Friday, 23 December 2016

Even more excitement this week!

Hi again!

I might be on holidays, but I haven't quite been on holidays this week, if you know what I mean.

My first super exciting news to share is that I was a guest blogger this week for Susan over at The ESL Connection. You can check out my post on education in Australia here! I am so very super excited because this was my first ever guest blog post!

It was also really cool because I learnt heaps while revising the post. There were heaps of times I looked at something Susan had asked and I was like, oh really? Other places don't know what that is or do that? It just goes to show how different our collective worlds can really be, even when we all have the same goal!

I have also just updated my Teacher Control Organisers for the 2017-2018 year!

   Take Control Teacher Organiser Bold Bubbles                                  

I must be really inefficient at this stuff, because it took me all day to update 6 calendars?  Anyhow, I am really happy with how they look, and I have about 10 more background designs that I just didn't get around to making last year that I'm thinking about working on after Christmas. Maybe.  

The boys have been mountain bike crazy the past few weeks, and go with their Dad nearly every day. We have the World Cup Trail just down the road from our house, so they disappear up there an awful lot. In this hideous weather. You know it's humid when even your earlobes get sweaty. Not mine. My sons. I have never seen anyone with sweaty earlobes before, but there is a first time for every thing.

I kinda get stuck between really wanting to do stuff with my kids, getting school stuff done, and playing with all the genius ideas I get that never seem to really work out, and Disney research at the moment. 366 days and the kids are counting. Alright, I might have a Disney countdown app on my phone that enables them. I AM excited. It's not every day you get to go to Disney World!

Well I guess it is if you work there. But for us, it's a once in a lifetime, not likely to ever be possible again, family holiday with an 18 month run up momentum. This week I've been researching tipping culture in the US. I have come up with this much:

  • It is extremely complex. The socially excepted rules are pretty simple when it comes to the amount. It's all the what ifs that make it tricky
  • It's in unexpected places. Like public bathrooms!?
  • Australian's are notoriously awful at it.

Silver and Gold Coins

Well, I don't want to live up to THAT expectation! I would like to do this well, hence the research. I may be a bit defensive,  but please understand, we just don't DO it here, and I have yet to find someone who can coherently explain it! Not anywhere! 

In a lot of jobs here you are actually not allowed to accept tips. In one job I had, if someone insisted on leaving one, it just went into the till. On a separate but slightly related note, I read a story this week that a local council in another state in Australia had BANNED kids and parents from giving teachers 'substantial' gifts such as wine and gift cards. 'Token' gestures such as a box of chocolates were acceptable. This is supposed to ensure anti-corruption laws are followed!?  You see?  We have no chance of really understanding this tipping culture properly when we live in an environment such as this.

I have read some people saying that the Japanese tourists often don't tip, and it's not so much okay but it's accepted, only because it's a cultural thing as they don't do it there. We don't do it here either... why is it less okay for us to mess it up? I don't really follow that logic, but it seems a pretty prevalent line of thought out there in google world. 

So,...... I'm going to lay out my understanding and really, really hope that someone will correct anything wrong! I'm sure there's stuff I have completely muddled up. I'm a bit terrified concerned about accidentally ripping someone off.
Like I said, I want to do this well.  

Anything less than a 15% tip is rude or for extremely bad service. 
I might feel guilty leaving less than 15% even if the service was really bad. Is it counterproductive to tip well even when the service was appalling?
But then you pay tax on your meal? So are you expected to tip based on the total of the bill or the before-tax amount? Does it matter?

I tip cab drivers but not the starbucks staff?

You pay tax on stuff you buy anywhere, but it's not listed on the price tag? And depending on what it is, there are different tax percentages? Is it written down anywhere so you know how much your actually paying for stuff? Do you then tip the sales staff? Again, is it before or after the taxes?

Apparently, you don't tip for tickets? So what if I buy a dinner that comes with a ticket for something? Do I just tip on the food part or the total? 

What about buffets? 

What if I run out of small change and only have high denominations left? 

I kinda feel like I'm going to end up standing on a corner handing out money to whoever walks past because I can't figure out who I should tip and who I shouldn't. After all, these are all people who are doing their jobs. Should I ask them? Seems rude. 

I guess that's why we are thought to be bad at this. It's hard to understand. I can completely understand people panicking and just bolting for the door. 

Yes, I know that these people get paid a ridiculous $2 an hour or something like that. I get that they NEED it. I have no idea how to identify who these people are. I also get that people from outside the culture could be baffled by paying someone to do their job. After all, that's what their boss is supposed to do.

My big question is this: 
Why DON'T their bosses pay them a proper income? Surely a small price increase on products and services to meet the cost wouldn't put people off buying from them if it meant that the staff were paid and the need to tip disappeared?  This is what I really don't get. 

I really want to though. As I said. I want to do it well. 
I don't want to add to the idea that Aussie's are rude, arrogant and culturally insensitive. I'm not trying to be difficult and I hope no one is offended by anything I've said. Like I said before, I'm making a huge effort to understand what is not only expected, but why and how it all works.

Well that turned into a bit of a desperate rant/plea for help. 

3 more days til Christmas! I am so very excited. My little niece is 3 weeks old. I love having hugs with her. Even though she immediately sleeps every time I touch her. She's precious. We will have the entire family together for her first Christmas, with my boys and my other niece. Such a special time.

I hope everyone has a safe Christmas and a blessed New Year. May we always remember that Jesus is the reason, but without the promise of redemption brought through Easter, it would be just another birthday celebration. Christmas is a gift of hope for the future.

And please help solve my tipping dilemmas! I have NO idea what I'm doing!

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Another farewell

So it's all over. Finished once again.
My kids have grown up, no longer need me and have decided to leave me.
After 6 years, it hasn't gotten any easier.

I am, of course, talking about other people's kids, not my own. I should probably ask permission from their parents before I start referring to them as mine... or at least give a blanket disclaimer at our parent night at the start of the year.
 "I know they're yours, but for the next 10 months they're mine too.
 I hope you're a good sharer!"

That would be kinda funny actually.

But..... my class. They were so wonderful. They still are. They just aren't mine anymore.

I tried to talk them into staying with me for another year, but they wouldn't have it for a moment. Except that one sweet boy. Who has actually finished his second year with me and was angling for a third. Bless that kid! The thing is, they are sooo ready for next year. And I am so very, very proud of them.

We (myself and my other grade level teacher) undertook a really cool action research project with one of our universities. The people running the project report to the government, so the information we were providing is really important for the future of the early years in our country. It was all about putting balance back into the classroom, letting teachers teach in the way they think best, and letting the kids move and play and talk to learn. Not just that awful 'I know everything, you sit and listen, then we'll go to our allocated desks and you can do a worksheet to show me how well you listened.'  Unfortunately, that has been happening a bit in some schools, and the teachers HATE it!

It was about following their lead (our job was to make sure we covered curriculum while doing that), and letting them have some freedom to make choices about what and how they learnt the content. Not free-range kids, but they did get to make some decisions about the direction their learning took. They loved it. They OWNED it. And they ACHIEVED in our focus area (writing). Not that they achieved higher than normal by the end of the year... it was that MOST of them hit the higher level! It wasn't just that one group of high achievers.... most of them became high achievers! Even the tricky lower group I had with ESL and special needs kiddos hit the benchmark. And because they got to have input and were in control of their own learning, virtually EVERY kid was engaged for EVERY lesson. Even though we focused on writing, it spilled over into everything else. You can't really ask for more than that!

But I got more than that! I actually had to ditch my behaviour management/reward system half way through because it became useless. The kids didn't care about the rewards, and I wasn't managing any behaviour. It evaporated. By the end, all they cared about was showing off what they had done, some hugs, and encouraging each other to be excellent! They made goals and analysed their own and each other's work to identify things to improve- part of being excellent is always improving!

One of the focuses we had was growth mindset. We had some Nervous Nelly's in our classes, some who were too scared to pick up a pencil and try to write because they might make a mistake.
The change in their thinking, largely, is so much better. It's hard to imagine some of these kids have grown so much in six months! One of the best resources we had was Class Dojo's Big Ideas videos. They not only have the cutest videos but each one comes with notes and questions to discuss after.

We used the content from these videos to unpack stories we read in class from different perspectives. It was amazing to see them pulling apart the characters in popular stories- people we normally remember as the good guys- and identifying their thinking and what they could have done differently. It was certainly educational for me!  Eventually, we worked up to re-enacting situations that happened on the playground and analysing those. It was pretty amazing.

One girl, such a beautiful young lady, had difficulty with the monkey bars. She just couldn't get across. She comes from a background typically known for their bulky build, and she was already very tall compared to the other kids. She didn't have the upper body strength to haul herself across, often only making it half way. After we started looking at growth mindsets, I noticed that many of the kids would encourage her to keep trying and not give up when she fell down. She practiced every day. Then one day, it happened. She finally made it. The most amazing thing happened afterwards.

The other kids stopped what they were doing.

They clapped and cheered for her!
It was incredible to see.

One of my class parents (who also works at school) popped in on Thursday (we ninja our calendar so that the kids finish on Wednesday, and then we have Thursday to clean. Friday we have breakfast together as a staff breakup). She took some pictures of my room to show her daughter how different it looks. One of those pictures appeared on the front of my Christmas card she gave me the next day. She reminded me that my classroom is in fact, an empty room. It's the sacrifice, the people, love and life brought into the empty room that creates the environment we cherish as a place of learning, love and laughter throughout the year.

Picture is blurry, sorry. It's a photo of a photo. And lets be honest, I'm not much of a photographer... yet! And yes.. that's me in the corner.
 Now we are here in our ridiculously hot and humid summer, Christmas around the corner and then a whole new group of little munchkins to fall in love with all over again. After meeting these guys at our transition morning, I can honestly say we are going to be having class outside as much as possible (meaning when it isn't a million degrees outside). Those guys are ACTIVE!!

Which is great! It means I not only get to start using some of the stuff we worked on during the project right from day 1, it also means that I have to get out of my box and try something a little bit more challenging! I'm so looking forward to next year!

Speaking of next year... I've been hiding some pretty BIG news for awhile.
Because if I mentioned it back in June when we made the decision we would have sounded crazy about planning something so far in advance!

We are going to Disneyworld for Christmas 2017! Sult
It may seem like not much to you guys from the US, but to take my family from Australia to Orlando for two weeks over Christmas/New Years is costing about as much as a house deposit... the airfares alone are around $10K, and the amount of planning and research I'm having to do is incredible!  But so worth it for a once in a lifetime trip.

I have to plan where I want to eat dinner more than 6 months in advance so I can make reservations!? There is so much to a Disney holiday, especially when you consider we don't have anything Disney anywhere near here and don't know the rides, the events.. nothing! I didn't even realise there were so many theme parks in the one spot. And then I have to make reservations for the rides we want to do 2 months before we go?

There are also a LOT of people who go way overboard about the mouse stuff (a lot of kids here don't even know who that is, so it seems very weird!) and have full on planning binders!
I can kinda understand why you would want a binder to keep all the info together though- there's so much involved! Surely it must get easier once you've been once or twice though?

So.. what would your Disney bucket list be for first timers likely to never return?
What's with the obsession with character meetings? Is there something I'm missing?
What are your favourite events? We're looking forward to the Candlelight Processional.
And most valuably, any tips for surviving the (in)famous Christmas crowds?
I would LOVE to hear your expert thoughts!
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