If I were you… | Easter Holidays!

It’s been building… slowly but surely, you’ve seen it. Hot Cross Buns are becoming more and more prominent, the ads on TV have started to feature terrifying, man size rabbits, and suddenly, eggs are no longer the health foods they were two months ago.

It’s Easter.

And with Easter, comes school holidays!! GLORIOUS. 2 weeks of freedom from the school yard and 2 weeks of being the independent young adults you are soon to become.

You may notice that I have not said that these holidays bring 2 weeks of freedom from school full stop. There should be elements of school in your life for these two weeks. You’re in year 12- there are no total breaks until November. Sorry. But I hardly think I’m the first to say that, so you should be used to it by now.

THAT BEING SAID, I do not expect you to be working like you do at school for the next two weeks. It would be unhealthy, unwise, unproductive and could seriously impact your chances of doing well throughout the year. You need to have a balance. Which is what this blog post is all about. So without further ado, this is what I would be doing if I were you.

5 Things To Do in the Easter Break

  1. Revisit every text on you syllabus (minus the creative text, unless you’re expected to be able to write on it for the exam- many schools are focusing on one text and one text only for the Reading and Creating section of the exam- in my opinion, a wise choice.)
    This means rereading novels, plays, short stories etc and rewatching your film texts. Also, don’t just reread them- reread them with purpose. Go through and highlight the aspects you think will be important. Look for commonalities in the text. Look for language features which are unique or different. Annotate in the margins regarding the authorial intent and how certain passages fit in with the text as a whole. Make quote lists, create character bios, create author bios, create time period bios…
    Or at least just reread each text.
    And for the love of all that is good, if you haven’t read the texts, read them now. Stop reading this and read the texts.
  2. Meet up with friends and discuss the next text you’re studying/last text you studied. Go out for brunch- Melbourne does this well- and discuss quality literature- Melbourne does this better. You don’t have to talk about your text the whole time, but at least engage in what each of you think the text is about and how you came to that opinion. Ask each other what you liked or didn’t about the book and what bits were your favourites and which ones forced you to read page 85 ten times before you understood. By discussing your texts, you’re reinforcing your knowledge and you can enrich each other’s understandings of the text as a whole. Plus, brunch! What can be better?
  3. Write the first draft of your oral presentation AND perform it to a friend. Get them to perform theirs in return and see what you learn from one another and how you can improve. Bonus points if your friend disagrees with your contention. For EXTRA bonus points, write an analysis of the language your friend uses in their oral- sneaky LA practice. See my blog series on the oral here
  4. Maintain a good sleeping pattern. I’m not suggesting you wake up when you would for school- calm down. I am suggesting that you don’t go crazy. Don’t start sleeping at 3am and waking up at 2pm. It will wreak havoc on your body clock and frankly, you don’t have time to adjust to that when school goes back. Wake up before 9-10 each day and don’t go to sleep too late.
  5. Have a day each week where you don’t do anything related to school at all. Consider it a detox day. Go see a movie and have dinner with friends, go up to the mountains and do a bush walk. Go to Bounce and injure yourself so badly you can’t finish your schooling. Go to a museum in the city and learn for the fun of it.

AND ONE MORE THING:

I didn’t count this because you should be doing it every damn day, but

  • WATCH and READ the NEWS. (proper news.)
  • Choose one article to analyse every day.
  • Analyse it. Even if you don’t write an analysis on it, still analyse it.

I hope that was helpful! Have a wonderful break and don’t make yourself sick on all the Easter chocolate you buy on Easter Monday when everything is half price!

 

Boot Camp for Burma!

One of the reasons I started this blog was to get me into the habit of writing regularly. Why did I want to write regularly, you might ask? Well, beyond the obvious benefits of improving my writing flow, fluency and depth, improving my vocabulary, strengthening my voice and developing my online presence; I wanted to start writing on the reg so that I continue this habit when I go to Thailand later this year.

Image result for thai freedom house

And later this year is rapidly approaching. Last Friday was the 3 months to go point. That’s less than 90 days. Writing that made my heart skip all sorts of beats. It’s been such a long process and now that departure is getting closer and closer to being here, everything is starting to feel extremely real. I’ve paid for the majority of my trip (the only thing I have to pay for is food, activities and accommodation in the places I choose to “hop off” at during the travel portion of my journey, and my flights home), I know when I’m applying for my visa, I have my cards and phone sorted, my gym membership is set to finish on the day I leave (last minute bootcamp, yes please!) and I’ve started figuring out the points of my journey which I linger over and those which I’ll breeze through. That said, I want this plan to remain flexible enough for unplanned excursions to take place and to allow for locations I never knew about to capture my heart and never let it go.

While all the travel planning is desperately exciting, what I am most looking forward to is my time at Thai Freedom House which will make up the bulk of my trip. The Thai Freedom House is a “non-government, not-for-profit, language and arts community learning center in Northern Thailand dedicated to assisting families and individuals who are refugees from Burma and members of minority groups of Thailand.” They work specifically with these people to ensure that they don’t become victims of exploitation, trafficking, harassment, gang violence, or the poverty cycle. There are plenty of complex reasons behind the mistreatment of Burmese refugees in Thailand and I encourage you to pay the Thai Freedom House website a visit to learn some info about the issues inherent in the refugee/immigration situation.

I have always had a heart for refugees and asylum seekers and the way our own (Australian) government treats these marginalised and often highly damaged people disgusts me. I refuse to sit back and watch and am hoping to one day work more closely with community groups to raise awareness, advocate and educate. My decision to work with such a grassroots group instead of a more well known, “voluntourism” organisation is a part of that process. I want to learn from the people I’m working with, not just provide a few English lessons a week.

I also went with the Thai Freedom House because of their volunteer program and the fact that all the money I spend on said program will go straight to those I’m teaching, not on shiny brochures. It’s transparent and it’s real. It’s also got real needs. Receiving no government funding and only earning money from donations and their on site café and op shop, Thai Freedom House struggles at times to pay rent and ensure the minimal staff receive payment.

This is also the reason I held my “Bootcamp for Burma” earlier this month! I knew I wanted to raise money for TFH and I love fitness so I decided to combine my two passions and run a charity “pay what you feel” boot camp on Labour Day!

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I had about 15 people come along to get their sweat on while simultaneously doing a good deed, as well as multiple other people donate money even though they couldn’t attend due to being away (or not willing to workout- which is FINE!)

It was an incredible session and everyone gave it their all, spurring each other on and encouraging their friends and team mates to push just a bit harder.

Not counting the donations people made directly to TFH online (which I have no way of tracking so THANKYOU if you did!), I raised about $500, all of which is to be donated directly to the organisation.

Thank you so much if you came along and donated, or if you just donated! It was such a great morning and I hope the sore muscles were an acceptable price to pay in exchange for knowing you’ve improved the lives of vulnerable children and families in Thailand.

I’m hoping to do another boot camp session before I go to raise more money for the program so please stay tuned and stay awesome.

Amy xx

If I were you… | Where to begin?

Looking back at both my years of teaching and my years as a student, the question I either got asked the most, asked the most myself or heard the most from my peers was the question of “how do you start?”.

It’s tricky, because everyone writes in a different style, everyone has a different approach and what works brilliantly for one person could be a dismal failure for another.

That said, there are some tips which should help everyone as they come to start any essay, oral, reflective piece, short story… whatever it is that you’re writing.

The first tip is the one most people ignore and the one which makes the biggest difference between the people who do ignore it and those who don’t. You all know what it is:

PLANNING

When you go on a holiday, you don’t just jump in your car and drive aimlessly until you run out of petrol- and if you do, you’re an idiot and will one day wind up on Highway Patrol or worse still, the news when some John Jarrett lookalike finds and kills your dehydrated, petrol-less, plan-less self.

Even the most relaxed/disorganised travellers know their destination- even if it’s vague. They may not know exactly where they will sleep but they know that they want to end up in Byron Bay by the end of the week. And so, they know what roads they’ll travel down, they know what exits they will take, they know how far they should travel in day. They know they’ll get there and they know how they’ll get there. And so they will- because they have a plan.

Just like Mr Relaxed, you also need to have a plan. It doesn’t have to be immensely detailed (although this may be helpful the first few times you do it and is especially useful and I would argue essential for any creative piece) but it should include the following:

  • Starting point
  • Destination
  • Pathways
    • Important landmarks

Let’s unpack this extended metaphor, shall we?

Starting Point

Your starting point is the task at hand- the question which you’re answering or the idea you’re addressing. It might be the essay question or it might be the stimulus for the story you’re writing. If the starting point is not clear in your mind then you can’t be sure you’re actually addressing and developing it as you go about getting to your destination.

I would recommend deconstructing your starting point before doing anything else. Read the question through at least 3 times, taking note of the

  • instructive words (analyse, discuss, compare, outline, create, etc)
  • key terms (words which will form the basis of your response. Contentious descriptors which could be up for debate or discussion. Words which suggest the author’s intent about plot, character, theme, etc)
  • Characters, titles, quotes, key themes (if you don’t discuss these textual aspects in your response, you’re likely to be missing the fundamental point of the question)

and annotating said components, what they mean and what they mean for your upcoming writing.

Destination

Your destination will differ according to your form. If you’re writing a creative piece, it should be your ending and how you want your audience to feel by then. If you’re writing a persuasive piece, it should be what response you want your audience to have when they’ve finished reading your piece and what you want to persuade them of.

If it’s an analytical piece (which is the focus of this post), your destination should be your answer to the question (with a potential “and why?” added onto it)- that is, your contention.

It’s especially important that you know your contention before you start planning your points because if you don’t know your contention- your overall argument, your ultimate interpretation of the author’s purpose in writing this piece- then it may happen that your just write a list of relevant but unrelated topic sentences which all answer the question in slightly different ways- which makes your conclusion a massive pain to write.

The fact that you know your contention will mean that you will be able to ensure that each of your points will point to said contention, which will then be well backed up by evidence and explanation and will mean that everything you write will be relevant to the question at hand, not just retelling the story, and not completely off track.

Pathways and Landmarks

When you know where you’re headed, you can decide how you’re going to get there- that is, how to prove that your contention is correct. This is where you consider your points.

After you have decided upon your contention, consider all the different ways your chosen text can support that contention- how did you come to it? After all, if you think it’s correct, then you think that for a reason- what influenced that reason?

These are your pathways. For each point you come up with, write a topic sentence which links that point to your contention- how does this point demonstrate that you are correct?

Next, comes your landmarks- these are the things on your journey that prove you’re on the right track. It’s like when you think you’ve missed your turn and are totally lost but then you see the Giant Watermelon that Mick-at-the-pub said you should go right at and suddenly all is well. Your landmarks are your pieces of evidence. Quotes, film techniques, language and structural techniques; all of these things can be a landmark to demonstrate that you know where you’re headed and your backed up by good quality textual proof- you’re not just making stuff up.

This is the same for persuasive pieces- consider your contention and how you want your audience to respond- both emotionally and actively- and then consider the points which made you come to that same response. You will need to think beyond yourself, however- think about who your audience is and what needs you must therefore cater to so that they reach the same point you do. Your landmarks- proof- are even more important here, so be very aware of how you use them and where this proof is coming from.

For creative pieces, it’s a little different, but you still need to develop pathways which lead to your final destination, considering the aspects you include which will elicit the desired response from your audience while also ensuring you’re ticking all the boxes you identified in the “Starting Point” section.

~

If you create a plan, you know where it is that your heading. It may seem time consuming and annoying to do but if you don’t plan then it may be that you end up just rambling on about irrelevant and secondary information without linking it back to any overarching point. Then when you read it back, you realise you’ve totally missed the point of the task and have gone on a random tangent. You cross it all out and start over… again, without a destination in sight.

Now, that’s a waste of time.

Basically, what I’m saying is:

PLAN.

Use the roadmaps method if you want to. I find it helpful because I would NEVER go on a trip without planning and so the metaphor works for me.

Even if you don’t use it though, planning is super helpful because it forces you to consider your ideas and flesh them out prior to writing and the more practice you get planning the quicker and easier it will come to you. Likewise, the quicker and easier the ideas and contentions will come to you, because you’ve already used similar ones in other plans.

If you’re in year 12, I would aim to plan out at least one essay a week through the year- whatever type you’re focusing on in class, unless it’s the creative SAC- just use the text your focusing on and write analytically. Every two-three weeks, write an essay based on one of these plans.

When it comes to SAC time, try doing a plan a night, minimising the amount of time spent on the plan each night.

Exam season (as soon as coursework is complete): A plan a night, 3 essays a week (one of each type). Try doing one timed, two untimed/two timed, one untimed/all timed. Try doing a full practice exam at least twice before your exam, in addition to whatever school provides for you.

I hope this was helpful!!

Happy planning!

Amy xx

Make It Monday- Flourless Pear and Sweet Potato Blondies

These blondies are fudgy wudgy pieces of deliciousness. They’re entirely naturally sweetened, oil free, vegan, gluten free and they pack in hidden vegetables! What’s not to love?

Ingredients
  1. 1 ripe pear
  2. 1/2 a large sweet potato
  3. 1/3 cup Mayver’s Super Spread
  4. 1/4 cup Natural Yoghurt (if vegan, use a non dairy yoghurt)
  5. 1/4 cup coconut flour, sifted
  6. 1 tsp blackstrap molasses
  7. unsweetened almond milk as necessary
  8. 1 T Apple Cake Spice from Gerwurzhaus (or a mixture of cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg)
  9. Walnuts
  10. 3 pieces dried pear
  11. 1 extra pear, sliced for topping
  12. Extra walnuts for topping.
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray
  2. Steam your sweet potato and place it in a blender with the apple cake spice until smooth. You may need to add almond milk here.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix very well until a very thick batter is formed. Transfer to the baking dish and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops are golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Refrigerate for at least an hour before slicing.
  4. Keep refrigerated.

Enjoy!!!

 

If I were you… | What to do if you hate Language Analysis

As a student, I hated language analysis.

It was my absolute LEAST favourite part of English and I just didn’t enjoy it at all. I found the process of reading long articles which I often vehemently disagreed with boring and dull. I hated not being able to engage with the opinions being put forward in the piece. I didn’t like how formulaic it was- there was no room to move. You either got the contention right, or you didn’t. There wasn’t much room for interpretation- which was my favourite part of English. I loved coming up with what I thought the author was saying, looking at the text, decoding the symbols, noticing recurring motifs, identifying the real purpose that the author had in writing. I never thought anything was too much of a stretch- I once developed an entire queer theory regarding two characters based on the colour of an umbrella (which I still think is 100% legit although I never included it in any of my pieces because, restraint).

Anyway, as I was a good student (obvs), I knew I needed to find a way to make myself like this beast as it would determine 1/3 of my exam and a fair percentage of my Study Score. I had many methods and while it didn’t make me like language analysis (that came later- in my second year of teaching), it certainly helped me through the necessary study which I had to do in order to succeed in the task. Below are 5 things I did which:

A) Made me better at language analysis

B) Made me enjoy it a bit more

  1. Make like a dentist and drill.
    This is a stupid title but deal with it. One thing I found really helpful was to practice timed “drills” of language analysis pieces. One of the things I didn’t like was the process of reading one really long article, opinion piece, editorial or whatever, annotating the crap out of it and then condense my hours (I’m prone to hyperbole) of work to one essay. So, to practice my skills of annotating, and identifying contentions in concise (NOT my strength) sentences I used the Letters to the Editor page of the paper. The Herald Sun is always a good place to start because they’re rarely subtle but The Age is generally more of a mental workout. I would set the timer and try to annotate and identify the contention of each letter on the page before it went off. It depended on how much time I had as to how long I set the timer for but it always provided the competitive aspect of me with something to work towards. It also forced me to be decisive, concise and precise.
  2. Annoy your family and annotate the ads.
    Every ad you see on TV is aiming to persuade you. While watching TV at night with the fam, I would choose at least one ad every break and explain to my family how it was trying to persuade them- or whoever the chosen audience was. This also provided me with practice in visual annotation and also allowed my vocabulary to expand as I could “talk it out” and didn’t have the constriction of writing. It also made me feel like watching TV was totes studying.
  3. Write sample sentences
    I don’t like advising people to write and memorise pieces. In text response it is the EXACT opposite of what you’re meant to do and it RARELY works. However, in Language Analysis, developing templates and sample sentences can really help. I stuck a list of sentence starters which I developed over the year to my shower wall (along with quotes from the various texts I was studying, formulas from maths and definitions from Psychology) meaning that no time was wasted. It wasn’t even really an issue of memorising the exact sentence- it was knowing the right vocabulary and when to use it. This is particularly useful when writing comparatively.
  4. Cartoon analysis
    I actually loved analysing cartoons. I found it so mentally stimulating so therefore, I did it as much as possible. It improved my vocab and my writing as well as mental health and attitude surrounding LA. I would highly recommend, as a starting point for comparative analysis, compare and contrast the way two cartoonists deal with a particular issue. Consider audience, style, technique etc.
  5. Deload and Detach.
    I found it so hard to remove myself from the issue we studied in Year 12. It was about the refugee crisis- one of my major passions and I often struggled not to criticise the arguments of the people who I was analysing. So, I came up with a solution. Have 1,3, 5 minutes to vent- aloud or on paper (NOT IN YOUR SAC)- and then detach from the issue at hand. You’ve had your say. It’s time to get analytical. To not do it at all was just too hard. Luckily, your exam is unlikely to be on anything you actually care  about (A Big Watermelon, for instance) so this won’t affect you at all.

I hope you find these as helpful as I did!

Happy studying!

Amy xx

 

she stands- a poem for IWD.

I stand-

Bold, posed, tense with all the
best of intents
in front of her- the girl who knows-

who has seen, she who is me, I-

build and grind
and work-
I fought
and sweat
and stunk and sunk
and pushed and climbed and fell
and clawed my way back to some semblance of her- the other girl in the room

the warrior//

until-

a noise snaps against the locked out world and breaks-

loaded with unheard and unsaid and unintended?

Pinpricks

Glass shatters in all the wrong ways

 

she who is me who is I is pierced

deflates

shrinks

to

smiling sweet soft simple shapes
of smallness all cheeks

no cheek//

-am I in your way- sotto voce statements not questions because by being here I am

Or at least that’s what I’ve been told

I glance- the warrior in shattered states stares in disdain and the shoulders upon which I stumble slump in disappointment

Shards of eyes flash as sliding shame overcomes the corner I’ve relegated my self to and banishes the legacies of those who came before from existence.

Discarded because-words not said by him who invaded-

No, who I let invade-

No, who I was told would-

No, who may have inv-

No- I don’t know whose fault this is but now it is mine and that is not what she taught me but is what I’ve been taught and now I don’t, cant, wont but want to

Stop.

The shattered warrior with scars mirrors my twisting, enchained limbs
sighing

Why do I let- accept- fault blame shame overtake when
warriors who came before

Did not

Would not

And they:

My muscled footholds
my petite proforma
my mouthy platforms
my softly silent soap boxes
They flew
into the glass I stare

At now and didn’t care who saw

Their strength

Or bruises

Or cuts

Or tears

Or weakness

Or fears because it was all

Theirs to own

//

The Sound that Shattered
continues in a buzz- unaware of power and shame-

Metal against iron

Clamping down
measured breaths of purpose and precision

Planning and decision

The soundtrack doesn’t bother the shattered warrior and

i-

she who is me-

have turned it up for long enough

 

untwisting- she who is me- I stand

 

and own the action and the feat and the fact that

I owe my ownership to those who heard the noise when it was meant to pierce drums but kept beating

To those who read warnings on packets and pickets and strode deeper, thicker
to those who played the game

And forged the ways I walk

in

on

through

with

no shame- shattered or not-

paths taken and rocked-

words spoken and mocked-

legs shaking and locked…

they walked.

 

so it’s the least I can do to

stand.

 

Belated Make It Monday… Picnic Loaf!

Oops! Yesterday was a bit of a whirlwind (although I did get to spend some time just basking in God’s presence over a tasty and healthy brunch which was a true blessing) which meant that the blog post I had planned didn’t make it to the blog… oops!

I guess that’s what happens when you have a busy weekend with loads of fun things to do… the madness turns into Monday madness without much of a second thought! My weekend involved two (it would have been three but… woops…) birthday parties (one of which was mine!), selling at Camberwell Market, an impromptu visit to the Glenferrie Rd festival, an impromptu bike ride on my newly repaired bicycle- Freddie- plus brunch and workout dates! It’s exhausting just listing it.

The highlight was definitely the picnic which I had to celebrate my 26th birthday- the last of the 4 celebrations I planned (berry picking with the school girls, Moroccan Soup Bar with my bffs, The Independent in Gembrook with the parents and the afore mentioned picnic for everyone!) I just wanted something really relaxed where all my friends, their kids, their partners, their pets, who/whatever were welcome to come, have fun and relax. A picnic seemed like the perfect solution.

Image may contain: one or more people, tree, sky, shoes, outdoor and nature

We’re blessed to have plenty of beautiful parks near us and so I decided to hold it at a local park with plenty of open spaces, playgrounds and shady spots to enjoy. Instead of relying on BBQ facilities (which are often claimed VERY early on in the morning and I wasn’t prepared to miss boot camp/ask my parents to get to the park at such an obscene hour and wait around forever), I just asked everyone to bring something to share, whether it be savoury or sweet. I would make a few things, just in case everyone bought cake, cheese or chips (it could definitely happen).

I made:

Carrot and Nut Butter Pinwheels
Apple and Coconut Pinwheels
Healthy Almond Butter Brownies
Healthy Oaty PB Biscuits  (based on link with a lot of tinkering…)
Healthy Berry Slice
Golden Latte Slice
Panzanella Salad
Watermelon, Goats Fetta and Basil Salad
The SPECTACULAR WATERMELON BIRTHDAY CAKE! (which I STUPIDLY did not get a photo of)  (similar to this)

and… Picnic Loaf!

Which was such a success I’m making it for my Bible Study tonight.

I got the idea from the amazing Johanna at Green Gourmet Giraffe whose blog I absolutely devour. She, along with Cindy and Michael from Where’s The Beef are my blogging crushes (how sad am I?) and I find their recipes, reviews and reflections just so well written and interesting. They’re also known to my father as the enablers of my love of Vegetarianism and my recent forays into a plant based lifestyle (#veg4lent2017).

When I saw this loaf I knew I needed to make it for my picnic. So, I roasted up some carrots, sweet potato, capsicum, celery and zucchini all sprinkled with the MacGyver spice blend from Oasis Bakery, made some pesto with some sad looking coriander, almonds, lemon juice and garlic, opened up a jar of grilled eggplant, mangled a can of pickled beetroot (why don’t cans of beetroot have ring pulls- and why do they all contain sugar?!) and layered them in my wholemeal vienna loaf (no non-white cob loaves were to be found- SIGH). I also layered some homemade semi dried tomatoes, leafy mix and some basil leaves.

The loaf was super delicious and everyone who had some enjoyed it immensely! This time, I roasted my own beetroot, swapped the sweet potato for pumpkin, added some finely sliced ricotta stuffed chillies I found in the fridge and used a multigrain sourdough batard.

Image may contain: food

I cannot imagine that it won’t be just as delicious!!

Hope you give it a go for your next picnic and that you have just as fun a time as I did!

Happy eating (and picnic-ing!!)