xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: December 2013

Monday, 16 December 2013

We wish you a very, Merry Christmas.

We Wish You

Yes, in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s Christmas time again.

But how could you not have noticed? The big department stores have been flogging Christmas gifts since mid-September. Each year we know Christmas is coming by the tuneful sounds of  those busy cash registers going ka-chingle bells, ka-chingle bells, ka-chingle all the way..

What is more, our meticulously kept records show that you are still on our mailing list, which explains why you are receiving this Bourke Family Christmas Greeting. 

Yes, folks it Christmas time already.That’s what happens when your short term memory goes. You are fated to experience rapidly recurring Christmases that come around with ever increasing frequency. Like this one has done. Let’s face it, everybody knows that it is only two months since last Christmas!

As for being on our mailing list...well, we are like the Readers Digest. As regular as clockwork and very difficult to shake off.

At least we don’t tell you that you have come through six stages of elimination to be in a position to receive our letter and we definitely do not promise to pay you $500 000 if you post this letter back within seven days and your lucky number is selected from eight million other people in the draw.

However, there is a special gift bonus for those who take up our offer to have a Merry Christmas. It is the gift of HAPPINESS! Please take good care of this gift and use it as often as you like.
We had our fair share of happiness and good fortune this year and will again enjoy a very Merry Christmas with family and friends.      

Of course the BIG news this year is that Denis’ parents, Rheal and Annette, his sister, Ginette, brother in law, John Pineau and nephew, Justin, have all travelled from Moncton, New Brunswick, to celebrate with us. It will be the first time since 1991 that Denis has had Christmas Day with his Canadian family. In 1992 he left Moncton to work in Jasper, Alberta, where he met Sarah and the rest, as they say, is history.

As Moncton usually has a white Christmas with temperatures well below zero degrees Celsius, Denis' family are in for a very different Christmas experience. They cannot say that we did not give them a warm Western Australian welcome.
We could call this year the Christmas of the In-laws. Emily and Carl with Jack, Sari and Kai in tow, will celebrate Christmas in Dunsborough with Carl’s family. Jane and Ian, together with Pascal, Cisco and Havana, will celebrate Christmas Day with Ian’s parent’s in Sorrento. Noel and Lesley will celebrate Christmas with the Belliveau family at Denis and Sarah’s spacious new home in Ocean Reef.

However, there will be the usual family gathering at Bourkeville (Population 2) for Noel’s birthday on Christmas Eve, which is always a nice way to start off the festive season. Well, at least Noel thinks so.

The Bourke family enjoyed their year, although it was tinged with sadness a few months ago with the passing of very dear cousin, Ruth Carr. She is sadly missed by everyone.

Noel and Lesley continue to enjoy good health and keep up a hectic round of orchestral concerts, ballet, opera, films, cricket, football, movies and socialising with family and friends. These activities are interspersed with increasingly longer and longer periods of rest and relaxation in front of TV or with a book or some wine and classical music. Which reminds me. Did you hear about the lady who said she was really looking forward to a white Christmas? And when she finished the whites she was starting on the reds.

Lesley has a variety of friends from school and teachers college days which she sees quite regularly. However, one of the  highlights of her week is when she looks after three year old Kai on Fridays while Emily teaches at West Morley.

Noel still does one morning a week with the WA Principals Association and mentors student teachers from Edith Cowan University when they are on their Teaching Practice.  They are like hobbies which he enjoys very much.

All of the grandchildren are doing well at school and Pascal has performed outstandingly well in various state surfing competitions and is in the WA State Junior Surf Squad. Pascal will be in Year 11 in 2014.

Next year Sophie will be in her final year of primary school (Year 6), Jack in Year 4, Luc in Year 2,  Sari and Cisco both in Year One and Havana in Pre Primary. It certainly doesn’t take long for them to grow up, but we are thankful that they are growing up healthy and happy little individuals. We did have one scare at Christmas time last year when Cisco cut his wrist on a piece of glass while playing in the shallows at Sorrento Beach. It was serious injury which required treatment at Princess Margaret Hospital. He even had his photo in The West Australian.

OVERHEARD. Emily had enrolled Jack in a junior cricket competition. Sarah asked Luc if he was also interested in playing in a Kanga Cricket match each week. After a little thought Luc replied, “Well, I don’t think I want to play professionally just yet. I’ll just keep playing cricket in the backyard for a while.”

It is amazing what these young children come out with. Jane had Havana attending a Playgroup called Busy Kids. One day I said to her, “So, Havana, you are going to Busy Kids after lunch.”
“Yes, Grandpa.”
“Well, what will you be doing there?” I enquired.
“She gave me an exasperated look and said, “Well, I’m going to be busy, aren’t I.”

With Test Matches, the beach, our Canadian family with us, The Perth Film Festival at the Pines, Rottnest in January and a variety of happy times with family and friends, we are looking forward to a great summer of happiness. And Christmas really is the happiest time of all.

So, let the good times roll, or as our French speaking relatives would say, Les Bon Temps Rouller!”

Wherever you have your Christmas, we hope it is a happy one and we wish you all the best for a healthy and happy New Year.
(To be removed from our mailing list please send in your name and address neatly
printed in 2B pencil on a $100 note).

     Rottnest fun. January, 2013.  Hands up, who is having a good time?  It will be on again this year as we have adjoining units  facing on to Thompson Bay.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

NAPLAN and the Sound of Music.

Various research programmes indicate that standardised testing regimes focussed on Literacy and Numeracy have had a detrimental impact on other areas of the curriculum. It is unfortunate that in many schools music is one subject that is seen as “not very important” in the scheme of things. Yet, the research is clear that music can not only benefit NAPLAN results but has benefits for children in all learning areas and throughout their lives.

 In 2009 the Cambridge University Review of Primary Education found that “standardised testing has narrowed the curriculum” and that the arts, science and humanities had been eroded by the strong national focus on testing literacy and numeracy. The powerful British Office of Standards in Education (OFSTED) agreed, stating that “music in particular has a vital role to play in primary education.”

In November, 2012, The Whitlam Institute at the Sydney University, in conjunction with the University of Melbourne, released its study on The Impact of High Stakes Testing on School Students and their Families. This was a comprehensive study based on over 8000 responses from educators around Australia. In May of 2013 the ongoing study also canvassed the opinions of a wide range of parents. Echoing the Cambridge Review, the Whitlam Institute’s chief finding was that NAPLAN “is having unintended side effects of narrowing teaching strategies and the curriculum.” The study revealed that high stakes testing impacted on schools, their students and their families. There was

1. A narrowing of teaching strategies and of the curriculum
2. Negative impacts on student health and well being
3. Negative impacts on staff morale
4. Negative impacts on school reputations and the capacity to attract and retain students.

 More than 4000 teachers reported NAPLAN had affected the style and content of their teaching. Over 5000 teachers reported NAPLAN had led to timetable reductions of other subjects. Leading researcher, Nicky Dulfer said, “We are narrowing the curriculum in order to test children. There are ways that we can support numeracy and literacy without limiting children’s access to other subjects like music, language and the arts.”

In view of its research findings, the Whitlam Institute argued as a part of its submission to the 2013 Senate Enquiry into NAPLAN, that “In brief, we note the strong concerns we have for the high stakes nature of the NAPLAN testing regime. While literacy and numeracy skills are fundamental and build a strong foundation for further learning, we believe that educational reform should place an emphasis on fostering much broader learning goals and outcomes.”

 Australia’s leading music educator, Dr Richard Gill, has continually advocated that a good and continuous programme of music in schools would be beneficial to all students in all areas of learning. Dr Gill firmly believes that singing should be the basis for all music education and should eventually lead to children reading music, playing an instrument and eventually composing their own music. Of course, an unintended and unfortunate consequence of placing Specialist Music Teachers in Western Australian schools in the late 1970s was that, apart from the very early years of schooling, there is now almost no daily classroom singing at all. In earlier times every class started their school day with a variety of songs.

 In late 2013, Claire Rogerson, of Wollongong University, released a very well researched paper providing plenty of evidence to show that music in schools would not only benefit NAPLAN results but many other areas of a child’s development.

 The intrinsic importance of music education

Her paper is entitled, “Problem Solving: Solutions Associated with Music in N.S.W. Schools.” Although WA compares more than favourably with N.S.W. as far as music education is concerned, Ms Rogerson makes some very valid points for upgrading the quality of music in our primary schools. Under the heading, The Relevance and Importance of Music Education, she challenges the view that music is not an important part of the curriculum and that it takes time away from more important subjects. She quotes studies by Letts (2007), Butzlaff (2000), Gadberry (2010), Kalish (2009) and Miller and Hopper (2010), which all say that music provides students with a range of skills and attitudes that are not developed in any other subject. Skills such as flexibility in thinking, innovation and unique problem solving techniques can be easily integrated into other subjects to increase student learning.

She points out that both music and English are represented by formal, written notation reading from left to right. She quotes research by Butzlaff (2000), showing that the stronger the engagement with music the greater is the achievement in English. She also quotes Kalish (2009) to show that music develops analytical skills not developed elsewhere that “can be the difference between a child understanding a concept straight away or having to reteach the concept three or four times.”

The Kalish study also reveals that music enables children to self-monitor more effectively. Ms Rogerson cites research by Gadberry (2010) that skills fostered by music extend well beyond the classroom and blend in to life skills such as citizenship, volunteering, better memory capacity, increased self-confidence and school spirit.

An Integrated approach to the arts.

Addressing problems relating to Restrictions of the Curriculum and Timetabling, Ms Rogerson acknowledges the well-known complaints from teachers about the crowded curriculum and severe time constraints. She notes that pressure from NAPLAN has resulted in at least 50% of the time being devoted to literacy and numeracy in most schools, with about 1.5 to 2.0 hours left for The Arts, including music. “Why,” she asks, “do teachers ignore one sixth of the curriculum for ‘more important’ subjects?”

She urges teachers to consider the most appropriate and effective learning styles for their students, which generally involves some form of creative integration and movement. She cites Boswell (2011) and Davies (2010) who have shown in the UK that the integration of creative arts across the curriculum helps minimise the time spent solely on the arts. Gallion School in Becton, London, has successfully integrated the arts into the everyday curriculum. 80% of the school’s curriculum content is taught through music, visual arts, drama and dance. This in turn engages the interests of the students, encourages their creativity, develops the different learning styles of all students and makes the curriculum much more accessible, even to those students who do not have English as their first language. She maintains the success of Gallion School demonstrates that literacy and numeracy cannot develop to their fullest if the skills needed to apply them in real life are not present. Music benefits all curriculum areas for all students.

In focussing on NAPLAN and Standardised Testing, Ms Rogerson observes that most Australian schools devote most of Term One to NAPLAN testing and as a result all other subjects are compressed or pushed aside. However she says research by Anon (2001), Johnson and Memmott (2006) and Olsen (2008) indicate that direct parallels exist between music participation and improved standardised test scores. A study in the USA concluded that student’s involvement in any form of music education is more beneficial than no involvement at all. The higher the quality of the music programme the higher the academic achievement. Johnson and Memmett (2006).

 This idea had already been addressed by Caterall, Chapleau and Iwanaga (1999) who discovered that despite socio economic differences, students participating in music education programmes dramatically increased their test scores. Music promotes inclusive education. In addition, Olson (2008) noted that music is the only subject in which students of any ethnicity have equal opportunities for success. With NAPLAN it is quite the reverse. Ethnicity and language background are key determinants of success or failure in NAPLAN tests.

Ms Rogerson again poses the question, “With the abundance of evidence showing music education has benefits for all curriculum areas, can the importance of music education really be disputed?” She concludes that without continuous and quality music education in primary schools “teachers are limiting students and not providing challenges that encourage the attainment of goals and potential. It is the range of creative skills, attitudes and values that are developed through music that make it such an integral subject in the primary curriculum. If these values are developed early enough, teacher will set up positive habits of learning that students can carry through to their high school education.”

And into the rest of their lives!

As usual, Pasi Salhburg, Finland’s visionary education leader, commenting after the 2013 release of the 2012 PISA test results, puts everything into beautiful perspective: “Finland should also continue to let national education and youth policies — and not PISA — drive what is happening in schools. Reading, science, and mathematics are important in the Finnish education system but so are social studies, arts, music, physical education, and various practical skills. Play and joy of learning characterize Finland’s pre-schools and elementary classrooms. Many teachers and parents in Finland believe that the best way to learn mathematics and science is to combine conceptual, abstract learning with singing, drama, and sports. This balance between academic and non-academic learning is critical to children’s well-being and happiness in school. PISA tells only a little about these important aspects of school education.”

Shouldn’t ‘play and the joy of learning’ also characterize Western Australian primary schools? Shouldn’t Western Australian principals and teachers, like many in Finland, agree that the best way to learn mathematics and science is to combine conceptual, abstract learning with singing, drama and sports? The research says a resounding Yes to both questions.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Give a little whistle

“You know how to whistle, don’t you, Harry? Just put your lips together and blow.” Those of us of a certain vintage will always remember that line, delivered by a flirty, sexy, Lauren Bacall to a roguish and worldly Humphrey Bogart, in the film depiction of Ernest Hemingway’s classic, “To have and have not.” Although I do not think Hemingway wrote those particular lines. Indeed I don’t think Hemingway wrote much of the script at all as the film is more of a re-write of Casablanca than of the Hemingway’s novel.

 On reflection it seems that a lot of us have lost the art of whistling, or never had it in the first place. My cousin, Maurie Carr, used to write a very popular column in Perth’s Daily News. In one column in the late 1970s he lamented the fact that dogs no longer chased cars and people did not whistle anymore. Maurie was quite correct. When I was growing up in the 1940s and 50s dogs invariably chased cars up and down the road trying to get a good bite at one of the wheels. All dogs did it. I am not sure why dogs stopped doing this, sometime in the 1970s. Maybe too many off them lost teeth trying to bite the rock hard, rotating steel rims and it eventually became imbedded in canine DNA that biting car wheels was not a very good idea.

 As for whistling, I remember growing up and being surrounded by whistlers. The baker used to come down Seventh Avenue in Inglewood each day in his horse drawn cart. He whistled all the time. As did the ice man, who called twice a week to put ice in the large black ice chest in the kitchen. Fat Burns, the butcher used to deliver the family meat order on his Harley Davidson motor bike that had a side car for the meat. He whistled all the time. Then there was the grocer’s boy from John Mills Grocery on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Beaufort Street. He rode a heavy duty bicycle that had a big wire carry basket over the front wheels that was filled with groceries to be delivered to various houses in the street. He whistled as he cycled along. In those days lots of people whistled as they walked or cycled along the streets.

A lot of entertainers in earlier times whistled as part of their act. Al Jolson was a great whistler. Bing Crosby used to insert whistling into his crooning as an alternative to bubba bubba boo. English singer,Roger Whitaker, started out as whistler before he successfully switched to straight singing and Ronnie Renalde toured the world thrilling audiences with his melodious whistling of such favourites as In a Monastery Garden and Bells Across the Meadow. I heard him twice at His Majesty’s Theatre in the late 1950s.

 My dad, Jack Bourke, was a great whistler…and singer. Just after World War Two, Dad and two other gentlemen started up the Premier Fibro Plaster Works in Braid Street, East Perth. One of the first things my dad did was put a radio in the factory so that the men could whistle and sing as they worked away. This was back in the 1940s and 1950s when radio was primarily used for playing music instead of the incessant listener talk back and current affairs news programmes of today. Dad would whistle and sing with the best of them. On the weekends he was usually busy in the garden or his shed, but you always knew where he was because he would be whistling as he worked.He taught me to whistle when I was quite young. In fact, he taught me to whistle when I blew out and when I was breathed in. I was quite proud of myself, because it meant I could whistle nonstop without having to pause to take in a breath.

 I started teaching at Bunbury Central School in the late 1950s. I remember walking into the staff room one lunch time and the First Mistress, a lovely lady named Audrey Birch, was there. She looked at me and said, “Noel, we always know when you are coming because you whistle wherever you go.” I suppose I did. But just as dogs have stopped chasing cars, people, these days, have stopped whistling. Perhaps things are about to change. I was walking around the Belridge Shopping Centre last week end and noticed that the large video store had closed down. It is just another sign of the times of the new technology that allows people to record their own entertainment or download shows from the internet. The old video store was being refashioned to open as some sort of food outlet. What caught my eye however, was a sign in the window of the soon to open eatery enquiring if anyone was interested in working in the new shop. It said if you are interested in working with us:-
* You must be good with food.
* You must be good with people.
*you must be a happy person.
* You must like being part of a hard working team.
* You must like whistling.

That’s right! They wanted people who liked whistling to work in that shop. Well, I’m not looking to work there but I am going to make a point of going to that shop when it opens just to hear those happy workers whistling. I might even buy whatever it is they are selling.

I certainly hope whistling is making a comeback because I still whistle as I go about the place or when I walk from my car to the shops. I enjoy it, but I do get some quizzical looks from people walking by. It is rare these days to hear a man whistling as he walks along. Maybe this new shop will start a whistling revival. I hope so, because whistling is good for you.As that wise old philosopher, Jiminy Cricket, once said to Pinocchio in an effort to keep him on the straight and narrow,
 "When you get in trouble and you don't know right from wrong 
Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle! 
When you meet temptation and the urge is very strong 
Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle! 
Not just a little squeak, pucker up and blow 
And if your whistle's weak, yell Jiminy Cricket. Right! 
Take the straight and narrow path And if you start to slide 
Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle! 
And always let your conscience be your guide.

Sounds like very good advice to me. All you have to do is put your lips together and blow. I certainly hope that it doesn’t give those dogs any ideas!