Sunday 30th April 2017

Casual Teacher Ready To Teach! 2017.48.

Casual Teacher Ready To Teach! 2017.48.

I developed a ‘classroom-in-a-box’ for my first day back teaching in a classroom after some years in June 2012.

I am a K-6 teacher who likes to be prepared for all contingencies – ok, I am ‘over-preparer’ – because as a former K-6 principal I know that casual teachers cannot necessarily be guaranteed to:

  • know exactly what class or grade they will take even though they might have been engaged to teach a particular one because between the time of engagement and the reality of that school day, plans might need changing
  • have equipment and resources for a day in the classroom made available to them, particularly if it’s not been known that the teacher they replace was to be absent
  • be given any guidance or plan for the day as schools are incredibly busy and dynamic places
    get a chance to do any kind of preparation on arrival at school, e.g. photocopying etc.
  • So, what went into my (self-titled) ‘Classroom In a Box’?

This post brought back memories of sharing these photos as slides to the new and upcoming teachers who were students I tutored back in 2013 and 2014 at a Sydney University. If anyone reading here wishes to use any of my ideas or the photos they are copyright free by me for personal use by teachers.


Linking up with Kylie Purtell and friends here for I Blog On Tuesdays. I hope you’ve enjoyed my education and schooling posts over the years! See below:

News from Denyse:

I have LOVED presenting posts about education and schooling here each Tuesday since January 2015. In fact there have been more than 100 original posts!! Before then I also linked up to I Blog On Tuesdays from 2012 onwards whenever I had a new post. I am reducing my blogging output now and I will be only posting on Tuesday intermittently. I will continue to be a blog reader and commenter as past of the I Blog On Tuesdays team. This is not saying goodbye but I am taking care of myself and blogging less! I wrote about why here.



School Kids’ Progress T1. 2017.34.

School Kids’ Progress T1. 2017.34.

Around the middle of first term at school this experienced Primary School teacher/principal (and parent/grandparent) predicts ten things may be true…and they may also be for those first timers, the ones whose kids have just started school. 

Are you ready for this?

ONE: Your child will quote the ‘teacher says’ and be adamant that all the ‘teacher says’ is right.

TWO: Your child will call you by the teacher’s name at least once. Conversely your child will also call the teacher “mummy/daddy” at least once.

THREE: The school uniform items (shoes, hats, jumpers) you lovingly labelled – in laundry marker AND an iron-on label for good measure will still “get lost”.

FOUR: Having spent money on new items as above because “no hat no play,” rules are enforced, the “old” item will miraculously turn up.

FIVE: There will be one week where you will promise your child that he or she can have some money to spend at the canteen and your child will buy something you have never heard of called a “zingy zong healthy treat something” and your child declares it ‘best food ever.’

SIX: The school newsletter will have news about how well the new children have settled into their new routine at ‘big’ school and you think ‘erm, but I have noticed’ at least one child crying as they are led by the hand into class each day. Life at school.

SEVEN: You are glad to know this is not your child -this time! You also feel a great deal of empathy for the new K/P kids and their teachers as settling into something as new as school is hard – for everyone!

EIGHT: The school will send home a note about a mufti-day to raise funds for a special cause and somehow, along the communication route, you forgot and your child arrives in school uniform that day…but luckily her/his sibling is in the car and of a similar size so a ‘quick change’ occurs leaving a puzzled sibling wondering if he or she is going to school now too.

NINE: You are just beginning to realise why school is good for the kids when you see how much time you have for all the things you want to do …. this is a cheeky point…just seeing if you are reading LOL.

TEN: You will look closely at your Kinder/Prep child’s face as you kiss him/her goodnight  and wonder, “where did my little one go? I now have a school kid!”

So half-way(ish) through Term One, congratulate yourselves parents! You are getting there…right?

Tell me how it’s going with your school-age children? High school too!


Linking with almost seasoned school mum Kylie Purtell here for I Blog on Tuesdays.


Meditations for Back to School. 2017.22.

Meditations for Back to School. 2017.22.

I wonder what you thought when you saw this title?

In fact it IS about meditation and it IS for kids…yes!

From my experience of the past two years, meditation is helpful. I use it for helping me stay in the moment more and for being mindful. I’ve written about it here.

More and more though, it is found that a few minutes of meditation, slowing down to focus on the ‘here and now’ and the breath is an excellent strategy for us all. It is not about clearing the mind nor about going to sleep.

Smiling Mind is an Australian-based company producing apps and meditations on-line. The app is free. I have used this app a few times. I like the Australian accent too. Here’s the link to Smiling Mind to find out more.

What caught my eye recently from the ABC in Australia is this:

Meditations for Back to School.*

There are meditations for kids and teachers. I tried the kid one and that’s why I am sharing it here. I would suggest having a go with your children.

I would also try it with a class if I was still teaching!


Here from ABC and Smiling Mind. From their website:

Our vision is to see mindfulness meditation on the Australian National Curriculum by 2020.

This hopeful statement from the Dalai Lama provides food for thought.

*Not a sponsored post..I just like to share what I think is helpful for families and education.

Have you tried meditation?

Do your children meditate?

Tell me more!







It is I Blog On Tuesday time I. B. O.T! Joining Kylie Purtell and the crew who blog on Tuesdays here.


Starting School in 2017. 2017.14.

Starting School in 2017. 2017.14.

Starting school is huge for everyone concerned. Maybe you remember your first day at school. I do, and I was confident enough to go straight into the Kindergarten classroom leaving Mum behind. It is not always like this however, it can be with less anxiety if some steps of preparation are taken.

I have written about it before  here.

In 2014 I was asked to contribute to an article by friend and writer, Donna Webeck,  which of course I did. Reviewing it today,  it holds true for 2017. I hope it can be of help for you and your child who may be starting school this year.

I have highlighted the sections where Donna quoted me, along with 2 others, for the article. Here they are:

Talk to the teachers*
School teachers have lived through many “first days”, so if anyone will have an insight into what will work best for parents and children starting school solo it is they.
With her vast experience, Whelan has seen it all. The good news? Your child won’t truly be as alone as you fear.
“This child will not be the only ‘solo’ child starting school I can state that unequivocally,” she reassures.
“What a school that is looking out for every child’s needs on day one will do is to ‘notice’ every child. Not always in a direct and over-the-top kind of way because teachers are long-experienced observers,” Whelan explains. They will also ensure socialising starts via introductions between children as well as settle children into small groups.
“There will be less than a day for your child to have had someone to sit next to, share a game with or go to the toilet. They may not be called ‘friends’ yet anyway, but your child will not be alone.

There is also this:

Keep your own emotions in check
Often children who are nervous about starting school sans friends feel this way because they are feeding off their parent’s anxieties.
“Monitor your own stress levels,” warns Hirst. “Children can pick up on how you are feeling so try to talk positively about school.” Whelan couldn’t agree more, commenting that fear can be contagious. “I am of the belief that our kids can catch our emotions and I would be keeping mine in check – as best I could!”
She also mentions that unless we make a fuss, the child will not know there is something for them to worry about. “To be honest, a young child has no real concept of starting school and being alone or knowing no-one unless his parents, caregivers or others have made a big deal of it.”
Spicer asks you to think long term, because promoting positive emotions will do you a favour down the track. “Research shows if kids start out enjoying school early on it’s more likely they will enjoy it ongoing.”
The final word on coping goes to Whelan, who wants to reassure this: “I can’t quantify how they cope but I do believe it’s part of our parenting role to see that they can be left to manage themselves,” she says.”We’ve  grown these little people to be people. It’s about taking more steps away from us, just as we did and our parents let us do.”

*added now: I do not mean ‘talk to the teacher in depth’ every single morning and afternoon unless there is a real issue of concern but just a conversational ‘hi’ and ‘how are things?’ is fine and reassuring in first week or so. Believe me, don’t even think of asking as the teacher is attempting to bring the class to the room or on the way out…it’s tricky I know because you want to know…but observe for a bit is my advice! Make a proper interview time for any real and on-going issues. Please! 

So, what are your memories of starting school?

Do you have someone starting school in 2017?

How will it be for you and your child?

And ICYMI (in case you missed it, in 2016 I wrote about Starting High School!)

I would love to hear your stories in the comments!


Joining Kylie Purtell for IBOT here and she DOES have a school starter in her family and I know there will be mixed emotions next week in her household.


School’s Nearly IN! 2017.10.

School’s Nearly IN! 2017.10.

Yes indeed, it nearly is for those living in Australia.

Here’s what it’s like for the three groups who might relate to this post!


OH. It’s only 2 weeks (or less in some states or more in others) and I will be back at school. This means I am scouring the stationery shops for all the specials. Because I know the school can only give me some supplies and I know how much I go through the stickers, the whiteboard markers, the pencils, the tissues, the glue sticks, the paper….I won’t go on. I am glad I have taken a break from thinking about school (well, it felt like I did over Christmas and New Year) but now, even though I am not “at school” every day, I will be going in when it’s open to set up the classroom and check out the plans for the year BEFORE we start officially. SIGH.


OH. Thank GOODNESS it’s only 2 weeks to go and those kids will be starting (or back at) school. It’s costing me a fortune to keep them entertained and fed. And will they help around the house? Not much despite notes on the fridge and all the hints. I am pleased though when someone offers to have play date/kiddie swap but it’s always hard combining child care/work responsibilities and more. Mind you, I recall saying about a MONTH ago (only a month??) that I could not wait for these school holidays. Now, I am meeting up with parents from the school at local stationery shops and we are all getting ‘bill shock’ at the checkout. Sigh. Do they really need those glue sticks, folders, USBs, tissues and a NEW device? The school list says yes. And this is a public school too. SIGH.


OH. From the calendar on the fridge it seems like we HAVE to go back to school soon. Mind you, my little sister/brother is looking forward to starting school. Ha! Not sure why. Anyway, I guess the one good thing about going back to school is friends and the playground. As long as it’s not 40 degrees when we have to stay inside. Oh, the bad thing about going back is shoes. And socks. So hot in Australia for going back to school. When I saw how much stuff I have to take back to school it was fun but also a bit worrying. Will I really be doing that much work this year? SIGH.

So how are things in your household right now?

It’s nearly time for school to be in!


P.S. The graphic in the post was my initial logo for my business/blog which in 2012-2014 I called Ready.Set.School. for parents and kids and I had another called Ready.Set.Teach. for teachers and those training to teach. I no longer have the business nor the blogs but they were both part of my professional life (after working in education) then.

Joining with the many who blog on Tuesdays over here who link up with Kylie Purtell. Do you blog on Tuesdays?


Last Minute Gift Ideas For Teachers. 366/331.

Last Minute Gift Ideas For Teachers. 366/331.

The end of the school year is nigh. Can I hear a YAY?

Some states have already commenced end of year holidays. Other still remain at school or at least the public schools are still operating.

Are you looking forward to:

  • No more early mornings.
  • No school lunches to pack.
  • No searching for a lost shoe/library book

But wait, you also thought about getting a present for the class teacher or teachers didn’t you?


I know there have been gift guides galore but if you want something directly from teachers..I have some here.

  • card or note is a great way to show appreciation
  • it is never “expected” to give a teacher a gift
  • Parents and children may decide that there is no reason for a gift or message & that’s fine too
  • Teachers who are parents had these thoughts about chocolate..some loved this, others said no thanks!


  • personal notes, cards from parents and child ALWAYS a hit
  • gift vouchers up to $50 – NOT expected to be, UP to! There are limits for gifts under the Code of Conduct in NSW public schools. Check your school’s/system’s limits.
  • Popular ones include Myer, Target, Officeworks,Big W,ITunes, JB-HiFi…and more
  • homemade biscuits &  yummy treats.
  • stationery – many teachers are stationery-fans
  • A cup. A keep cup. Teachers are notorious cup-users. Maybe personalise it, but a lovely idea that gives and gives
  • I do not like alcohol being given to teachers but that is my view and I also do not  drink

So, do you have some ideas or have you already sorted out what you are doing..if indeed you are!


education 150

Joining Kylie Purtell here for I Blog On Tuesdays.



Kids Tell About School For Real! 366/326.

Kids Tell About School For Real! 366/326.

A year ago I know of families who were getting their children ready for the BIG step of first year at school.

For some of the families it would be their first child attending Kindergarten or Prep or Reception (the first year of formal school in Australia & New Zealand has a few different names).

When those children start they are the ‘babies’ of the school although we would never say that to them. They are the ‘big’ school kids!

Indeed by the time we get to almost the end of the school year, those newly enrolled children are now the ‘big’ kids as they see other children arrive for orientation days and activities. My thought behind this post is that kids change so much in this time because they have had so many new and independent experiences and friends and the teacher(s)often rate highly in spheres of influences as the year progresses.

In the interests of researching the true facts, I engaged some blogging friends and charged them with asking some questions of these

experts of school now they’ve been there for one year


I do not say that lightly, it is a HUGE transition they have made, and I so loved their honest responses.

Can you tell me why kids have to go to school?

Boy aged 5

Because kids need to go to school because it’s very important because they need to learn.

Girl aged 6

So they can learn and make new friends and have fun.

Girl aged 6

To learn stuff.

Boy aged 6

To learn

Girl aged 6.

Kids go to school to learn stuff


What is the best thing you learned at school this year?

Learning about experiments and scientists and doing experiments and I loved the one about baking soda and sherbert

All my tests. I really like them; they make me feel clever.

How to read and write.

Um. Making a Meanie box. (his mum and I are not quite sure what this is, but she will be making further enquiries when it comes home!!)

The best thing I’ve learned this year is maths. I love Maths.


 What’s been something new that your teacher has taught you?

Taught me how to read and write

Antonyms. I like thinking of opposites.

That Jesus got born on Christmas Day.

Hmm. Reading and how to sound out for reading.

I can read now.


Is there something else you want to share about going to school?

I like going to school because there’s all sorts of new things and new friends.

100 Days of Prep was really, really fun. My whole family came and I felt really special. I like music, writing, maths and oral language the best.

That it’s fun in the playground.

 I have lots of friends and I have fun with them.

I like going on excursions at school too.


Kids in their first year of school are pretty much on the ball! Here’s what some thought about the role of the Principal in their schools, as part of a post I wrote earlier this year.


Thanks to the parents who transcribed and got those great words to me for today!


education 150

I’ve blogged as a guest blogger over at Kylie Purtell’s place today as she is getting her little one  big girl ready for Kindergarten Orientation and will be a ‘school mum’ before she knows it! Thanks for having me Kylie. Of course I am there for linking up for I Blog On Tuesdays too.


Say YES or NO to Homework. 366/264.

Say YES or NO to Homework. 366/264.

I am not a fan of homework and I’ve written about that before.

My views are that of a retired K-6 principal, teacher and parent. They relate to K-6 education only.

Last week I saw a person asking what could be done about homework so a child stayed interested in school. What the actual? More homework and added home study is, in my opinion, NOT going to keep your child interested in school. In fact, I dare say, the opposite can occur. However, I know that parents want the best for their kids. Always. But is homework a battle to win or not?

Here are MY reasons for saying YES to Homework.

  1. It is an activity which your children like to do and is done with your oversight (not doing it for them)
  2. It is based on school work already learned at school and so it is revision
  3. It can be completed over a few days at home averaging say, 10 minutes for a young child each day around 20-30 minutes for the senior years of K-6 schools
  4. It has  variety within it such as asking questions and providing a response to take back to school to share rather than paper sheets to complete as the ONLY activity
  5. It does not take time away from your family life including sport and recreation activities and hobbies
  6. It is something that does not require more than a small reminder from parents
  7. It gets marked by the teacher and provides some feedback/guidance for the students.


Here are MY reasons for saying NO to Homework.

  1. It is an activity that your children avoid, pretend there is none set and/or leave it till the last minute despite you knowing that the homework is part of the school’s program
  2. It contains a considerable amount of work to be completed that is not readily understood by your children and/or they have never heard about it before
  3. It is onerous on time that could be better spent….say, outside playing, having a chat, reading a book, engaging in sport, hobbies and family activities
  4. It is worksheet after worksheet and can not be clearly seen to be ‘part of the current school work for your children’…in fact it may even be in U.S. Spelling and be a photocopied worksheet where concepts and language slightly differ (subtle but it can make a difference) to what your children are learning in the Australian curriculum
  5. It is being done to satisfy the school’s rules or regulations..or whatever that may seem to be. NSW Department of Education (public schools) do not state that homework is compulsory. In fact, it is a policy to be set  by each school in conjunction with the parents. I cannot state the position for other systems, states or schools.
  6. It is not marked in a timely fashion, giving rise to the notion that the homework is only being given because it has to be.
  7. It creates a tension and a barrier in the relationship you have with your children and a pressure that is completely unnecessary in the overall scheme of things in learning.


It’s the end of Term 3 in NSW schools and I know that many others are already on school holidays as we get some rest (ha!) and ready to rock up again in Term 4.

Now that there is just one term to go for the school year 2016, what are your stories to share about homework?

Love to hear from you and whether you are a teacher or a parent too!

Thank you.


education 150

Linking with Kylie Purtell over here for I Blog On Tuesdays.