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Inside Teaching : April 2010
www.atra.edu.au | firstname.lastname@example.org 20 QUESTIONS 35 particular knowledge and expertise. The kids are encouraged to be adventurous physically and mentally. Another difference is that food is available all day long. The school provides good food to encourage good eating habits. The school has a good organic veggie garden. Sharing food weaves a good social exchange. What makes Candlebark has something to do with courtesy. If you’re having a problem with a student, you can ask, ‘Does anyone treat you in that way?’ You can then challenge their behaviour in a courteous manner. We have normal kids who have normal problems, but it’s a relatively problem-free school. Staff meetings: are they a useful exchange of ideas or living hell? We don’t have many at Candlebark. There’s an informal meeting on Monday morning before classes for 45 minutes, plus some in-service stuff. Time and energy is better spent in teaching, although obviously we meet the reporting required by government. There’s no playground duty, though, as there’s no staffroom. Teachers are available all the time. Planning is done wherever, inside or outside. Is there a spiritual dimension to Candlebark? Not as such, but it’s in tune with the earth. Sometimes when in large gatherings we’ll join hands and say a secular prayer. Beliefs are openly and non-judgmentally discussed. In any afterlife would you hang with the teachers or the young folk? There are days when I love the company of adults, telling war stories, and there are days when the energy of kids is fantastic. Playing bad cricket with a tennis ball with the kids is one highlight among many of the ordinary day. Is there actually such a thing as an ordinary day at Candlebark? (Laughs.) Can you tell me of a moment when you’ve gone, ‘Heck, I did a really good job teaching that,’ and can you manufacture or repeat these moments? You have to keeping pushing forward boldly and creatively as a teacher and those moments will come. Writing is about solving problems. Every book is about solving one big problem and hundreds of little ones. It’s the same in the classroom. You’ll have lots of moments of exhilaration. If a particular kid is having a problem, find a solution to stop their life bogging down. Teaching is a noble job. What’s your view on having a balance between youth and experience in the teaching staff? It’s important to try and achieve that balance. There was a sad and bad clean out of older teachers in Victoria a number of years ago. That was a terrible mistake. Should a large portion of the curriculum be driven by students’ interests? No, that’s crap. As adults, we have knowledge and experience to put together a helpful, relevant and challenging curriculum. Candlebark isn’t a democracy. It comprises an impressive team of committed adults with experience and moral principles. What would you do if you had Deputy Prime Minister and Commonwealth Minister for Education Julia Gillard at school for the day? I can’t believe we have a Labor government that thinks like old-style Liberals, enforcing bureaucratic regulations and controlling everything, both things being anathema to good teaching. Julia’s day might be to shadow a student to see how stimulating and John Marsden is one of Australia’s most awarded and popular writers for teenagers., having sold more than two and a half million books since So Much to Tell You was published in 1987. He is the founding principal of Candlebark, a Prep to Year 8 school north of Melbourne that he describes as ‘somewhere between Steiner and The Simpsons,’ and ‘based to a considerable extent on the principles of Fitzroy Community School in Melbourne.’ David Rish is an award-winning writer for children and a regular contributor to Inside Teaching. LINKS: www.candlebark.info rewarding the education is for the students; how they learn a respect for the environment and their world generally; how it satisfies culturally; and how the wishes and aspirations of parents are met. Have you considered going into politics? Politics is an ugly business, unforgiving. Not for me. Do we need more diversity in schools? Yes. There’s a bloke in Melbourne who runs a martial arts school for difficult kids. He does a good specific job. We should encourage diversity and schools should be encouraged to experiment and keep other schools informed so they can learn from the experiences and implement their own changes. ■ * Okay, okay, if you counted the questions you’d know there are more than 20.