Monday, March 19, 2012

can we walk with you?

Photo taken on an excursion the other day 
with two of the gorgeous girls who always 
accompany me during yard duty...

One of my favourite things about teaching at primary school, or maybe just at this school (not sure if it happens elsewhere!) is yard duty.

Believe it or not.
Every teacher dreads yard duty. But I'll paint you a picture of how it works here.

15 minutes before recess, usually, one of the girls will ask if I'm on yard duty. I say yes, their eyes light up, they do a fist-pump and hiss: "YESSS!". Aw, thanks ladies.
The bell goes, the children eat then funnel outside. I grab my hat and head out. It takes all of 10 seconds, waiting in the courtyard until anywhere between 2-8 children (usually grade 3 and younger) have surrounded me. They're clamouring: "CAN WE WEAR THE VEST?" (the bright yellow, daggy-as-hell high visability safety vest) "CAN WE GET THE BAG?" (first aid bag, need to go to the staffroom to get it. I appoint someone vest-wearer, someone else bag-carrier. Usually, then, half of them look at me hopefully, willing me to say yes as they ask: "Can we play teacher-tiggy!?!?" I've not yet turned them down.
Essentially, as I wander around the school (and it's so small, you can do a lap at a snail's pace in about 10 minutes), the kids who have signed up to play run ahead of me and hide. As I look out for trouble (and there's very rarely any. Scraped knees are usually the biggest emergency we have to deal with) I also look out for the teacher-tiggy players.
If I spot them, I call out, wave my arms, whatever it takes. They run over to me, puffing, and ask: "What do you want us to do?" I give them an exercise, something like: 10 star jumps, 5 pushups, 10 spins. Once completed, they're free to run off and hide, although more often than not, they stick with me.

I often have a 'hoard' of children- usually, though not always, all girls - walking with me throughout my duty times. Sometimes they swap, changing from hider to helper as the mood strikes, suddenly feeling the need to throw the vest or bag at me and sprint off to one of the few predetermined hiding places that they're so fond of using.
More than teacher-tiggy, though, it's the kids that stay with me that make me smile. I'm not alone, and shouldn't feel all that special- they tend to hang around with whoever is on duty- but with all the play, games and imaginings they could be engaging in during recesses, they're chosing to walk around with me, talk to me (and one another), tell me stories, listen to mine, hold my hands, take me to see their special places, tell other kids off for not having hats, and remind me why I love what I do.

That being said, however, I wore a slightly-too-big-babydoll-type dress to school today and got asked by about 4 kids if I was pregnant.
Thanks, guys.

Friday, March 16, 2012

beautiful language

As a teacher, I am conscious, often, of the language I use with my kids. I teach children in their first and second years of formal schooling, they are 5-7 years old, at a co-ed, government school. Our kids are fantastic.

I read an article while in University of the expectations we place on boys, and on girls. That girls should be 'good', and boys are more likely to be 'naughty' or 'rambunctious'. That girls will succeed if they are quiet, good, and follow the rules. These are the girls who do well at school.
This article also mentioned the language we use, particularly with girls.

I find this with myself, too. I think our kids are adorable, sweet, gorgeous children. When talking to the girls, I might say: "What's up, gorgeous?" "What's the matter, beautiful?", slipping into easy and friendly pet-names. 'That's such a beautiful drawing!" "You've made that painting look so pretty".
With boys, I use names. I might drop a 'honey', if the boy is sweet and familiar with me. Girls, more often than not, have names and comments that relate purely to a physical state of worth. I find it extremely difficult to break out of this mould- I love a pet-name, and when commenting on a drawing, you don't necessarily want to weigh down a prep child with descriptions of mode or form.

I have also caught myself, once or twice, making comments on my weight, that must no doubt reflect those self-esteem issues that are so present in so many women. A young child- completely innocently (I hope!) might poke me in the tummy, and say: "look at your tummy!" And I have said: "What?! What about my tummy?? I don't have a tummy!" Weight issues, manifest. Feeling awkward about my response, I grew conscious of it, and have not let my own insecurities be voiced in front of these children again.

There is so much engrained in us, teaching our girls to be pretty, quiet and complicit.

But I suppose saying "What're you up to, gorgeous girl?" just rolls off the tongue more easily than "What're you up to, clever girl?"

Maybe I need to give the latter a try.
I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

the decisions we make

Recently, N & I have been opening our eyes to the decisions that we often take for granted.

This began from me having long discussions with a vegan colleague, who gave me a push to move further into vegetarianism.

We rarely ate red meat as it was - I can't remember the last time I had beef, however chicken and pork (ham and bacon) were staples in our weekly menu. In an effort to be more conscious of the effect our eating had on the world, we decided to cut out these meats too, and add milk to the list.

I'll write more on this another time, what I really want to look into is the flow-on effect that this decision to live more consciously and ethically has had on us so far.
I'll say that we always tried to buy the 'earth friendly' detergent when we needed clothes-washing soap or 'multi-purpose' cleaner, because that was an easy, obvious choice. We had never considered ourselves 'eco-friendly' beyond this, and often scoffed at people who bought organic, or went out of their way to get their 'every day' stuff from the health food shop or market. Toothpaste? Deodorant? Soap? Too hard basket, get it from the supermarket.

But, with our eyes opening, we are beginning to face these decisions in a most confronting way.

Think about this:

How often do you consider the impact you are having based on the type of soap you're buying? I'm on a kind of soap crusade at the moment because it seems virtually impossible to find soap which fulfils these criteria:

  1. Does not use animal tallow. (look it up if you don't know. Said to be made from cats & dogs from pounds, too). 
  2. Does not use palm oil (look it up. Orangutan environment destruction).
  3. Does not cost more than $4 a bar.

This product may exist outside of Australia, but here, it seems like a hard ask. I simply don't think, after having spent two years living only on N's wage, that I can justify spending $5 on a bar of soap every month. 

To this end, we have even looked into making our own soap, but it seems that this is either a complicated chemical/scientific process, or could use animal products anyway, in which case I might as well stick with the supermarket stuff.

But my point is, there are some things we just aren't brought up to consider, right? Soap- buy what's on sale/what smells nice. Toothpaste: go with what you know. Even coffee- we buy big tins of coffee from costco, and I haven't yet considered where it comes from.

I think, though, that you could drive yourself crazy trying to 'do the right thing' every time, with every thing. There would be a sense of guilt regardless of which decision you made because surely, at some point, something is being harmed/losing out/suffering due to the decisions you've made. Which isn't to say, I suppose, that you shouldn't do it, just that you have to be comfortable in those decisions you make. If you can. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

zucchini brownies

For our staff meetings at school, we have to bring in food for everybody else to nibble on- we're all famished at the end of a day. It goes on a roster. Tomorrow is my first time bringing in food. Since we scrapped the 'lollies only' policy at the start of the year, each staff meeting food has been getting more and more decadent. Ms. T- one of the teachers in my team, is a vegan, and did food last week. I'm in a precarious position because I kind of want to feed everyone, and so have been stressing out about this food since I found out it was my turn. That being said, there's no way I can possibly feed everyone, what with the veganism, the gluten intolerance, the fructose intolerance, the low-fat, low-sugar, low-water, low-food, etc etc etc.
So, I said: "stuff it", and made the best brownies I know how to make.
And, they have zucchini, no animal products, only a bit of oil (compared to some I've seen) and they're moist and tasty. Here's the recipe:

  • 2 cups flour (I used self-raising so didn't need baking powder. If you want to use baking powder instead, with plain flower, add 1 teaspoon).
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa.
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla essence (or the imitation stuff).
  • 1/2 cup oil (I think when I made them I used 1/4. WHOOPS. Doesn't seem to have made a huge difference- mine might be slightly less 'gooey'...)
  • 2 cups peeled & grated zucchini (this was 2 zucchinis for me. They were average size).

Preheat oven to 350F/175C
Combine the flour (&baking powder), salt & cocoa in a bowl.

In a different bowl, combine the sugar, oil, vanilla and zucchini. Stir this well and let it sit for a couple of minutes. It should go really liquidy. 

When it's ready, pour the zucchini mix into the dry bowl and mix well. 

Pour into an ungreased (doesn't seem to make a difference either way) 9 x 13 inch pan. Cook for 30 mins.

I top mine with icing sugar - not made into icing/frosting.


The amazing thing about this brownies is that unless you studied the top of them when they're cooked (which you can't do due to the icing sugar), there's no way you'd be able to tell there were zucchinis in there. I think that after about 12 hours (after cooking) they're slightly chewy and a bit 'gooeyier', so it's worth the wait. 

Monday, March 12, 2012


I'm the one in the shirt.

I've been considering a new blog for a while now.
You know, one of those well-written,
Make you think,
Sometimes-witty blogs that everyone aspires to...

But, I don't think that's me. So, rather than pretend to be something I'm not, I'll be



Which is to say that I'm an elementary school teacher- I teach prep/1 students (kids who are 5 and 6 years old, in their first and second years of schooling). It's my first year teaching, and as such, I have a lot of questions, and some stories. Often the stories fall out of my head the minute I get home so I don't have a chance to write them down, but maybe having a medium to do so will allow me to retain them better.

I am also a 'runner'. I add the quotation marks because I tend to question the validity of giving yourself a title if you're not actually proven to be that thing. Which is to say that I've recently hit the 10 kilometer mark at an underwhelming pace. I consider myself to have 'good' running form, considering I have no formalised training and taught myself how not to run heel-strike, despite all shoe companies trying to convince me otherwise. I have entered two 'fun' runs, and hated them. That was before I could comfortably run distance. The next few months should see me attempt more, possibly with more success.
Which, in itself, is also a tricky concept because I'm competitive. 'Success' means coming in the top 10, and with my current pace - that ain't gonna happen. So, I have to adjust my viewpoint a little bit, here.

I am engaged- N & I are 'to be wed' in November of this year, at the Melbourne Zoo. Although I used to have what was supposed to be a 'wedding blog', it's fallen by the wayside, and not because wedding planning is so hectic and stressful that I don't have time for it (in fact, to this point, it's been fairly stress-free, and we're looking to the future wondering what all the fuss is about, since all the 'main people' are booked and ready to go. Ask me again in 7 months), but because life has become busy, and therefore, I have become 'time-poor', as they say.

We have recently decided to give vegetarianism a go for a whole number of reasons which consitute posts in themselves. I figure there'll be some of that, some recipes/pictures of food, and other various ethical/vegetarian-y stuff posted here as we sort through it.

And lastly, on a completely non-vegetarian note, we belong to a middle-aged Australian shepherd - Mallei, and two cats- Mia and Darcy. You'll come to know them well, as whenever I'm drawing blanks for blog entries, I tend to stick a picture of them up as the header and call it a day.

So, welcome. Expect to hear about running, cats and dogs, kids, scraped and injured knees, vegetables, health, and some wedding stuff, too.