The search for homeostasis

Where have I been?


Two weeks into Term 1 of 2019’s school term year, I officially “separated from the NSW Department of Education”. Despite keeping tabs on the doings of my teacher-librarian colleagues, I haven’t felt a burning desire to do any casual teaching or library work. Instead, have renewed my writing efforts on some fiction manuscripts and started making preparations for a future career(?) as a massage therapist. Recent changes in courses and career paths (to formalise which courses’ graduates can access health fund rebates for their clients) saw me gravitate towards a Diploma of Remedial Massage rather than a Certificate 4 course. Endeavour College in the Sydney CBD offered my best option and I have just completed my first ten weeks of study. Some days, it hardly feels like studying: ie. give a massage, receive a massage, break for lunch, repeat. Now that‘s the way to study.

Diploma of Remedial Massage

First homework involved removing a ring that has been stuck on my finger for about ten years…


All of which led to a firm resolve to lose some weight. This was a momentous landmark.


A few weeks into the course, the other students and I spent a day volunteering at the City2Surf marathon, massaging doctors and nurses who have their annual post-race gathering on the roof of Bondi Surf Club. (Talk about being “thrown into the deep end”.)


We are expected to do at least two practice massages per week to consolidate our skills. When human volunteer crash test dummies aren’t available for practice sessions, there are always other stand-ins…

Massage for bears

Finding my way around the college LMS (learning management system) has made the last ten weeks relatively easy. Certainly a different way of submitting assignments since my last full-time course in 1990. Now I can take a three-week breather before the next term commences…

Academic Integrity

Meanwhile, I am back to writing Draft #2 of a Young Adult novel manuscript. No rest for the wicked, even a retired teacher-librarian.

Invented spelling rulez!

Today, a Kindergarten student used invented spelling to write about liking Mondays because that’s the day he comes to have a library session with Mr McLean.

My name was rendered as “Miss the Cling” in his recount. His class teacher was so proud, and I received an urgent message from another teacher to “go and look”. So kewl! I love Term Four, when everything starts coming together for the Early Stage 1 students.

Fiction… with a twist!


This week, I have taken five groups of Stage 3 students – about twelve students per group per afternoon, for 30 minute lessons – through an orientation of Fiction with a twist, compared and contrasted the online sample student introductory biographies and the fictional character sketches, then I set the paragraph writing for “Voice” as homework. All between packing up the library for six months of rebuilding. Eeek!

On Monday, the first group returns to share their writing, and/or complete it, and/or enter it onto the blog. I’m figuring that some students will turn up to rap next week, empty-handed. That’s okay, they can write while others type into Word. But each group went off, this week, fairly confident that they could write a bio (noting that each online samples had at least one humorous sentence in the paragraph) and a fictional character sketch. They were amazed to note that each writer had mentioned hair – and so my students began thinking about what they noticed whenever a new colleague arrived at school, ie. was hairstyle really one of the first things we note about a new face?

Fiction with a twist is a blogging project coordinated by NSW DET’s Libraries and Information Literacy Unit. It’s aimed at gifted readers and writers in Stage 3 and 4, but can be used with any students of those Stages. Authors John Larkin, Deb Abela and James Roy will be reading and responding to the students’ writing. The only compulsory weekly task is the paragraph writing task – everything else is optional and flexible!

Daisy Sunshine – in the sunshine

Susanne Gervay book launch
On yet another of Sydney’s string of very warm days, I was off on the train into the city this afternoon, alighting at Central for a brisk, if very sweaty, walk along ever-colourful, if now slighty worn-down, Oxford Street, through Darlinghurst, Paddington and then Woollahra, to the beautiful and stately Hughenden Boutique Hotel!

I had been invited by author Susanne Gervay to attend the launch of two “Making Tracks” books for children: Felicity Pulman‘s “Turning the Page” and Susanne’s own “Daisy Sunshine”. These are the final two titles in a series published by the National Museum of Australia, with each fiction book highlighting an artifact from the Museum’s amazing collection of significant, historic Australiana.

Because Susanne’s book is set squarely in 1975, and focused around some feminist memorabilia of that decade, there was a pervasive presence of cork platform shoes, long dresses, hippy headscarves, and a rousing chorus of “I Am Woman”.

It was fun hobnobbing with the members and friends of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators of Australia, and renewing many old acquaintances. A great way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Rap reports

The Stage 2 students and I had a great time this week writing up their sports reports for the Beijing Olympics & Book Week 2008. They came to the library with their class teacher (who is brand new to rapping) – usually we’ve had two rotating groups instead, but with the industrial action of yesterday morning, there were lots of students still absent in the afternoon.

We went through the key elements of a newspaper sports report/article, using the supplied Rap Sheet, then read and analysed the “Kiwis vs Wallabies” report from The Shaggy Gully Times by Jackie French & Bruce Whatley. When it came time to break into writing groups, the students were highly motivated, and they were so empowered whenever they made up a clever pun. Of course, it really helped that one of the students was fresh off the plane from her recent visit to Beijing – and that the extremely fast gold-medal winning Jamaican athlete she told us about had the highly punny surname of Bolt!

By the way, it only occurred to us later why that Shaggy Gully football match was being played at night!

Yes, it’s been a a busy term, but traditionally Term Three always is in school libraries: Book Week, National Literacy & Numeracy Week, and all that.

Rap Point 2 stretched across two weeks this time, on purpose, and it was also okay to post a bit late, since each school in the rap tends to work at a different pace. There had been a few new schools only just starting to look around the pages and/or noticing the newer messages on earlier rap points.

I decided to concentrate on prediction that week. I like to get the students to anticipate what might be coming next, so we predicted how we would:
* find the rap blog, with which search terms (eg. on Google)
* recognise our post from last week (ie. look out for school crest avatar).

Also, we predicted the contents of the page of The Shaggy Gully Times we’d be reading in the rap session. I asked one group of students to make predictions as to what they’d see inside the local newspaper when I unrolled it (fresh from my front lawn). Local newspapers are a great free resource, and many times they only get noticed by the students when they are asked to clean out the budgies’ cage, or collect newspapers for covering school desks during art, or when making papier mache.

The students were very engaged in skimming the layout, quickly identifying and confirming almost all their predictions about the newspaper. The standard of talking and listening was very pleasing – they were perceptive, and supportive of each other’s earlier ideas.

I hope this is an activity they will be able to repeat with their parents. (And that the newspaper they choose doesn’t have too many full page ads for local attractions such as “Wild Boys Afloat”, etc.) Several students reported recently that they’d personally gone online and shown their parents the current rap blog on their home Internet computers. One girl said, “I even printed out the page that had my name and comment on it.”

School libraries leading learning: Day 2

The alarm clock was again set to go off at 6:00 am and, of course, I was awake – wide awake – at 4:20 am. Nothing to do except turn on my computer, dig through all my hand-scrawled notes from Circle Time evaluations of last year’s Kindergarten wiki fables project, and add them to the new wiki page I intended to use in my presentation today.

Yesterday, Dr Ross J Todd had challenged the conference presenters – and all the teacher-librarian attendees – to embrace evidence-based practice when presenting educational research results. Although I had the students’ opening comments (scribed quotes from oral statements) on a page of my school library wiki site – ready for my tutorial session today – I had not yet planned to divulge all of the the evaluation comments (scroll down the page of the same URL) from the culmination of the unit (lest I decided to use the information elsewhere).

Oh well. I’m glad I decided to appease Ross, and fill in my time until breakfast, compiling the students’ final responses onto the wiki page, and uploading it ready for today’s talk. I’d quite forgotten how informative the students’ final comments were. (“Why did we use a wiki to write and publish our core value fables?” One answer: “Pencils run out of lead”.) Comparing these closing comments against the syllabus outcomes, over the next few months, is going to be very interesting.

By 11:00 am, my session was over for the conference – I was a free man! – and had a great and more relaxed time – especially by attending: author Paul Stafford‘s fascinating talk about his Dead Bones Society (targeting reluctant young male readers) and how he has taught creative writing to hardened criminals; and an equally stimulating session, chaired by Kathy Rushton, on the Indij series of books, written by groups of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

A highlight of Day 2 was the closing panel, hosted by bookseller/teacher Paul MacDonald, and featuring several popular Australian children’s authors, including Libby Gleeson, James Roy, Kate Forsythe and Deb Abela. They were all contributing to a discussion on “Multiliteracies in a digital world”, including postulating whether “the book” was as dead as the dead trees of which books are made. (While text books and hardcopy encyclopedias may well be on their way out, none of the guests seemed to feel that children’s picture books or other fiction in book form were in too much danger – yet. Well, except for the rising cost of paper.)

Interestingly, the Kindergarten students’ work I was showcasing today backed up the professional authors’ feelings about books. One student’s response to my question of “What should we do next (ie. now that our wiki project is over)?” was:

“More drawings! Make lots more fables. Make a book with page numbers.”