Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Loving It

I'm loving lots of things today.

Firstly, I'm loving that my daughters can cook for themselves and the family....I'm off to enjoy a dinner out with the staff from my placement school tonight and I don't have to cook for everyone else first.

Secondly, I'm loving the peace and quiet of working on lesson plans and paying bills while noone is home.  Pure gold!

Thirdly, I'm loving teaching.  Every lesson that I've taught has gone well, even when technology has mucked us up.  Today's maths lesson went brilliantly and the supervising teacher was full of praise.  I just want to get my degree out of the way and get on with it!

Lastly, the sunshine.  How beautiful to sit outside on yard duty with the four children who weren't swimming and soak in the warmth of the winter sun.  Ahhhh....there are some benefits to small schools!

What are you grateful for today?

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

In the Deep End

This week I'm spending my time in the Prep-2 classroom.  Talk about being thrown in at the deep end.  Well, perhaps that was just all the flurry of "this is what we're doing this week and you can....." that came at me first thing! Last week was definitely a walk in the park, in comparison.

The colleague teacher I'm with now has had four student teachers in the last year so she knows what she's doing, even if I'm unsure.  Today I'll do some follow up work with a reading group, talking about nouns, and teach an art lesson focusing on cutting skills....because little people don't always 'just know'.  I also need to get my head around an integrated gardening/outer space lesson about astronauts and healthy food.  ARGH!  While most of the class is off at swimming I will get a little bit of time to do some more thinking about that, and hopefully come up with a solid plan.

As much as I'm loving what I'm doing, I can't wait til Friday which brings the end of the term.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Week's End Catch Up

The last part of the week has wizzed past in somewhat of a blur.  There have been lessons, enthusiastic children...all the busyness of a small school.  I got to Thursday and commented to Dh that the lady who is replacing me in my 'real' job was having my day off.  The Principal where I'm doing my placement was very complimentary of me and the lesson he finally got to supervise.  It's such a shame professional opinion does not shorten the length of my degree!  Whilst loving the opportunities and input I am experiencing I am missing my own school immensely.  So much so that I popped in on Friday to catch up with a couple of staff I normally work with.  And it was good to hear how 'my' boys are going and hear what's happened whilst I've been away.

We spent yesterday with some good friends, whilst the men cut and split wood.  It was nice to just sit and enjoy the company of those friends.  Today it's nice to spend the day quietly at home.  It's the closest thing to quietness I expect to get between now and the first Thursday of the next school term!

We're having a roast chicken dinner tonight.  Something a little bit 'special' but quite simple to end our weekend before heading into the frenetic pace of a Prep-Yr2 class next week.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Technology or Bust

I taught my first official lesson today.  Seven Yr 3's and a spare Yr 5 student who only joined the class on Monday.  It was supposed to be a Mathletics lesson.  It ended up being a lesson on creating graphs in Excel.  It seemed nothing was meant to go to plan.  The laptop connected to the whiteboard had frozen, so the supervising teacher fixed that while I introduced the lesson.  The computer lab ended up being used by the other we got out the laptops (oh my goodness...they HAD laptops!!!!).  The Mathletics site wouldn't we used Excel to create graphs instead.

Excel was the supervising teacher's idea, and I had some back up just-in-case-there's-a-naughty-child work so we used the data from the worksheet to create our graphs.  Regardless of the flexibility required, the lesson ojectives were achieved so all was well.  I am so glad the supervising teacher was there though!!  When you're in an unfamiliar school and don't know what is available to you, it's a little more challenging to build that flexibility in.

Despite it all I didn't feel flustered or stressed and the kids were really good.  Patient, helpful.  Such a blessing to work with such lovely kids.  And I've learned my lesson:  When planning to use technology, have a plan B.

Tomorrow's poetry/rap lesson is not reliant on computer access or reliability.  Should be a piece of cake, don't you think?  I hope so.  I'm going to miss my day off!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Good News

I received lots of exciting bits and pieces tonight when I got home.  My "Diary of a Womat" and "Diary of a Baby Wombat" books by Jackie French arrived.  As did some of my textbooks.  I also received my exam results and have passed well.  So I know I've passed that subject.  When Miss Sunshine came home yesterday upset about one her own exam results I began to wonder if I might've been off-track too.  But no.  All is well.

As well as all that good news I've had another great day.  I spent some time with a Yr3 boy to try and get him up to speed on a project assignment that he'd missed some time on at school.  He's a lovely kid...not quick to get started on his work, but quite willing to get into it with a little bit of encouragement.  Perhaps he's one of those kinds of people that are overwhelmed by the "blank page".  In any case, I enjoyed working with him.  I also got to 'umpire' a half-court game of basketball for the Yr 3/4's.  They were great at sharing around who would take a ball-up or a throw-in.  The winners didn't gloat and the losers didn't sook.  They're beautiful.

Tomorrow I teach my first lesson.  The Yr 3's and Mathletics.  I think it's very amusing that a small group constitutes a whole year level at this school.  On Thursday I think the plan is for me to teach a lesson for the whole class.  So I'm off to write a lesson plan.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Monday Menu Planning: Week beginning 20 June

I've made it through my first day of professional placement.  It was fairly easy, compared to my normal work!  Today, in any case.  I was allowed to just observe, assist a few kids here and there and familiarise myself the the students in the class.  I am utterly amazed at the cohesian of a group of kids ranging from Yr 3 to Yr 6, but they appear to operate as a whole group, as well as in year level groups.  Three of the kids are siblings, and seem to manage being in class together just fine.  I would have been horrified to have shared a class with one of my two brothers!  I sure didn't want him in my space!

I've got two lessons for small groups to plan and then teach so far this week...and possibly a third.  I know it can be the bain of a teacher's life, but I really quite enjoy this aspect of planning.  I'm sure over time it becomes a much more streamlined and succinct process.  My plans are the comprehensive version right now.  As it should be for this point in my education.

The kids are spending lots of time with Dh over the next two weeks, as they will take a school bus to his office.  Tonight I was able to come home and start dinner with my own thoughts for company.  I need those little moments of quiet every now and then.

So for meals this week....
Monday:  Chicken teriyaki, rice (and leftovers for lunch)
Tuesday:  Sweetcorn soup and yum cha bits
Wednesday:  Beef stir fry, rice
Thursday:  Creamy pasta (bacon & mushrooms)
Friday:  Honey mustard chicken, vegies
Saturday:  Roast chicken, vegies
Sunday:  Tacos

The school I'm at is having a mid-winter German-inspired festival on Friday evening.  I believe it begins at 5pm, and I'm hoping for two things.  Firstly, that I'll not be required.  Secondly, if I am, that it will end before I need to leave for Book Club.  It does feel a little bit unusual to invest myself in a community that is not my own, and one I may not ever step foot in again after my rounds are over.  I miss my own school terribly.  I miss seeing my children throughout the day, as that has been an incredibly special part of my work life.  And I miss seeing all the precious little people and colleagues (who are friends) I have come to hold quite an affection for over the years we have been at the school.  I am, however, enjoying the opportunity to see how another school does 'education'.  It is a rare opportunity not usually afforded eduation support workers, so I am enthusiastic about taking advantage of the fact that this is part of the requirements for my study.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Fashion Update

Just so you know, I'm using the term 'fashion' very loosely here!  I buy what appeals to me if it feels comfortable and looks OK.  High fashion has never been my thing.  I scheduled this morning's post yesterday, before I went shopping last by this morning I had everything I needed in order to wear one of my new skirts to work today.

I wore the middle skirt from today's earlier post with my new leggings and those boots I mentioned.  Man are those boots comfortable!  My colleague & friend was spot on with her advice about leggings being nice and warm.  Thanks to her wisdom I also have tights ready for flat shoes with more openness around the ankle. 

Today I was warm and comfortable all day long.  I work in all four the classrooms I'm allocated to, on a Friday.  To be able to work in a Lower Primary room, up and down and on the floor in a comfortable skirt is fantastic.  I'm all set for my first day of placement next week.  My only dilemma will be to make a choice about what to wear!

Meanwhile, I think maybe that pink flowered, sparkley skirt might be the thing for an afternoon tea with some women from church.  I have a couple of new pink tops.  How did that happen, that I added more pink to my wardrobe??!

Teacherly Fashion?

I went for a teensy bit of Op Shopping therapy at lunch time today.  The Op Shops in Our Town are not well known for being the hiders of gems...but today I found a few.  I start teaching rounds on Monday and after going through my wardrobe this morning to throw things out, I decided I needed to add a few things IN.  Those who know me know how much I hate shopping.  Indeed my shopping enjoyment at the moment is limited to trips to Costco.  Sad, but true.  So to drag myself out of the house with the intention of clothes shopping....well that's a torture best endured alone!
I was successful today, without too much pain.  There were three skirts that fit, are comfortable and I think will be fine for any floor time that happens in a Prep perfect for any school situation, really!

Here is the first one, with thanks to Penny for being my model.  A black skirt with a netting kind of overlay that has a kerchief style hemline.  I have a couple of skirts with this hemline and I love them.

Skirt 3 (June '11)

This skirt is similar, with less flair in the skirt and with a heavier overlay.  I think both will work well with heavy tights or leggings underneath for warmth, and boots.

Skirt 1 (June '11)

 This skirt was a very special find, for just $8!  Flaired, layered, sequined and not the black that comes out through winter in Melbourne.  I was after something with colour...I got sparkle too.

Skirt 2 (June '11)
And for boots, Williams has a sale on right now.  I'm going to be checking out these boots, as I think they'll suit a slightly wide calf.  They're also flat and fairly classic in style.  They're not leather, but at this point I'll take whatever works.

I'm so glad that I was able to find these skirts so quickly and so painlessly.  My wardrobe is looking old and tired so a little new life is a little bit exciting.  Whilst I'm looking at boots, I might just have a look at one or two tops as well.  I enjoy a bit of colour in winter.  The Melbourne winter uniform of black is a little gloomy after a few months of dull grey skies.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

And the Baking Continues

My baking activity continues.  Strange really, because it's not so much that I enjoy baking.  It's always been something that is done out of necessity to feed my little crowd rather than love of the activity itself.  I suppose we all have our own motivations, don't we.

So on Tuesday night I made a double batch of those chocolate chip biscuits you see, this time on the bottom of the pile.  Surprisingly I've not posted recipes for either of these biscuits, which make the most frequent appearances in our home.  They are my easy go-to recipes.  The chocolate ones are already a big recipe so that makes it easy to make a mountain of them.  We like mountains of biscuits....they last longer than a day.  Or a bought packet.  And there's nothing like homemade biscuits that remind children that Mum does love them....even if they're beside a boring jam sandwich in the lunch box.

At the risk of sharing a prized secret, I'm posting the recipe for the chocolate chip bikkies.  The recipe came to me thanks to the youngest child in our Pastor's family.  I don't think he realised this was meant to be a family secret and so he happily handed the recipe over when I asked him for it, some 20+ years ago.  I suppose it won't be any kind of secret anymore!  His mother got it when she was on a student exchanged in the US as a teen.  I've made this recipe so many times over so many years I don't even get the recipe book out anymore.  It is also easily doubled and turns out well without any adjustments to quantities.  Oh, and you can freeze them too.  You just sit them on the bench and let them come to room temperature and they'll be just like the day you cooked them.  Yum. 

Chocolate Chip Biscuits

125g butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1/2 packet of chocolate chips (about 125g)
  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F (160C fan forced).
  2. Place the butter and sugars in a mixing bowl and beat until creamy.  
  3. Add the egg and mix until combined with sugar and butter.
  4. Add the flour and chocolate chips.  Start your mixer on slow or the flour will puff all over the place!  Once the mixture has begun to combine, you can set the mixer a little faster until combined.
  5. Line baking trays with baking paper and place rolled balls of dough in rows.  Leave plenty of space for spreading as they cook.  I have square trays that fit four rows of four quite nicely.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until just going golden.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool for five minutes before attempting to transfer to a cake rack to cool completely.
  8. Store in an airtight container....if they last that long!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


I've been doing some reading...brushing up on the tools available to Christians in order to withstand the inevitable attacks from Satan.  Ephesians 6 has a bit to say on issues of warfare and provides a great deal of perspective.

Firstly, verse12 reminds us that our struggles are not with 'flesh and blood'.  In other words, it is not people with whom we battle.  It may look like that on the surface, but as I mentioned last week, Satan uses people to do his work. His purpose is to make us so weary, wounded, distracted and introspective that we cannot be effective in any way...not in the work God gives us to do, and not in prayer.  How often does he succeed in your life?  I'm afraid he succeeds far too often for my liking.  And just as I thought I'd managed to pray my way through all those things, over the past few weeks, he has attempted to sideline my focus again by dredging up old wounds.  Wounds that have healed, but still come with memories.  This is what sent me looking for Godly wisdom on the matter.

Putting on the full armour of God, as instructed in Ephesians 6:13 always sounded somewhat archaic.  Armour conjours up all kinds of medievil images.  However, the description in this passage comes with reasons for digging deeper.  It is in putting on this armour, protecting ourselves, that we are able to stand firm against the attacks of the evil one.  And don't we all want to be able to survive these challenges victoriously?  I know I do.

So we start with the belt of truth.  It struck me that this belt is something that surrounds us...all the way around.  Every situation we face should be viewed through the lens of God's Truth.  In doing so, I think it is possible to see things not just from our own navel-gazing point of view.  Next comes the breastplace of righteousness.  We need to be motivated by the desire to act in a morally upright manner.  No matter what is going on around us.  Then we need to have feet that are ready.  The Gospel must be our motivator, but we need to be prepared to 'go' and 'do'.  The shield of faith which extinguishes the firery arrows from Satan.  We're not talking about them just being batted away, but being put out!  Finally, there is the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit.  The sword being the Word of God.

Within this little passage we have instructions that tell us something about the behaviour we need to display, and the things we need to value.  Putting on this armour is not about being able to protect ourselves in a passive way.  It is about being actively able to do something about the battles we face.  God gives us all the tools we need as well as the victory that is already ours.

Let's live victorious lives!

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
Ephesians 6:10-17

Monday, 13 June 2011

Monday Menu Plan: Week Beginning 13 June

Here we are.  A beautiful sunny Monday where we get to hang out at home and potter about doing....whatever!  It's nice to see the sun, although it contains very little in the way of warmth.  It's still cheerier than dull gray clouds and drizzly rain.  I have managed to spend some time baking in spits and spurts over the weekend.  Much of it has travelled out the door with us to my brother's house, and to another friend's home.  Still.  It's nice to have the time and inclination to do it.

Miss Sunshine is all set to head off to Costco as a means of entertainment.  I'm thinking that might be a school holiday activity.  Our stocks of our favourite Costco items are gone, so it won't be a cheap trip.  I think some time for a couple of salary cycles to work their way through might be a good plan.

Speaking of Costco, the one thing they don't sell that I would love to buy is American baking powder.  The Aussie equivalent just doesn't work as well, but you'd only know that if you'd seen the other in action.  A problem to solve at some point.  Before my last container of Rumfords is empty!

So the menu plan this week ~ a short week ~ looks like this:

Monday:  Roast beef, vegies
Tuesday:  Ricotta fritters, vegies
Wednesday:  Chicken & mushroom risotto
Thursday:  Tomato & bacon pasta
Friday:  Hamburgers
Saturday:  Chicken parmigana
Sunday:  not sure yet...but we'll be eating something!

Hmmmm...I wonder what book is next on the pile of things to read?

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Recipe: Golden Sausage Casserole

One of the teachers I work with wondered aloud, the other day, about what else she could possibly do with sausages.  I was given a casserole recipe a long time ago.  I enjoy it, but no one else in my family seems to care too much for it.  Every  now and then we come across this stalemate and I give in.  However, someone else might very well enjoy the meal, so I'm sharing it.

Golden Sausage Casserole

500g sausages
1 onion, chopped or sliced
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons worcestershir sauce
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 cups boiling water
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Boil th sausages, cool, and skin.  Chop into 2cm chuncks and place in casserole dish with onion.
  2. Mix dry ingredients, then add wet, except for water and mix into a paste.
  3. Slowly add boiling water, stirring to ensure no lumps form.
  4. Pour over sasuages and bake for an hour (180C/350F)
  • Add apple or mushroom.  Omit worcestershire sauce and add 1 teaspoon curry powder.
  • Add vegetables to original recipe: beans, carrots, celery or parsnip.
The person from whom I received this recipe puts sliced green beans and matchstick carrots into the original recipe and cooks it for one and half hours.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Prohpetic Thursday?

This image was taken last December as we prepared for summer holidays.  It serves my purpose today, because the chocolate biscuits on the top of that pile are the ones I made on Thursday.  I was forced to take a quiet day at home.  Miss Sunshine woke up with an upset tummy, so I had her company for the day.  I spent the morning working on some details for my professional experience placement and then decided to bake.

I had time!

I had no milk, so biscuits it was.  And because Thursday night is grocery shopping time, I had only a small amount of butter left.  Sadly there was only one batch possible.  The kids were not complaining!!

So what do you think?  Since we have a long weekend here now, do you think perhaps Thursday's single batch of bikkies might be prediction of what is possible?  I'd like to think so.  Sometime, over the next three days!


In the meantime, my brother moved house yesterday and is now a mere 15 minutes from me (I timed the drive home last night!).  I'm very excited.  It will be nice to have them closer than they were.  I'm looking forward to being able to spend more time with them - between my busy schedule and theirs!  Travelling time is always a factor when you live out of the way...but now they're out of the way too!  I'm also looking forward to being more involved in their girls' lives.  They're gorgeous little things, although not so much at the end of moving day!  I had to peel the oldest one of her younger sister when she just wasn't coping with the idea that her sister dared to be alive, let alone in her space.  Moving day is tough on little people!  Big people too, but we aren't usually found atop a sibling and attempting to beat them to a pulp.

Mr Busy was funny on Thursday evening.  He had things all planned out and outlined his idea for his Dad.  "Well Dad, I think I need to take a day off school to help Uncle P move house, because he needs my help.  It's OK, you can just write a note for my teacher and it will be fine".  The funny thing is that Mr Busy would work just as hard as any man, and for just as long.  I know.  I've seen him do this as a 4yo when we were moving house.  So whilst his help would have been a good thing, we decided his education was more important.  He was able to indulge his uncle with all that boyish energy after school.  And work he did....injury and all.  He's amazing.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

With Spiritual Eyes

Does it ever seem to you that Truth is a bit of a side street, in life, rather than the main thoroughfare?  I saw this image and found that it resonnated with me in a rather deep way, considering its meager three-word message.

Over the last couple of months I've become acutely aware of the spiritual war we, as Christians, are engaged in throughout our ordinary everyday lives.  For me, it began at our Women's Retreat at the beginning of May when I identified that perhaps the struggles our women's ministry team are facing are more spiritual in nature, than a pragmatic problem requiring a creative solution.  The minute I identified this possibility I felt the pressure of what I now realise was spiritual attack.  Took me three weeks to figure that out...obviously I'm quite slow on the uptake!  As the weeks have passed however, and things have settled down, I am more aware of things I hadn't considered before.  Of course, as the church related 'stuff' has abated I am becoming aware of some things at work.

All of the things I struggled with during those three weeks (and since) came in the form of people-related stress.  What strikes me as extraordinary in that, is how Satan is able to use God's children to wreak this havoc in our lives.  A barbed retort here.  A cold shoulder there.  Emotional hot-spots becoming inflamed.  It's so easy for him to take these things and twist them in the places they hurt the most, thereby rendering God's children distracted and ineffective.  It galls me to think that I and my fellow believers are being used in this way.

We who are immersed in Western cultures are at a great deficit in the matter of spirtual awareness.  Our lives are rather divorced from even the possibility that events happen in realms we cannot see.  In one sense, I think we become ignorant of these things because they are unseen and therefore often not obvious.  A bad day or a difficult situation may indeed be more involved.  Of course it may not be.  I'm not inclined to see a demon behind every door.  But I if the last few weeks have taught me anything, it is that 'critical thinking' is not just something educators would have us engaged in.  I think it is a skill all Christians need to hone in relation to being aware of the spiritual forces at work in our lives.

For the moment, it is this Truth that I am seeking to engage with ~ knowing the difference between a bad day/situation and seeing the event through a spiritual lens.  It's quite the challenge!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Exam Update

My exam went quite fine.  So did getting myself into the city.  I got in with no hiccups.  Off-street parking was fairly easy to find...exactly where Google Maps told me there would be something.  There was a cafe about three doors away from the exam centre, so I had lunch there before heading in to wait.  I found two other fellow Literacy students from my tutorial group, so it was absolutely lovely to while away some time with people I've spent the semester conversing with.

The exam itself was exactly as the lecturer suggested it would be.  I'd looked at the discussion board earlier this morning.  Oh my goodness me.  So many people stressing out about stuff that we'd not been directed to think about.  Theories, debates and text use in teaching literacy skills.  That's what we were told...that's what I focused on.  That's what the exam was on. I'm pretty sure I will have at least passed. relax.  Perhaps tonight I'll sleep!

Monday Menu Planning: Week Beginning 6 June

I am taking it a little bit easy this morning, before heading off for an exam.  I'm more nervous, actually, about getting in to the city, finding the place and parking than I am about the exam itself.  There's something quite overwhelming about doing it all on your own when it's a little bit unfamiliar.

After gaining a freezer drawer full of beef last week, I am leaving some space to find new things to do.  We don't normally eat a lot of beef, simply because of the cost, so this will no doubt take us on a bit of an adventure.  At this point the plan is:

Monday:  Beef stir fry
Tuesday:  Forbidden city chicken, vegies
Wednesday:  Maybe some Nigella inspiration will befall me
Thursday:  Vegie soup (using the crockpot)
Friday:  leftover meatloaf, vegies
Saturday & Sunday:  It's a long weekend; my brother is moving house.  Best to leave this flexible I think!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Maths Geniuses in the Making

I may, one day, become the maths genius required by the government, of graduate teachers.  Miss Sunshine has been stressing out about some homework that she was stuck on.  Another bright spot of not having my own study, was that we got to sit down last night and nut out her problem together.  We logged in to Maths Online and off we went.  I now know a whole bunch of stuff about composite shapes and finding the hypotenuse of triangles.  Not only that, but Miss Sunshine had a brilliant moment where the light bulb switched on for her.  We were able to work through the lesson and some exercises together and found that actually, it wasn't even all that difficult.

I love it when kids have that "OOoohhh" moment when the learning clicks for them.  It is so very satisfying, knowing I had something to do with that.

What I also love, is Maths Online.  It's a free resource for secondary students (and teachers, and student-teachers!) to add to their learning.  Whilst it is an Aussie site, anyone can register to use it.  It's set up to cover various mathematical topics.  Each topic is divided into sub-topics, and each of those has a narrated lesson with examples, and then you work through some exercises based on what you've just been learning.  Once you've entered the answers, the program provides you with instant feedback.  This is what I have been and will continue to use in order to learn all I need to pass my numeracy proficiency test.  I'm discovering that I actually quite enjoy maths, once I understand what's going on.  It's the not understanding that impacts on the enjoyment.