My unofficial geographic CV – I am Australian #digiwrimo

I love Maureen Crawford’s geographic CV which she has written for Kevin Hodgson and opened up for response and remixing to all.

Here is my offering, my geographic CV of sorts:

Somehow I manage to stand without falling

with all the other Australians

at the bottom of the world

or so the map says.


I shiver when you, at the top, are walking sleeveless through the park.

I shelter in air conditioned rooms, curtains drawn,

with my European trees burning before they get the chance to turn red

at the same time as you shovel snow and boast about snow days.

I want heat days.


In my early schooling I learned about convicts

farewelling England forever

to come to the place of my birth

which was not the birthplace of my parents.


My double life was week days a certain kind of world view

and weekends different in language and customs

but I questioned not

and kept the other life quiet.

I danced to Greensleeves in the asphalt playground;

on Saturdays I sang acapella in Russian and recited Pushkin.


Tic Tac Toe, here I go, where I land

I do not know.

What shall we do with a drunken sailor?

There’s a green oak-tree by the shores
Of the blue bay; on a gold chain,
The cat, learned in the fable stories,
Walks round the tree in ceaseless strain.

The textbook of my life is sewn together

from pages torn from books in libraries

at opposite ends of the world.


I ignore the footy on tv –

my country’s religion,

the races also,

but enjoy the public holiday.

I wonder about the words of my country’s anthem:

Australians all let us rejoice, For we are young and free;

We are not so young, surely,

We are old but some of us have only just arrived

and chosen to forget who lived here first.


I question also

For those who’ve come across the seas We’ve boundless plains to share…


Along with many others

I remark on the falsehood;

We sing what is not true

but should be.


I am Australian.

Here is the Hackpad with everyone’s versions of the #DiGiWriMo unofficial CV.


Unofficial CV #digiwrimo

I’m going to join DigiWriMo for the first time. Our first task is to write an unofficial CV. What is DigiWriMo?  For me it’s a chance to join people I know (or don’t yet) virtually to do some writing together and have some fun.

There have been some creative Unofficial CVs. I’ve been stuck but finally made myself whip something up.

Unofficial CV #digiwrimo – Tania Sheko


Kindergarten, primary school, secondary school, Russian Saturday school, university, Life. During moments of brief lucidity;  through hard times, mistakes, reluctant lessons.

Professional Development:

Life: Life has been a constant teacher and the course is quite comprehensive and rewarding although, at times, relentless. No clear outcomes provided so flexibility required.

Motherhood – learning from my children; getting a second and third chance to grow through stages of development with some distance.

Partner: Rewarding course with fulfilling outcomes;

Teacher: Not very different from being a student, and not limited to the classroom.

Friend: More experience with single friends than groups; some experience with virtual friends (and much enthusiasm).

Teaching experience:

Teaching English, French, German, Russian and English as a Second Language in schools.

Teaching my 2 sons how to be thoughtful, respectful human beings;

teaching them how to stand up for themselves; that there are always other options; that they should go with their passion; that happiness is more valuable than success (and what is success anyway?)

Skills summary

Listening skills especially reading between the lines; noticing details; having big and slightly unorthodox ideas; creative alternatives; ability to create environments that make people feel comfortable and respected; ability to be alone and not get bored.


Understanding myself, other people and life; finding people to play with; finding stimulating ideas and tracing them back to people I can get to know; finding the wonder in small, everyday things; developing compassion.


My most rewarding achievement was attracting the attention of some very creative and generous people who played with me to remix a quasi play I’d written as part of Rhizo15 MOOC.

From the DigiWriMo website, some unofficial CVs:

Doing the #twistedpair with teaching colleagues – taking a risk!

Flickr photo by Anktangle

As part of a couple of professional exchange days, I decided to use Steve Wheeler’s #twistedpair idea to invite my colleagues to write. When I say ‘I decided’, I mean I spent several weeks agonising over whether to do something safe or take a risk with the #twistedpair. See this post for the history. Finally I decided to take a risk and go with the writing session although I was convinced that nobody would choose my session over the other, more obviously traditional, professional development sessions.

I promised Steve that I’d report and here it is. I actually had 10 teachers come to my session (with 3 other choices). It was so much fun! With the changeover from the previous session, we actually only had 10 minutes to write after a shortish explanation with examples of #twistedpairs to get people going. We all shared; that was the best part.

Some people were happy for me to share their #twistedpairs (some in the early thinking stages due to time limit):

Professor Dumbledore and Frida Kahlo (group effort by 2 Art teachers) –

  • They are both larger than life
  • They both command an audience
  • They both express themselves through their clothing
  • Big picture philosophy
  • They have an intimidating presence yet they draw people to them at the same time
  • They are both story tellers
  • They are both very open-minded
  • They are both risk takers

Thanks Vanja and Mihaela!1

Joan (English and Performing Arts) wrote about how Ken Robinson and Doris Day inspire her:

Ken Robinson is someone who inspires me because he talks about creativity being central to education. His books The Element and Out Of Our Minds made me shout out loud as I read each new idea on the page. “Yes, I agree with that!’ or “Yes, that’s what I think/do in my classes!”

Doris Day also made me shout – I played Calamity Jane in year 12 and the musical was about a mix of love and feminism. As the character of Calam I got to explore ideas relating to feminism, I was in my ‘element’ as described by Ken Robinson, singing, acting, thinking and discovering things about myself and the world. The song that encapsulates all these things for me had the line about ‘my secret love, not being secret anymore’. “Now I shout it from the highest hill.”

We also heard about how Florence Nightingale and Nike worked as inspirational #twistedpairs for Jenny. We heard about Josh Thomas and Michael Long.  Some #twistedpairs I’ve forgotten because I didn’t force people to hand over their writing.

Alex is happy to share what she wrote:

Here Emily Bronte converses with William Shakespeare.

EB: I want to ask you whether you travelled to all the places that you wrote about. Italy, Africa and India.

WS: No but I was a robber of tales tall and true from the sailors at the docks.

EB: I live in a parsonage in a tiny village. I can’t move beyond my own footprints nor can I escape the influence of my family.

WS: Well of course you are a woman, and remember ‘your name is frailty’, you aren’t to be trusted in the world beyond your father’s house and will always need to be protected from ‘ the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune ‘.

(Excuse me for quoting my own work, but then again, on one else has ever come close)

EB: Too true, by your reckoning and insistence.  I have been gazing into the world of the human heart, having neither knowledge nor opportunity for experience I have had only human behavior as a model. What else might I have written if I had seen the world?

WS: Too many of your Victorian novels have remained in drawing rooms.  Even men were too bound by their own watch chains to look outside. At least you did examine the human heart.

EB: And you were excited by the prospect of defeating Spain and conquering the world. The age of exploration was dawning.

WS: Yet you Victorians in your plump complacency had conquered, but still you didn’t understand. You believed that you were the pinnacle of human civilization and the apex of intellectual life. That no one else could write or rule as well as you could.

Themes: feminism, gendered discourse, colonialism

Motivation: Looking at the contrast in political, social and economic contexts from the epochs represented by these two writers. More of a disciplinary focus, stimulated by the change in VCE Study Design and the introduction of a comparative essay for Year 11 next year.

Thank you for taking a risk with my session. I think we had fun. I learned a lot from all of you. In particular that I am blessed to be amongst intelligent, creative and talented people. I wish the students would see this side of you more often.

If you’re interested in reading what other people have done with #twistedpair see this list.



Why not #twistedpair for professional exchange?

I’ve mentioned my idea of using Steve Wheeler’s #twistedpair to inspire writing for a professional exchange session at school. I figure teachers are always attending PD which teaches them how to teach or how to use new technology in their teaching. What about just doing something instead of learning how to teach it? Why not? Just an enjoyable session being challenged to write something creative. Steve’s #twistedpair seems perfect. So here’s the slideshow introducing the session. (I hope someone comes to my session. Please come. Yes, I realise it might be threatening.)

Thank you to people whose examples of #twistedpairs helped me explain the challenge in this slideshow.

How Seinfeld and Maria Montessori influence me as an educator #twistedpair

I really like the way Terry Elliott started his #twistedpair post and so I’m going to re-use his opening:

In the spirit of infinite play I am following a recent prompt from Steve Wheeler.

Thanks to Steve Wheeler’s blogging challenge I not only have a reason to write but also something different to contribute to our professional exchange at school (more about that later). Steve’s post paired Socrates and Julie Andrews as influences on his teaching. Terry Elliott paired Epictetus and Mojo Nixon.

Are there any other strange (twisted) pairs that would inspire people to write thoughtful blog posts on education and learning? Well, if anyone is up for this challenge, here are a few very strange pairings to get you going. I bet you can think of loads more.

Batman and John Dewey
Michaelangelo and you
Paulo Freire and the Hunchback of Notre Dame
Eddie Izzard and Pavlov’s dogs
Jack Sparrow and Nelson Mandela
Pablo Picasso and Sir Tim Berners-Lee
Micky Mouse and Adolf Hitler
Han Solo and Queen Elizabeth I
William Shakespeare and Buzz Lightyear
Marshall MacLuhan and Madonna
Tarzan and Jean Piaget
Paddington Bear and Barack Obama
Jean Jacques Rousseau and the Easter Bunny
Walt Disney and the Grim Reaper
Sir Winston Churchill and the entire cast of Frozen
Doctor Who and Snoopy
Jack Bauer and the Teletubbies
Mr Spock and Margaret Thatcher

So, challenge accepted albeit quite late (which doesn’t matter in the hashtag world). I’ve been reading some of the responses and enjoying the twisted pairings.

I’ll be talking about my #twistedpair in terms of myself as an educator. The teacher librarian role is different to the classroom teacher; I learn to locate and mine the best networks to glean and curate what is needed by teachers and students, so what I do every day to support teaching and learning depends a lot on my own learning and learning behaviours.

In a twisted way Seinfeld (the TV series) and Maria Montessori have influenced my thinking and development as an educator.

When my sons were very young (and I was also younger) I was switched onto (as all parents are) how my boys were awakened to the awareness of new things and how they responded to these things, how they were engaged and wanted to understand things and to develop knowledge of things. My boys were not alike in any way so I was able to observe two very different examples.

I was fascinated by the focus and determination to grasp, understand and expand knowledge, by the passion. Since I had been teaching in secondary school before that time (English, French and German) I could see the enormous difference between the desire to learn in children of preschool and early primary school age and the common disengagement with school and learning manifested in the secondary students.

I was determined to do everything I could to keep that desire for learning going in my boys for as long as I could. In my research I came across Montessori preschools/schools and the founder, Maria Montessori. Her description of Sensitive Periods in children interested me.

We have already seen that for Montessori, growth from conception to adulthood is not a vague “progressive accumulation of material”; nor an “inherent hereditary necessity”, shaped by our genes towards a limited set of pre-determined characteristics. Rather, she saw growth as “… a process meticulously guided by transient instincts which give an acute sensibility and an impulse towards specific forms of activity …”. Furthermore, these acute sensibilities and specific forms of activity “often differ very plainly from the activities of the individual in the adult state”.

Richard Restak offered a description of what could be happening at the cellular level during these “critical periods” or “windows of opportunity”: “… the brain literally creates itself during our earliest development. At various times in the developmental process from fetus to newborn to infant, nerve cells migrate, many die off, and many others stick to one another and send out processes whereby neuronal connections are formed and re-formed. ( in Brainscapes: An Introduction to What Neuroscience Has Learned about the Structure, Function, and Abilities of the Brain. New York: Hyperion, 1995, pp. 93-94. )

Origins of the Term The Dutch biologist and geneticist, Hugo DeVries (1848-1935), first identified and named Sensitive Periods in 1902, through his study of insects. In The Secret Of Childhood, Montessori cites DeVries’ example of a Sensitive Period in the caterpillar of the Porthesia butterfly. Here is Montessori’s description: (The caterpillar) must feed on very tender leaves, and yet the butterfly lays its eggs in the most hidden fork of the branch, near the trunk of the tree. Who will show the little caterpillars hidden there, the moment they leave the egg, that the tender leaves they need are to be found at the extreme tip of the branch, in the light? Now the caterpillar is strongly sensible to light; light attracts it, summons it as by an irresistible voice, fascinates it, and the caterpillar goes wriggling towards where the light is brightest, till it reaches the tip of the branch, and thus finds itself, famished for food, among the budding leaves that can give it nourishment. It is a strange fact that when the caterpillar has passed through its first stage and is full grown, it can eat other food, and then loses its sensibility to light. This has been proved in scientific laboratories where there are neither trees nor leaves but only the caterpillar and the light. 4

Montessori’s use of DeVries’ example of a Sensitive Period in the caterpillar made an impression on me, and I started to think about trusting the child’s innate, instinctive desire to learn. I appreciated the way that the Montessori classroom welcomed one child at a time to give the teacher time to guide the new child until he/she was familiar with the routines of the class. I liked the quiet order of the classroom which seemed to run itself while children appeared to be largely deciding their own order of activities and selecting whether they wanted to work on their own, in pairs or in small groups. The teacher would rarely address the whole class but instead chose which individual child or group to work with or guide. I saw children develop skills, knowledge and confidence through activities which embedded the discovery of knowledge and skills. For example, for the very young children (aged 3) there was an activity for which the child would fill a bowl with water and then place different objects into it and then observe whether they floated or sank.

Sometimes the teacher observed from a distance to make sure that children spread themselves across all types of activities (eg spelling, counting, science, art, etc.) over a period of time, and sometimes she took a more active role when new things were taught. The child who desperately wanted to concentrate on a particular activity was permitted to concentrate on this activity for as long as he/she was absorbed. In the mainstream classroom there is counter-intuitive interruption of activities and separation of separate ‘subjects’ into preordained time-slots. There is no willingness to allow a student the opportunity for deep learning during the period of intense desire for this type of learning.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t have this vision for learning because it creates a dissonance with everything school stands for. I wonder how we can expect engagement and a desire for learning when we have created a system and routine which cuts everything up into separate chunks and hurries them through a study program in preparation for tests and exams.

And now, to Seinfeld. I keep saying that there is at least one PhD in the series (and there are probably theses in existence). It seems you either love or hate Seinfeld. My family and I adore Seinfeld and happily watch repeat programs. I think that the writers of the program have a wonderful grasp of human behaviour, usually the things we try to conceal. The series identifies human quirks and failings or weaknesses and unpacks these in a very funny way. Somehow the humour and absurdity enhance and even intensify the illumination of these human frailties.

I like to think that teaching and the creation of teaching resources/lessons can be enhanced by humour and a sense of fun. And I like to amuse myself if I’m teaching, otherwise I bore myself. You don’t have to be entirely serious in your demeanour when exploring serious issues. I love the way you can always think of a Seinfeld episode that corresponds with situations in life. Seinfeld lovers share this language and quote from Seinfeld prolifically in the same way as some people quote the literary greats.

Maybe this is a wide sweep, but Maria Montessori and the Seinfeld series both use play to instruct. The Montessori classroom sets up an environment in which students play to explore and to construct understanding. In Seinfeld insights into character studies and life situations are beautifully illustrated through comedy. The playful depiction reveals complexities in a seemingly simple way. At school, also, play is an ideal vehicle for learning, not just teaching, and allows students/audience to discover their own understandings and expand on these in concert with others.

So, that’s my #twistedpair story. I decided to do a similar thing in a professional exchange session at school. Originally I was going to show different ways to annotate text online but then I thought – when do teachers get a chance to do something which they may have enjoyed doing – like writing – instead of always learning discrete skills which are all about their TEACHING.  This is how I justified this session in the Google doc:

Outcomes (and incomes):

  • to have fun (we deserve to once in a while)
  • to exercise that writing muscle
  • writing as modeling (not just marking)
  • creativity – another muscle
  • possible ideas for your own class
  • remember when you loved writing and then you became a teacher?

The only thing is I have a feeling I won’t have any takers. Will they think it’s not helpful/relevant?  Will they be afraid of the challenge? Do they think I’m nuts? We will see.

Cut the teacher librarians last! A message from Kim Yeomans, Nick Earls and me

Yesterday I wrote a post in my school library blog about my visit to Kim Yeomans’ primary school library. I wrote it because I feel strongly about voicing the uncertain future of school libraries and teacher librarians. Kim’s current principal values her and her library but next year is uncertain with the appointment of a new principal. The same goes for me and my school library when our principal retires if I’m to be realistic. The fact is that while we do the best we can in our roles as (teacher) librarians, we can never be sure how much we are valued and what our future holds. My post about Kim’s library and how it is a shining example of the heart in her contribution to the learning and wellbeing of her school can be read here.

I believe that we need to stand up and let people hear our voice, fellow teacher librarians,  because we can  be and sometimes are overlooked or misunderstood by principals and the school community for whatever reason – whether they are too busy to notice what we do or perhaps their perception of teacher librarians is stuck in a stereotype that does us no favours, or whether it is because what we do is not intrinsic enough to what they do in their classrooms. Perhaps what we do remains for teachers and principals as ‘what they do in there’ instead of what they are doing with us for our students. Whatever it is, we cannot remain silent if want to ensure our continued survival.

Kim wrote this comment after my post:

Thank you for acknowledging the importance of primary school libraries. I am saddened and frustrated that primary school libraries are rapidly disappearing along with teacher librarians. I am currently one of only two full-time primary teacher librarians in our zone. I am fortunate to work in a school where both my teacher librarian role and the library are valued, but a change of Principal means extinction could be lurking around the corner. Earlier in the year I wrote this blog post, “A school library without a librarian is a room”

Recently author Nick Earls won the hearts of teacher librarians when he wrote a blog post advocating the importance of teacher librarians and school libraries.  

Nick Earls is very clear about the importance of school libraries staffed by teacher librarians – bravo to your post, Nick! –

Each time I’m told that a school no longer has a teacher-librarian, I’m told that the school still has a library, as though the building does the job all by itself.

Some advice to anyone running school budgets anywhere: CUT THE TEACHER-LIBRARIANS LAST. Cut other things and give the T/Ls more money. Cut other things and hire more of them. Sell as many lamingtons as you need to to keep them. Because I’ve seen what they do.

Kim: As a passionate teacher librarian I will continue to the best of my ability to ensure our library is a welcoming, vibrant and inspiring learning space that is an integral part of our school’s teaching and learning program and the hub of our school…for the 530 students I teach each week.

Thank you for writing such an affirming blog post. Your photos have provided a lovely and rare opportunity for me to see our library through someone else’s eyes…

Kim 🙂

Thank you, Kim, for being such a shining example of teacher librarians as essential to the learning in schools, and for alerting me to Nick Earls’ post. I’m pulling out some more of what he says:

Promoting reading promotes literacy and prepares students for life. Promoting reading promotes questioning, exploring and thinking. Reading broadens a student’s view of the world, knowledge of it and understanding of it. Reading can dramatically increase a student’s options for the future. Reading can help erase disadvantage and create advantage. Reading can increase understanding and empathy. Time Magazine recently headed an article Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer because there’s evidence it can and it does.

In her post after having read Nick Earls, Kim lists what will no longer exist in schools if the teacher librarian is not valued enough to be worth funding –

If there is no longer a teacher librarian who will…

  • Greet students with a smile and welcome them by name as they enter the library
  • Create a warm, vibrant and welcoming space that is open to all and a haven for many
  • Provide spaces where reading can be shared and social or done alone snuggled in a bean bag
  •  Purchase books that will inspire; fuel imaginations; enable walking in others’ shoes; foster an understanding of self; and move readers to laugh, cry and ponder
  • Expose students to a variety of illustrators and explore the power of visual images
  • Read and skilfully bring books to life with genuine love, appreciation and knowledge
  • Enthusiastically talk about and recommend books
  • Make reading fun and positive
  • Take time to match students to the ‘right book’ to meet their needs and interests
  • Organise books to make them appealing and easy to browse and access
  • Design activities where literature can be explored, discussed and brought to life in various ways
  • Encourage and celebrate reading with Book Fairs, Book Week, Author visits, Premiers Reading Challenge and other fun reading events
  • Teach students skills needed to access, use and present information ethically
  • Plan with teachers and provide resources for classroom reading and inquiry
  • Believe in and promote the power of reading for enjoyment and learning

I could add more from the secondary perspective but perhaps it will keep for another post.

Kim finishes with this quote:

“It is not enough to have a school library, however clean and airy and stuffed with books, e-readers, computers and tablets. A library without a librarian …is a room” Alan Gibbons

I hope with all my heart that principals and members of school communities will value their teacher librarians and libraries so that they are no longer an endangered species but an irreplaceable part of learning and teaching in schools.