I’m above the clouds again – literally. It seems that life these days hasn’t been able to hand me enough time to sit down with a clear slate and write about my “edventures” or life in Melbourne. Flying for some, as you can see, is terrifying. For others, it’s a challenge to keep your young children calm and quiet for the duration of the flight. For others, it’s nothing more than a flight to work, or back home after a long week. Most often for me, it’s a vessel to something new, or long awaited, or is the way I start a new chapter in my life. In this case, today, I’m sitting on a plane – in a window seat… always a window seat - on my way to Brisbane, where I will board a Greyhound bus to Toowoomba for a few days! I haven’t been this excited in a while, and have been in touch with Rachel for the past few weeks about how I could get there without Michael, Charlie or Ava finding out. A quick refresher, Rachel, Dave, and their three children are the family – my family – in Toowoomba, where I stayed for a month prior to the cattle station. I fit into their family perfectly as Auntie Commander (with an Aussie/English/Scottish accent combo, Amanda and Commander sound alike, and since Ava started calling my Commander, it just stuck. Michael’s birthday is tomorrow, and I am so happy to be there to surprise him for it! I was with the Girdlers for Ava’s birthday and for Charlie’s, and one afternoon, Michael was pretty down about the likely chances of me not being in attendance for his birthday. “Mummy, will Commander be here for my birthday?” I will be on a Greyhound at 3:10, pulling into Toowoomba at 6:10, where I will be picked up by a happy and excited Rachel and her three gorgeous children, who had best be ready to be bear hugged by Auntie Commander. I’m not sure what we will get up to, but I am ecstatic.
Today is the first day of the two weeks break from school, which separates me between random teaching days here and there, in scattered grades, and a four week teaching contract in Melton, which is about a fifty minute train ride from down town Melbourne. I have worked there for about a week in different classes, getting acquainted with the staff and students of the school, and it’s quite a lovely community. I am very fortunate to have been offered such a contract, especially when there are not many of them being handed out or offered. I got a bit of a tease offer though, as did some other girls working for anzuk, for a six week contract at a rural school near Mildura, (several hours north of Melbourne), teaching Prep/Year 1, which is right up my alley with rural schools and further north than here. I’d see some more sun and meet new people and see new things. I’m always up for a new start, and for a new experience. I made my interest known, and now I just wait. It seems too perfect. Very affordable staff accommodations are available within a two minute walk from the school, and other young Canadian teachers. If the Melton contract can be filled, then by the looks of things, the six week Mildura contract is mine! I should find out today, but we will see what comes about. Fingers are crossed, although I’m truly lucky to have both options and one guaranteed regardless. I’ll be able to stay in touch with the friends I’ve made here, and can visit them whenever I’m back in Melbourne or we can meet up as we travel, which is such a great thing about traveling teachers.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been between a few different schools, including the high needs school I’ve been at several times before. I haven’t been called the big “C” word again, but have definitely been developing and strengthening my behaviour management skills and patience, to say the very least. Last week though, after two solid weeks of 5:30am wake ups and long days, I’d had it. It wasn’t so much that I was a grumpy mess, more of a touchy teacher that was actually on the brink of tears from the crappy and defiant behaviour of a PREP STUDENT! … that’s a five year old. It was such a combination of things, from arriving to schools without a plan or daily agenda left for me, and having to wing a whole day, to being time release, and bouncing around from class to class, which can get more difficult that you can imagine in a big school, when you’re done in one class at 10am, and to start the next time cover at 10am, but need to hike the length of the school to get there on time – to find a class of wild rat bags, no plan, and no seating plan for names. It’s a known fact amongst teachers that knowing new students’ names is power. They think you don’t know them, but we teachers have methods of memorizing students’ names and antics quickly, and can usually rhyme out a class list after a period teaching them. “Aaron, sit down please!” or “Kelly, please stop talking.” or “Jesse, keep your hands to yourself please.” – is much more convincing, useful and powerful with a stern look than, “girl with the--- what’s her name?! Sit down please!” Ask any teacher. Anyway, this little feral prep student was in a class that actually had a plan left behind for me, and several things that the teacher wanted completed by the time the bell rang. Game on! I’ve got this! … this student was beyond being a nuisance. The last period of the day, on a Friday, after a long week, he was distracting the entire class. No one could focus with him yelling out profanities, crawling around the classroom, sticking out his tongue at me when I tried to get him and the class in line, and then refusing to move or leave the room when I’d asked him first to move to the corner, and upon refusal of that, to completely remove himself from the room. Every ounce of me wanted to lift him up and physically carry him out of the room and leave him in the hall, but that is pushing limits. After accomplishing nothing with regards to the work I was to have completed with the students and with this student, and the class wasn’t helping with their noises and chirps, I’d had it. I actually had to call the principal to come and remove him, which upset me to think I actually needed to call for back up. What upset me even further, was that she came for a minor “chat” with him to see what the problem was. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for at times. He knew he was winning this little confrontation, by being a little angel for her, telling her he had a lot going on a home and that he was just having a bad day. Yes he would behave for the rest of the day, and yes he would apologize, if I would take his “reflection room” punishment down from recess and lunch the next week down to just one recess. She said that would happen, and … do you think he behaved after she left? Get serious. What a little manipulative monster. The very best part about being a casual relief teacher is that after a long hard day, you get to leave when the bell rings. You get to forget about the issues and mishaps of the day, or the things that you saw or heard. You get to go home and enjoy your evening. It’s much better when you’re in a class for a longer period of time, because you can establish a routine and the kids know that you’re coming back again and again and they gain the utmost respect for you, as their teacher – another reason I am looking forward to a contract position after the break.
Last weekend, I went to Kristen and Colin’s house for a night, and they got a babysitter for the girls so that we could go see the new Fast and Furious 6! I am suck a sucker for the men they showcase in those movies. Such badasses. With the exception of one “are you kidding me?” part where Vinny leaps through the air and catches his little woman midair and they collapse together on the hood of a car, I thought it was really well done. Best ending, too: a preview for Fast 7! AND IT HAS JASON STATHAM IN IT! That cannot come out soon enough.
Took a few days off from writing and got myself settled into my other family! The rest of the flight and Greyhound bus ride were uneventful, and I waited for only a short time in Toowoomba at the Greyhound stop for his arrival. In that short time, I got a fantastic phone call from Ana, the principal from Robinvale 9-12 College! I got the six week contract! So that was a big bonus, and we chatted about basics until Dave picked me up, and have been in touch since to finalize things and get things sorted for my arrival.
Pulling into the driveway was magical. Rachel and Dave had both kept their promise of keeping my visit a surprise! Timing was ideal, since as we were pulling into the driveway, Rachel and the three kids were outside, the kids each on their own scooter or skateboard. Michael, the eldest, had the best look slide across his face – a combination of confusion and surprise, as I half heard/read his lips as he asked his Mummy, “Mummy! Is that Camanda?!” Charlie played it cool, but the excitement was hard to hide, and Ava was shy for about four seconds before we were BFFs again. I feel at home here, just as I did when I was here before my adventures at Wentworth.
The last few days have been a blur – but a fantastic one, full of laughs and smiles and funny stories. We’ve been to the park, coloured, played outside, watched a few movies, gone on walks and made meals together. Michael’s 10th birthday was on Saturday, so we had a lovely day together and had pizza for dinner, while watching the British and Irish Lions vs the Australian Wallabies rugby union game. Rachel is the long lost older sister I never had. She and I are so similar on so many different levels, and I love her company and friendship. In the Girdler household, I don’t have to be someone I’m not, and am accepted for the wild bunch of energy I am – and I fit in perfectly with this lot! You wouldn’t believe how loud this household can get, in the most positive way! Listening to the kids play and laugh and joke and of course, squabble, can be tiring, but mostly makes you laugh and appreciate the simplicity of a good imagination and sibling friendship. The things that Michael, Charlie and Ava talk about and say amongst the three of them can have the adults within earshot in stitches! The trio are three of the best, most well rounded, happy and respectful kids I’ve ever come across in my life! (Hence why I’ve adopted them as my other family! I just love them.)
I extended my stay until next Monday, and will be spending the night on Sunday on the Sunny Coast with James’ family again. I’m unfortunately missing him by three days, since made a quick trip home for a few days prior to going to New Zealand skiing and snowboarding with a heap of friends. On Sunday, the whole family (as the kids call it, including me in the lot), is going to Brisbane for Rachel’s birthday for the day. I’ll be dropped off somewhere before they all head back to Toowoomba, and I’ll be heading north to the Sunshine Coast.
I head back down to Melbourne Monday night, arriving quite late. Tuesday will be a busy day, picking up my stuff from Kristen’s house, organizing for Mildura/Robinvale, and meeting up with my friend Ange who is back from a trip home after her first year visa was completed. I am planning on flying out of Melbourne on Thursday morning, arriving into Robinvale mid day. Robinvale is about an hours from Mildura, and has a population or around 2200. It’s situated on the Murray River, just south of the VIC/NSW border. It’s known for the production of grapes, olives, carrots and almonds. I am really thrilled about my placement there, and can’t wait to try a different slice of rural Australia!
For now, I need to hit the hay! I will add pictures to this post soon, and will be sure to write a solid update about my travels to Mildura and Robinvale next weekend!