The Magick of Kampuchea: Pol Pot

The Khmer are a resilient people. It has been just under thirty years since Pol Pot died and his specific regime ended. Our current guide lost most of his family during this time.

It hits home how blessed we truly are in Australia to have not known long term war or totalitarianism on our shores. We have been involved in the conflicts of others, but not on our ground. No comment to make there.

It also makes me even crankier that some Australians take their freedoms and their right to vote for granted. It isn’t hard to do the research on google to make an informed vote. Enough said on that.

We haven’t been to the museum; I don’t think we needed to. We were informed by our first guide that we wouldn’t see many elderly people, especially in the cities. Very true. A whole generation of people is missing or very underrepresented.

In the rural areas, we have been privileged to see life how it is. People that have little, but are happy. Consumerism, especially overconsumption, tends to not bring very much long term happiness. I know that myself from my experiences this year. It is important to be able to live, but money does not bring happiness.

Dominant Culture Privilege

You know, it’s very easy to sit back and judge. It’s probably the easiest thing in the world to do. Even easier to sit and judge from your own perspective, your own context, and not give time to a different perspective.

We are all guilty of this. Including me. And, regrettably, I continue to be despite my best efforts to be a better and less judgemental, more open, person.

For all of my youthful years I celebrated Australia Day on 26 January. I am, and always have been, in principle, a proud Australian. I am not always proud of my countrymen’s behaviour, choices and attitudes, but I love Australia and the potential it offers for an amazing life.

At some point though, in my celebration of Australia Day, I hit a point of realisation, as I became better educated, that that particular day was a day that marks a period of time that Australians today should not be proud of. For our first people, our Indigenous brothers and sisters, it marks a horrific turning point in their collective history.

The start of a genocide, not just of people, but of language, culture, beliefs, tribal systems and hierarchies, their entire way of life and way of knowing was attacked. Today, we still see the impact of this, and statistics validate the argument that there is a significant gap between the success rates in education of the dominant culture to the indigenous culture.

The Stolen Generations, as one example only, is not something restricted to the past. The forcible and government mandated removal of children from their biological parent is something that occurred during my lifetime. The effects of this still impact an entire generation of people.

And so, I stopped celebrating. I stopped attending barbeques, stopped listening to the hottest hundred, stopped participating in Invasion Day. At the time, most people didn’t get it. Today, more and more people are starting to express the same sentiment.

I don’t mind being different when I am standing in my truth.

In Australia, we pride ourselves on the ideal of inclusivity. I don’t believe that we are. I think we are deluding ourselves. We may once have been, but even this is highly doubtful to me. Inclusivity exists only for the dominant culture.

As a child of migrant parents, one German, in the seventies and eighties, at school, post WWII, I remember being bullied for being a “kraut” and kids would chant “Sieg Heil” at me.

What dicks.

But, as a child, I was told I was different; there was no inclusivity here. And, I only knew Australia. I was born here. This was my home. As an adult who chose blonde hair, I had other adults inform me that I could not possibly understand racism; I belonged to the dominant, blonde haired, Australian culture.

As a high school teacher with interesting ideals, pedagogy and methodology, I have always felt marginalised. I have never quite belonged because I have never embraced the status quo; it didn’t work for me. So, I found teaching not very inclusive too.

What I have learned from all of this, plus more, is that until we have walked in the shoes of another, or made serious attempts to empathise with the perspective of another, we are engaging in dominant culture privilege.

Just because the majority may think it, doesn’t make it right or true or inclusive. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t change or revise or grow. When one person does not feel included, we cannot argue that we are an inclusive democracy.

Do I even need to connect marriage equality to this argument. No question mark. Seriously, Australia, wake up. Dominant culture privilege.

And, the rights of people with disability. I know a child with Autism who is being deliberately bullied at a local Catholic high school by a mob of his peers, to the extent that he is expressing extreme anxiety and suicidal tendencies, whilst the school continues to argue that they can’t do anything about it. Dominant culture privilege.

We are so ego based that we fail to focus on what is in the collective best interests. We don’t want to ‘lose’ that which is sacred to us, but we are happy to deprive others of the same.

Time to evolve, to ascend, to be better because we know better.

The Inevitable 

It’s 1.35 in the morning. I fell asleep on the lounge around 9.30 last night, waking up an hour ago. I’m now in bed but can’t sleep. I’m reflecting on my week. 

Last night I realized that the inevitable had happened. I have emotionally connected with and become attached to a group of adults and kids at another school. And, I’m okay with it. 

I’ve also realized that whilst I can come across as very arrogant, and at times, behave arrogantly, it’s mostly because I am really good at what I do. Not perfect but really good. And not acknowledged by those in charge, in a very broad sense, for it. I think the arrogance, if that is what it even is, stems from that quest for someone to acknowledge it. A result of damage and trauma no doubt. 

I had a success at work. It made my heart melt. I smiled inside all afternoon. I felt connection. 

There is a boy who struggles with change. The first few times I relieved for various teachers, he couldn’t even come into the room. On Monday he came into the room, and he stayed in the room even when he had the opportunity to leave. 

Yesterday he was reluctant to come into the room but did. And then he started to tease me and play with me. He smiled and he laughed and I just watched him blossom right in front of me into his potential as a happy person. It was so magickal. This transformation. Wow. He trusted me. 

It is such a gift to become the custodian of someone’s trust. As a teacher, it is our reward.

He completed no work but I have always maintained that to learn, we need to trust the teacher, and building that relationship takes time. Small steps. Being consistently in the unit is enabling and empowering me to build the relationships, with kids and with the staff. 

I think I’m feeling a return, from deep inside of my soul, to my passion for teaching, separate from the bullshit that can be the profession. A return to wanting to make a difference in people’s lives. To caring and to trust that caring is okay. 

And inevitably, this leads to an understanding of the extent to which last year has damaged me. I always trusted that my employers would look after me, and they didn’t. And this is why, even with renewed passion and yearning to make a difference, my days in the profession are restricted. 

Teachers need to feel empowered and inspired by the leaders in their organization, and that doesn’t happen. To ‘succeed’ you need to be a certain type of person, and that isn’t me, can’t be me, not interested in it being me. I have always created my own success in partnership with my kids. And that was enough for a very long time. 

But it isn’t anymore. I’ve lost respect for the institution. I don’t trust that the organization knows what is in the best interests of its ‘clients’, and that teachers are no longer empowered or supported to undertake their core duties. You need to look no further than NAPLAN reform and continual syllabi changes to see this. 

There needs to be fundamental change in every aspect of and at every level of the education machine in this country, and unfortunately, apart from the odd random twinge of politicalisation, I’m not interested in the fight. Maybe that spirit will return one day, but I don’t see it happening just now. 

Still too damaged. 

Climate Change? Hmmm …

Throughout the years, I have had many discussions with intelligent people about the validity of climate change. Is the earth freezing inevitable? Historically, yes. This fast? Nup, I don’t think so. 

Regardless, I think we do need to look at the way that we live in the first world. We are disconnected, we are out of balance, and we have lost respect for the miracle of nature and it’s ecosystem. People, animals, the earth … all in crisis. 

Click the link. We have been on this planet for not much more than a blink of the eyes …

http://youtu.be/VrzbRZn5Ed4

“Trauma not transformed becomes trauma transferred.”

Below is a link to a TED Talk presented by Ashley Judd. It has strong language content (including the c word) and some possible triggers for trauma in all its guises (in particular sexual assault and/or domestic violence). 

But it is amazing. 

Ashley Judd is a Hollywood actress and is outspoken. She speaks up. In fact, I should have introduced her as an activist first. That says something. 

Her talk focuses on gender trolling online and how that manifests in women’s real lives. Some of you may roll your eyes at this point, maybe stop reading, maybe not click the link. It will not only be your loss but also the world’s loss. She has some things to say that we all need to hear. And that we need to act on. 

Now. 

I have seen this gender specific trolling in comments on posts on Facebook (my social media addiction of choice). They appear whenever a woman voices an opinion. The trolling is designed to minimise the voices of women and terrify women into submission. 

It is disgusting. 

When we minimise, demonise or objectify women, we are changing the fabric and humanity of society. The consequences of this serve none of us in the long term. 

We all need to be supported to fulfil our potential and purpose in living. For anyone to intentionally bring another person down and corrupt this process is not only reprehensible but also exceptionally dangerous. When we are treated as less than, the ripple effect permanently changes the world we live in. Trauma not transformed becomes trauma transferred, and we are all responsible for minimising the impact of trauma as well as the incidence of it. 

I hope you ‘enjoy’ the talk. 

How online abuse of women has spiraled out of control https://www.ted.com/talks/ashley_judd_how_online_abuse_of_women_has_spiraled_out_of_control

Why They Leave

There has been more exposure in the last week, in the broad media, regarding the increasingly high numbers of teachers leaving teaching. One such article suggested that 53% of trained teachers are no longer working in the field. They always focus on the young teachers. Older teachers are leaving or taking extended periods of leave too. Like me. 

The reporters state that there is not enough data about why teachers aren’t teaching. I scoff at this. The Department has our details. Call them. Or continue reading …

When I decided to be a teacher, I felt the calling. I was only 5 so I couldn’t articulate why, I just knew teaching was what I was meant to do. Initially I wanted to be a primary school teacher but by the time I was seventeen, I had moved into a calling for high school teaching. I loved English, so high school English became the dream.

My home experiences during my adolescence also impacted this change. After my parents divorced when I was in Year 8, and fighting in both homes became the norm, culminating in me moving between my mum and my dad’s houses, and ultimately living in a caravan in a friend’s backyard for a few months after receiving the beating of a lifetime, I didn’t want any child to feel as alone as I had during my high school years. I vowed that whilstever I was in a school, kids would have an adult they could turn to for support, whether I taught them or not. For me, it was the responsibility of the adults to protect the children. 

When I was in my first year of teaching, 1993, I was interviewed by a local newspaper. They asked why I wanted to teach. My response was simple, “To change the world.” 

Over time this idealism has tempered itself. I still want to change the world, and believe education is vital in this, but have settled for changing the children’s lives I teach so that they are empowered and enabled to change the world. 

So, why am I on leave, initially hoping to leave teaching (but not so much today because I miss it from my core)? 

Because teaching is run by bureaucrats and politicians who have absolutely no idea about what teaching is, and why teachers teach. 

As a result, the art of teaching has been seriously compromised. 

Administration duties have taken over from the magic of programming, preparing lessons and units, and actually teaching. Stupid behaviour and clothing restrictions have been mandated to ensure that teachers are “professional” (pfft, please, professionalism is an attitude not an appearance). 

Data collection, which only serves to demoralise teachers and students, and takes away from the magic of teaching by taking time from preparing resources, has become the most recent catch cry; let’s take time from teachers teaching to collect data do that the results for kids stay low. 

Teachers, young and old, to stay on top of everything that is required, lose the precious work-life balance, lose time with their families, lose time to exercise, lose time full stop, and begin to resent the career they so nobly entered. 

Not only that, but teachers are no longer respected by society. Parents think nothing of abusing teachers, of telling them how to do their job, and of enabling their child’s poor behaviour choices to continue. All the while, belittling the teacher’s knowledge of children and pedagogy. The media, politicians, parents, the average person on the steeet, all think they know better than the people at the chalk face. I shake my head. 

And then, there is no protection for the teachers who find themselves facing an investigation, or accusations of misconduct, or being bullied by other teachers/deputy principals/principals/students, because the child comes first. And whilst they should, it shouldn’t always be at the expense of diligent teachers who are doing the best they can under hopeless circumstances most of the time. 

As a classroom teacher, throughout the last twenty four years, I can’t tell you how many mandatory referrals I have made to principals with students who have suffered some type of heinous abuse. I can tell you how many times the system has supported my welfare needs at these times. Nil. We are expected to listen to the crimes of others, deal with the results of post traumatic stress in our kids, refer them so that the system can continue to let the kids down because the system is under resourced and under funded, WITH NO SUPPORT for us. 

At the end of the year before last, I faced an excruciating decision: immediately refer alleged misconduct of another staff member possibly setting the kids up for reprisals without ongoing support, or protect the welfare of myself and the kids and build resilience so we could cope with the fallout. I waited to refer, I did refer, but not straight away. 

Investigation. 

I could cop that except that it was months of not knowing before I found out why I was under investigation, and then more months before I had a chance to respond, and then because other people lied in their reports and the investigators did not ask me for evidence (dodgy investigation at best), I was labelled as a self-serving liar.

Teachers are leaving because it is not the profession it once was, and because they are not protected from ever increasing workload, attacks from every angle, and dodgy investigations. Because they receive no support to do their job. Because society is disconnected and kids embody this disconnection and teachers deal with the impact of this every day. Because the system doesn’t cater for changes in the way kids learn in the 21st century. 

Because it is just too hard … 

and no one cares. 

Crisis of Confidence

I finished last year on such a high. My Indian experience truly transformed my life by empowering me to integrate the different aspects of self and identity roles. I was unable to return home and not make significant change. This was a process. By following the signs and saying yes to different opportunities, I finally opted to take leave from permanent full time teaching this year. A massive decision. My identity as a teacher has sustained me for many years. 

During the last four weeks, my identity labeling has shifted. I am now considering myself as more than a high school English teacher. And man, that is terrifying. 

But today, interestingly and ironically, Mike Baird has resigned as Premier of my home state, New South Wales. He has cited the necessity to spend more time with his family as his main reason. I hope there isn’t a scandal waiting in the wings because his reason has impressed me. 

As a people, we seem to have surrendered the important things in life for work, addiction, fear. It doesn’t seem that many of us are living our best and most authentic lives. Most people I speak to feel a yearning, irrespective of how small, for something different. And most of us use fear as a reason for not seeking it. 

I am feeling that fear every day. I am so worried that I won’t have enough money for all of my adventures, then not enough time for everything I want to achieve. Bloody fear. It won’t stop me from walking this path. I have paid many deposits for a variety of travels and have paid in full my flights to Perth and Minnesota/Las Vegas. I will write my book and I will empower my business to do what it needs to do, but I am scared. 

Today I pulled out a Butterfly Affirmation Card and I giggled: 


I have faith that all will be well and that I am exactly where I am meant to be. I just want to acknowledge out loud that it isn’t easy. I am hoping that disclosing it will calm my mind and pacify my fear. 

You have to laugh. 

Mike Baird answered questions at the end of his resignation speech. The journalists attacked him, expectedly. Why did you promise to continue as recently as December last year? When did you make this decision? Where were you? Why are you doing this? 

It takes courage to stand against expectation, to walk a different path, your own organic path, to put yourself first, to create a new reality for your life, but I think it costs the soul more if you don’t. 

Kudos to Mike Baird today, for his resignation has reminded me that my choices are right for me. As a result, this upcoming year of transition, transformation, and discovery will continue to permit growth, and enable me to live fully and authentically. 

Scared but infinitely blessed. 

🙏🏻

Today in Notes 

Sometimes …

Just being here is amazing. 

Smell of smoke combined with exhaust slightly. Warmth of the sun on the skin; cool without the sun. A crispness. Blue sky. Jagged outcrops, pine covered hills. Foreign tongue, mostly male. 

Dressed up driver – contrast to yesterday. Big broad smile. 

Birds gliding. 

Little English. I’ve had breakfast. They are all confused. Trying to please. Completely unnecessary – I’m sold on this place. Toilet paper in a bin. Heating up the water. Mould everywhere. Construction sounds. Birds. A breeze that has no touch on the skin. Seen in the flags fluttering. 

Always, dogs barking, many dogs. At what? At whom? 

Madam. No Tina. When did I become this old? A tickle in the throat, sometimes escaping into a dry cough.

Four old Tibetan women walking, laughing broadly. Contagious. Freedom of spirit. Colour. Acceptance? Western interpretations with western bias. 

Dalai Lama’s Temple. Serene. Incense. Injustice of Tibet. Tenth Panchen Lama still missing. Tribute to fallen, to sacrificed. Tourists loud – request for silence dismissed. Reverence for those praying. 

Tibetan community. No words. 

Monastery. There is a different way to live. I think the west has its wrong. We have sacrificed our spirituality for materialism. Did we ever have spirituality? Or only dogma? We have lost the simplicity in spirituality. The ritual. The meaning. I feel it’s loss here. 

Signs on the roadsides:

Fast drive could be your last drive

Slow drive jolly drive 

Drive carefully avoid accidents 

Every accident is an act of negligence 

Drive slow and enjoy the scenery; drive fast and join the scenery

Mountains are pleasure if you drive in leisure

Water Temple: not knowing what to do, looked at- only westerner, offerings made, hair, selfies, Facebook and instagram, koalas (thanks Mel), shoe protectors, ringing of bell? Touch feet –> head and heart on own self, more monkeys 

Note: cricket stadium rules 😂

St John of God’s Church – Anglican not catholic, gothic architecture, prefer the temples. 


A Divine Closing

Our time together has ended. Mel and I are on the plane to Delhi, where I will stay overnight before heading to Dharamsala, and Mel will continue home. There have been more than a few tears. And there will be more. 

I packed last night so that I wouldn’t feel the pressure of having to this morning. I relaxed through breakfast with Lynn, Michelle, Jade and Mel; my original tribe excepting Elizabeth. Bliss. 

I picked up my dress and shawl. Beautiful. Even though the shawl had to be sent back to the tailor for cutting and overlocking. 

Then to our last group session, our closing of the retreat. I am misting up just writing that. This time last week we did not know each other. Now, bonds have been forged that will withstand physical limitations and limited communication, if any. Our hearts have blended and entwined, locked together in memory of this transformational and magical week.

The most bizarre thing, which will possibly sound wanky, is that those we connected with, we connected with at a very deep level. And very quickly. There is an easiness in our contact, our love for one another, and our ability to communicate it. It is very much a soul blessing and a soul kiss. 

The energy in the ritual of closing as we retrieved our items from the altar grew larger. When I retrieved my item, a pendant, it was pulsing and hot. My hands grew hot just holding it. And that heat coursed through my entire body shooting out into the room and into the earth, far below us. Complete and unconditional love and acceptance. 

Namaste 🙏🏻

Hugs of goodbye; tight and enduring. 

And, a mad rush for the airport. And time stops temporarily. Something happens in airports. Waiting seems to force time to stop so that you are shocked when all of a sudden it is 2 o’clock. 

My sprained ankle is up. There is no one next to me. The snack has been had. Water consumed. Bladder filling. 

Recommendation: do not use the toilets at Varanasi Airport. Ooh, and if you are female, account for extra time going through the security checkpoints. 

Why, you ask. Because women’s needs fall second to the needs of men here. 

There is no judgement from me. We are each of us on our journey, as is each culture and country. India has achieved some things so much better than Australia, and the rights of women have progressed from what they once were, but India is still very much a patriarchy. So, leave extra time for security clearance. 

Suffragette

We have the right and responsibility to vote. But, I am not sure we have equality. 

We are still shackled by patriarchy. 

We must look a certain way or we are dismissed. 

We must behave a certain way or we are beaten, slut shamed, dismissed. 

We must still do as we are told, all under the illusion/delusion of freedom. 

I don’t think we were meant to stop fighting. But we did. We believed we had achieved equality and we dropped the fight. As a result, society is moving backwards. 

Young girls are sexually violated; the toys of men who make no attempt to control their animal urges. Young boys, too, violated to be controlled; the way to ensure the gender stereotypes.

Young women are raped, controlled, beaten; subjected to humiliation and degradation through music video clips and foul lyrics, their intelligence undermined by the social need to belong by not rocking the boat. Treated as sexual exploits by men who do not know themselves, and make no attempt to resolve their own inadequacies. 

Older women are ignored, dismissed, non-existent, unless they are sexually desirable. Only then are they seen, but only as a sexual toy, to serve the pleasure of men. 

We had a female PM. Mainstream media ridiculed her, reduced her, denied her. She was “barren”, “unmarried” and “big bottomed”. Her partner was demeaned, his masculinity questioned. The people bought into this rubbish. She was never judged by her merits, just her appearance and lack of sexual desirability. 

Teenage girls believe they must look a certain way, behave a certain way, think (or not think) a certain way, to be desirable, to be accepted, to be okay. 

To succeed. 

As what. Hmmm. 

We still have to fight harder to be heard and to be taken seriously. Society functions following male rules, male justice, male reasoning. Facebook refuses to block users that demean women with a voice. Social media perpetuates the mysogynistic fabric of our society. 

We have forgotten the women who came before us, those who started the fight for equality, and as a result, we have compromised their success. 

Feminist has become a dirty word and women shy away from describing themselves as one. 

Devastating. 

There is nothing wrong or dirty or less than in being a female. Nothing wrong at all.