Privacy at school

The new classroom at CCGS

I drove past the new buildings at Christchurch Grammar School the other day and took this photo – quickly because of course the lights turned green as I was getting my camera out.

I hadn’t really looked too closely before but the lights were on in the upstairs classroom and I could see a student wandering around.

It occurred to me that I’m not sure I’d be too comfortable as a teacher or a student in a classroom that could be seen from the road. By people picking their noses at traffic lights. Not that I was but you know what I mean…

Oh c’mon! I was scratching it!

I also wouldn’t feel that great if the general public could see me at my desk at work. It would feel like an invasion of privacy.

And that’s a bit odd because we have regular tours through our offices – I guess they don’t go near my desk.

Do you work in an office where the great unwashed can walk by and watch you?

I’ve seen a few banks in New York who have desks right up against the window – just a pane of glass separating them from the shoppers, office workers, tourists and homeless.

I don’t think I would like that.

And I certainly wouldn’t have like my parents seeing me misbehave at the back of the classroom when I was at school… not that I did Mum…. that was a joke! Really.

Using Web 2.0 as a tool for teaching English

Elephant Stamp with a Gold StarI’m really impressed with my son’s English teacher.

This term the kids are discussing Anne Frank Diary of a Young Girl and Animal Farm by George Orwell.

To connect to her 13-14 year old students she trialled using an online forum to discuss the books. She set up a series of seven topics in the forum per book – six discussion questions and one where they could just give their opinion of the books. She made participating in the forum compulsory. Which I’ve always found to help increase the number of comments myself. 🙂

Hugamuga let me read his comments and I was impressed (not only by his) but also the general level of academic thought these kids had. Not all of them had commented by that time but really some of the comments were advanced.

I emailed the teacher to tell her how blown away I was and she told me that she felt the level of engagement was far higher than that she’d achieved off-line: “In general, I think the students have been more motivated about the content due to its online component, and certainly several students have been more assertive in voicing their opinions than they might have been in class.”

The assessment part is a homework assignment where the kids now have to write their answers and conclusions – using the forums and the books to formulate their thoughts. The homework itself quotes some of the comments the kids made on the forums and then asks a related question.

Hugamuga was one of the students quoted and I think it’s fair to say he was pretty pleased with himself.

But just to prove he’s not a complete suck-up-swot I get an email from his teacher today to ask me to check on his assignment progress as she can’t see much in class.

Miss he’s sitting next to me right now doing his homework – where I can see him!

And a gold star and an elephant stamp for you!

Is fan fiction a bad thing?

Reading Spot

My girl reads a lot of fiction but not books.

She reads fan fiction. Fiction written by fans of an author using the author’s world, and the author’s characters.

In Dippity’s case it’s Harry Potter and Avatar and there is a lot of it.

Fan fiction is not a new thing and I suspect some interesting collaborations have come out of it… so the writing isn’t all bad. And if it inspires someone to write, well, isn’t that a good thing?

She spends a lot of her free time with her head in a laptop – would I care so much if it was in a book? After all much of my childhood was spent reading. I read everywhere – walking to and from school, in the car, in bed, I didn’t feel dressed unless I was holding a book… so what is the difference?

I guess to be fair she did read the original Harry Potters before going online. I guess what I really hate is her unwillingness to try new authors.

It makes it very boring when going to a bookshop or library.

Should I be concerned? Or should I just be grateful that she’s reading… anything at all?

Clothes maketh the school

Monday night and I’m at the Opus Concert, a concert put on by the Department of Education to celebrate musical excellence in our public schools. Hugamuga was in the Chorale and it was a fine concert.

Anyway I’m sitting there next to an older father who also has a daughter at Hugamuga’s school in his year. We do the polite how is your son/daughter finding the school and then it begins:

“Oh well I think they’re pretty slack on the uniform.”

St Trinians  ex the Sun

“Have you seen the girls? The skirts so short they look like hookers. Girls wearing stripey socks, I saw a girl smoking in public. It’s terrible. The school should be more strict.”
“And have you communicated this to the school?”

No. He hadn’t.

And there’s my point. Don’t whinge at me if you’re not prepared to do anything about it!

I felt quite disgruntled.

Partly because I hate the no action thing but also because frankly I think he’s right. They could smarten up the uniform just by insisting on “proper” school shoes and dropping the polo shirts which just look slack. They could smarten it up just by insisting the kids actually wear it.

With one child now at a private school and the other at a public school the gulf between the pride in the uniform (and by extension the school) is very obvious. It even affects how I feel about the schools. I’m second guessing my decision to send Hugamuga public despite the sound academic reasons for doing so… and partly it’s because of the uniform.

Which is crazy.

But it does reflect the universal truth that first impressions count. We judge others on the state of their dress. Are his shoes clean? Does the tie clash with the shirt? Could she wear a shorter skirt? Lower cut top? Dowdier cardigan? Why would a school be any different?

Clothes maketh the man, and in this case, the school… and yes, I’m going to contact the school. Because I’m bolshy like that. 🙂

Are laptops for school children a good idea?


I’m sitting here with my daughter’s school laptop in bed (feeling crapola with a cold) as I write this so I’m aware that I’m being a bit hypocritical…

Here’s the thing. My daughter has gone to a new school this year. A school that insists that every child should use a laptop from Grade 5. Their argument is that we live in an age where computers and digital devices are a part of our lives and that we should make use of every tool we can to educate our children. And yes, I get that.

But since we’ve had this third computer in the house we barely see our 11 year old. It’s Youtube 24/7 – or until Groover goes mental because we’ve been shaped again. She doesn’t seem to read books anymore – it’s chapter after chapter of fan fiction.

We insist that she uses the computer in public and we’ve learned that you take the laptop away from her at bedtime – what I’m not seeing is a whole lot of homework done on the computer and given that, I wonder why the school doesn’t store the wretched things in the classroom. Do they really need to take them home?

The only good thing is that at least she’s not fighting with my son now over the second computer.

So here I am enjoying her MacBook interface on our wireless system (which doesn’t seem to work for my work laptop) and whinging.

Partly it’s the lazy parent in me that finds it hard to cope – I get tired of continually taking it away from her and telling her off for exceeding our bandwidth quota again.

And part of it is my old fashioned sense of media. I want my child to enjoy books as books! Not fan fiction. Although, having said that if she was writing her own stories… well now, that would be different. And maybe endless reading of it will lead to writing her own…

In the meantime my darling Dipp has earned a merit award at school. So maybe the laptop isn’t the monster I make it out to be.

Oh, you ask, why do I have precious time on the new toy? Ah, she’s out on her brother’s bike getting some fresh air.

I asked her first!

Some parenting tips please! How do you manage computer time in your home?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Apollo-Jack

The Grumpy Sherpa

Do you have a Grumpy Sherpa living with you?

We do.

The phrase was coined by Groover watching Dippity stomp off to school one day.

She was carrying her backpack, a sportsbag and a third bag carrying her laptop.

At least these days kids get backpacks. When I were a young lass it was a gaping stretched bag with one handle over the shoulder and the other about a foot to the side, stretched by more lever arched files than I knew what to do with. Plus lunch. Plus sports gear and all those heavy books. It can’t have been good for us yet I don’t have a back problem. Touchwood.

I used to walk along reading my favourite novel trying not to poleaxe myself on bustops – which were just at the height that made them difficult to notice with my peripheral vision.

I try to be sympathetic, I really do but often I find myself waving cheerily goodbye.

“Ta ta darling! Have a lovely day…” As I snigger at our newly minted description – our little grumpy sherpa.


Creative Commons License photo credit: Boo Boo Bumpy Bear

Kerching! Hugamuga hits pay dirt

The Burrup

Talking about tertiary education with 13-year-old Hugamuga this evening, Groover was asking what areas of interest Hugamuga was considering at this early stage.

In previous years it’s been botany botany botany.  Take this early exchange aged 4.

Me:  (To The Poshi’s Son – Hugamuga’s friend) What do you want to be when you grow up?

TPS:  A power ranger!

Me:  And what do you want to be Hugamuga?

Hugamuga:  A flower arranger.


Today’s answer included a subject we didn’t expect:  Geology.


A geologist in Western Australia?  That’s a career that will take you places.

(Botany is still up there though)

Making friends

Key WestIt’s not easy making friends at a new school, even if you know some of the girls already.

My daughter has recently moved from a small school with just five girls to a big girls’ school with 56 girls in her year, and she’s finding it surprisingly hard to make friends.

She’s generally a confident little soul but I think all the “newness” is a bit overwhelming. Also I imagine she had the idea that the gang of 5 would stick together. That hasn’t been the case. The other girls seem to have hooked up faster than she has and she feels left out, and a little lost, maybe even betrayed.

But what can you do as a parent?

One night last week she was inconsolable. 🙁

I offered to have new friends (or old) over for a play. I suggested she listen more to new acquaintences to see if they had some things in common. I even asked her to consider chatting to her teacher – also new – who might have some ideas.

On the train to work I met a colleague who had had a daughter go to the same school. She suggested I contact the principal of the junior school and see if she had any ideas but I hesitated.

I don’t want to necessarily rescue Dippity – I mean, this could be an important life lesson for her – but I don’t want her to be miserable at school either! (She of course wants me to rescue her)

Today she came home with the crumbs of new friendships. One girl had mentioned that she liked Avatar – Dippity LOVES Avatar, and she had fun with another girl during sport. She seemed happier and more like my darling Dippity.

So what’s your advice?

Hang back and be there for cuddles at the end of a disappointing day? Or is there something proactive I can do?

Petrichorically speaking…

A withered leafIt’s hot in Perth today. Sticky, muggy, please will you just rain and get it over with, kind of hot. And we don’t have air-conditioning except for the bedroom and my computer where I have been working from home at is not in the bedroom.

I’m at home because my daughter, due to start school today at a brand new school, is sick. Was sick. Was sick with fear I think and worked herself into a knot creating a fever, headache and vomiting. She didn’t sleep last night with these symptoms and so today, reluctantly, I let her stay home.

Now that she’s better, she agrees that she probably was a little nervous.

Of course missing the first day makes it even harder for herself – but what could I do? She was fast asleep after a long night of feeling sick. And what if she really had a virus? The parents would not have thanked me.

Anyway she’s going tomorrow and in bed early tonight.

Ah thunderstorms! But they are not making things any cooler. A few spots of rain have fallen and dried before they hit the ground, baking hot after a week of stinking +35C days. (hence my title – thanks to Loz)

Back to school? Not quite.

I’ve been reading (with some envy it must be said) blogs over east who describe lovingly how their children have enjoyed their first day back at school (or not) and how empty the house feels.

My house is not empty.

Nor does there seem to much looking forward to next week. Here’s their reaction when I asked them how they felt about the new term starting:

In the pool

It seems I have dolphin children.

In the pool

I think though that they secretly can’t wait for school to start. They are missing their friends and thanks to my cunning strategy of not organising any activities for the last two weeks of the holidays – VERY BORED.