Katherine High – Remote Schools Tour
The moment I left Year 12 I swore I’d never set foot in a high school again. But this week changed all that. Once again I was walking the wrong way through students looking for the Q Block and having to ask directions. It felt like the first day of a new school all over again! Luckily this time I looked way cooler than I did 20 years ago.
I bundled into the first classroom at 8.20am and the temperature had already tapped thirty degrees. The first class were absolute troopers – sweating through a malfunctioning air conditioner while brainstorming a comedy sketch about Batman crashing his Batmobile into a McDonalds. As we landed on the idea about flinging a Batarang into the menu screens the air con blissfully powered up and we ended on a high note.
After that I was treated to a one-on-one session with a student who had made a special request to chat to me. Her Stage 2 class’s assignments focussed on short stories and her enthusiasm was apparent. Together we cobbled together a story about teenage love and captured mermen and applied a three-act structure to it. This session was awesome to teach as fangirling over story rules is always better when there is someone there to listen to you.
We were screaming towards lunchtime but there was more work to be done. A class had an upcoming oral assignment to deliver, and after showing them techniques to overcome nerves I showed them the difference between oral storytelling and what we put down on the page. There were a lot of tricks left over from my days of writing for The Project that may have helped them, but when in doubt – practise, practise, practise, and the mirror is your best friend.
Lunchtime flew by in no time (seriously, how on earth do teachers do it and stay sane?) and then we were in the last class for the day. It was Year 7 English and they were in the perfect mood for me to bombard them with sketches I’d written and show them the finished result. They were full of questions about the TV industry and how it worked, and as these were a Youtube savvy audience who are keen to tell their own story, I’m confident that I’ll be watching a lot of great content in the future.
A self confessed book nerd, Leisl Egan wrote her first short story when she was five. It was adorably terrible. After many years of working on her talent, she now writes for ABC3 and churns out short fiction. In 2013 she won an international award for her short story ‘Punchline’.
A nice early start at Katherine High School today. We got to there at 8am and jumped straight into it. Flanked by a journo from the Katherine Times I navigated my way to W Block. With the air con malfunctioning and the humidity once again at a level Satan would be totally chill with – I started my first class for the day. We sweated and swayed our way through session one, everyone was trying but it was hard to concentrate on dystopian societies when your jeans are starting to meld into your legs. Or maybe it was a blessing in disguise. At least 3 poems were spawned from the potential demise of air conditioning, however will we cope. Poetically I suppose. Heading to the second class I was feeling positive and hit the ground running with a discussion about careers, life, adventures and the importance of questioning everything. After morning tea I got to spend time writing biographies with the art class and the next session was spent talking about poetry with the young men. We rapped, we talked, we wrote poetry and ended the high energy session with back flips and fist bumps. My final class of year 7s was a cheer filled affair with most of the kids writing about what makes them who they are.
After a full day of teaching I was feeling pretty done to be honest but you know what they say about wickedness and rest. Or something like that. Thankfully the drive to Beswick is pretty quick and extraordinarily beautiful, the top end tour team telling horrible housemate stories to fill the time. Reaching the beautiful community just on sunset feels like magic. It’s still humid and there’s thunder in the distance to lull us to sleep.
Alice Spring’s poet Laurie May challenges norms and explores identity; her own, her family’s and the developing cultural identity of Australia. Laurie is the Festival Director for the Red Dirt Poetry Festival and dabbles in dodgy burlesque.
The 2016 Remote Schools Program is part of the 2016 Wordstorm Writers’ Festival and is proudly sponsored by the NT Government’s Community Benefit Fund. Four emerging writers held workshops in remote schools in the Top End.