xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: And so this is Christmas...a blast from the past.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

And so this is Christmas...a blast from the past.

This is a speech that I gave at the Joondalup District Principals Christmas Luncheon, held at the Boardwalk Restaurant in East Fremantle on Friday, December 9, 1999.
Why it was held at a venue almost 40 kilometres from Joondalup I  do not know?
At that time principals were just coming to grips with The Curriculum Framework and the Student Outcomes Statements. Perhaps we just wanted to get right away from it all.
Sadly, my good friend Geoff Woods, who features in a totally fictitious anecdote in my speech, passed away in 2009 after a long and brave battle with cancer. He was far too young and is  still sadly missed.
Sad too that my great mate, Clem Combes, has also passed on. The story told about Clem is completely true.
As for the venue, it was first class and it turned out to be quite long lunch. A bit like my speech (es).

Introduction: Approach microphone...stare at audience...pause for about thirty seconds seconds

Good afternoon everyone. 
Pardon my long pause, but I was just savouring all of your attention.
A few years ago at a Principals' Conference at the Sheraton Hotel I went to a concurrent session on Communications where I was told by an expert communicator that the most interest an audience has in a speaker is the period between his getting to the mike  and when he actually starts talking.
As soon as he opens his mouth the  interest drops away.
Yes, I can see it spilling all over the floor right now.
The interest level then flattens out to around 45%-55%, until the speaker says key words and phrases such as, "And in Conclusion" or "Finally, may I just say..." or "Before finishing let me make these three points".
Then the audience bustles and sits up straight, saying to themselves, "Oh, he's finishing. I'd better listen to these three last points." 
Of course some smart aleck speakers say that and then go tediously on and on  to raise another 15 more points.
Anyhow, I've resigned myself to this situation and know that most of you are now listening on auto pilot.
Brian Dick rang me up earlier in the week and began chatting away in a most affable fashion. I thought "Gee, Brian must be a well organised bloke. Here I am working flat out...work piled up all around...test papers, reports, accountability documents to be filled in, interruptions every 90 seconds and yet Brian has time to call me and chat about my health, the weather, the cricket. 
And then he hit me!
"Noel, you wouldn't mind saying a few words after the luncheon on Friday, would you?"
You wouldn't mind! It is very hard to refuse that form of request. Not many of us would say, "Yes, I jolly well would mind!"
No, we tend to want to please and so we agree.
Although, I was reluctant.
"Brian" I said. "I hope you don't want me to stand up and say something funny about the year in education. It is a very hard thing to do. A few years ago, Peter Meares was on the WAPPA publications committee and asked me to write regular humorous  articles about education  to WAPPA WORDS. It is very hard to do and readers of some of my stories in WORDS will know that they have only very tenuous links to education. Some unkind people have even said that my stories have even less tenuous links to humour!
Sensing my reluctance, Brian assured me I did not have to talk about education.
"Noel, you can talk about anything you like."
"Anything? you beauty I can talk about my hobby...raising Siamese lugg worms for fun and profit."
"Well," said Brian, "maybe not anything...but I'm sure you'll think of something."
And so here I am. But this is really a job for Jeff Woods. I remember when I was on Professional Development committees in the old Scarborough and Swanbourne Districts. I'd get on the phone and ask Jeff to give us a humorous summary of the year that was.And he always did it with style...and a big smile.
Of course the reason Jeff is always smiling is that he is fabulously wealthy.
He has made piles of money out of his vast text book publishing empire.
Piles of money. Of course there was a time when Jeff had piles of a different sort.
Jeff went to the chemist and brought some haemorrhoid cream.
You may remember the brand name of the cream. It was extensively advertised on T.V. as Anusol, pronounced Annu- sole. I thought that this was a clever, in fact, a very cheeky marketing ploy.
I mean annus is Latin for ring and it is also the medical term for what we call our bottom; our rear end, our backside, our posterior or as some rude people would say it, a word that rhymes with "grasshole". So Anusol cream is actually a really  fancy way of saying a word that rhymes with grasshole cream.
Anyhow Jeff, who likes a glass of wine occasionally, had had quite a few occasionals that night. As a result, when he went to the bathroom he was slightly bewitched, bothered and bewildered and he put the haemorrhoid cream on his toothbrush and  toothpaste on his haemmorhoids.
I saw Jeff a day or two later. He was not smiling.
He told me his lips were like dried prunes and his gum had all wrinkled up and were going into recession.
"Oh Jeff" I said that must be awful..."
"It certainly is, but, Noel there is one good thing."
"Oh, what's that, Geoff?"
"At least I  now have a ring of confidence!"

Today we are privileged to have with us Mr Peter Brown the Acting Director General.
He has certainly made a very positive impression since coming to the job.
Acting Director General. I must say I am looking forward to next March. I mean, he has been so good as Acting Director general. I think he will probably win the Academy Award.
"And for best Acting Director General in any category...the winner is...Peter Brown ...For his performance in EDWA!"
I met Peter some years ago. He would not remember. It was at a WAPPA cocktail party at the Langley Plaza to welcome the new Minister...Norman Moore.
Well anyhow, before the speeches got under way, then WAPPA President, Mike Berson, introduced me to Peter. I was pleased and surprised. Surprised...because up until then I had thought that HE was Norman Moore.
Of course Peter has been very busy visiting schools since he took over from Mrs Vardon...sometimes known as Dolly.
We've had a musical kind of year in Education.
First it was the sequel to Hello Dolly...Good-Bye Dolly. Then we got The Boy From West OZ!
I know my daughter,Emily, who was appointed to Carnarvon Primary School this year was quick to ring me up and say, "Dad, guess what? Today I had morning tea with the Director General and he even came into my room and talked with me and the children."
"He made a big impression. I told the children that Mr Roper was in charge of Carnarvon Primary School but Mr Brown was in charge of all of the schools in Western Australia. When he left one of the children said, "He's a very important man, Miss'.
"Yes, he's in charge of all the schools'.
'No miss, he's a very important man...he's wearing a dark suit!"
You don't see many suits, dark or otherwise, in Carnarvon.
Peter visited SIDE earlier this year.The School of Isolated and Distance Education. SIDE.
SIDE. What a name?
I mean it is not really good for our corporate image when the Director General and the Directors of Operations have a teleconference to expound EDWA policy and they have to go to SIDE to put on the show. It becomes just a sideshow!
I don't know what we can do with SIDE.
Distance and Isoloated Education School is DIES...not very suitable and Isolated and Distant Education School is IDES. We all know what happened to a great Roman leader on the Ides of March, so maybe EDWA leaders would shun going anywhere near IDES.
I think SIDE should be renamed...Technological  Electronic Regional Resource Institute For Improved Curriculum....TERRIFIC! 
Then instead of a teleconference being a SIDE-show it would be a TERRIFIC show.
Peter was visiting SIDE earlier this year. He was being shown around by my very good friend, Clem Combes, who is the Executive Officer for the Principals at SIDE.
Clem introduced Peter to a teacher we will call Sue.
Sue, I'd like you to meet Peter Brown, Director General of Education."
"He's not!"
"Yes, Sue, this is Peter Brown, the Director General"
"Oh, Clem. Don't be silly. He's not the D-G. He's one of your old fishing mates and I bet you've got him here to do some relief teaching!"
Clem was extremely embarrassed. But, here is the part of the story I like. The Director General rose to the occasion, nudged Clem to one side and said to Sue, "Yes, I'm Clem’s fishing mate alright and I'm dressed up in this suit just to do a day's relief!"
Now, that makes me feel good. I am very happy to know that the leader of our organisation has that sense of fun.
Yes, mistakes are often made. Mistakes about the right cream and where to put it. Mistakes about people, about mistaken identities.
But people can sometimes even misunderstand basic English.
I mean how many of you...before outcome statements...used to write double meaning reports.
You would write...Billy tries very hard.
The parents would be overjoyed. Good old Billy the little battler. They would proudly show the report to the grandparents.
What you actually meant was Billy had to try hard because he was a mental moron in Grade 7 who should never passed out of Grade Three.
Some other misunderstood report comments…
"Has a love of Oral Expression"....the class chatterer, drives everybody crazy.
"Has a finely tuned sense of fun"...the class clown. Disrupts every lesson.
Before I illustrate this point about misunderstanding the meaning of words, let me say that I do not swear.
It doesn't make me a better person but I just don't swear. I think it is because many years ago I was in National Service and later spent two years in what is now the Army Reserve. In the army swearing is actually the language that is spoken. Conversations consist of lengthy stretches of swearing interspersed with a few English words. It doesn't bother me...but I was always fascinated how a group of soldiers could stand around discussing the weather or the football in the foulest language and when a WAAF or nurse came within earshot they would carry on their conversation with all expletives deleted.
I just knew that I wouldn't be able to do that. I didn't have those verbal brakes.
If I became a swearer I wouldn't be able to suddenly stop in the presence of a lady.
I mention this because in demonstrating how quite simple and quite common words can be misunderstood I need to mention a word...it is not a swear word...it is a perfectly proper English word...but not one that pops up in general conversation, if it pops up anywhere at all. The word is penis.
Now we all know that penis is defined in most dictionaries as The male member! Now I find that very funny. The male member! Member of what? The cricket team? Member of parliament?
I have a mental picture of the male member sitting in the House of Lords, wearing a wig, the male member rising to...well, maybe not rising... 
Anyhow, I first came across the word penis when I was in grade three.
I was in Mrs Brown's class at Christian Brothers Highgate in Harold Street. Each day we had writing lessons...we called it transcription.
After lunch we would come into the room and Mrs Brown would have this beautiful copperplate writing on the board which we would  transcribe into our transcription books.
Under the letters that we had to practice writing would be a sentence for us to copy. This was always a proverb or aphorism such as “Manners maketh the man”, “Where there's a will there's a way”, “Time and Tide wait for no man”. 
While we were transcribing, Mrs Brown would talk to us about the message behind the sentence. Yes, even way back then they taught values in schools.
One day Mrs Brown said, "Noel Bourke stand up please and read the sentence on the board."
I quickly jumped to my feet and read out aloud, "The penis mightier than the sword."
Mrs Brown was not amused and asked another boy. He read, "The pen is mightier that the sword."
At afternoon recess my friends giggled and laughed at me. I had made a fool of myself. This was to become a lifelong trend.
One of them explained to me the meaning of the word penis. I was flabbergasted. I was seven years old and I already knew eight words for penis...and penis wasn't one of them.
There was this fellow who worked in a pickle factory. One day at breakfast he said to his wife, "You know, sometimes at the pickle factory I have this overwhelming urge to put my penis into the pickle slicer."
"You what?" exclaimed his wife. "You're sick! You need help. Ring the doctor. Get a referral to a sex therapist."
"No, I'll be alright" said the husband."I've got will power. I am in charge of my own body. I can control these urges. Don't worry about it."
A week later his wife came home from shopping. It was 1-00 clock in the afternoon and her husband was sitting slumped in a lounge chair. His face looked like wet, grey plasticine.
"Why are you home so early, Dear? What's the matter?"
"I couldn't help myself," said her husband."I just couldn't help myself. I put my penis in the pickle slicer"
"Oh no," screamed his wife. 'You didn't! What happened?"
"They gave me that sack."
"They gave you the sack? But what about...what about...well, you know...what about the pickle slicer?
"Oh, they gave her the sack too!"

Well, I think I have said enough to ensure that I will not be invited back next year. I can see my District Director, David Carvosso, making notes...obviously to do with my Performance Management tasks for next year... in Fitzroy Crossing!
So finally... and in conclusion...before I finish... just let me say...
Ah, now the attention levels are rising.
I just want to close by saying it is getting close to Christmas. Now I am of the old school that believes it is not really Christmas till Bing Crosby sings about it. So I propose to end with a little song.
It is not about Christmas...it is about education...after all this is a gathering of educators.
The words came to me in a flash of brilliance today at morning tea time.The well known tune is linked to Christmas and dear old Bing Crosby.
Despite what you are about to hear, I did actually practise this song this morning and it is possible some of you  may recognise parts of the tune...when I sing in tune that is.

“Oh, I'm working with an outcomes statement
Not like the way I worked before.
Then the children would listen, and I would teach them
How in tests to get a good score.

Oh, I'm working with an outcomes statement
and with each report card that I write
I say, ”You've achieved some sort of outcome all right.
So that must make you very, very bright.”

That's right, folks...Jingle Bells!
Merry Christmas to you all.


No comments:

Post a Comment

I would love to hear your opinion! If for some technical reason it won't let you leave a comment, please email me at bourke@iinet.net.au