Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Giving up bad coffee for good

Coffee is a wonderful liquid.

While it is possible to get your hands on an excellent cup of coffee relatively easily in Perth, you just need to know where to go as it common to be served an awful cup.

My logic is that if you are going to damage your kidneys by drinking coffee you might as well do it with the good stuff.

This blog is all about knowing where to go for a superb cup so that you may give up bad coffee for good!

I obviously love the taste but what keeps me going back for more (apart from the addiction) is what it represents.

Having a cup of the blessed cup means chats with friends, taking a seat and watching the world go past and catching up with the papers. It also means getting a much needed energy boost before a shift, study session or social event. I also love the vibe of cafes and below are some of my favorite cafés in Perth.

King Street Café (number 44) is a Perth institution and one that introduced me to coffee. It serves fine food, wine and cakes. Their coffee is very good but depending on which barista is on it is sometimes less than superb. Its location makes it a good spot for people watching. It shuts late and gets very busy during ballet and opera.

Oh and another thing, this café does not accommodate children so out of courtesy for others, please refrain from bringing your ankle biters with you.

Any children that do enter will be given espresso and a free kitten!

Zekka is down the road a little further towards Wellington Street. It is a court yard at the back of a trendy shop and reminds me of the Melbourne lane ways as well as the (supposedly) methadone alleys of Surry Hills in Sydney! While having a great standard café menu, their coffees are regularly perfect. The only criticism is that it shuts at 1500 or 1600 hrs.

Going on a tangent, what is with Perth Cafés shutting at 1600? Seriously, am I the only person needing coffee after this time in the afternoon? Welcome to dullsville I guess.

Around the corner from Zekka and Kings Street is Tiger, Tiger and it is a truly a wonderful place that pulls the artsy-fartsy set. It is a groovy venue down a little a laneway (Murray Mews, off Murray Street) and must score 10/10 on the vibe scale. It consistently serves great coffee and one of the few cafés where you can have a glass without buying food. It did a great Mulled Wine one winter a few years ago and hopefully it should make it on the menu when the weather cools down a bit. It does get packed on Friday night with the after-work-drinks crowd so be prepared to share tables.

Moving right along to St George’s Terrace, Jean Pierre Sancho’s Boulangerie Patisserie is at number 111 and well worth a visit. This is an authentic French outfit that serves truly magnificent pastries and cakes, plus coffee isn’t of a bad standard. It is so authentically French that ordering in French seems to be almost expected. Its closure at 1800 is the only thing that is not authentically French. They use organic and, from memory, Fair Trade Coffee which is a total bonus.

Jean Pierre Sancho on Urbanspoon

Going out to the suburbs is well worth the effort and especially when BouBar (Hampton Road) is concerned. This is a great funky joint that is popular with the med student mob, general uni crew as well as the odd retired opera singer and Nursing Assistant. Again, they do regularly great coffee that would sort out any post-work/pre-study energy slump. I love their cold coffees!!

Boubar on Urbanspoon

Fremantle just south of Perth is a firm favorite especially when it comes to the Coffee. The famous Cappuccino Strip is full of restaurants and cafés to meet the needs of the hungry and under caffeinated. Gino’s probably the most iconic, which it’s prime location (good for people watching) and “Latte Hippy” regulars. Great coffee and cocktails makes it a cool place to meet up and caffeinate before rocking on.

The Coffee Club, say no and walk away!

There also a few Espresso Bar type places which are awesome and are proving to be very popular. There are several down London Court who pump out superb coffee while playing great music.

Giving up bad coffee for good in Perth is easy if you know where to go. The above cafés are just a few of Perth’s best Cafes.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Are Teach for Australia teachers remembered for all the wrong reasons?

You never forget your best and worst teachers.

These individuals seem to have a massive impact on the decisions we make and continue to influence our lives a long time after we have left school.

I’ve always been envious of those who can teach and sometimes wished that I would be that way inclined. I especially admire those who seem to have the innate skills and true calling to teach a room of kids who don’t always want to be there.

It takes such a special person to be actually good at teaching and so many end up in this noble profession who should be doing something else.

Having recently visited the Teach for Australia (TFA) website by accident, my concern with this programme is that the Teach for Australia teachers being remembered for all the wrong reasons.

There is high praise for this programme in that it gets the crème-de-la-crème into a profession that, despite its importance, is seen as not as good as law, medicine or engineering.

But is this really an answer to assisting schools in meeting the needs of disadvantaged students?

My first reason for concern is that the children in the most disadvantaged schools need the best trained teachers with the most experience and not graduates from non-teaching discipline with only 6 or so weeks of training behind them.

The level of training is a common criticism of TFA.

Katrina Morrison and Laura Tiernan wrote an article in September 2009 has quote Laczko-Kerr and Berliner (both are vocal critics of Teach for America and authors of many papers on TFA) who argue that Teach For America teachers produced 20 percent less academic growth a year than graduate teachers with full certification as well as lack the training in class room management and adequate understanding of fundamentals of teaching.

Morrison and Tiernan later cite ‘Jonathan Schorr (1993), a former TFA teacher, describes the inadequate training and preparation that he and other TFA teachers received prior to being placed into schools. He notes, ‘just eight-weeks training is not enough for teachers’. Schorr admits, ‘I was not a successful teacher, and the loss to the students was real and large’

Courtney Trenwith argues in a Brisbane Times article in February 2010 that ‘Queensland parents and teachers this morning labelled as "inadequate" a new national initiative that would have teachers leading classrooms after only six weeks of training’

As Kristi Eaton argues, in her on article on Teach for America dropouts, ‘though some TFA corps members ultimately succeed and find the experience valuable, some corps members are unprepared and ill-trained for the challenges they face as a teacher’.

Secondly, why is it that when you mention “best and the brightest” that people suddenly start becoming interested in something?

For many years now, the number of people applying for mainstream teaching programmes has gone down but it is strange that when a teacher training programme markets itself as attracting the best and the brightest that they receive many hundreds of applications.

Thirdly, the TFA website states that the programme allows participants to discover their strengths and in what way they can contribute. TFA also offer extensive opportunities to move across to industries other than education.

With 40-50% of Alumni going on to work in the public and corporate sectors, in particular law, commerce, engineering and public policy, TFA sound like a professional gap year programme rather than a strategy to increase the number of teachers working in disadvantage schools.

Would you be happy with this figure if you were funding a programme that aimed to improve the educational outcomes of disadvantaged schools and 40-50% of graduates went on to work in other sectors?

We can only wait and see what the benefits of this programme will be. I hope that participants are planning to become teachers for the long term rather than seeing Teach for Australia as a gap year opportunity and a foundation on which to build a corporate career.

After all we wouldn’t want to see TFA teachers being remembered for all the wrong reasons. The world has enough teachers who don’t have the tools to be good at what they have chosen to do. Quality teaching in a disadvantaged school can change the lives of the children that go there and it is a wasted opportunity if teachers who are there are under-prepared and under-trained, however bright and enthusiastic.
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