Where in the world is Katie?

Salt Pools

Salt Pools, Bolivia

At the beginning of the year, grade one teacher, Katie Braemar, traded the classroom in Kew for hiking boots and a very big adventure. So far, Katie’s travels have taken her from Rio de Janeiro and Bolivia to Buenos Aires and Argentina and she has kindly shared some of the details of her trip with us.

Confession: as soon as Katie’s email arrived, I put my Jealous Hat on (there is such a thing!). The pictures are spectacular and it sounds as if she is having an amazing time – I’m sure the kids will be excited to hear more details when she returns.

So, hot off the press from Bolivia, this is what Katie had to say – Continue reading

Working with…chickens?

Our first Kew Primary Working Bee for 2014 is coming up this weekend!  We have quite a list of jobs so we hope we’ll see lots of families up at school on Sunday, starting at 9.00 am with a break for morning tea (Jayne Campbell’s scones – YUM!) and finishing around 1.00 pm.

Jack  with Commando...or Waffles

Jack with Commando…or Waffles

Our Working Bees are organised by the school’s Building and Grounds Subcommittee each term.  The Subcommittee also gets involved in planning and organising longer term projects that help to improve the physical aspects of the school. They work closely with the Fundraising, Marketing and Communications Subcommittee, the PTA, School Council, and with Robin and James, on prioritising projects and raising money to fund them. Rather than waiting to hear about projects in the newsletter, have a think about getting involved with Building and Grounds! If you are interested, have time for a monthly meeting and / or have particular skills to offer, please do get in touch with James (penson.james.j@edumail.vic.gov.au). Many hands make…well, you know the drill! Continue reading

Shelley for Gold!

A week ago I heard a delicious rumour wafting around the playground. One of our teachers, Shelley Ware, had been nominated for a Logie! A quick Google search when I got home revealed the details. Marngrook nominated for Logies.photo

Shelley is a Yankunytjatjara and Wirangu Aboriginal woman from South Australia and teaches the Literacy Intervention Reading program across the school and Grade 6 one day a week.

But in her other life she is a presenter on the Indigenous footy show, Marngrook, which airs live on NITV and again SBS on Thursdays at 7.30-9.00.

I had to find out more.

Jacqui: So tell me about Marngrook and being on the telly.

Shelley: Marngrook is a family footy show where we talk all things football from an Indigenous perspective. Our main hosts are Grant Hansen and Gilbert McAdam who are hysterical and very insightful about football generally.photo Continue reading

Welcome new parents and baby Millar

In today’s blog I’d like to welcome all the new members of the Kew Primary School community. If you’ve found your way to the blog it means you’ve read the newsletter (well done!) and are now hooked into ‘our fantastic blog’ (thanks for the plug last night James!).

This time last year I asked a few parents who’d been around a while to cast their minds back to their early Prep days when everyone was just a teeny bit emotional and our children seemed so incredibly small. We came up with: Top Ten Tips for Panicked Preppie Parents which will tell you everything you need to know about starting at KPS. Well, not quite everything, but it’s a great start:

This week I’m also going to introduce two guest bloggers and welcome the newest – and most gorgeous – member of the KPS community.

Katrina Whelan has four children at KPS and writes her own (fantastic) book review blog: booksaremyfavouriteandbest. After my interview with James Penson last week, I asked Katrina to write something positive and uplifting for this week’s post; something fun and interesting that would really impress all the new parents. This is what Katrina sent me. Cheers, Kate.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty

There was a time, about four years ago, when I had whooping cough and as a result tore the ligaments between my ribs (a level of constant pain that was extraordinary). It coincided with my husband being interstate for work for an extended period of time. It also coincided with moving house. The point is, I was shattered. I didn’t think things could get any worse. And then they did.


Our first case of nits. And those little blighters just about tipped me over the edge. But I’m in a better place now and I can talk about nits without scratching my own head (mostly) and without breaking down in tears of frustration (mostly). Here’s what I’ve learnt after having kids at primary school for six years.

1. Conditioner is not a nit treatment (unless you’re prepared to comb your kid’s hair with a nit comb every day until they’re 21).

2. Some kids are nit magnets. You know how if you’re outside in the evening with a group of people and one person gets covered in mozzie bites and everyone else is spared? Nits are the same. Although they don’t discriminate, it seems some kids have more scrumptious scalps than others.

3. If we all checked our kids’ hair regularly, we would save a forest every year. Hey? Nits equal nit notices from the office. Think about it.

4. A change is as good as a holiday. The chemist has an aisle of nit treatments. Give that aisle a work-out. When nits visit us, I pull out my arsenal of treatments and carefully select my weapon. I change my ‘weapons’ regularly, keeping the nits on their toes. I’m like a nit-attacking version of Dan Ackroyd in Ghostbusters.ghostbusters

5. Be alert but not alarmed. Vigilance is the key but remember, nits don’t discriminate and there’s no need to feel embarrassed if your child has them.

6. How do you ‘do’? Boys with buzz cuts and girls with braids so tight that it makes your scalp hurt just looking at them usually belong to parents who are at the end of their nit rope. In all seriousness, nits move from head to head via direct contact so hair that is loose is the equivalent of a nit welcome mat.

7. Remember to laugh (or you might not stop crying).  How I laughed when the first nit notice this year arrived home on day three. Day three! And even the kids joined in the fun when we played ‘Nit Bingo’ last year (if all four of my kids bring home a nit notice on the same day, we yell ‘Nit Bingo!’). Yes, nits are time consuming, can get expensive to treat and can seem to be a never-ending problem but if we all stay on top of it, I might finish 2014 saying ‘Nit Bingo? That is sooooo last year.’

For actual useful information about nits, see: Tackling a perennial problem.


Alex St Claire is a communications consultant and has a son, Jake, in Grade 5 and a daughter, Isabelle, who’s just started in Prep. Alex is originally from Adelaide, but moved to Melbourne to work as a journalist before heading to Dubai for seven years. She’s switched from running in heels through Emirates Palace after TV crews to chasing kids through the playground and coercing them off the monkey bars.

Will you be my buddy?

As parents, the first day of school presents a heady mixture of joy and sadness.  Joy that they are beginning this wonderful journey with confidence and sadness that they aren’t our little babies anymore.

Watching the preps go in to their classrooms for their first day, it’s amazing to see the smiling faces and watching new friendships form within just a few minutes. But, as all parents know, there is a lot of preparation that has gone into those first steps into their new classroom.

Last year they enjoyed orientation sessions with the specialist teachers in art, PE, French and performing arts and even experienced a classroom session with their class and new teacher. This comprehensive transition program also extended to the local kindergartens with visits from the prep teachers to watch the kids at play.

It’s been such an easy transition that I can’t help but compare it to our first day at Kew Primary School three years ago. Moving from overseas and beginning the school term half way through the year presents a lot of challenges.

When my big Grade 5 boy mentioned his first day last week – remembering sitting alone in the schoolyard at his first lunch – I recalled the awkwardness I also felt, scanning the crowd for a friendly face. So, I was delighted to see the welcoming of these new parents in the new guidelines for class representatives.

Another great initiative that begins this year to further enhance the integration of prep families is the new prep buddy system. This partners exiting families with new prep families so they can provide advice and friendship. Our new Principal James Penson handed out the registration forms to the 55 new prep families when they arrived for their first day. If your child is new to the school, either starting in Prep or in Grade 1 to 6, then you are welcome to join the parent buddy program. I’ve heard a lot of positive comments from parents about the program so please pick up a form from the office.


He aha te mea nui i te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata

What is the most important thing in the world? It’s people, it’s people, it’s people.

(Traditional Maori Proverb)Millar 2

One of the things that really struck a chord with me on my first day as Casual Relief Teacher at  Kew Primary School back in 2010 was the way the staff were so friendly and open. I felt less of an outsider and more of a valued colleague.  All staff made a real effort to welcome me into the school and to take the time to talk with me. As someone new to Melbourne, this was something I truly valued and it really left a positive impression on me. In fact, this initial experience was so positive that I decided, even back then, that I wanted to teach full time at Kew Primary.Millar 3

It goes without saying that a real strength of KPS is the way staff treat and value each other and I’m proud to say that my wife, P.A., and I have made some really great friendships. I have also been fortunate to have met some fantastic parents. So it’s with immense pride that I share with the wider school community the birth of our daughter on the 2nd of January this year.Millar 1

We have named her Millar Anne Wood and needless to say, I’m a very proud husband and Dad. I’m absolutely loving my new role as a father and as much as I love coming to Kew every day to teach your children, I love going home each night, even more, to spend some time with our beautiful daughter. We are hoping to bring Millar to the upcoming Peppercorn BBQ, to introduce her to the staff and the wider community, a community we are very proud to be part of.

Andrew Wood, Lead Teacher and 603 Class Teacher

Jacqui Tomlins

Introducing…The Piano Man

Jacqui: What makes a good school?

James: (Laughs) Great start. A good school is a school where a student can achieve their optimum; where they can get everything they need to be the best they can.  So a school that supports students’ needs, recognises their skills and attributes and encourages and extend them;  a school that gives them every opportunity to deliver on their potential.

That’s the short answer, but what makes that is high quality teaching and the way members of the school community engage with each other and how the students connect. Pride and ownership of the school all contribute to that.

It’s a partnership between parents, students and teachers all working together with a common understand of what’s important. It’s about those three voices being powerful and having an input into how the school runs.

So students being responsible for their learning as they move up into the higher grades, and being self-directed and curious. Learning is fun and it’s natural and we are born inquisitive and often school squashes that out of us. My role – supported by the teachers and the community – is to ensure kids want to come to school and that they see a value in it and thrive.P1060865

Jacqui: I know you’ve only been here a very short time, but what are your priorities for Term 1?

I have two priorities. The first is to assimilate myself into the school and learn as much as I can about the school and the community. I’m a big believer in not changing things just for the sake of it, but I subscribe to the continuous improvement process and believe we can always get better. I want to learn as much about the school and see where we want to go.

I also want to focus on developing different techniques and strategies for different students; that might mean a different learning style,or a different scope for a learning task. And I think it’s really important to get some consistencies across classes from the very beginning so kids in different classes in the same grade are learning the same things. Easier said than done, but that’s my focus.

Jacqui: What’s your favourite book?

James: (Laughs) Great question. I’m an avid reader, but finding time to read is hard. I’m in the middle of a book by the historian Paul Ham about Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War which follows a book I read last holidays about Kokoda.  I like books about war history. Fiction? I think the last fiction I read was Ice Station by Matthew Reilly.

Jacqui: Communication has been an issue for the school in the past. What do you think you can do to create effective communication in the school?

Have processes in place where people know what’s expected and what sort of communication needs to go out when and why.  Giving people feedback about the decisions I make via the newsletter, blog or assemblies and by having conversations with people – getting my message out as many different ways as I can. I’m a great believer in conversations with parents and the ripple effect that has.

Jacqui: Yes, the playground is very good for that ripple effect!  Are there any good initiatives or practices from your old school that you’d like to bring to KPS?

James: (Laughs. Again.)  There’s a stack. The personal development program was a big one for staff and the community. We called it Yarrambat kids are gold and we had a value of the week and a focus topic and we did a lesson and provided material for families as well. For example, standing up for yourself, or thanking people, or smiling. I see that as educating the whole child I think that’s an important part of learning. We have a good CARE program here and I’d like to see that extended and used really effectively.

Teaching protocols are really important so, for example, a teacher knows what a good maths lesson looks like: the content, the language used, the outcomes for students.

An expectation of teachers using data about our students so they plan around the students’ specific needs using the results of testing and  devising programs for particular groups of students.

I’m pretty passionate about teacher professional growth so teachers observing each other and getting honest and critical feedback.

Jacqui: My daughter (Scout, Grade 3) wanted me to ask you this: What would you be if you weren’t a teacher?P1060866

James: Growing up I really wanted to be a vet because my father is a vet, but I probably didn’t work quite hard enough in school and then maybe a musician. I have a music degree and that naturally led into teaching. I studied piano right through university and used to play at a restaurant.

Jacqui: That’s very cool! I think the PTA might be interested in that!

James: Having said that I love being a teacher and I know I’m the Principal but I don’t see myself as a principal who’s detached from teaching. I’ll be looking to have an active teaching role, something that’s structured and in the timetable so it’s regular and keeps me in touch. 

Jacqui: That would be great for the kids; they’d love that. I’ll declare my own bias here;  I was a teacher a long time ago and I think our teachers are our most important and valuable asset. How do you plan to support the teaching staff?

Working on their professional growth is the first thing; targeting some key improvement areas as a whole staff and as individuals and thinking about where we want to go as a school.  I want to offer a really rich and relevant professional learning series for them and value their professional input.

For me what’s important is to trust their judgement and build that level of trust and positivity and optimism. To value their work and trust them to work hard and do their very best and support their students and I will support them in any way I can.

Jacqui: What is the most important thing we can do as a parent community to support you and the school?

James: Be really, really positive about everything. Talk with students as they come home every day and say: Tell me three great things that happened today.  Don’t get bogged down in some of the negative things. There might be a really small thing that happened during the day and the student talks about that and then the helicopter moves in and it turns into a massive big thing and mum and dad come up to school to solve it for them when the student needs to fight their own battles a little bit. Obviously the parents are there to support, but trust us too.

Be involved and come in and have a chat. Come forward with any ideas or suggestions and be solutions focussed. Be as positive as you can and if you are unsure about things ask questions so you don’t fill in the blanks with an incorrect answer. Go to the source and get the information you need.

Jacqui: We have 31 nationalities in the schools. What’s your favourite country?

James: That’s fantastic. Great question. Probably Belgium. Belgium and Ireland would be my two. I travelled for 12 months my first year out of uni mainly in Western Europe and had a great time in Ireland; the atmosphere, the countryside and the people. I had a ball. And I loved the history in Belgium, stepping into buildings that were a thousand years old, and the European dining culture and the pubs.

And if I won some money I’d go and watch the Tour de France, get a white van and follow the teams. I watch the tour religiously. I just think it’s fantastic coverage of a sporting event, the commentary and the logistics. That’s a big goal of mine.

This one is for you, James.

This one is for you, James.

Jacqui: How do you know if you’ve had a successful day?

I guess the main pointer is listening to the voice of the students so if you see them walking out at the end of the day and they’re keen to tell mum and dad something that’s happened or you can see a smile on their face, I think that’s a successful day. And mostly they are.

I can’t think of a bad day at work. Even though I might have had some bad moments, I don’t think I’ve ever had a day that I thought was a bad day. We have a great job. It’s hard, and it’s challenging, but jeez it’s rewarding.

Jacqui: What are you looking forward to most in your new role?

James: There’s so much. My last years at Yarrambat were really successful and I look at Kew and there’s so many things…(long pause).

Jacqui: It’s okay. We know there are a few things that need attention so you won’t get into trouble for saying that!

James: I’m looking forward to the opportunity to shape a school and deliver some key educational outcomes and some key success measures over a period of time. That’s a real priority.

Jacqui: So you think we can do that?

James:  I do. Absolutely.  I see huge potential in this school. Massive potential. I got a sense of that on my first day and even before I started. The general culture, and the level of commitment from everyone in the school is fantastic.P1060873

Jacqui: So there are things you can implement that will put us in a different place in two years’ or five years’ time?

James: Yes. I’m confident of that. (Laughs.) It takes time, but yes.

Jacqui: So what might a different KPS look like in 5 years? Better grades? Happier teachers? Higher enrolments?

Student outcomes definitely are massive. You’ll see a lot more value add. I don’t think we push our students enough so I’m looking for a far higher academic standard, more structures around curiosity and learning, a greater student voice, more student controlled learning and more student connectedness.I think we can make the curriculum far more rigorous, engaging and challenging – and more modern and relevant.

Jacqui: I’m sure lots of parents will be happy to hear that.

James: I think if you have a positive and trustworthy relationship between the groups  you have optimum learning conditions. I know trust comes with communication and that’s built up over time and part of my role is to build that trust and you do that by following through with your actions and being true to your word and being honest and transparent and that’s what I intend to do.

I guess it’s about being really clear about where I want to see the school and where the community wants to see the school. I want to outline the vision I have to parents, communicate that effectively and bring them on board, shaping it as we go.JP4

Jacqui: Thanks James. I think I can safely safe that your arrival has generated a good deal of excitement and optimism in the playground and that we’re really glad to have you.

Jacqui Tomlins

Snags and sauerkraut, Bollywood and butter chicken

How many nationalities do you think we have represented at Kew Primary? I checked with Robin and the office staff and we came up with thirty-one:

American, Argentinian, Australian, Bosnian, Brazilian, British, Canadian, Chilean, Chinese,  Croatian, French,  German, Ghanaian, Greek Indian, Italian, Iranian, Iraqi, Japanese, Korean, Lebanese, Malaysian, New Zealander, Nigerian, Pakistani, Polish, Samoan, Solomon Islander, Sri Lankan,  Swiss and Thai. (Let us know if we left you out).

I love the fact that my kids are hanging out every day with kids who have a connection to another part of the world; I think that’s fantastic and really important. This year the Peppercorn BBQ is celebrating this fabulous cultural diversity with a World Food and Dance Celebration! I asked Emma Moore, Angela Gill and Claire Tanner from the PTA to tell me about the event.morris

Claire: Last year the PTA ran a very successful end of year Peppercorn BBQ Aussie Bush Dance. All the kids got to learn some bush dancing during the day and really enjoyed dancing with parents and teachers to an Aussie bush band in the evening.

This year we thought it would be good to run an event that celebrated our cultural diversity and encouraged involvement and belonging amongst all our families at school. So the idea arose to have a World Food and Dance event as our end of year Peppercorn BBQ celebration.

One of the goals of the PTA is to engender a strong sense of community and belonging and part of that is encouraging respect and learning across cultures and that builds on the school values of our CARE program (Cooperation, Acceptance, Respect and Excellence). We also want to encourage people to have fun which happens when everyone feels welcome and able to celebrate their uniqueness. 

We’re also hoping to raise some money, of course, which will go towards our cooling solutions. The first stage, which includes the junior school and performing arts room, will cost around $58,000 and so far the PTA has raised $42,000 towards the cost. School Council will also contribute and the work will begin on 7th January, 2014!


Jacqui: So what will the kids be learning during the day?

Emma: We’ve organised a dance/music incursion which includes an African drumming and dance group, Salaka, and an Indian music troupe, the Bollywood Beats. The kids will all have a turn at drumming and doing some dance routines and they’ll learn about African music and culture. Bollywood Beats will do some demonstrations with costumes and music and then give the kids lessons.salakatour_1

In the evening, a festival of world music and dance will be presented by Stomp Dance Company, showcasing music from around the world and incorporating dances that have been learnt during the incursion and throughout the year.  Stomp will run the world music dance from 5.00 pm in the evening to truly celebrate the end of the school year.stomp

We’re also encouraging parents to volunteer to teach their national dance in the evening, be it a bush whacker or Zorba the Greek; we’d love the children to see and experience it all. You can check out all the dance companies here: Salaka: Bollywood Beats: Stomp:.

Jacqui: Sounds great. I used to do a mean Morris dance in my youth…?! And what about the food?

Angela: There will be Indian food – organic butter chicken curry, dhal and rice – provided and prepared by Jolly and Ruby Ghuman (Grade 1) who run Fitz Curry Cafe, at 44 Johnston Street in Fitzroy. Polish sausages will be served in a bread roll with sauerkraut provided and cooked by Eva and John Tomacwicz (Prep).indian food

We’re also hoping to provide toffee strawberry and grape skewers (Cora Pang, Grade 1), Lebkuchen (and possibly Turkish delight) (Alex St Clair, Grade 4), Pice ar y maen or Welsh cakes (Dylan Coleman, Grade 4), Koripedes or Greek shortbread biscuits (Simone Manning, Prep), gazpacho (Tania LeConte, Prep) and a Persian traditional dessert (Zohreh, Prep).welsh cakes

And there will also be some plain beef sausages in bread cooked by BBQ expert Chett Beavis (Grade 3) and his team of helpers.

Jacqui: That’s a huge effort. Who’s involved in the organising and do you need any more help?

Emma: We’ve got a great team who have been working really hard to make this a success. We will be needing help from the parent community and class reps will be sending around rosters so people can put their name down to help out with the various jobs. We’ll need help setting up before the event (starting at 2.00 pm) and cleaning up afterwards, and teams to help serve drinks and food.

This event will only be a success if everyone makes it a priority to come along. You can pre-book your world food on www.trybooking.com/DVMW. Hope to see you there. Friday 13th December, 5.00pm-8.00pm.

Any of the PTA organisers (below) can answer your questions or give you a job! And, don’t forget to support our sponsors.

Coordinator: Emma Moore (Grade 2 & 4) Music/Dance: Emma Moore, Tahnee Planner and Robin Grace, Bar: Rachel Naylor (Prep), Joanna Szeszycka (Grade 2 & 4) and Fiona Hollingsworth (grade 1 & 3), Food:Angela Gill (Grade 2) and Claire Tanner (Grade 2 & prep), Rosters:Emma Cooney (Grade 1 & Prep), Fiona Hollingsworth, Fairy floss etc.: Loraine Trist (Grade 4) and Belinda Holmes (Grade 4 & 2), Giving Tree:Grade 5s and Clare Connor.

Sponsors:Kew Baker’s Delight is donating bread (thanks Jeb) and Gourmet Meats, Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn is donating 500 sausages (thanks Josh and Luke).

John and Ting Zhou Ling (Grade 1) are generously donating Zilzie red and white wine (thanks, guys).

Jacqui Tomlins

Blog’s birthday!

This week it’s Blog’s birthday and to celebrate Blog has been featured in the local paper, Progress Leader. If you haven’t seen the real-life version:  Blogging a school’s life (page 13) you can check it out on-line here: HB1

I started Blog a year ago with the aim of engaging the broad school community in the school’s day-to day life. I wanted to showcase some of the great things that are happening, promote debate about current practices, share parents’ concerns and pass on their thoughts and advice to others.

I’ve been helped in this by a host of guest bloggers who have taken the time to write their personal stories, or discuss topics of importance to them and the school community generally.  Lots of staff have agreed to be interviewed and photographed and have let me take up their lunch break or preparation time.

So for this week I am going to reflect on some of the highlights of Blog’s first year.


There have been 36 posts in all with many of those provided by our guest bloggers. Those posts have been viewed in 65 countries around the world. In total there have been 8, 614 views of the site so far.

We’ve had 50 comments in all which is very respectable. (Other bloggers will know how hard it is to get people to comment!)  I’ve had many, many more comments and lots of conversations in the playground and over coffee about some of the topics discussed which has been great.

We’ve covered student well-being and resilience, art and sport, communication, fees and funding, healthy eating and body image, chooks and the garden, the canteen, bike riding, iPads, book reviews, swimming, chess, volunteering, school council, holidaying around the country, pen-friends, Flower Power trivia night, Grade 6 Leadership, local fund-raisers,  World Teacher’s day, a host of teacher interviews and some farewells.HB6

If we were to have a medal ceremony for the top posts in Blog’s birthday year it would go something like this:

Bronze Medal to Nikki’s McConnon’s  blog about vision therapy. I think we really like to hear other parents’ stories and I’m always grateful when people are willing to share their personal experiences.

Silver Medal to Scout Nichols Tomlins for accidentally spending $1372.27 on in-app purchases in record breaking time and to Sarah Nichols for staying up all night to work out how to get it back.

The Gold Medal would definitely go to the fantastic story shared by Shelley Ware about her community and the extraordinary achievements of her father, Bob Ware (306 views on the day and many more afterwards).  It’s my favourite too.HB2

I’m looking forward to Blog’s next year and to more great stories and playground discussions. If you’d like to write for the Blog, or if you have an idea for a story, please let me know.

Many thanks to everyone who has helped along the way.

Jacqui Tomlins

New Hampshire red and Australorp black…?

This week I hung out in Kew Primary’s garden and vegie-patch with Grade 1 teacher, Katie Braemar, and six new arrivals to the school: Henny, Penny, Clucky, Ducky, Pecky and Mabel! Those aren’t their official names, Katie tells me – the kids are going to name them next week – but they’ll do for now.P1060797

There are two types of chook wandering around the newly built chook house: one is…well…blackish and the other is sort of orange-y, but beyond that I haven’t a clue. Fortunately, my expert guide informs me they are an Australorp/New Hampshire cross and a New Hampshire/Rhode Island Red cross.P1060835

The most important thing, though, is that the chooks are laying eggs! Three of them have started already and the other three should be joining them shortly.

‘They lay one egg every 25 hours, Katie tells me, ‘and once they go into  full production we’re hoping to have enough eggs so that Sally can use them in the canteen – for the fried rice – and have extras to sell. Eventually, we’re hoping they’ll be completely free range and will have the full run of the garden.’

Glancing around the garden I can see some long strips of chicken wire that have been recently affixed to the fence, but I wouldn’t be confident of letting them out quite yet; half a dozen chooks and a playground full of kids doesn’t strike me as a good mix.

Katie has taken on the care of the garden and the chooks and organised the building of the chook house. So did you grow up on a farm, I ask her?P1060812

[Much laughter] ‘No, not all. Earlier this year when the vegie garden was quite overgrown I spotted a capsicum amongst all the leaves. On closer inspection I saw there were whole plants full of these vegies and after I’d picked a few I wondered what else was growing. To be honest, I was like a little kid – so excited that from these tiny seeds, yummy fruit and vegies were growing. It’s been great fun for me learning about how food grows, as well as getting my class involved and it’s a lot of trial and error as well which I’ve enjoyed. Then I thought, why stop at vegies when you can have chooks and fresh eggs daily!?’

So how are the kids involved?

‘The Green Thumbs – one of the Grade 6 Leadership groups – is responsible for feeding the chickens each day, grain, pellets and calcium grit, and for keeping their water topped up. Teachers can bring their classes to the garden and show them around and we’re hoping eventually it can be used to teach the kids about life cycles, the environment and sustainability.’P1060809

‘At the moment we’ve got broad beans, silver beet, celery, lettuce, potatoes, garlic, strawberries, corn and herbs – rosemary, coriander and mint. We’re hoping to sell the produce for a gold coin donation and maybe next year have a cook-up once a month, a make and taste, where kids get to pick the vegies and make something with them. I made coleslaw with my kids last week.’

‘We’ve got a huge water tank, a compost bin and a worm farm and some seedlings for more vegies, tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini and spring onions. Oh and our very own scarecrows made by the kids. And the chicken house is fully fox and rodent proof too.’P1060803

As an entirely urban and hopelessly un-green person, I am super impressed by the garden and its contents, and even more so when I discover how it was funded. Apparently, the current Grade 5 girls raised almost $6000 from a lapathon last year, which covered the cost of the brand new chook shed – and its inhabitants! – and some much needed garden maintenance.  Well done girls!

As Katie goes off to her staff meeting, I am left in the garden speculating how I can get a picture of the aforementioned chooks without them doing a runner into the garden and beyond. Every time I open the shed door they rush at me en masse and when I half close it and stick the camera through the gap they peck at me.P1060833P1060824

In the end, the kids come to the rescue by poking bits of straw through the chicken wire on the other side so I can quickly snap my photo of Henny and Penny…or is that Clucky and Ducky…? Who knows?

We didn’t have chickens at my school, or a kitchen garden, just a lot of privet hedge and an unpleasantly smelly gerbil in a tiny cage (from which I developed a lifelong rodent phobia) so I’m glad my very urban kids get to feed the chooks now and again and steal the odd strawberry when my back is turned.  P1060814

With special thanks to Scouty and Harry B for their expert chook distracting skills.

Katie Braemar has a great blog and you can read all about how her class made the coleslaw from fresh produce grown on the garden by clicking here:

Jacqui Tomlins


World Teachers’ Day, 25th October, 2013: A Celebration of (KPS) Teachers

World Teachers’ Day is celebrated in over one hundred countries throughout the world and is an opportunity for parents and students to demonstrate their appreciation of the enormous contribution made by teachers everywhere.teach3So, in celebration of our very own teachers, this week’s blog is dedicated to the staff of Kew Primary School.

In the last few days I have conducted a detailed and thoroughly scientific survey of student opinion asking the following three questions:

What do you like most about your teacher?

Would you like to be a teacher when you grow up?

Can you tell me something funny that a teacher has said or done?

Below are the results of the survey: (There are lots of them. I couldn’t leave any out!)bum

What do you like most about your teacher?

She is my favourite teacher because she is in the middle…she is a little bit strict but not too much. (Grade 1)

She is very funny, generally generous and sporty. (Grade 5)

She is kind, but she still tells people off when she needs to and that’s a good sign. (Grade 2)

The best thing about my teachers is that they teach me stuff! (Grade 2)

I like how we do table lotto and how you get to have jobs in the class. My favourite job is doing the roll. I like her because she uses her expression when she reads a book to the class.  (Grade 2)

She speaks nicely to people, and when someone is sad she tries to cheer them up. (Grade 1)

She was funny and she made our work fun; it was like a competition and whoever finished first got a prize – she made you want to do the work.  (Grade 6)

She’s kind and fair and she understands kids’ problems. She helps if people are teasing and she doesn’t mention names.  (Grade 5)

I have two favourite teachers; they don’t shout at me and they are never bossing me around. (Prep)


She’s nice and caring and I like her earrings. (Grade 2)

I liked him because he let us play soccer indoors! (Grade 3)

She would always have conversations with us about what we liked, football, for example.  (Grade 6)

My favourite teacher wasn’t too strict. She was always kind and patient and was funny! (Grade 2)

She gave me hard maths things to do and she didn’t shout a lot. (Grade 2)

He knew heaps about iPads and showed us lots of cool stuff. (Grade 5)

She taught us songs and she let me choose who could line up first for snack and other things. (Grade 1)

She would give us icy poles on really hot days. (Grade 5)

I like the games she runs in class and if you want to she lets you sit on the chairs instead of the carpet. (Grade 2)

When you’ve done something wrong she is very patient and kind. (Grade 1)

She was always enthusiastic about our work which made us also enthusiastic.  Usually if we finished our work quickly we could go out and play.  (Grade 6)

She did good activities which were fun, and she was funny. (Grade 2)

When I first moved here she was really nice to me. (Grade 5)

I like her because she gives me extra work and because she lets us swap seats every term. (Grade 1)

She is friendly and always smiles and lets us have free time. (Grade 3)

I like the teachers who just talk to me about me and my family. (Grade 1)

She is approachable, friendly and nice. (Grade 5)

She’s really happy and she looks after me. (Grade 1)

She is very nice and I miss her when she goes away. (Grade 1)

She is fair to everybody. (Grade 3)

Sometimes at lunch she lets us watch the number jacks on the iPad. (Prep)

Would you like to be a teacher when you grow-up?

Yes, I think it would be fun to be a teacher when I grow up. I would like to teach children what my teacher has taught us; they will probably turn out good readers as well. (Prep)

No, it would be annoying because you could have some naughty kids in your class. (Grade 1)

I would like to be a singing teacher because it gives children a chance to enter a different world. (Grade 1)

No, I will not be a teacher as I am too sporty. (Grade 3)

Yes, I would like to be an art teacher because I love arts and crafts. (Prep)

No, because I would have to know everything. (Grade 5)

Yes, but a ballet teacher. (Prep)

I don’t want to be a teacher because it’s a bit hard if your children are naughty. I don’t have a reason; I just don’t want to do that. (Grade 1)

Yes, I have thought about being a teacher when I grow up. I would also like to be an archaeologist. (Grade 2)

No. I have other ambitions, involving sport. (Grade 5)


Yes, because you could tell kids what to do and only give them a game when they deserved it. (Grade 2)

No, No. Definitely not. Too many children would be annoying. (Grades 2 & 5)

Probably not because I want to be a book reviewer or a Lego designer. (Grade 5)

No, because there could be a few naughty people and you would have to sit them in the corner. (Grade 3)

Yes, I would like to be a performing arts teacher because I like doing the dancing thing and the games. (Grade 1)

No, because I want to be a scientist. (Grade 1)

Yes, because I like the fact that they are helping kids to learn (Grade 2)

No. I wouldn’t want to teach all those kids; it would be annoying and hard because some of them are naughty. (Grade 2)

I wouldn’t like to be a teacher when I grow up because I am more into electronics. (Grade 2)

No definitely not. It is too busy and kids are very annoying. (Grade 1)

No, because I would rather be a lawyer.  (Grade 6)

Can you tell me something funny that a teacher has said or done?

Last week she tripped over the white board markers on the floor and it was really funny.  (Grade 2)

She is very funny when she is reading the book called The Duck and the Fox. At the very end of the story she uses her funny voice when the fox says stupid duck and the duck says stupid fox. (Prep)

When she said she goes for the Bottoms instead of the Bombers. (Grade 1)

She tries to tell jokes and they’re not very funny but I laugh to make her feel better. I once went up to her at lunch and said: I like your scarf, and she replied: Well you’ll be getting a high grade for that compliment! (Grade 5)

It was funny when she made a mistake on the white board and had to start again, and once she was talking and right in the middle a boy said: Frankenstein! (Prep)

Her jokes are hilarious! (Grade 5)

When kids got stressed he would say: ‘Hey! Cool your jets!’ That was really funny. (Grade 5)

She wrote on the interactive whiteboard with a permanent marker! (Grade 3)

She messed up the projector and all the images were upside down. (Grade 2)

Once she told us a story about being at camp and she gave the keys of the van to a kid to get something from the van. The kid came back and said that someone had left the hand-brake off and the van had rolled down a hill and hit a tree! We were all laughing. (Grade 5)

She was funny when she sang: Bellyflop in a Pigsty. (Grade 1)

One of the funniest things was when she fell down the stair; I was laughing but I also felt really sorry for her. (Grade 6)


I cannot remember precisely which teacher it was, I think I was in Grade 2 at the time. We were doing maths and the teacher was counting down with her fingers from ten.  She was left pointing her middle finger at the class.  It was very funny and the whole class was laughing.  (Grade 6)

She said we had to do one hundred star jumps, but actually it’s only one! (Prep)

She draws a funny ‘W’. (Grade 1)

Once he taught us the haka which was really cool. (Grade 5)

I don’t know. I know some not funny stuff. (Grade 1)

My teachers are not funny at all. (Grade 2)

A poem, a video clip and a message

When I was thinking about teaching – its many delights and challenges – I recalled a poem I read many years ago by the English children’s writer, Allan Ahlberg. I particularly love his introduction:

I think this poem has something to do with the psychological state of teachers. Imagine you’re a child in class and you ask your teacher five questions every day – that’s not many is it, five – but, if there are thirty of you, that makes 150 questions a day, 750 questions a week, 3000 questions a month, and if we say ten months in the year, that’s 30,000 questions a year. If a teacher teachers for ten years, that’s 300,000 questions. And this, of course, explains the situation which most children understand which is that all school teachers are crazy.  

Please Mrs Butler

Please Mrs Butler
This boy Derek Drew
Keeps copying my work, Miss.
What shall I do?

Go and sit in the hall, dear.
Go and sit in the sink.
Take your books on the roof, my lamb.
Do whatever you think.

Please Mrs Butler
This boy Derek Drew
Keeps taking my rubber, Miss.
What shall I do?

Keep it in your hand, dear.
Hide it up your vest.
Swallow it if you like, love.
Do what you think best.

Please Mrs Butler
This boy Derek Drew
Keeps calling me rude names, Miss.
What shall I do?

Lock yourself in the cupboard, dear.
Run away to sea.
Do whatever you can, my flower.
But don’t ask me!

Allan Ahlberg

So on the days you feel a bit like Mrs Butler, remember that there are many people who really appreciate the work you do. When I put out the call for parents to ask their kids to contribute to this blog, my in-box filled up in hours. The kids loved talking about you all and sharing their stories and the parents were eager to pass on their support and thanks. So Happy World Teachers’ Day everyone and thank-you for your kindness and humour, your hard-work and commitment, and for creating a fantastic learning environment for our kids.

Jacqui Tomlins (on behalf of the school parent community)

And finally, this is a funny YouTube clip of the English comedian, Peter Kay, talking about teachers. I hope it makes you smile:



Comunication and Community

This week’s blog is about communication, an issue that affects our entire school community. Communication is not just about how we transfer information and keep in touch with what’s happening at school – though that’s important – it’s about how we connect with each other, about how we engage with everyone around us. I believe it’s central to how we function as a community and to how we feel about being part of the KPS community.  Over my years at Kew Primary the subject has certainly come up a lot so I thought it might be time to tackle the issue for the bog.

The school has a communications sub-committee which has recently taken off under the leadership of Julie Coleman. Julie has Ryan in Grade 4 and Damon in Grade 2 and in her other life she is Human Resources Director at Monash College (a subsidiary of Monash University) where she manages the HR issues associated with roughly five hundred staff. I’ve not known Julie long, but after talking to her for an hour, the phrase: If you want something done, ask a busy person comes to mind.IMG_6731

I thought I’d start by talking to Julie about how she sees communication at KPS and what plans she and the committee have for the future.

Jacqui: I think there are some things we do really well around communication and some things we could do better. Is that how you see it?

Julie: Yes, I think that’s true. At the beginning of the year there was discussion at School Council about the fact that parents were looking for increased – and more consistent – communication. So to start with we decided to change the structure of the committees. We took communication out of the Education and Policy subcommittee and established a new one, Funding, Communication and Marketing with the emphasis on building a community within Kew Primary School and the local area. We added funding –including grants, sponsorships and voluntary contributions – because we felt it was important to communicate how the voluntary contributions are used to fund different projects.

Jacqui: So what has the committee done so far?

Julie: Well, we’re doing two things at the same time. The first is looking at what we can achieve quickly and easily; changes we can implement that will make a small, but significant and immediate difference. The second is to develop a broad and comprehensive three year Communication Plan that will address some of the bigger, long-term issues.

Jacqui: So let’s start with those small, more immediate changes.

Julie: The very first thing we did was to work with Aisha in the office to send out notices to parents reminding them about the Newsletter and the Bulletin; about how they can access them and what information they contain.  They are both a critically important method of communication, but only if people read them, of course!

We also sent out notices inviting parents to attend Friday assembly and giving them an idea of what they could expect: curriculum updates, teachers’ news, sports results, community announcements and students’ achievements. Last week Grade 3-6 students received awards for participating in house athletics which was fantastic to watch! And the CARE Program dances are always really fun.

Jayne Campbell, one of our former committee members, has had a really good look at the school website and has done a great job of reviewing the content. Jayne and Ruth, from the office, have made a number of changes and it’s now looking really good. You can check it out here.

Photos of School Council members are now on the website so that parents can identify them around school and raise any issues of concern they may have. We’re also going to include a summary of the outcomes of each School Council meeting in the Newsletter so parents have a clearer idea of what is being discussed and decided.

The PTA has also been putting out regular notices about fundraising events and has been getting a really great response from parents keen to volunteer.  So far this year they’ve run the Flower Power Trivia Night, Mother’s Day and Father’s day stalls, the Father’s Day Breakfast, Prep Parents’ Welcome Drinks and the Peppercorn BBQ. They’ve also had a lot of interest in the Art Show they are planning for October, 2014P1060544The Building and Grounds subcommittee have had terrific success with the last two working bees lead by Stewart Waters working closely with Robin Grace and Andrew Searle with 124 people attending, along with Channel 9! The KPS Working Bee Newsletter showcased the achievements from spreading 26 cubic metres of mulch, to building a shed in the kitchen garden.1308 KPS Working Bee 012

Jacqui: I know one of the things that parents love is the class newsletter from their child’s teacher.

Julie: Yes. Individual class or year level newsletters are a really important link between parents and teachers. They ensure parents are able to keep up with what’s happening in class, and enable teachers to call upon parents for help or support where necessary. They include details about homework, excursions, curriculum, activities and ways that parents can support their child’s learning at home. The newsletters will go out twice a term for Prep to Grade 2 and once a term for Grade 3 – 6.

The Class Reps are also a really important conduit for information between parents and teachers. Nikki McConnon has developed a set of Class Representative guidelines which have been circulated to teachers and current class reps. for feedback and will then be endorsed by School Council. They should provide individual class reps with a clearer idea of their role and hopefully result in greater consistency over the different grades. We’re also making some administrative changes so that the class lists will be available closer to the start of Term 1.

Another possibility we’re exploring is setting up a buddy system for Prep Parents where we match first time prep parents with an ‘experienced’ prep parent. I think it’s really important to provide new parents with a lot of information and help them engage with school in those early weeks. The idea is that the experienced parent would provide information and show them the ropes, and hopefully overcome some of those initial anxieties that everyone has when their child first starts school.P1050814

Jacqui: I’ve had a look at the School Communication Plan which I have to say looks fantastic; really well researched and very comprehensive. You’ve done a great job there. Can you tell me about it?

Julie: The School Communication Plan was a joint effort with members of the Funding, Communication & Marketing Sub Committee and School Council. We are really keen to build a stronger school community through a more inclusive, transparent and consistent approach to our communications and we thought that a clear plan with objectives that spanned over a 1-3 year period would support that goal.

It also gave us a chance to promote the really good things that are already happening at our school while recognising there are a number of opportunities for building on those achievements. We’ll prepare a plan to address all these issues and are keen to involve the school community in that journey.

Jacqui: And what about the thorny issue of voluntary contributions? The two blogs I wrote on that subject earlier in the year generated a lot of discussion. At that stage about 35% of families had paid. Have we managed to increase that?

Julie: Yes, last term we updated the voluntary contribution letters that went home to families explaining that the school only receives around 33% of its funding from the government. Many parents were surprised by this figure. The school can’t invest in any discretionary programs – cooling solutions, running track, a kiln for the art room – without increasing our voluntary contributions. To date, just over 50% of families have paid so we have increased our contribution from 32% earlier in the year which is great, but we still need to build on that.  We’re hoping to get to 60% by the end of this year. I think 70% is a reasonable target for the future given the demographics of our school. Leo Arantes, another committee member, is building a barometer to record our progress so look out for it!

Jacqui: You recently won a grant from the Leader Newspapers; that’s a great start.

Julie: We were really pleased to receive such strong support from the Kew Primary community which resulted in our winning $1,000 towards the plumbing to connect the water tanks to the kitchen garden. This grant also resulted in a great story in the Progress Leader in July.  Plus, we recently received an IBM grant of $1,500 towards the purchase of TVs to connect to IPads for Grades 3-6.1308 KPS Working Bee 019

We’ve applied for a number of other grants including natural turf for goal ends on the oval, lighting and sensor lights to protect the CARE chairs from vandalism at night, a running track and war memorial to commemorate past students who fought in World War 1.

Jacqui: You’ve already made a number of changes and you have a great plan for the future. How will you measure whether you are on track?

Julie: We’ll look for an increase in parents subscribing to the newsletter, checking the website and reading the blog. We’ll also monitor parent attendance at meetings and school functions and involvement in the PTA and sub committees.  We want to increase the number of positive stories in local media – three so far this year! And, we hope to see an increase in voluntary contributions, donations and sponsorship received by the school.  Will continue to do parent satisfaction surveys and respond to their concerns.

It would be great if people could have a look at the Communication Plan and if anyone has comments, suggestions or ideas, please get in touch:  You can contact me here:julie.coleman@mcpl.edu.au

Jacqui: Thanks for your time and commitment to a really important issue. I think you’re’ doing a great job.

Jacqui Tomlins and Julie Coleman

Members of the Funding, Communication and Marketing subcommittee are:  Julie Coleman (Convener) Jacqui Tomlins, Claire Tanner, Leo Arantes, Janine Arantes, Jeremy Whelen, Sally Marsh and Chelsea Carmichael.