Friday, 30 September 2011

On my mind

I participate in this feature which I found here:

 This is a Friday photo feature that anyone with a blog can join. To take part, post a photo on your own blog, write a short caption explaining it, and link it back to here from your blog by saying you're part of "On my mind". Please write a new post, don't link to an older one. When you've done that, come back here and add a comment below, with a link to your blog.
This is on my mind:

This is my pride and joy.  It is on my mind because this coming Sunday I'll be going for another leisurely 100km (approx. 62 miles) bike ride.  I ride with the Kapiti Cycling Club and usually our group leaves from Paraparaumu and the route includes Peka Peka beach (where our famous Emperor Penguin, Happy Feet arrived), Te Horo Beach, Otaki Beach, Manakau, Otaki Gorge, back to Te Horo and finally home.  It takes us approximately 3.5 hours at a steady clip of 30 kmh (approx. 18 mph).

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Teaching the guitar

Every Wednesday this year I have been teaching the guitar to a group of children at school. Most of them came to me with no previous experience of playing a musical instrument. They have found it quite challenging but rewarding. We have had a lot of fun playing together and I'm really impressed with the progress they've made. So much so that our group will be performing at our school assembly next week.

One of the girls will be singing a solo to one of my original songs Fruits of Labour.  Here you can listen to my performance of Fruits of Labour.

Other songs we will be playing are El Condor Pasa [Simon and Garfunkel] and Love Vigilantes by New Order. I am extremely proud of this group because they have worked hard. I have admired their stickability as anyone who has tried to learn a musical instrument will know how difficult it is.

Would love to hear from you about your experiences learning a musical instrument!

Here is a photo of Lea's daughter Bianca having a lesson on rhythm and changing chords.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Lucky Father of Two Beautiful Girls

I had spent many years just trying to take care of myself. It was a bit of a struggle at times but got through to my late 20's reasonably unscathed. Little did I know that my entire world would be turned around when our two lovely girls arrived on the scene.

I discovered in myself extremely strong paternal instincts and delighted in being a doting dad. I loved taking the girls to parks and having an excuse to be a big kid on the swings and slides. I was thrilled to take the girls on runs and watch them compete in races and triathlons. It was fun watching them grow and learn. Birthdays and holidays were special times.

Our trip to America was the most amazing experience with visiting National Parks, Disneyland, Las Vegas, Death Valley, Grand Canyon and San Francisco.

I regard myself particularly fortunate to have had the opportunity to share my life with our two incredible girls. I am thankful to have had such wonderful experiences of being a father.

As the girls reach an age of independence it is reassuring that the relationships we've had with our girls have helped develop them into confident and healthy young adults.

This special relationship is reflected in my song Will Be Right Here. Click here to listen

                                                          Will Be Right Here

                                          Forget worries and cares...lay rest your fears
                                          Daddy's close by...will be right here

                                          Nothing will get you while safe in my arms
                                          No danger awaits you will do you harm
                                          Be soothed and settled peaceful calm
                                          I'll cool your brow deep sleep allow

                                          The troubles of the day let them go away
                                          Cuddle up warm....restful stay
                                          Snuggled up tight as a bug in a rug
                                          As I comfort you gently wuth kisses and hugs

                                          The sandman is coming he's waiting to call
                                          As eyes become heavy into slumber fall
                                          We'll see you tomorrow as a new day unfurls
                                          My dearest most precious sweet little girl

Monday, 26 September 2011

Things I know

I saw this on another blog and thought that it would be fun to participate and share the things I know now!

  • Blogging can be very addictive.  I am really new to it but getting there. I'm enjoying meeting new people.
  • I am excited that it is finally daylight savings time.  Extra time to fit in long runs and bikes!
  • Weekends are never long enough.
  • The children are growing up so fast. Makes my song Seems Only Yesterday far too real.
  • Children are like sponges. Love the enthusiasm and capacity of my 7 and 8 year olds to soak up whatever's thrown at them.
  • Teaching is definitely more than a job. It is a passion for moulding young people's lives.
  • Everyday is precious. Aware more than ever the importance of valuing time and opportunities to make each day special.   
Why don't you do your list too and leave me comment, and also on these blogs here and here.

    Sunday, 25 September 2011

    Stories to Songs

    Since I became a song writer I have been intrigued by the power of putting music to words, ideas and stories. I have used personal experiences regularly to create songs from story ideas.

    My You're Not Eating Me picture book and song is one I'm particularly proud of. Other songs I have written with a story base are Back to Nature Trip and Vigour of Youth.

    A song that I have discovered to be popular in my classroom is Day Dream Town that originated from a story called Tum Tum Valley. This story belonged to a Bedtime Stories book I picked up at a garage sale when I was a new teacher. I read it to my class and found that it appealed greatly to the children's imagination. I used the theme of the story and converted it into a magical adventure. References to food, animals and amusement parks. I remember Paul McCartney talking about where the Beatles got their ideas for songs such as Penny Lane and Benefit of Mr Kite. It would seem that everything is fair game for inspiration.

    There is no doubt for me that stories put to music allows children to create mental pictures and can open their eyes and hearts to a wonderful world of fun and adventure.

    Saturday, 24 September 2011

    I wasn't always a teacher [Part 1]

    How I became a teacher was more luck than good management. More details at a later date.

    On leaving school I trained to be a Catholic Priest for 2 years in Christchurch. However at the tender age of 19 realised that there was so much I hadn't experienced of life and decided I needed to do some exploring. Without giving my life story I'd like to mention about my early work history and some light hearted moments.

    Having left the Seminary I looked after delinquent boys under the guidance of a Brother who couldn't believe I could sleep so much. It was a rundown house we lived in and at night the mice came out to play. I remember my feelings of horror when the lounge would come alive with up to 15 mice. Frankly I was quite relieved after 6 months when the Brother suggested I look for other employment.

    I stayed in Christchurch for the next 2 years working for Ballantynes Department Store [famous for their fire in the 1930's] in their office in Cashel St. It seems hard to believe that I worked in an area that recently was devastated by the disastrous eathquake of February 2011.

    Now in my early 20's I thought I would go back to my home town of Dunedin. I moved in with mum and dad and was fortunate to get a job with Cadburys. I started out as a Storeman to my dad's disappointment. He felt 5 years of College was wasted doing labouring work. Some interesting characters! One I worked with took great pleasure daily winding me up with comments such as 'you're lucky you weren't born a dwarf' [reference to my small stature] and regularly referred to me as a Temporary New Zealander [due to my owning a motorbike]. After a year in the store I moved into the Cadbury Office to the delight of my dad. I delivered mail around the factory and was able to sample some of the wares as I proceeded on my rounds. In those days I was extremely popular with my running buddies who purchased chocolate bars at about 10 cents each.

    In my mid 20's I knew there was a big world out there and pursued my dreams to travel America and Britain.

    Due to the length of this blog and the reality that I had far too many exciting and interesting times on my 3 year O.E to include here I will sign off. I will reflect on some of the most memorable experiences in preparation for my next entry.

    Friday, 23 September 2011

    Remembering 9/11

    Now in September we remember those thousands of lives deeply affected 10 years ago by the atrocity of 9/11.  We all remember what we were doing at the time when we heard the shocking and bewildering news.

    I had just come back from a run as I typically do every morning before school.  My next door neighbour came over at 8:00 to tell me about what had occurred and like so many I was in shock!  I jumped on my bike and rode in quick time to school as I pondered over the horrendous and surreal information I had been told.

    Even though I was a long way away from the catastrophe I felt great empathy for those whose lives would forever be changed. I myself had been fortunate to have gone to the top of one of the Twin Towers in 1985. Subsequently I feel I have some perspective of the magnitude of what happened.

    When arriving at school I just needed to express some of those thoughts in word and song.  So on that very day was born a tribute in song simply called Twin Towers.  Later it was recorded on my Coming Home album, sung by a teacher at my school. 

    Today I am dedicating this song to all those affected a decade ago.  Click here to hear my song.

    Do you have your own memories of that day or stories / feelings you would like to share?

    What ruthless minds plan such crimes
    Against humanity in this space and time
    Shall they sleep at night or wake with fright
    Images flash by... horrendous sights

    Blood chilling news...shattered we muse
    How senseless and pointless the loved ones we lose

    Unsuspecting travellers boarded crafts
    Trusting unaware of changing air paths
    Whole families close friends...innocent lives
    Destination eternal husbands and wives

    Young children at school unknowing how cruel
    The tragic unfolding under terrorist rule
    Parents they never again will view
    Today not ever no more lives they knew

    Twin Towers of grandeur quick crumpled brought down
    Desperate New Yorkers watch calamity around
    Screams of anguish disbelief widespread abound
    Panic sets in high and on ground

    On my mind

    I've been having a lot of fun discovering new blogs and I quite like this photo feature that I found here

    This is a Friday photo feature that anyone with a blog can join. To take part, post a photo on your own blog, write a short caption explaining it, and link it back to here from your blog by saying you're part of "On my mind". Please write a new post, don't link to an older one. When you've done that, come back here and add a comment below, with a link to your blog.

    So this is on my mind:

    Apart from teaching and running, music is one of my passions.  This photo shows some of my favourite things - my guitar, one of the 150 songs I have written the past 12 years, a few of my CDs I produced and my pride and joy - a picture book called "You're not eating me" (click here to listen to a snippet of what my "You're not eating me" song sounds like).  I simply love how learning can come alive with music and I witness this every single day with my students.  They simply love it when I play and sing to them!

    Thursday, 22 September 2011

    How little did I know!

    Over my years of teaching I have taught a number of dyslexic children. Sadly my knowledge of their needs and I'm sure it's the same for a lot of teachers was centred around reading difficulties.
       At Kapiti College tonight I discovered first hand from teenagers the challenges and frustrations they daily faced. I heard not only about their problems with reading tasks but also in the way teachers don't understand what they specifically needed to make learning managable and therefore rewarding.
       Some children talked about not picking up on instructions, being scared to ask for clarification and how they found ways to avoid tasks. They also talked about not feeling they could achieve and often a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness.
       We were given some extremely simple and practical advice that would enhance the learning opportunities in the classroom and help relieve the feelings of confusion and isolation. A much satisfying workshop that will make me a more effective and flexible teacher with children who need a slightly different approach in the way they learn best.
       Have you had any personal challenges or experiences with dyslexia and what has been helpful in dealing with those specific needs.

    Wednesday, 21 September 2011

    Being True to Yourself

    I had to make a career decision today. Do I take the easy option or go with my heart?
       I have taught mainly 7 - 10 year olds during my time of teaching. I have had many successes and the very occasional disappointment. All the ages have had their positives and challenges. It has been a matter of adapting to their at times quite different needs and fine tuning my teaching approach. The older children are great to teach as they have more independence. However for myself I have discovered that the younger children really respond to me and I love their energy and enthusiasm.
       This year I have had great fun with my year 3 class. I have thoroughly enjoyed my daily singing with the children. We’ve sung songs from Postman Pat to a bunch of New Order and Elliott Smith songs which I suspect are foreign to many and not in a typical classroom selection. They are songs I have loved to sing and play. It’s wonderful to see the children in full voice and at times jumping around as I play the guitar and sing with them.
       I’ve also loved the way they have got excited by words and how animated they get when they discover them in their reading and use them in their writing and learn to spell words like ‘circumstantialities’.  
       So in whether to go old or young my heart told me that I should teach the younger children as it felt the right decision.
       Have you had recent difficult decisions to make and how did you decide what was the right one?

    Tuesday, 20 September 2011

    Being involved

    About 10 years ago I attended my first Raumati Swimming Club Race Night and have officiated at many since including tonight. It is a sport that heavily relies on parent support and could not function otherwise. My early years involvement were as a timekeeper, moving on to an I.O.T [an inspector of turns] and currently the Starter which I really enjoy. Swimming has brought our family many rewards and I will be eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to be involved. I have valued the spin offs from swimming into running, biking, triathlons and surf. It has been great to share in the girls' successes and give encouragement when all does not go well. I strongly believe that as parents if you do not show interest in your children's sport you devalue its importance. Sadly the girls' time draws to a close. I have enjoyed the opportunities that swimming has provided and appreciate the discipline, focus and determination that has been instilled.

    Monday, 19 September 2011

    The Best Job

    I regard myself as extremely fortunate in having a job where I get paid to do what I love and have great fun doing it. Not all days do I feel quite this way but today was a good one. How school has changed since my day and thank goodness for that. In my school days the teachers talked at us and barked out orders. From the front of the classroom they wrote up page numbers on the blackboard with barely a glance in our direction. I'm sure this non descript impersonal approach that I was subjected to has made me the more determined to ensure that my chidren don't suffer the same fate. I look in fondness to a teacher who has had a lasting and powerful impact on me as a teacher. When I graduated from Teachers College and was thinking of a story to read to my class I recalled 'The Whale Adventure' by Willard Price that had been read to us. Reading this book to my own class triggered the most important teaching tool for me when I discovered the power of words discussed in my blog Word Power. Through my teaching days I believe I have developed programmes that allow children to learn while having fun. I have seen dramatic transformations in children when they realise they understand something that previously had frustrated them. Ultimately there is a deep sense of satisfaction from knowing that for that one year at least I am a significant someone in their lives. 

    Sunday, 18 September 2011

    Accepting Injustices

    A bit of a mouthful that can leave a bitter taste. Quite frankly life sometimes just isn't fair. Due to work commitments my planned Sunday 100k ride became a steady 10k run. Just enough time to ponder over my day's blog entry. I found myself reliving the disappointments of yesterday that were still bubbling away. Having won 3 trophies last year and having run even better this year, I excitedly drove to Wellington to my harrier club's prize giving to collect the 2 cups that I believed had my name on them. However to my horror, due to a technical stuff up, I left empty handed as they were mistakingly awarded and handed to my rivals. Although I had no silverware to show for my efforts this year, I left feeling proud of what I had achieved in competition as the trophy holders sheepishly departed for home knowing injustices had been done. Though the cups had been taken from under my nose the moral victories remained.

    Saturday, 17 September 2011

    Touching Lives

    I feel immensely priveledged to have spent the last 17 years working with children. I have loved seeing their enthusiasm for learning and the huge potential that every child has. It has been a joy to take them into the previously unknown. I've been invigourated by the excitement when children discover they have talents and abilities that had been dormant and I am proud that I have been instrumental in awakening them. I am extremely fortunate that I can share in the joy and fun of being young. It brings great satisfaction to introduce them to my world and for me to share in theirs. I have appreciated the simple pleasures that are present in a kind and encouraging word that inspires and motivates. I am extremely grateful to have had this time to touch lives and open futures.

    Here are the lyrics of a song I wrote about 8 years ago. An invitation into the special qualities found in children.

                                                      Gentle Sweet Child

                                               Happy laughter fills the air
                                               Squeals of contentment clearly hear
                                               Oh to be young without a care
                                               Living moments..smiles wear

                                               Today only..matters not
                                               Coming the future..tomorrow what
                                               Only that now they
                                               If you give they'll take the lot

                                               Nothing compares to a gentle sweet chid

                                               Bundles of energy..excess to burn
                                               Inquisitive..curious..eager to learn
                                               Don't want to share..always their turn
                                               If you spend the time..their love you'll earn


                                               They need to know as they quickly grow
                                               You're there for them..let it show
                                               Make them feel special..important so
                                               Watch their eyes light up..faces glow


    Friday, 16 September 2011

    Word Power

    Words can offend, humour, frustrate and motivate. As a teacher I have discovered how children of all ages can be inspired and encouraged by the realisation that words are formidable tools to explore their thoughts and ideas. Obviously there is great excitement for a young person to have the capacity to express and communicate as they develop their language knowledge. Where is this heading you may inquire? Over the last 15 years I've experimented with a learning programme I call Glossary. A simple concept with powerful results of 10 new words a week played with and committed to memory in meaningful contexts. I believe it is fundamental to my teaching and practically unanimously children agree. I admit I am utterly obsessed but can't resist as I constantly see children's eyes light up as I use or they hear those remarkable Glossary Words. Parents are astounded as their children read, write, speak and hear in this new found language that overtakes them as well. Long live the Power of the Word! 

    Thursday, 15 September 2011

    Math Tutoring

    Getting ready to go off tutoring 2 identical twin girls. They are awesome students and I'm enjoying their developing enthusiasm for math. It is a great opportunity for me to pass on some of the fun activities I've picked up that consolidates learning and understanding. I'm extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to work with 2 lovely switched on children. Fantastic to see their growing confidence.

    Wednesday, 14 September 2011

    Blogging Woes

    Having fun coming up with ideas for blogging but discover there's a lot to learn before this blogger gets up to pace. Have enjoyed finding and reading blogs but having difficult times getting comments accepted. This blog is dedicated to the challenges faced in my endeavours and exploration of blogging. It sure is a wonderful tool for communicating with similar and different others and I look forward to learning the skills that will enhance the obviously valuable experiences ahead.

    Tuesday, 13 September 2011

    Becoming a Song Writer

    I remember the words clearly 'Why don't you try writing your own songs'. About ten years ago this innocent comment from my wife came after once again hearing me thrash my favourite Bob Dylan and Neil Young songs on my guitar. It seemed something of a crazy idea but possibly could be worth a go. I thought that a love song would be appropriate under the circumstances. The line We Belong Together popped into my head and so was born my first song with the aid of pen, paper and a tape recorder. It can be found on my C.D 'Chasing Rainbows'. I was so pleased with myself and the ease the song came to me that I wrote a song every evening for a month. My second song 'Run with the Wind was talked about in my blog First Running Steps. I'm so glad that I was given the encouragement to write as it has opened up a World of Creativity that I didn't know was waiting to surface and to be shared with others.

    We Belong Together

    I'm wondering where I'm going to
    I'm wondering where I've been
    You came along when I needed you
    And showed me how to dream

    We belong together and make our plans forever

    You walk on beside me
    And help me to believe
    In the way that I live my life
    With a future to see


    The beauty in this world of ours
    Is so precious and clean
    It captures and embraces
    In peace and serene


    Monday, 12 September 2011

    First Running Steps

    STUCK OUT ON THE WING.....ELEVENTH MAN IN...An unglamorous start to sporting endeavours. Frustrated by Team Sports and a determined and encouraging 9th in the School Cross Country at the age of 10, sowed the seeds for a rewarding and eventful Life of Running.
    I love being able to participate and compete in an activity that is healthy and self motivating and has obvious and tangible rewards.
    Running has given me an opportunity to compete locally, regionally and nationally and taken me to Europe to represent New Zealand in Mountain Running. Quite unexpected for someone who as a child had little natural talent and who's father regularly told others that as a child looked ungainly walking let alone running.
    Experiences has shown what persistence and hard work can achieve if you have the desire.
    The pleasure I have got from daily putting one foot in front of the other at sometimes rapid speed has shaped my life and given me a sense of purpose and self fulfilment that nothing else could possibly give me.
    Following are the lyrics of a song I wrote called Run with the Wind that tells my Running Story:-

    2010 N.Z Road Relay - Inglewood

    Looking out at the play outside
    Feeling safe and wanting to hide
    Children busy having fun
    Thoughts are pounding...gotta run

    Run with the wind...don't look back
    Run with the wind...keep on track

    Noises everywhere people stare
    Who's that they care
    Running hot and running straight
    Keep on can't be late


    As the years go running by
    Gotta keep going the pounding cries
    No good time to lose
    A voice is time to choose


    Nothing's changed and never will
    For this solitary running fool
    As he quickly races on
    To further glories and sings his song


    Sunday, 11 September 2011

    Girls in swimming

    Have just come back from a swim meet like I have done regularly for 8 years and thought I'd share some thoughts about how swimming has bettered our lives.
    I've come from a running background and have run keenly since I was 10. It was only through my wife getting the girls into swimming from an early age that this came about. Over the years I have come to realise the positive impact it has on all of us.
    Our girls Kate, 18 and Alice, 15 have received huge benefit from their swimming years physically, academically, socially and emotionally.
    Swimming fitness and the structure and discipline of training has allowed the girls to compete successfully in surf, running, biking and triathlons.
    Through swimming the girls have managed to develop healthy relationships with other like minded teens.
    Having daily exercise has also had spin offs at College where they are fit enough to compete in various sporting activities and are better able to apply themselves to their studies.
    The self esteem gained from regular exercise is helping Kate and Alice to develop into confident young adults.
    Swimming seems to me the ultimate form of exercise for children as it allows them to be fit and healthy without putting strain on their joints, in a safe environment.
    I would encourage parents to start their children early in swimming to give them the many benefits it provides.

    Saturday, 10 September 2011

    WOW - What a show!

    Have just come back from the Wearable Arts. I was blown away by the fantastic costumes, music and performers. My favourite was the male opera singer though I don't know his name. His singing gave me goosebumps. Was my first show. Was encouraged by my wife to go as I missed out last year. Didn't think it would be my kind of thing but I loved it. Great to see John Rowles, Gary McCormack and Janette McDonald making guest appearances. John Rowles has still got the voice and moves. Will definitely go again next year!

    Friday, 9 September 2011

    Not yet over the hill

    What an exciting race at Hunua Relay, Auckland last weekend! My 50 + team, Wellington Harriers collected the National Silver in a tight finish! I had the second fastest lap on the hilly lap3. Our 4 minute lead over the 3rd placed team with 2 laps to go of the 68k relay was down to 20 seconds with 500 metres to go! Our anchor man gritted his teeth and just hung on! All credit to our boys as several of the team hadn't won national medals before! Looking forward to more biking now the Harrier season is over!

    New Horizons

    For the first time I have been introduced to the world of blogging. I am excited about sharing with you my passions and my adventures on the usually sunny Kapiti Coast.

    One of my achievements I am proud of is my latest Picture Book called You're Not Eating Me. Let me tell you how this book was born.

    I was teaching my Year 3/4 class a very interesting lesson on Alliteration.  Usually after class I go for my regular run.  I run about 10km in a session and during that time I simply love to just think.  And it occured to me on this day that I could take this lesson on Alliteration and actually turn it into something fun. Something the kids would love and enjoy.  And because they love it when we sing in class I thought my idea would simply be perfect!  So during my 40 minute run I came up with the words, but because I obviously didn't have pen and paper with me had to keep repeating it to myself until I came back to class.  Afterwards I spent about 20 minutes playing around on the piano and finally it just all fell into place.  I had words.  Fun words!  And music!  And now it was simply just to find somebody who could illustrate my book.  Not an easy task because I'm not much of an artist and I wanted something kids could really relate to.  So I did the only logical thing - I held a competition at school.

    I was so incredibly impressed when Chelsea Osborne one of the Year 8 students came back to me with a selection of illustrations.  I was totally blown away by the detail she put into these pictures and finally after 8 months I was all set to get my "baby" published.

    I wanted to offer something more.  Something more than just simply a book.  So I added a CD.   I included the "You're not eating me" song along with 11 others that I wrote and wanted to share with kids.  I know that these were popular songs based on the reactions in class.