That’s an A+, right there.

One of my students has quoted ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ and Johnny Cash’s ‘Man In Black’ in a piece of writing exploring how people encounter and respond to conflict. 

I think I’ve died and gone to Teacher Heaven. 

A+. 

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Disappointment, disillusion, and indecision.

I’m really disappointed in a few particular people at the moment.

All my life, I’ve been taught to be honest, to be kind, to mind my manners, to not cause offence, to be the first to apologise, to be a gracious and forgiving friend, and to overcome hatred with love.

However, I’m seeing more and more of exactly the opposite from people I have always respected.  And today, I find myself feeling very hurt over the way some of them have treated me and/or people that I love and value highly.
I’m not even questioning how much I mean to any of those individuals, because it’s glaringly obvious that I don’t mean much to them at all.
That kind of reality check is tough going at the best of times, but when people who position themselves as leaders in a community or social group let you down, and then blame you for it… well, that sets a person to thinking seriously about why one is still part of that group.

It’s not just an issue of being offended or having my feelings deeply hurt. It’s come to the point of really questioning if my values are the same as theirs, and if I can condone their actions when I so strongly disagree with them.

I certainly can’t remain silent and have no intention of doing so, but I am searching to find a way to challenge those negative behaviours and stand up for what I believe in without doing more damage.

I can’t just let it go: if I don’t say anything, they’ll certainly do more damage, and besides that, I’d be that person who didn’t speak out against the things that caused my very close friend and/or myself considerable pain, so that is not an option.

It’s a tricky position to be in.

So, for now, I’m biding my time and trying to deal with my anger. I’m hoping that it will subside enough to be able to say what needs to be said rationally and patiently, without being spiteful or vengeful, but that’s still only an aspiration. I don’t want to hurt them in retaliation – what I’d really like is for them to see that they’ve been doing the wrong thing, and acknowledge that and take responsibility for what they’ve done, even though the consequences of their actions can’t be undone.

ANZAC Day, 2015.

Hundreds of people attended the ANZAC Day memorial service at the cenotaph in Cobden for the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing. There were thousands at the dawn service in Warrnambool and hundreds of thousands at the dawn service in Melbourne. The grey clouds and steady rain did not deter them: instead, it seemed appropriate for a time of sombre reflection.

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In Cobden, the path to the cenotaph was lined by a guard of honour consisting of our Scouts and Girl Guides.

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A lone piper played in tribute to the fallen and in honour of the returned servicemen who were present.

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Hearing the New Zealand ode spoken in Maori was very powerful, even though most people there couldn’t understand a word of it. The speaker’s love for his country and thankfulness for the ANZACs and all those who served after them was evident through the emotion in his voice.

The Australian ode was spoken equally powerfully.It was impossible to remain unmoved by all the feelings of love for my country, gratitude for those who have served and the freedoms we still have because of them, and sadness for the loss of life on both sides. I made no effort to hide several tears that spilled down my cheek when they played The Last Post and during the period of silent observance before they played the Reveille.

When they played the instrumental version of the Australian national anthem there was no invitation to sing, but half the crowd sang anyway. I would have loved it if everyone joined in, but I guess the “I’m not singing in public” sentiment is still strong among many people.

It was beautiful to meet a little boy, Euan, who was incredibly proud to be wearing his great-grandfather’s war medals. I watched him stand attentively and proudly through the whole ceremony. He had obviously been made aware by his parents of the importance of the medals and the reason for the commemoration, because he took it all very seriously.

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I am so thankful that remembering those who served their country and their fellow Australians, New Zealanders and allies, often at the expense of their own lives, is so important to so many.

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“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

Lest We Forget.

Sad pants off… Happy pants on.

It was a really rough week at school for a number of reasons. I had been feeling very low and quite emotional for a couple of days after receiving some quite negative feedback from some of my students who preferred I didn’t know who they were, via my boss.
I was struggling to get past that until some lovely things happened to remind me that my professional life is not defined by negative comments from one group of students.

Thursday morning was complicated by things way beyond my control. I was supervising an exam and nobody came to take my place, so I couldn’t leave to take my Year 12 class. Given that the day before I found it really hard to go in there, I was thankful for the reprieve despite the obvious inconvenience that went hand-in-hand with it.  I was worried that the Year 12 students would think I just didn’t bother; in that sense, my missing their class couldn’t have happened at a worse time.  While still in the exam room, I sent them a note to apologise and explain what had happened.  The good thing was that it gave me time and distance to decide how I was going to deal with the issues I was facing in there.  I wanted to talk with them about it, but not while I was still upset enough to cry or sound whiny. I didn’t want it to be a knee-jerk or emotional reaction.

Later in the morning I ran some auditions for the school musical. This year we’re doing “The Pirates of Penzance”.  Two of the senior students who have both had leading roles in previous years auditioned together – she played Frederick and he played Ruth. It was absolutely delightful. That was the first time I had smiled, let alone laughed, in almost three days. They had no idea of how I was feeling, nor did they realise just what amazing therapy they were for me.

That afternoon I had my drama class. The students were performing plays that they had written themselves.
Those kids were amazing. They wrote clever scripts and performed them beautifully. There were some fabulous moments of humour, some well-developed drama, and very clever characterisation.  I saw one young lady who started with little confidence perform with confidence and style. I saw three young actors with a lot more experience perform a highly comedic play with at least eight roles, achieved cleverly with the change of a hat, glasses, jacket or prop to denote a different character.
After their performances, we had a little time so we talked about the plays and what they thought of their performances. I was so encouraged to hear them praising each other and saying really positive and constructive things without any encouragement to do so from me. We shared some fun moments and we laughed together. It was one of those moments where we all bonded as a group and everyone left feeling great.

On that same afternoon, we had our ‘Professional Learning Community’ staff meeting. This is where we divide into groups and discuss things like assessment, teaching and learning strategies, motivation, and all that type of stuff.  I was so tempted to just go home and avoid the whole thing, but I went along like the good girl I am.
The “icebreaker” was to tell everyone the high point and the low point of our teaching in the past few weeks.
I shared about my drama class and their great performances, but also about the positive bonding time afterward. I shared my frustration about not having been relieved from exam supervision that morning as the “low point” because I was still hurting over the year 12s and didn’t want to tell anyone about it.
In the course of the discussion, I was reminded that everyone has low points, nobody gets things right all the time, and that those issues don’t mean we’re not good at what we do. They just mean we’re human. Another colleague remarked that half the time when we think things are failing miserably, the kids don’t even realise. I responded with the observation that it’s like a play on stage – we know the script, but the kids don’t, so half the time when we think we’ve failed miserably, they are none the wiser.

As I drove home, I thought about my year 12s. As I wrote the other day, I didn’t know if it was one, two or seventeen of them that had complained. What if it really was only one or two? I thought about each of the students and decided that it definitely wouldn’t have been some of them. I decided to talk with them the next morning at the end of my class – rationally, reasonably, and humbly.

On Friday morning, ten minutes before the recess bell, I asked them to stop working and listen as I had something I wanted all of them to hear.
When I told them that I had been informed that there were students in there who thought I didn’t like them and weren’t being treated fairly, a number of the students looked indignant and quite angry. They were as horrified as I had been. That was reassuring.
I told them that I’m aware I don’t always get things right. I told them that if I had caused offence or hurt anyone that I was genuinely sorry and had been unaware of it until this week. I said that I didn’t want any barriers between them and me. I want to do everything I can to help them finish school well.
I told them that if I seemed reserved or miserable, it was far more likely that I was in physical pain than that I didn’t want to be with them.  I told them that I don’t like to let on when I’m in pain because that’s my problem, not theirs.
I asked them to please come and talk with me, or write me a note, or send me an email, if they wanted to talk about anything one-to-one or if there was any aspect of their work they wanted help with.
I reassured them that I really do like them. I think they’re great – and that’s the truth. I love being in class with them.
I left the room at the end of the lesson feeling like a weight had been lifted off me. I had met the conflict head on and dealt with it as honestly and sincerely as I could.

The only kids who came to see me after class were ones who wanted to tell me that they knew I loved them and they had no idea where any of that came from. They told me it certainly wasn’t the majority view, and it hadn’t been discussed in the common room.  Nobody has sent me any anonymous hate mail, nor has anyone asked me to work on something specific with them.

I really hope that I modelled some good behaviour in terms of resolving conflict and apologising. I really hope that the reassurance I gave was all that was needed to set their minds at ease.  I trust that things will improve from here on.
All I can do now is wait and see.

“For those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share…”

This is the line in the Australian national anthem that I’ve always loved.

Australia is a highly multicultural nation. From our earliest days of white settlement and gold rush, Australia has been a melting pot of different nationalities.
The English, Irish, Scottish were the first to make their new home here. As history tells us, they were the original boat people, and the people who were already here were treated most unjustly by them. Since then,  French, German, Maltese, Italian, Greek, Dutch, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Kiwi and countless others have made Australia their home. More recently, there have been significant numbers from South Africa, Sudan, Timor, Afghanistan, and Iran.
All have come to Australia to make a new start. It’s a land of hope, opportunity, temperate weather, and good natured people.  It’s a fantastic place to live.

However, it seems that we’re just not that welcoming anymore… officially, at least. Recently, the Australian government excised the whole of the continent – that’s right, the entire nation – from the migration zone, in an effort to deter people from going into enormous debt to get on a leaky boat and sail here from Indonesia as asylum seekers.
What that means is that nobody who sails here, flies here, or swims here fuelled by sheer determination can actually ask for asylum from whatever messed up, conflict-ravaged nation that they’ve come from.

That’s right. The Australian Government hung out the virtual “NO VACANCY” sign. If they could find a way to fill it with neon and make it flash, they would.

Horrific.
Yesterday, the Australian Government sank even lower.

Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, announced yesterday afternoon that anyone who actually does make it here, having risked their lives on a leaky boat from Indonesia or anywhere else, will never be allowed to settle in Australia. Instead, they will be sent to Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea is one of Australia’s nearest neighbours. While many of its people are peace-loving and friendly, it’s sad to acknowledge that it is a nation that is conflicted and suffering significant poverty.
It’s hard to imagine how sending thousands of refugees there to be settled is going to help anyone, especially when they are already fleeing from other war-torn nations. It’s certainly hard to see how that’s going to improve anything in PNG.

Australia signed the UN Refugee Convention. Australia is currently a member of the UN Security Council.
And yet, Australia is avoiding her responsibilities to the rest of the world because those in leadership can’t think of any other way to put the people smugglers out of business.

My suggestion? Open an agency in Indonesia, in refugee camps, wherever there are people who want to come to Australia. Let them register and apply, have their identity and bona fides confirmed, and bring them over.  That will put the people smugglers out of business, without question.
Let every asylum seeker be judged on their individual circumstances. If they genuinely need a new home, let them come to Australia.  Let them settle in the community, learn the language, get jobs, become Australian citizens, and help Australia to prosper and flourish like the majority of migrants who have come here before have done.  They may be asylum seekers, but their children will be Australian, just like all the children of all the migrants and refugees that have come before them.

This latest policy is morally bankrupt.

It makes me angry at the Australian government and ashamed that they are so lacking in compassion and understanding, and it makes me so incredibly sad for the people who just want to come here and live in peace. Haven’t they been through enough already?

It’s ironic that the Prime Minister who apologised to the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for the way the white settlers treated them for two hundred years is also the same one who has introduced this dreadful policy. I wonder if there will ever be an official apology for that, or if the heartfelt apologies of the Australians who disagree with it will have to suffice.

Until we get some national leaders who can do something more positive and compassionate, I guess we’ll just have to sing the anthem differently:

“For those who’ve come across the seas,
Our leaders just don’t care.
It’s time to hang our heads in shame;
Advance Australia… where?”