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That’s right, go here right now and give us the ol’ thumbs up! If you do, you’l be able to keep abreast of what’s going on at our fabulous little school in the Kimberley region of WA, and see plenty of deadly photos like the one below:

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On the Move!

I’m not sure how to write this without it sounding like a press release, so here’s a bunch of dot points that attempt to explain what’s going on:

– I’ve been offered and have accepted the principal’s position at Bayulu Remote Community School for 2015. Subsequently, Robyn, the kids and I are getting ready to move house and continue our up-north adventure!

– Bayulu is a Level 4 school just out of Fitzroy Crossing (FX) in the Kimberley region of WA. I will be working with a team comprising 8 teachers, 6 support staff and 1 deputy principal to best meet the needs of the school’s 120 primary-aged students.

– We will be living in FX, the town of 1200 residents that acts as the administrative hub for the Fitzroy Valley’s 5000 mostly indigenous residents. As ‘townies’, we’ll have easy access to a supermarket, rec centre, swimming pool, child care, and, most importantly, reliable internet! Broome and her direct air route to Perth are a little more than 3 hours away along the blacktop. With no gravel tracks or charter flights required to get in and out, we certainly won’t be too disconnected, at least not compared to the majority of Remote Teaching Service schools in WA. If you’ve never been to FX (and I’m assuming you haven’t) then watch this and you’ll see that although it’s not exactly a thriving metropolis, it’s not all that bad.

– All of Bayulu’s students are indigenous… well… that is until we enrol my young fella! With how much he loves his footy and fishing he’s going to fit right in, even if it wouldn’t appear so if solely based on skin complexion.

– There is a need at school and community level in Bayulu to have the new principal commence during this calendar year, which means our furniture and effects are being lifted *gulp* next Thursday! I envision this coming weekend only involving tasks associated with moving house (can’t wait to mow that lawn and clean those air conditioner filters!)

– I’ve had a particularly rewarding 2 years at Kununurra in my DP role, both personally and professionally. I feel like I’ve started riding the steep learning curve that accompanies the transition from teacher to administrator and, at the very least, I haven’t fallen off quite yet! I’ve been fortunate to have some outstanding mentors along the way, none more so than my current boss Mr Rod Baker. If I can manage to have anywhere near the impact Rod’s had throughout his storied educative career I’ll come away feeling like I’ve achieved success!

– Fortunately, I’ve also learned some quintessential Kimberley man-skills during my time in KNX: how to throw a cast-net; how to catch barra; how to hunt geese and bush turkey; how to catch cherabin and cook them on the fire. Crucial knowledge to hold when you’ll be living on the mighty Fitzroy River! I feel it’s these life experiences that make teaching and working in the bush a richer experience when compared to the city, and I say that as someone who will ultimately settle back in the big smoke after 4 or 5 years away.

– I’ll be spending much of the holidays back down south with my head in policy and procedural documents, some of which I know reasonably well and others I’ve had no need to look at yet.  If you want to have a yarn about acronyms such as EYLF, NQS, ALS, PALL+, ACER, EAL/D, FASD or SDWK then I’ll be worth a chat!

So we’re one week away from the next chapter of our lives. Obviously, I’m excited and very grateful for the opportunity. I can’t wait to get down there, roll the sleeves up and get stuck in!

TeachMeet National Strategy Forum

During Term 2 I was fortunate enough to be invited to participate in the TeachMeet National Strategy Forum, held at the Hilton Hotel in Sydney. A crew of 20 educators, from all over Australia representing a range of school contexts, came together to discuss what TeachMeets are and where they should be going.   photo 1The take-away messages?

  • TeachMeets are SUSTAINABLE
  • TeachMeets are VALUABLE
  • There are SENSATIONAL educators working with our kids all over Australia
  • It’s OK to be a starfish (rather than a spider)!

Check out the .pdf below for the analysis of the forum, as provided by Social Ventures Australia:

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Just as an aside, it’d be safe to say that Sydney (population 4.6 million) and Kununurra (7000) have little in common. For example, there must be at least a dozen ‘Golden Arches’  in the Sydney CBD alone; From Kununurra it’s a 500 km drive across a state border if you want a Happy Meal. (Not a bad thing, by the way.) One of the Sydney teachers described his 55 minute daily commute to school as ‘reasonable’; Mine spans the entire breadth of the town I live in and takes 6 minutes. Finally, I’m not sure Kununurra puts on a light show like this either, which the lovely folks at Vivid Sydney did during my stay:

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Kimberley Kids – A Contextual Conundrum

Recently I was asked to present at a TeachMeet in Perth via the internet. Here’s my offering, which is an attempt to explain teaching and working in the Kimberley. I hope you enjoy it:

Here’s the film clip I refer to at the end, created by the kids of Kununurra alongside the fabulous crew at Indigenous Hip Hop Projects. I think you’ll agree it’s pretty spectacular:

Deadly Writing!

The young bloke pictured below’s name is Jimmy (well, it’s not really, but let’s go with a fictitious name for now).

Jimmy is in Year 4 at Kununurra DHS. When Jimmy was in Year 3, he barely wrote a word, and when he did it was virtually illegible. He was always a happy enough kid, but he never really engaged with any teachers, education assistants or AIEO’s.

He does now.

Jimmy’s been working closely with Miss Mel, who’s an EA in the Year 4 area. Miss Mel’s got a great relationship with lots of our kids, and Jimmy’s one such student who will do anything to please her – including 2 full pages of neat writing patterns when he may have settled for 3 or 4 scribbled words last year. On Monday he put his head down and practised his word and letter combinations for a solid 20 minutes, taking care to make sure each one was formed neatly and correctly.

Miss Mel and Jimmy then came to visit me so he could show off his neat work. I told him how genuinely impressed and happy I was to see his work, and then stuck a shiny sticker on his shirt. Jimmy then said, ‘How ’bout a smelly pencil?’ I told Jimmy that smelly pencils don’t come that easily, but I’d do a deal with him. He was allowed to pick one that I’d then blu-tac to my wall. If he came back at the end of the week with a whole week’s worth of good writing, the pencil would be his. We sealed the deal with a handshake and he went on his way.

A week went by and then today Jimmy came bounding up to the office to show me his work. You could barely wipe the smile off his face (in fact, the only time he stopped smiling was to get his photo taken, as many of our indigenous kids tend to do), and Miss Mel was just as proud of him too. I took the pencil down and gave it to him. He immediately removed the cap and took a big, satisfied whiff of cotton candy to celebrate his achievement. And Miss Mel and I couldn’t have been prouder!

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The (Very, Very) Big Wet!

People who know me (including all the students who have ever been in a class of mine) know that I’m a nerd for numbers. Well, here are 3:

221, 352, 361.

These figures represent the total amount of rain, to the nearest millimetre, that fell during the winter months (June, July and August) of 2013 in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, respectively. Here’s another number:

478

Like the aforementioned trio, this number also represents millimetres of rainfall – this time for Kununurra Lakeside, where I happen to live. However, even though it’s substantially bigger than the other 3, this measurement wasn’t accumulated over 3 months. Or 1 month. Or, for that matter, even a single fortnight or a week.

It’s for 48 hours.

To be precise, the 48 hours from about 9pm last Wednesday night, through to the same time on Friday. Locals say they’ve never seen so much water in such a short period of time. One of our bus drivers, Keith, reckoned it was the most water he’d seen in his 45 years in town. Mr Teddy Carlton, an elder of the Miriuwung Gajerrong people, said he’d seen nothing like it in the last 50 years.

Needless to say, the town and the school copped an absolute drenching! I’d suggest that any day you can jump in a kayak and paddle down one of the main streets is a particularly wet one:

 

 

 

 

 

And when the roads look like this it’s easy to understand why attendance at school on the Friday was as low as it’s been in my time here:

Barringtonia

 

 

 

 

 

For those who did make it to school, they got to see a lovely river running straight through the school yard:

And just in case the SD iPhone footage was a bit grainy for your liking, here’s some stuff that was shot a wee bit more professionally that’ll show how much water was around the place:

Needless to say, the amount of water though the town and the school caused a few headaches on Friday, not least of which was the encroaching water level lapping at the doors to blocks of the school. Fortunately, due to a swiftly executed action plan, we were able to ensure the movement of parents and children from lunch until home time was as organised as possible. Our front office staff coped amazingly well with a deluge of parent and community enquires, and we were able to get all children home, including those who’s route was cut off by water up to 1m high.

School was more or less back to normal today, apart from a bit of surface water around the place and a fair few kids missing. A decent proportion of our students come from communities outside of town, and with names like Crossing Falls, Molly Springs, Emu Creek and Cockatoo Creek you can probably guess that with all the water around the place those communities are still cut off from town. As the water recedes, we should get our full compliment of kids back into classrooms. Until then, all eyes remain on the BOM radar, because if that current tropical low that’s been hanging around the Territory comes our way, we might be getting seriously wet all over again!

(And for those of you who, like me until last year, hadn’t left the city to have a crack at a teaching stint in rural Australia, it’s episodes like this that richen one’s experiences – both the school and life varieties!)

Keith Moon? Tommy Lee? Behaviour Management?

Here’s the best thing that happened to me today:

I’ve got this young bloke in my sub school, for now let’s call him Mike (not his real name). Mike’s in Year 4. Mike is well known to all staff and students at school, mainly for his high behavioural needs. You see, Mike doesn’t have a lot of boundaries in his life outside of school. Subsequently, when Mike attends he can be quite a handful with his behaviour. Even though our paths cross regularly (as Mike’s individual behaviour management plan dictates) and I usually have to be the bad cop, I like Mike and I’m pretty sure Mike likes me too.

Mike’s not too keen on specialist subjects. Since we only have Art/Phys Ed/Music/Library once a week it’s difficult for the teachers of those subjects to build rapport with Mike. As a result, I’m often called to lend a hand during those lessons if Mike’s behaviour has escalated to the point where it’s impossible for the teacher to deliver his/her lesson to the 23 other kids in Mike’s class. When you factor in that today was the first day back following two weeks of school holidays (largely unstructured for Mike), I wasn’t surprised at all to receive a message saying that Mike wasn’t too keen on doing the right thing during Music in Period 4.

When I caught up with Mike just outside the Music room he had just yelled and swore at the teacher and kicked a wheelie bin over. He’d also decided to take his shirt off and was rather agitated about the whole experience of being in Music. Mike probably thought he was going to get a serve from me or taken to the office or whatever. Instead I got out my phone and asked him if he’d ever seen a 1.32m barra. I then showed him a pic of one (caught by another young bloke and a mate of mine on the holidays) and then we talked for a bit. I told him I had a go at catching mud crabs during the holidays; He told me he got a turtle and a salmon when he was out bush; I showed him a picture of a 5 metre salt-water croc we saw on a tour boat; He told me that it was really only little and that he’d hunted (and caught, apparently!) much bigger before. 

After a little while, I suggested we have a go at going back into Music. He said that he’d like to. So he put his shirt back on and we went in to the Music room. The Music teacher, realising that Mike probably wasn’t going to join in the recorder ensemble, asked if we’d like to play the electronic drums for a while. We said yes. And then for the next 20 minutes Mike bashed out a whole heap of beats, and released a fair bit of tension at the same time. I took a Vine of him, shared hear as a manually looped YouTube clip. Mike was pretty happy with the results when I showed him: Afterwards we did two pages of his CVC words English workbook, which was more work than he’d done in the 3 hours before Music. Then I went back to admin duties and he went to lunch.

Making connections, winning over, building rapport. Whatever your terminology for it, I experienced a bit of it with Mike today. Relationships are everything in this job – Without them, the prospect of education for kids like Mike barely exists. Even with the exponential growth in the use of ICT in schools, it’s the people-type skills that are important as ever.

And just in case you wanted to see the 1.32m barra (aka ‘horsefish’) or the 5m salty (Brutus the Croc from Adelaide River, NT), here they are…

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