Monthly Archives: July 2013

Teaching a work of the heart?

I have just finished a ten week stint, my first experience of the reality of classroom life with sole responsibility.  I reflected on this last night with a classmate of mine from our teacher education.  We reflected on that which we had learnt and how much of it was particularly relevant to our teaching. We decided that as great as it was that we were under prepared for many of the situations that we faced.  In saying that is there anything but experience that prepares you for situations like this… excuse me  (insert your choice of name) would you please take your earphones out, no electronic devices in class.  Reply, “f**k off sir.”.. , this is followed by a calm response where I mime the removal of the earphones, the reply would you like me to knock you out sir”?  A rhetorical question, surely!  Now past training in nonviolent crisis intervention kicked into action, calm voice, distant and decisive action resolved the situation quickly, the end story is inconsequential but the question is the same.  What, how, when do we teach when we are dealing with that kind of behaviour.

The thing is teaching is only one facet of education. Yes there is a degree of transfer of knowledge, techniques, skills and ways of thinking that enable students to engage in the world.  English gives students access to the understanding, knowledge, and skills they need to participate in the social, cultural, political, and economic life of New Zealand and the wider world.  So we as educators know the importance of learning, we have an inherent understanding of what happens if you are unable to make meaning of text or an inability to create or share meaning through text.  Some stats show that 90 percent of prison inmates are not functionally literate.  Whilst this is an appalling statistic literacy is much more important than just keeping people out of jail.  We need literacy to function in society in any meaningful form, it just is that way, critical and without it the fabric of society falls apart.  Literacy in itself will not solve the problems that face our society but it is one of the building blocks, a foundation stone that is critical in our modern society.

How do we reach past the barriers at the sharp end of education?  How do we reach the disengaged, disillusioned, disaffected, tail that is represented in the majority of our schools.  The students that Government is demanding that we help achieve.  Firstly there needs to be a reality check.  There will always be some people who do not achieve, they often find a way to navigate in society, sadly some do not and become statistics, we don’t live in a utopian society.  My purpose is not to dwell on that which we cannot do but that which we can.  ImageSo I can talk to the cows come home of early intervention, intensive programs, community initiatives, technology.  None of this matters in the end unless it has an essential ingredient.  What it needs is people with passion, people whom understand teaching is a work of the heart.  Teachers who are able to ignite students to create an alternative narrative around their lives.  Teachers need to be modeling that which they believe, students spot fraudulence at fifty feet.  It  isn’t the grand gestures that make the difference, it is just the small ones, being honest, apologising, being enthusiastic.  Government needs to understand before it heaps another measurement tool or another performance indicator on those at the coal face, the effect of that.  Teachers are busy people, try herding 18 cats with fireworks tied to their tails last period on a Friday! Then tell them that they need to spend half the weekend marking,planning and reflecting on their week, I suggest that you do it from a distance.

Students spot passion, they are drawn to it and they will respond to it.  As a teacher I need to remind myself of this and to have it at the forefront of all that I do.  I am human and there are days when my passion would be difficult to find, sometimes it has to be put on like a mask but if it is a truly held passion then once on it kind of clicks into gear and finds its groove.

What I know about teaching English, that is the mechanics of it, in comparison to many teachers who have been around for years would barely fill a postage stamp.  But I know about passion and I recognise it when I see it.  My motto in life is if I must be condemned for anything let it be for my passion, not mediocrity.

Mediocrity in any form is a creeping cancer destroying all that it is sinks it’s tentacles into, so whatever it is in life that you do, do it with passion and purpose.  Do what you love and love what you do.  I love teaching!

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One of those days today.

It was a mixed day today, I had the privilege of watching a couple of friends pledge their allegiance to New Zealand and become citizens here.  There were 51 people becoming citizens,  from Kiribati to South Africa and in between there were a number of different nationalities represented.  The machinations of local and central government were on display.  Some people had gone to a lot of effort and others were very casually dressed.  A quick cup of tea and a bit of glad handling by the various local and central government elected representatives and we were on our way.  People committed to a new way of life.  I have an admiration for people who come a long way wanting to create something brighter and better for themselves and their families, leaving loved ones behind.

I remember when once I was looking at moving to Invercargill for work, my mother in law sat there with tears running down her face, saying we might as well shift to Australia.  We didn’t go….for better or for worse. Here were peple who left everything, some arriving with just a few hundred dollars, and a suitcase full of dreams in a foreign country not even being able to speak the language, Some of them driven from their country by oppression and violence.  Kia kaha, I admire them.

The day then shifted as I journeyed to visit my brother and his wife.  Death had come to their house and taken their mother/inlaw.  She was in her eighties and had a particularly nasty illness, death was a relief for her but it still leaves its mark.  The rawness and reality as we confront our own mortality is never easy,  It is my experience and wisdom now to know that there are no words that bring comfort when death has come visiting.  There is a reason we have two ears and one mouth, it is a time for listening and for hugs. A shoulder to lean on and hands to proffer tissues.  One knows that it will become less painful over time but to offer such advice is insensitive and  unnecessary, almost gratuitous really.  I know this from first hand experience and from learning to listen. It set my mind to wonder about whether there is such a thing as a good death, or whether we can die well?

Death seems to many people as the ultimate failure, the ultimate separation, yet there are many people who face it with equanimity and dignity. I admired Dorrie she was passionate and loved her children and her beloved Scotland.  I didn’t understand how passionate she was about Scotland until I watched Braveheart with her once, the language that she used about what the English did to the Scots was well shall we say unparliamentary. I was not shocked per se but admired her passion.   Dorrie was an immigrant too, she loved New Zealand and loved Scotland, dual allegiance? Well yes, the advice that the mayor gave was to retain your culture as well as embrace the New Zealand way of life.  A pretty good recipe for success I think.  I am sure that by in large our country is richer for its cultural diversity that we have today.

Unfortunately I will not be able to attend the service that will be a celebration of Dorrie’s life, I am sure that it will be rich with sadness and humor as often our lives are.  Today was a good reminder for me, to see change as opportunity and to remind myself that sometimes change is scary but necessary, a truism for me.  The second thing is that whilst on this occasion Dorrie had lived a good life, death can come knocking on our door at any time.  So remember to love well and be kind to ourselves, never miss the opportunity to share how much those who are special in our lives mean to us. Go well Dorrie!

Arohanui to my friends and family,

99 Again

Well as I have posted previously about falling off my wagon I guess I am back on my wagon again.  As I sallied forth for my daily encounter with the truth I had a pleasant surprise, back into double figures again.  The scales told me that I was 99 kgs.  I expected a slight elation but what I felt was more relief than anything else.

I am still upset with myself that I had allowed fifteen kilos to slip back on and it took the realisation that I had to buy bigger pants and shirts to get back into action.  Winter is not an ideal time to get going on weight-loss but the formula does not change. Calories out vs calories in.  I have averaged 880 gms weight-loss per week over the last 10 weeks.  How did I do that?

The first step was to look at the eating triggers, boredom, stress, loneliness are the big ones for me.  The boredom was easily fixed, I obtained full time work for a term too much work to be bored! Stress and loneliness are a little more difficult to deal with. Comfort eating is a high contributor to obesity.  Stress well that is a little more difficult to deal with, reflecting on the things that evoke a stress response in my life was part of the process, nothing unusual in those, money work and life.  Living on the margins financially is always stressful.  Work, well work is work.  I am limited as to where I can work and what I can do so I just need to focus on what I can do not that which I can’t.  Life, well that is a different matter.

Being a sole parent is difficult work.  One is constantly on duty, often questioning ones skills and never really knowing completely whether one is being a good parent, nothing quite like having someone to talk with.  I have plenty of friends whom tell me that I am doing a good job and I am grateful for that however being able to share concerns on a one to one basis with honesty is not always easy.  Finding someone who will be truthful about the good and the bad is difficult.  Worrying about where the next dollar is coming from is debilitating and saps your spirit.  I have plenty of friends who would help but a sense of dignity and independence limits my willingness to share those things.

Loneliness now that is a biggie.  It may sound counter intuitive but in order for me to deal with this narrative in my life I have had to stop looking for someone to fulfill that gap in my life.  Not that this makes me committed to a life of singleness it is just a recognition of the barriers in my life to that which I seek.  So for the moment no more internet dating.  How long for well who knows, right now having my heart out on my sleeve is just not a high priority, I do not know where will be living or working in the New Year and I need to find full-time work it just has to be.  That probably necessitates a shift and whilst I am “over” Morrinsville it is still scary to even consider a move.

The overall thing that I have reinstated that motivates me to continue to lose weight is to be truthful to myself.  Looking in the mirror, looking at my trouser and shirt size and above all else a daily truth session with my scales. Those are the things that ensure that I stay on track. Well that is it for the day for me.  Feeling a little empty, a little sad and a lot lonely but such is life.

Take care

Arohanui Paul

If someone tells me I am a good man one more time!!!

I have been called many things at times some of the insults have been true  (and probably deserved).  Sir Elton John once said call me fat,call me ugly just don’t tell any lies about me.  Lately a lot of people have said that I am a good man.  Some to my face some to other people.  I struggle with this description.  Probably much nicer than the student who called me a four eyed f….ng c….t the other day it has been a long time since I was called four eyes!   Anyway I almost find it offensive to be called a good man and I am having to examine why it is that I get offended about it.  Those who know me well could use many adjectives to describe me, irreverent, politically incorrect, passionate, nosy, irritating just a few of the things I would describe myself as, but good really.   I am usually polite, I do hold doors open for people,  I will offer help (even to random strangers)  i try to consider the impact my actions have on others, the world, life etc, but sometimes the thinks I think!  They make me blush and I am a man of the world!

I have been a good man (or boy) most of my life or at least tried to be, I despair about my failings and weaknesses, but I am sick of being good.  Being good to me seems to have had a huge cost and very little gain, being good involves laying down your life for others, giving of yourself till it hurts, putting your needs last, trying not to rock the boat, smiling when you know the assassin is putting the knife in.   I know that the bible tells us to store up our treasures in heaven and I know that treasures stored here on earth are oft eaten by the locust or are temporal like tiny dots of dust, blown away in an instant.  I know all that but sometimes it is just hard and as I retire to my bed by myself I rue the cost of being a good man, just saying, but there it is if there were no cost to being good well what if there was no cost to being good, I need to think about that for a while but in my opinion there is very little that comes in this world that is worthwhile that has no cost, but right now the way I feel the cost of being good is an unresolved narrative in my life that I am struggling with.

Good night and God Bless

Paul

Aside

So you want to go back to Egypt? A question that I had to ask myself a little while ago.  Not the Egypt that we know in the news today, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MD9W61KZYxk but rather this is the name of a song he … Continue reading