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Inside Teaching : June 2011
www.atra.edu.au | email@example.com 20 QUESTIONS 45 church in Melbourne that was sharp and dangerous for skydivers and it was very difficult to get the impaled bodies off, which upset the worshippers. I spend a couple of months every year doing book tours and that’s a lot like stand- up. I try to be enthusiastic and joyful, and not just go out there trying to sell. If you could have your funeral while still alive, who would you get to play? I’m always playing music and it changes month by month. I’d like something inappropriate. Is death something you think about? Oh, yeah, from an early age. It obsessed me. Comedy is an antidote for dealing with it. No matter how successful you are, you can’t escape death. Comic characters rarely win, but I admire the way they just keep on going. It’s the way of humanity. How do you make life meaningful? Well, I help people find laughter and joy along the way. It isn’t pessimistic to think about death, it’s essential. You have to do what matters now because you could go tomorrow or today. We tend to put it out of our heads instead of embracing it. I’d love to see it confronted in schools. A lot of the deaths in the Just books and choose-your-own- adventures are quite deliberate. Can you teach someone to think creatively? I think you can. Edward de Bono has shown you can, and Professor Guy Claxton, who John Cleese praises. The creative thought is a habit of mind. See possibilities rather than the obvious. Go for the unpredictable. Get from A to B via Z. Consider various possibilities before committing to one. Next July I’m republishing a version of my early textbooks, called Just Writing. It’s a guide for teachers with a lot of practical strategies. CanIgetyoutotalktome about the Indigenous Literacy Project (ILP) for which you’re Ambassador? One of the ambassadors. I’ve been involved for a number of years. All kids in Australia should have equal opportunity to learn to read and write. Only one in five kids in remote Indigenous communities learns to read to Grade 3 standard. One of the reasons for this is that there are no resources, no current books in the communities. ILP is a coalition of authors, publishers and booksellers who’ve banded together to get books to the communities. Doing this has undeniable health outcomes and makes it easier for them to engage with the wider world if they want to. Mothers are given 12 board books to familiarise themselves and their kids with. Often the first time these kids see a book is at school. At a grassroots level I go into a community two or three times a year. I run workshops and we make picture books. We’re collecting 13 of the most successful of these and they’re being published in September as The Naked Boy and the Crocodile. Is there a way for schools to get involved? One of the main fundraisers is running a book swap where kids bring along a book and for a gold coin donation they can swap. It’s simple but exciting. September is Indigenous Literacy Day. As well as the swap, if people buy a book from a bookshop, they will donate a percentage to Indigenous Literacy Day. Is improving Indigenous education the most pressing problem we face as a country? Yeah, as well as the need to get testing into perspective. Testing doesn’t measure anything. The quickest way to shut off creativity in kids is to threaten to test them. It’s a worrying trend. What can all your fans expect next? In September, Terry Denton and I are doing an illustrated novel, The 13-Storey Treehouse. Andy and Terry live in a treehouse which has, amongst other things, a bowling alley. Thank you, Andy Griffiths. David Rish is an award-winning writer for children and a regular contributor to Inside Teaching. * Okay, okay, if you counted the questions you’d know there are more than 20. Image by Gregory Myer.