The Value of Listening.

In this highly screen-oriented world, are we losing the skill of listening?

There are four main sets of skills that English teachers work to develop in their students: reading, writing, speaking and listening. 

Over the past few years of my teaching career, I have observed that my students find listening much more difficult than the others. 

I’m not talking about them showing respect or being quiet when I’m talking – most of them are pretty good at that, thankfully. 

It’s the art of deliberate, intentional listening, focusing on what is heard and processing that kind of information, that people seem to struggle with. 

I have offered my students audiobooks to help them with reading their set texts. Most of them aren’t interested in that— not even the struggling readers, who would really benefit from that kind of assistance in getting through a book. I have also offered them podcast episodes related to the books they are studying, and I don’t recall anyone taking up the offer. 

Give them a YouTube clip, though, and they’re on it like flies at a barbecue. 

Don’t get me wrong – those YouTube clips and TED Talks can be super helpful. My issue is that people – and it’s not just kids, I’m sure – are so oriented to screens and visuals and  hooked on sensory overload that they’re losing the art of listening. 

People these days frequently have music playing while they do other things – work, run, work out, eat, walk, shop, drive, clean the house, you name it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But do they ever really just stop everything else and just listen to something? 

It is really healthy to turn off the “noise” of the world and the demands of a busy life and close your eyes to focus on what you can hear. You don’t even have to listen to anything in particular – it can be fascinating to see what you can hear when devices, TVs, and appliances are turned off and things are quiet, especially if you go outside.  

In terms of listening material, there is so much available that is good to listen to beyond music or commercial radio. Audiobooks are fantastic, as I’ve observed in a previous post. There are podcasts on every imaginable subject, free of charge, just begging to be listened to. Listening to talkback radio is both informative and entertaining, if you can find a station or a show you really like. 

Listening is such a valuable skill. It enriches life in so many ways. It builds relationships, enhances learning, develops understanding of the world and the different people in it, provides entertainment, aids relaxation and soothes the soul. 

If we would all just turn off the screens, close our eyes, and open our ears more, we’d be a lot better off. 

Downtime!

Today was glorious.

A drive in the countryside was exactly what I needed to blow off the cobwebs and breathe some fresh air.

And now? I’m going to read for pleasure.
Decadent I know.

For more pictures of where I drove… click here.

International Talk Like A Pirate Day

I love International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

It’s just fun.

It can also be quite cathartic.
Let’s be honest, what day can’t be improved by a good “Arrrrrgh!” or two?
If people annoy you, you can threaten to make them walk the plank, or call them lily livered landlubbers, and nobody takes offence.

I grew up enjoying books like Treasure Island and Kidnapped!, and still enjoy a good, old-fashioned pirate story, so I thought I would share Book Squirrel’s International Talk Like A Pirate Day Book Recommendations.

Book Squirrel

In honour of International Talk Like A Pirate Day, here are three great pirate tales for your reading pleasure.

Fallen Into Bad CompaNy’ by Kayla Jindrich

Matthew wants nothing more than to escape from his past, but that hardly seems possible with his new apprentice. While William might be Matthew’s chance at redemption, an opportunity to pay for his mistakes, William also has a reckless streak that could ruin the new life that Matthew has built for himself. Either Matthew will pull William from piracy, or William will drag Matthew back into the dangerous world that they both come from.

Read my book review of ‘Fallen Into Bad Company’ here.

Ghosts of the Sea Moon’ by A.F. Stewart

In the Outer Islands, gods and magic rule the ocean.Under the command of Captain Rafe Morrow, the crew of the Celestial Jewel ferry souls to the After World…

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RU OK? World Suicide Prevention Day.

Today is RU OK Day, also known as World Suicide Prevention day.

This is an awareness very close to my heart.
I’m not going to expand on why, because I want the focus of this post to be positive and encouraging.

The message is important not just for today because it’s a special awareness day. This message is permanently, crucially important.

We need to take care of each other. Each of us is uniquely placed to offer support and encouragement to the people we know – friends, families, colleagues, students, whoever we cross paths with in our lives. That doesn’t mean we have to be their only support, although sometimes we might be just that. 

If you think someone is down, if they look tired or unwell, or notice they’re not taking care of themselves as well as they usually do, ask them if they are okay.  Don’t just ask as a throwaway question. Be willing to have a quality conversation that includes questions like:

  • What’s going on?
  • What do you need?
  • How can I help?
  • Is there someone I can contact for you?

Taking the time to check in with someone deliberately and thoughtfully is a powerful communication of care and concern. 

It’s important  to realise that you or I might be the one positive thing that happens in someone’s day. We might be the only source of encouragement and light that they encounter. 

We also need to consider the power of our words. A curt dismissal or snide remark in response to a comment that might actually be a true confession of desperation, depression or anxiety can be incredibly destructive. We should never, ever be making a joke of that. Yes, sometimes it is attention-seeking or needless drama— but sometimes it’s not. 

A kind word or message of encouragement could be the difference between someone actually deciding that now is the time to end their life, or not. 

I know. It’s a huge responsibility. 

But imagine a world where each of us gives someone that kind of support, and someone else gives it to us when we need it. 

And if you’re thinking you’ll never need it, stop right now and be very, very thankful for the blessings in your life and the comfort of good, stable mental health. It’s not possible to emphasise enough just how lucky you are. 

If you’re one of those who is struggling, or feeling like you’re drowning, or tired of treading water… please, please, talk to someone. Seek help. Look for reasons —  any reason — to stay.  Please stay.

I wrote this poem after one of the darkest seasons of my life thus far. I hope that you will gain both perspective and insight from reading it. 

Before you read this poem, there is somethingI would likeyou to know.

This poem is absolutely, 100% true. It is personal, it is painfully honest, and it tells of my own experience, not anyone else’s. And you may find it quite confronting.

Despite its darkness, it is written to be positive, not negative.

It was not written to win sympathy or make anyone feel guilt: it was written so that people might understand what’s in my head, and what I’ve been feeling, and why I’ve made the choices I have.

To answer your concerns: I have chosen to stay here and to defy all impulses that tempt me otherwise. I don’t always feel okay, I’m not always okay, but I will be okay.

For anyone in a similar position: hold on. Stay here. You matter more than you know.

Promo X Still Here Plain.jpeg

STILL HERE.

For a moment-
One fleeting, isolated point in time-

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Saying No: Something Many People Struggle To Do

I often wonder why “Just Say No” became a catchphrase among those trying to teach kids and teens to resist poor examples, negative influences and bad habits. It’s not always that easy or so straightforward. Peer pressure, family expectations, social engineering and a desire for job security have all taught us to take the path of least resistance — which can actually be a really unhealthy thing. 

Among all the different people in this world, there are two groups who invariably find each other: those who have trouble saying no, and those who take advantage of them. 

You know it. I know it. And we all know which of the two groups certain friends and family members fall into. 

This quick and quirky self-help guide to saying no more effectively provides insights and tips on how to say “no” so that others know you mean it, and thereby reclaim your freedom from those who would readily exploit your generosity.  

If you find it hard to say no to people, but really want to… this is the book you need. 

Available for preorder. Out on Tuesday 10th.

Coming in May 2020: Little Shop of Horrors

For several weeks now, I have been almost bursting with excitement and anticipation, and with the pressure of keeping this news secret until now!

I am finally at liberty to announce that I am going to be the director of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’  in May 2020 with Camperdown Theatre Company. 

I’m thrilled to be working with a wonderful friend as CoDirector alongside a brilliant team of incredibly talented people. I’m really looking forward to bringing this show to life with them, and building our friendships and experience at the same time. 

And this show! I can’t put into words how much I want to do this show. 

This is another “musical theatre bucket list” show for me, and I’m incredibly thankful to Camperdown Theatre Company for having faith in me as a director, but also for giving me the opportunity to do yet another amazing show with them. 

This is so freaking awesome, I can’t even begin to express how I feel. 

Auditions will be in November, and rehearsals will start early in the new year. There are lots of plans and decisions to be made before then, and I can’t wait to get started. 

First things first, though. My school production of ‘Joseph and the Amazing TechnicolorTM Dreamcoat’ hits the stage next week, and that’s going to be my focus until it’s done and dusted. 

Oh my gosh. Hold on tight, kids: the next seven months are going to be an incredible ride!

Taking Control of My Social Media

Over the past few months I’ve been making changes to my social media usage in an effort to take better care of myself. 

I have for quite some time now had  a pattern of posting, responding to other people’s posts, and then looking for posts of value or interest to share. While those are all great things to do, I came to realise that I needed to put some limits on how much I did of each. 

It’s so easy to get sucked into the mentality of thinking that we have to be perpetually present, always available, and never really “switched off”. 
That way of thinking is a lie— and a dangerous one at that.  It’s a really unhealthy pattern that leads to a sense of social obligation that is really hard to break. 

Sure, we all want to interact with friends, respond to their posts and see what’s interesting out there in cyberspace. We all want to share our own posts and, for those of us who are authors or other types of Indie creative, we need to promote our work. 

That doesn’t mean that we have to do it constantly. 

Consequently, I’ve made some changes. I have chosen to take control of my social media, instead of it controlling me.

I’ve cut down the number of times a day I check my various social media. I have found that checking in a couple of times a day is actually just as effective as checking in far more frequently. 

I’ve made a deliberate effort to reduce the amount of time spent scrolling through my newsfeed. Scrolling through when things are new and there are people and posts I want to respond to is fine, but the mindless scrolling that often followed wasn’t helping me get things done. Once again, I have found that I’m interacting just as much, but wasting less time and energy in between. 

If I need to post something in between as I often do, I post it, check my notifications for anything important, ignore anything that can wait until later, and leave again. 

The verdict: 

I feel a lot less distracted and far less pressured to “perform” on social media. 

I’m using my time more constructively without losing out on contact or interaction with others. 

I’m resting better. Because there’s less “white noise” in my thoughts, I can get the peace I need to relax. 

Making my social media work for me is far better than me trying to fulfill its never ending demands. 

I’m not saying I have total control of the circus, but at least now I am a lot closer to directing the show.