Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the category “Teaching”

Swear Jar

Captain Haddock swearingWhen I was in primary school, we had a pretty good idea what would get us in trouble, language wise. Bum wasn’t ok. Bloody was out of the question. I didn’t even know about the big three until about grade five or six.

I didn’t swear in front of my parents until I started driving. That did it, no problems. When you have the whole family in the car and you’re driving through Bendigo and you aren’t particularly confident and then someone cuts you off- well, the F bomb made an appearance.

My parents never swore in front of us either. Justin and Elise might have different memories, but I can’t remember them ever losing control and firing off one of the big ones. It might be because they were both teachers. I know it’s good for my self-control.

Nowadays swearing seems to be a lot more prevalent, especially among children.

Warning: this post will probably contain a LOT more swearing than is usual. I swear (haha) that it is in the context of the discussion. Sometimes I’ll bleep it out. Sometimes I’ll let it go. You have been warned.

A good introduction to modern speech patterns in today’s children is this:

I was doing bus duty at the end of the day, early in my teaching career when a Prep kid came screaming up the pathway after another kid, screaming “YOU F***ING C***!”

Jaw dropped, I jumped in and stopped this lovely five-year-old.

“Whoa! That’s not ok language! What’s wrong?”

“She called my mother a slut!” the girl sobbed, “and she’s not a slut. She’s a stripper!”

Well, what do you say to that? We’ve gone up a notch from not being able to say bum in Prep to this.

The swearing was so bad in my homeroom (of year 9 and 10 students) that I implemented a swear jar. You swear, you put money in the Project Compassion box. I’m pretty sure we won the charity competition that year.

Smurf YouThe follow up was to try and get them to use something else instead of the swear words. I had some pretty good success with smurfs. Smurfs use it to great effect, so I figured my homeroom could be equally as vague. Swearing dropped dramatically. Smurfing was as frequent as ever. I had to talk to them about intent after hearing “What the smurf do you want you smurfing smurfer? I will smurf you right up!”

When it comes to my own family we’re pretty good. I am a bit of an ogre over swearing. I believe that childhood should be a time of innocence, where things like swearing aren’t part of a child’s vocabulary. I am offended by kids swearing. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Given that, I’d prefer that a child finds a better way of expressing themselves. There’s plenty of time for swearing later.

That’s the background for this:

We were sitting at the table for dinner. My wife said that something was pretty shitty.

“Swear jar,” I said.

“Shitty isn’t a swear word!”

“Yes it bloody is!”

“OK then, put in a dollar for bloody!”

“Bloody isn’t a swear word!”

And so, like all good debates, I took it to Facebook. And WOW did it ever go mad from there. Ten pages in Word when I copied and pasted it to write this. Swearing is an issue wrapped up in political correctness and seasoned with the censorship debate.

Here’s what I posted:

What started it all

“Give me a list of words that would cause a donation to the swear jar. Put each word in its own comment. Like the words you agree with.

“Also point out ones you think are flat out OK in today’s society (OK for ten year olds)”

The first cab off the rank was the c bomb, followed up with “probably literally any racial slur”

“And now I wait gleefully for status comments that are just people swearing.”

And swear they did.

The first list of inappropriate swear words

  • The f bomb
  • Bugger (they need to understand what the word means)
  • Bastard
  • Bugger
  • Slut
  • Bitch
  • N*gger
  • Poofter
  • Faggot
  • Dickhead
  • Tony Abbott

Most of these from a wonderful person I had as a student teacher a few years ago. Teachers know ALL the bad words.

From here the list stopped and the discussion began. The argument was broken into these ideas:

  • Words have no specific “wrongness”. The context is what’s important.
  • Different cultures have different concepts of what is ok.
  • Swearing isn’t as bad as “inappropriate use of language”
  • Making it illegal makes it attractive.

In general, we agreed that the use of racial slurs and words that denigrate women should be out straight off the bat. They are over used in society but don’t add to society.

Insulting someone by calling them a female body part does nothing to advance the status of women in society. And still Australians complain about Muslim women wanting to wear head coverings in our country because it’s denigrating to women (yeah, that’s why you want them to stop wearing them). When you stop calling someone a whiny little bitch, I’ll listen to your argument.

Alternatives to swearing came up. My smurf idea was one. Words like ‘numpty’ and Sugar Honey Ice Tea, pickles or cheesesndwhiskers, muppet or donkey, and of course the really good ones like smeg and frack – to show that you’ve raised your child to be a proper sci-fi nerd.

Here are some of the more poignant remarks, names cut out to protect the swearmongers (some are colour linked – those who consistently got involved):

“Any word is a swear word in the right context. I think kids need to learn appropriate use not that language is bad. Shakespeare used c***. I find it less offensive than the word Muslim in some people’s mouths. Teach her respect and let her have a word for when she stubs her toe. The rest is out of your hands.”

“I love this perspective a lot! Still, I don’t think “Shakespeare used the word c***” is going to fly in front of her principle at school so it’s that odd balance of societal expectations and developing a good respectful kid.”

“Truly, swearing is about context and culture. The utterance of a culture’s deity in one geography wouldn’t raise an eyelid, yet would condemn you to death in others.”

“Is a list of words really what you need here? At 10 she is most likely smart enough to know when she’s offending someone, which should probably be all the criteria she needs. A simple ‘inappropriate use of language’ jar should suffice, with you being the judge of what is inappropriate in the given context. I wouldn’t bat an eyelid if one of my kids dropped an f bomb after a big fright or something, but have definitely pulled them up for referring to a sibling as a bitch.”

“And with that criteria you can handle all those violations of the Queen’s English too.”

“Take each instance on merit. Stubbed toe and swear, we all do. Walking around peppering her speech with cussing to get a reaction, explain why it’s not really the done thing and leave her choose. Don’t demonize words though. As soon as you make anything naughty it has appeal. Making swearing taboo could also limit her feeling she can come to you with issues surrounding language… like body shaming or slut shaming as it’s not swearing but the language is really more inappropriate than a good ‘Oh shit’. If adults have an issue with the use of a word, that’s about them. Take the power away from the word, give the power [to your child] and back yourselves in, because we’re all human, we all pick our nose, fart, chew with our mouth open and swear.”

Me: “No we bloody don’t! There are plenty of ways to express ourselves that don’t involve swearing. She has the rest of her life to swear. For now, she can make an effort and find better ways to respond to situations. It’s about control. If you have enough control over a situation that you can choose a response, that’s a step in the right direction.”

“I completely agree with you Daimo on this one. It is all about self-control and also respect. [We as parents] could swear til the cows come home but we choose not to and I expect the kids to learn the same self-control and respect. That’s not to say I don’t utter certain words under my breath out of earshot at times.”

“Any word can be a swear word. Learning where, rather than what, is what I’d aim for.”

“When followed by a snigger, any of the following might be inappropriate: moist, 69, erection, hard, hump… gotta love the english language”

“Oooh ‘language, #snigger”

Do you allow exceptions for extenuating circumstances:

Warning: Explicit content

Warning: Explicit content

This you’d get a timeout from game. It’s gratuitous swearing and bad sportsmanship. This can be controlled. Damian this is where the respect comes in, not the inevitable slip up we all make at times.

Me: There are slip ups, which is why we have the swear jar. That’s “oops, put a dollar in the jar”. Then there are blatant uses like above, which require a more specific consequence.

I think it should be less a “swear jar than an “unimaginative words jar” – there are much better words you can use to express yourself than these, these are nasty and no one should use them. I like the idea of having a list of other more useful words. In science at school I always make my students write out the lab safety rules, but they have to write them out without using negative language – they can’t use the words don’t, no, prohibited, etc. So the rules become things they can choose to do, safe choices to make, rather than just things not to do.

Research into the hypoalgesic effect of swearing has shown that the use of profanity can help reduce the sensation of pain. This phenomenon is particularly strong in people who do not use such words on a regular basis.

I swear like a trooper as you know Damo but the kids still know not to, at least in front of adults, teachers etc, I’m not sure if they swear to their friends.

P.S My parents never swore, I’m calling it a social experiment to see how the kids end up but at 8 and 10 no probs yet.

I’m against f**king censorship ??

Me: Then don’t f**k it

At this point in the conversation my wife wanted me to explain that our daughter is wonderful and doesn’t swear at all and this is more about us parents. More specifically, she thinks shitty is ok and I think bloody is ok and we both think the other person’s word should go in the swear jar.

Can I add “gay” and “retard” – those four words (including the two in the comments above) are the words that I find most offensive (and I have a fondness for the expletive).

Gay is a perfectly reasonable word to use, even when describing a person’s sexuality, unless it’s done in a negative way.

Unfortunately, “gay” is more likely used in an offensive manner these days, than in its correct form. As per above – it isn’t the word, it is the way in which it is used.

Damian Perry: Seriously, what you just said was totally gay.

Damian Perry: By which I mean totally spot on and fantastic.

Damian Perry: …I’m taking it back.

LOL

Yes, the word gay is misused but if you stomp on its usage completely then I think you have made a mistake. My kids sometimes pull me up when I use the word black to identify a person with dark skin. I ask them “why? Is it bad to be black or something?”. Same with the word gay – are you banning its usage because it is bad to be gay? I would simply stick to objecting to when the word is used in a negative way, and embrace it when used correctly.

I like that idea on principle however, I have lost track of the number of times I have heard kids referring to everything they don’t like or agree with as “that’s so gay” (cue eyeroll)

I’m not into swearing but refuse to make it attractive by making it naughty to the kids. It’s hard enough getting them to clean their rooms without having to clean their mouths too. (My giving them permission has worked well but I still try to lead by example.)

F**kin' Swear JarIt was a fantastic discussion. Most importantly, in the end, I’m pretty sure that the consensus was that, if we were allowed to have a swear jar at all, bloody would be ok and shitty would be a dollar in the jar.

So that’s bloody brilliant.

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2015

Everybody has to write one of these, don’t they?

Let’s see. What happened in 2015? It might be just writing at this time of the year, but in my head, the year was categorised by stress. Which is weird, because in 2014 I:

  • wrote two plays,
  • performed in two productions,
  • published and launched my first novel,
  • completed a certificate III in Game Design,
  • holidayed in Halls Gap,
  • turned 40 and was painted into the TARDIS,
  • created a CGI opening for the school production which almost killed me,
  • saw my daughter perform at the Melbourne Arts Centre,
  • had our first cancer scare with our dog Amy and then
  • lost my grandfather to cancer (which doesn’t seem that long ago).

2015They were huge things, and very draining. And still, I finished this year completely shattered and I’m just getting out of it now, after a good few days down at Dromana soaking in the ocean (my calm down place). My 2015 list on the face of it is much longer. This year I:

  • Wrote a book starring my daughter as a werewolf
  • Saw They Might Be Giants (again)
  • Watched my lovely wife graduate from university
  • Ran the school radio show and podcast for a year
  • Spent a week in Sydney
  • Ramped up the school 3D printing program
  • Started learning to program in Python
  • Got my debating team into the finals
  • Had a number of articles published in educational journals
  • Had a reunion of the Five
  • Fixed the shower head
  • Ran the sound for Macbeth
  • Wrote half a dozen stories for a sequel to Dwarves in Space and found them mostly awful
  • Discovered Netflix and Stan and Presto
  • Had a Marvel Universe movie marathon
  • Went to a number of art galleries
  • Attended a few Guides functions
  • Started an educational blog
  • Read the Harper Lee sequel nobody thought would ever happen
  • Flew in a very old bi-plane
  • Finished my wedding video – three years on
  • Celebrated Grandma’s 90th

And that’s just the ones that come to mind going back through my photo gallery. Of those, they were all incredibly positive, life affirming and creative pursuits, which didn’t bring me down in the slightest. So why am I so mentally exhausted?

I think all that I can say is: don’t get involved in politics in the workplace. Just do your own job as well as you can and let what’s up top run itself.

I just wish I believed that was a good idea. Anyway, as always, I promise I will write more in 2016. And I have actual things in place to make that happen. AND I did actually write a lot in 2015 – just not on FindingDamo.

Let’s Kill Hitler

rory punches hitlerEvery time someone brings up time travel, someone mentions killing Hitler.

“If you could go back in time and kill Hitler as a baby, would you?”

It’s either kill him as a baby or kill him as an adult. As a baby he hasn’t done anything wrong yet. Plus, killing babies is less than savoury for most people (whereas killing adults seems to be totally fine). As an adult, he may have already done too much damage to stop by just removing him from the equation.

EDIT: After being linked this by three different people on three different social networks, I thought I’d better add this in:

To properly answer the question, you first need a Year 9 Humanities class brief history of Adolf. Here are some excerpts from one of my students from last  year:

“Adolf Hitler was born from Klara Polzl and Alois Hitler on the 20th of April, 1889 in a small town in Austria named Braunau, and is most commonly known for being Germany’s leader during World War 2. Hitler was the fourth child Klara had given birth to, as the three before had died. Hitler had a younger sister named Paula. “

“Alois was a strict senior customs official who took beatings upon his wife and even his son. After Hitler read that the brave man gives no sign of being in pain, Hitler told his mother: “father hit me thirty-two times… and I did not cry”. Klara, Adolf’s mother, was a very kind woman who only wanted Adolf to succeed and do well in life, as she did not want to lose another child.”

“While Hitler disliked most of his teachers, he had one which he paid respect to, which was Leopold Potsch, his history teacher. Potsch, being a German Nationalist, taught Hitler and his pupils about Germany’s victory over France. Hitler was inspired by Potsch in the long run to be a Nationalist.”

“Throughout his life, he had consistent bad grades with the exception of his skill in art. When his entry to an art school was declined, he was shattered, and lived in Vienna pretending to be an art student trying to make his mother proud. While he lived in Vienna, he mostly walked parks, observed buildings, and visited libraries. In the summer of 1909, Hitler lived on the streets.”

Caught up? Good. By 1925 it was pretty much too late. He’d written Mein Kampf, been to prison and had a following of people that would probably have continued with the reich even if Hitler was out of the picture.

So any killing of Hitler needs to be done before then, probably around 1909 when he was living on the streets.

Right?

Bloodthirsty bastards! Why do we have to kill Hitler? Why bloody our own souls? Here’s an alternative that doesn’t come up very often: Be nice to Hitler.

Let me present you with a scenario: Someone is coming back to kill you from the future. In about five years’ time you will do something that will cause the death of billions of people. With the invention of time travel, all of this death can be avoided simply by killing you. Are you ok with that? Or would you like to see someone try an alternative option first?

SARAH CONNOR HITLERWow. Hitler is sort of like Sarah Connor.

Anyway.

Hitler hated his teachers. He was bored at school. He was excluded from art college, he was beaten by his father. He was lazy but intelligent. He only had one testicle.

I can’t do anything about the last one, but as a time traveller, especially if we can travel about willy-nilly to do what we want, we could negate a number of bad influences in his life, making him, if not a good person, at least one who is politically ambivalent, not disposed to prejudices towards certain races and safe out of the way in an artist’s colony somewhere.

Here’s the plan:

  • Ditching Alois – the father, were you not paying attention? – by causing a bar fight between him and a burly psychopath in a pub somewhere. The man drank a lot. He also looked after bees. Strange.
  • Work at his high school, being a mentor to the young Hitler and giving him challenging books about being nice to people. Let’s get this Potsch teacher fired as well.
  • Bribe someone at the arts school to get him accepted. A Hitler making a living at art is not a Hitler trying to take over the country.
  • Finally, get someone to hire him, somewhere well out of Berlin.
  • Oh, and every time he tries to grow a moustache, shave it in his sleep.

Voila! No more evil dictator.

If I wanted to go further, I’d be talking to the leaders of France and England and suggesting that if they don’t want a second world war, they should go a bit easier on the country they just defeated. If they hadn’t been so heavy-handed in their sanctions, German Nationalism wouldn’t have received so much support from the general populous.

Of course, maybe people have been trying this for decades. Changing time and each time getting someone worse, until last time, when the time traveller stopped the evil dictator Gordon Champott, who had destroyed most of the civilised world from his seat in England, and when he got back, found that Hitler had risen to power in his stead.

And maybe a world war at this point in time, before the rise of nuclear weapons, was better for the planet as a whole.

But seriously, if someone gives you a time machine, just think about your actions before you go and murder someone, just to see what happens.

I would be incredibly irresponsible in this.

I would be incredibly irresponsible in this.

He said, She said…

Last night I was exploring first person POV, the unreliable narrator and differing perspectives on the same situation with a student I tutor. To illustrate the situation I presented the following YouTube clip:

I then asked her to write the piece from the boy’s perspective in first person, followed by the girl’s perspective. While she wrote, I did the same. It was an interesting exercise. Here ‘tis.

She

My stomach turned over as I saw him. This was not going to be a pleasant conversation. It was either the nerves. Or the baby.

Oh yeah, I’m pregnant.

How would he react? In these situations, I tend to get defensive. My back was up as we met and I’m sure I was sulking as I matched his step.

Finally, he stopped and confronted me.

He looked tired. Tired and annoyed.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

Already he’d annoyed me. He knew, but he wouldn’t be the one to say it.

“What do you want me to say?” I asked. His expression was part of the reason I was glad the baby wasn’t his. God, how could I have been with him?

“Well,” he said, his voice flat, “clearly you’re acting like this for some reason -”

Like this? Like my life had been thrown into turmoil? Like my future had just become that of the single mother?

“- so what’s up?” he asked. He was pretending to be Caring Guy. I was having none of it.

“I don’t know.”

“Come on, what’s wrong?”

You really want to know? I thought. “I’m pregnant.”

His surprise was genuine. Hell, maybe he hadn’t known, after all.

“Really?”

“Yeah.” And then he said the words I’d been dreading:

“Is it mine?”

I didn’t want to have this conversation. I didn’t want him to be a part of my life. My baby’s life.

“I dunno, maybe.”

“Maybe?” Oops. No guy wants to hear that. But, looking at his stupid face, I figured I was better off without him. I sighed.

“Probably not.”

The look of pure relief on his face said it all.

“Thank God!” he said, and he almost sprinted from the room. I left in the opposite direction.

Good riddance.

He

She was bugging me. She’d been moody for days. When she called me and said we needed to talk, I gigured that the inevitable break up talk was imminent. And frankly, that was fine by me.

But now that we were together, she wasn’t saying anything. I decided to make the first move.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

“What do you want me to say?”

I hate you? I’m sick of this? It’s over?

“Well clearly you’re acting like this for some reason, so what’s up?”

“I don’t know.” This was harder than I thought. She was withdrawn. Maybe it wasn’t the breakup conversation. I looked at her more closely.

“Come on, what’s wrong?”

“I’m pregnant.”

Whoa. That was not one of the possible options.

“Really?” No, not really, I’m just fooling. What a stupid question. I saw contempt in her eyes.

“Yeah.” Ok, next stupid question. I was on a roll.

“Is it mine?” I mean, really, who wants to know the answer to that, one way or another? I didn’t love her, didn’t even like her much. I definitely didn’t want to have a kid with her. But although I was pretty sure she’d been cheating on me, I had no desire to know for sure.

“I dunno, maybe.” My stomach lurched. Maybe was a confirmation of the cheating. I’d almost have preferred a “How could you ask that?” blowup, not this sulky quiet. My heart grew cold.

“Maybe?”

“Probably not.”

I was furious. I was ecstatic. I mourned the loss of my brief, ten-second child. I celebrated my freedom.

“Thank God,” I snapped.

And then I sped out of the room so she wouldn’t see the tears.

On a lighter note:

This YouTube clip was obviously part of an exercise for a film school or something. These two did a pretty good job. But I found another one which you might find amusing, although they would fail the sound check:

Exams

One of the great things about being a teacher is the paperwork. Everything has to be documented. Every piece of work should be carefully covered in red scribble and returned to the student, for them to scrunch it up and stick it in the bottom of their bag. We need to write lesson plans and unit outlines and day-to-day summaries and meeting minutes and assignment sheets…

… and exams.

We have exams for all core subjects in Years 7-10 at our school. Twice a year, for one week and at least six subjects, the students traipse into the hall or the auditorium and sit in neat little rows with papers in front of them and write or doodle for two hours. We supervise them, wandering up and down the aisles, answering questions (“When it says ‘write your name here’ does that mean my full name, or just my first name?”) and handing out tissues.

Oh gods, the sniffing! It’s like a convention of cocaine addicts sitting in a hall. All is silent except for the rustling of paper and then a symphony of sniffs. Sometimes you can tell it’s deliberate. There’s a pattern. The ringleader will give a hearty snort, followed by the gleeful snuffles of his underlings. But mostly it’s just the disgusting habits of teenagers in a world where handkerchiefs are no longer a required item.

It isn’t my place to debate the usefulness of exams. Well, it is, but it is more than my job is worth to do so. But they are very stressful, both for teachers and students. And I don’t even teach VCE (for the overseas readers: the Victorian Certificate of Education is the endgame for high school education in Victoria – Years 11 and 12). So many times I want to grab a kid and say “You’re only in Year 7! It’s not that big a deal!” But it’s probably a good thing that they have four years of learning that you don’t talk in exams and, No, you cannot go and get a drink you doofus!

Speaking of stress, my favourite (?) story from my own VCE exam days might very well be an urban myth, but it freaked us out at the time. I was going into a Literature exam, when one of the other students told us this:

“So this girl was really unprepared for her Psych exam. And on the day she came into the exam, really calm. She sat down, got all her stuff out, and waited for the exam to start. She opened her exam paper, stared at it for a few minutes, and then, very calmly, picked up two pencils, inserted one in each nostril, sharp side up, and then, without warning, slammed her head down on the table. She was dead instantly!”

This, just before we went into an exam. And exams at that point meant everything. They were our entry into university. They were a status symbol. They took over every part of our lives for those final weeks of school. And they were unbelievably stressful.

But I can’t imagine being overly worried about them in Year 10. I don’t even think I was overly traumatised by them in Year 12, although that story didn’t help. I know I was, but that sense of terror isn’t lodged in my brain the way dealing with bullies and everyday school life is. I remember clearly a slick, feral kid promising he’d push my head through a wall as soon as the teacher wasn’t watching. I don’t remember sleepless nights awaiting exams in highschool.

By university, exams had taken on a malevolent evil force that allowed them to get under my skin and bring me to breaking point. Or maybe it was the booze and late nights that did that. But suddenly, exams meant something. Friends would come to my room in tears, sure that they were going to fail miserably. We would do week-long cram sessions. We would stay up all night before an exam, trying to get one tiny piece of information to stick. We would eat mountains of doughnuts and experiment to see whether studying drunk was better than studying sober. Nothing helped.

I hate exams. They aren’t a fantastic example of learning. They are a fantastic example of a certain type of student’s learning. But until universities realise that, we’re stuck with it.

And so the symphony of sniffing will continue.

Who does that voice look like?

I started writing this three weeks ago, and ended up having to split it into three blog posts to have it make sense. I started on an evening when the Mists of Pandaria update prevented me from playing, but couldn’t find my voice, so ended up writing about Super! instead. I tried again this morning – a post about stereotypes and teachers, but again, it wasn’t coming out right. So I’m giving you the first part of that post – a comment on stereotypes in TV and movies. I’ll get into the rest as soon as possible. I know I’m a few weeks behind, but we just moved into our new house, and hopefully my busy days are done. Here goes:

A few weeks ago, I talked about the American school system and the extremist schools that are going to teach the existence of the Loch Ness Monster, proving the existence of God. At that time I went down the road of supernatural interest and ghost stories. I did, however, mention that in another reality, I might have talked a little about teachers and stereotypes and why the stereotypes exist.

So here we go, rolling the dice again and heading into another reality:

That one was all of the realities in one. Very amusing if you’ve seen the episode. If not, belated SPOILERS!

And the die lands, and Damian decides to talk about teachers. (edit:  But that was too much work, so he’s left it with stereotypes)

I was going to write about teachers last week, but then something happened that would have meant I spent most of the time bitching about one particular teacher instead of talking about teachers in general. I’m plenty mellow tonight, so here goes…

In case you care.

I was listening to the Friday Night comedy podcast from BBC Radio. Tim Minchin was interviewing Caitlin Moran, and she sounded very cluey and it was a very amusing interview. And I realised that I had no idea what she looked like. And then I realised that I couldn’t even guess with any real accuracy. My reasoning goes as follows: if you watch a lot of American TV and movies, you start to match voices to faces. Americans love typecasting people. And when you hear someone on the radio in America, there is a good chance that they look how they sound. I know that this is incredibly generalistic (if generalistic is a word) but try it some time.

When I listen to British people on the radio, there is no typecasting going on in my head. I can’t picture them. I had no idea what Caitlin Moran looked like.

OK, here’s my theory: in America, there are a vast number of people who audition for every acting/media part. Given that excess of talent, producers/casting agents choose people who NOT ONLY can act/sing/talk, but who ALSO fit the concept in their head. A concept that is a stereotype drawn from generations of other casting agents doing the same thing. Types change. New types are added, but in general, they’re a little bit predictable.

In the UK, with far less people to draw from, the really talented people don’t necessarily fit a mind model. And this is just me being slightly nice to the Americans. I’d prefer to say that the British are just less shallow and pick people for true talent rather than what they look like. But there’s a chance that the population excess could be true too.

Either way, although there are types in British tv, they aren’t as fixed in stone as in America. Who would have thought of Katherine Tate as a companion for the Doctor?

I’m currently watching Episodes, with Matt le Blanc (actually, I’m watching Episodes with my wife, but Matt le Blanc is on the show). A British writing team are conned into coming to America to write an American version of their hit British show, about a school headmaster. It’s very funny and pokes a lot of fun at shows like American Coupling, Red Dwarf or Men Behaving Badly. But that’s not my point. It’s funny because we all know that when an American production company gets hold of a British property, they change it so that it fits in with an American audience.

They don’t take into account the reason why so many Americans watch the show (making it viable for a remake) is the humour in the British way of thinking about life. And probably the fact that the Brits don’t just hire pretty people and stick glasses on them to make them ugly.

OK. Do my job for me. Episodes is about the creation of a sitcom at a high school. It will feature a number of different stereotypes, because we all think back to our school days and remember:

– the militant PE teacher.

– The Maths teacher in his sandals and socks.

– The IT teacher who wouldn’t come out into the light and

– The hippy English teacher who would quote poetry at you and be disappointed when you didn’t burst into tears at the very words entering your head.

Or maybe not. Which types of teachers did you encounter over and over? I’m halfway through my teacher blog. Back on track next Wednesday.

Oh, and no new Finding Damo – the Novel as yet. But the show was a ripping success.

Teachers get paid too much!

“You teachers get paid too much already. Why are you striking for more?”

Someone actually said this. And this is probably the main reason why we go on strike. It happens every time we go into pay negotiations. The government go in with an offer at the bottom end. The unions ask for something completely over the top. Nobody budges. We go on strike. The general public tell us we’re already earning more than we should, as glorified babysitters, and the proverbial hits the fan.

Nobody likes being told that the career that they have decided to make their own is worthless. Everybody knows that the job that they do is vital to the running of the community. I imagine that I would be quite dismissive if the Paparazzi Union was calling for more money, but apart from that, most sectors of the workforce do a fantastic job for what is probably not enough money.

Apart from CEOs of massive corporations. And the politicians who are telling us we’re worthless.

But I’m a teacher. And so I’m going to focus on my problems and my gripes now. Listen if you will. Share this if you agree. Leave nasty comments if you don’t. I have some big burly year nine students I can send around to your house to argue the point.

“Teachers get into work at 9 and leave at 3.15!”

Uh huh. Ri-ight. I left home this morning before seven, as I always do (except for the mornings I do the student radio show and leave home at 5.45). In at work by 8. I plan on leaving at 5 tonight, and calling it an early one. I’ll be in on Saturday from 9am until after 5.

“Ah, but this is a special event – you’re doing a school production (Super! It’ll be great. Tell your friends)!”

Yes, but as a teacher, the special events keep coming. I’m involved in:

–           debating (at least 5 nights out over weeks, plus planning)

–          The Writing club

–          Public speaking

–          The production

–          Parent teacher evenings

–          Taking results for Sports meets at night

–          Information nights (many MANY information nights)

–          School camps

SCHOOL CAMPS!

Which other profession has you working 24 hours a day for a week in a supervisory role? At a co-ed school, we’d sleep in shifts, to make sure someone was up all night for checking rooms and the like!

“You get twelve weeks of school holidays!”

Who gets twelve weeks of holidays? I know I don’t! I get twelve non-teaching weeks, which is not the same thing. I spend at least one week of each holiday marking work and planning tasks for the next term, making sure that my students have the best education they can get. And then, when we do get to go on holidays, flights and accommodation cost double because – what do you know – it’s school holiday time!

But back to the original question:

“You teachers get paid too much already. Why are you striking for more?”

We’re not. At this point in time, we’re striking for some basic respect.

“The Premier’s promise could not have been clearer – he would make teachers “not the worst paid, the best paid”.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/today-our-teachers-deserve-our-support-20120905-25ddm.html#ixzz25YTdbatA

We are being offered a 2.5% increase in pay, if and only if, we also accept the following concessions:

  1. An extra hour a week teaching.
  2. All professional development to be undertaken during holidays.
  3. An extra week in school for school support officers.
  4. There is no longer an automatic increase in pay.
  5. Teachers will be paid bonuses instead of wage increases.

Now that last one sounds ok, if you’re a good teacher. You do a good job, you get a bonus. What could be simpler. However:

–          The principal has to pick the top ten per cent of teachers for a 10% bonus.

–          The next 40% get a 6% bonus

–          The bottom 20% don’t get a bonus.

–          At least 5% of teachers are not allowed to go up in pay each year at each school.

This is incredibly divisive. It is a hard choice for the principal, especially at a small school. And if every teacher at a school is doing a great job, what happens then?

I know I can live on what I earn now. It is the rare teacher who does the job for the money. But I hate the thought that we are dismissed simply because we are willing to do the job at a wage that proves to the general public that we are not professionals.

Finally, a couple of people who have said it better:

A petition to make Ted keep his promise to teachers

Teachers should be paid as babysitters

 

Super!

I had a phenomenally deep, completely insightful blog half-written on Wednesday, before my brain melted into a sludge and left me drooling on the keyboard. When I went back to it, there was nowhere to go and no end in sight. So I’ve shelved it.

Why? Why is our heroic blogger unable to blather on about nothing for pages this week? Surely he hasn’t “lost it”!

Gods. I hope not. No, today is eight days before the first audience for my production Super! and nine days before the official showing. That’s right. One night only! Don’t get me started. Well, don’t get me started yet.

So my focus is on the show, rather than Finding Damo. And yet, here I am, taking the time to keep you all informed. Do you feel privileged?

Right, so there are two brothers, Zack and Joss. They are dropped off for their first day of school and, after travelling through the secret tunnel and pulling the nose on the statue, arrive, ready to learn. And they’re met by Igor, who welcomes them to Super Hero High School.

That’s right. Their parents have sent them to a high school for super heroes.

Health and Safety is a MUST!

Students come to the school in the hopes that they can join the elite force of country-saving super heroes – the equivalent of a nuclear stockpile in global politics. Zapped with radiation within their first few days, they are tested for powers and then trained for the rest of their school life to be the most effective heroes they can be.

School being what it is, there are always cliques. In a Super powered school, the main factions are the Heroes – dedicated to law, order and mall appearances, and Villains – bent on world domination, but with the best intentions of course. The majority, however, aren’t super powered. They are the Norms: the downtrodden majority. The elite of these can be utilised as henchmen or sidekicks (or lackeys for Igor, who runs the Henchmen and Sidekicks Union). But mostly they clean the floors and are pushed around, running errands at the whim of the Supers.

When Zack and Joss both manifest and choose opposite factions, and the Norms Jeff and Ted are bullied one too many times, Super Powers High School becomes a much more interesting place to be.

I wrote the play while travelling around Europe. Long train journeys, an iPad and Bluetooth keyboard made for a fantastic writing environment. I wrote it with a certain cast in mind, and I even got a couple of them. It’s definitely written for a high school cast. It’s also written for Shereen, Pippa and Dave, who are almost my entire audience when I write stuff in my head. Lots of Whedon references – some subtle, some a complete rip off. They wouldn’t let me do Dr. Horrible, so I did it anyway, but with a bigger cast and less girl.

OK. Six minutes before I have to go and do some work. I would suggest, that if you live in Melbourne and have nothing better to do on the 12th September, come and see it! St James College, East Bentleigh. No bookings, $5 entry. Great music from Smashmouth, Voltaire, the Living End, Michael Buble, Oasis, the Dollyrots and Oingo Boingo.

And for those wondering if I’ve added to Finding Damo – the novel, remember: melted brain, screaming Year 7 students, grumpy teenagers and the need to create a Human Fly costume in the next couple of days.

That would be a no. I promise, after the 12th, I will write 2000 words before my birthday.

PS: My stories are still selling well on Alfie Dog. If you want one for whatever device on which you read eBooks, go to the website! I’d love it if you let me know what you thought, good or bad. And tell them you want more werewolf stories, because I really want to sell them Shoot for the Moon.

Instant offspring

From the last blog:

The other night, I had a dream that my brother was only a child say about ten years old. He had a red parka on with the hood up and I couldnt see his face. He was autistic. He was playing in the playground and fell over. I ran over to help him up and to hug him better and he pushed me away because he didnt like being touched. It broke my heart. I woke up sobbing and it took me a good five minutes before I could wake up enough to realise it was a dream, calm down and go back to sleep. Im not sure what Shereen thought. She was very sympathetic. When we were talking about it the next morning, I said that if we found out she was pregnant any time soon Id be highly nervous following that dream.

And so the dice is thrown again, and another reality is realised in blog form. This is how the blog could have gone.

stork

I was sure that there was more to having a child than this…

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to tell you that Finding Damo is, in part, about my finding out that I have a son. It is the first chapter of the book. The mental challenge has been: how would I react to having a son? How would he react to me being his dad? And what are you meant to do with a teenager when one is dropped on your doorstep?

The dream made me think through this in a lot more detail. How much luckier am I, who has perfectly happy son, who is a stranger to me, than the woman with the autistic child, who is an alien to her? She loves her son with all of her heart, but can’t get inside his head or in many cases understand his motivation.

But how would Damo react to the first fight? What would the major power struggles be? How has he been disciplined by his mother before Damo was on the scene?

I have to believe that being a teacher would give me a bit of an advantage over someone who has never dealt with students before. The “dealing” with teenagers is what I get paid to do. But apparently there’s more to it than that. All of a sudden you are not just responsible for his grades and schoolyard behaviour, but you have to take responsibility for his every action. Some of it I could blame on his mother – her genes and her rearing. But for the most part, all of a sudden, when a teacher complains about his behaviour in class, it’s my fault, at least in part. And I’ve felt it – even with students in my homeroom. I know what they’re made up of. They are so much better than how people see them. And I want to protect them. God knows, if that’s how I respond to students who aren’t genetically related to me, it’s going to be worse for my own son.

On the bright side, now I’d have someone to join in on the destruction of the evil forces of the Horde. Someone to train in the ways of Red Dwarf fandom. I’d have him do drills of Coupling quotes… That brings up another issue.

A student comes up to me and said “hey. I finished GTA IV last night. That last scene was an absolute killer. Blood everywhere!” And I responded: “Are you kidding me? You’re in Year 7!” I’m incredibly strict with anyone I have responsibility for. And totally lax with anybody else. My aim as a child-rearer is to create someone as self-aware and together as I am. Hey, don’t laugh. I wasn’t allowed to watch M-rated movies until I was 15 and it didn’t hurt me. I did, of course, go to my friends’ places for access to anything more adult – Predator and The Toxic Avenger come to mind, not to mention the videos I won’t mention (incredibly educational). More on this in a sec.

Sidebar for teachers: have you ever (and you know you have, don’t deny it) sat in Parent-teacher interviews and seen an attractive parent and thought “hmmm”? And then seen whose parent it is and put all those thoughts out of your mind. Luckily, I found the mother with the most gorgeous child imaginable. And not during parent/teacher interviews…

I try not to talk about my current family too much on Finding Damo. This blog is about a man that I used to be, that never was, but could have been. The person I am now shouldn’t enter into it. That’s spoilers! But in this situation, my current family is relevant.

My two stipulations for dating, two-and-a-half years ago, were:

  1. Must love cats.
  2. No children.

Now, I am married to my lovely wife, who doesn’t like cats and has a seven-year-old daughter. Which means I now have a seven-year-old step-daughter. Voila! Instant parent. And it’s all been very easy. Too easy, he says, eyeing the forest uneasily. I love my wife. I love my step-daughter. They both love me. Shereen’s favourite story is of the time Young Miss O said to her “I love you so much! I love you as much as Damian!”

O’s other major comment on me is “He’s strict. He’s teaching me manners!”

I’m really not. I’m teaching her my manners. The rules of conduct that I was raised with, and that served me well in polite society. I will admit here (and try and dissuade Shereen from reading it) that it might not be the only way of interacting with society. But it worked for me and, like a basic knowledge of Christianity (and Buddhism, and Islam, and SCIENCE!), at least knowing the rules is an invaluable part of getting on with the people she’ll be dealing with. Most of them, anyway.

How is this relevant? Young Miss O has been like research. How would I respond to this situation? Well, that was enlightening? What would she do if I did this? Oh. Well, there you go! Scribble it all down in the little note book and get back to the book.

As for the book, I’m going to start posting a word count at the start of each blog, from next blog onwards. It’s time I start progressing again and get this one finished. I have a clear understanding of everything I want to happen, I have an incredibly detailed plan. I have a multitude of interesting characters, with most of the names changed to protect the guilty, and all I have to do is get it all down on paper. So here we go.

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