First short story – Over the Moon.

My short story is finally ready for submission. I have gotten to the point where I don’t think I can do any more improvements to it from my end. Originally my story was 2,880 words. Ooops – way too long. I actually really enjoyed writing it and my kids (who were the target audience) really enjoyed reading it.

But…

There’s always a but, isn’t there?

My online tutor said it was way over the 800 word limit and suggested a few ways I could look at trimming my story down. Eek! It felt like I was ripping something precious to shreds. My hubby, who is cheerfully watching the Australian Open tennis on television any chance he can get, hasn’t been a lot of company, so last night became shredding night. I’ve whittled my story down to 945 words. Still a bit over but a huge cut down from the original. I hope you enjoy reading Over the Moon.

I’d love to know what you think.

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Of holidays and poetry

(*featured image: http://www.intown.com.au)

The more he looked the more Piglet wasn’t there.

A. A. Milne ‘The House at Pooh Corner’

The above quote sums up how I felt last week after submitting a poem for assessment. I was waiting for the feedback and the more I looked, the more it wasn’t there. We were going camping for a week and of course a week feels like a long time when you are waiting for feedback… I received the feedback the morning we left to go away so I didn’t get to post the poem when I wanted to.

We spent a week camping on the Barwon Coast in Victoria. We had everything from 18C drizzly wet days to 42C scorchers. The weather becomes all important when camping – there wasn’t really much between our living space and the great outdoors except a piece of canvas. I love some aspects of camping, the main one is that everything slows down. It takes time to do anything and when life takes time, life also slows down.

I hope to get my short story submitted for assessment this coming week so that I finish my current study period before school goes back the week after.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy the poem that I got back from my assessors. I’d love to know what you think of it.

 

YOU WILL NOT WIN

Anxiety, unwelcome, uninvited

Not wanted, still you came.

A masked intruder with

Fingers choking, like dark tendrils

Squeezing joy out of the tender

Heart and mind of my young daughter.

 

With an icy cruel blow, you make your move.

And it’s –

Hands sweating, heart pounding

Breath racing, eyes widening

Breath racing, panic rising

She looks at me:

‘Mummy, why am I always so scared?’

 

Then with a crash, your friend, Anger moves in.

And it’s –

Eyes flashing, mouth screaming

Doors slamming, feet stamping

Doors slamming, peace fleeing

And I ask of myself:

‘How can I be the mother she needs?’

 

 

But Love rises up from the depths and remains strong.

And it’s –

Arms embracing, heart slowing

Breath calming, muscles easing

Breath calming, mind relaxing.

She whispers into my neck:

‘Mummy, I love you.’

 

Anxiety, you will not win.

 

 

 

Sarah Guscott

January, 2018

 

 

Happy New Year!

The New Year is already off and running. This year looks set to be just as busy as last year. I have one child off to high school, a hubby who has just picked up an extra day of work and a writing course that needs to be completed!

So, I’ve finally gotten back on track with my writing. My new module is all to do with writing fiction. My toes actually curled up in horror when I realised what the assessment task was: a short piece of fiction. I so loved writing articles and working with non-fiction in the previous module.

One of the first tasks in the module was to look at blocks to creativity. I have to say two of my biggies are:

  • wanting things to be perfect – even at first draft level.
  • not knowing whether my ideas will appeal to an audience.

I also had no idea where to start writing my piece of fiction.

So, I took the plunge, so to speak and began writing up a story that I used to tell my children around the dinner table a few years ago. My children have been fascinated watching me write. I managed to complete the first draft today.

My ten-year-old and twelve-year-old both laughed at different points along the story and seemed to enjoy it. My husband even laughed and said he enjoyed it. He did point out a few technical errors that I will need to go and research a little further as I polish up the draft. My eight-year-old was probably the most critical. He also didn’t laugh like the others. He just said ‘I’m sad. The cow didn’t get to jump on her trampoline at the fair.’ In his defense, he has been unwell today.

At 2,864 words long, my story is longer than the 800 words required for my online course. It’s working title was The Cow, the Trampoline and the Moon which as my husband pointed out wasn’t very zippy. My daughter said based on the title she would not want to read it. We had a crazy family brainstorming session over dinner where different titles were suggested. Among the suggestions were:

  • This Cow needs a Bra!
  • This Cow doesn’t have a Bra!
  • Udderly Nonsense

and

  • Over the Moon

I shall publish my short story to my blog when it is ready but until then, I’d better get back on with my writing!

(both images from Pixabay)

cow jumping

Merry Christmas and bring on the Holidays!

The day that teachers never think will arrive, finally arrived yesterday.

Yep! Yes!! Hip-hip hooray! Holidays started yesterday. I have moved into my new classroom for 2018. It’s as tidy as can be before the cleaners steam clean the carpet. I completed my professional review with my principal. The review was fairly spontaneous as I had take all my professional ‘evidence’ home but it was good to get it done. I even got time to get a laminating head-start on next year (that is such a teacher thing!) and got to leave work even earlier so that I could see my eldest child complete his final assembly at Primary School.

On the home front, Christmas has been completed for one side of the family and it’s just my side tomorrow. The turkey is cooling off before being popped in the fridge and the kids are veging in front of the TV. I have just a few cheeky last minute presents to wrap which my daughter is hanging out to help wrap.

Then it’s countdown to relax and unwind and enjoy the five weeks break. Bring on January!

Merry Christmas to everyone and enjoy whatever time you get to unwind.

See you in 2018.

Christmas Babysitting in the classroom

I have five more days of work for this year and that includes three more days of kid-wrangling teaching. This is the 11th week of term 4 and the students are tired and the teachers are way beyond tired. Reports have been written and parent-teacher interviews done. So what do you do to keep the students quiet, the parents happy in what is essentially a week of free babysitting?

Last week we went into Melbourne for an excursion to see ‘Christmassy’ things and to experience riding on the trams. Lovely. Except it was 37 degrees Celsius!

I tried showing my students some videos of Simon’s Cat, which keep popping up in my Facebook feed. The videos have very little English and are very accessible by my students. My students have gotten to the point where they no longer listen but just want to talk… all day…

The videos kept them enthralled but didn’t stop them talking. I don’t think Student J ever stops talking.

Student J: “Why is it in black and white Mrs G? Oh the cat’s hungry! This is funny!”

Me: (Sigh)

So the plan for this week after trawling through Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers, is to do some Christmas symmetry, some Christmas stories and a few decorations and play some games. It is not worth doing anything too much because the nature of the week – the timetable is messy and will be disrupted. I cannot put anything up on the walls because I am moving rooms and it’s not worth assessing anything else for this year.

I’d love to know how you get through the crazy last week of the year.

Graphic Organisers in the ESL / EAL classroom

Part of the ongoing Professional Development that has been taking place at our school this year has involved looking at different teaching strategies that are considered ‘effective’ according to research and then adjusting them for our English as an Additional Language setting.

One of the latest strategies which we have had to experiment with has been the graphic organiser. My teaching partner and I decided to give the humble old KWL chart a try. The KWL chart has been around for years but for those who may not have come across it before, it is a tool for organising thinking. It acknowledges that students bring prior learning to the current topic being studied and also allows them to think about what they want to learn.

The KWL chart is basically this:

– What I already Know.  (This step is completed before the learning takes place)

W – What I Want to know. (This step is completed before the learning takes place)

L – What I have Learnt.  (This step is done after the learning takes place)

 

Our first try was when we were studying houses way back in week 3 and 4 of this term. My preferred way of doing the KWL chart with young students (I have seven-year-olds) is to give them a sticky note and have them draw/write for each section. The K section went well. You can only just see some of the yellow pieces that are for this section. We hit a few problems with ‘What do we want to learn?’

First problem: Students don’t know, what they don’t know.

Second problem: When English is not your first language, how do you even begin to write what you want to learn?

The drawings on the blue squares did have some input from me.

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Maybe ‘Houses’ was too much of a thing topic rather than a concept topic. So after a bit of discussion with other teachers, we tried again with the next topic of ‘Zoo’. This time, I took the approach of me modelling how I might approach the ‘What I Want to Know’ section. I don’t think the students understood that I was trying to think out loud for their benefit. The conversation that surrounded this KWL was hilarious.

 

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Me: I want to know the names of different animals.

Student A: I like magpies! And ducks!

Student T: Giraffes!

Student H: There’s elephants!

Me: Shh! Stop calling out. I also want to know What kind of coverings do animals have?

Student T: (still calling out) Feathers. Birds have feathers.

Me: (wondering why that wasn’t drawn on his paper?) I also want to know Where do animals live?

Student A: Trees!

Student T: The jungle!

Student H: Do we have to copy this?

Me: (inwardly sighing) And I want to know What do animals eat?

Student T: (still calling out) Lions eat meat!


 

 

56A181E6-6659-4DA9-B0E0-A2998FFF775A    While we were on a roll, I thought we should have a try at a KWL chart for Addition.

This is really beyond seven year olds. This is Student A (from above) who is incredibly bright. He did not really understand how to use a KWL chart for Addition. His ‘L’ section shows things he already knew as we did not cover doubles as part of our addition unit at this time.

 

 

 

I have come to the conclusion that KWL charts may not be the best use of time for me with a bunch of seven-year-olds in an EAL classroom. Maybe seven-year-olds in the mainstream classroom could cope with this graphic organiser better or maybe older students in the EAL classroom could cope with this strategy better.

 

 

 

Six degrees of separation and a writing weekend

There is a theory that everyone in the world is connected to everyone else through only six degrees of separation. Well, I am only three degrees of separation away from former Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbot. Also I am two degrees of separation away from 2015 Melbourne Cup winning jockey, Michelle Payne.

How did I work this out? Glad you asked, but I need to give a bit of background first.

Last weekend I attended a Magazine and Newspaper Writing Stage 1 course run by the Australian Writers’ Centre, held over the Saturday and Sunday at the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne. The convent is no longer used by the Catholic Church. It now has markets, cafes, and yoga classes onsite. Different groups come in and run quilting workshops, couples workshops and writing workshops.

My writing workshop was held in the old Bishop’s Parlour.  It was a large room with very high ceilings and unfortunately no air-conditioning. It has been very hot in Melbourne. The windows could not have had curtains: they had to be drapes. They were so long. I did wonder about the nuns gliding along the corridors and up and down the stairs near the Bishop’s Parlour. Did any of them ever fall down the stairs?

Our writing workshop facilitator was deputy editor of the ‘The Saturday Paper’, Cindy MacDonald. There was no super fancy presentation for our workshop. No long and tedious Power Point presentation. Cindy simply read from her notes and told interesting stories. She knows her stuff – writing. And for the fifteen of us novice writers it was like scooping up little gems and treasures that she dropped along the way. She gave us tips for how to write well, how not to write and how to approach editors. I am grateful that I have been doing this type of writing in my Certificate IV in Professional Writing and Editing. Without this background information, I think I would have been lost.

Our ‘homework’ for the course involved interviewing a course participant and then writing up a profile on them before the Sunday. This was my first ‘unknown’ interviewee, all the others have been friends. I interviewed a lovely lady called Fiona Telford. I learnt she had worked at various times for the government both at state level and at federal level as a media adviser. I thought ‘Ho hum. How am I going to turn this into a story?’ So I went home and googled her.

Fiona laughed at me the next day saying ‘Look at you and all your research!’ And ‘I thought you would find out about me and Peta Credlin!’ So through meeting Fiona, I know she worked in Canberra for some of the same politicians that Peta Credlin worked for. Peta Credlin then worked for Tony Abbot as his Chief-of-Staff which explains my connections to Tony Abbot. Fiona also has shares in racehorses that are being trained by Michelle Payne, who was the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup in 2015.

I’d love it if you had a read of my profile of Fiona. For the record, she gave me her permission to publish it to my blog. I wish her all the best as she re-establishes herself as a journalist/writer.

I’d also love to hear if you are connect to anyone through different degrees of separation.

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At Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne. (25 Nov 2017)