Monday, 29 March 2010

A relaxing weekend in Canberra ......

After a busy last week of school, it was great to finally get on the train to Canberra and mentally unwind.  It was a perfect weekend for relaxing and spending time with Dad, Carla and the dogs, Charlie and Archie.  The weekend revolved around sleeping in, walking the dogs in the bush and on the golf course, dining on yummy foods, shopping and late nights drinking wine and playing my new favourite game, 'Rummikub'.

Its not every day you see a bridge being put into place whilst out on a walk!

Walking through the bush

Great Australian bushland 

60% cocoa tart with orange clotted cream .... not quite Uberfood but delicious!


Gourmet hamburgers and wine in the park ... do you think Charlie wants some?

Gourmet hamburger stall next to the lake

Doing our bit for Earth Hour ..... 'Rummikub' by candlelight!

Yum Cha on a Sunday morning

Dogs with their toys 

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Discovering all things Canadian ......

The good thing about not knowing much about the country you're about to move too is that every day, there is something new to learn, especially in regards to famous icons and brands etc.  After much hype from the family about the Canadian athletic brand, lululemon, I decided that I had to try it for myself.  I found the nearest store and set off, planning to buy a couple of new things for the Canadian spring weather.  The staff members were so friendly and before I knew it, I was in a change room laden down with things to try.  Wow ..... the fit and the comfort are just amazing, I've never tried on pants that fit so well and are so comfy!  Plus, although you would probably call them as 'trackies', they have far more class than your regular tracksuit pants.  I tried on tops I would never choose myself and again, wow, so comfy but so flattering.  After being firm with myself ("Anna, you only have 46 kg to take to Canada!"), I left with one pair of pants, two tops and a list of other items and sizes that I loved.  Check out what they have on their website (, find your nearest store and check out lululemon!

Monday, 22 March 2010

What a beautiful place ....

This is the sight that greets me each morning as I turn the corner onto the Corso (the main 'mall' street that runs through the centre of Manly).  The sun is coming up, the sound of the ocean is mesmorising, the smell is salty and people are out and about enjoying the gorgeous morning .... what more could I ask for?!  It's my last week in Sydney and I'm going through that 'I'm going to miss this place' mode where I just want to soak it all up.  I'll miss the laid-back beach lifestyle, but I can't wait for life on the ranch to begin!

Morning on the beach

It's always busy with swimmers and runners in the morning

Sunday, 21 March 2010

'A Year in Tibet' .....

The town of Gyantse, with the walled Pal Kor monastery central to the town's life.

Several months ago, I wrote about the books I was reading and those on my 'wanted' list, one of which was 'A Year in Tibet'.  After reading 'A Year in Tibet', I found the DVD at my local rental store and quickly snapped it up.  For the past few weeks, I have taken a trip down memory lane as I have watched hours of footage of local Tibetans going about their daily lives.  The series centres its story around a range of local people in the town of Gyantse, Tibet's third largest town.  Whilst I was in Tibet, I spent two days in Gyantse, so it was amazing to see places I had visited and relive my intriguing experience there.  The series shows the daily battle that the local people have with the Chinese government, just about everything they do is controlled by the communist party as they try to squash the traditional Tibetan way of life.  Throughout the series, the viewer is introduced to a range of people from Gyantse and the book goes into even more detail about some of the characters.  By the end of both the book and the TV series, you feel like you really know these people.  My two favourite characters were Yangdron and Tsephun.  Yangdron is a middle aged Tibetan woman living with her three husbands (brothers), one of whom has the mental age of a child.  The family live with their sons in a village near Gyantse and lead a hard life on the land, but despite this, Yangdron always has a broad smile and a cup of chang (barley beer) to offer anyone walking through her door.  The other is Tsephun, a 15 year old monk, at the Pal Kor monastery, which was my favourite monastery to visit as it was very traditional and had an amazingly calm feeling to it.   During the filming year, Tsephun struggles to find a balance between the traditional life of a monk and the temptations of modern life, particularly when his elderly master takes him on a pilgrimmage to Lhasa.  I won't give his story away because I hope you will either read the book or watch the series, but I'd love to see where he ended up now!  Is it too early to start planning my next adventure?!

Pal Kor monastery

Yak butter for sale to offer up to the deities

Lunch time in Gyantse

It is said that if you jump off this cliff, you will go straight to heaven

Proud boys excited about having their photo taken

Early morning snow in Gyantse

Potala Palace

Candles at Jokhang Temple

Praying at Jokhang Temple

Hanging out with the monks at Jokhang Temple

Old woman with her prayer wheel in Lhasa

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The pros and cons of only teaching 2 students .....

 When I first took this job, there were mixed reactions from a lot of my teaching friends.  Some thought it was a great idea and that it would be easy teaching only two students.  Others thought that it would be boring and not so stimulating.  After two and a half months in the job, I thought I'd share with you the realities of teaching 2 children each day.  Being a good teacher, I'll provide my feedback in a sandwich format ..... positive, negative, positive.

View from the classroom

  • Shorter working hours - I arrive at work 15 minutes before I start teaching, just enough time to quickly go over what we are working on that day.  I stay for about an hour after I finish teaching to plan for the next day and I'm normally home by 4pm.
  • No meetings!
  • Only two students (albeit at very different learning levels!) to plan for and provide reports for.
  • No classroom displays to maintain.
  • Only one set of parents to deal with.
  • Flexible working hours - If I have something I need to do, I can rearrange the school times.
  • Exciting field trips are easy to organise (no parent permission slips and bus bookings etc!)
  • It is wonderful to watch two children so develop so quickly with one on one attention every day.  At the moment, the children and I are compiling portfolios and preparing for a 'Celebration of Learning' day next week and it is amazing to see how much learning has occurred over the past few months.
  • We have a moveable classroom - Sometimes we learn at the local cafe, on the beach or in the local library.
  • Freedom to go where ever we want with the curriculum.  If one of the children shows an interest in something, we can run with this idea (currently military weapons for the 10 year old boy!)

  • I don't have any colleagues to plan and debrief with, which also means no Friday afternoon drinks!
  • Sometimes, it is a little unstimulating just working with one student at a time .... I'm constantly thinking of ways to 'spice' up the school day.
  • If one of the kids is having an 'off' day, it shows and sometimes, it's not pleasant!
  • Some of the ways that I like to teach are a little difficult, for example working in groups and some Maths games.
  • There is little discussion to be had amongst students, so each student needs to construct their own understanding, as opposed to having the social context of a regular class to do this.
  • I really miss the excitement and energy of the classroom, especially the diverse range of personalities and the fact that every day is different.
  • The job is not so mentally stimulating, probably due to a combination of the above reasons.  I'm so glad I decided to study for my Masters because that's where I'm getting all my mental stimulation from at the moment.  And then there is the conference in June as well, so I am keeping up my  professional development needs.

But, all the negative aspects aside, I wouldn't give this job up for the world (or at least for the next two years!).  The opportunity to work so closely with one family and develop such a close relationship is very unique and then of course there is the lifestyle.  The travel opportunities and the people I will meet along the way are things that I wouldn't be able to experience in a regular school.  My Australian classroom with a view of the ocean is stunning, and I can't wait to get to see my Canadian classroom, complete with living room, climbing wall and a soon to be installed interactive whiteboard .... oh, and did I mention the views over the Rocky Mountains?

Monday, 15 March 2010

First US trip .....

That's right, I'm in the process of booking my first US trip ...... to Orlando, Florida, theme park centre of the world.  Now, I'm not into theme parks at all, so you may be wondering why I'm going.  Well, a friend, former colleague and fellow blogger ( recently returned from the ASCD annual conference in San Antonio, so I thought I'd look into what other conferences the ASCD offers.  I discovered their summer conference ( had a focus on a lot of the curriculum areas I'm interested in, so I promptly got permission from the boss, and signed up.  It was great fun looking through all the sessions and choosing which ones to go to.  In the end, I went for a wide range ....... Understanding by Design in the early years, EAL, interactive whiteboards (yes, we're getting one for the school room in Canada!), formative assessment and what education means in the 21st century.  I even have free accommodation because my boss' grand daughters go to uni there, so I can stay there and experience American uni life as well!  Now I just need to book my flights and my ticket to Disneyland!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Last of the French films ....

Yesterday was the last day of my French Film Festival experience, although I may have to restrain myself from going back this week, after all, there are only so many times a girl on a budget can go to the cinema!  There is something so decadent about going to the movies by yourself, immersing yourself in a foreign film whilst drinking a glass of wine. I thoroughly enjoyed all the movies I saw, but the two standouts were ‘The First Day of the Rest of your Life’ and ‘LOL’.

‘The First Day of the Rest of your Life’ is about a family of five and looks at the changes in their lives over a twelve year period.  At times, it is hysterically funny and at other times, very sad.  Most people could probably identify with the film, as a child or a parent.  Moments of teenage life resonated with me strongly and I was also able to identify with and have a new respect for parents of teenagers!  It’s another example of a quirky and unique French movie.

The second movie that I really loved was ‘LOL’, which of course stands for ‘laughing out loud’ in technological terms but is also the nickname for the main character Lola.  LOL is a grown up teenage comedy and again, I was able to identify with the teenage Lola and some of the mischief she gets up to.  The description of the movie promises ‘a jaw droppingly handsome cast’ and it lives up to the description – so many gorgeous but quirky characters.  Why is it that French teenagers are just so cool? They seem so grown up compared to other teenagers.

Being by myself also gave me a chance to partake in a favourite activity …. eavesdropping.  The films were packed, so it was important to get there early to get a good seat, which gave me plenty of time to listen to other film-goers as they reviewed films they had seen.  As I listened, I flipped through my program guide and made mental notes of other films to see.  ‘The Hedgehog’, ‘Mademoiselle Chambon’ and ‘Welcome’ were three of the most talked about films.  So, Melbourne people, get out there and see some French movies!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Christmas in April?

My beloved belongings all packed up ...... 

The word has been sent ..... my boxes are several days away from arriving in Calgary and I am so ready for them!  After nearly 4  months of living out of a bag, I miss my things.  It will be like unwrapping Christmas presents early.  The kids are excited because most of the boxes contain fun things like Maths games and books.  I am excited because the boxes contain my favourite brown boots and all my outdoor farm clothes!  Bring on 6 April when I can start unpacking!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

He's caught the library bug!!!

As I've mentioned before, one of my students does not enjoy reading.  It has been an uphill battle to get him to read anything, so you can only imagine my excitement when today he asked if we could go to the library to find material for his latest reading contract (a very simple 'bingo' grid of different text types).  When we arrived, I could barely keep up with him as he delved into picture story books, novels, magazines and non-fiction books, with the treat of choosing some DVDs and CDs at the end of our session.  After some reading at the library, we headed home at the later than usual time of 3.30pm.  I told him that school was over for the day and was met with a 'No!!  I want to keep reading!' response!  Which explains why I'm still at work now - we've just finished an extra hour and a half of reading, discussing and writing.  One of the 'must do's of the contract is a simple colour coded rating.  When first presented with the rating scale, the response was 'Everything is going to be yellow (awful)'.  We have just finished the rating for the two texts we read today ..... the verdict?  Red for brilliant.  Definitely a highlight day.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Book and movie .... movie only .... book only .... What do you do?

There are divided opinions on stories that have both a book and movie version.  For some, it's exciting to discover that a great book is going to be featured on the big screen.  For others, they prefer to take the lazy option and just wait for the film version.  And for many, the book/movie combination is a big literary no-no.  For the most part, I fall into the last category.  If I've read a great book, I have no desire to see the movie because the movie generally spoils the images in my head.  I'm not so rigid about going the other way though .... if it's a great movie and the book has good reviews, I'll probably give in and read it.  On the weekend, I watched a fantastic movie and surprised myself by racing out to get the book from the library the next morning.  The movie is Freedom Writers, a movie I'd never heard of (well, I was in China, when I bought it, so maybe it was at the cinemas) but was immediately mesmorised by it.  It tells the story of a first year teacher in a rough gang school in America and how she broke down the racial barriers between students by exploring the big ideas of tolerance and change.  I found myself crying in the movie and even now, several days after I saw it, thinking about the story and the messages in the movie.  The book is equally as riveting .... I found myself reading it as I brushed my teeth this morning.  The story of the Freedom Writers is truly inspiring, from a teaching perspective and that of a student.  You can check out more on their website,  So, which are you?  Book/movie, movie only or movie and then book?

Sunday, 7 March 2010

French Film Festival ....

What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon is there than to explore Sydney by foot and end up at the French Film Festival?  After a morning of study, I caught the ferry into the city for an afternoon of exploration and culture.  I began at Circular Quay with no plan in mind, other than to end up at the Palace Cinema in Paddington.  Map in hand, I first wandered through the beautiful Botanical Gardens and Hyde Park before arriving on Oxford Street, without realising that although the Mardi Gras parade was last weekend, the actual party was this weekend.  Wow!  3pm on Sunday afternoon and it was party time!  However, I highly suspect that these people were continuing on from a party the night before.  Finally, I ended up at the cinema where I got so excited about the festival that I bought 5 tickets for different films over the next week.  First film was 'Change of Plans', a romantic comedy about a bunch of 40 somethings who gather for a dinner party.  On the surface, all is well, but dig a little deeper and there are all sorts of issues going on.  The thing I love about French movies is the quirkiness of them - just when you think you've got it all figured out as another predictable romantic comedy, something totally surprising and unpredictable happens.  Not to mention the great cinematography, the street scenes of Paris and the stunning countryside.  Hopefully, I'll be speaking fluent French by the end of next week! 

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Manly - Spit walk ....

Looking back at Manly Wharf

One advantage that Sydney holds over Melbourne is the easy access to nature.  You really don't need to travel far to get  a feeling like you have escaped the city.  A well known and highly recommended walk is the 9 kilometre hike from Manly to The Spit (towards the city).  The walk takes you through bushland,   across tiny beaches and past multi million dollar homes on the waterfront.  I decided to do the walk yesterday afternoon to kick start my weekend.  I began at the Manly Wharf and made my way to The Spit, where I cooled off with a dip in harbour before jumping on a bus back to Manly.


Looking out towards the Heads


Looking towards North Head

Small beaches dotted along the way

First glimpses of the city (and the Harbour Bridge ... just!)


Sydney people love their boats

Another little beach

And another!

Clear water

I wonder how much these homes would be?

Finishing the walk with a swim

Friday, 5 March 2010

A month to go ....

In just one month from today, I'll be on a plane to Canada!  Here is a taste of the scenery nearby to where I'll be living.  Photos are courtesy of Jolan - thank you!