Tuesday, December 1, 2009

70 years and starting on the 71st

My 70th Birthday bash went off very well. Plenty of food and drink and good company. Daughter Helen and her man James did a great job heating and serving food. Another friend Margaret took it upon herself to help out with the food serving. Thanks Marg.
We specifically asked that people didn't bring presents, but I was pleasantly surprised at some of the gifts. Joy gave me a biography by Frank McCourt, 'Teacher Man'. McCourt gained world acclaim with his first book 'Angela's Ashes'. Joy wrote a note saying that I would enjoy Teacher Man because I was a similar teacher to McCourt. It wasn't until I was about a third of the way through the book that I realised that I had had many similar experiences to McCourt.

I taught at a few tough high schools....Kwinana, Rockingham, Cecil Andrews and a short time after my retirement at a doozy...Nth Lake Senior Campus. My 13 years at Willetton Senior High was the highlight of my Australian teaching.....wonderful tone, great kids and staff.

Frank McCourt taught at several New York high schools which sound like they were similar to some of my postings.

When I retired I was urged to do two terms at North Lake Senior College teaching English to Year11 trade boys, all of which were for some reason or other rejects from regular high schools.
Reading Frank McCourt's book reminded me of the earlier encounters with those lads. On the first day, the boys acted up something bad to impress the new teacher.....I finished the day telling the boss that I didn't need the money and certainly didn't need the grief. He talked me into staying on and over a few weeks things improved as I modified my teaching methods to try and get to these lads. We were analyzing the movie, Sureshank Redemption and they had viewed the video about six times already and couldn't think past creating their own words for the gang rape of the main character. I asked them to give me an adjective describing that act. Most didn't know what an adjective was, but when I explained what one was they rattled off dozens of them, lots of which couldn't be written on the blackboard. After looking at the movie again with adjectives in mind we assembled a blackboard of adjectives describing every scene of the movie. Yes you can have too many adjectives, but they did enjoy using plenty of them. They actually liked using adjectives in their speech and ventured into adverbs etc. I imaging some of them did a bit of big timing to their younger siblings and parents.

They also learned a few words which they didn't really know the meaning of, such as institutionalised, describing one of the characters who couldn't live on the outside after spending so many years in prison. Necessity is the mother of invention and teachers have to change their methods to suit the situation or go down in a heap.

I never made close friends with those young blokes, but at the end of the school year I got all of them a pass in English...with a little judicious modification of some results and we parted on good terms.

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