Posted in Uncategorized


I’ve arrived … again. I first arrived in Doha, where it was 6am and 30C. By the time I left two hours later it was already 36C.

So my second arrival for the day … this time Paris. It wasn’t the best of starts. No problems through customs (actually, I don’t think they have customs) and no problem getting my luggage, but after I called the shuttle company I waited and waited and waited.

Quite some time later I phoned them to see if there was a problem. There was: me. The man had told me to go to Door 2 and the driver would be waiting. I came across Hall 2 and thought I’d misheard and so waited at Hall 2 (Door 16). When I finally made it to Door 2 the driver was there … as well as a mini-bus load of very upset people! 

The good thing about a shuttle is that you get a good trip around the city as people get dropped off at their hotels. We went past the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame and the Louvre and saw the Sacre Coeur in the distance, and the year since I was here last time (the first time) just melted away. This year I’m only having one night in Paris; tomorrow I catch the train to Avignon. I’ve been to the train station and had afternoon tea at Le Train Bleu. I had Deux patisseries de notre chariot accompagnees d’une grande boisson chaude. The ‘hot drink’ I chose was Darjeerling tea with lemon. 

It was much nicer than the tea with cream I’d had on the plane.

It’s 7pm and still daylight – time to get some dinner … and then, what I’m most looking forward to: a lying down sleep.

Posted in Travel


Launceston. Now. Today. Yes, this is it. The 28th September 2012. Lily turned one today. I was on my way to Paris when she was born. It’s fitting that I’m on my way back when she turns one – not sure why, but it just feels right.

Ah, let’s face it. It just feels right! I don’t need any excuses.

I have to say that it feels different this year. Last year I met Mum and Dad in Dubai – at the airport – and we flew together to Paris. Deb, Grant, Mel, Sarah and Ben joined us later that day.

This time I’m on my own. And it feels different. Not better or worse, just different.

This is it … I’m on my way.

Posted in Learning, Writing

Lesson #7 (The final lesson)

Today. Burnie, Tasmania. This is the final lesson, the final post about what I’ve learnt over the years. It has been a difficult challenge (Jill, I feel that you’re getting your own back) and I struggled with each post. Every morning I’d sit here, fingers poised on the keys, wondering what to type. I’d make a start, read it, delete it. I’ve just done that five/eleven/fifteen times already with this post.  These words may not even make it to the final post.

What have I learnt? When I ask that question my only response is: I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. I sometimes wonder if I’ve learnt anything at all.

The whisper of an idea, elusive and ephemeral, slips through my mind and is gone. A story hovers nearby, but not near enough to grasp. A learning glistens, tantalisingly close.


1977. Bomaderry, NSW. I am a dead woman in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and am so engrossed in the play, sitting on my chair in the cemetery, that I forget my line. Whoops.

1995. Launceston, Tasmania. Music blares from the speakers outside the door of A024. The classic tune, Funky Town, by Lipps Inc, spreads an energy through the audience, while also keeping them guessing.

It’s third year uni and Ashley and I decide to pair up for our final drama class. The task is to choose a playwright, and perform excerpts from some of his/her well-known plays. We choose The Chairs and  Rhinoceros, two plays by Eugene Ionesco, a Romanian/French absurdist playwright. Desperate, last minute rehearsals see the move from absurdist to absurd and from there it wasn’t much of a leap to funky, hence Lipps Inc setting the scene for us.

Our performance is imaginatively titled The funky side of Ionesco. I pretend not to see the lecturer wince. Ashley and I are more absurd than absurdist, doing Ionesco’s work no favours, but somehow it works. The funk/disco theme continues throughout, pulsing through the tiny auditorium at odd moments as the chairs fill the tiny performance space. Not necessarily rehearsed moments, mind you, but it adds to our brand of absurdity. We finish, look at the audience, and leave to the gentle strains of Wild Cherry.

The audience responds in a wildly enthusiastic manner. Even the lecturer looks impressed.


What have I learnt then? I feel like I should be sitting on a porch in my rocking chair, with my knitting on my knee for this bit!

I’ve learnt that sometimes we have to take a risk, we have to think beyond the boundaries that might ordinarily confine us. Forgetting my line in Our Town just meant that someone else said it – the play didn’t stop, the world didn’t end, one of the cast members picked it up and the show went on.

Thinking creatively about Ionesco’s work and being in the moment while we were performing gave an edge to our performance that may not have been there if we were highly polished after hours and hours of rehearsal. Adding that edge might have been possible if we’d been great actors, but we weren’t. Our desperation acted like a piece of apple cutting through the flavour of strong cheese … not something we would have thought consciously about if we’d been more prepared.


As I reflect on the stories I’ve told over this past week I notice a consistent theme: there are times in life when we need to spread our arms, hold our breaths and always trust our cape.


Thanks to Jill for the challenge, thanks to all those who have tuned in to read my daily posts, and thanks to those who have commented either here or on Facebook. I’ll leave you in peace now, until I begin my new challenge next week (no more posts this week). My next challenge is travelling through France and Italy.

Posted in Learning

Lesson #6

1992. Wynyard, Tasmania. A brochure from the Faculty of Education at the University of Tasmania sat on the counter at the radio station. Two words spoke to me as soon as I picked it up: English/Drama. Before that moment I couldn’t have articulated my passion for either of them. They didn’t fit in the world in which I lived; a world of domesticity on the one hand, and male-dominated sports on the other. Football, soccer, boys basketball, cricket.

But the brochure did more than cause a realisation in me that here were two areas of interest to me. When I read that it was possible to study English Literature and Theatre a rumbling began deep within me.  Over the next few weeks as I pondered whether it was possible, the rumbling became louder until it was a roar in my head. I discovered that it wasn’t possible to not do it. To not enrol. To pass up this opportunity.

Opportunities that allow us to begin, to change direction in our lives, to choose the direction in which we head may not present themselves on a regular basis. They certainly hadn’t for me. I had had no choice in the move from NSW to Queensland, or in the decision to move from Queensland to Tasmania. They were life changing decisions, they changed the direction of my life, but I was not in control of those decisions.

But here was an opportunity to take control, to make a decision. I knew instinctively what my choice was going to be, but my decision also impacted on others. It was a life-changing decision, and it wasn’t only my life that would be changed. It meant yet another move to yet another new place, yet another move away from family – this time my own children. It meant sacrifice – theirs and mine – again.

It meant making a decision that was ultimately selfish. It was a decision that was all about me.


1993. Launceston, Tasmania. I made the move, began again, and changed my life.

And I learnt.

I learnt that making life-changing decisions means your life changes and you can’t predict the ripple effects those changes have.

I learnt that making life-changing decisions requires courage and resilience and a willingness to sacrifice.

Any new beginning, no matter how big or small, requires us to adapt, to hang on, to allow it to happen (and we never fully realise what ‘it’ is when we first start out).

A beginning is not a moment in time; while it begins with one step it requires more than the first step. Beginnings take time and energy and commitment and desire. We have to want to begin and we have to commit to the messiness that often accompanies a beginning, the messiness of the steps contained within the beginning.

Beginnings lead to new identities. We try them on, test them out, sometimes deny those identities because they don’t fit comfortably with the view we have of ourselves. We often can only see ourselves with the old identity on … wife/mother not student; teacher aide not pre-service teacher. Others see the shiny new identity, but denial is strong. Sometimes we only see that new identity when we’re about to lose it.

Beginnings lead somewhere. They inevitably lead to endings. Beginning a university degree leads to ending a university degree. We might not be able to see that ending when we first begin. It might seem out of reach at the beginning, but the end of that particular beginning means a new beginning.

Beginnings mean journeys. It’s a journey we’re not wholly in control of … the pathway may seem clear when we’re looking at the satellite image, but when we zoom in a little we see a connecting maze of laneways, dead-ends, cul-de-sacs, open spaces. Changing the view to street view means we see the detail up close – letter boxes, flowering shrubs, front yards, driveways. We can get lost in the minutia when we only see through street view and it seems to take an age to move from one block to another. We see the complexity of the journey in a whole new light, and we need spaces/time/semester breaks to step back and re-look from the distance of the satellite.

Big beginnings contain many smaller ones. Beginning school as a five year sets the child on a journey through education that will take many years, but within that big beginning are many other beginnings: beginning a new grade, beginning with a new teacher, with new students, making new friends, learning new rules and expectations, learning new skills that lead to other beginnings – learning that squiggly lines on a page can be interpreted and can lead us into new worlds, new ideas, new imaginings.


2013. Burnie, Tasmania. Another beginning.



Posted in Learning, Travel

Lesson #5

1984. Brisbane, Qld. An overnight train ride from Sydney to Murwillumbah, then a two hour drive to Brisbane.

A hotel room. Just one.

This was our new home until we found a house to live in.

Two weeks later. We found a house. It was empty, the carpet was green and leaves were scattered across the lounge room floor.

An empty house. No beds, no fridge, no table, no chairs. (The truck with our furniture was travelling at a snail’s pace from the south coast of NSW).

There was nothing in the house, except me and three children.

Their father went to work each morning, and that left me, a five year old, a three year old and a four month old to play hide and seek in an empty house.

One week later. It was hot and the cheese melted, so we bought a fridge.

The box added to the places we could hide in, in our daily games of hide and seek.

One week later. The truck finally arrived and the house filled up.


It was another beginning.

Our lives are full of beginnings: some are low key – we begin a new book and we have to get used to the tone, the author’s style, the language choices the author has made, the characters. If the transition to this new book and all it contains is relatively easy, we keep reading. If something jars – the number of times a character stumbles as she walks into a room, for instance, or we read that the male character cocks his head seventeen times in two pages – we put it down.

Some beginnings are more substantial: a new relationship, enrolling in a university course, moving from Kinder to Grade 1, moving interstate.


1986. Ringarooma, Tasmania. A flight from Brisbane to Launceston, then a two hour drive to Ringarooma. It was cold, the road was unlike roads we were used to. Narrow, windy, hilly, pot-holed.

Clouds clung to the hills; it was damp and grey. August. Winter. We’d thought winter in Brisbane was cold, but this was something else.

A farmhouse … a big one, a cold one. No heating except an open fire in the kitchen. There was nothing in this big, cold house, except me and four children.

Their father went to work each morning, and that left me, a seven year old, a five year old, a two year old and a five month old to play hide and seek in a big, cold, empty farmhouse.


Another beginning. This time away from family and friends, away from the warmth, away from civilisation even. We lived in a sheep farm out of town, (and it wasn’t even a big town).

How we manage the beginnings we have in our lives depends on our strength and our resilience. It depends on our expectations and how we cope with difference and change and it depends on the understanding of others.


The farmer’s wife brought scones for morning tea. She’d used bi-carb soda instead of flour, but it was a lovely gesture.

Posted in Learning

Lesson #4

Throughout time. Everywhere.

  • Don’t wear a black bra under a white shirt.
  • Don’t sniff.
  • Use a tissue.
  • Don’t bite your nails.
  • Sit with your legs together.
  • Sit up straight.
  • Stand up straight.
  • Shoulders back.
  • Don’t slouch.
  • Hold your stomach in.
  • Ladies don’t whistle.
  • Don’t lick your knife.
  • Don’t play with your food.
  • Don’t eat Milo out of the tin.
  • Don’t tease your brother.
  • Don’t walk around with your mouth open … a fly might fly in.
  • Don’t answer back.
  • Wear clean undies every day … you might get hit by a bus.
  • Don’t be cheeky.
  • Eat your vegetables … there are children starving in Africa.
  • Don’t argue.

Just some of life’s important lessons … what are some you remember from your childhood?

Posted in Learning, Writing

Lesson #3

2004. Launceston, Tasmania. Lecturing to third year students I share with them an idea:

As a teacher

your job is to generate thinking

not control it.

I don’t know if it’s a truth (are there any of those left?) but it’s something I firmly believe. I hold that idea as a central tenant of my teaching. It’s important to me, part of who I am as a teacher. Part of my teacher identity.


 2012. Burnie, Tasmania. A first year student evaluation: Sharon wants us to think what she thinks.

I am caught by surprise. Shocked. Disappointed. Silenced. Immobilised. I can’t move on/get past it/let it go.

I want to, but it’s like a pebble that I can’t dislodge. Sharon wants us to think what she thinks.

I shake my head, and silently protest, deny it.

Has my position changed in the eight years since I taught the third years?

If it has, why wasn’t I aware of it? If it hasn’t, why aren’t students aware of it?


Today. Burnie, Tasmania. I’m puzzled. I have a situation and I’m not sure how to deal with it. It speaks to thinking and learning and power and control and authority and … and … and who I am and who I profess to be and student perceptions and clarity and lack of clarity and what I can/could/should do.


I learn through conversation: sharing ideas,talking them out, hearing an idea spoken aloud so that I can determine whether it’s an idea worth pursuing or if it needs to be tweaked or tossed aside. Through conversation I hear others’ ideas and determine how they might fit within my worldview or why they might not. I engage in conversation to understand, to learn.

I learn through questions: asking them and answering them. When I ask a question I want to know what the person I’m asking thinks, feels, values, believes. I want to hear their response. I ask to challenge my own thinking. I am interested in different perspectives, different ways of understanding an idea/concept/theory/practice, different values, different beliefs. I ask questions to understand and learn.

I learn through writing. I come to understand myself-others-the world-ideas-thoughts-traits-distinctions-dichotomies-polarities through writing. I use language deliberately. I think about the words I write with and the meanings of those words and the way one word/one idea/one thought fits with another. I think about cadence and rhythm and connection and clarity. I write to understand and as I write, I learn.

I think.speak.question.write.realise.

I don’t have answers. I have ideas.

That’s my realisation. Today. Right now. This moment.


Ideas can be challenged, adapted, re-formed, tossed aside, melded with others, stretched, explored, evaluated, weighed, talked about, shared. They can enrich and empower.


The puzzle: I am an academic. For some students that means I have authority. For some students it means I have answers. I contribute to the discussion online and some students think it’s a truth: definite, complete, authoritative. I float an idea. I suggest, propose, offer. There is conundrum inherent in my contribution. I write authoritatively, I am in control of my ideas, my words, my expression. I am an academic. I should know and therefore I should tell.

Should I?

I don’t have answers. I have ideas.

Ideas can enrich and empower. They can be shared, talked about, weighed, evaluated, explored, stretched, melded with others, tossed aside, re-formed, adapted, challenged. Even my ideas. Yes, even my ideas.

I want students to do their own thinking. I want them to think about the complexities within the books they’re reading in Children’s Literature, to make connections to what’s going on in the world around them, to be aware of the world around them, to see other people’s realities, to have ideas and share them and get to the crux of the story/character/plot/reality writ large on the page.

I share my ideas … not my answers.

Ideas can be challenged.

Even mine.


Posted in Learning

Lesson #2

1968. East Nowra, NSW. I’m finished I call, somewhat excitedly.

Mum comes over to do an inspection. She seems suspicious, but doesn’t say anything.

Okay, you can go now. I jump up and run outside to play.

Scene repeats on a daily basis for a number of years.


1973. Murwillumbah, NSW. I am aghast. I cannot believe she would do this me.


I am betrayed.


1976. North Nowra, NSW. I am not allowed to move. I must stay here till they’re all gone. Dad makes that quite clear.

I will not give in.

I am not wilful.

I am not stubborn.

I am … intractable.

Fourteen year old me learnt that word the hard way.



I will not eat them.

Peas placed carefully under my knife so mum won’t see them, despite her suspicions.

I get away with that for years. Or so I think.

In 1973 a concern is shared. It appears the middle one, the troublesome one, the intractable one, will die a lingering death (along with millions of starving African children) if she doesn’t eat her vegetables.

Nan-in-Murwillumbah has a solution.


Vegetables in the bowl; custard on top. Sharon won’t even realise!

Sharon did realise. And didn’t eat custard for years.


In 1976 a new rule is instituted: no-one leaves the table till Sharon finishes all her dinner.

All means vegetables.


I learnt the strength of my resolve at that moment. I learnt that I am patient. I learnt that I have a core of steel.

I learnt the word intractable.

I learnt that while cauliflower and cheese sauce is one of the foods the devil serves in hell, it tastes marginally better hot than when it’s been sitting on your plate for four hours.


2003. Launceston, Tas. An envelope with Dad’s handwriting.

I’m strangely touched that he remembered.

Posted in Learning

Lesson #1

1972. Nowra, NSW. I clearly remember Dad driving me home from Guides. I was 10 years old and telling him about my friend Robin, who had just gained a badge.

In case you aren’t aware, badges were a big thing in Guides. Possibly still are. My memory is very foggy here, because to be quite honest I didn’t ever take too much notice of badges, but I think there were badges for things like making hospital corners on beds (there must have been because I still do them perfectly), and badges for finding resourceful ways of getting your little brother to stop bothering you.

I found throwing darts at him to be quite effective.

Anyway, driving home with Dad and telling him about Robin getting a badge … for radio. It was a radio badge. The Girl Guide hierarchy possibly thought that learning about communication was more useful than throwing darts at your brother, but each to her own I say.

My Dad was/is a very quiet man. Quietly spoken and getting quieter with age and Parkinsons. Some describe his quiet speech as mumbling, a bit like Pa in the Hillbilly Bears, but people just need to listen harder. Dad would sit back in conversations and only contribute when he had something funny, interesting, witty, insightful to say. He tended to tell stories rather than adding general chit-chat to the conversation, and when telling a funny story he would often laugh himself silly well before the end, thus making it difficult to understand the story at all.

Dad was keen to encourage me, the quietest (most contrary… hey, who let my mother in here?) of his three quiet children, to be less like him; and in the car that afternoon on the way home from Guides he said one of the hardest things about radio is being able to say your own name and not feel silly. Give it a try.

Ten year old me sat there feeling silly about saying my own name.

Hello. I’m Sharon Pittaway

Yep, silly.

No radio badge for me.

1991. Wynyard, Tasmania. A high school P&F meeting. Talk of the local community radio station needing presenters. Me tuning in and for some reason thinking: I can do better than that. What do you mean you can do better than that, the rational half of my brain yelled as I drove to the radio station for my audition. The non-rational half of my brain (the big half) wasn’t listening. It propelled me up the steps, through the door, into the voice booth and made me read the script as if I’d been doing it since I was 10 years old.

I started working in radio.

I said my name. Dad was right. It was hard and I felt silly.

But I learnt that there are times in your life when you have to do what seems hard and what seems silly. And it becomes less hard and less silly over time and the next thing you know you’re working for ABC Local Radio and Peter Cundall is telling everyone how you gorged on broad beans while the news was on and it was the most disgusting thing he’s ever seen, and you’re laughing so hard that you can’t say your own name.

The ten year old me gives a little smile and a nod, and pushes a homemade radio badge into the pocket of her Girl Guide uniform.


Jill set me a challenge for this week: to write about things I’ve learnt … not from teachers or from university, but the odd, scrounged learnings I’ve picked up along the way.

After writing this I learnt that a little part of me is yearning to go back to radio.

Posted in Learning, Writing

Writing challenge (Day seven) – Free choice

My mind is a blunt pencil.

Sharp pencils draw clear, precise lines. Lines of elegance and sophistication. Lines that are clean and crisp and sharp.

Sharp pencils generate delicate images/imagination/thought that evoke feelings of beauty and energy. Sharp pencils show subtleties, cadences and rhythms. They flit across the page, dancing from one well-drawn idea to another, making connections, drawing distinctions, bringing forth meaning.

Sharp pencils rest lightly and touch softly. They allow the delicate rendering of shadows and light, and their precision creates a final image in which it is possible to see individual lines/ideas/understandings while also seeing broader/deeper/richer meanings.

My mind is a blunt pencil.

Blunt pencils plod onto the paper, stepping heavily, trudging, stumbling, clumsily treading from one idea to another. There is no clarity with a blunt pencil, no grace, no lightness, no sophistication. The lines lack crispness and distinction and the final image is fuzzy and ill-defined. Blunt pencils don’t allow for fine detail, or for precision, or subtleties. There is no sophistication with a blunt pencil, no flitting, no dancing.

My mind is a blunt pencil.

There is no self-denigration here. Just self-awareness. No self-pity. Merely enlightenment.

When I read good writing, when I listen to others speak their ideas, when I hear clear thinking expressed crisply, when I see delicacy and subtlety in thoughts and ideas and words and images, I recognise that I am not like that. What is different about their knowledge, their ideas, their words, their thinking, their intellect?

They are sharp.

And I am not.

It bothers me sometimes. Not all the time, but sometimes. I am having a conversation with a colleague on a late night walk through an industrial wasteland in Melbourne and I say something that I realise later is blunt thinking, blunt expression, blunt intellect. I feel embarrassed for myself: for my lack of sophistication, my lack of intellectual adornment, my lack of knowledge, subtlety and delicacy.

I am writing a chapter and have only roughly drawn, fuzzy ideas to wade through, ideas that aren’t thought through to the end. I don’t make connections/distinctions/meanings easily or lightly. I don’t use sophisticated language that dances across the page. My ideas tread heavily; no tripping the light fantastic here.

I read others’ writing and it’s poetic and finely wrought. Individual strands of thought meander gently and smoothly across the page. I am entranced. I am reminded of why I fell in love all those years ago.

Sharp pencils draw clear, precise lines. Lines of elegance and sophistication. Lines that are clean/crisp/sharp.

A blunt pencil.


This is the final piece in the write a post about writing every day this week challenge.

I have been set a new challenge by Jill: How about spending the next blogging week writing each day about something you have learned, not from teachers or lecturers but those things you learn when you least expect to learn something and from someone or something you didn’t/wouldn’t expect to learn from.

I’ll put my (blunt) mind to it 🙂