Good sport?

Today I took a brave first step towards future career-based networking. Simultaneously, I hope to renew my progress in attempting to lose some body mass and improve my flexibility. Diets and brisk walks around the block no longer seem to produce the dramatic effects I was experiencing in the 90s and 00s. So I have consulted with a professional personal trainer, whom I met last year while completing our mandatory one-day First Aid course.

I was able to relate the following anecdote concerning my introduction to secondary school sport:

One of the organisational things we had to do in those first days at high school in 1971 was to select a Sport, that we would be committed to every Tuesday afternoon. These were the times of 14- and 15-week school terms. I had never enjoyed class and house sport at primary school very much, and the thought of our high school choices – all of which required travelling away from the school for an afternoon – was really not appealing to me in any way. None of the possibilities on the list excited me. Ten-Pin Bowling and Ice-Skating were highly coveted – but way too popular – thus most places were reserved for those students who had participated in an Interschool team the previous term. That was never going to be me. I played it safe, choosing Tennis Coaching for Term 1 and Baseball for Term 2. (We didn’t have to choose Term 3 yet, but another rule was that no sport could be played two terms in a row. I figured Tennis Coaching was going to be tolerable, mainly because we would be taught the skills from scratch. I could even borrow Dad’s old tennis racket. A bus would be taking us to the courts and back, thus filling up most of the afternoon.

But my plans ground to a halt: my next six weeks of Term 1, I was confined to bed. I had been at high school for precisely one and a half days when I was diagnosed with (what was then known as) Infectious Hepatitis (later just “Hep A”). The remainder of that term was spent nursing my recovering liver in “Non Sport” (with all the students on sport detention, those with notes from their mothers, those who had managed to miss the bus, and those who had forgotten their sports gear). Luckily for me, the students with medical exemptions didn’t have to write our lines or multiplication tables.

Then came Term 2. I realised I could negotiate to do Tennis Coaching instead of the Baseball that I had been dreading. (So long as we didn’t do the same sport twice in a row.) Tennis Coaching was tolerable. The coach began calling me “Rod Laver”, which he thought was highly amusing.* The only extent of my resemblance to Rod Laver was my left-handedness; certainly not my undiscovered natural ability at performing amazing tennis moves. It would be a few more years before I realised who our coach actually was: a rather prominent referee in the world of professional tennis.

[* I should point out, through the lens of hindsight, this teasing by the coach might seem like bullying. It would definitely not be acceptable today. However, it never felt like malice at the time -and I don’t think the coach could believe that I kept bouncing back for more every second term. But I am still hopeless at all sports.]

Bonus Circle Whatcoulditbe

Term 3 dragged itself along along and we had to select a new sport. Baseball wasn’t on offer as a Summer sport, of course, so the only other tolerable option seemed to be… Athletics. Ugh. We could walk to this venue and the teacher, who turned out to be the young art teacher who liked us to use his Christian name. He had begun his first year in teaching alongside the rest of the newbies. Coincidentally, he was also my Roll Call teacher that year. (He departed teaching after that one year; it would be a few more decades before I realised whom he would eventually become: a rather prominent identity in the professional art world, with numerous works on permanent exhibition in Australian and international galleries. Wow!)

Our Athletics teacher’s concept of athletics was definitely at odds with his artistic vision, so his seeming disinterest in sport probably suited “the nerds”, “the shirkers” and “the smokers” perfectly. And equally. A typical Term 3 afternoon consisted of “the athletes” sitting on the grass, in the shade of a large tree, surrounded by sporting equipment. The older students lit up their cigarettes* and the rest of us pulled at tufts of grass as we gossiped about whatever crossed our minds. A few played cards, probably for money. Our only random interruption was when someone would spot the sportsmaster strolling towards us with his checklist. 



“Quick, everyone,” a voice would say, “Grab something and look busy.”

Suddenly, everyone was stubbing out butts, weighing up a shot-put in their hands, hefting a javelin, swinging a discus back and forth, dangerously close to others, or doing some halfhearted pushups. (The sportsmaster himself was already a rather prominent professional rugby union and rugby league player; I don’t think we fooled him one bit, but at least he didn’t bawl us out or put us on a detention list.) As the sportsmaster climbed back into his car, shaking his head sadly, we would returned to our spots under the shady tree. The cards and coins came back out. The cigarettes started glowing again. As you can appreciate, I was not setting any world on fire with my sporting prowess, and neither was anyone else.

[* Again, through the lens of hindsight, cigarettes in the secondary school environment came with some strange acceptances.]

The next year, Term 1 sport was no problem: I could safely go back to Tennis Coaching! Second time around didn’t improve my skills any, but it was a predictable option. One session was interrupted by an excursion to see one half of the movie David Copperfield – it had played with an unexpected Intermission, leading to us being taken back to school so the teachers could all be on their sports buses! I recall we actually missed the Tennis Coaching bus and had to walk all the way to the courts. It also set a precedent for the next year. Eventually the buses were cancelled and everyone had to make our way there on foot.

Term 2, of course, meant I could go back to Athletics! The art teacher had left at the end of the previous year. I presume he had to pay back his scholarship money to go back to his true calling. We turned up at the park. Our new mathematics teacher was dressed in appropriate sports gear instead of his familiar suit and tie. There was no equipment strewn on the grass. He soon put us to work, doing warmup stretches, pushups and back arches (which none of us could do). Then he schooled us in what we needed to know about breathing for our short sprints and then a longer jog. He took notes about our (lack of) ability in each activity. We were exhausted – and I hated it much as I hated any sport – but it was a contented type of exhaustion/hate that was both different and strangely comforting.

Something our maths teacher said made us ponder. We eventually checked out the school library’s copy of The Guinness Book of Records. In the Australian supplement at the back, there it was: Geoff J Smith was the Australian gold medal winner for the Decathlon at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. (So, strangely enough, all four of these sporting coaches from my school days ended up being famous.) We actually enjoyed turning up to Athletics each week, and were proud that Mr Smith was proud of us. At the end of that term we could all do many pushups, we could all make it around the block without getting a stitch, and we could all perform a perfect back arch. (I probably still can.) I have never been that fit ever again. I really am grateful for the boost to my self-esteem. The memories are still vivid decades later.

Term 3 was back to… yes! Tennis Coaching! I still wasn’t much better, and we held out for Term 1 of the next year, so we could get back to Athletics. We even made a hopeful delegation to Mr Smith: would be still be our Athletics teacher? I remember him saying, “They’ll probably put me on Tiddlywinks or something…”. Crazily, Mr Smith was moved on to another Sport. He ended up supervising one of the sports that only required students names being marked off. What a waste or human resources. You know, I can’t even remember who our new Athletics teacher was. The next time we had to choose a sport, a group of us ended up in a swimming group (that managed not to actually ever get wet). Then there was always Tennis Coaching in the alternate terms… until we negotiated to do just Tennis, without the coaching; that quasi-debacle consisted of a small group of us strolling to a tennis court a few suburbs away and whacking a ball over the net halfheartedly, only ever springing into serious play when we spotted the sportsmaster parking his car nearby.

Anyway, here’s hoping my next few weeks/months of physical activity results in a contented type of nostalgic exhaustion/hate that is simultaneously different and strangely comforting.

Researching Scottish soldiers

Stage 2 students need to build their field knowledge about Scottish soldiers for a writing activity based on the ending of the picture book, “Billy the Punk” by Jessica Carroll & Craig Smith.


Anzac Day 2013, walking with the bagpipes in Sydney


Massed pipe bands in Sydney on Anzac Day 2012


Funny introduction to Scottish uniform in Halifax Citadel

Sainsbury’s Christmas ads

UK department store Sainsbury’s features Judith Kerr’s famous book character, Mog the cat, in an advertisement for the Christmas season. These ads are also excellent examples of persuasive visual texts.


Sainsbury’s official Christmas advert 2015 – Mog’s Christmas calamity


Sainsbury’s official Christmas 2014 ad – 1914

And the current ad is:


Sainsbury’s official Christmas advert 2016 – The greatest gift

Buster the boxer – persuasive digital stories

Each year, UK department store, John Lewis, hires a team to create a special ad for the Christmas season. These ads are excellent examples of persuasive visual texts.


John Lewis Christmas advert 2016 – #BustertheBoxer

Previous annual links to John Lewis ads are HERE.

Wheels, wheels, wheels

Early Stage 1 and Stage 1 students are investigating transport. This week we are looking at the wheel, which researchers now believe may be an invention from about 5000 years ago. Some texts state the wheel was an invention of prehistoric peoples, but the evidence has not supported that assumption.


History of the wheel – claymation


Hidden histories: The wheel


Horrible histories – Pioneers of transportation

Monty the penguin

Each year, UK department store, John Lewis, hires a team to create a special ad for the Christmas season. These ads are excellent examples of persuasive visual texts.


John Lewis Christmas advert 2014 – #MontyThePenguin


Flock Associates – John Lewis: The Making of Monty the Penguin 2014


John Lewis Christmas advert 2013 – The bear & the hare


Lily Allen | [The Making of] Somewhere Only We Know (John Lewis Christmas Advert)


John Lewis Christmas advert 2012 – The journey


John Lewis Christmas advert 2011 – The long wait

Same ad, with a different music track:

The New John Lewis 2011 Christmas TV Advert – The long wait [Alternate]


John Lewis Christmas advert 2010 – This feeling inside


John Lewis Christmas advert 2009 – Sweet child of mine


John Lewis Christmas advert 2008 – From me to you [Extended studio version]


John Lewis Christmas advert 2007 – Shadow

Why the emu cannot fly

Before Book Week, Early Stage 1 and Stage 1 students were investigating the Aboriginal Dreaming story, Why the emu cannot fly. We found many versions of this story, including the picture book, Winin: why the emu cannot fly by Mary Charles & Francine Ngardarb Riches, and translated by Bill McGregor from the original Nyulnyul language. In this version, Emu is in dispute with a brolga.

This first Youtube version involves a crocodile and some Aboriginal hunters:

Talking Country: Worla [Why the emu cannot fly]

The following variation of the tale involves a brush turkey, and was created in claymation by young students at another school (some spelling errors):

Dinewan the emu and Goomble gubbon the brush turkey [Why the emu cannot fly]

This week, the students are studying factual information about emus, using books such as Emus by Caleb Whitehorn, in the Springboardseries, Feathered giants: the way of the emu by Henry G Lamond, and Emu by Claire Saxby & Graham Byrne.

Our research will be enhanced by the following Youtube clips:


Running emu


Emu hatching from an egg – beautiful HD footage from start to finish

And, just for a bit of fun:

Rod Hull and Emu – How to groom an emu [Hudson Brothers’ Razzle Dazzle Show]