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beautiful words from a sir year 10

December 10, 2017

I’ll let him have the “Kwokkie” this time, seeing as he’s leaving Music. Normally only my 12s get that, and even then, with the “Ms” in front!

Kid. Honestly. I’m too tired to handle this non-over-top emotionally!


My goodness, this unbelievably articulate card from a Sir Year 10 music renegade, with the bit that totally affects me:

“You are quirky but serious, strong but fair, and truthful yet compassionate and understanding. You have been a rock for me over the last semester particularly, and so supportive and nurturing. You are truly one of a kind. Also, you pull off outfits no one else could!”

What Year 10 sir writes like that, so authentically + articulately?!

I thanked him last night at Lessons + Carols for his beautifully written words and he said, “Well, they’re FAR more articulate on the page!” And then I remembered that he has a stutter. I’ve taught him for 3 years. He just has such good stuff to say that I don’t notice it until I think about it. Amazing.

the wotltatti 2018 exhibition + MOD centre choral commission….ahhhhhhhh!

December 10, 2017

The building site, according to Google Maps. 

I’ve been commissioned by UniSA to compose the opening ceremony work for the WOLTATTI 2018 Exhibition + the official launch of the MOD Centre; the University of South Australia’s Health + Innovation building. I’m writing for a 1000-voice choir + instrumental, and it’s all incredibly exciting, nerve-wracking, and extraordinary.

But I really didn’t have a full concept of the scope of the project until this week when I drove past the building site of the MOD Centre on my way toCelebration Night rehearsals, then realised WHAT I was driving past.

O.M.G. Can you get starstruck by a building?!

That’s what I’m writing the opening credits for!

Went past it again today on my way into town. WAHHHHHH!

Better make it good.

Artist’s interpretation of the finished shiny thing. WOWEE. 

gratitude notes

December 7, 2017

Received these 2 Year 8 “gratitude” notes today. Naaawwwwww!

I am so lucky to teach. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve struggled the day before, the next day presents itself, and time moves whatever mountain is in your way just ever so slightly that the viewpoint is different. New challenges, awesome moments, changes of momentum, and BRAND NEW PROBLEMS emerge at a speed you cannot predict, and you somehow rise to meet them. Or if you’re like me, you do that stupid “run-like-an-idiot-flappy-arms” thing while leaving a trail of swearing.

You wonder if you’ve done enough, and then you receive words of gratitude like this in thanks over things that you’d long forgotten about, or didn’t realise carried so much weight and joy.

Teaching is the ultimate mirror held up on a daily basis in front of you, and you are asked to improve over and over. There is no BS with teenagers. For how much they don’t give away, they have outstanding crap detectors.

And then, there are moments like these of extreme joy + light.

the magic of reading

December 2, 2017

When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.

[Maya Angelou]

Title Wave with Sue Fitzmaurice



there is only love

December 1, 2017



perils of teaching…embracing the uterus!

December 1, 2017

So I got henna-ed up at the Year 6 “Sideshow Shenanigans”, which is an awesome morning of games created by the Year 6s for the Prep School.

Paid $1.00 for my henna tattoo and chose a flower with little dots and swirls, which I thought was cute.

Looked at it closely at around lunchtime.

Have a look. HAVE A GOOD LOOK.

And you know what? The Year 6s running the stall helpfully + knowledgeably told me that this henna will last at least a week, two with proper care.

I’ve got Pulteney Celebrates + Lessons and Carols next week. I’m going to be conducting with a freakin’ uterus tattoo on my hand!

loneliness of leadership

November 26, 2017

How does she hold it all on her delicate shoulders?

She mustn’t receive a lot of unfettered, unattached, no-strings kindness at all. She must spend her time wondering why she’s received certain comments, attentions, emails, presents, and it must corrode her soul, no matter how much integrity she holds her heart to. The challenge must be intense, and heart-breaking.

I wonder how she stays connected and open. I wonder how she walks into each day, knowing the battles she must face, but living for the minute, the moment, and the hour, still being present, even though it costs her so much some days?

It must cut so deeply, all those careless words swirling around her, like shards of glass and just as ragged and dangerous to her spirit. And she walks through this shit-storm with grace.

I do not always agree with her. But fear must cut a path that dictates some of her most challenging decisions. Imagine having to work from a place of compassion, surrounded by fear? I couldn’t do it. It would break me. How does she stay whole?

She is a mother. To see that beautiful picture of her at the formal with her son, both arms around him with an open smile, was poignant. How does he walk through each day? How he must be challenged too, with the responsibilities he faces, despite being told to just be normal. There will be fears, compassion, anger, resentments, and maturity above his years from holding this role with his Mum. And she is just a Mum. Yet she cannot be “just a Mum”, with the bad days, and the bad hair, and needing too much coffee. She has to be superhuman. All the time.

She is just a Mum, wife, daughter, woman, sister, friend, who happens to be in an excruciating and gruelling job, which does not offer much forgiveness.

I wonder where she goes when she has a bad day, who she checks in with? I wonder if she socialises with anyone at work? How hard it must be to want to connect, and yet, you are an island. Everyone else is allowed that one human ounce of integrity and humanity, and she is not. How must it feel when the people around you are angry and resentful when she is sick or away, or distant or preoccupied, rather than forgiving and compassionate. What made her so different that we lock her away in an ivory tower? I am grateful that when I am sick, I am allowed to be human. She is only human, please let her be.

She must tell her story over and over, she has to make clear her intent every day with courage because people don’t believe her immediately. How much that must cost. She cannot rely on previous work; the time is always changing around her. How do you even begin to navigate this?

That smile is all the more heartbreaking, because she has to guard herself all the time.

I wish her joy and connection, and a pathway to her heart.

I remind myself that I need to walk that path regularly for myself. I am so grateful that I know my heart.

my 2017 music posse!

November 25, 2017

This is the Class of 2017 Music posse that has made me laugh and cry in equal measures; whom I loved to bits and have worried incessantly over, who have both inspired me and been the bane of my existence, depending upon their state of organisation, and for whom I will treasure the year gone by, that I had the opportunity to get to know such beautiful, different, and individual personalities.

Thank you for lighting up my world at Pulteney, cracking me up, bringing me coffee, frustrating the crap out of me, and allowing me the honour of affecting your lives.

Mama Kwokkie X

colourful gratitude

November 25, 2017

Bit of a cry-baby day.

Today, I watched my Year 6s “graduate” in their “Moving On” ceremony, and was so utterly proud of the beautiful young people they have grown into. The Year 6 class teachers this year are a total DREAM TEAM. And to watch them fly like homing pigeons to their parents with their letters of gratitude makes me teary every time, let alone this very special group.

And THEN, a beautiful combined thank you present from five of my Year 12s, this utterly gorgeous Tiff Manuell necklace, of which they invaded one of my lessons to give me. Let me tell you, I’m RELIEVED to find that FIVE of them had pooled their hard-earned money together, I couldn’t have accepted it from just one kid, these gorgeous necklaces are so expensive!

Thank you so much. An affecting, special, “rite of passage” sort of day. 

the power of words, the freedom of voice

November 18, 2017

I gave a keynote earlier this year on the power of language and intent in the classroom; the extraordinary thing is that I went completely off script. The essence of the presentation was the same, but I didn’t look at my notes. I was completely in my element and spoke fluently. This is amazing for me as English is my 2nd language, I have a lisp due to a permanent underbite, and a tendency to trip over my words or lapse into Hakga when I’m nervous.

I totally marvel at how my language keeps improving, how I am still learning, and how I can actually FEEL my written and speaking abilities continue to get better each year. I thank the teachers who encouraged me to read, to journal, to write, and to converse, even though I couldn’t practise in the conventional way with Mum + Dad at home. I thank the teachers who painstakingly checked my essays in place of my parents, and put up with the weirdest idiosyncrasies in my writing, and my totally misjudged phrases. I thank the teachers who encouraged me to public speak and debate, knowing that I might totally lose the thread in moment of nerves.

I marvel at how much I can actually say now, how articulately I can express myself. I love it! I love the melody of language; the nuances and the power of words. It really is true that words can cut or heal, that a slight change in wording and intent can change the momentum of an interaction.

One of the greatest joys and gifts of life HAS to be the freedom of thought, and to have the opportunity and words to express emotions, understandings, and ideas. It’s the essence of being human!