25 October 2020

Where does it all come from?

Years ago walking through the streets of Sydney in the rain with my brother, I had a very close call on a wet street corner. A car suddenly swerved left into the corner where we were standing waiting to cross the road spraying the water that had collected in the gutter. I had actually put my foot out to jump the puddle and my brother quickly slammed his arm across my body to push me back. We were both a bit shaken but I laughed it off by saying 'Whoops, nearly went for a Burton!'.

And so began a thirty minute discussion on where that phrase had come from. 

We ruminated about the phrase as we wandered along Oxford Street. 'It's something Mum always says,' I remembered. 'It must be English, you know from England.' 'What's a Burton?' my brother wondered. 'It's a silly expression', I said. 'It doesn't mean anything'. But it niggled at me, and for years it niggled at me every time I heard Mum say it.

Then one day I was at a friend's house and they had book on the roots and meanings of words and phrases. And there, under G section was 'Gone for a Burton'.

It seems that in informal British English, something that has gone for a Burton is broken, ruined or destroyed. But the original sense was slang for 'to meet one's death'. It was used in WW2 by the extraordinarily superstitious RAF. As was regarded as bad luck to announce that a man had died or was missing in action, the euphemism 'he'd gone for a Burton' was used.

And a Burton was a brand of beer.

Now, every time I go for a Burton I think of all those lost RAF men and their distraught RAF colleagues thinking fondly of them just drinking a beer.

Discovering the stories behind words and phrases is such an interesting pastime. And these days you can do it in a heartbeat with the Internet. What funny things does your family say?

01 June 2020

Reading is the key to life

I cannot over emphasise the value of parents reading to and with their children every day – no matter what their age. Reading is the key to life. It opens doors in ways we can only imagine. No other learning in any area can be accomplished without the ability to read. It is imperative that every child develops a love of reading and learns to read as voraciously as we can manage.

As educators, we ask you to read daily with your child – if you can only manage 10 minutes, then make it 10 minutes you sit with your child every day and read. (20 minutes is best, though.) If your child is continuing learning sight words, these too need to be visited daily. A child’s reading ability is only as good as the partnership between your child’s teacher and you. It really does take a village to raise a child. Your child’s teacher is teaching reading skills every day – it is the most important learning area there is. But these skills are worthless to your child is they are not reinforced at home with the time taken to sit with your child and read for the love of it.

It is all of our responsibilities to engage in our children’s education and to show them the value that is within. If we encourage daily reading, sight words, spelling, letter and sound recognition, then we will see progress in every child. 

Children are never too big or grown up to be read to. As adults you have access to more advanced concepts and comprehension and ways of reading than any primary aged child could ever achieve. Read aloud to your children every day. Talk through how you have comprehended the text, discuss the tricky vocabulary and grammar and how you figured it out, talk about other texts written by the same author – you will be amazed how fast and how much children learn from this – not just about reading, but about the world and it’s peoples in general.

Just try – commit to reading with/to your child for at least 10 minutes a day for the rest of the term and just watch the progress. Massive hand claps to those of you who already do!

03 March 2020

Latitude -26.5 Longitude 153.07

How lucky we are to live, learn, work and play here.

Latitude -26.5 is just south enough to enjoy a wonderful climate - a little hot maybe at some times of the year and a little humid for a few weeks but for the remainder it's fantastic. Kids can play outside 95% of school days in little more than a t-shirt and shorts. They can soak up all that Vitamin D the sun provides and get plenty of physical exercise. They can ride and walk to school without having to don all manner of wet weather/freezing temperatures gear.

But it's the confluence of our latitude with our longitude of 153.07 that makes this place a standout. We have access to hospitals and fantastic medical care; we are close to a capital city and airports; the beach and other community facilities are on our door steps; our homes are modern light filled and airy; we are surrounded by excellent educational facilities - not least of all being our very own school; our roads are paved and clean; our parks are plentiful and green; our shops are full of fresh food and all of our daily needs, and I'm sure I could find much more to wax lyrical about.

Yet the complaining and whinging on social media, at the checkouts, in our school office, in the car park, in our inboxes is something to behold. And leaves me shaking my head. What does this lack of gratitude teach our children? What are they learning from watching and listening to adults who cannot look around them and see how lucky and fortunate we are at Latitude -26.5 and Longitude 153.07.

What might our children learn from listening to us delight in our environment, being thankful for the services we have access to, talking up our teachers' skills and dedication, expressing a question instead of an instant judgement, suppress our anger and seek more information first, sharing our stories about how the world used to be and how it is now in other places?

Everyday is an opportunity to be grateful we live, learn, work and play at the intersection of -26.5 and 153.07.

01 March 2020

The Principal's Door

This was the door at Coolum State High School through which I met the new staff and families of Peregian Springs State School in 2009. It was usually propped open while I was there and from my desk I could look out over the front of the school, and through my door I watched the high school students passing by.

My 'new' door is at the end of a corridor. I can't see anyone passing but I can usually hear them coming.

My door is always open; well, maybe not 100% always but pretty much always.Through it comes many members of our school community every day - kids, staff, parents, carers, grandparents and other family members; community representatives, local business owners, the school's owners and care takers, the maintenance staff, more kids, staff and parents; journalists, builders, plumbers and electricians, contract staff, ICT techs, safety inspectors, teachers and Principals from other schools (from all over the world), our Japanese Sister school staff, wistful teachers looking for work, high school students, new enrolments; regional and central office staff (and once, the Director-General); and you guessed, more kids, staff and parents.

The common entree as the heads appear around the frame is 'Gwen, have you got a minute?' It's never a minute - but I don't mind. Through my door comes happiness, hopes and wishes; excitement, smiles and laughs; success, good ideas, and achievement; dreams and stories, pride and satisfaction. And sometimes frustration, disappointment, anger and tears. The carpet is wearing thin near the door but still they all come in.

The Principal's door is always open.

03 November 2019

10 Years...

Year 4 had some questions about our 10 years at Peregian Springs State School:
1. What have you enjoyed the most about being at our school for 10 years?
2. What have you found challenging?
3. If you could change anything what would you change?
4. What is different from when we first opened to now?
5. What skills do you think that you have bought to make this school the way it is now?

And they made a fantastic video which was too large to upload here, unfortunately. I enjoyed the kids coming to interview me. It enabled some reflection on the last 10 years at Peregian Springs.

The things I've enjoyed the most is the children - they are all different little personalities with something to say. I love they feel comfortable enough to always come and say hello and tell me a story. The other thing I've enjoyed is working closely with the best teachers I've ever seen!

The growth of the school has been challenging - I've had to continually lobby for buildings and resources as the state planning could not keep up with our enrolments.

What would I change? I can't think of anything. I walk around the school and feel so happy with everyone's effort, our buildings and classrooms. Maybe I would have liked some of the big trees left in the playground so kids could climb them.

So many things are different - the size, the numbers, the buildings, our curriculum, our strengths and talents, the make up of our community. Nothing ever stays the same.

My skills? Hmmmm - well, I'm very organised and future focussed. That really helps us be prepared. I know the curriculum really well and I have a clear vision of what helps children and their teachers learn best. I get on with everyone - I never hold a grudge; just deal with the problem and move on. And I can see things from a kid's perspective - this is so important in a school because all kids need a champion, and that's me!