Sunday, December 25, 2011

Boxing Day memories

Until about two years ago, my family had a tradition of getting together on Boxing Day for breakfast. No special reason except Christmas was over and it was a fun way to start the day before checking out the sales. At one time, my mother, my sister and I used to go out to breakfast at the Treble Clef restaurant at the Arts Centre. Then the restaurant stopped doing breakfast (and then it was gone altogether), so we went to my place and I had fun looking up breakfasts in the London Ritz Book of Breakfasts and using some of the recipes. I would get up at 5.30 to bake soda bread, brew coffee and sometimes make extravagant hot chocolate with real melted chocolate in it, make a jug of orange juice and lay out plates of smoked salmon and fresh summer fruit. The breakfast ended up with a large chunk of the family attending - first Dad and my brother-in-law Gary, then my nephew David and sometimes my middle nephew Mark and then David brought his children Dezzy and Rachel, in Melbourne for the holidays. I would have liked to invite my brother and his family too, but with four of them and a table and chairs only for eight, I was full up.

And then my father died. The last time I did this it was just for my friends Bart and Siu, who were with me that time, two days before Dad passed away.

It just wasn't the same any more, and we'd always remember.

So here I am at 7.50 am on Boxing Day, at my messy table, writing this instead of greeting my family as they arrive. David and the kids, as well as my brother and his family, are off on holiday anyway.

So before I do a household clean-up, something I've been promising myself for weeks, I'm going to make myself a yummy breakfast. No soda bread, alas - the oven is still out of action - but some pikelets and fresh fruit and a big pot of tea. And I'll remember Dad, who loved this tradition.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Year's End - Reflections

And in the end, we couldn't get the school to write a cheque for our $531.60, too late,  so Jasna and I spent Tuesday afternoon in the last week of school going to the local shopping mall to find a way to do a money order and post it. I'd decided it was going to go registered mail, to avoid being lost in the Christmas rush. The kids put months of work into this and deserved to have every last penny reach its destination. The PO wouldn't take our huge number of coins (all but $94 was in coins!) and I suppose I can't blame them, so we went to the local NAB to see if they'd change our coins to notes. "Do you bank with us?" asked the teller. No, we didn't, so she told us they couldn't help us. 

There was a Commonwealth bank across the road and I do have an account there, so we tramped over there with our heavy bags of money. There, we met a helpful bank officer who took us to a money-counting machine where you could have the fun of throwing coins into a hole and watching the machine count it all up for you (it spat out a New Zealand ten-cent coin!). Then you take the printout to the counter, where they can put it into your account or give you notes. Of course, we took the notes back across the road and bought a money order. The lady at the counter had an arm injury which she discussed with Jasna while making up the money order for Greenpeace.

We posted it and, much relieved, went for a nice cuppa in the food court before returning to school.

It was a good project - a grand project. The kids believed in it and nobody was reluctant to have a go. Well, almost nobody. One student - like last year - did absolutely nothing. I suspect that, like last year's student, he regrets it. He was not a part of the final celebration, though he was there. I told him quietly that he had let his team down, which meant something to him, as he's a passionate sportsman. He protested, "But I wasn't there!" Exactly. And it wasn't illness.

Everyone else at the very least had a go. If their project didn't work, they were only too happy to try something else.

I don't think we'll do a lolly jar next year, it just hasn't worked, two years in a row. Truffles did, though. Everyone likes chocolate and they had a lot of demand for it - they did it twice. It has to be given to reliable students, though, perhaps as an alternative to making cookies, which cost money for ingredients - MUCH more than truffles - and then you have to spend the whole day baking and distributing them.

We'll see the calibre of the students we have next year before I recommend anything in particular.

Welcome Art Bebe!

Welcome, Art Bebe, otherwise known as Frank. This is my general blog, though, where you will read about what I'm doing at work, what my students are doing and such. If you want books and SF, most of that is going on over at The Great Raven, my other blog.

Hope you like this one anyway - I'm rather proud of my students and what they did this year. Literature Circles, book trailers, interviews with writers of books they were studying (those also over at The Raven) and fundraising for Greenpeace. In the end, it was a grand total of $531.60.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Round Midnight - student book trailers

First posted on The Great Raven

I've spent the evening at the opera (and couldn't believe that parents would bring children to see an opera about a dying courtesan in 19th century Paris, but serve them right if they have to explain it). Now, I'm sitting here on-line, after midnight, loading my students' book trailers on to iMovie, adding them to the Literature Circles movie, so I can burn more discs. Today I showed my class the last of A Midsummer Night's Dream (they loved it! I hadn't intended to show them the lot, but they wanted me to, so...) and then, with a few minutes left, I showed them the book trailers done by some of them. They were interested and when I asked them who wanted a copy of these and the Literature Circles movie (they've seen bits of that before I edited it on iMovie) nearly every hand went up. So, because next Friday will be our last class together (sob!) I thought I'd present each student with a DVD.

And there were some nice trailers there, though everyone chose music which cut out before the trailer finished (but the music was appropriate in all cases). Andy and Amadeu did theirs on Dragonkeeper, using almost the same images and the same music, but they were different. Andy asked me if he could fix his up because he spotted some errors. He can, of course, though if he doesn't get it to me by tomorrow, I won't have time to add the corrected version to the student DVD - I want to do some on the weekend. Andy is our computer genius, but it was Amadeu who knew how to convert raw Moviemaker files to WMV(and then I converted them again, using Handbrake!). Michael's trailer for Once was beautiful.  Minh had done his on the novel his group read, Cirque Du Freak (Darren Shan). I watched him research it, looking for pictures of freaks from freak shows. They aren't exactly the ones in the novel, but impressive all the same, with a good musical soundtrack. Taylor kept looking through Google Images for just the right pictures to use to represent Wolfgang and Audrey and families for her trailer of Justin D'Ath's Pool (and I will be sending Justin a copy at some stage, as promised). Emily did a very good trailer of Marianne De Pierres' Burn Bright, with music changing abruptly when she got to the bit about Ixion, the isle of Evernight, to a loud rock beat, appropriate for a place where teenagers party all night. "Hey, I did one on Burn Bright!" called Brittany and I suggested she gets it to me so I can add it to the DVD. It was supposed to be a part of the assessment. She was actually studying Pool, but loves Burn Bright. Elizabeth and Rana did A Ghost In My Suitcase, but it was too late to add music. I'm putting on the silent trailer anyway.

I will be adding Paige's lovely, if short, trailer for Fallen, because the rest of the class admire it.

Gotta go to bed, guys! I still have to be up at six, but Amadeu's trailer is taking ages to load.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

2011 Student Fundraising Activity Nearly Over - O Joy!

This is a wonderful unit of work and I believe in it utterly, but I am so glad it's nearly over. One more activity - in the library again, Monday and Tuesday lunchtime - and the last of the money will be raised and I can get in touch with Greenpeace to ask them how we go about putting in our donation and whether - perhaps - they might have a certificate or some such thing to thank the kids for what they have done.

And they have done very well, despite the ones at whom we rolled eyes because, despite what we asked them not to do, they did it - such as spending money on stuff without discussing it with us first, the boys' group who planned a dodgeball game in the gym and then charged $2 per team rather than per player! - and then GAVE the players icy poles because that was what their poster said, despite the fact that the poster also said it was $2 to play. There was also a team of girls who bought a rather large supply of lollies for the lolly jar guesses when I could have done it for them, much cheaper, and then didn't make enough to get back the money let alone a profit. But the thing is, they wanted to be of help and we made sure they could redeem their errors. The boys got to SELL icy poles bought by my colleague Jasna, who got back the money and still they made a profit in about ten minutes of work. One of them commented on this, with wonder, and rather sheepishly, as he took money from yet another customer. :-) The girls were even luckier. We had a donation, a fabulous donation of a $30 movie voucher from a teacher-librarian friend from another school, who had come to visit my school and been impressed with what the students were doing. She even supplied the raffle tickets! We didn't have the time to sell as many tickets as we would have liked, we just wanted the girls to have a chance to do something they could be proud of, and the raffle was drawn at a school assembly at which the Year 10s graduated - that Year 10 was the first Year 8 group to do this project, so it was nice. But there was still a profit, even discounting the fact that someone else had paid for the voucher.

There were kids who finished their activity and then insisted on doing another one, just so they could raise some more money. We had to gently tell the disco-ers and the truffle-sellers that they had done just fine and it was time to rest, but the disco-ers sold jelly and choc frogs, making a decent profit, and the truffle-sellers made another batch and ended with a profit of $65!

So, despite all the hassles we had this term - kids making mistakes, us having, unexpectedly, to compete with Year 9, one of whose teachers had decided suddenly and without warning to have THEM raise money for charity (and they knew how - they did it with us last year!) - we had to rearrange our timetable to cope with this - we will, by the time the last activity has happened - have raised near on $500 for Greenpeace. Last year's group raised $635, but they had an anniversary fete to use to sell their baked goods.

The kids learned so very much from it and they all have a sense of pride in themselves, of achievement.

So, yes, unless we're prevented by the school, this will hopefully happen again, but meanwhile - phew! I can soon have some of my lunchtimes and recesses back!