April 15 2010
With April half-finished and Easter break long gone it's time to start looking ahead to May. Here at La Trobe we are set to go on our first teaching practicum ("prac", as they call it) beginning May 3rd. Things have been slightly tense in the class since the end of March as no one yet knew where, or even if, they had been placed. It was making a lot of people anxious. When the faculty announced in class that prac allocation would be posted Wednesday the 14th everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief. When they further announced that sixty or seventy students had not yet been placed, that relief quickly turned to worry. Everyone was talking about it. Fortunately I made sure all my ducks were in a row and I got placed for both of my methods. The school is Methodist Ladies College in Kew, a private day and boarding school for girls, from prep (the Victorian term for kindergarten) to Year 12. Kew is not far from here and is a really nice suburb; old, affluent, and gentrified. The school itself was founded in 1882. I don't know enough about the school yet to say but I can't help getting the feeling that I got very lucky in my placement and I'm not sure who to thank for it. (It also seems like I keep winding up somewhere Cate Blanchett has been, as she graduated from MLC. Interesting stuff!)
This prac news came to us after a two week break for Easter, during which I did a little exploring in between assignments. Melbourne has a lot to offer. I spent a day or two seeing some sights like the Shrine of Remembrance, Victoria Gardens, St. Patrick's church, and Cook's Cottage. The Shrine of Remembrance is the monument built to commemorate ANZACs (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) who gave their lives in service of their country in WWI, during the Gallipoli campaign. Over the years it has also become a shrine to the loss of life in other conflicts like WWII or Vietnam. ANZAC Day is held each year on April 25th as a day of remembrance and respect, although more recently a celebratory atmosphere has emerged around the date which has attracted some controversy. The shrine itself is really quite interesting and I took a lot of photos but I'm having trouble with the photo uploader for this site so give me some time. Overall, it was a very solemn experience like any war memorial should be.
The trip to Cook's cottage was equally interesting but in a more colourful kind of way. Amid all the controversy of European arrival in Australia, Cook's cottage is an unapologetic shrine to Captain Cook himself. Those familiar with the history of the region might note that Cook first landed near modern day Sydney and not Melbourne, and experts might even know that the cottage itself is not even Australian at all. It was built in Yorkshire in the 1750s then in 1933 was sold, disassembled, shipped to Melbourne, and then reassembled brick by brick in Carlton Gardens. Today it's a little museum with period representative furniture, an herb garden, and a gift shop filled with Cook-related souvenirs. I saw it and couldn't resist paying my $4 to see what was sure to be a tourist-trap. It was, but that didn't stop it from being interesting. There was an older gentleman in the gift shop who was a kind of volunteer Cook expert for the museum. Speaking to him for only a few minutes it became pretty clear to me that this man really loved Captain Cook and was either blind to or disinterested in the debate over Australia Day and Cook's "discovery" of a land already inhabited by an indigenous population. It was brilliant.
In a more exciting turn of events I went to a football game. To be clear, in Melbourne "football" refers to Australian Rules Football, or just "footy". Without spending too long going into the rules of the game I can say that two teams of 18 men each race up and down a large oval pitch 150 metres in length and attempt to, without throwing, score goals by kicking the ball through two tall posts at either end of the pitch. It's a full contact sport though the players wear neither padding nor helmets and must keep the ball moving even when being brought down. They can punch or kick the ball in any direction, and can run with it as well but it must touch the ground or be bounced every 10 or 15 metres. The fervour of the fans was amazing and their wild support of the teams was akin to zealotry. Fifty thousand people were in attendance at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) which holds more than 100,000 people. I've watched matches before on television at home but being there was something else entirely. It is a very fast paced game. Melbourne vs. Collingwood. I went with my housemate and his friends. We drank a lot of beer and cheered on the underdog Melbourne Demons in what was a nail-biter of a match right to the end, with the Demons losing 86-85. They love their sport here.
Look for another update before my prac.