Got the job on a Wednesday. Started teaching on the Monday: 4 days to get from Brissie to Gladstone & find a place to live.
“Your first year of teaching will be full on,” one of my supervising teachers warned me in 2013.
– She wasn’t wrong.
I think I had about three weekends off during school terms last year. I worked mornings before school. I worked evenings after school. I worked Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. I worked for half of the holidays. So I only found my way to the Gladstone Powerhouse towards the end of the year when I took a wrong turn and got lost. It was a happy circumstance because I had wanted to see this thing close up. The thing that defined Gladstone – power … and the Boyne River seemed to be the dragon and unicorn of this part of the universe.
The energy and resources industries of this regional Queensland town permeate everything – the presence of the Boyne Island Smelter workers in their fluorescent jackets in the shopping centres reminded everyone what sustained life in Gladstone, seven days a week.
Surprisingly, industry wasn’t the first thing to define this place for me. The abundance of wildlife from echidna to eagles, sea slugs, kangaroos … all living in close proximity to suburbia. But suburbia was expanding, sprawling its tentacles, just like Brisbane where these days the bird life is limited to crows, myna birds, some parrots and maybe a kookaburra or two.
In Year 8 English novel studies, I asked students to show me how eagles fly and then show me how crows fly. Most of them had no idea. The lesson was about character traits. Teaching a child to observe is important in any subject. This was about comparing real life with fiction to find truth. Observation is a skill we develop from early childhood. But “it’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see,” as Henry David Thoreau, a philosopher, writer and environmentalist once said.
“We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.” –
Lady Windermere’s Fan, Oscar Wilde.
At the start of 3rd term, I handed out cards titled Little Moments Big Memories and asked them to write list all the good things that happened to them at the end of each week. They sat there stumped. They could not think of one thing. In the final week of the Year 8 Medieval Europe Unit, I gave my students blank A3 sheets with grid lines to design a Medieval Europe Snakes and Ladders game from all they learned. I started a brainstorm on the board and then handed the whiteboard markers to them.
They renamed the game, Dragons and Unicorns. It was brilliant! I really do believe that children need dragons and unicorns to exist – as much as dragons and unicorns need children. That was one of my little moments, big memories from 2014.