Guinea Pigs are Scary. Who knew?

Sheep are scary too. Apparently.

Last year, I blogged about Assumptions Not to Make in the English as an Additional Language Classroom.  I had four assumptions not to make.


1: Don’t assume that students have had the same access to physical development programs as in your own country.

2: Don’t assume that students will correctly colour in the flag of your country.

3: Don’t assume that copying is easy.

4: Don’t assume a student knows how to use a scrapbook.


It’s time to add another assumption not to make.

Don’t assume that all students have had the same exposures to experiences that most students in your country would have had.

We went on an excursion to a farm in Melbourne last week. It was raining and pretty cold being the end of winter (and Melbourne doesn’t really warm up until late Spring). My students didn’t like the mud… we had told them to wear old shoes or gumboots. Some of my students couldn’t cope with the ‘dirtiness’ of the shed where we ate our picnic lunch.

Whilst some of my students loved the guinea pigs, I had a few who were petrified of them. The guinea pigs were brought out on small baskets, no doubt to prevent the students getting ‘weed on’. The farmer explained what the students needed to do and a couple of my students couldn’t cope.

When we went off to the sheep pen, the farmer fed the sheep and most of my students milled around the sheep as they got stuck into their feed. Then I heard from one of my students – ‘Mrs Guscott! Look at Arman!’* I turned around and Arman and his friend were standing just inside the paddock. Arman had the most petrified look on his face that I had ever seen on one of my students and he was shaking. The sheep were nowhere near him. Most Aussie kids have had exposure to animals somewhere along the way in their growing up or schooling time.

I’m obviously still learning.



Source: S Guscott. Who wouldn’t like to get every last morsel of food at times?

If you teach students from other backgrounds, what would you add to the list of assumptions not to make?


Featured Image: S Guscott

*Student name has been changed for privacy.

















Get Writing!

In the merry old land of Aus, it is Father’s Day today. So Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there. Whether you are celebrating or not, know that you are special and important in the lives of your children.

I discovered the website this week. It’s a site where you can write without really thinking too much about what you are writing as nobody sees it except for yourself. Once you get to 750 words, the site gives you points and you statistics as to how fast you typed and which words you used the most. It even tries to work out the type of mood you were in as you typed, based on the types of words and sentences you used.

I haven’t decided whether it is something that I will continue to use past my trial date. It takes me roughly 20 – 25 minutes to write 750 words if I am typing fast. But I keep thinking that is 20 – 25 minutes I could be putting towards something else or some other writing. The biggest positive that I can see with it at the moment is that it does encourage me to write fast and just get the ideas out. And sometimes that is what is needed.

I put it out there to my writing Facebook group this week, asking whether they have a ritual or hack that signals to the brain, ‘Hey, it’s writing time!’ I got some interesting suggestions back.

Tips and suggestions forwarded to me included:

  • having a small room with a separate entrance that is just used for writing
  • going for a drive
  • going for a walk
  • meditative housework!
  • whenever characters pop into your head
  • specific iTunes songs
  • coffee
  • tea
  • routine
  • reading a chapter of ‘Writing Down the Bones’
  • knowing I’m meeting with a writing buddy every week
  • setting a timer for a specific period of time
  • burning incense or essential oils
  • playing the same album or soundtrack every time you want to write
  • going to the library
  • headphones with music
  • scented candles

I love all the suggestions that I received. I think I would need to add chocolate to the list especially at report writing time, which I am currently going through again. Rather than procrastinate this time, I have been trying to go as fast as I can. There are too many other things I’d rather be doing than writing reports. OK, I did procrastinate a little before the first one but it always takes a little time to warm up for the first.

So tell me, what would you add to the list that tells your brain, ‘Hey, it’s time to start writing?’

What’s your dream?

This whole work/life balance thing seems to be a recurring theme for me. I wrote about it in my very first blog post. And it is something that I continue to wrestle with today.

Last Saturday, I took myself off to a careers counselling session run by a lady at my local library. It was funny articulating things that I didn’t know were buried inside me. I realised that I don’t want to be teaching for the next 25 years of my life – certainly not at full time capacity. It gave me the courage to put in a request for long service leave next year at one day per week at half pay, a request my union said I was entitled to ask.

So the dream is to transition more into writing by releasing teaching. The challenge for the moment though is that we need my income, so I can’t just drop everything teaching related. I may even find that teaching becomes more bearable because I am fulfilling a creative need and my life won’t feel like its revolving around School Strategic Plans and Mid-Year Performance reviews.

We had a cringe worthy Curriculum Day on Friday where we discussed why we may not have achieved our targets for the last four years, where Child Safe standards (a legal requirement) were discussed and how we think we measure up against the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes. Riveting stuff. It got me thinking though. Different people wrote all these documents…and probably got paid a fortune to do so. Writing is everywhere. Some is just a whole lot more interesting to read.

What’s your dream?

Research for settings outside of the known

I had a fleeting moment of wondering whether I might write a novel about the last Castrato this past week. The subject of castratos became a dinner table topic of conversation with our kids one night. (I know – weird topic to discuss with kids, but there you have it!) It was fascinating to read the small pieces of information that Google retrieved on our phones about the lives and times of the castratos in the late 19th century. I then did a quick Amazon search and discovered that two books had been written called The Last Castrato within the last 25 years. Neither got amazing reviews. Who was I kidding that my contribution would be much better? Also, it’s not exactly a Young Adult topic of interest either is it?

But, for a moment I was curious. I have been listening to podcasts where authors talk about their research for their novels. One author has been to Shanghai twice as part of her research. Another has jetted off to London and another spent time in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney. It got me thinking – how can I research and make my writing authentic when the opportunity to travel is just not possible at this moment in time? I have a job… and a loan to repay… and a family… (kids are expensive and they make holidays even more expensive…)

So I put the question out there to one of the Facebook groups that I belong to.

How do you research and make your writing authentic when you are unable to travel? I got a whole lot of responses and have made a list here. May they inspire you, as much as they have inspired me.

Researching other places

  • Google
  • Google Maps
  • Travel logs
  • Accounts about settings
  • Stories set in the same place
  • Location’s hashtag on Instagram
  • News from that area
  • Google Street view
  • Armchair Travel
  • YouTube and video in general
  • Travel Blogs
  • Lonely Planet guides
  • Interviewing people who have been there
  • Books – from the library or bookshops
  • Memoirs
  • Biographies
  • Movies
  • Google Earth
  • Google app – Expeditions
  • Checking out house photos via Airbnb
  • TripAdvisor


Would you add anything else? Have you used any of these as a research tool for your writing? I’d love to know.

What is something that you’ve done recently that you’re proud of? Why?

(featured image:

Following on from my post a few months ago, 7 Things to Blog About Right Now   I thought I’d better get back to my list. The next one to cover is:

What is something that you’ve done recently that you’re proud of? Why?

For me, I am proud of the steps that I have been taking to continue writing. It is a challenge because I have to come up with the momentum and enthusiasm myself. I am very much relying on intrinsic motivation

So I am proud of joining the Writer’s Group. I have even put myself forward to receiving feedback for a picture story book that I have written.

I have taken to writing in the Furious Fiction short story competition run by the Australian Writers Centre each month. Even if my stories do not win, I end up winning through writing regularly and flexing my writing muscles.

I have taken to listening to writing podcasts (So you want to be a writer) as I drive to and from work. I love, love, love listening to them and it adds to my knowledge of the writing world.

I have also booked myself into a writing workshop/publishing workshop day coming up in September run by Allen & Unwin. I’m really looking forward to meeting some more people and learning even more about the industry.

In the meantime, I continue to read like mad, constantly asking myself as I read ‘What are they doing here? Do I like what they are doing? Why or why not?’ So, yes I am more critical as I read too. I’m currently reading my third Scarlet and Ivy book because I’m curious to know why my 11 year old daughter likes them.

What is something that you have done recently that you are proud of? Let me know.

Giving and Receiving Feedback

Feedback is one of those things that you need as a writer but it can be a challenge to give and receive.

A few weeks ago, I was flattered to be asked to read a friend’s draft – a memoir of a trip their family had taken. By page eight I was falling off my chair with boredom and she had written more than 40,000 words!

Last week, in the Writer’s Group that I went to, we were asked to give feedback on a young man’s young children’s story. Again, I was struggling with boredom.

And there in lies the catch –

How to encourage someone in their writing pursuits so that they don’t get discouraged, but hopefully improve?

The only thing I could do, was offer suggestions in what I thought they could do. So for my friend, she really needed a theme – something to tie all her ramblings together but would also allow her to cull what she didn’t need to include. For the young man, his character needed to do something and develop, nothing actually happened in his story but there was a lot of talking.

The other funny catch with feedback is choosing someone appropriate to give you the feedback. The following paragraph is the start of a 500 word short story competition that I entered this weekend. I asked my husband to read it.

My tummy coiled tightly and my hands sweated as they gripped the steering wheel. The little girl inside me cried – What’s happening to mum? The grown woman inside me fought to be heard. You’ve got to hold it together. She needs you now. I pulled into the car park and saw a solitary figure in the far corner, standing next to her car – Mum.

My husband is not the literary type. His initial response was, Is she pregnant?


Doesn’t everyone have voices inside their head – you know, the inner child who is often anxious and unsure and the inner grown up? Eh, maybe not, so it seems. I have rewritten my story and hopefully the first paragraph is now clearer. But in terms of future feedback – I think I’ll get my husband to stick to what he does best – packing the car for holidays or the dishwasher with many more items than I could fit in.

To see my short story entry click here.     The competition has set parameters and opens on the first Friday of the month and then closes by midnight on the first Sunday of the month. It is short, sharp and tight.

I’d love to hear how you go with giving or receiving feedback.



So I joined a Writers Group

Now what?

Having finished my Professional Writing and Editing course, I recognise that I need to keep the momentum for my writing going. It would be easy to let things to slide and to no longer write. So, putting on a brave facade to my introvert self, I rang my local library and booked into the Writers Group. The first session was this morning.

Of course as soon as I make the phone call, my mind began running away from me and I wondered what I have let myself in for. I had many questions. Will the other writers be normal? Will they be older? Younger? Hippie? Conservative? Out there and just plain weird? Will we be spending the whole time writing or will we be sitting around critiquing everyone’s work, in which case, what would be my offering? I haven’t got a current project.

I was grateful to discover that the group is a mixture of mainly middle-aged women (cue the sigh as that is now my age bracket) and a few older women with a couple of men thrown in. There was a mix in terms of abilities and where people are at in terms of their writing and publishing journeys. I think I shall be able to learn from others but also give back which is in essence what it is all about. The leader of the group seemed welcoming and had the knack for moving things along. She also had the capacity to welcome in a young man with some sort of brain/body disability. His personality was bright, but he had the potential to hijack and dominate discussions, yet the leader deftly handled him.

I was speaking to a colleague at school this week, who is also an editor for Allen & Unwin. She said the next step for me is to get out and begin networking and meeting people. As is the case so often, it’s not what you know but who you know. I will be getting out my brave facade more often. After being so isolated whilst doing my online course, it was actually quite nice meeting some new people this morning.

When was the last time you tried something new? Are you involved in a Writers Group? I’d love to know.