Category Archives: Education

No Classroom “Rules”…

Here in NZ, our current Curriculum encourages allowing children to find their own way to explore their interest, to allow them the opportunity to use teacher feedback to plan their next goal (in all areas of the curriculum).

We’re encouraging “inquiring minds”, “thinking like a scientist”, “ownership of learning”…

So how great to read this teacher’s post at on
“Why I Don’t Have Classroom Rules”

No Classroom rules
Click th’ Pic for the article


Teaching the 3 states of H2O

via Photo Challenge: H2O

Immediately, a memory of a lesson on the ‘three states of matter’ arose. It was a science topic for the (NZ Intermediate School) Year 7 class. As we’d done, by the end of the school year (approaching Christmas and the eight week summer break), every other topic in science, I had left it to the end-of-year, for no particular reason.

We discussed the solid state, the liquid, and the gaseous. I demonstrated the difference between water as a gas and a vapour, not wanting them to think steam is the gaseous state.

I held the last science lesson over until the afternoon of the very last dismissal, letting them know they had to pass a practical test in that lesson.

At five minutes to three, I sent a runner to the school office for Mrs. X’s science test kit. He returned with a chilly bin (‘Eskie’, in Aussie), in which were thirty-two ice-blocks.

The practical test was to turn them from their frozen state to a liquid as rapidly as they could. They would pass the test and be dismissed for the holidays as soon as they’d completed the test.


Excited cries of delight as they saw the brightly coloured packages of lemonade flavored ice locks, ripping off wrapper, slurping and sucking. They all passed the test and were dismissed one by  one, although one early finisher stayed back until the others had all passed through the door.

He blew me away (and made me laugh uproariously) when he commented…

“I know how we turn that liquid into gas, Miss.”

I waited for the expected punchline…his cheeky grin showed something was coming.

“We’ll fart it out as gas!” he called as he turned and ran from the room.

~ ~ ~

Only in the last moment of the school year could he get away with that…but I would’ve laughed at any stage in the year – in the staffroom!


B is for Book, Bored and Below Compulsory School Age

Wonderful outlook on progress of early reading.


IMG_1859I’m not an early years teaching expert, but I have witnessed firsthand how ingrained a hatred of reading can develop in some children, and was acutely reminded of this when I watched the BBC 4 documentary ‘B is for Book‘.

As a former secondary school teacher who has tutored numerous children in English (boys in particular) for more than 15 years, I could plainly see how easily a love of books can be jeopardised very early on in a child’s life.

Shockingly, the BBC film showed children who were not yet naturally interested in reading and writing independently (much less the daily monotony of phonics and lacklustre books) being deprived of precious playtime as punishment for academic failure at just 4 and 5 years-old.

Why are we doing this to children???” I wanted to know.

View original post 1,065 more words

Calling NZ Primary Teachers

How deep in your memory can you dredge? Back to when you, yourself, were a pupil in a New Zealand classroom?

As far back as your junior years? Your middle school years? Your intermediate years? Your secondary school years?

Great – here’s what that means to me…

  • You are your own expert on your classroom experiences as a pupil/student!
  • You the best person to contribuute a piece of your memory to my nonfiction book in progress.
  • You will be given credit (and shared copyright) for your contribution.

Please write your memory in the first person, preferably in the “voice” of yourself at that age:

  • give me your name, the class you were in (Year 3, e.g.) your age at the time, and the year
  • change your name within the story
  • mention the school’s name, by all means.
  • change classmate’s names to something not recognisable to that person
  • show what happened to you, to the teacher, to the classmate
  • share the interactions between the people in your memory
  • include conversation where possible
  • write between five-hundred and eight-hundred words
  • (optional) write as if at that age–including spelling you know now was wrong, punctuation as you used it at the time

Send me the piece, attached to an email at this address:

  • McAennyl [at] outlook [dot] com
  • Set a Read Receipt so you are notified when I’ve read it; I will respond

In the email, tell me what you want done with your contribution if it is not included in the manuscript:

  • May I post it as a Guest Post on this blog?
  • Would you prefer it returned to you, unpublished?

Think about it…anything you blush now remembering, any ocassion in which you were the bully/perpetrator, any incident in which the class got out of hand (and what part did you take – heheh), the most engaging/exciting/fun lesson you took part in. the one thing you’ve always remembered about the classroom, the teacher, the building/s…whatever.

More than one contribution is welcome, especiallly if each covers a different class level or school.

2015-05-16 10.59.33

(Look at the lass with the class sign. She’s “zero”. Now count to your right 1 – 2 – 3. That’s me, back in the day, at Harley Street School, Masterton, Wairarapa; teacher was Mrs McBean)

Thanks for your interest, colleagues…






Make Mine a Time Machine!

 Oh, yessss…at last, knowing what I do now, I can get back to my   secondary school where two too many of the teaching nuns were — as we would have put it back then — totally bloody useless!
I’d not only take back with me knowledge enough to give the then younger me the confidence to take a complaint to Mother Superior, or to the parish council about the deficiencies of M’r C. and the younger M’r. C., but the basis for the charges — incompetency, memory deficiency, inability to present lessons to any plan, failing to cover the Biology curriculum, and mental instability.
If New Zealand’s Education Review Office would let a school review team travel back with me, they’d be able to find how sub-optimal was that college (Years 6 to 12, known as Secondary level in NZ) and give them one of the proverbial kicks up the back-side!

(You’ll learn more about the disastrous “education” {coughing fit} I experienced when my teaching & education book is released…)

Time And Relative Dimension In Space


 [Apologies–WordPress Post editor misbehaving for me today. Hence pic down here instead of at top of post.]

Response to Daily Prompt: Pick Your Gadget

Your local electronics store has just started selling time machines, anywhere doors, and invisibility helmets. You can only afford one. Which of these do you buy, and why?

5 Parenting Tips for Dummies

– or, How Not to Parent: a complicated subject I know about, and will explain it to a friend who knows nothing about it at all.

Okay, fellow parent-dummy. Here are a few tips… picked up from my own muck-ups, and observations on what Not to do.
Unless you want to be a parent-dummy, of course.

First Tip (i.e. My worst muck-up)

If you’re a teacher and contemplating an impending childbirth – Keep right on Teaching!
I did for my first trimester, then quit. BUT (second child at school, and me teaching as a reliever a class of ages eleven to twelve) I took my third baby to visit my class, all of whom fell over themselves in the rush to see what Mrs S. had produced. And, believe it or not, those rushing most were the boys. They were so sweet with my baby daughter, (and confided so accurately (as I was advised quietly by the Principal, later) the inadequacies of their replacement teacher) I softened up, and baby was in day care full time from three months to when she was of school age. And I kept teaching. For years.

Now we have all joked how the last person to fix a dripping tap at home is the parent who is a plumber. Similarly, if married to an electrician, one does not expect the fuse to be replaced, nor the hair drier to be repaired. The gardener is the last person on whom to call for landscaping his own garden.
Sad to say, a tired teacher at end of day finds it hard to interact as a mother to the children at home.

Second Tip (i.e. A Dummy move some parents do make)
Buy for your crawler rug-rat those books with tags, tabs, flip-ups etc.
Supposed to involve the young ‘un in the story, it doesn’t do it. It teaches them that books are tactile things, not something with a story to which baby listens, until years later s/he reads it on his/her own for pleasure in both the story and the achievement.

The worst of these “action” books I’ve ever seen, after five weeks only, had been chewed on, slobbered on, and ripped, torn, shredded… Nngaargh!

Third Tip (i.e. Another dummy move some make)

Take on all the parenting. After all, your partner has worked so hard all day to earn the family income … you cannot expect him/her to bath children, serve the evening meal, feed the baby, clear the table, do the dishes, fold the nappies (diapers) and other laundry … relaxation is a right, at the end of a working day!

This will result in the child/ren feeling they can totally ignore their working parent in matters of discipline, advice, school support, etc. and may also result in the children feeling Mum’s too tough, doesn’t understand.
Worse, it can lead to the children learning to play one parent off against the other.
If the working partner resents being asked to parent – sorry, you picked a wrong ’un; should have discussed this ‘way back before conceiving.

Fourth Tip (i.e. Another of my muck-ups)
Choose a day-care facility at which the staff greet your child first thing with
“Good morning {name}, don’t you look good today!”

Instead, demand they compliment your child with a remark on how they have managed preparing themselves for the day. For example:
“Good morning, {name}—haven’t you combed your hair well /chosen sensible clothes for the sandpit, today!” (Or similar)
See Fifth Tip for further explanation….

Fifth Tip (i.e. Another of my muck-ups)
Buy your young daughter a Barbie, a Barbie-clone, a Bratz…doll. Continue buying the doll new outfits, accessories, play houses…all the shite the brand can push.

From this she will learn appearance is everything, not accomplishment. She will throw hissy fits in the mornings because she’s already worn that outfit to kindy, and while her histrionics may give a sense of parental pride in her drama abilities, her self esteem will become reliant on other people’s real or imagined opinions.
Girls with low self-esteem are fair game in their teens for all sleaze bags.
Boys with low self-esteem may defy it with bullying, manipulation, or maybe by finding a sympathetic male figure.


I could go on and give more tips for Parenting for Dummies, but this is titled 5 Tips, so that’s it for now.  I Hope you enjoyed this bit of fun, and I didn’t upset or offend you.

Literary Studies … how (not) to …

Starter – a post which started a thread over at Scribophile…

  • D Gestalt   What novels have you studied? What do you mean by studied? How did you study them? Smile.   D

I read the replies, and found one with which I could empathise. The replies and the thread starter got me thinking.

I have actually Never “studied” any novels – at least, not Really studied any. Sure, at secondary school we were assigned novels to read, and sometimes (wow!) permitted to watch a black-n-white movie of a few of the novels. And we would be asked to write a “book report”.

And that was it. The only two novels I remember reading for class are Lord Of the Flies, Christmas Carol and Great Expectations – LOTF I never finished, and I only remember CC and GE from the movies.

No in-class discussion of character, plot, conflict, resolution – neither as generic terms for study nor within the context of a particular novel. We were on our own. And, as either the school never sent reports to parents or my parents never let me see any, i never had a clue whether what I was doing was what was wanted or not. We were left to our own devices.

And as serving behind the counter at the family dairy (corner drug-store to US readers) was much more enticing a way to spend an evening than study, literature study was the minimum – just read it. Or read it until I got bored. Then back to the dairy a.s.a.p.

Then, Teachers’ College, and one major was Victorian Children’s Literature. It was a study more of the physical environment of NZ’s Victorian settlers’ way of life than it was a literature study, but we were expected to read or have read many book s which the convent school had never put in front of us.

I faked it – admirably, in terms of results. Disgracefully in terms of ethics. In the on-campus book store I spotted a large green leather (yes, I said leather) bound and gold lettered tome – A Compendium of English Literature. Within its pages were all the “great” books ever studied in a school or university – complete with overall synopsis, and a chapter-by-chapter synopsis, defining the most significant character flaws or action or relationships, ad a quick summation of its comparison against other books by the same author. Oh yes, and also black ink sketches of the climactic scene.

All that year I never read a single novel for study. I simply read the Compendium brief, and used it for my contributions to in-class discussions.

My reading focus was the theory and how-to’s of Teaching – hell, that was why I was at teachers’ college – not for literature or Art, or Social Sciences at a tertiary level. I was there to learn how to Teach these. But the majors classes did nothing to teach us how to teach pupils (or students for those expecting to work at secondary or tertiary institutions.

I learned how to Teach in one class in my third (final) year. The lecturer pretty much turned the course curriculum over to us student teachers, and we spent whole sessions discussing what we’d seen work well or badly while observing “real” teachers or had experienced while on practice. I also learned something of the most importance – I wanted to teach Children, not only subjects, and I learned that by honing the skill of observing children – at play, in class, interacting with each other or with a teacher; I learned to read body language, expressions, and cultural behaviour in our multi-cultured nation.

Literary study – I learned how by teaching it. Distributing a class set of novels, and reading them aloud in serial to the class, so poor readers never got left behind. Augmenting the novel with background facts from history, or poems or short stories on the same topic or theme, or portions of books by the same writer, and asking them questions they could answer without having to struggle with out-dated Victorian language.

I kept a store of Classic Comics in the classrooms, and would hug myself in delight when a lad who’d just ‘read’ the comic would look for the novel on the school library shelves.

When the NZ curriculum changed for all subjects, I was in a school where I taught Years 7 & 8, so I’d have pupils in Year 8 who I’d taught in Year 7. So every two years we would recycle a particular set of novels to study. One year’s theme was Children in Hardship, and it included (among others) House of Sixty Fathers, The Silver Sword, and a pupil’s own choice from a carton of on-loan hard-times related books from NZ’s national Library School Service

The following year’s theme was based on a curriculum requirement for students (Students? At age eleven to twelve, these are pupils, not students!) to examine how a story can be related via more than one channel of communication. My novel was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I found and bought, at $2-oo each, a book about Oz, the movie and Lyman Frank Baum’s other Oz books. I had a vcr of the 50th Anniversary of the movie Wizard of Oz, with Angela Lansbury as narrator, and I had the School Services of the National Library send me a carton with as many books about LF BAUM or of his Oz world books as they could pull off their shelves. Most times, the carton would be complemented with books about other fantasy worlds, or on other themes but which had also been made as a movie.

I would tease the class with Lansbury’s documentary, then they would have to read the novel (the reading age made reading it to them unnecessary) and discussing chapter by chapter. Then They would be given access to the carton of National Library books (they’d fight for a BAUM book) and the non-fictional $2 books.

Only when we had looked at every source would I reward them with the movie – which would be stop-started every time a pupil spotted a difference between the movie and the book, Questions would fly – Why aren’t her shoes diamond? Why isn’t Munchkin land blue? And the answers would always come from another pupils who’d read and studied that very matter.

My favourite point of discussion would be the Wicked Witch of the West, as played by Margaret Hamilton vs the original actress choice. It was a good teaching moment to point out how important it is, when writing a story, to make sure you create a “really good baddie” – one who makes you dive under the couch to hide.

I am smug in saying , as this class was the Junior department of a full secondary school, English teachers of the upper classes would always be able to tell me how well my pupils were at literary studies.

And so, by teaching literary study, I learned how to study literature. But it still hasn’t changed my taste in reading material. Victorian literature is still a “walk past quick” section of the library or book store.