What a week!

I used all of the data on my phone by the end of last weekend. Woopsy. And I haven’t had internet at home through laziness. But it was nice to be disconnected for a few days. I think sometimes that our ‘connection’ can actually inhibit real connection to our lives. Maybe I shouldn’t generalise that to everyone and should focus it on myself. I sometimes feel more connected without so much connection.

And then on Tuesday my water pump in the car went and so I am still car-less. Feeling quite liberated in that bizarrely. Fortunately I have a supermarket across the road. But in all, I have felt quite liberated this week. I have been taking time out for myself, especially after a few crazy weeks to start the term. The conflict seems to have dissipated at work and I haven’t had any parent complaints for a week now.

An interesting education week too. Friday week ago my Year 11 (now Year 12) class were asked to write their opinions and thoughts regarding refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. I was so shocked. The Australian media has so much to answer for. I realised how dominant the media is in shaping a very racist ad ignorant Australia. This was further emphasised when we started watching our set text for Discovery, Go Back To Where You Came From – Series 1.

If you haven’t ever watched this program (screened annually on SBS in Australia), it focuses on six diverse Australians and puts them through the process refugees experience in reverse. The experiences of the voluntary participants and the way that they process what they experience makes for confronting television, irrespective of your own beliefs.

I was infinitely more curious as to how my class would respond when 95% of them were expressing media opinion and hype. By the end of the first of three episodes, two people were visibly upset. One of my students stayed during break, too upset to move. Interestingly, and movingly, she was angry at her own ignorance and lack of compassion to others prior to watching the first episode. There were more tears during the second episode and interestingly, one of the participants who shared views similar to those of my students, inspired angry comments from them for her ignorance. It is rare that students openly spit venom or opinion at the screen. In fact, this is the first time it has ever happened to this extent. I was impressed.

I didn’t view the third episode with them but the teacher they had in lieu of me said that there were a lot more tears.

I consider this success.

My students felt something, discovered something, responded.

This is rare.

It will be interesting to hear what they say on Monday. I am excitedly looking forward to it.

A Day

After sharing my frustration and anger, knowing another complaint waited for me when I arrived at work yesterday, not sleeping, cortisol coursing through my body all night, and then enduring a very upset belly for most of the day, three things happened. 

The final thing was me taking control of my stress by getting a woman pound it out of me via a massage yesterday afternoon. I could feel the angst surrendering – my body felt liberated when I left. And my mind was clear. 

I often feel that maybe I just expect too much. I can’t change that; I’ve tried to no avail my entire functioning life. Calamity ensues when expectations and standards are compromised. 

But also, sometimes, the universe ensures it acknowledges that you have been heard. 

I was talking to our School Support Officers (beautiful ladies in the Office) and a parent rang for me. I felt stress immediately but took the all because I was in the Office surrounded by wonderful women. 

It was the parent of a student who had continually had their technology out last week. I confiscated it after she had already received warnings, a formal caution and more reminders. I braced myself, and then this,

“I don’t know what has got into my daughter. I am so sorry for the extra work her behaviour has caused you. And the disrespect. I always tell her, that teacher is someone’s sister, mother, daughter, aunt. How dare you disrespect them. How would you feel if someone disrespected me?”

Gobsmacked, I gushed,

“What a great mum you are! Thank you so much …”

She disagreed. She said she was just doing her job, and again apologised. Needless to say, the respect I felt for this woman, and the gratitude. I wish I could shout her praises from the rooftop so that everyone knows who she is. Thank you! 

And then, because the dominoes started clinking, at lunch break, a student I have had serious conflict with this week, the son of the parent complaint that I walked into yesterday morning, came to the door and asked to see me. I had attempted to call his mum as soon as I arrived at work and had psyched myself up for the impending barrage. 

With trepidation, I went to the door. He told me he had been feeling sick about our conflict, that everyone has told him I was being stupid, and that he shouldn’t follow his instinct to resolve it with me. He is sixteen. I told him that I hadn’t slept and also feel sick about it. 

We then spoke about our independent contexts leading to the death of the moth. And this exchange forced us to see the other person’s perspective. The murder of the moth was the catalyst for opposing contexts meeting. He also expressed his mum’s context; usually her advice would be to talk to the teacher and sort it out but she’s been sick this week. And after hearing her frustration on the phone yesterday, him feeling sick all night, he decided to come and talk. 

I told him how much my respect for him had grown, and he said, “Mine for you too.”

And we are good. 

He was going home to talk to mum. 

What a difference a day makes. 

I do love my job, without doubt. But I also know I want a different life as I speed through middle age. My plan to exit teaching stands. I might always stay part time once the business takes off and I might not if my business is very successful. I won’t regret teaching; I’ve met incredible people but I deserve a better quality of life ths teaching affords. 

Thanks for reading. 

  

I love teaching, but …

In the last two days I have read a blurb about teaching as an abusive relationship and another about high levels of teacher stress. Both very accurate. And sadly, when teachers express their feelings towards these issues they are labelled whingers and told that it can’t be hard because of the holidays, or things to that effect. 

If I were rich, I would quit. 

If I had another job, I would quit. 

Right now. 

In the last two weeks I have been verbally abused by many students. I have been disrespected by staff. I have been threatened by angry parents. I have been told to “use my common sense”. Mostly because parents choose to believe their children’s stories without investigating or even asking for the adult’s perspective. 

And I’ve had enough. 

Not just a bad day, or a bad week, or a bad start to the term. This is relentless and becoming more entrenched. And I am really angry. Student welfare is significantly more highly regarded than staff welfare, and this is unacceptable. 

Unhappy staff are not as productive as happy staff. And it isn’t my boss; this rests with exceptionally poor parenting decisions. 

We all know of bad teachers. I am becoming more interested in knowing if the majority of bad teachers are just demoralised people who wanted to make a difference, couldn’t, and don’t believe they can achieve at anything else because teaching has taken every shred of their self-respect. 

Extreme? 

Maybe. Maybe not. 

I was bullied by a Year 8 student for the majority of last week. She was relentless. It started because I asked her to buy a workbook for English. She responded, repeatedly, “You’re an idiot.” The next day she put her bag down and left to go to the toilet, ignoring my instructions to stay. Informing me again that I’m an idiot. During the day, as Head Teacher, she mocked me in front of a class by mouthing, “Shut up”, repeatedly. Her parents wrote on the Formal Caution that I needed to use common sense. She continued to get in my face, telling other students what her parents had written, resulting in students laughing at me publicly. 

She wasn’t just doing this to me. She received five Formal Cautions from a variety of Head Teachers. 

Consequence for her: she is now undergoing assessment. 

I have refused to have her anywhere near me and I refuse to ever teach her again. She has behaved like this throughout the year. I have tried everything and given her multiple opportunities. But not anymore. 

At some point I need to stand up for my worth and value. I taught Year 9 Maths this morning. Because I am trained to teach children I can teach anything, and teach it well. I am a strong leader and I can build a faculty from nothing. I am an exceptional mentor, to staff and students. I dedicate my time to creating a better and safer world. 

And I won’t be disrespected by systemic garbage and moronic parents anymore. 

To add to the Year 8 girl situation, the counsellor sent her back to me so that she could apologise. I reminded the student she was not permitted to be anywhere near me. I then instructed the counsellor that maybe she should ask the teacher first if the teacher is willing for this. For me, it added to the bullying. I am the bad person for not listening to the student. She’s just a child. 

A child without boundaries and with no care for the consequences of her actions on others. And no apology from the counsellor even though my mental health was compromised. By a mental health professional. 

Add to that an irate father yelling in my face after school in the car park last week because his daughter lied to him (or to me, the stories were different) and him moving closer to me as if he were going to hit me, without wanting to hear the situation with open ears, and me having to stay calm and professional. Then a Year 10 male student attempting to harass and intimidate me on Friday afternoon requiring two male staff members to remove him from the premises. All the while supporting staff and building a faculty from nothing because my predecessor has failed to do his job. And the pressure of HSC, reports, copious amounts of marking, budgets, Open Night organisation, tens of Formal Cautions for ongoing poor behaviour especially for not following instructions from adults. Conflict with staff members who let ego get in the way of our core business, and it’s been a shocking start to the term. 

Parents, if your child comes home and says the teacher did something, before getting angry and ringing the school to abuse the teacher or writing a letter to abuse the teacher, take a deep breath and know that in the vast majority of cases, there is significantly more to the story than you’ve been told by your child. 

Generally, teachers are reasonable humans. We aren’t robots and we don’t get into teaching to “make little girls cry” (another accusation from a parent last week). I work bloody hard. I have dried countless students’ tears (far more than I’ve created). I have given hours of time from my personal life to listen to kids, to be there, to pick them up from hospital after suicide attempts, to sit with them in mental health facilities, to support them and cheer them on in their endeavours, and I prepare engaging, relevant lessons delivered with humour, love, patience and happiness. I work hard to help your children succeed. 

I deleted my last line. Suffice it to say that I think a lot of parents could learn how to effectively parent by watching me in action at work. Time to step up. I shouldn’t be suffering anxiety or stress because of your child. 

IVF Revisited 

I had an epiphany on Saturday night. Albeit in a drunken stupor – maybe my mind was free to process the bigger questions on a great night – I realised that whilst I have ‘healed’ for the most part I have struggled to integrate my post IVF life with my pre IVF life. 

I knew when my time to let go of IVF came. I knew I would still struggle with aspects. I knew when my time to apply for fostering came. I knew I still loved all of the important people in my life, but the people pre IVF I have struggled to fully integrate back into my life. 

I have wanted them in it but I didn’t know how. 

So much of the IVF journey is a solo journey. You can share it through words but I don’t think the words really do the reality of it justice. It is something that needs to be experienced to be understood. Add a painful miscarriage to that with months of unending bleeding following and whilst you know the experience has changed you, corrupted your innocence, you don’t quite realise the impact for those that don’t know how to reach out to you to be there. 

On Saturday night, I realised that I had been scared to reach out to my pre IVF people, my extended family. It is so easy to shut yourself down emotionally to others, scared of being hurt and/or rejected, that even after time has passed, you still don’t know how to come back to your self. Your core. 

With a grin on my face as I type this, my epiphany, and consequently my way back to one of my oldest best friends, was through an extreme consumption of alcohol – something I haven’t done in so many years for a multitude of reasons, and something she is so strongly opposed to usually that even she would laugh at the irony. It helps because I have suffered from my excess. But I let myself go back to her and luckily for me, she let me. 

I am now quite positive that my IVF journey will never be truly over because I am not sure it is possible or even remotely desirable for it to be over: it happened, it changed parts of me, it has not destroyed me nor my desire to be a parent, and ultimately I am more empathetic and stronger as a result. 

Every step in my life demonstrates that I have lived with conviction, with strength and from love. 

And for that I am truly and eternally grateful. 

  

Leading Others

I have been a school leader, albeit in a relieving position, for I think, close on four years now. I have grown into this, learning a great deal about myself, ego, and other people. Mostly good. 

I have enjoyed the challenges that leadership brings, and the potential it creates to improve and support my school and other people (both students and staff).

At first, as a leader in the English faculty, I learned how to handle conflict effectively. I also learned that being the ‘boss’ can be very lonely and at times, gut wrenching. It is never easy to have to put your foot down and express that this is the way it will happen when you know others disagree. 

But ultimately the buck stops, in schools, with the Head Teacher. 

I was very blessed throughout my time as English Head Teacher to be mentored by my very close friend, Donna. She taught me that sometimes you just need to do what you need to do without pandering to the egos of other people. Having difficult conversations is never easy and the approach one adopts must be appropriate to the situation. And after the conversation, especially the difficult ones where you have to be the ‘dictator’ for want of a better word, it is vital to move on quickly and not carry the ‘dictation’ with you. Say what you need to say and move on. 

Another mentor, and close friend, that supported my early development as a leader, a long time before I became a leader officially, is Leanne. Leanne taught me the value of process, the necessity for meticulous paperwork and records, and the importance of investigation. Skills that are now, for the majority, reflexes. 

This foundation has enabled the lessons from Donna to be taught; we cannot walk before we crawl. 

A different type of leader is required in different situations. I do not necessarily like being a head teacher but I am good at it. I love the people I work with because they give their best for where they are, but I do not always like what they do. And I think, for the most part, most of my staff would say the same for me. It is an awkward role, and one in which close friendships are difficult to maintain. At times, it is a hard line between friendship/mentoring and being the boss. 

I had to deal with two difficult situations last week. I was quiet here because I need to allow the processing of such events to take place before I can express what I have learned. 

I have moved to being the substitute Head Teacher of Maths, just for two more weeks. I am very committed to process, and people being in positions where they are able and supported to offer their very best. I perceive that it is my job as Head Teacher to ensure optimum conditions for this and further learning to take place. I expect that people will be honest and if they have a concern, express it to me. 

I have often on here referred to my understanding of Tolle’s reckoning of ego. The ego that speaks when we feel that someone has diminished or disrespected us. This is the ego that often will tell us to take action without reflecting on the situation at hand. This ego causes problems for everyone that it connects to because it craves feeding and intimidates people into feeding it. The ego can be a powerful and damaging beast. 

I occasionally succumb to this monster but try very hard to process before I act or speak. I will vent from ego in a safe place, but act after reflection and deliberation. Generally, I am measured in these actions.

Two difficult situations. The situation I expected conflict and ego from did not happen; smooth and peaceful transition. The situation I did not expect too much grief from blew up. And I had to have a difficult chat because of ego jumping in. Ego forced the person to not follow process and to create significant conflict for many others. 

I woke this morning reflecting on the best way to move forward to nurture the growth of the person operating from ego. A conversation would usually be my approach but I think, for the words and intent to be accurately portrayed, in words needs to come first. An old fashioned method in this day and age. 

Through writing though, I believe that I can outline my perspective whilst paying homage to theirs. I do understand why they reacted the way that they did, probably better than they do, but as leader, I see a larger picture, that’s my job, and I need to meet the very different needs of many rather than one. 

And it is this that I dislike about being a Head Teacher, but also where I get to make a difference in many lives. 

Leadership is a journey. A journey of discovery of the self, others, and the broader world. And it is lonely and difficult. 

Friday ended with the other staff member telling me how much they appreciated my support of them whilst the other was running me down. Funny how your impact can be so extreme in two different situations, both where you were just doing your job. The best way you know how. 

  

A Poem by a friend

I received a poem the other day. It is so beautifully crafted that I asked for permission to post it here. Permission was granted so I would like to share it. 

I think it also sums up how a lot of people often feel … in beautiful language. 

Thank you, my friend, for the courage to share. 

  

Spring

The weather has been feral. Just sayin’. And lots of change in the air. All positive thus far. 

Huge congratulations to my sisters from other misters in securing new employment and job security. I love you both. 

And just saying, I had an impromptu and quick catch up with another sister in the supermarket and it was the highlight of my day. I miss her. 

So, spring. Growth. Hope. Possibility. 

My orange tree followed by some other new growth. 

   
    
   

My Orange Tree

Probably five years ago my family bought me an orange tree for Christmas, one of the mini ones. Dwarf I think they are called. 

I potted it and watered it and fertilised it and it seemed to almost die. 

There have been many times since that I thought I should just get rid of it. Something, possibly its five green leaves, stopped me. And so it moved with me. And I gave it pride of place. 

Today when I was watering it after our nearly forty degree celsius day, I noticed that it has started budding. Lots of cute little buds. 

It has persevered to stay alive, barely alive, all of that time, and now, with obviously perfect conditions, it is blossoming. Literally. 

Yep. 

Goodbye Holidays

Into the last few hours of daylight and holidays before school goes back tomorrow. 

Happily, I am organised for my classes. As much as I can be before the event. With the exception of this week, I am also resolved to come home at a reasonable time three days out of five for as many weeks as I can. Obviously there are events already planned that ensure this can’t be every single week but where possible, I aim to come home and take Max for a walk. 

I’ve also been thinking that I need to set up a timetable of sorts for myself. I suggest it to my students all of the time. Not a rigid timetable where every second is accounted for but more like, Monday’s are for my business and writing my course. Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s are school. Thursday’s are for massage and shopping. Friday’s are for writing. Leading in to fairly open weekends (having said that, all of October and most of November is booked). 

I am hoping to also go back to a mostly juice diet. I have never felt as good as I did on that juice reboot. I just need to get organised in purchasing the vegetables – I don’t like the quality in supermarkets so buy from the fruit shop at the Square near work. Thursday’s. Lol. 

I am also hoping to turn the television off. Not all of the time but man, it sucks leisure time like nothing else. 

Oh, and I am hoping to be strong in my resolution to keep putting myself first. This will be the hardest; changing decades of pattern and behaviour.

Happy Term 4/march to Christmas! 

😀🌺

My dad has always said …

That if you love what you do, it will never feel like work. And I truly believe this. And over the years, recent years, some aspects of my job have felt like very hard work. I love teaching. It has been such a fundamental part of who I am and allows me to practice my beliefs – political and spiritual. It permits me to serve, to give back and to feel like I am changing the world. 

But, teaching does not afford me the complete lifestyle that I would like in my later years. 

And it has only been the last couple of months, since New York City, that I feel I have been able to articulate this to myself. And that I deserve the life that I want rather than the life I have. 

Again, I love teaching. More often than not I derive real strength, fulfilment and happiness in the practice of teaching. I love seeing my kids, and I love helping them develop the tools to make sense of, and to ultimately create their own world. 

Unfortunately though, this is a small part of teaching. Behaviour management and the politics, watching dispassionate teachers destroy the learning experience for kids and not care that they are, seeing parents who are so disconnected from their children and have no idea how to raise them, increasing rates of poor mental health in kids and adults, this takes up most of the time in teaching. Then there are the long hours, the never ending take home work, the stress from the welfare support, the extra duties and ongoing support of staff, parents and students, and the lack of gratitude. 

Quite frankly, the pay doesn’t adequately make up for what you lose. Time with family and friends, happiness, peace. 

And this, well, this part I think I am too old for, too impatient for, too arrogant for. 

Not today, but in coming years I do not think I will enjoy teaching as much as I do, or as much as I have. 

And I deserve more. 

Those words have taken me a long time to believe. I am deserving. I am valuable. 

I never used to believe this or feel this truly. My self worth was non-existent. Hard work and never ending support from those closest to me has forced me to change my internal dialogue over time. 

And as I have grown to appreciate my worth, I realise that I am growing out of my old lifestyle. And I think it is okay to say that it is time for a change. 

Not a change in school. I love my school, it’s staff and its students, and it’s community. I have a lot to offer my school and I achieve a phenomenal success there. 

Not a change in system. Hehe, public all the way because public education is the cornerstone and provides the foundation for a successful democracy where all are regarded as equal and equally deserving. 

A change in my lifestyle. I deserve that. We all do. 

But, change is terrifying. 

I am terrified. 

The lifestyle I envisage in my later years is one that is calmer and more peaceful than my current lifestyle. I still want to teach, I still want to heal/help. I still want interaction and fun from time with others. And I want to write. 

My small business will permit all of this. 

But, I’m not a business person. However, I crave challenge: another tick. 

The fear has been, and will continue to be, the thing that I need to acknowledge but then act in spite of. I can do that … I think. 

In her Big Magic podcasts, and in her book, Liz Gilbert (yes, hero worship) says that she has always had to fight her fears. Rather than conquering it though, she acknowledges it and regards it as part of her success/family. She doesn’t let fear rule though, and she doesn’t let fear speak or govern her choices. 

And I think this is crucial to success. 

Acknowledge the fear. But don’t embrace it. Twenty seconds of courage and just decide to do it (big thanks to We Bought a Zoo and The Newsroom Series 1 Episode 1). 

Then make it happen. 

I am building slowly. Usually I decide I want to do something and I run at it like a bull at a gate. Not this time. This time I’m letting every step sit with me for a little while and I have developed a realistic time frame. It is almost too slow but I am hoping that my success wil be ensured with a slower pace. 

Anyway, upshot of this is that I am going to create the life I want and that I believe I deserve. 

I’d like you to do the same. Are you happy? Do you live your job? Does it feel like you aren’t really working? 

If not, twenty seconds of courage and jump. You deserve it.