November 8 2007

We’re so busy that the days are just going by in a blur. It’s a good way to be though. You know how it is – when things are quiet you wish they were busy and when they’re busy you wish they were quiet. At the moment the Grade 2/3 kids are away on a seaside camp at Rye, staying in a nice big house there. The Year 7/8’s are going on a 3 day hike in the Cathedral ranges, on the other side of Melbourne next week, so yesterday they did a practise hike through part of the property here, as part of their preparation.

They carried packs, with tents and water bottles and so on, and they handled it well . But we were disappointed at their organisation beforehand. Five of them didn’t bring backpacks to school and a couple of them didn’t have boots or shoes that were anywhere near appropriate.

I keep running into people who try to idealise this school, to sentimentalise it even, which is worse. I want you to know that every day we deal with issues that don’t have any kind of golden glow to them! Mundane, boring, irritating issues, like people not doing their clean-up job properly – yesterday for example I had to go and find Alex, who was in charge of the Outdoor clean-up group, because they’d left quite a lot of plates and food scraps in one area. Play rehearsal was a bit of a crock because Luke didn’t know his lines – in fact it seemed like he’d never even heard of some of his lines before. Talking to the Year 7’s briefly I got the impression that two of them had barely started their homework for one teacher, even though they’d had two weeks to do it.

On the other hand I gotta admit I taught a Maths lesson that was really lame. I was trying to get the class to the point where they could figure out that if a number has factors a, a and b, it will have 6 factors, and if it has factors a, a, b, b, it will have 9 factors. I’m embarrassed at how long it took us to get to that! I’d thought I was properly prepared for the lesson but turned out I wasn’t.

Still, it would be fair to say that by and large our school runs well, and the vibe is overwhelmingly positive. Last week we had a Week of Writing. All classes were suspended and the five days were turned over to writing. Each morning we all gathered in one big room and everyone worked together on a writing activity. For instance, Basil ran a workshop where each student and teacher got a book of poetry, went through it looking for interesting words, then wrote their own poems using some of the words. The results were wonderful, but what I found even more wonderful was the sight of eighty people, most of them young, all engaged in a common task, working with care and commitment and enthusiasm.

After the first session each day we split into groups – students were offered a choice from a list of eight or nine that changed every hour. One of them was writing picture books inspired by The Hungry Caterpillar. Another was designing your own island, then writing fantasy stories that were set there. Song-writing with Taryn, Recipe writing with Kathryn, Writing poetry outdoors with me, Choose-Your-Own-Adventures with Clare-Elise… there were a lot of mouth-watering workshops.

Yesterday, when we resumed school after the Melbourne Cup, one of the Prep kids, Edgar, said `My head was really surprised today when we weren’t doing the Writing Week… I wish we were still doing the Writing Week… my head thought we would still be doing it… it was good…’

So, that’s a snapshot of a few days at Candlebark. But it’s only the corner of a snapshot. We’re a small school but so much happens that it would take a very large photo album to capture even one day. But thanks for taking the trouble to read about us.

John Marsden