About Tania Sheko

I am Teacher Librarian at Melbourne High School, a selective school for boys year 9-12. I also live on Twitter as @taniatorikova

An opportunity for our students to add their voice to Triple J’s ‘Hack’ program about ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

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We were pleasantly surprised to receive an email from the producer of Hack on triple J:

“My name is Claire and I’m the Producer of Hack on triple j – Australia’s national current affairs program for young (16-30) people reaching one million listeners a week across the country.
We’re talking to one of the directors of the Netflix adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale on Monday and I came across your subject guide for the novel.
Would you have time for a quick chat about the work this afternoon? Margaret Atwood has said that “I made a rule for myself: I would not include anything that human beings had not already done in some other place or time, or for which the technology did not already exist.”
We’re keen to create a segment online and on-air about this – and I’d like to hear your thoughts.”

After a conversation between Claire and English teacher, Ms Amanda Carroll, students were invited to participate in the program. We thanked Claire for the opportunity for our students to be involved in this excellent radio program.

Listen to year 11 student, Hrishi Thatiot, speaking to presenter Sarah McVeigh on Triple J’s program for youth, “Hack”, about “The Handmaid’s Tale”, a text our year 11s are currently studying, and one which, although written over 30 years ago, is relevant to us today, and has been reinterpreted by SBS and is currently available for viewing. The presenter also speaks to the director of the TV show, and a climate futurist on food security. (Hrishi: 9.54 – 11.03).

Follow this link to listen to the podcast.

Year 9s raise the bar for poetry – slam!


Above: 9L Slam Poetry winners, Ivan and Yi Ming and their English teacher, Mr Mahoney

Yesterday Memorial Hall was host to  performance and celebration as the winning teams from each year 9 class amazed the audience with their Slam Poetry performances.

The judges were extremely impressed with the high standard of all teams’ poetry and their powerful renditions.


Runners up, the team from 9E (Ms Hamilton), performing Safwan’s poem

The winning team was 9L (Mr Mahoney’s class), followed by 9E (Ms Hamilton’s class) in second place and 9D (Ms Grimwade’s class) in third. The Best Individual Performance was awarded to Ivan Tat of 9L, and the Best Line was also awarded to 9L.

Poverty is the cracked lips of a boy, hands outstretched, eyes like a dead fish, …

There is so much to celebrate in the year 9 students’ poetry! I’d like to take the opportunity to share some of the poetry.

Standout lines from 9A:

A blind man will never know the colour of blue nor ever see the so-called ordinary hue

But he know he does not need to discover the new.

He’s surrounded like an animal in a zoo,

Caged by prejudice and stereotypes.

A slice of 9B’s offering:

Patriotism, loyalty: who do I please?

Lion Dairy, Abbey, and Colby: three types of cheese.

Which industry do I support?

Which farmer do I make abort?

An Irish cow, an Australian goat, an American sheep,

Which allegiance do I keep?

Or should I be like sister Tegan,

And just like her become a Vegan?

Powerful, dark lines from 9C:

His mind is out to kill him

So far his mind is winning

It sews his lips

Shuts his mouth

Beats him, blinds him from those who care,

Tying him down to the bottom of the ocean,

Drowning him

He can’t die

He can’t escape

He is drowning 24/7.

He’s been drowning since he was 11

Yet no one saw and we all breathed around him.

Powerful lines from 9D:

But why has our society become one where such people are glamorised and idolised

While teens are hurting themselves and hurting others over their own demise,

Because their waist size is over 26 inches, because their skin is wrinkled and because, unlike their role models

their looks aren’t stylised?

They think that, that is something to be ashamed about

It seems we regret celebrity influence upon teens,

The roots and trunk of our future, hollowed out like logs

To be only superficial and not care about what’s on the inside.

But our current generation can still be saved without doubt

If we look up to Mandela, Churchill and Malala

Instead of Minaj, West and Gaga.

From the runners up, 9E:

You may say that you wish to live forever,

That you wish to die never,

But our eventual passing is what gives our life its merit,

The looming presence of death is what motivates us to get out of bed each morning,

Because we may not always have a tomorrow,

The looming presence of death is what lets us perceive the true beauty of our lives,

The looming presence of death is what gives our life its momentum,

It is not the vindictive venom we make it out to be,

Can’t you see?

Death is what coerces us to be alive.

From 9F:

Until this day I never thought dragons existed…

… Yet today I found one, lips curled in a ferocious snarl,

dressed in a satiny carpet of brilliant, crimson scales, and with eyes…

… This dragon was none other than the one that dwelled within me,

the one which I have tried to subdue for so long.

It is eating me, chewing at the fibres of my identity.

This dragon’s name is Guilt.

From 9G:

I thought I knew who I was.

I thought I was that person who would always do well in school,

That person who should be popular and loved,

That person who could shove other people aside to get what he wanted,

The centre of the universe.

The world would revolve around the brightness of my glow and the other planets would looks to me with envy and greed,

knowing they could never reach me.

I knew who I was.

I was happy.

I was content.

I was frolicking inside the beautiful meadow in my little bubble,

skipping in time with the beat that had been set out for me.

From 9H:

The powers of the world don’t like change,

So they shut up the game-breakers,

the would-be preachers,

the idea makers, because their system only works

when nothing changes, so they keep them quiet,

with only their malicious greed behind it,

planting the seed.

When the seed grows, it turns into a tree,

and when a tree grows tall, it’s hard to cut down…

From 9J:

My speech I left like a house on fire,

But this time my words won’t misfire.

That bully, it’s time to confront him,

To show I’m not just a melting icecream.

Without dismay, without distress,

Chest out, back straight.

Because I will take on the dare.

From 9K:

Blinks of cosmic glitter twinkled  in the sky

shimmering with an exuberant brilliance

as it stained the rich vermillion sunset.

The place where the sky met the sea

Had a majestical topography.

and a favourite line of mine:

They tormented the sky, tearing the delicate canvas,

Its colour a conflux that couldn’t stop bleeding…

And, to honour 9L’s winning poem, here is the full text:

9L  Ivan and Yi Ming

Poverty

 

Somewhere in Australia they are incinerating

Designer handbags, never used, to maintain brand exclusivity

Whilst in inner-suburbia there is a child digging through

The Salvo’s donation tip for a jacket that can last them the winter

Somewhere in Australia they are building boutique apartments

And fancy shopping malls so that we forget that

Unemployment is soaring

Homelessness is soaring

Poverty is the cracked lips of a boy, hands outstretched, eyes like a dead fish,

it is the blackened toenails of the outworker, chest compressing with each breath

Do you not hear the lullaby of a mother hunched in a rusty old car in a parking lot at night?

Do the cries of the homeless who scream with fleshy pink throats fall upon your deaf ears?

Do you hear the peoples sing: but only until it stops making you feel comfortable

Because it is better to be silent, hold our tongues

Bow our heads in defeat and get back to work

Then for you to acknowledge that the wealth, the privilege you accumulated

Was built on the blood and bones of the oppressed minorities

Built on the sweat and tears of the homeless and overworked

Is it truly benevolence when you throw a piece of stale bread

To the people whose homes you drove them out of?

Our narrative, our stories aren’t your pay-per-view poverty porn to ogle at

Do not throw us your scraps, your pittances for us

For us to climb onto the back of other others to reach for

We were confined to lifetimes hunched over, lifeless, in factory plants

Lethargic and weary as pawns in your pyramid scheme

Would you rather us complacent and obedient slaves?

 

(SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH)

Do we scare you?

Since when has saying nothing done anything?

This is not an outlet to spruik your faux philanthropy

This is not an appeal for a rich people Jesus to come to our salvation

We learnt the hard way that in the snaking queues of Centrelink

Under the Flinders Street bridge at night that there is no god pining for us

We don’t care if you don’t want to believe we exist but we believe in you!

Each and every one of you are complicit in our death

On the streets, in rusty cars, in public housing units,

Guilty whether by consent, complacency, indifference.

The only way to enact social change, to close up the crackswe have fallen into is

To lend a hand, give a shoulder to cry on, open up your ears.

This is a conversation.

Won’t you listen?

 

 

A huge thank you to Ms Buckland for organising this event, to all the English teachers involved for hard work and inspiration, to Ms Morgan and Mr Sloan for judging (I can’t thank myself, but I enjoyed the judging experience so much), and to Ms Tsilimidos for her unrivalled skills as M.C.! A big thank you to our wonderful stage and film crew, Brett and Mr Morton.

 

Our students contribute to Q&A’s Schools Special Victoria program

It was exciting to see some of our students in the audience for this week’s Q&A: Schools Special Victoria, with Louis Gordon asking the first question!

On the panel: Josh Frydenberg, Minister for the Environment and Energy; Catherine King, Shadow Health Minister; Pinidu Chandrasekera, Parade College, Bundoora; Aretha Brown, Williamstown High School; Jock Maddern, Kaniva College; and Jacinta Speer, The MacRobertson Girls’ High School.

Our panel discussed: marriage equality, the proposed PaTH program, rural youths, youth unemployment and the voting age.

Our students’ success in this year’s Slade Literary Awards

Three students from 9L were finalists in this year’s Slade Literary Awards, a writing competition that has been run for more than twenty years by Richmond Rotary Club.

The topic this year was ‘Making a Difference’ and Hoangan Le, Henry Mann and Vlad Monakhov all received certificates of merit for their essays. Hoangan’s essay, ‘Second chance fairy’ was about Nobel Peace Prize winner MalalaYousafzai; Henry’s essay was about the difference that can be made by quantum computing; and keeping with the technological theme, Vlad’s essay was titled ‘How the internet changed the world.’ Henry was performing in the Winter Concert, so was unable to attend the awards night, but Hoangan and Vlad were able to experience the event and meet the other finalists.

Congratulations, Hoangan, Henry and Vlad! Thanks to Mr Blair Mahoney for organising this opportunity for our students.

Is texting your main form of communication? How to have a conversation face-to-face

(This post is based on a session run as part of Ten Minute Tuesdays.)

Of course, we all have face-to-face conversations every day. But how skilled are we in the art of conversation?

Celeste Headlee has worked as a radio host for decades, and she knows the ingredients of a great conversation: Honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy amount of listening. In this insightful talk, she shares 10 useful rules for having better conversations. “Go out, talk to people, listen to people,” she says. “And, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed.”

 

Here are the 10 basic rules Celeste has shared:

  1. Don’t multitask. Be present, be in that moment. Don’t be thinking about other things.
  2. Don’t pontificate  True listening means setting aside yourself, your personal opinions.
  3. Use open-ended questions. Who/what/where/why/how? Otherwise you’ll get yes/no answers (boring).
  4. Go with the flow. While the other person is talking, we remember things about ourselves and then we stop listening because we’re waiting for the opportunity to say our stories. Let them go.
  5. If you don’t know, say that you don’t know.
  6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs. Don’t talk about your own experiences. All experiences are individual. It is not about you. You don’t need that moment to prove how amazing you are or how much you’ve suffered.
  7. Try not to repeat yourself. It’s condescending and it’s boring. Don’t keep rephrasing your point.
  8. Forget the details. Don’t talk about the days, dates, names. People don’t care.
  9. Listen. If your mouth is open, you’re not learning (Buddha). Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand, we listen with the intent to reply.
  10. Be brief.

Be interested in other people. Be prepared to be amazed.

Thanks to those who came to the session; it was great to see your spirited conversations following our discussion after the TED talk. Some photos for your pleasure:

“How to read a poem” by Mr Blair Mahoney on World Poetry Day #tenminutetuesdays

To celebrate World Poetry Day, Mr Blair Mahoney talked about “how to read a poem” today as part of our Ten Minute Tuesdays series at recess.

He started with the poem “Introduction to Poetry” by Billy Collins:

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Mr Mahoney encouraged us to enjoy the poem without having to understand all of it.

“The Windhover” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

To Christ our Lord

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-

dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding

Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding

High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing

In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,

As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding

Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding

Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here

Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion

Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

  No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion

Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,

Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.      

Mr Mahoney read “Cartoon Physics, part 1” by Nick Flynn after he talked about poems sometimes having personal meaning for people at different times of their lives.

Children under, say, ten, shouldn’t know

that the universe is ever-expanding,

inexorably pushing into the vacuum, galaxies

swallowed by galaxies, whole

solar systems collapsing, all of it

acted out in silence. At ten we are still learning

the rules of cartoon animation,

that if a man draws a door on a rock

only he can pass through it.

Anyone else who tries

will crash into the rock. Ten-year-olds

should stick with burning houses, car wrecks,

ships going down—earthbound, tangible

disasters, arenas

where they can be heroes. You can run

back into a burning house, sinking ships

have lifeboats, the trucks will come

with their ladders, if you jump

you will be saved. A child

places her hand on the roof of a schoolbus,

& drives across a city of sand. She knows

the exact spot it will skid, at which point

the bridge will give, who will swim to safety

& who will be pulled under by sharks. She will learn

that if a man runs off the edge of a cliff

he will not fall

until he notices his mistake.

 

After sharing some tips for reading poetry out loud, Mr Mahoney read out “In the Park” by Gwen Harwood, demonstrating paying attention to punctuation and run-on sentences.

She sits in the park. Her clothes are out of date.

Two children whine and bicker, tug her skirt.

A third draws aimless patterns in the dirt

Someone she loved once passed by – too lateto feign indifference to that casual nod.

“How nice” et cetera. “Time holds great surprises.”

From his neat head unquestionably rises

a small balloon…”but for the grace of God…”They stand a while in flickering light, rehearsing

the children’s names and birthdays. “It’s so sweet

to hear their chatter, watch them grow and thrive, ”

she says to his departing smile. Then, nursing

the youngest child, sits staring at her feet.

To the wind she says, “They have eaten me alive.”

 

Thanks to Mr Mahoney for his engaging session and expertise. Thanks to all who came; I’m sure you got the most out of ten minutes of your recess on World Poetry Day.

10 minute Tuesdays have started!

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This year the library is running short topical sessions in the GLC at recess on Tuesdays. About 10 minutes long, the topics are varied, so we’re certain you’ll find something of interest. As a special consideration we are permitting food to be eaten during this session.

We kicked off the series last Tuesday with my presentation on “How to Spot Fake News” which was well received (as far as I could tell) – something we hear a lot about these days, sadly.

These sessions will sometimes take a lecture-style format, and other times they will be more interactive. They will all be short and sweet so please come and sample.

Next Tuesday March 14 we have a session from Ms Morton on “What’s your goal? Setting your study goals.

On March 21 we have “How to read poetry” by Mr Mahoney

On March 28 Ms Morton is running a session on “What’s the difference between homework and study?

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