Category Archives: teaching

Thoughts of a Zombie Sympathiser

2012-06-21 14.17.57

 

Last year I was working in a high school, as an English and Media Studies ‘learning advisor’. It’s the best job I’ve ever had, and like many writers – I’ve had a lot of jobs. This one was different every single day, and I got to work with some incredibly amazing students and other learning advisors.

I taught a media studies senior paper on zombies. In the first five weeks, we learned all about George A Romero‘s films, how he used film techniques, for what purpose he used them and how they suited the subgenre of horror – the zombie film.

In the second part of the course, we looked into making our own short zombie films and movie trailers. I have never had so much fun in my life. The course was such a success and the students really got involved! It was so exciting for me to see people truly engage with my class. We had make up artists who weren’t class members come in on their free time to help us with make up. The above photo is credit to some amazing young people whose talents in make up and stage effects just blew me away.

I don’t believe in teaching and not taking part. Besides, who hasn’t wanted to be a zombie? You have to lead by example, and this was perhaps the most fun day I had at work, ever. Of course, I forgot to take anything to remove my make-up with, and it just so happened that that particular day was also a staff meeting day. Good times.

A lot of people don’t understand why I have such an attraction to zombies. I’ve been thinking about it ever since I did a course on Supernatural literature and film last year. Fantastic subject to study by the way!

A good ten odd years ago, Ollie introduced me to the zombie film by way of 28 Days Later. I’ve talked about this quite a bit in the past. I didn’t want to watch it, because zombies seemed like a stupid monster to me. But I got hooked. They’ve become increasingly popular over the past few years – and especially moreso with the introduction of The Walking Dead, adapted from the comic book series by Robert Kirkman.

So what is it, I like about zombies so much?

I think it’s that the zombie is still fully human. They don’t transform into anything like werewolves and vampires do. They remain essentially human. Just dead. Unlike a lot of people, I’m not into zombie films and books for the killing or the violence. I know that sounds pretty contradictory, since the entire essence of a zombie comes about through death. But it’s more than that. If you’ve seen George A Romero’s films, you’ll know that the zombies portrayed in his film take on a personality of their own. They become the symbol of the masses. Confused, dumbed down crowds of humans intent on one thing, consumption.

By the end of his storyline, you feel sorry for the zombie. You’re forced to see the living as the real monsters. I guess you could say, I’m a zombie sympathiser. I like the zombie – much like I like all other monsters of myth and fairytale. The creatures who are misunderstood and hunted for being different. But in zombie films, you also have a small group of survivors. A group of people who fight for their lives and their choices and the right to be different from the rest of the population. The people who don’t want to end up mindless eating machines. The people who can still think, feel and act for themselves. The people who are not just fighting to stay human, but who also end up having to fight other humans in order to keep their humanity. Something you see them struggle with internally as different groups each try to form their own new civilisations – governments who end up warring against one another until only the strongest and ‘best’ survive.

Nothing symbolises the decline of human nature and the base destruction of resources better than the zombie apocalypse. Nothing shows humanity in quite the same way as a human being stripped of both consciousness and life itself, only to be brought back as a cannibalistic, disease spreading eating machine.  The great thing about zombies is that they are a relatively new monster.  There isn’t a folkloric history outside of the Voudon practice. Unlike other monster mythology which traversed cultures, the zombie came straight from Africa to the Americas and has been shaped into the symbol of the human fall from grace. Our not so distant dystopian future if we continue to be mindless about how we treat each other, and the world around us.

It’s not the carnage and killing that appeals to me. It’s the fact that the zombie represents that human in all of us. The consumeristic, world defiling, destroyer of life. I have empathy towards the zombie because in them, I see all of us, and I’m very interested in the reactions that people have towards the genre itself. The violence they think up, the way that they simply choose to ignore the fact that it all comes down to a brutal, mindless violence. That they don’t see past the zombie make-up and pick up the underlying messages.

Teaching that course gave me a huge insight into the workings of young people’s minds. Some of them truly got it, they understood what it meant, and loved the films for both the shock factor, the horror and the uncanniness. The ‘what if’ factor. “What if this happened?” “What’s your zombie apocalypse plan?” “What would you do?”  “Would YOU survive?” Their ability to creatively think and rationalise their own humanity and how to live in a world like that was pretty fascinating. I learned as much from them, as they learned from me.

What is survival anyway? And who are the real survivors?

WOO!

I think, maybe I’ve had a red wine too many.

But those are the best sort of days, right? We just watched Twilight – yes, again! Shut up. I think my children are equally as enamoured as I am. Which is good.  Except, I keep feeling the urge to tell them, at random moments, that boys are really not like that.  “NO!” I say.  “They’re not like that.  Not at all. Okay?”  And they sort of groan and go “we have the picture mum.”  To which I reply “Do you see Charlie with his gun? Ya…that’s your dad.  WITH KARATE!  He doesn’t need a gun. Mkay?” And they go…”okay mum.”  And I feel tragic, and old, because did you know, Siobhan is going to college next year?

Calm down, Americans.  That’s high school for you. Although, I’m pretty sure they’re both smart enough for University already.  They should go.  I could go with them, it would be just like old times.  I never mentioned that before, did I?  That, during school holidays, I used to take my kids?  They’d take their own bags, filled with lunchie snack things and coloured pencils, and they would draw all through the classes, while we sat up the back, and I would raise my hand, tentatively…in the classes that were taught, by hot lecturers, and answer questions which made him smile, and in turn, made me smile…because you know, no one answers questions, right? And they stand there, panicking, waiting and waiting while no one dares to raise their hand.  I raised mine.  Just to see him smile.  I’d tell you his name, but I can’t.

Anyway! The point of that story was to tell you that, when we got home, the girls would be wonderfully inspired.  Even at the tender ages of things like, 4, 5, 6, 7 and possibly 8, younger than that Siobhan was a baby when I first had to take her, and they were older too because, yes, they came to one teachers college class. Only one. I never did that again. God, what an awful experience that was.  But University?  They’d come home with their pictures and they’d look up at me and they’d say, “When I grow up mummy? I want to go to University like you.”  And I felt extremely proud, and extremely grateful, for my life.  I have, one of the best lives imaginable.  Did you know that?  I really do. Sometimes I think I complain, because everyone complains don’t they? They think to themselves…”If only…” And I do that too. But the truth is, internet….I am blessed.

I have a husband who indulges my eccentricities.  Who allows me to be who and what I am, and never -really- judges me.  We have our moments, just like the rest of the world, of course, but I am currently 32 years old. I have two tweenie aged children – which really, no one of my age should have…and I have children, who constantly amaze me. Whose idea of fun, is to begin a story and then give it to me, so that I can write the next few lines, until the story is finished and we all sit around squeaking and laughing at how ridiculous we are.  Who have a white board, on the fridge, that is constantly used for “write the next word” stories.  And which, each member of my family diligently writes the next word, and continues the story.  I have children, who beg to bake, who offer to make desserts, who take out the rubbish, who love music, who sing and dance and enjoy theatre, and ballet, and Opera.

I am, internet, extremely blessed. I have the most beautiful family in the world.  And every single day, they make me proud.  Every single day, I look at them and I am amazed, and floored by the fact that, I helped create this.  That I am part of something wonderful and inspiring.  I can’t wait for them to go to college.  For them to become adults.  For this to be the house that they bring their friends back to. I can’t wait to watch them shut me out while I sit here, and be who I am, and they convene in our lounge, being who they are…talking about boys and movies, and music and just growing up.

There was a time, when I was totally afraid of this. When 9/11 happened on Siobhan’s birthday, I threw a party and it was wonderful…but the night before, or several nights…I forget now, we were riveted to the tv.  We were shocked and stunned and totally horrified by what was happening in the world.  I sat there and remembered when we went up those towers. I was 12 years old.  And now they’re not there.  And I worried, so desperately, about bringing my children into a world that so very possibly could be facing, another world war.  I was devastated. Horrified, totally and utterly terrified.  But we lived, and we grew and next year…my oldest daughter will be entering high school. I’m terrified, and totally ready for her to do it.  I’m so excited, and so horribly afraid…and do you know what?  She’s ready.  She knows, she may not get into the school she wants to go to.  Although I have done my fucking damnedest – besides forcing them into Christianity – to get her in.  I have letters from the Priest AND the Principal supporting her.

Anyway…I’ve had a wine too many, Ollie is out on conference, and has been since yesterday, and I’m thoughtful. I’m pleased. I’m grateful.  I’m happy.  I’m really content with where I am right now.  I wish I was earning money, and helping to financially support this growing family of mine.  But when it really comes down to it?  I’m happy.  And they’re happy.  And we may not be the best, or the richest, or the most fantastic family in the world, but we are fucking close to it.  I have my parents and Ollie’s parents to thank, for making us the people we are.  For being there when we needed them.  For everything.  Because, truly, without the trials, the successes and the sacrifices we have come through, we’d have never been the people we are.  I’m proud of us.

Thanks…to all of you who still read me.  Who are there for me, day after day, while I struggle to become the writer I know I am.  Each of you help to shape the person I’ve become.  Each of you make a difference in my life.  I appreciate you all, for everything you are, and everything you’re willing to share.

love
Kelly xxx

uugghhh!

Isn’t it the weekend yet?

What?  It’s only MONDAY?!!

Kill.Me.Now.

In less than an hour and a half, I must have dinner over and done with, I must go to parent teacher interviews between 6.15 and 6.45pm, and then I must teach Mr 14 at 7pm..do you think I have a lesson organised?  No. I don’t.  I got home from work at 4.20pm..let’s not even talk about how my day went there today…I am over it today. OVER IT!  And I won’t be finished until 8pm tonight.  Brilliant.

Eleven? Srsly?

So I have another tutee. Yes yes, but I’m fond of making up my own words all right? I also quite like to write alright. Although, apparently, alright is not a compound word. Did you know that? **okay I must edit because the internet is all powerful. So, alright is an acceptable word after all! I don’t know why everything underlines it in red because apparently:

“The form alright as a one-word spelling of the phrase all right in all of its senses probably arose by analogy with such words as already and altogether. Although alright is a common spelling in written dialogue and in other types of informal writing, all right is used in more formal, edited writing.”

Dictionary.com is my favourite site ever. Truly, I am sad. Wiki – which is equally as cool don’t you think? Says that alright has been used since the early 19th century. I shall continue to use it then! Because it has one less letter and no space which means less typing. hehe

Anyway, my new tutee is eleven years old. I start when him next Tuesday, he is worth $5 more to me than Mr 14 – I’m not sure why, I think it’s because he lives a little further away. Anyway, I took it and I have NO idea what I’m going to do with him. Eleven? I haven’t been taught the teaching skills of eleven year old boys at all. I don’t know what they learn in school, or how much they know English wise. Oh sure, I HAVE an eleven year old, and you would not believe how excited she is to be helpful to me with this. But the thing is, she has the reading age of a 15 year old, and a spelling age of a 13 year old. Now, my 9 year old is reading and spelling at the age of 14 year olds, so..they are no help to me, because I produced advanced and brilliant children who do not need tutoring.

Yesterday she bought home her spelling work book so that I could look through it and find helpful tips for Mr 14, whose spelling age is 11 you see. She I think, will be my guiding light with this. Ollie says “What’s her cut?” I think, being clothed, fed, given a room to live in and free power is enough, don’t you?

Oh You Know…Just Stuff.

It’s time for a decent update isn’t it? Yes, I suppose so. I’ve been so emo lately you must all think I’m on the bandwagon for “Emo’s Unite!” I would be actually. I have a definite soft spot for emo’s. Anyway, here’s your update.

Siobhan has turned into a lady. She’s not entirely sure what this means however, aside from the fact she has dutifully joined the ranks of those who experience ‘that time of the month’. Oh god, I promised myself I’d never be one of those mothers who talked about their daughters monthlies and here I am doing it. Suffice to say I was progressively tearful and joyous all at once. I just couldn’t decide what to feel. She didn’t tell me, and then she blamed me because I never told her it would be like “that!” I spent the day getting my hair done and telling my hairdresser, Oliver and Louanna all about it. I mean, I’m 31 years old, and my oldest child has just reached..well…maturity. It’s a frightening thought! I cannot believe she will be 12 years old in 4 months time. Where has the time gone? I wanted to cry and be happy, but mostly, if I’m really honest with myself, I wanted to cry. I’m suffering pms too you see. I’ve promised to take her out for dessert next weekend, because as I am told, one must celebrate this revolting thing, in order to make it seem like a lifetime of misery and emotional outbursts is actually a good thing. Aleeya is most put out. I told her when she has a period we’ll have dessert together then. She tried to conspiratorially wrangle her father into doing something equally as exciting with her. She cannot be left out of the dessert having you know. We went out for chinese on mother’s day and Siobhan ate more than Ollie I’m sure, and sat there licking her fingers in a most unladylike manner and being very delighted every time I told her she was supposed to be a lady, and wasn’t acting like one at all. Apparently this makes her pleased. I wish I could find the Little Britain tea with ladies clip. Anyway..she’s not very ladylike and I am proud of her for it.

I plan on having my story finished very soon. It’s one I started awhile ago, and I should have had it finished awhile ago too, but you know..didn’t. It’s coming around though, I need to finish it, and then flesh it out some. I will do this soon. It’s not a bad story I think. But yes, the writing is coming along I promise. I need a little more discipline..I keep eyeing my little shed out the back and thinking what a perfect studio it would make. Ollie said, once I start selling my work and can pay for it myself, I can do it. I know! Cool right? It could be a sleepout/studio so that when people visit, they can stay there. Yeah right. Like I’m sharing my workspace with people who will fart in bed. A workspace would be good though. Disappear for a few hours every day..yeah, that would be nice.

And I started tutoring today. So I’ve been freaking out about it for ages now..I had moments were I really wished I’d never signed that contract at all, and then today, finally the day rolled around. So, I get together some stuff and I go on out there. I end up in this swanky part of Fendalton in a street which is so flash it shouldn’t be allowed, and rock on up to a house that was so large, and so gorgeous that I felt like a little girl asking for cookies. I felt completely under-dressed and you know…out of place. The lady who answered was a short wee fatty but very well dressed and well spoken. Her son, my tutee – yes I’m aware that isn’t a word, is behind her..I introduce myself, she introduces herself and he steps out and says “Hi..” and introduces himself and shakes my hand. The boy is 14..he is a 6′ tall Adonis! I looked all the way up at him and thought “Good god! What IS she feeding him?!” He was beautiful. He really was. Confident and well spoken, but he has no idea how to write. Which actually will make my job quite easy..basically, all I need to do is teach him how to spell, and how to write neater. He was so adorable, and so full of conversation. I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with him, so I said “Let’s write an essay!” we discussed conventions, and then I set him about doing it, I said “what are you interested in? What sport do you play?” And he said “oh, um…I do rugby – but just socially now, rowing, running, cycling – non professionally…” and I am thinking good god above. He is everyone’s dream son. Who breeds boys like this? I want one. Of course..the expense..can you imagine? I can’t. My kids take music lessons and one winter sport which they HAVE to take for school. They did dance classes, but the money is an issue I tell you. Four sports?? FOUR??

Anyway, it was fun, the hour went super fast, and I have to say, I would definitely like a few more of those if all I really need to do is create spelling tests and force him to write lines so that his writing becomes neater. How fun. Really.

I did it!

I took my CV in and asked if they would keep me in mind as a relief teacher.

I also applied for a job that came up last night.  I’m not sure if it’s right for me to be honest, but if I get to the interview stage, at least it would be practice.  I think it would be incredibly interesting, but because I am a new graduate, they might turn me down.  I would understand this too..the position is as a homeroom teacher in a school which I believe is a prison school here. So, we’re talking about the kids who have been put into detention centres for murder, rape etc.  I think.  And can I teach those kids?  I’m really not sure.  I don’t completely know if it is that school, I couldn’t find any information about it online, although I plan on looking more into it today.  Anyway, the teacher student ratio is 1:5 and the reality of it is, I enjoy difficult kids.  I’m not sure I’d enjoy kids THAT difficult..could I be non-judgemental?  I don’t know…there is a part of me that likes to think I could, but in reality…I’m a mother, and distancing yourself from thinking “what if they’d done that to my child” is harder than you might think.  Anyway, I applied for something, and I’m feeling pretty good about it.  It would be an interesting job, that’s for sure.

Writing.

I write all the time, I write so fast lately that I mix my words up and make errors and it really frustrates me, because I have always tried to be one of those people who does not make errors. Alas, I do. I am only human after all, and my fingers type faster than my brain thinks. Anyway, what’s the reason for telling you all this? I don’t know. I need to write more in here!

There has been a lot of stress and unhappiness in my roleplay room as of late. This has been disturbing for me because I am “co-room leader” and everyone has come to me for help. I finally did something about it, and now apparently, I’m no longer “co-leader” but “room owner”. I really hope this girl will stick around, her characters are important to the storyline,  I adore her. She has kept me writing and expanding my ideas for over a year now. It’s been a wild ride, I’m not sure how comfortable I am with the new title, I know that over half the room needed it to happen, and I’m really touched that I have that affect on them..but I worry about her at the same time.

She has been a strange friend to me for the past year and a bit…in roleplay we click, out of roleplay, we click too. It’s hard though, because..well..it’s just fucking hard really. I know we’ve hurt her feelings, she did come to play yesterday and it was good. Much better than I ever could have done had it been me, those messages were for. But at the same time, I still feel like she might just drift away. I hope not…I really do. I care a lot about her, but hearing your friends be as blunt as we were..well, it would have broken my heart.

In other news, I went for a walk again today, we are doing so well. It’s not nearly as tiring as it was. It’s a beautiful day outside and I should go prune my roses. I also need to fold my washing. I know, it really is all excitement here isn’t it? Tomorrow I am meeting my best friend for coffee, it’s her birthday on Friday. Before I meet her, I plan on going into the school down the road and putting my name down for relief teaching. I’m a little excited to be honest, if I get to do it, it would be wonderful..if I don’t, I tried..and there are other schools too. Elsie suggested I go into the community college in the city, and I might actually. It is very hard to get teaching jobs there, because everyone wants one, but you never know. I have a lot to offer, and I can teach Comparative Religion which I know they teach there..that gives me a slight edge, surely. I would love to teach Comparative Religion. That would be awesome.

Other than that, I am considering sharing some of my tragic emo 14 year old school girl poetry. I saw a friend of mine do this and I thought “omg you brave thing!” and the more I think about it, the more I think I should. So tell me internet, do you want me to show you what was in the mind of that tragic emo 14 year old girl that I was almost 20 years ago? Okay, so it was 17 years ago…holy shit. Saying that outloud is a real heart stopper! I can remember being 14 years old just like it was yesterday. Can you?

Thanks to all of you who completed your memories for me. You’ve made me laugh and cry and completely relate with you all. It has been so wonderful reading about a year in your lives.

Speaking of reading, Rachel has hooked me into Harry Potter fanfiction at PotterWeekly. I admit, fanfiction for me are one page things, and I open some of them and gasp at the 40 pages! But I have to say, what I have read has been awesome. Really clever, insightful and totally HP! I would never know how to completely take someone’s style like that and make it my own, particularly not to novel length. I admire the work and effort these people are putting into their writing, and I may yet find myself never managing to leave my computer seat ever again. If only I was a faster reader!

Much love internet
xx

What happened

to all my amusing posts?

I really don’t know internet. For some reason I’ve lost my amusingness. Maybe it’s because there isn’t a whole lot going on right now that is amusing. We walked again today, another 6km, that’s 12km this week. I know! Pretty impressive right? I’m feeling good about it, it’s much easier to do it when you’re not hungover too. Much easier.

Do you know what I’m going to do next week? I’m going down to the high school to put my name down as a relief teacher. I know! Brave right? It’s about time…my teacher registration thing should be here soon, and there are still no jobs on offer damnit.

On Wednesday we had the girls parent teacher interviews, they’re both doing great, I could totally brag, and I will. Hee! Siobhan’s teacher told me it was almost a waste of time for me to come in, because Siobhan was “the perfect child” and there was nothing bad to say about her at all. She’s in the top groups for everything, including maths and spelling, which she was weaker in last year. I’m very proud of her. I told her teacher that it wasn’t a waste of time because it’s always nice to hear good things about your kids, when you see a completely different side of them at home. Aleeya’s teacher is new this year, she told us that Aleeya’s spelling age was 14 years. She’s 9. Did you know that? Aleeya is doing great too, she’s top of her class as well. How can you be anything but immensely proud when you’re kids are doing that wonderfully?

Sharing..

Reflection from a writing course.
for my Dad – I found it!

When I began this course, it wasn’t because I wanted to do it. I really wanted to do the ESOL paper, and was disappointed when I realised this was no longer on offer. I wasn’t particularly sure what other courses to take, and this paper seemed like my only option. So I came into it, with the same feelings (disappointment and a little resentment) that I had always had from high school; that I was being forced to take a paper that I was not particularly comfortable with, or interested in.

However, my feelings really changed during the course of these two semesters. I realised how important it is to teach our students the skills involved with good writing, and was forced at the same time, to re-live the same feelings I had during high school. Writing in class even as an adult was painful for me, I felt those same reservations, those same mental blocks and difficulties, and then resentment at being made to create a piece of writing in an environment which did not bring back good memories for me.

I think in a way, this helps me to empathise with my students. I understand how difficult it can be for some of them to sit quietly and think about what it is they are going to write, and how scary this experience is, to people who are either not confident in their writing skills, or have had bad experiences when showing their writing to others.

I think the keenest memory I have of sharing my writing in school was when I was in sixth form. We were expected to do portfolios for our internal assessment, and had the opportunity to choose which pieces we wanted to submit. I had been writing poetry for about three years, granted, it wasn’t excellent, or even particularly well structured, but it was my personal response to a lot of terrible things I had lived with and gone through, and I had never been taught the conventions of writing poetry. Everybody who read my poetry loved it, my friends, and even a home economics teacher I showed after class at the insistence of my friends. She had told me I should have it put to music, but I thought she was just being polite. In sixth form, I took a chance, and showed my book of poetry to my teacher, I asked her if this was the sort of thing we could hand in. She gave it back to me the next day and told me that it was not poetry, that it was just my feelings on paper. It stung so much, and confused me enough that I never wrote any serious poetry ever again.

My writing has always been an incredibly personal experience, it is something I do when I’m stressed and need to take a break from real life. I had been writing stories since I had been taught to write, and at 5 was being published in school journals because my writing was so fluent and imaginative. I have always been passionate about it, but never comfortable in sharing it with people, except those people I feel very close to. So being put into this environment again was incredibly scary. Especially when I realised that in learning how to teach writing, we also had to write ourselves. When I realised we had to share these in small groups, I was horrified. My mouth went dry and I was shaking as I read my story. But the most amazing thing happened; the people in my group commended me for sharing such a personal and difficult piece of my history. They were so incredibly supportive and positive that I started to feel that perhaps my writing was worth sharing, and I realised that in breaking down these steps and removing the pressures and scariness of having students write, you could remove those barriers, and provide an environment where they felt safe, valued and understood by their peers.

Following this experience, which really lifted my confidence, I learned that at the end of the course, we would need to share a piece of writing with the whole class. I found this intensely frightening also, but I loved listening to how different everyone’s pieces were, and I got through it. I was proud of myself for having shared this piece of writing, and even though the sense of fear pervaded my thoughts, the group sharing, sitting in a circle and being so close to the rest of the class in a way, did make it feel safe.

What I came away with from this course has been life changing. It seems so melodramatic to say that, but it’s true. I have learned how important it is to have a teacher who respects their students’ individuality, who listens, and who gives positive feedback along with suggestions for improvements. I’ve learned that working together as a class, and in small groups provides support and understanding and gives students the opportunity to open up and share their writing in a safe environment. I’ve also learned that it is not an easy thing to expect people to do. Writing stories and poetry in a class situation is still difficult for me, and that taught me the most important lesson of all. If I find it difficult, then my students will find it doubly so, with their lack of life experience, and a more limited vocabulary, I realise now (I’m finally breaking away from my academic way of thinking) that these students really need to have the support systems and scaffolding secured in place if I want them to succeed and enjoy the writing process.

I want to thank you for what you’ve taught me. I’m a very recalcitrant student, who had been set back so many times by teachers who were not willing to look outside the box. You made me feel safe and confident, and in a course that I was not all that interested in taking, have given me the opportunity to step out of my own box and realise my potential, and my strengths as a future teacher of writing. I am really glad I took this class, and very glad that it was you who taught it. I can imagine that there are grown up students out there who are intensely grateful that they had you as their English teacher. You’ve given me something to aspire to, and if I ever make it out there, I hope that my students will appreciate me, half as much as I’ve appreciated you.

Best wishes.
Kelly