An Unexpected Lesson

I think this will crack you up.

I was sitting on my lounge, mindless TV on, and Max, my six and a half year old Maltese/Shih Tzu/Mini Poodle cross cake and sat right in front of me.

When I got Max, I had failed IVF cycles behind me and giving up on children, decided to buy a dog. We get the dog we need, not the dog we want.

Max has always been an obsessive dog. He gives and gives and gives love. He struggles to receive it back.

So, I’m sitting on the lounge, trying to give this kid a hug, and he is trying to lick me (hate being licked). I turn to him and I say,

“Max, it’s okay to give as much love as you do, but it’s important you also learn to receive love.”

Anyone who knows my story knows how ironic this tale is. It wasn’t lost on me. I laughed and said,

“Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black.”

And I’m still wryly smiling.


Max is the black one – he’s a human trapped in a dog’s body lol. Aka very spoilt.

Moving Slowly

This is unheard of. It’s 9am and I am still in bed. The morning ritual has barely started. It’s okay though – I’m giving myself permission to just be.

I noticed last night, I struggle to stop these days. I used to watch tv for hours and now I get really bored really easily and need to do something alongside it. In this lifetime, it is easy to become rushed and feel like you need to be doing something, anything, everything.

So, today, I’m moving slowly.

I will get up soon – maybe just to get my book from the lounge room, maybe to get the kids some food, maybe to feed myself – and I might not. Or, I could do some work, but only have music, not tv, in the background. And I need to water my plants, but if not now, tonight.

It’s already hot outside. No need for speed today.

I’ll be moving slowly, with my own permission.

My Relationship With Food 

Yikes! Can’t believe I’m sharing this here. But here goes … 

I had lost 3.5 kg in as many weeks, without trying. No effort at all. I was enjoying life and eating things I wanted to eat. Lots of fruit and veggies, lots of water, lots of healthy food, by choice. I wasn’t even craving sugar or junk or crap or taking the easy option. It was amazing. I wasn’t even thinking about my weight and to be honest, except for a doctor’s appointment, wouldn’t even have known I’d lost it. 

Then I started back teaching this week. Not really enjoying it. Having to use every trick to get kids behaving. A bit of stress. Tiredness because I’m not living my life again. And good choices become bad choices. 

Well, less the type of food and more the portion sizes. I just don’t stop. I am most definitely an emotional eater. When I am happy, I make great choices and feel very satisfied from significantly less food. 

Another sign that my gap year is the right choice, and another reminder that I need to trust the universe and say no to any teaching work that I do not desperately need. 

Exhale. Done and dusted. Reboot. 

The Price of Not Trusting 😜

So, I started casual teaching this week. Four days because I had an appointment on one day. Four days of ‘teaching’ every period with detentions every break because I am introducing and establishing myself. Four days of fighting with a lot of kids to engage them and get them excited. 

It’s been a rough one. And an illuminating one. 

I am carrying stress in my shoulders and back this afternoon for the first time in a very long time. My throat is really sore and I am exhausted. 

The life of a casual teacher. 

But, it’s more than that. 

Today’s illumination started yesterday. I didn’t want to get up and go to work. I didn’t want to teach every period. I didn’t want to argue with kids to get them working. I didn’t want to become frustrated by some of the dodgiest lessons I’ve ever seen, torn feeling gratitude that at least there was a lesson left. I didn’t want to ask someone for a key to go to the toilet. I didn’t want to keep asking people to unlock the classroom door, please. I didn’t want to ask the kids to write their names down. I didn’t want to not have rolls, access to Sentral, say my name repeatedly, and the list goes on and on and on.

In one particular subject, the work has been so boring it has not surprised me that the kids prefer to sit on their phone or look out the window. When I found out I had that subject again, well there was only one remedy. 

Today I made up my own lessons for the classes that had no substantial work. They weren’t perfect but it was smoother. Kids are starting to respond to me, engage with me, confident enough to ask questions. I’m starting to hear kids say, she is such a cool teacher, and I really like her

But I don’t really care. 

Today was more about me realising that because I didn’t trust enough, I accepted work for every day until the end of term which leaves no time for me to do what I took this year off to do. Today made me realise that I’m falling into the same trap I always do; I put the needs of others before my own and don’t have enough left to give myself. I’m still learning to value my needs. 

So I’m working in a school where kids are needy and cry out to be heard, seen, acknowledged in every way they can, not caring who they hurt in the process. A kid in Year 9 pegged a piece of rolled up paper at me whilst I was helping another student with their work. 

Other kids dobbed on him. Immediately. He denied it. Anyone that knows me can imagine what happened next. As I told the class, I don’t care that someone pegged something at me; I cared that they were too gutless to own it, that they take their littleness out on someone who by law, cannot defend themselves, and that the poor delusional child thinks it makes them look strong to their peers, and I reminded whoever it was, that their friends dobbed him in real fast. I then suggested to the class that the gutless wonder cares so little about them that they compromise their learning environment; the gutless are just that selfish. And I watched the denying thrower get redder and redder with each breath of shame as they sank lower and lower. 

And so today, I really felt that I don’t want to fight with kids anymore. I don’t like being that person, that teacher. Yes, they learn, and the victims always feel stronger when I am this teacher. But it’s boring. 

I love teaching but our curricula is so disconnected from the realities of our kids’ lives. Adults are so disconnected from kids that it’s no wonder some kids struggle to connect to their teachers. And I think these are the things I blame for casual teachers and teachers in general having to fight so fucking hard to inspire kids to want to be more and to realise that they deserve more. 

And a lot of you are right. These kids do need more teachers like me. I see a few but we are not in strong enough numbers to exact real change for the masses. Meh. I deserve more too. 

Successes kept coming. Last period today I used Reading to Learn with a Year 8 class that were positively horrible yesterday, and today had great success, great engagement and great comprehension. 

On Monday I was offered every Friday in Careers and in TAS. Today I decided I probably wouldn’t see that through beyond this term. I think I could achieve great things with those Careers classes in time, but I don’t want to invest the time and emotional energy required to achieve it. Selfishly, this year is my gap year and I don’t want to corrupt the freedom of it. 

At least I’m learning … 

I’m not being negative, just keeping it real for myself. And I love my business activities (which do not feel like work at all) but do not feel that same live for teaching anymore. Teaching is work, and bloody hard work. 

Back Where It Started 

On Monday morning I was called in for my first day of teaching-in-a-school work for this year. My high school. And the first school I taught in twenty five years ago. It has been eighteen years since I left Airds for Sarah Redfern which ultimately lead to my first and only permanent position at Reddall. 

Today I am not working to attend some appointments and this has afforded me the opportunity to reflect whilst I wait for my blood to be taken. 

There are only two teachers still there that I worked with, one who was teaching there when I was a student. Another ex-student is teaching there and a few friends. So, I was safe. 

The school seems physically smaller and the student population is reduced. Plants have grown in the planter box I used to sit near (Years 7-10) and the seats I sat at during my senior years are gone. There are no demon tables and there is a new hall. The admin block has been refurbished. The classrooms are the same. Some staff rooms have moved. I haven’t been through the whole school yet; full teaching days. 

What a trip! 

As a student, and as a beginning teacher, I learned a lot and had some amazing times. As a teacher, I also had some of my strongest lessons taught to me about teaching. 

Yesterday I ‘taught’ a class (really it’s about establishing relationships and boundaries at the moment), and towards the end of it, a couple of the girls asked if I could teach them all of the time. The next class were really unsettled and the lesson was a bit dodgy which didn’t help, but even those kids stayed for detention and commented on how much they liked me, “You’re real, Miss.”

Yep. I’m real. There have been a couple of small issues – nothing major and nothing that caused me any stress; I just go into patient teacher mode and go through the steps – but I realized how bored I am with teaching. 

I can do it standing on my head, eyes blindfolded and hands cut off. Even the discipline. I’ve been doing it so long, have refined my practice, and just go through the motions. I don’t expect these kids to respect my authoritar straight off but I am surprised at how many are. To be honest, I expected more feral than I am getting. 

In two days though, I’ve come to a few conclusions: 

1. My school so takes my skills and talent for granted, and should have utilized it and supported my move up the ladder a long time ago. 

2. Lessons for kids need to be engaging, relevant, fun. 

3. Respect them, stay calm, be patient, follow up, be clear about expectations, and they will ask you to teach them forever after one period. 

Teaching isn’t hard. It takes perseverance and a commitment to learning from the teacher. 

Back at the school I started at, I have a greater appreciation of how good a teacher I am these days. Did I say good? I meant amazing; I’ve always been good. And that realization is a gift. 

An Interesting Place To Be 

One of the most empowering things that I have done since I last worked in December is to let go of knowing where my life is leading me. The last few weeks have been instrumental in me starting to truly trust the universe/spirit/fate that I will be alright. I am trusting that I am moving to a path where I can do most good. 

I miss teaching my kids. But, I don’t miss being a teacher as a job. 

I just watched this week’s episode of Insight, A Teacher Changed My Life. I am truly blessed that I have been such a teacher to many kids over many, many years. I have wonderful memories of my work and my growth in the classroom with my beautiful students; a truly symbiotic journey. 

I am a great teacher. It’s taken me many years to realize my worth and my value to the profession, and I own it with pride now. I am grateful that I can, that I never stopped trying to be a better teacher. 

Last week I received some horrible news. It has taken me days to be able to even write about it, let alone talk about it. I have taught for twenty four years. I do not remember when I taught different people, just that I did. 

However, early in my career, first or second year, maybe my third, at the high school I attended myself as a student, towards the end of the year, I had a block teaching History and English, and I taught a class that I think was called 7 Orange. They were a very mixed class and I was a beginning teacher who just wanted to change the world (this hasn’t changed). I was young enough to believe that every child could be whatever they wanted, and if they wanted, and I believed in them enough, they could achieve anything (this too, hasn’t changed). 

At the end of a lesson, last one of the day and I think it was a Friday, one of the boys stayed behind. We chatted a bit about his progress. He grinned, not saying much but listening to everything I was saying. He laughed and he said, “Thank you. I appreciate you trying to save me but don’t waste your time. I’m heading to gaol. I know my future.” 

I have never forgotten that conversation, and have relayed it many times during my career. This kid grabbed my heart, my conviction, my idealism, and made me stronger. 

I have a public and a private Facebook. Imagine my surprise and happiness when I received a friend request from this boy, now man, a few years ago. He had a child and was turning his life around. He was growing into his potential. I was so proud of him. 

It takes significant character to know yourself at twelve and to fight it and/or want to change your ‘destiny’.

He died last week. 

I didn’t believe the post at first. Shock. I went to his page to see if it was really true. Yep. And then I cried. I read the posts. Many familiar names. Children I loved in pain as adults. Nothing I can do. When they were younger we would have created community and the bonds would last forever. As adults, lives are too removed. But the pain stays the same. 

Many students have died throughout the years. I have a tattoo for some of them. I feel the pain of each passing, even if I haven’t had communication for years. I think, as a teacher, the relationships we build create memories that we feel keenly when someone dies. 

Anyway, I am proud of Ashley’s journey to become the dad and man he became. I wish with all of my aching heart, that he could have stayed here longer. 


And the epiphanies continue …

I have felt unsettled since the year started because I discovered that my first instinct relating to conflict is to run. I have justified to myself that this is because I just don’t like conflict. However, I think it has deeper significance. 

As a child from a home full of conflict, I learned that I couldn’t win. I knew that my voice and what I thought was valid, deep within myself, but I couldn’t get anyone else to treat me the way I believed I deserved to be treated; I wasn’t heard. I retreated into the world of imagination and story. Today this is represented by my love of tattooing; my voice permanently and loudly etched into my skin. 

Last week I had a conflict with someone. I didn’t run but trusted that in time we would resolve it together. We have done this. 

Similarly, I had a conflict with my dad recently. I didn’t believe that he was hearing me. We discussed this. I explained how his words made me feel. He now acknowledges in conversations that could be damaging why he is expressing himself the way that he is. 

Throughout my life, rather than face the conflict, I have fled from it. It is a recurring and unhealthy pattern. 

Acknowledging and owning this is a solid step towards changing it. This morning I was able to trace this part of my persona back to its beginning. 

I am peace. I am calm. I am transformation. 

A Quick Observation 

I am learning a lot about myself at the moment. I am enjoying rediscovering who I am. I have always thought I knew myself quite well but I am now refining that knowledge. It is weird, meeting oneself as if for the first time. 

Key things that I have rediscovered/refined/learned: 

1. I love being immersed in nature. 

2. I love being organized. 

3. I love exploring – new places as well as old. 

4. I love teaching – everyone and everything – because I love watching other people learn. 

5. I love writing. 

6. I love, and need, alone time. 

7. I can be very lazy with recycling (which I am going to focus on fixing). 

8. I am easy to spend time with.

9. I am quietly very critical (it is what it is; I am what I am). 

10. I don’t enjoy tv as much as I think I do, and really only watch it to shut my mind down. 

😉 times they are a’changing 

The beach

I can’t see very well. The sun is warm and bright, the breeze is gently kissing my skin, the hot sand warming my swimmers. Iris is standing at the far side of the beach, looking at the Rick pools. Sabine is sunning next to me, watching the swimmers. We have just reapplied sunscreen and had some fruit. 

Life is good. 

The lifeguard has just ushered some rogue swimmers back to the flagged swimming area and I am contemplating just how far behind my writing is. 

When I was younger, I thought I had to live, really live, to be a writer. I still think Alice fully lived is important, but not vital. 

I don’t come to the beach much anymore. I miss it. Diving through waves, feeling the water push past your body as you glide; a cool rush, connected to all around you and very much in the moment, shutting out all intrusions. It is amazing. Divine. And, unrivalled. 

The dumplings however, that’s a whole other, less romantic story. Sand in e wry crevice and e dry pocket … ice lol. That feeling of no co trip astounds tumble at the whim of the water choking you. Hehehe. Love that too. 

It is impressing me today, as I sit at Austinmer Beach, when everyone I know is at work (almost everyone), that on a Friday all body types are welcome here, and larger women are wearing bikinis. No judgement from anyone. Well, no public condemnation, people may be judging but I’m not privy to it. And I am good with that. 

I always forget, in my travels abroad, just how much beauty and adventure there is to discover here. I think we’ve one so focused on work and what we have to get done, that it is almost easier to say we are too busy. This month I really am advocating for a Just say NO policy: shorter work weeks and no to anything that takes our balance away. 

I am enjoying tutoring and mentoring; I am enjoying the balance it brings. I probably won’t enjoy the balance as much if I don’t get casual work to supplement the income lol. Right now though, it’s good.