Tag Archives: teaching

Rethink Education and Teacher by Gabbie Stroud

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I’m a former High School English teacher, I mention it in passing but don’t blog about it so I understand if people don’t know this about me. Yep, dyslexic and ADHD me has two degrees and taught for over a decade without ever getting assistance or special consideration, shocking I know.

I mention it now because another former teacher, Gabbie Stroud, has a book that came out through Allen & Unwin in June simply entitled Teacher. This is an important memoir about teaching and although her reasons for quitting teaching are not identical to mine they overlap heavily. I urge anyone interested in this area to read it. Fellow teachers, fellow parents, and certainly policy makers.

We’re losing energetic and unique teachers to a crushing system. Students aren’t robots and nor should their teachers be. It’s time we had a serious rethink and revolutionised educational practices in Australia.

We had the opportunity to do something amazing when we introduced the National Curriculum but honestly it fell flat pandering to people who didn’t want to change. It was essentially the same old stuff but with a different label rather than an innovative national approach. Meaningful change can happen, just look to Finland. Since the 1970s they haven’t merely just been tweaking their system but completely tossing out the old ideologies and reinventing what they do.

At the moment we’re still trapped by the idea of making changes without disrupting the system. We’re only interested in making adjustments that keep things essentially the same. It’s time to not only go back to the drawing board but to throw out the drawing board and start over. Look at what kids really need. When their varying needs start. Rethink everything.

It would take a whole societal change, but it is worth it. And I for one have faith in society’s ability to adapt. One day some genius decided to throw out the drawing board in technology and said maybe we don’t need buttons. We seem to have gotten on board with smartphones and tablets pretty well. How much more important are our children?

We can do this. I believe in us.

Find Gabbie Stroud on FB here.

Find Gabbie Stroud’s website here.

Find Gabbie Stroud on Twitter here.

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Writing Teachers I Love #SelfPubIsHere

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Last week for #SelfPubIsHere I spoke about editors that I love, people who make your manuscript glow. But what about before you have a manuscript? Are there people who can help you before you have finished, or before you have even started? The answer is quite simply yes, writing teachers exist. And fortunately we live in a time where there are more and more teachers available to learn from. I’m going to share with you some writing teachers that I love and where to find ones that you’ll love too. And if there’s one thing I know, it’s quality teaching. Not only did I teach for over a decade, including being Acting head of English, Drama coordinator, placed on secondment briefly to the body now absorbed by NESA amongst many other things, BUT I also studied directly with the creators of Quality Teaching and Productive Pedagogy. So trust me, I know teaching, and I say these people are awesome.

Toni Jordan is a truly incredible teacher. The three scenes that are consistently held up as excellent by critique partners of my WIP were all written during Toni Jordan’s Character and Dialogue course held at NSW Writers’ Centre. She is Melbourne based and has lectured at RMIT, presented extensively at The Wheeler Centre, tutors at Writers Victoria, and indeed lots of other places too. You can even get personalised mentoring from Toni through Australian Writers Mentoring Program. She has really strong opinions on structure and dialogue tags and is not afraid to state exactly what they are, which is very useful in a teacher. And although her opinions are strong she is never brutal; think of Toni as the epitome of firm but fair. Find Toni Jordan’s website here. Find her books here. Find Toni’s Robinpedia entry here.

I was lucky enough to do Pamela Freeman’s two day speculative fiction course a few years back. Since then, she has taken me under her wing and allowed me to ask her all sorts of inane questions. She is the kind of teacher who continues on thinking about her students long after the classroom door has closed and the lights have been shut off. She is very much the mother duck of the Australian writing teaching world, but with a truly wicked sense of humour. She has a PhD in writing, she knows her stuff, and she’s quite forward in telling people what she thinks. And you’re in luck, because Pamela is currently supercharging her Advanced Fiction Writing Course at AWC. She is a regular teacher at AWC who also have a mentoring program, teaches occasionally at NSW Writers’ Centre, pops into a couple of Sydney universities, and all around the place really. Find Pamela Freeman’s website here. Pamela gets bonus points for following along on the #SelfPubIsHere twitter storm. Find her books here, and her books as Pamela Hart here.

Kate Forsyth made me tear up my prologue, literally. She didn’t even read it, she just asked me a few questions, didn’t like the sound of my answers so told me to rip it up. Shocking, I know, but… she was absolutely right. Kate is able to get to the core of your writing very quickly and gives crisp advice that will improve your manuscript immeasurably. I don’t go anywhere without her plot arc worksheet. She is a regular teacher at AWC, also teaches at NSW Writers’ Centre, a few universities, and pretty much everywhere else including overseas. Find Kate Forsyth’s website here. Find Kate’s books here. (And I know she’d also love it if you could check out her cooking and books show, Word of Mouth TV.)

A woman that needs no introduction, Anita Heiss. She’s pretty much an icon in Australia. When I was volunteering at one of her panel events at the Sydney Writers’ Festival we had to form a separate line for her signings. She is a really practical teacher who urges writers to listen to their readership. She’s all about knowing what you write. Very thorough in her approach and her preparation is phenomenal. I was lucky enough to do a workshop with her at NSW Writers Centre but she teaches at a lot of other places too. Keep your eyes wide open to see her courses pop up and book quickly. Anita Heiss’s website can be found here. Find Anita’s books here.

Emily Maguire is a very quiet and serene teacher. She is never without an encouraging word for people and always listens to students thoroughly before responding. Emily also provides so many worksheets for you to take home so that you can continue to look back and relearn for years to come. She teaches the hugely popular Year of the Novel course at NSW Writers’ Centre and so you get to learn from Emily all year long. Find Emily Maguire’s website here. Find Emily’s books here.

One of the most exciting speakers I have ever seen is L.A. Larkin. She is very animated, very witty, and above all else, very clever. L.A Larkin mainly teaches in the UK but lucky for us the AWC recently snapped her up to teach crime writing so she’s not just swanning around British universities anymore, we can learn from her in Sydney. You can also find her speaking at a variety of other places, check L.A. Larkin’s website for details here. Find her books here or even here. Find L.A. Larkin’s Robinpedia entry here.

Jan Cornall is the first writing teacher that I ever had (aside from school) and she blew me away. She is a very calm person and has a soothing effect on the soul. Jan utilises short bursts of meditation in her teaching and, despite the fact that I am truly crap at meditating, it really works. She teaches at WEA, NSW Writers’ Centre, pretty much everywhere and runs her own draftbusters course in the Inner West that I cannot recommend highly enough. Find Jan Cornall’s website here. Find Jan’s books here.

I have long testified that Walter “the inconceivably incandescent” Mason is like viagra for the creative soul. This man simply oozes love and passion. To sit by him is to sit in the presence of inspiration. But he doesn’t just sit about being all inspirational, he also gives concrete tasks to do. He really is a spectacular speaker and I urge you to go see him whenever you can. He regularly teaches at WEA, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, NSW Writers’ Centre, Ashfield Library, and pretty much everywhere you can think of. Find Walter Mason’s website here. Find Walter’s books here. Find Walter Mason’s Robinpedia entry here.

Alison Croggon would come close to being the queen of Australian literature. She’s a poet, a spec fic writer, an opera critic, and so much more. You want to know how to write an arts submission? She’ll teach you. You want to know how to write a proper poetry review? She’ll teach you. You want to know how to write a fantasy novel? She’ll teach you. And, like Toni, you can have Alison all to yourself through the Australian Writers Mentoring Program. Find Alison Croggon’s website here. Find Alison’s books here. Bonus, she’s a huge #SelfPubIsHere advocate.

I did a Garth Nix course through ASA waaaaayyyy back in 2014. I rarely see his name crop up on workshops so was eager to attend, I think it pretty much booked out on its first day of advertisement. First up, the food they provide for the ASA courses is fantastic, seriously, if you haven’t done a course there yet… well… do it! Secondly, I was really impressed with how Garth took a different tac than many other teachers. He was explicit on who to pitch to, he was explicit on filling up your creative bank. It was a very informative workshop. He said nice things about my WIP, and as I am a complete saddest I have subsequently changed it from being set in Germany to Australia, from first person to third person from present tense to past tense. Whyyyyy??? Imagine what I would have done with negative feedback or if he’d actually suggested any changes? Burned my laptop and thrown it from the Harbour Bridge? Find Garth Nix’s website here. Find Garth’s books here.

Cass Moriarty is from up above… in Queensland. She is a tireless supporter of writers and somehow manages to write novels, write reviews of ALL the books, teach and be a doting grandmother. I am in awe of this woman and have no idea how she does it all. Her motto is ‘I can adapt’ and she brings that to your manuscript. You can find her floating about up at Queensland Writers Centre where she does workshops and mentoring. Find Cass Moriarty’s website here. Find Cass’s books here. Find Cass Moriarty’s Robinpedia entry here.

Thriller, chiller, and teacher Tania Chandler has been writing and editing for years. Recently, we’ve been lucky enough to see her helm her own workshops. She brings a wealth of experience with her, and is a very dedicated teacher. If you get a chance to get to SPAN Community House Inc. book in for a course with Tania. Find Tania Chandler’s website here. Find her books here. Find Tania Chandler’s Robinpedia entry here.

Aleesah Darlison is here by very special request, my 6 year old daughter’s request to be precise. I have not had the pleasure of learning from Aleesah but my daughter has. Aleesah visited her school last year and my daughter assures me that Aleesah is the best teacher ever, and very qualified. My daughter tells me that Aleesah has written over 100,000 books, and writes 1000 a week, so I’m fairly confident she’ll teach you a lot about time management, and possibly how to create time vortexes. We actually owned quite a few of Aleesah’s books before she went to may daughter’s school so my daughter’s claims are way less exaggerated than you think. Aleesah is a powerhouse. My daughter rarely steers me wrong so in order to keep tabs on the clearly enchanting Aleesah Darlison find her website here. Find Aleesah’s books here. Find Aleesah’s Robinpedia entry here.

And no list could be complete without #SelfPubIsHere rockstar Ellie Marney who teaches both YA and self-publishing workshops.

You can find her slinking around Writers Victoria and plenty of other places too. Just keep those peepers peeled. Find Ellie Marney’s website here. Find Ellie’s books here.

This is a list of general writing teachers that I highly recommend, I will do a blog entry on self-publishing specific courses later on. Now of course there are other fab writing teachers out there and I can’t possibly go learn from every single one of them, so I’d like to hear about who you love. Especially those fab teachers such as Natasha Lester who I hear so much about from WA friends. Which writing teacher really boils your potato?

Find friendly writers organisations here. Just click on “8. What other organisations in Australia support writers?” These places have been created to help you grow. They can and will help you. They have an array of courses and resources.

See #SelfPubIsHere featured in Books+Publishing here.

Also in Australian Self-Publisher here.

Read about my #SelfPubIsHere Festival dream here.

Read the article that kicked #SelfPubIsHere off here.

Read about my experience of being a dyslexic writer here.
Also, cough-cough, find my book at Booktopia or anywhere.

P.S. HAPPY TOWEL DAY!

Memoir of a Teacher: The Principal

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All schools, all principals, that have held and hold rule over teachers and student are either run by the senior executive or by principals. Principals are generally decided via nepotism, in which their ability to kiss the right arse has been long established; or they are new and are fluent in buzz words, and again, kissing arse. The new are either entirely new from some other school or they’ve slimed their way up the ranks at the existing school. Such schools thus acquired are either accustomed to live under a tyrannical principal, or to live in wild chaos as the existing principal merely flatuleted about the place and routinely forgot to do their fly up; and are acquired either by the plotting of the new principal and their cronies or else by the fortuitous retirement of the aging principal.

CONCERNING PRINCIPALS that have wormed there way up through the school.  I will keep to the order indicated above, and discuss how such such schools are to be ruled and preserved. I say at once there are fewer difficulties in holding entrenched schools, and those long accustomed to the existing establishment, than new ones; for it is sufficient only not to transgress the customs of his predecessor, and to deal vaguely with circumstances as they arise, for a deputy raised to principal of average abilities to maintain himself in his existing school, unless he be deprived of it by some extraordinary and excessive force; and if he should be so deprived of it, whenever anything sinister happens to the usurper, he will regain it. For the promoted deputy has less cause and less necessity to offend; hence it happens that he will be more tolerated; and unless extraordinary vices cause him to be hated, it is reasonable to expect that his subjects will be accepting of his short comings; better the devil you know.

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Memoir of a Teacher: A Red Hot Tip for NaNoWriMo

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Memoir of a Teacher: A Red Hot Tip for NaNoWriMo

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This year one of my friends is undertaking NaNoWriMo and has taken to Facebook to ask for ideas to include in his novel. He quite likes improv so thought, “hey it works for comedy theatre,  why not a novel.” I suggested that perhaps attempting to recast an old tale might give him some structure. There’s a long tradition of it, Romeo and Juliet into West Side Story, Emma into Clueless,  Cinderella into Ever After and so on. Unfortunately I think my explanation came across a bit more South Park, as in, get a book, cross out the authors name and slap on your own. In honour of this I give you an excerpt from my own memoir….

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Memoir of a Teacher

Suppose that you and I were sitting in a quiet room overlooking a garden, chatting and sipping at our cups of English Breakfast tea with lots of milk and no sugar (despite my husband’s persistent belief that I like it black with three sugars, WTF) while we talked about something that had happened a long while ago, and I said to you, “That afternoon when I met Jo Blow…was the very best afternoon of my life, and also the very worst afternoon.” I expect you might put down your jumbo sized mug and say, “Well, now, which was it? Was it the best or the worst? Because it can’t possibly have been both!” Ordinarily I’d have to laugh at myself and agree with you, although I’d be silently judging you for your narcissistic need to correct for no reason. But the truth is that the afternoon when I met Mr Archer really was the best and the worst of my life. He seemed so fascinating to me, even the whiskey smell on his hands was a kind of perfume. If I had never known him, I’m sure I would not have become a teacher.

I wasn’t born and raised to be a Sydney teacher. I wasn’t even born in Sydney. I’m an Engineer’s daughter from a little town called Painfullysmallton on the Lake of Macquarie. In all my life I’ve never told more than a handful of people anything at all about Painfullysmallton, or about the house in which I grew up, or about my mother and father, or my older sister and older brother (except my therapist and she knows all, yes be afraid,  a stranger that you’ll never meet is judging you) –and certainly not about how I became a teacher, or what it was like to be one. Most people would much rather carry on with their fantasies that my mother and grandmother were teachers, and that I began my training in being bossy when I was weaned from the breast… well that part is kind of true, I do come from a long line of bossy women,  they just weren’t teachers. As a matter of fact, one day many years ago I was pouring a schooner of VB for a man who happened to mention that he had been in Painfullysmallton only the previous week. Well, I felt as a bird must feel when it has flown across the ocean and comes upon a creature that knows its nest. Particularly if that bird had been plucked bare, shit upon and booted out into the elements,  alone, afraid and ashamed. I was so shocked I couldn’t stop myself from saying:

“Painfullysmallton! Why, that place is a complete shit hole! I grew up there”

This poor man! His face went through the most remarkable series of changes. He tried his best to smile, though it didn’t come out well because he couldn’t get the look of shock off his face.

“Painfullysmallton?” he said. “Did you get involved in the mullet chucking competition?”

I long ago developed a very practiced annoyed look, which I call my  “cat’s bum face” because my face is so puckered up that it begins to resemble a cat’s bum. Its advantage is that men can interpret it however they want; you can imagine how often I’ve relied on it. I decided I’d better use it just then, and of course it worked. He let out all his breath and tossed down the schooner of beer I’d poured for him before giving an enormous laugh I’m sure was prompted more by relief than anything else.

“The very idea!” he said, with another big laugh. “You, growing up in a dump like Painfullysmallton. Now it makes sense as to why you’re such a bogan.” And when he’d laughed again, he said to me, “That’s why you’re so much fun, Robin. Sometimes you almost make me believe your total boganess is just an act.”

I don’t much like thinking of myself as a mullet chucking bogan but I suppose in a way it must be true. After all, I did grow up in Painfullysmallton, and no one would suggest it’s a glamorous spot. Hardly anyone ever visits it. As for the people who live there, they never have occasion to leave. You’re probably wondering how I came to leave it myself. That’s where my story begins….

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This was of course adapted from the breathtaking Memoir of a Geisha. Read the real except here: https://www.bookbrowse.com/excerpts/index.cfm/book_number/332/memoirs-of-a-geisha

Read chapter 2 of my memoir here https://riedstrap.wordpress.com/2014/11/01/memoir-of-a-teacher-chapter-2-nothing-to-be-frightened-of/