Spotting the problem.

And again… there are public health alerts in Melbourne for a measles epidemic.

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And again… there are public health alerts in Melbourne for a measles epidemic.  Seriously?

What part of “if you’re sick, stay home!” do people not understand?

After shaking my head at the lead story about two kids who have travelled internationally, gone shopping, and heaven knows what else for the past two weeks while they were highly contagious, I wrote this.

Look out, look out, the spots are about
Because some folks won’t immunise their kids,
But when the “did nots” find their kids have the spots

They’ll be sorry and wish that they did.
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I’ve heard all the arguments against vaccination, and I simply do not believe them.

As someone with compromised immunity due to a chronic illness, I am certainly glad that my parents made me have that needle that made me squawk for two seconds as a child. After 29 years of teaching, it’s probably the reason I’m still alive.

Raising Her Right.

Today I received the most beautiful photos…

Today I received the most beautiful photos from a friend whose young niece was reading my book to her.
Adorable – AND smart! She knows good poetry when she sees it!

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That’s raising her right. A+ parenting!

 

To mourn with those who mourn…

To mourn with those who mourn…

On Wednesday, February 12, Luke Batty was killed by his father on a cricket field in Tyabb, an outlying suburb of Melbourne. The tragedy unfolded further when the boy’s father threatened police with a knife and was shot in self-defence. The entire scene played out in front of horrified onlookers including the boy’s mother and a number of his friends and schoolmates.  Thankfully, most of the children who had participated in cricket training had already gone home. 

My heart breaks for Luke’s mother, family and friends. I have no words for their loss or their pain. 
I mourn for the loss of innocence of his school mates and all who witnessed his brutal death. Things will never be quite the same for them, especially school and cricket practice.

I also grieve for the police officers who had to attend such a horrible event, witness the death of a child, and shoot a man in self defence. They are traumatised, too.

Luke was a student at the school where four members of my family work.  I grieve for each of them. I grieve for his teachers and for everyone in that school community. It has rocked the whole community – and so it should.

I spent today at my school’s swimming carnival, looking at the kids having fun, playing around, swimming races, encouraging and cheering each other on… and I thought, “You know… that could be us. How would we deal with it? How on earth would we hold our school community together after such an event?”

The answer: only by the grace of God, with the love of God. 
And there, but for His grace and love, go we. 

I wanted to tell every one of the kids at the swimming pool today how amazing, how unique, how special they are.  Most of them hadn’t heard about what happened to Luke. They would have either thought I’d gone slightly mad or been more than a little freaked out by it.  So I kept my grief and my feelings to myself, save for one friend I confided in. I smiled at the kids, encouraged and praised them, and did all I could to give them a great day.

It may seem odd to grieve over someone I’ve never met and who I didn’t even know existed until yesterday, but the death of this young boy is a reason our nation and our whole society should mourn. 

Love your children, people. Cherish them. Make memories with them. Nurture and encourage them. Fill them with hope, courage, strength and love. 

God knows, it’s a sad, sorry, broken world we live in.

Why report writing stresses teachers out.

We’ve all seen those funny things that teachers post about writing school reports.
Some of them suggest things we’d love to write, but we know we never could… no matter how tempted we might be.

Others are translations of teachers’ comments commonly found in school reports. Here’s an example:

“Murgatroyd is highly social and engages well with his classmates.”
In other words, Murgatroyd doesn’t shut up and distracts the entire class from what they are supposed to be doing.

“Murgatroyd demonstrates strong interest in science, and is very creative in his use of hypothesis and experiment.”  That is, Murgatroyd isn’t scared of bugs or creepy-crawlies, and was brave enough to put a snake in Prissy’s school bag and a venomous spider in the teacher’s desk drawer. He figured they would be upset, but he did it just to see what would happen.

Okay, so we can laugh at those examples.

However, it is really hard to balance the need for both honesty and diplomacy when writing school reports. It’s important to let parents know what their little treasures are doing at school and how they are progressing.   It’s important for our students to know what they are doing right, and how they can further improve their learning.

It’s also really important for parents to understand that writing reports is not an easy job. It adds pressure  because we are so keen to get it right. It adds stress because we are working to an extra deadline while we’re still teaching classes, grading exams, doing yard duty, marking students’ work, and attending meetings.  We go home to our homes and families, where all the regular things parents and spouses do needs to keep happening.  It often means late nights of unpaid overtime, looking at a computer screen until our eyeballs threaten to bleed or we get nauseous because we’re sleep deprived, not eating properly, and surviving on caffeine and sheer determination.

When kids are well-behaved, attentive, cooperative and soak up information like a sponge, their reports are quite easy to write.  The biggest danger is falling into the trap of making things sound like the kid has it made and just has to show up to get those As. It’s easy to praise, encourage and motivate those students.

Don’t let that fool you into assuming that every kid in every class is like that. It’s simply not true.

Writing a report for a student that hates your subject, or one  who doesn’t want to behave, or one who is determined to see just how many times they can be told off, sent out, given detention or how quickly they can make the teacher cry… that is a really hard job. Especially when schools all have guidelines and rules for writing reports that prevent teachers from telling it like it really is.

Sometimes you want to tell parents that their kid is a law unto themselves, and that they won’t take correction or discipline without a fight. Sometimes you want to tell parents that even though their child behaves like an angel, her self-righteousness and conceit make her really hard to have around… especially when she insists on telling the teachers how they should be doing their job, or on trying to do their job for them.  Sometimes you want to tell parents that their child has given them the term, semester or year from  hell, and that both you and the student in question are lucky to have made it through alive.  Sometimes you wish you could let parents know, just in case they haven’t realised, that their child is among the laziest human beings on the planet and he’s not going to make it into rocket science with his attitude and work ethic. 

Having to be diplomatic about those things is a really tough gig.  And there is at least one kid like that in every class.

Parents, for the love of everything educational, if there are things in your child’s report that you don’t like reading… please consider that perhaps your little treasure may not be quite as well-behaved and super-intelligent as you believe.  Please consider that the teacher isn’t making it up, singling out your child, or blaming a student for their own lack of ability or patience.  Please consider that maybe the teacher is saying something you need to know and understand about your child.  Understanding that might make a bigger difference in your parenting and in your child’s life than detentions, notes, consequences and meetings with teachers ever will.

And if you are lucky enough to have a child who brings home reports that glow with praise and encouragement, be very, very thankful.  You can bet their teachers are.

What Mothers’ Day means to this “childless” woman.

Happy Mothers’ Day – to all mothers of beautiful children, children in heaven, furbabies, step-children, borrowed children, otherwise acquired children…

And to those like me whose babies were only in their hopes, wishes and dreams… I hope today is an opportunity for love rather than bitterness, positive rather than negative, happiness in our blessings rather than misery because of what never came to be.

I truly believe that life is what we make of it. If one chooses to be bitter and negative, that’s all they will have. If one chooses to be positive and look for opportunities to live, smile, laugh, feel and share, the whole world opens up for them.

My life has been so blessed because of the beautiful children I have been allowed to share, borrow, and help to raise. My family and friends have been so generous in this regard. Each of those kids is “mine” in a very special way, and I hold them in my heart and thank God for them every time I think of them.

Some are grown into amazing adults – some are married, some have their own children whom I am also allowed to share, some have gone on to forge the career they dreamed of. Some have just started to move into adult life, finding their feet and making their own way as they pursue their dreams. Some are still young enough for me to hug and discuss what’s happening at school or with their friends. Some are still babies; what an amazing blessing to be still be cuddling and loving “my” babies and seeing them grow, learn, wonder and return the love that is lavished upon them.

I will never try to tell you that being unable to have my own children was not heartbreakingly painful. However, that’s not what I want to focus on here. On this Mothers Day, I want people to know that I have grown and learned my way through that, and that I have been richly and deeply blessed by “my” children and by the wonderful families who share them with me. 

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