The unit is based on the assessment task "Chapter One" for AS 90720, which you can find on Te Kete Ipurangi at http://www.tki.org.nz/r/ncea/eng3_1Bv2_25jan06.doc  We have read and analysed Chapter One of The Last Ride by Thomas Eidson (Western), Unnatural Exposure by Patricia Cornwell (Crime/Thriller), The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (Fantasy) and Tongue in Chic by Christina Dodd (Romance) using the templates in the tki resource.

My students are now choosing the genre they want to write in and they have to find three novels from that genre and analyse their first chapters using the same template.  The aim of this is to get them 'in the zone' for their genre - familiar with the vocabulary and style so that they are ready to write their own piece in the style of their chosen genre.

Each year I have some students who have trouble choosing their genre.  I tell them to go with what they like reading, as they will be more familiar with the style.  There is usually some bright spark (yes, even in the 'top' English class!) who says they don't like reading; I ask them what kind of movies they like and tell them to choose novels in that genre.

Most of the Year 13 class are heading off to camp for three days this week with the Year 9 students they are mentoring this year, so progress on the unit will be slow.

HoD life: I spent a frustrating couple of hours this morning trying to work out how to catalogue departmental resources and print barcodes for them - moving to automating our textbook management, which has been all manual card systems up until now.  Hopefully once I have my head around it this process will speed up!

Teacher life: PPTA meeting in Palmerston North this afternoon.

Life, the big L: eleven of us (staff, significant others and a couple of parents) had a team in the Great Lake Relay over the weekend - 155 km around Lake Taupo.  An awesome weekend!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The self-reflective me!

Hi all, welcome to Teach Twenty, which will be where I reflect on my teaching day in the English classroom. 

Today I am happy that I have set up my new blog, and I am about to post the link to Claire Amos so I can join in the 101 English Blogs project.  My blog title and banner indicate that perfect practice in the classroom is easier said than done!  The NZ Curriculum challenges us to model the key competencies for our students.  I strive to avoid too much, "Do as I say and not as I do," but I have chosen the quotation from Portia to remind myself that this is not always possible!