Archive for April, 2013

The Storytelling Group

Posted: April 13, 2013 in Education
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I’ve noticed that, despite all the excitement around iPads, iPhones and laptops, classes still enjoy a good story. While doing a unit on memoirs, I told some of my Year 7s some stories from my past. I asked them when it was that their parents had stopped reading to them; for most, it was when they were about 7-8 years of age. With this in mind, and seeing the obvious pleasure that listening to a story can have, I’ve decided to start a group for storytellers that will (hopefully) meet once a month at lunch time, starting next term. At the moment it is going by the working title of the Verbatim Club… we’ll see if a better name comes up!

But for now, a story from my own past – one that I told my year 7s. A story of shame on my part and the absolute fear it brought about. Just so as you know, for politeness sake, I’ve changed one “rude” word, to ‘fortunately’… I think you’ll get the actual context… Anyway, hopefully you can settle back and enjoy this one, that dates back to my first year at high school…

In the afternoons, I would walk to Ashfield Station to get the ‘school special’ bus home. The bus would start from the station, and be filled with students from schools such as Ashfield Boys’ High (my school), Bethlehem College and De La Salle College.

This is 1976, but the same type of buses on the same route - cnr of Milton St and Liverpool Rds. Photo by Dave Wilson

This is 1976, but the same type of buses on the same route – cnr of Milton St and Liverpool Rds. Photo by Dave Wilson

Each day, once full, the bus would head down Liverpool Rd towards my home. At the same time, boys from Trinity Grammar would come running down the road towards Ashfield Station, having been dropped off at the top of the road. They would run past the parked bus en masse, in an attempt to make the train. Being private school boys, they were held in contempt by the public schools, purely on the basis of ignorance. And so, on one day, my friend dared me to spit out the window onto a boy as they went past. Being 12 or thereabouts and always up for a dare, I of course agreed. My first critical error.

And so I picked my target, a blonde haired young man who was probably about 3-4 years older than I and a good deal bigger, which, with the benefit of hindsight, was a further mistake (mind you, hindsight would have had me not doing this in the first place). He had slowed due to the press of people ahead and I tool my chance. I spat as nonchalantly as a ‘non spitter’ could do out of the window, and proceeded to make yet another error. Rather than nonchalantly closing the window, I slid it way too quickly, thus adding to my guilt. By now the boy, sensing something wrong, had stopped, put his hand up to his hair and brought it down before his eyes. His focus went from his hand, up to my window where I sat framed, and back to his hand again.

There had been the usual after school chatter on the bus at the time, but this immediately ceased as the boy, bringing his hand into a fist slammed it into the side of the bus. This was followed with his bellowing, “You are FORTUNATELY dead! Get off that FORTUNATE bus now!!”

By now I was doing my best impression of a Warner Bros cartoon, one of those ones who gets the fright of one’s life and melts down the steps. I was already making incomprehensible sounds and trying my best to slide, like water, onto the floor. Hands damp, saliva thin, heart ka-chumping away…

“You are soooo FORTUNATELY dead! I’m going to FORTUNATELY kill you!” Sylvester_scared

And I believed every word he said. I was already half-muttering, half-thinking desperate prayers. Please can the bus go… go now…. please start.

“I’m coming to FORTUNATELY get you!” he said, making his way, with steely purpose and straight resolve, around the back of the bus. My life would be over in about 45 seconds. This is where he made his critical error. In seeking to get to me directly, this shortest possible route saw him barge through large rugby boys from my own school. Or rather, saw him attempt to barge through, to which they took exception.

In those few moments while he was detained, the bus coughed into life and started off, thus sparing me. It was months before I raised the nerve to catch the school special again.

Not one of my finest moments, but one that has worked well in the telling in class.

I’ll let you know how the Storytelling group goes…

Ever Googled yourself? Screen Shot 2013-04-04 at 1.29.42 PM Of course you have… perhaps the question should be more specific: Have you ever Googled yourself and, by using various search tools and terms, discovered more than might pop up on the first screen of 10 items? Recently I had some Year 9 students in my mentor (tutor) group do just this. Their reactions were amusing and revealing; thinking that they knew all this, then discovering how far the rabbit hole went. Rather than coming in on the well-honed negative of “anything bad you do online will be online for life”, I came at it on a different tack. Why not see it in a positive light. Rather than warning about “screwing up on FB”, promote it as a way of setting up your digital identity. On the basis that future employers (and possibly partners?) can and will check you out, why not develop your digital character? Here are three areas and methods to help students see how far their digital footprints go:- –

  • start with the basics: if in a different country to the United States, use the country suffix in the search (e.g. for, if a number of people share your name, use minus (-) to help remove them from the search, particularly if you can identify where they are (such as a State/County/Province or suburb), if it is different from you. Use inverted commas for some or all of the terms.
  • put in past connections: one student discovered that, because he played representative water polo, there were competition results from five years ago that contained his name. He was ten at the time. What hobbies, sporting groups, memberships, clubs and the like do your students have now (or have had in the past)?
  • click on images: there might not be much here worth promoting, as opposed to the likely avalanche of Facebook photos. Maybe look to suggest that developing 2-3 images as profile images (or even fewer) is a good idea. This way the ‘best side’ of you will be the one to come up at the top of the search, because how frequently it has been linked and posted to in the internet.

Then, of course, it becomes a question of setting the students up for the future. In my case, they have between 5-10 years, depending on study choices and opportunities. What this means is that there is time to develop your digital profile. I have students doing community service, volunteering with sporting groups, undertaking their Duke of Edinburgh bronze medallion courses, doing work experience. All of it counts, and, most likely, all of it will be visible for future employers and the like. Encourage the students to find ways of celebrating positive achievements, appropriately and in the right forum, online. Isn’t that a better way of looking at building students’ connections with the internet, rather than trying to fix a problem after the social disaster has occurred?

I thought for a bit about the image that I’ve used here – whether I should avoid using “me” as the example – and realised this is exactly what I’m talking about – if you’d wanted to find this out about me, Google can give you the information is 0.21 seconds. And I’m pretty happy with how my digital self appears…