Applying Lessons

This afternoon, in my head, I went from being the best teacher in the world to the worst in forty minutes. At least when I do something, it’s a full commitment with no half measures. 

I love teaching Year 7. I love being their introduction to high school English. I love being their favourite teacher. And after my lesson with my new Year 7 class today I was in love and feeling infallible. 

I carried that feeling all through break. 

And then I had my Year 12 class. 

And my high disappeared. Replaced with deep frustration and no answers. Too many of them do not know their stuff and are reluctant (uninspired) to change that. 

I stayed frustrated. My colleagues felt just as frustrated. I had afternoon tea with a friend and then went for a necessary massage (my back bore the stress and stopped working). 

During one of the best massages of my life, I reflected. Why did I feel so frustrated? 

Yes, I care about my kids and their results. But there was more to it. And yes, you’re right. Their lack of engagement, I feel, is a reflection of my inability to inspire them. And that connects to my feelings of vulnerability – maybe I’m a sham and these kids have worked it out. And when my identity is closely associated with being a great teacher, where does that leave me? 

Yep, self centered and self serving. 

But, I do need to inspire them and frustration does not help me to achieve that. Frustration makes me want to quit, want to be disengaged. And I don’t want that. 

I need to find the key to unlock the potential in my beautiful kids. 

Being Real

I did something today that I found more difficult than I thought it would be. I decided to set boundaries/expectations with my wonderful and accommodating staff in our faculty time using Brene Brown’s adapted model. Basically, you state what is okay and what is not okay. 

I was so nervous. I’m usually very happy to share my truths with others yet today I felt the full force of vulnerability. Writing is easier than speaking it to a live audience. 

And as uncomfortable as I was, I enjoyed the discomfort because I enjoyed the authenticity. I enjoyed bearing my inner most fears and the knowledge that I’m on a journey to discover who I am. 

As a leader it’s like we should always be in control. And I generally am. But I think that has forced me into playing the role rather than integrating the role into my authentic soul. I was so intent last year on getting my work done that I think I misplaced some of the authenticity of Tina in the process. This year I’m working to integrate the Tina with the leader and hope to become stronger as a result. 

It will be an interesting process, and I am very grateful that I work with people who are willing to indulge my sometimes unorthodox methods and experiments. 

Feminist: A Dirty Word?

In short, no. Well, it shouldn’t be.

To be a feminist means that you advocate that all humans have the right to direct their own life. With that, comes an awareness that for women, and for some males (of colour or alternative lifestyles) this has not always been the case (and in a lot of places, still isn’t).

To be a feminist means that you care about others with an awareness of how the political and social structures in society can sometimes (often) erode the rights of ‘minorities’ or anyone that doesn’t fit the status quo or toe the party line.

To be a feminist means that you will advocate for the rights of yourself and others, giving permission for all people to make the choices that best fit their quests in life, free from judgement and/or persecution.

To be a feminist means that you are aware that being alive is sometimes hard for others because of ignorance and stupidity, and you will try to create a safer and more equitable world.

Some will argue that I have really oversimplified what being a feminist is. But I will disagree.

Feminism started with the suffragettes who fought for women to have the right to vote, equal to men, because women are just as smart and just as capable as men. It then evolved into criticism and looking at the power structures within society as they are reflected in social artefacts. But at its core, feminism is simply the striving or belief in a society where all voices are heard equally and all people have the right to choose their paths.

To be a feminist is not to hate men, nor is it to judge others for choices that are different to yours. It also doesn’t mean that you don’t wear a bra or shave your arms and/or legs. To be a feminist has nothing to do with the way that those who are intimidated by strong women  or alternative lifestyles depict them.

Feminism is not a dirty word. And I cannot believe how far Australian society has moved to demonise the word as well as to demonise women who speak out. And when I hear young women saying that they don’t believe in feminism, I shudder.

To move to a time when I cannot exercise my right to think, to speak, to feel, to choose, ohhhhh, kills my soul. Many women before me fought hard and sacrificed much for me to be able to have an opinion, to be educated, to be free. I honour them every day by living my life my way.

Before we demonise feminism and feminists, we need to think of the alternative society that would exist if we could not make our own choices and speak our mind.

Do we really want that.

 

 

 

It’s the small things

The moments. 

I have had a migraine since arriving home yesterday. A few hours ago it eased a little. I am watching The Family Stone. Candles are burning. Max is lying next to me, his head resting on my leg, and Molly is curled up on my chest, purring. 

Perfection. 

Writing = Bliss

I really am in my bliss when I am writing. And by writing, I mean crafting stories. I love the challenge of developing a character and discovering their story. I think that is why I love writing courses; they challenge me by drawing me out of my comfort zone.

There are elements of children’s writing that I can’t seem to wield into my writing repertoire, which held me understand that I need to write for older kids and adults (possibly). But I am trying. And that deliberateness of writing practice really stimulates me. And motivates me.

I started the following piece yesterday. I worked hard on it. It flowed to a point. And then I wasn’t sure what the main complication would be. I knew the beginning, the end (sort of) and what I wanted it to be about, but I wasn’t sure how to get it there. Today I kept plugging away until the inspiration hit me. I was relieved when it did. But it came after many edits and attempts at other ways.

I still need to refine a child’s voice – this story is aimed at kids in Year 6 (11-13 years of age). I channelled my nieces for a lot of this. I am not sure they are typical though. And I think my tenses are a bit off. But I am happy with it. And I’ve submitted it for ‘marking’ (Ann, if you read this, I really do love and appreciate how you pull my stuff apart – I hope you see my efforts at embracing this style of writing).

I will leave it to percolate for a few days and then, with fresh eyes, attack anything that seems out of place. And then, well then, I’m thinking of sending it to the Magazine I have composed it for. I can only try …

For your reading pleasure:

“I had a really bad dream last night,” I said quietly, without looking directly at Kayla’s face. I had decided I wasn’t going to tell anyone, but I knew that as soon as I saw my best friend I wouldn’t be able to keep it from her. I’ve never been able to keep anything from her.

“I dream all of the time,” Kayla twisted the end of her ponytail between her fingers absentmindedly, “Like, last night I dreamed that I was at the One Direction concert and Harry looked at me every time he sang ‘You light up my world like nobody else’ and I just knew we were meant to be together …”

We were walking slower than usual. Even though it was only 8 in the morning, the sun was really hot and the air felt really thick. We both wore sweat as moustaches and were regularly waving flies from our faces. An Australian summer, typically starting well before it should. Usually it doesn’t get this hot until we come back to school in January. I could feel sweat start to sit on my back under my bag. Yuck. It was going to be a long day.

Suddenly Kayla’s hands were waving in front of my face, “Hellloooooo! Anyone home?”

I smiled. Yes, this was my best friend, Kayla Edwards. Nicknamed The Tiny Pocket Rocket. She was shorter than me, thin, blonde, with blue eyes, just like a porcelain doll. Everyone loved her. She was smart and funny and strong; she didn’t take garbage from anyone. We have been best friends since I moved here in first grade. I love her but sometimes I question how we stay friends; we are as different in appearance as we are in personality.

“Where were you? I was singing to you.”

“I was thinking –“

“You think way too much Bella. Like, WAY too much. You need to sing more.”

And twirling her hair in her hand, she started to skip, loudly singing, “The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed. Come on! Sing!”

Laughing, I flipped my hair awkwardly, and we sang, skipping together, in the heat.

*****

The day moved slowly. The temperature rose quickly. By lunch I was more than ready to be at home in the pool. We were all told to sit under the COLA and not move much. The teachers’ faces were red, and sweat marked their dresses or shirts where they had been sitting and leaning. Kayla was at the Formal Committee meeting. We usually ate lunch together. In a way, I was relieved. She had been singing that stupid song most of the day, and I was well and truly over it. I had my plugs in and was thinking about my dream.

My mum says that I have always had an overactive imagination. She thinks that’s why I have so many nightmares. I’m not convinced. I think there is something wrong with me. I am different to everyone else. If it weren’t for Kayla, I probably wouldn’t have any friends. I’m not pretty like her, or popular. I am too quiet, and prefer to be reading than talking. And it’s not that I’m ugly, just not pretty. I’m average really. Average weight, average height, average brown hair, average skin tone, average face. Just average.

I shuddered as I choked back tears. It isn’t like I don’t fit in with everyone, I just don’t try to; when I do hang out with the others I blend in just fine. Like, I like One Direction and Five SOS, but I really like the music my mum listens to, the old stuff, like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. And I am most comfortable in jeans and t-shirts rather than the flowing summer dresses that Kayla and the other girls wear. But I can wear them, so I can fit in. I just wish there was someone more like me to hang out with, just for a change sometimes.

*****

There is less than two weeks left of school. I am in Year 6. Both Kayla and I are going to our local public high school. Most of our class are. We’d had Orientation Day two days ago.

Our teacher, Miss Beckett, wasn’t really teaching us anymore so she let me go to the Library after lunch to write my report about Orientation Day whilst the other kids helped her pull down our work from this year. Miss Beckett was teaching Kindy next year so the whole room had to be emptied and cleaned.

 

The day started like any other day

We had all heard that we could get our head flushed

As much as we are scared of change

Being the big fish in a pond

 

All I could come up with were clichés. Miss Beckett says that I write really well, differently to the other kids. That’s how this became my job. Times like this though, I wish my writing was just average.

“What are you doing Bella?”

I looked up. The Librarian, Mr Spotch, was looking over my shoulder inquisitively at an empty screen.

“Not much,” I whispered, staring at the empty screen.

“So I see,” his eyebrows raised as his mouth tightened, “What are you supposed to be doing?”

“Writing about Orientation Day and summing up my experiences here.”

“Ah … okay. Start by brainstorming words that describe both, recount your experiences. Write about one first and then the other. You’ll get there. One step at a time.”

I liked that about Mr Spotch. He was really good at breaking things down, “Thank you.”

He smiled and walked back to his desk. The Library was so quiet. It was almost lonely. I turned my eyes back to the empty screen and drew up a table to put my brainstormed words into.

*****

Sweat caked my very red face and my shirt clung to me tightly as I tried to peel it off. Ugh, so gross I thought as I threw it on the floor, kicked off my shoes and started on my shorts. I could feel my toes crinkling up as I pulled off my socks, smelt them and, screwing up my face, threw them onto my uniform, lying in a dishevelled pile on the floor, before squeezing my swimmers on and racing from my bedroom.

“I hope your uniform is in the wash!” barked my mother.

“Nup, it’s too hot,” I barked back, “I’ll do it after I get out,” and I jumped into the pool.

Warm bath water caressed my skin. I hate this heat. Dry sweat melted off me as I knifed through the water, one handstand after another.

“ISABELLA!”

I surfaced quickly. Mum was standing at the open back door, hands on hips, thunder on her face.

“Get out of that pool, dry off and put your clothes into the washing machine!” More barking. I weighed up my options. I am usually a good kid but man, it was hot and she’s been in air-con all day –

“NOW!”

I reluctantly waded to the steps, stood up, twisted my hair dry, wrapped my already hot towel around me, and tiptoed to the back door across the hot concrete.

“Do not drip water all through the house. It won’t take long for you to dry off.” Seriously mum? Make your mind up.

“Yes, mum.”

*****

“Bella! Kayla is on the phone.”

“Thanks mum. I’ve got the other phone here …” I called out from my bedroom, “You can hang up now.”

“You’ve saved me. I so can’t get this thing written for the website,” I said. There was silence on the other end of the phone. I looked down to see if we were still connected. The light was on.

“Kayla?”

“Yeah, I’m here Bella,” she whispered.

“What’s wrong?” For the first time in a couple of hours I remembered my dream; the sick feeling I had experienced on waking was clawing its way back into my stomach. I closed my eyes tightly, pushing the memory away.

“My mum and dad are splitting up,” she whispered.

“Oh … I didn’t realise there were problems,” I replied.

“Me neither.”

“I’m so sorry Kay … Wow.”

There was silence on both ends of the line as we digested the news … together. Kayla’s parents had always seemed to get along; there were no fights like used to happen in my house before my parents split up. I was relieved when my parents split up. But Kayla’s life had always been so perfect; this was a shock –

“Bella, that’s not all …” Kayla’s voice trailled off nervously.

“Gosh, okay.”

“I’m moving.”

“Where to?” I gulped.

I wanted to vomit. I knew the answer already. She was moving to another state. Last night’s dream was coming true. I was going to lose my best friend.

“Mum wants to go live near my grandparents in Perth. She says she needs their support,” Kayla sobbed.

“I don’t want you to go,” I cried.

*****

Staring at the ceiling, even after counting sheep, and I still can’t sleep. Am I scared to dream? Or scared that if I sleep I will wake and it will be real?

I was scared the day I had started at Gregory Hills Public School. Mum had fussed over the uniform and was taking photos, smiling and telling me how excited I was. I didn’t want to tell her how terrified I was that no-one would like me. I was only six. My dad had left us; he didn’t love me anymore. My grandpa had lifted me above his head, trying to make me laugh. I did. It made him feel better. And I saw mum relax. She didn’t let go of my hand as we walked through the office doors, and I saw her struggle to walk out after the lady said she would take me to class.

I wish I could have told her how scared I was. I think she could have shared her fear with me too. I don’t really talk about much with my mum; school stuff, sure, but not the emotional stuff. I wish I felt like I could. I guess it’s just not who we are. I think that’s why I read so much. I find kids like me in stories. They become my friends.

I’m going to miss Kayla.

*****

THE WAY FORWARD by Isabella Logan 6B

 

“Moments in time,

I’ll find the words to say,

Before you leave me today …”

“Moments” by One Direction

Primary school has been wonderful. We have had great teachers, and unlike when we started school, we are all leaving able to read, write and count. Primary school has been about best friends, pop stars and long summer days. It’s been about growing and laughing together. It’s been fun.

But high school is about change and facing our fears. High school sometimes means losing our best friends and making new ones. Last week most of us in Year 6 went to Gregory Hills High School. It was scary. Some kids there told us we would get our heads flushed. We told Miss Beckett who told their teacher and then we laughed as they got yelled at. It was a great day. We met our Peer Support leaders and lots of the teachers. We learned where everything was and we played some games to get to know all of the kids coming from other schools. We also did some Year 7 work!

For me, high school represents becoming independent. My best friend won’t be going to my high school anymore, and I’m scared. She has been my rock. But I know I will make new friends, and because she is such a great friend, I know she will make new friends in her new school.

I hope that we will still be BFFs, but if we can’t be, I know that my primary school memories and successes will always connect me to her, and to all of us.

 

Practicing Gratitude

As much as I am not a fan of December these years, I still practice gratitude every day. It has been an interesting year.

A quick decision to go to New York resulted in a dream coming true, a dream that keeps giving. The memories and decisions I made in New York – wow, life changing.

I reconnected with many old friends. Time separated some of us, conflict others, life experience for some. But the waters are still again. My close friendships feel stable and solid, and once close friendships are soldered.

I learned more about myself, and the processes of healing from IVF, especially the length of the journey, and I am sure it is not completely over yet. I learned that people and time with people is more important than things. I learned that I love my job, I love my school but I really do need more balance.

I started a writing course (yet to finish). I initiated my business. I have a plan forward for both for 2016, and feel that life is on track. I applied to become a foster carer, to be resolved in March 2016. I moved house, and location. I cleaned my desk and classroom at work (doesn’t sound like much but it was messy). And we have initiated Reading to Learn training through our school for 2016.

A year of consolidation and a year of beginnings. A year of transformation and of initiations. A year of connection and of reconnection. A year of discovery and a year of renewed direction. A year of defending and strengthening my sense of self-worth and value, sometimes bordering on arrogance (proudly, because I am that good lol).

All in all, a great year. One of the best. I love getting older. I love claiming who I am. I love that I stand by what I believe in more freely and with less guilt. I love that I am compassionate towards others and manifest this as often as I can in action. I love that life is unknown, that I don’t know exactly where I will be this time next year – will there be a child or children running through this house? Will it still be just me and my fur kids?

Will I still feel this blessed? This happy? This passionate about my life?

Here’s to finding out …

Merry Christmas – I hope you and your families feel loved, safe and happy.

 

 

bereft: poetry reborn

From Diana – a beautiful poem about loss, grief and life … Thank you

A Holistic Journey

rockMIST

i trace the exquisite lines of my grief, run my
fingers over the contours of the rock that is
my gut like the tender potter over his clay
kneading, kneading to soften the lump

and lift my head to find the
world hadn’t ground
to a halt in honor
of my loss.

squeals puncture the playground air
with a drumroll of sneakers that sound carefree but
for the worry of Tag. nothing matters more to the
flustered It than not being It anymore.
the park, a carol of delight
in the moment

it is a holiday.

a daughter is given away,
the sun breaks on the threshold of her hopes,
her horizon wide outside the windows of the church

i walk into an office, took the long way
through hell. after the unsure “i’m sorry”

the girl behind the counter continues on her business.
epiphany: the sky that had fallen…

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