28 July, 2018

Gladstone, Queensland

I was recently in Gladstone, Central Queensland, and it was a surreal experience. There was a bit of a disconnect: the people were very proud of their industrial town, whilst the many visitors from Sydney, Melbourne, etc. had difficulty viewing it through the same rose-coloured glasses. I applaud the great sense of pride the locals had, and Gladstone has certainly grown into a thriving town, but this is primarily due to the expansive industry in the area such as the gas processing plant, electricity power plant and the aluminium refinery. The environmental effects of this industry (e.g. dredging to expand it) made it difficult to see the place in the same positive light. I know that industry needs to exist and that it brings prosperity to a town like Gladstone and Queensland itself, but what will happen when the power plant shuts in 2028, or when many of the industry jobs become automated? I am interested in how the town will be self-sustainable? A large percentage of the money is being taken by Rio Tinto, etc. (i.e. millions of dollars are going offshore daily), and at what price?

Image result for gladstone the reef needs you now 

I am not meaning to come across as a rampant greenie or ignorant of the situation—I know that the industry creates a lot of employment in the Southern Great Barrier Reef area. As an outsider looking in, however, I have been influenced by the conservationist cause. I welcome comments from Gladstone locals and am happy to be set straight. I'm sure that I have many misunderstandings about the whole situation. Please leave a comment below.

07 July, 2018

Tutor Doctor, Sydney's North Shore

I have been an employee at Tutor Doctor for nearly three years now. My colleagues ask me why I do it since it offers a lot less pay than my day job, especially when compared to the casual rates available for my day job. Well, the simple answer is that it's actually very rewarding work for the following reasons:

1) The parents are serious about their child's academic progress. They purchase a number of hours in advance, understanding that progress is a long-term venture and that success is not achieved overnight. The tutor is able to invest time and effort into the student with the knowledge that the tuition will last longer than a mere six or so sessions. This ultimately benefits the student once academic momentum starts to kick in.

2) The employer seeks feedback from the parents at regular intervals, thus building a systematic evaluation of the employee's performance over time. This becomes a valuable connection for an educator because it documents their teaching skills in a commercial setting outside of the school context.

3) Tutors are trusted to lead the sessions according to their expertise and experience. This is more enjoyable that having to adhere to rigid curriculum topics and syllabi. Rather, the tutor is able to tailor the learning progression to suit the individual student's interests and needs. Tutors are also able to get to know their students well, ensuring that gaps in knowledge and skills can be continually revisited and reinforced.

4) The one-to-one tutoring environment allows for exponential growth as the tutor provides scaffolds then gradually removes them. Dedicated time spent interacting and engaging with an adult, a 'more knowledgeable other' (Vygotsky, 1930/78), is an invaluable experience for young children and adolescents.

5) Tutoring can be quite cathartic for a teacher. All of those school-based lessons that were never taught or fully resolved due to interruptions or student issues can be efficaciously used in the tutoring context, providing the tutor with feedback for improving their teaching in subsequent sessions.

These are the main positive outcomes of one-to-one tutoring. If you're truly a dedicated teacher, and money isn't your main motivation, consider working for Tutor Doctor. You'll gain a wealth of knowledge as you prepare for diverse tasks on a plethora of topics and texts. You will grow as an educator as you also learn from those you teach!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Tutor Doctor.

Text by Green Gifts © 2018

01 January, 2018

T2 'Packs A Peach' Tea


Although an avid coffee drinker, the notion of tea as a beverage has been creeping up on me for a long time (except Chai--I've been courting Chai for a while). I used to be dazzled by the wonderful fragrances that emanated from colourful packages at the supermarket and would buy the odd flavour or two. Unfortunately, I was never wholly enchanted and these teas would sit around in my cupboard until well past their use-by dates (i.e. for many, many years), only to be eventually discarded.

I have always liked herbal teas but would only drink them when offered. People have bought me T2 teas in the past and I have tried them but was never overly impressed. Recently, however, I walked by a T2 pop-up store in Hurstville Westfield. They were having a tea sale and I saw that they had peach tea. I have been drinking terrible alternatives for years such as pre-made, sickly-sweet iced tea from the supermarket or cordial-style peach tea mixers, also packed full of sugar.

'Packs A Peach' has a fantastic fruity fragrance and flavour. I added three heaped teaspoons to around 250mL of hot water to create a mixer for a 375mL bottle. I allowed it to steep until the water had cooled down. Although I have bought the 2L T2 ice tea jug for someone as a gift, I do not own one myself. The best alternative is a coffee plunger because the mesh does not allow even the smallest tea leaf particle to end up in the mix (I have found that cylindrical teapot strainers, even those with the tiniest holes, still can).

After I 'plunged' my tea to remove the excess liquid, I poured it into a glass drink bottle and popped it in the fridge. Once cold, I added sparkling mineral water to fill the bottle. This is the most refreshing drink I've ever had during the hot months of summer; I've definitely been missing out until now! It's also great to know that this beverage is not packed full of sugar or excessive artificial ingredients.

 Photo credit: T2 tea website

I've been so impressed that I have now bought two more flavours: 'Lemon Sorbet' and 'Strawberries & Cream'. These are also fantastic as iced tea but 'Packs A Peach' is still the clear favourite. T2 teas are so unique that I will definitely be back to try more, especially in the chai range.

27 July, 2017

'Childmemory' by Michael Dugan

 'David's Willow Tree' by Susan Clark

The following poem, 'Childmemory', by Michael Dugan is filled with beautiful memories and imagery. Its environmental theme is poignant and powerful. At the time of writing, this poem is not available anywhere else on the web and is almost impossible to find in published books. However, I was able to discover that it was published in 'Poetry Australia 32: Preface to the Seventies' (1970, p. 35). I am sharing the poem because it is too wonderful to be forgotten forever. I encourage teachers to use this poem in their classrooms to explore the concepts of past, present and preservation. All credit goes to the brilliant Michael Dugan who composed this work. The year in which Dugan wrote this poem is unknown.

Down past Macartney’s farm
beyond a wilderness of waist high thistles,
willow trees caressed the creek.
We would come to the willows
along a secret path of our own making,
to leap into their feathered greenness
and, clutching handfuls of whiplike branches,
would swing, eyes closed, above the stream,
rejoicing in motion,
with the bitter taste of willow leaves in our mouths.
Later we tied a rope to the highest branch,
and riding its arc like a pendulum,
would pause at the point of timelessness; to drop,
breaking the pool’s glass surface
into ever widening sculptured circles.
One summer night I crept silent to the willows
and swung for hours, feeling the cool sweet air on my face,
watching stars reflecting in the pool,
like trolls’ eyes staring from the black water.

Returning fifteen years later,
factories pour waste into the creek,
no one remembers willow trees.

Michael Gray Dugan (1947-2006) was an Australian poet, children's writer and editor. Born in the outskirts of Melbourne, Dugan recalled writing stories and poems as a child of eight or nine. In 1968, he first published 'Crosscurrents' magazine from the Melbourne suburb of Canterbury. He also worked as poetry editor of 'Overland' magazine and served as vice-president of the Victorian Fellowship of Australian Writers. In the 1980s, he was a consultant and an editor for the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs. Along with his works in children's literature, Dugan had an extensive background in Australian history. He wrote numerous historical textbooks published by Macmillan Education Australia. There are over 200 book titles in Dugan's name, including factual books, fictional stories and poetry anthologies. Other publishers he wrote for include Oxford, Jacaranda, Penguin, and Hodder & Stoughton. For a more detailed overview of Dugan's contribution to Australian literature for children, please contact me at: greengiftsandcards@gmail.com