Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Skip Manhattan just give me that Countryside

My misspent youth involved a number of unhealthy pursuits. As a matter of fact I sit here tonight in a anti inflammatory haze brought on by a lifetime of too many sports played with too little finesses...but I digress. My youth also involved copious amounts of 1970's sitcoms and if you catch me with just the right amount of whiskey in my system it isn't long before I can slip into soliloquies from Barney Miller, Bewitched or Hogan's Heroes.

Many of these shows prepared me for my future career as an educator, as the first item you need to pack ever morning when you head to school is a sense of humour. There isn't too many days that I don't look out at the pageantry that is my school when I can't hear the Skipper in the back of my mind saying...Gilligan!

An "old" friend of mine used to say that the modern school experience could be viewed as the 70's TV show "Green Acres" writ large. The more I see, the more I think my friend was right.

For those who may not be familiar, in Green Acres a Middle Aged man (Eddie Albert) decides to eschew Manhattan and takes his new Bride, some heiress from an Eastern European royal family, to the county to live off the land. When he arrives he soon finds that the entire village is insane and his wife fits in just fine. The town, named Hooterville, was ridiculous and I can't be certain that my memory isn't failing me but I believe that the mayor of the town was a pig. But the genius of Green Acres was that everyone in the town thought that Eddie Albert was crazy as he was the only dissenter, it is true that in a world gone mad only the sane seem crazy.

Right now there is a website in Australia where you can see the test results of 8 year old children. Their marks are graphed and averaged against the rest of the country and of course compared to students of similar socioeconomic indices. Can you imagine? I have seen the tests they are quite ridiculous, students are given an hour to answer about 10 questions; most finish them in 3 minutes and sit around for 57 torturous minutes staring at the ceiling. The questions do not revolve around any particular content nor are they diagnostic to any large degree but if you can distinguish the words bare and bear - hey your on easy street. The seriousness with which there instruments are taken is hilarious. Measured over time the test will reveal almost nothing but minor statistical variations in the data are puzzled over. Only 75% or our students know the answer to 2+2! (um yeah - except only 4 kids took the test and one child spit his gum on the question and couldn't read it)...insightful!

I have sat at one too many meetings where such hot topics are debated and discussed until there is no fun left to be had. Occasionally I make an offhanded, "witty" remark in an attempt to see the humour in this noble pursuit of 8 year old accountability, only when I look up all I see are the characters from Green Acres looking at me as if I am mad. Their looks are generally followed by long sighs and a quick glance over to the "hog" in charge to be given direction. Yikes.

But it all goes in cycles, especially in education. Tomorrows leaders having grown up with this nonsense will surely do away with it and inevitable bring back some other antiquated educational philosophy, if for no other reason than something must be tried.

Alas back at it tomorrow.

Friday, July 16, 2010


In my last post I was threatening to go to Noosa for a well deserved 4 night holiday with the family. I am proud to say that we indeed did make the trip. It was not without drama as a police officer in Sydney was not impressed that my car registration was 7 days overdue, however we made it to our destination (and back). Of course all you get for 4 nights in Noosa is the realization that 4 months would be much better. Noosa is a coastal town (like almost all in Australia, Canberra excepted) and a tourist haven. The beaches are spectacular, the shopping is dangerous, the golf is overpriced and the natural wonders in the National Parks are astounding. As with everything in Australia, its not close, about 2 hours North of Brisbane and far enough off the beaten path but certainly well worth the trip.

Brisbane and everything North along the coast belongs to the province of Queensland. Having finally reached out beyond the Australian Capital Territory and the area know as New South Wales I finally felt that I had started to see Australia. I was interested in what people in Queensland were like. It seems that every second person you meet in Sydney or Canberra is from somewhere else but Queenslanders are well...they're...different. How so you ask, its hard to say...just...different. They seem to use grunts for conversation or at least that's about all that I can make out. It's a bit like Newfoundlanders in Canada. Everything is a masked riddle and they never say 3 words if one would do. It's like the waiter we had at Jack's steakhouse. A great guy, who seated us, took our orders, attended to our tables, pointed out the toilets (rest rooms for those not as bold as Australian's) and he did it all by only using one unintelligible word. I think it was "shwaggah" - not quite sure. Then there was the cruise boat driver that took the microphone and began a personal conversation with every other boat captain sailing on the harbour. There was a lot of "Ah, a rower, that's the way to save fuel, good on ya mate", I think he understood that no one outside of the confines of our little vessel could hear a word he was saying. I guess if you spend a lifetime sailing the exact same route you have to be able to entertain yourself. Perhaps the people could be summed up best by the shuttle driver on the way back to the area that decided since we were his only customers that he would personally give us a tour of the Coast. The 20 minute ride back to the Maroochydore airport became a 45 minute journey through the heart of the sunshine coast with scenic vistas and places of interest for the next time we return. His pride was evident. I have to tell you it won't be long before we are back.

School starts up Monday, and I am looking forward to my third term in office. I feel that our school resolved a number of issues in Term 2 and we have a good plan moving forward. By the end of Third term we will have left Winter (such as it is) and I understand the spring in Canberra is great.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I can't believe it has been a month since my last post. I also can't believe that I survived an entire month without internet access in our new house. The utilities companies in Canberra took our move as a personal insult and refused to move services to our new abode at anything but a glacial pace. But they can't keep the Rice's down and eventually had to relent. I mean I have a blog to write and there must be tens of followers...

Tomorrow it's back to Sydney for a little more training and then a week of school break will be spent at Noosa; which I hear is very nice. It's been a bit chilly in Canberra (no really) so a trip up north of Brisbane into Queensland may be just the ticket.

Followers will be glad to know that not much has changed around here, Malcolm is knee deep in baseball and tennis and Mackenzie continues to dominate the golf circuit around town. Tied for first a Gunghalin today with an 88!

I will comment on Noosa upon my return.