Oops, I did ink again

I solemnly swear that I thought I was done. In previous “Think Behind the Ink” posts I said as much but, as some people have pointed out, there’s something addictive about getting tattoos.

As is my wont, these new pieces have a particular meaning attached. They have a certain significance that may or may not be obvious when first viewed.

I’ll start with my ribs.

Very few people will see this piece because of its location (only those connected to reading/writing are visible in my work clothes). Some might assume that these birds represent freedom or achievement as is often the case with these animals as metaphors. It’s not the case with mine. These birds are an attempted murder and they represent the three Adelaide Crows premierships; the men’s team in 1997-1998 and the women’s in 2017.

I wanted something that wasn’t overt as I find some sporting tattoos to be quite naff. I also wanted something that could be added to over time. I’ll probably add colour at some point. I’d flirted with the idea of two shades of blue and a splodge of pink as a water colour background but I could also just incorporate the club’s colours. I figured that could be a decision for Later Ron. When the Crows win another grand final (or five 🤞) I can add more birds to the flock and think about colour then.

Now to the forearm.

I’d deliberated over the location of this one/these three and their potential impact on my employability. I decided that any school that doesn’t want their English teacher to have visible tattoos that stem from books is probably not a school I want to work at. On a simplistic level, the symbols come from authors I love – J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and Terry Pratchett – but each holds a significance beyond an appreciation of their origins.

Most people will recognise the Deathly Hallows (closest to the wrist) from the Harry Potter series. The symbol represents the invisibility cloak, the resurrection stone and the elder wand through the triangle, circle and vertical line respectively. The combination of these three objects makes one the master of death. Unfortunately, death and dying are frequent topics of conversation. A great number of people I care about appear to be attending funerals regularly, have lost their own lives or are battling age and ill-health. To have some control over life and death, then, is a fantasy I almost wish I could make reality.

The middle symbol is from Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. It is ka, roughly synonymous with destiny or fate. Beyond that, ka “signifies life-force, consciousness, duty and destiny.” Now, I don’t necessarily believe in predestination but my personal philosophies align well with the notion that good and bad will happen to us at various points in our lives and that we will have little to no control over these events. However, we can control our reactions. Che sarà, sarà BUT it is up to us to determine if we will let those events define or control us.

The final symbol is the Summoning Dark from Terry Pratchett’s Thud. The Summoning Dark is a spirit of vengeance from dwarf mythology with a sign described as like “a floating eyeball with a curly tail”. For want of a better term, it ‘infects’ one of the characters and he realises that the more he relies on the Dark the more vulnerable he becomes to succumbing to his own ‘dark side’. For me, the tattoo is about internal struggles and self-reliance.

Maybe part of the appeal of tattoos is linked to insecurities and body image. Our bodies are a thing of great conjecture but, beyond that, they are ever changing. Perhaps tattoos are enticing because they give you an element of control, something you can be happy with despite whatever flaws you think you have.

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Kickstarting my creativity: an update

This is a short post, nothing special.

In November I ran a Kickstarter campaign for their “Commissions” project. It was my first ever experience on the provider side of crowdsourcing.

I’d like to say a massive thanks to my friends for making the project a success, especially those who paid more than what their ‘reward tier’ required.

For those who didn’t see the original post, my Kickstarter campaign was poetry based. Basically, I’d write whatever people wanted me to write – they picked the topic, form and length.

It was cool to try something new and I loved hearing back from people about what they did with the poem and how they reacted to what I wrote.

Some of the feedback included:

“You bloody bugger you made me cry!!!!!!!

Thank you sooooo much”

“Oh my god it’s so good! I love the second stanza. It actually made me tear up a bit”

“I love it! Perfect 👌”

“It’s beautiful and I love it. 😊 AND I can’t believe how great the structure is! Sonnets are so strict 😂 I also love the last line”

“Can’t see it well in the photo but this is what I did with your poems you wrote for my sister. She really loves them Ron. She reads them over and over and admires how you put together my feeling about her into such beautiful words. Thanks again for doing the poems x”

And here’s what people did with their poems that were gifts for other people:

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Again, I want to thank everyone that got involved for their support, encouragement and feedback. Much love 💙

Leaving a Legacy

“If life’s a bitch then death’s a slut. Cos death comes for everyone, and when it’s you turn you’re fucked.” – Hilltop Hoods

I struggle with death. I’ve always struggled with death.

As a teenager, I failed to see my self-worth. I felt I offered more problems than solutions, and I thought people’s lives would be simpler if I wasn’t around. I’d set up nooses, press knives against my skin, and live a life of reckless endangerment.

Then, people died. My aunty and uncle committed suicide a year apart, a family friend died with a needle in his arm. My reactions to these events were selfish, sometimes tinged with jealousy. My mum, however, was distraught.

The suicidal thoughts tapered off after this but they never fully left. Even in my 30s I have often looked at trees and poles and the like while I’ve been driving and thought, ‘how easy it would be to turn the wheel slightly and put an end to it all?’ I obviously haven’t done it yet and I don’t ever plan to but the thoughts linger.

This year I lost two people I wish I had more opportunities to bond with. One was a young girl, the other a man slightly older than me. I wrote about it at the time and that certainly helped me through the immediate grief but I still have moments when it hits me, hard. One of these was on my footy club’s end of season trip in November. You see, the young girl is the daughter of one my teammates and the slightly older man was also on the team. The man’s nickname was written on the bus wheel and, at one pit stop on the way to our destination, I sat next to the type for a moment of peace, reflection and remorse. When we reached our accommodation, I hugged the father and told him I missed his daughter. We all then headed to the local tavern and, once we got there, I snuck away to the car park. I rang my wife in tears.

It didn’t help that both of these two fantastic people died within close proximity to the 10 year anniversary of my dad’s death. Ours was a relationship of regret and lost opportunities and it’s complicated nature has impacted on my ability to find peace in his passing.

Other deaths and near-deaths rocked my footy club and workplace throughout the year. It seemed as though I couldn’t escape deaths shadow and, as such, I couldn’t escape my grief.

A fortunate side effect of thinking about death is that I’ve imagined what my funeral will look like and what people will say. I say fortunate because it has helped me gain perspective. It has helped me decide how I want to live and what legacy I leave behind.

I want to be known as a decent human being. I want to be remembered as someone with a big heart, someone who helped people.

You see, I’m not seeking death; I’m chasing immortality.

I want to inspire people. I want to be a role model. I want my humour, humility and humanity to serve as traits other people want to see in themselves.

If this happens and they inspire others in turn, then my influence will outlive my body.

Kickstarting my Creativity

Throughout November, Kickstarter is encouraging people to start projects that require input from others in order to be completed. When I saw their video I knew I had to take part.

I’ve often spoken about the need for community spirit in creative endeavours. Being part of sporting clubs now and in the past, I’ve often been in awe of the support offered on and off the field. It seems everyone attaches to a club wants the other members to be better. It makes sense because it’s a team environment but creative pursuits are often individual. This means that artists are often removed from situations where they can be provided with feedback and direction.

This Kickstarter initiative plays in the same space.

As it’s my first attempt at running a crowdsourcing project, I’m very nervous. It’s only three days in and I’m already freaking out. There are so many doubts.

Have I set my target too high?

Are my reward prices too high?

Does the project page read well?

Does my title stand out enough?

Should I have made the project duration longer?

Fortunately, Kickstarter put me on to a Facebook group where I’ve already received some feedback. I’ve put some of this in place but other things can’t be changed once the project is launched.

Even if it doesn’t get off the ground, participating in this event has proven beneficial. When setting up the page I listed my creative achievements and it’s the first time I’ve collated this into a list. So now, as much as I’m nervous about the project, I’m quietly confident in my own abilities as an artist because I’ve realised that my creative cv is something I should be proud of.

It’s technically not even up to date too. The following image is from Realistic Poetry International’s “Poets are Heroes” magazine and I’ve received an email stating four poems of mine are going to appear in a new anthology – both bits of news coming after I set up my project page.

So, what is my Kickstarter idea? I’m writing poems for people. Basically, people pick the size poem they want and, if the project reaches its goal, I’ll ask them for information that will inform the writing of the poem. If you want to find out more, here’s the link – http://kck.st/2hzSYl1

I Could Quit Teaching

The school system sucks. We all accept this. There are regular changes to curriculum and the way in which material is delivered but, for the most part, we trundle out the same old crap.

Walk through almost any school today and you’ll still see four walls, rows of desks, uniformly in dress and a teacher up the front doing “chalk and talk”. You’ll find variations on this theme too. It might be three walls and a concertina or sliding door. You might see a U shape, groups of desks or a long conference-style table. The teacher might even use technology to get their point across. Regardless, schools are still factories trying to churn out round pegs for all those round holes in society even if those pegs are square when they walk in the door.

It’s a multi-faceted problem. Its individual schools that do things by the book. It’s the education departments who dictate curriculum. It’s the government criticises teachers for dropping standards and combats that by increasing the workload. It’s the teachers who lack empathy, flexibility and tact. It’s the parents who are absent or ambivalent when it comes to the learning needs of their children. It’s the society who has abandoned the notion that it takes a village to raise a child and instead shirks responsibility wherever possible. It’s the kids who deliberately try to make life hard for people. It’s everything and everyone.

Schools don’t care about the mental health or the social skills of their students. They might claim to. It might be on their business plan. But! Therein lies the problem. Business plan. Schools are a business whose stock is measured by a system of numbers. What numbers? Standardised test scores: NAPLAN bands, OLNA and ATAR results. These are the details released to the public, these are the numbers that dictate funding and influence enrolments. When push comes to shove, these are the numbers schools use to determine their success. It is not about the students, it is about their results.

The union, which fights for the benefits of teachers, is equally uncaring when it comes to students. What does the union want us to do? Clock in when school starts, clock out when it finishes, work to rule.

I got in to teaching to help kids, to guide them through their tumultuous teenage years. But nothing attached to the school system seems to line up with that ideology. What’s important? Numbers, numbers, numbers, staff.

A robot could do my job better than me. An algorithm could measure student achievement, determine weaknesses and identify resources designed to foster improvement all in the time it would take me to call out the roll.

I could quit teaching. It would be easy. There are countless numbers of jaded staff working in schools across the world. I could join their ranks and either leave the profession completely or do a half-assed job of it.

I could quit teaching. But I won’t. When the system is broken and the whole world seems to be against them, who else will advocate for my students?

Honestly, and I could get in trouble for this, I don’t care about education department policy. I don’t care about government mandated standardised tests. I don’t care about towing the company line.

What do I care about? The kids!

I will do whatever I can within the four walls of my classroom to make sure my students feel respected, accepted and wanted. I will do what I can to brighten their day for the hour I have them. I will build them up, test their boundaries and push them to succeed NOT because it looks good on paper but because it is their future on the line. I will check in on them when they’re hurting. I will help them when they need it, often at my own inconvenience. I will treat them like the human beings they are regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or class. I will make mistakes because I’m human too but I will learn from them the way I expect my students to learn from theirs.

Why? Because I care and because I can. I got into teaching to help kids. If I wanted to work with numbers I would’ve been an accountant.

I can’t change the system but I can work within it to achieve my goal. I can’t change the wind but I can move my sails (or something like that).

Rant done.

Ron out.

Mic drop.

Peace!

Recommended Reading: Stephen King

Killer clowns, vicious vampires, deranged dogs, murderous monsters and psychotic stalkers. These are the characters we associate with Stephen King. And, fair enough. He is, after all, the King of horror.
To paint all of his work with this blood-covered brush is something only the uninitiated do. In doing so you miss coming-of-age stories, the underdogs-seeking-redemption tales, the hard-boiled-detective books, and the historical-fiction-cum-time-travel novel.
The recent release of IT means that King is in our collective thoughts again. If I’m being honest about the film, I thought it was underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the casting – each actor/character felt like they truly belonged in that world – and the
cinematography was excellent; I just wasn’t scared.
Fortunately, IT was never one of my favourite King tales so it didn’t ruin anything for me. Likewise, I’ve grown accustomed to the fact that he doesn’t often translate well to the big screen anyway. Note that I said ‘often’ – there are some major exceptions.
Anyway, for anyone who has a new-found interest in reading King’s books (whether that interest stems from watching IT or 2016’s 11.22.63 Hulu series, or from somewhere else) it can be quite daunting choosing where to start. A prolific writer, Stephen King has written 56 novels, 5 non-fiction books and nearly 200 short stories collected in 10 anthologies. And it’s all connected…
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I’m a huge fan of his work and his books dominate my bookshelf but I’m not going to pretend I’ve read all that King has produced. If that information taints this recommendation then so be it, but here’s my 13 favourite Stephen King books (not in order because that proved too difficult).
The Green Mile
I can actually remember when this came out. It was the year I turned 16 and the novel was released in six parts; one small book a month for six months. The Green Mile was also turned into a successful film and is one of those tales people can’t believe was written by Stephen King. It’s most memorable character is a giant black man on death row who shows incredible empathy and the ability to inexplicably heal people (and a mouse).
‘Salem’s Lot
A vampire older than Christ relocates to a rural American town and begins turning everyone into bloodsucking monsters. Stephen King has said in a couple of interviews that this is his favourite book. At one point he was planning a full-blown sequel but that never eventuated. Instead, he simply returned to that setting in two of the short stories collected in Night Shift.
The Shining
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Redrum. Redrum.
The story of an alcoholic writer who ‘house sits’ a haunted hotel with his wife and telepathic son. This is the first book that actually gave me the heebie-jeebies. The woman in room 237 was particularly freaky.
King actually wrote a sequel called Doctor Sleep which didn’t hit the same heights but was still very entertaining.
The Stand
This! 823 pages of good vs evil. Apparently the original manuscript was so big that the printing presses of the time literally couldn’t handle it so King had to cull it. He later released an ‘uncut’ version that came in at 1152 pages. It is an epic in every sense of the word.
Different Seasons
If you don’t like horror, this is the King book for you. Well, half of it is. This isn’t a novel but 4 novellas. Two of these have been converted into films regularly listed among people’s favourites – The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me. One of the remaining two is Apt Pupil which is a disturbingly realistic story of a teenage boy who finds a Nazi war criminal in his neighbourhood. The final story is bat-shit crazy and features a pregnant woman who is involved in a car crash while in labour.
Needful Things
If you ask me what my favourite Stephen King book is, this is your answer. Then I think about it and change my mind about a half a dozen times. More often than not, I still come back to Needful Things. The premise is quite simple; an elderly shop owner sells goods for misdeeds… and their souls. It’s the last novel set in Castle Rock.
The Dark Half
I don’t like birds and “the sparrows are flying again”. This novel features an author who is haunted by the pen-name he tried to kill off (but it doesn’t want to stay dead). I was freaked out by this book when I first read it. It probably didn’t help that I used to live in a house surrounded by a national forest and often found myself to be the only one at home – it’s actually really surprising that horror is a genre I love, I was constantly creeping myself out while growing up.
On Writing
Part autobiography, part how-to book. I love this candid look at King’s life and craft.
Misery
Yet another Stephen King novel where the protagonist is an author. It often feels like King puts himself into his books and this makes it seem like the nightmares are all his. Here an obsessive fan helps her favourite author recover after a car crash until her obsession takes a dark turn. Kathy Bates won an Oscar for her portrayal of the psychotic nurse.
The Talisman
This is one of many collaborations Stephen King has worked on, this one with Peter Straub. Set in America and an alternate dimension, this is the story of a young boy who wants to cure his mum’s cancer.
Everything’s Eventual
I struggled to pick a short story collection to fit in this list and Everything’s Eventual narrowly beat out the other anthologies. These are probably a great place to start as they allow a glimpse into King’s work in accessible bite-sized chunks. The titular story is excellent, so is “The Road Virus Heads North”. “1408” was turned into a decent film and “The Man in the Black Suit” was also a riveting tale (about a boy who meets the Devil).
Danse Macabre
This is the first non-fiction book of King’s that I ever read. It’s a history of horror, an appreciation of the genre, and a blend of academic insight and personal reflection. It’s a fantastic read.
Cycle of the Werewolf
This illustrated short novel tells of werewolf attacks in a small town. It is told in 12 chapters that are set in each month of a calendar year. Aside from the unique structure, I also enjoyed the fact that the protagonist is a wheelchair-bound adolescent.
king face book
Hmmm, all of this reminiscing has made me keen to read some King again. Fortunately, he’s just released one book (Sleeping Beauties, co-written by his son Owen King) and is releasing another before Christmas (Gwendy’s Button Box, co-written by Richard Chizmar).

Recommended Reading: Terry Pratchett

Somewhere in space there is a giant turtle, on the back of which stands four elephants. Balanced on top of these creatures is a flat disc. On that disc lives witches, wizards, werewolves, vampires, trolls, humans and other assorted oddities. 

This is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. For the uninitiated, approaching this universe is a daunting task. There are 41 novels and a variety of support materials, spin offs and adaptations. 

I love Pratchett. He and Stephen King dominate my shelves. 

So, when a friend said she was interested in reading some of his books, I eagerly volunteered to make some recommendations. It was a silly thing to do. I’ve got my favourites, but are they the best ‘jumping on’ points?

While many of the books stand alone as independent works, a number of novels and stories can be grouped together because they feature common central characters and settings. Furthermore, some books refer to events that happened in other novels.  If my favourite novel from one of these ‘sets’ is one of the latter ones, is my appreciation of it enhanced by my knowledge of how things got to this point?

It meant that, in order to make my recommendations, I needed to be more pragmatic. That’s why it has ballooned out into this blog post instead of a quick text message. 

So, below you’ll find two lists. The first is short and sharp. It is my top 5 (not necessarily in order). It is what would possibly have been in that message had I been reactive instead of practical. The second is longer. It is organised under headings that represent the main character threads within the Discworld series. Under those headings is a brief introduction to that arc, and the titles of both the first book in that series and my favourite one.

Here we go:

discworld-novels

My top 5

  1. Carpe Jugulum
  2. Moving Pictures
  3. The Last Continent
  4. The Fifth Elephant 
  5. Hogfather 

 

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The longer list…

Rincewind and the Wizards

The first two Discworld novels had Rincewind as their protagonist. He is a bumbling, incompetent wizard who doesn’t look for trouble but trouble seems to find him anyway. Rincewind is also linked to the wizards of the Unseen University, an institution whose librarian was turned into an orangutan (and possibly one of the most loved characters in all of Pratchett’s works). 

First novel: The Colour of Magic – effectively a ‘straight’ parody of the fantasy genre. 

Favourite novel: The Last Continent – Pratchett’s love for Australia is evident is this piss take that takes place in a setting that is part-fantasy, part-outback. 

Is this a good jumping on point? Yes, I think so. I might be biased, however. I reckon all Aussies should give this a read. Think of the episode from The Simpsons, “Bart vs Australia”, add a cowardly wizard and his semi-sentient, multi-legged luggage and what you get is a laugh riot.

 

The Witches

While wizards on the disc like showing off, the witches deliberately choose not to use magic on most occasions. If we think about illusionists, Pratchett’s wizards more like stage magicians while his witches are akin to mentalists. They’re intelligent, resourceful and cunning. The most prominent witch in the series is Granny Weatherwax who became a witch by choice, not by fate, and is known by the varied species throughout Discworld as the most powerful witch in the world. 

First novel: Equal Rites

Favourite novel: Carpe Jugulum

Is this a good jumping on point? Maybe. There’s a bit of history between the witches from the previous books and ignorance of this might slow you down at the start. Once it gets going though… what you have is a wicked novel that answers two questions you never knew you had. 1. How do ‘young’ vampires rebel against the traditions of their people? -and- 2. What would happen in a fight between witches and vampires?

 

Death

Death is pretty much everyone’s favourite Pratchett character and is the one who appears in the most books (almost all of them). He is your typical anthropomorphic incarnation of death, in that he looks like the Grim Reaper. Death speaks IN SMALL CAPITALS and, in the books devoted to his story, he explores the essence of humanity. 

First novel: Eric

Favourite novel: Hogfather 

Is this a good jumping on point? Possibly not. The Hogfather is a similar figure to Santa and his role is taken over one Hogswatchnight by Death. It’s an enjoyable romp but Reaper Man is probably a better novel to start with – in which Death becomes mortal for a while. 

 

City Watch

The biggest city on the disc has its laws enforced by a group that began with two hopeless street-coppers being led by their alcoholic captain and has become a fully-fledged police force containing more diversity than you’ll find anywhere else (real or otherwise). Take your urban sprawl, your technology and your businesses and add elements of traditional fantasy and this is what you get. 

First novel: Guards! Guards!

Favourite novel: The Fifth Elephant 

Is this a good jumping on point? No. The picture book, Where’s My Cow?, is a great introduction to the characters in this series but, because there is more growth in this particular arc than any other, here you’re better of starting at the beginning. 

 

Tiffany Aching (the Witches but it’s YA)

In a similar way to how Harry Potter traces the growth of a young wizard as he learns to perform spells and ultimately conquers evil, the Tiffany Aching series tracks the development of a young witch learning her place in the world. Integral to her story are the hilarious Nac Mac Feegle – little, blue, Scottish picsties who love to drink, steal and fight. 

First novel: The Wee Free Men

Favourite novel: The Wee Free Men

Is this a good jumping on point? Obviously! In this book, Tiffany has to rescue her little brother from the The Queen of the Fairies. Personally, I think part of the reason I like it (and Pratchett’s witch novels in general) is because of its strong, female lead. 

 

Moist von Lipwig

On the surface, these novels look boring compared to Pratchett’s other works. The first is about the postal service, the second is concerned with the mint and the introduction of paper money, and the third revolves around the the first railway on the disc. Despite the ‘boring’ premises, Pratchett remains funny throughout. 

First novel: Going Postal

Favourite novel: Going Postal

Is this a good jumping on point? Obviously! Like the Tiffany Aching series, my favourite book is the first in this character’s arc. Moist is a con-man given the choice of being the new postmaster or dying and what we see is how his cunning can be used for good. 

 

Miscellaneous 

Some of the Discworld novels don’t feature these characters and stand alone as individual tales within this shared universe. These include Pyramids, Moving Pictures, Small Gods, The Truth, The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents (YA), and Monstrous Regiment.

Favourite novel: Moving Pictures; in which making movies becomes detrimental to the structure of reality itself. 

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Anyway, I hope that helps people decide what Discworld novel they might like to pick up.

Happy reading!

Teaching Fish to Skate

I get told I’m good at my job.

I’ve heard this message from parents, students, colleagues and bosses… but I’m never sure I believe it. Self-doubt is something I have been crippled by throughout not just my career but my whole life.

Side note: this is probably why I write poetry.

 

Anyway, when I think about the teachers that I have crossed paths with (whether as a student, while on prac or as a teacher myself) I can’t help but think of the things that they do better than I do.

There are teachers who plan far more thoroughly than I do.

There are teachers who provide better feedback than I do.

There are teachers who know their students better than I know mine.

There are teachers who are more professional than I am.

There are teachers who manage behaviour better than I do.

There are teachers who know their content better than I do.

 

Simply put, there are teachers who are better than me.

But, I am good at my job and I can tell you why in 7 words – my heart is in the right place.

 

For me, teaching isn’t about content. Content can be Googled.

For me, teaching is about sparking an interest and hoping a fire lights.

For me, teaching is acknowledging that life is a race and I’m passing on a baton.

I teach English but I’m not trying to make authors of my students. I don’t care if they know what a dangling participle is. I’m not asking them to be avid readers.

What am I doing?

I’m trying to make them enjoy learning. I want them to want to come to school.

 

It’s strange. I take a lot of inspiration from weird places. One of these places is skateboarding legend Rodney Mullen. In a TEDx talk, Mullen talks about creativity and transcendence. He says that his love of skateboarding waned because he got caught up in the ‘job’ of it and he became reinvigorated when he realised the joy of experimentation and the potential of a creative community. The ideologies that created the school system as we know it have reached their expiry date. I get why students think school sucks but I want them to know that education is important and learning can be fun. I want them to play around with words and ideas. I want them to deconstruct and create. I want them to wow me.

mullen

 

I’m not the best teacher. I’m not even the best teacher I can be.

BUT… I refuse to put a cap on what I think my students can achieve and I am determined to make their learning experience an enjoyable one. As Albert Einstein supposedly never said: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” So, instead, I’m giving my students an opportunity to show that they are indeed geniuses.

If that makes me good at my job, it’s a badge I’m happy to wear.

 

 

 

 

 

Cards Against T.S. Eliot

Cards Against Humanity (CAH) is an incredibly popular card game self-marketed as a “party game for horrible people”. Essentially, you play with a deck consisting of two types of cards, black and white. Each round, one player asks a question from a black card, and everyone else answers with their funniest white card. It’s like bite sized MadLibs.

 

Anyway, CAH is so popular that people are marketing their own versions. As it is the original has a variety of add-ons and alternative packs but people have leapt onto that winning formula to make Cards Against Muggles/Potter and Cards Against Disney.

 

And, that’s what I’m doing. I’m not trying to make money or anything like that. Actually, I’m making it for my year 12s. I’ve blogged before that I invent and play games in the classroom and that I’ll do things that are designed to make learning memorable and this is no different. My students are studying Eliot’s poetry and I want them to be able to remember quotes from the poems as well as contextual information so it helps them with their exams. More importantly, I want them to have fun with his words and enjoy his poetry.

I’m hoping this helps.

 

Anyway, in the link below you’ll find the cards (apologies in advance if you’re fixated on the colour and shape of the original – I’ve taken some liberties). Feel free to download it, try it, and/or offer suggestions for additional cards.

 

Cards Against Eliot – link

 

 

The Magic of Teaching

Everyone acknowledges that teaching is not what it used to be. There’s a lot more pressure on educators today than there has ever been. We all know the comic strip:

parents-yelling-at-teachers

 

Back in the day, teachers were respected by students (at least to their face) or the student faced the consequences – corporal punishment kept kids in line. Nowadays, teachers are meant to be engaging and innovative. Punishments appear to have limited impact and the only way to prevent behavioural issues is by providing an environment where students are actively involved in whatever activities the teacher is running. 

 

So, how do you do this? Teaching is often likened to acting. To quote (out of context) T.S. Eliot, we “prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet”. However, it is probably more accurate to say teachers are like magicians. Not sold? Check out the following list of terminology associated with magic and how these terms apply to the classroom. 

 

  • Ditch – to secretly get rid of an object or gimmick.

Teachers have to be flexible. You can have the best lesson preparation in the world but if you are determined to follow that plan regardless of the students’ mindset then you are going to struggle. Things happen. Students might have issues going on at home, they may have just run a 3k time trial in Phys Ed, there might’ve been a fight at recess, they might be tired, they might be hyperactive, etc. 

If you can’t recognise the mood of your students and modify your plans to suit then you’re not going to have success. It doesn’t matter how finely tuned your lesson plan is, if the kids aren’t receptive to it (for whatever reason) you’ll be ice-skating up hill for the whole period. You need to be able to change things up on the fly in order to have the most success. 

 

  • Force – where a card or other object is made to be selected by the spectator, despite the appearance of a free choice.

Modern students like to be involved in the lesson design. It’s why PBL is so successful, because students get to make a choice about what they do in a system that is generally too rigid to allow that to happen. Sometimes in the classroom you get the ability to incorporate choices in to the lesson, other times you fake it. 

You might hold votes on when assignments are due or what text you analyse. You might get groups to choose their presentation topic. You might even get students to choose what happens in a period. However, often you will modify the conditions so the choice they make is what you intended from the get go BUT, because they were involved in the decision, they feel more invested in the outcome. 

 

  • Impromptu – a trick that can be performed at a moment’s notice, usually with everyday objects and little or no preparation.

Be flexible! Remember? Sometimes you’ll find yourself with 10 minutes of unplanned class time. You might finish an activity early or you might have to wait in your classroom until it’s time to go to an assembly. Whatever the case might be, sometimes you have time to kill. 

I like to have a few activities up my sleeve that I pull out in these instances. My go-to, and one I often use at the start of a lesson to keep students occupied while I take the roll, is the 9 letter word puzzle. I’ll choose a word connected to our current topic and have the students see how many words they can come up with using those letters. I’ll award some sort of prize for the kid/s who finish with the most words. 

9

Having these sorts of things handy, that only need a whiteboard marker and/or pen and paper, can be the difference between calm and chaos. 

 

  • Misdirection – psychological techniques for controlling attention.

This! In any given classroom there are a thousand distractions. Being able to redirect students’ attention from potential distraction is an art form. 

 

  • Patter – The dialogue used in the performance of an effect. Patter styles may differ from magicians to magicians – some prefer a serious patter, while others opt for a light hearted humorous patter to relax the audience and try to catch them off guard.

Some teachers are super serious, others are lighthearted larrikins. Whatever persona people adopt in the classroom, they do so because it suits their character and they’ve determined it works for them. For some teachers, their demeanour depends on the class’ age and academic ability. 

 

  • Sleight – a secret move or technique.

Despite the fact that classrooms are public spaces, not everything that happens needs to be public knowledge. Confronting a student about their misbehaviour can often occur as a private conversation, preventing it from escalating into something much larger than it needs to be. Printing materials on coloured paper for the class can allow you to cater for a dyslexic student without drawing attention to their disability. And… education doesn’t have to be overt. Games and interactive activities can be used to teach concepts without bogging students down in book learning or ‘chalk and talk’. 

hogwarts staff

^ these aren’t the teachers I was meaning when I said that educators are magic but you see it now, right?