Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The bureaucratic teaching game ...

Now, one would like to think that two undergraduate degrees, a Masters degree just a whisker away, eight years experience in three different countries and membership to several professional organisations would be enough to gain certification to teach in Canada.  But, no.  One must complete a six month (and $1500 cash upfront) course in Canadian history.  I'm still not really sure how learning about the domesticity of women in British Columbia in the 1880s is going to help me to teach.  

At the moment, all my spare time is being taken up with study.  Not just the Canadian history unit, but also with the ethics application for my Masters thesis in gifted education.  Now, you tell me what is going to improve my teaching ability ... a knowledge of Canadian women in the 1880s or a knowledge of gifted children in a classroom?  It seems quite ironic that I'm having to put my teaching work aside to complete a totally unrelated course just so that I can become a teacher in a different country.  It's enough to make a girl want to leave the profession.  Which, is exactly what I'm thinking of doing.  Don't get me wrong, I love teaching.  More than love it, I thrive off it, I love working with a classroom full of different personalities and helping them to learn and love to learn.  But, when my only job prospect in Calgary will involve ten hours a week in the car (more in winter), a class of 30+ children, limited resources and a salary less than I've ever had before, I'm not sure.  I think that I love my sanity and life more than teaching when it comes to that situation.  Which saddens me because I love what I do and I know I'm good at it.  But, I'm not alone.  There are many studies in the US that show that teachers are leaving the profession at an astonishing rate, with some studies showing that a third of new teachers leave the profession within their first four years in the classroom.  That number is staggering.  I'm sure it's not because they don't like what they do.  Perhaps they, like me, are fed up with the constant bureaucracy, unhelpful criticism from the community, lack of respect for a teacher's professionalism and low salary.  I find all of this incredibly sad because the ones who are really losing out are the children.  It's time for teachers to receive the credit they deserve and society to value them as the professionals who are educating the next generation. 


But for now, let me put down my reading about how to differentiate learning in the classroom for gifted students and find that article I'm meant to be reading, '"Not Gainfully Employed": Women on the Iowa Frontier, 1833-1870', because, apparently it's going to make me a better teacher.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Champagne ladies ...

Mum has been visiting for the past four days and it's been wonderful to spend time enjoying Manly with her.  On Saturday afternoon, when I finished work, we headed out on the Sydney Harbour for an hour and a half of kayaking.  There were many boats on the water and we enjoyed paddling around them, laughing at some of the funny names ('Champagne Lady' was far lovelier than 'Fat Lady'!) and greeting the boat owners sitting on deck, drink in hand.  Following our kayaking adventure, we retired to my couch with a bottle of Moet that had been gifted to Mum by my employers.  We definitely fancied ourselves as Champagne Ladies rather than Fat Ladies!

Friday, 27 January 2012

'The Boys' ...

Last night, Mum and I headed to Kings Cross to the Griffin Theatre to see 'The Boys', a highly anticipated show that has received many wonderful reviews in the papers across Australia.  The play was originally staged 21 years ago (in the same theatre) and has been performed as a movie as well.  It is a highly confronting, violent play but incredibly powerful.  The play is based on 'the boys', three dysfunctional and violent brothers, and the women in their life (mother and girlfriends) on the day that one brother returns from jail.  The story follows their day of 'celebrations' as it quickly escalates into a violent crime against an unknown woman and the consequences that follow.  The actors are amazing - they are so believable that it is very scary; you want to look away, but the acting and story is so compelling, you can't.  If you're in Sydney or planning to be over the next month, be sure to get along and see 'The Boys' but do be prepared for a high level of confronting violence and a feeling of sadness that stays with you long after the play has finished.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

LEGO and Antarctica ...

Last week, I took the kids into the city to explore a couple of the summer time exhibitions that are being held in the CBD.  We began with the Art of the Brick LEGO exhibition at the Town Hall where we marveled at the amazing sculptures made out of LEGO.  The kids had fun posing next to many of them.  Our second stop was the State Library of NSW, where we viewed the Finding Antarctica: Mapping the Last Continent exhibition.  The exhibition was much larger than I had anticipated and I wondered how long the kids would remain engaged with the old maps and artifacts.  To my surprise, they thoroughly enjoyed looking at the ancient, hand-drawn maps of Antarctica.  There are always lots of fun things happening in the city over the summer and I'm trying to make the most out of all the offerings before I leave Sydney in just a few weeks.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Xin nian kuai le ...

Fireworks from my 26th floor apartment in Wuxi

As I'm sure you're all aware, Monday was Chinese New Year.  The day, and all the celebrations that come with it, reminds me of my time in China just before the celebrations started.  When I lived in China, all the expat advice was to leave the country in order to escape the madness that accompanied the biggest Chinese celebration of the year.  You may remember that I took a ski trip to Japan during those holidays.  But, I do remember the lead up to the celebrations - shops were over-crowded as everyone stocked up on fruit, fireworks and gifts for families and there was an even greater sense of chaos in the air.  I'm told that the fireworks during Chinese New Year are simply insane and I can imagine just how irritating that would become, particularly given that huge firework displays 2 or 3 times a week was normal when it wasn't the Chinese New Year!  Anyway, to anyone celebrating the Chinese New Year, xin nian kuai le, and welcome to the year of the dragon!

Monday, 23 January 2012

The Australian Open ...

Every January, the talk in Melbourne centres around the Australian Open tennis tournament.  There is always an excited buzz in the air and, even if you're not actually there watching the tennis, most people spend each evening watching it at home on TV.  Since I've missed the Open the last few years, I was determined to get there for the 2012 tournament.  On Sunday, Mum and I headed to the grounds to watch some great tennis (and boil in the strong sun.)  We had a ground pass which enabled us to wander around the outside courts where we watched several doubles matches before settling on the lawn in the shade to watch Nadal beat Lopez.  We were lucky that my bosses needed to leave early to catch a flight back to Sydney, so we took over their centre court tickets (fourth row, thank you very much!) to watch Li Na ("Ja you!  Ja you!") play Kim Clijsters.  Unfortunately, we were only able to stay for the first set since we had a family dinner to get to, but it was wonderful to have the opportunity to watch some world class tennis for an hour or so.  The next time I make it to the Australian Open, it will be when I'm seeking some relief from the bitterly cold Calgarian winter!

Doubles game on Margaret Court arena

Old fashioned tennis gear

The ever-so-cute ball boys

Watching the big screen from our shady spot

The funny linesmen (and women)

Nadal is interviewed after his win

Cameramen being sunsmart on centre court

Clijsters in action

Li Na in action

Friday, 20 January 2012

The house that Zoli and Garry built ...

The 'big lawn' now covered with garden beds

 One of the highlights of our trip to Hobart was visiting the house that our family built and grew up in.  Every time I'm in Hobart, I like to drive by and see how the garden has grown.  This time, we had a second reason for visiting.  On our trip to Tassie, we were carrying the ashes of our dear family dog, Charlie.  It was a strange experience, approaching my childhood home to ask permission to scatter Charlie's ashes.  But, luckily, the owners were dog people and understood our request.  It was a sad but freeing experience to scatter Charlie under his favourite possum-hunting gum trees.

The bottom of the 'big lawn'

Many hours were spent on this swing set as a child

 The owners of the house were very kind to us and let us have a wander around the gardens, giving us a bit of a tour and explanation of what they've done to the gardens as well as allowing us (well, me) some time to reminisce about the great times I had in the house, garden and horse paddocks.  The garden has been expanded to take over all of the horse paddocks, but I was pleased to see that they had left the fences, stile, stable and water troughs and incorporated them into the gardens.

Looking back to the sun room and BBQ area

The horse paddock

To say that the new owners are enthusiastic gardeners would be an understatement.  They have taken the rather amazing gardens that my grandparents and parents worked so hard on and, with a combination of their creativity and the mature trees and plants already in place, turned the property in a wonderland of garden.  In fact, the gardens are often open to the public to enjoy, with much money being raised for a variety of charities.

Horse paddock again
The stile to get into the second horse paddock and the water trough in the background

Whilst the real reason for our visit to my childhood home was a sad one, it was wonderful to spend a few hours in the garden reminiscing about my childhood.  And, that brings our Tasmanian adventures to an end.  I'm off to Melbourne tonight for some much needed family time and time at the Australian Open.  Next week, I'll be back blogging in the present.

Our old stable is now a fernery!

The other horse paddock

Entrance to the horse paddock

Old vegetable gardens

The orchard

Scattering Charlie's ashes

(By the way, Zoli is my grandfather and Garry is my father ... and they, with the help of my grandmother, mother and a few others, built this house)

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

A flying visit to Hobart ...

Sullivans Cove wharf area

 Being my home city, three nights and two full days were probably not enough to fully show off the city to C.  There were so many things that I wanted to share with him - touristy places and also places where I spent a lot of time growing up.  Of course, there were several old friends I wanted to catch up with.  So, it's fair to say that we did not stop once we arrived in Hobart (which was kind of a shame because we didn't get to enjoy our upgrade to a king apartment!)

Interviewing Wild Oats after the Sydney-Hobart yacht race
Another Sydney-Hobart contender, drying all their gear out

To begin with, we spent nearly every single meal at the Taste of Tasmania, where there was a huge variety of Tasmanian food, wine and entertainment to be enjoyed.  The standout food and drink were the seafood sausages from Silver Hill Fisch and the Sauvignon Blanc from Bream Creek Vineyard - if you're after a  great Australian Sauv Blanc, you can't go past this one (it's about $25 at Dan Murphy's).

Catching up with girlfriends from school


We were lucky enough to be in Hobart on a Saturday which meant that we could enjoy the famous Salamanca Market.  As a Hobartian, the markets are normally a place to go once in a while and certainly not purchase any Huon Pine knick-knacks.  However, I was there as an ex-Hobartian, desperate to hang on to a little bit of home when I return to Canada, so I bought a Huon Pine cheeseboard with knives and a Huon Pine photo frame.  I also stumbled across a stall selling the most wonderful handbags, Henk Berg.  The bags are just divine and the girls at the stall (including Lara, Henk's daughter) are lovely.  I have one on order and I'll post a picture when it arrives.

Fruit and veg at Salamanca market

Arty bike racks at Salamanca

 A visit to Hobart is not complete without a drive up Mt Wellington.  We scooted up there while the sun was out only to have the clouds roll in once we were at the top, but not before I quickly managed to point out the interesting landmarks to C.  He was surprised at how barren it was at the top.

Cute little home in Battery Point, near where we stayed

Mt Wellington from Battery Point

A new 'must-do in Hobart' experience is a visit to MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art.  If you've even so much as glanced at an Australian newspaper in the past year, you'll know all about MONA.  It is a truly bizarre and intriguing experience.  The museum is mostly underground and is filled with controversial objects of new art (for example, a machine that simulates your digestive system, complete with smells and turds at the end; a wall of casts of real women's vaginas; a 'death' room) offset by examples of really old art such as 6000 year old Egyptian coins.  On site, there is also a brewery and winery.  The museum also offers a ferry service which allows you to get a glimpse of Hobart from a different perspective.  When in Hobart, you should definitely visit this museum but be prepared to have your senses challenged.

The Taste of Tasmania from the water

More Sydney-Hobart yachts

 A definite highlight of visiting Hobart was taking C to see all the places where I spent a lot of time growing up.  We took a drive out to my old home (more on that tomorrow) and also down to Monmouth Pony Club where I used to spend nearly every weekend from ages 8 to 18.  We also visited my old high school, Friends, with its beautiful old buildings and the North Hobart football oval, where I spent many a Saturday afternoon watching Dad play and coach football.
Mt Wellington from the water

The Tasman Bridge

The end of our time came much too quickly in Hobart and, with a fuzzy head on New Years Day, we headed back to Sydney.

MONA - Museum of Old and New Art

I used to live to the left of this mountain, Mt Direction.  I'll take you there tomorrow.

View from Mt Wellington, just before the clouds obscured everything

Visiting my old pony club

Seven Mile Beach, the site of many gallops and swims on horseback