Next Stop

Sometimes I feel inspired to jot my random thoughts down on paper… don’t know why and, to be honest, it doesn’t happen often. Somehow the repetition of the ‘Next Stop’ message on the bus from the airport to work jolted my vaguely creative brain. I wish I’d thought to take photos out of the bus window. But I didn’t, so you just have my words instead. Not as pretty but they’ll have to do.

Read below or open the ebook.

Next Stop

Dark morning, cold. Sleepless night.

Always the same when I set the alarm for an early start.
5am. Slow start, porridge for breakfast
Bleary eyed boy woken from slumber. Pay back time. Taxi duties.

Next stop. Hamilton. No longer an “international” airport.

Window seat. Murmurs of hellos and excuse mes as passengers board. Morning Politeness. Sleep deprived commuters.

Briefcases and laptops. Headphones plugged in. Noses in books.

Tip tapping on keyboards. Safe in our worlds. Wordless.

Next stop. Christchurch International airport.

Dark gives way to light almost unnoticeably. Head in my book I sense the lightening of the sky.

Then snow capped mountains, sunkissed. Clouds cling to mountainsides and sink in the valleys. A shade of white separates cloud from snow.

Morning light shin8ng on tops of mountains. View from the air. Cloud in the valleys.

Mountains viewed from the air, covers with snow. Cloud in the valleys.

Turn over the Canterbury Plains, enveloped in cloud, nose towards a rising sun. Too soon we dip into the cloud, missing the sun.

On the right mountains, dark seen from above. To the left the cloud covers the ground.

Nose cone of a plane heading into the rising sun. Propeller motion frozen in black stripes against the blue sky. Clouds below.
From light back to darkness. Christchurch beneath cloud. Dampness seeps into my bones as we caterpillar across the tarmac. Heads down, shouldering bags.  

Next stop. Bus stop. One to Kilmore Street please.

QR code. Commuting stories. Travellers’ tales. Hermione’s pocket. Full of magical things.

Next stop. Memorial Ave. Houses are shadows through the mist.

Next stop. Fendalton Street. Rugged up, scarves and hats, briskly walking bending into the cold.

Next stop. Harper Ave. Tall silhouette trees. Ethereal giants.
a large tree growing on the right of the photo with branches sprading over the top and to the right. In the background across the grass there are more trees just visible through the mistNearly there. Next stop Manchester Street near Kilmore Street.

St Luke’s bell tower. Ready to ring the bell. All that’s left. Labyrinth and memories. 

Next stop?

Peace Poppies

felt poppies in jars

As part of our Poetry Unit and theme of Globalisation we looked at a picture book called “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”.  The book brings to life in images the song of the same name written by Eric Bogle in the 1970s.  We listened to the song whilst watching a video of the book.  I also had a copy of the book for the girls to read in their own time in class.

I introduced the idea of “Micro Poetry” to the students.  The idea is to create powerful visual images through words in short poems such as Haiku or Twitter Poems. These were the starting point of our exploration of similes, metaphor, personification, alliteration and onomatopoeia. The girls took to micro poetry easily – they found them non-threatening, they weren’t faced with having to write a long poem, make lines rhyme and they didn’t need to write sentences.  We scaffolded the process by looking at what nouns, adjectives and verbs were and brainstorming words that they could use that summoned up the images they saw in the book. Then they set to creating their poems.  I was amazed at the ideas they come up with and the way that they naturally used poetic techniques without really thinking about them.  We then used their own poems to identify examples of the poetic techniques they had used which was far more effective than trying to identify them in poems that they had never seen before.  The girls realised that they could write poetry which was empowering for them.

knitted poppy

I also wanted to connect the ideas from the book and song with something that they had experience of. I originally had the idea of knitting poppies and sending them away as part of the “5000 Poppies” project for the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli.  However, time was running out and I felt a bit daunted about teaching 28 girls how to knit!  One of my colleagues suggested I could help her and a local group out as they were making poppies as part of the “Peace Poppies” project.  These were cut out of felt, sewn together and then a button added.  The idea is that they will be “planted” all the way from the Court House in Hamilton along the river to Memorial Gardens for ANZAC Day. The girls loved having “practical” lessons. I was astounded at how many of them had never sewn before, threaded a needle or sewn on a button.  Even those who were reticent at first because they said they didn’t know how to sew were confidently sewing by the end of the three lessons we spent making poppies. I never would have thought I would have girls coming up to me excitedly saying “Mrs Robertson, look, I threaded the needle!” or “Mrs Robertson, I made one – I sewed the button on!”

Girls making poppies out of felt in a classroom

Although this whole unit took much longer than I planned, I think it was extremely worthwhile.  The girls gained so much from it in terms of confidence, I think that they had plenty of opportunity to produce their own poetry and I am convinced that it also helped them to identify poetic techniques in other poems too.  Having said that, I believe that having the confidence to express themselves far outweighs being able to identify similes etc in poems. When in their lives (apart from English exams) will they need to do that?  And how often will they need to express themselves? They also learned about the context for ANZAC Day and understand more deeply the impact of war and the implications for survivors. We had some very interesting discussions after listening to the song, watching the video and reading the book. The girls also came back to class after sharing what they had been doing with their parents and told us of family members and friends who had been in Gallipoli as part of the ANZAC forces.

Here are some of the poems. (I have edited the spelling and punctuation where it hindered communication!) Not all of them fall into the category of a Twitter poem or a Haiku but they are short and powerful. It was interesting that they struggled with the concept of 140 characters and not writing sentences. With more time, I would have liked to explore strategies for identifying words that are essential for conveying images and how they can use poetic licence to leave out unnecessary words.

Blood, bodies, bullets in every direction like bees gathering. Bodies scattered the ground like shells on the sand.

Poppies on the hills
Sons and fathers lay fallen
We remember them.

Flags, marching, last post
And poppies to remember,
Our fallen soldiers.

Blazing Red Fire
Bullets flying everywhere
Ash, sweat, tears, blood, pain

Thousands of men marching. Brothers, fathers, cousins, neighbours. In their not yet blood, ash, sweat, tear stained khaki coloured uniform.

As the Poppy’s blow in the wind
I think about all who died for me.
The sick, the blind, the deaf, the scared.
Bullets screaming through the air
The deafening gunfire
That hit the poor hard working men.
The blood flows painfully through the army uniform,
The thousands that cried
For our heroes

soldiers hide in their fox holes
rats nibble on their toes
bullets shot through the sky with a bang
death and destruction everywhere
christmas day all fighting stops as they sing their christmas song.
letters from home touch their hearts
we thank you anzac boys.

Blistering hot sun
Bullets flying everywhere
Blood stained fields

Marching into battle
The sound of wild guns
Will we ever see another day?
Laying in the poppies
Family in the front of my mind
I see blood.

In the light of dawn, the break of day  
Remembering the soldiers that fought all the way
Wearing the poppies red as the blood they shed before
Recognizing the heroes they fought with in the war
A symbol of respect
To the men  they will never forget
As sun shines down on the scene of strife
But fear they will be forgotten with each new generation of life.


This year I volunteered to teach English.  After being given an English class last year and spending an inordinate amount of time learning how to teach it and develop resources, (and creating a class blog to celebrate the students’ learning) I decided it was better to volunteer to teach English again rather than find myself with another new subject to learn.  In New Zealand it is the lot of an option subject teacher to have to be flexible; there will never be enough Spanish classes for me to have a full timetable so I have to make up my time with other subjects.  So, here I am with another English class.  The challenge is that last year I had an A band class, and this year I have a B band class.  There is not a lot of what I prepared last year that will work with my new class!  Never mind, I always like a challenge!

We have chosen, this year, to develop a cross-curricular approach to our Junior Programme.  Our first term theme is Globalisation so across four subjects in Year 9 we are trying teach the skills our students need under the umbrella of Globalisation.   English, Science, Social Studies and Maths.  Other subjects such as languages and the arts can choose to do so.

It is Week 6 and it is time for poetry.  I saw a neat link to “Tweetspeak Poetry” on Twitter last week and discovered the idea of Twitter Poems and Micropoetry.  This seemed to me to be perfect – the globalisation of the poem, disseminated across Twitter, published globally.  It also fitted my class of students who struggle to write but who have awesome ideas.

We started off discussing in groups and I asked them, “What is poetry?” This is the mindmap they come up with. I loved the suggestion that poetry is “something that paints a picture in the reader’s mind”.

what is poetry

So that got me thinking and I came up with this activity.  The girls really engaged with the task and some of them rose to the challenge of writing poems that drew their peers towards one photo but then revealed the real one in the final line! Using only 140 characters for the TwitterPoems was a challenge and there is still some work to do on these but I think they did a really neat job.  They loved reading them out for each other and were proud of their writing.  Can you work out which poems describe which photos?

four images in a collage, top left is graffitti on a wall, top right is a butterfly feeding on a pink camellia, bottom left is a sunset over the ocean, bottom right is a view of a cathedral and old city walls.Bright colours glistening
Floating in the summer breeze
Life full with beauty

Fluorescent Colours
Exploring perfect flowers
so small and fragile

The day was old,
the clouds were flowing over the
tall elegant brick buildings
as the wind blows the trees lightly

Sun begins ascent.
Red rays dance into ocean
The waves start to stir

Sunset’s reflection
He with brushes and paint
the ocean he creates

Empty hallways full of gloomy darkness. Brick walls are faded brown stones. At the bottom no one hears the prisoners yelling for help to get out. The view is outstandingly beautiful. The windows are as old as a bristlecone tree. There are so many different parts you get lost. This place is so old it has become abandoned.

Shimmering Sunrise
Over the horizon and
Over Golden sand


Colours spiral around like the waves in the sea
Eyes stare at me like a tiger surrounding its prey.
Colours play with my mind and pull me into a mysterious world.

Enchanting ocean
Shimmering beautifully
Night’s song soon begins

Colours mix in wind
glooming bright sky shining down
flowing in a bowl

Blue sky hovering over head
white bubbles floating in the wind
Crunchy grains underneath my soles
hair flying in the Lord’s CO2

Poets, one and all!

This year, I have added the role of English teacher to my repertoire.  Despite my concerns and anxiety about teaching a subject that I have never taught before, I have had a great time.  I love teaching English. So far. I teach my Yr 9 form class so it is an excellent way to get to know them better.  They have embraced the first term’s unit on poetry and I have been amazed at the poems they have produced.  I am sure that this is nothing to do with my teaching and everything to do with their enthusiasm.  Anyway, I thought it was worth sharing some of their work.   There were so many great ones to choose from and I can’t post them all here but I have chosen three.

The first one is from an activity to explore personification.  The students had a list of nouns and a list of verbs that they had to match up and then craft into a poem.

The sun rising behind a hillside with the beach in the foreground
Dawn over Tapotupotu Bay

Personification Poem by Olivia

Dawn awakes
Splashing colours all over
The blank canvas
Creating an oasis
That smears itself across the sky
Like an artist blending all sorts of colours
With just one simple stroke

The morning sings
As the birds
Their well-rehearsed song
Tweeting peacefully
Splitting silence
Lingering in the air

As the heat of the day increases
The sun dances across the skies above
Shining it’s rays down
Over the cities below

The waves smash themselves forcefully
Yet so softly
Against the damp sand
Leaving a splash
Of cold salty spray
Clinging onto particles
Of the dusty golden goodness
The sea whispers softly
Words of encouragement
Filling the ears
Of scared little children
Taking their first steps into the water
Liquid licking their toes
Parents clutching their tiny hands

One mountain
Stands tall
Looking over the green countryside
Like a king overlooking his kingdom
The sky brings a beautiful bright blue
Contrasting with the trees
Dotted over the mountain

A stone sleeps
After a long day
Of hopscotch
As the sun gently melts away
Into darkness
Enveloped by long grass
Slightly swaying in the cool air

Night takes over
Shadows forming
A pitch black darkness spreading
Only once being brightened
As the moon comforts
Murmuring campers
As they await sleep to fall upon them

Stars guide the way to the morning
Leaving a sparkling trail
Like a snail
Twinkling against the black duvet of the sky

This one is Rosie’s final poem. She chose to have a go at a nonsense poem.

two statues of llamas on a traffic island
Llamas in Wellsford

The Llama who thought He was a Man

Stop! Wait. Go back.
Eating grass!
Cut some slack
you’re nuts

I’m not a llama
I don’t eat grass
At least, I don’t think
I have in the past

I am a llama?!
Seriously, cut the joke
You’ve said nothing but tosh
since first you spoke

Oh stop it!
I’m quite sick of this game
You don’t know a thing about humor
You’re jokes are laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame!!!!

Nope, I’m not listening
What childish behaviour
I’m going away now
See you later!

Stop following me, I say!
Please go away!
Can you not hear me at all?

I do believe
You don’t understand
Your listening skills are poor

But perhaps, I wonder
If you do understand
Then why do you insist

On insisting
I have a fury coat
Which my eyesight
Has somehow missed!

Fine, I shall prove it!
Come here to this puddle
I’ll prove I’m no animal
Your brain’s in a muddle

You see, you nutcase
My reflection is fine
I am a huma-
Wait! That face is not mine!

How can it be?
Things shouldn’t be as they are
Something is wrong!
Something is- AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!

I’m a llama! I’m a llama!
What a dreadful sight!
I’m a llama! I’m a LLAMA!
Goodness help me, YOU WERE RIGHT!!!!!!

And finally, Sophie’s poem about camp is full of energy and paints a great picture of what camp was all about.

girls at a campground in a circle trying to sit down on each others knees.
Mass sit down

Year 9 Camp 2014

In bushcraft we made manuka tea
Which I had to skull down on 1, 2, 3
At archery we aimed to hit a bulls eye
But I did not I just hit nearby

In rock climbing we had to climb a big wall
While trying not to think what would happen if we’d fall
If your group didn’t work as a team in ABL
You would realise you were going to be unstable

Mountain Biking had its ups and downs
Which made some of us end up with the browns!!
At raft building we had to float our team
Which in some cases was a bit extreme

You had to be good at mountaineering
To complete the challenge of orienteering
Waka Ama was a race
And we had a hard time to chase

In kayaking falling into the muddy water
Was like watching a lamb at the slaughter
I finished my week with the tramp
Which was a great way to finished such a good camp!

Poetry – a lot of fun and heaps of talent

ImageI have acquired a new subject to teach this year and I am loving it!  Too add to the French, German, Spanish, Phys Ed, Health, Outdoor Ed and Food & Nutrition that I have had the pleasure to teach over my career as a teacher, I am now adding English!  We have been writing poetry this term and I have loved the poems that my students have written either on their own or in groups. I thought that this poem from John Hegley was a great way to get the students writing.

“I need you..” 

I need you like a bully needs to boast

I need you like an ocean needs a coast

I need you like a dog needs a lamppost

Their additions were fantastic!

I need you like peanut needs butter

I need you like speakers need not to stutter

I need you like I need my mother

I need you like how babies need to cry

I need you like birds need to fly

I need you like I need wi-fi.

I need you like an ant needs a nest

I need you like east needs west

I need you like a nerd needs a test

I need you like an athlete needs his toe

I need you like a clown needs a show

I need you like an old man needs his mo

I need you like a princess needs her tower

I need you like a bee needs its flower

I need you like an engine needs power

I need you like a magnet needs metal

I need you like a flower needs a petal

I need you like Hansel needs Gretel

I need you like a backpacker needs rest

I need you like Kanye needs North West

I need you like a lemon needs zest.

The next poem was a little more complex; “I want you…”

I want you like my crumpled trousers want a


I want you like Rumpelstiltskin

wanted the princess

to guess

I want you like a naked somnambulist

out walking on a cold winter’s night

on waking wants to dress

But we looked at the poetic elements and they commented on the offset rhymes and the lengthening lines, they also noticed how the poem was laid out and how it sounded when we read it out loud  I asked them to have a go at writing their own poems in the same sort of style and they had a really good go.  Here are some of the best ones.

i want you like the sheriff wanted the thieves
i want you like a tree wants its leaves
to cover the breeze
i want you like the dog that receives the bone
likes to tease                                                              Steph G

I want you like a heart full of love
I want you like the bully wants to shove

the kid wearing the black leather glove 
I want you like the magician wants its dove

to appear out of nowhere from above                        Katie M

I want you like a brother wants a sister
I want you like a quiet person wants to whisper
I want you like a Mrs needs her Mr

who can tell her a tongue twister.                              Alyssa B

I want you like a damsel wants her hero
I want you like a Roman 
used to dream 
of being ‘Nero’
I want you like a nerd 
dreams of no longer 
being a zero                                                               Kate W

I want you like a bee needs a flower 
i want you like a princess needs power 
to rule a tower 
I want you to show my heart how not to cower      Emily W

I want you like an athlete wants to run 
I want you like the sunset needs the sun 
I want you like a father needs a son but sometimes more than one     Jaime B

I want you like a fire needs a spark
I want you like a jandal likes to leave a tan mark

when you come out of the dark

I want you like the oven needs to start
to bake the Apple tart
when you come back from the park.                               Jess W