The title of this poem is brief, often resembling the representation of the issue it covers. The grief of thise whom have lost someone to mental health battle is arduous and ever-lasting. To help raise awareness of this day, a celebration of Kai-Fella and his Fund's aspirations, "Pilates For a Purpose" is making sure those whose voices have been lost forever, can still be heard.
Run away, it's there. Lurking in the distant ground, hiding from you underground.
"Stay away, I know you're there!" You scream with all distinction, calling out, it is following you around.
The day is dark, it is rank. All that I can see is a shadow in complete mist.
Doesn't help, I am lost. It's taking my existence, thundering my resistance.
Couldn't wait 'til I get home; for all my inhibitions, I hide amongst the linen.
What is this? I am spooked. I think that I have seen it but unsure if it is truly with me.
Open up, eat me whole. All of my intentions have fallen without mention.
I am gone, lost the war. If only you could help me to save me from what no-one ever sees.
In the dust, a tragedy. I watch over and smile for, every time you reach up to me for more.
Now I'm gone, you are lost. But the strength that kept me guessing has fuelled you for the bigger war.
And you will win, you will make the biggest of impressions. Awareness of it will conquer all…
Bullying is common practice in many walks of life. You yourself, I'm sure have fell victim to and been convicted of this awful act too. According to 'Bullying: No Way!', an Australian government initiative, in the education faction, report some very interesting data analysis. One in four children between the ages of eight and fifteen fall victim to bullying on a frequent basis and, get this; just 72% of schools report having bullies. We will digest these a little later but for now, think about this one last fact: 87% of bullying which occurs happen in the view of others! That's nearly nine times out of ten incidents in Australian society are done in the plain sight of day, for others to gawk at! What does that say about our school standards, our home expectations and our culture? It's really alarming; which leads me to this very evidential fact: Bullies Will Never Die! And, what is saddest yet, is the families of victims are often bearing the brunt of these acts as a result.
In the midst of our frantically paced lives, we withdraw ourselves further and further from others, yet, amazingly become more and more conscious of their thoughts and judgments. Our appearance, our possessions, our status. Of course, when there is so much pressure on us as individuals to adhere to social norms, a certain paradox falls into play; go under the radar to be noticed. Lay low until it suits us best, for we do not want to look uncool, out of touch or, heck, even wrong! So, with all this, our ego constantly runs, instinctively, on a defense mechanism - the flight or fight mode- taken to a new level; the play dead mode. We act as if we are non- existent in times of desperate need. The old, 'look, there's Spiderman!' you gesture subconsciously and take a sigh of relief when the crowd of conformists looks the other way, giving you ample time to slide away, back into the shadows. But when it's time, the spotlight of glory will shine upon you for the greatness you have bestowed upon the world around you! You just bought a new vehicle, your amazing island holiday was better than the sleep worthy experience in which others had at a corresponding time and even better, you met someone with a higher status than us all and you were lucky enough to grab a happy snap to flaunt on a platform of likable social media. A secretive self-loather portrays a confusing image of narcissism. So why do all these insults relate to us? Bullies will never die because WE are the bullies! For many reasons but for the most; we fit almost perfectly into that aforementioned 87%. We are the lifelong onlookers for one of the most horrific crimes in the history of mankind. It brings about more mental health issues than anything else, more deaths than road accidents and a more self-loathing state of mind than when getting fired or failing a test. Yet, despite all this, we still watch from the sidelines and let others endure. And the most prominent place this occurs? You guessed it…
Schools are places resembling havens; learning rich and warm, safe and nurturing, so why does so much bullying occur here? Well, there are obvious reasons; reasons that our leaders and representatives may use to more or less sweep the real, deep seeded issues under the carpet. One instance might be that children spend up to one-third of their childhood in these places. Another, schools are so unlike every other environment. Once school finishes and we enter life as an adult, we naturally find our niche, where like-minded people surround us. At schools, people from all walks of life emerge. This aids many an excuse-maker, leading conversations about bullying and differences in the opinion just natural passageway to growing up. But let's tell some hard truths here. These places, often, when nurtured and established in such a way, are idealistically utopian but most fall well short of the mark. Directly or not, bullies find solace in schools; festering negativity and angst amongst those around them. This isn't really news to us though, we all experienced it at school ourselves. Here's the issue; the stats suggest 72% of Australian schools report there is bullying in their school yard and classrooms, meaning 28% believe their institute does not. Talk about bystanding!
As the old saying goes, direct sunlight kills bacteria best. I call a call out! Bullies parade in the fear of the cowering of others. But are the bullies really to blame for bullying? It's a weird question to pose, right? We should be doing more for the bully; to educate, to care and embrace the strength of being different. And the schools who seem to be bully-less, let's call them out. Only positivity can be achieved; either we learn from their approach or they are pulling the wool! Together we fight against an issue swept under the carpet far too long. I feel the bully has a huge part to play in their very own existence. Who knows the tricks, the secrets and maybe, the reasons a bully behaves in such a way? I'll let you think about that. That sense of belonging (or lack of) may just be the cause and effect of this age-old curse. Only one thing is certain; unless something is done now, bullies will never die!
You won't have to look far when you leave your abode each day to find some form of inexplicable unprincipled deceitfulness. I, like you, live in an intriguing world; in a phase in which we shall look back upon and wonder why were we so pompously self-obsessed and vindictively keen to do whatever it takes to get ahead.
Social media entitles us to change the way we act, look and are perceived. We alter our personality to align with what is 'so hot right now'. We speak in jargon and moronic slang to fit a mould. Every day, we lie and cheat what is truly us. What has happened? Are we simply engrained to take the easy option and just pretend?
I awoke to the world today to a beautiful partner and one seriously energetic though gorgeous baby. Then, like most days, I check in with the latest from my technological sports' desk. Today was not only heinous, for what had unravelled over the previous twenty-four hours to greet my eyes from half way across the world in South Africa, it, at a deeper look is nothing more than to be expected from us really. Our culture is extremely public in disclosing disgruntled opinions and when things go wrong or get a little hard, we cover it up, we lie or we take short cuts. These are the necessary means in which to once more sit upon a throne of importance. So it is of no real surprise, our drama-laden Australian national cricket team is at it again - they are after all just a small sampling of our very own society, albeit polarised into the eye of, you know... a few billion people across the globe. So, whilst we digest what has happened with this cricket team over the weekend, let's understand why and more importantly, what should take course from the fallout.
For those whom have been living under a rock or simply gag at the thought of test cricket (many of us do), bear with me here, because there is a vital lesson for all Australians, young and old to learn from this. Accusations of an alleged plot by the Australian captain, good guy, Steve Smith and his leadership team have taken place to not only tamper with the ball in an effort to produce more bowler friendly outcomes and steer their team towards an unlikely victory, they have done so in front of over thirty cameras and most imperatively, whilst wearing our proud and iconic baggy green. These men have admitted their crime, but the question remains as whether they will do their time? On surface value, this is an ugly tainting of Australian cricket and those within the inner sanctum of the great sport, but delving deeper, it is not too dissimilar to the common folk of this great land and our day to day practice.
Sure, the ramifications of this hideous event will be and should be extensive but it also offers us a chance to reflect on what we've become as a society and the accepted culture in this bogan, ocker and sometimes narrow-minded 'land down under'. Although it's rare to see the donning of blue bondsies and mullets nowadays. We have become more accustomed to a clean-cut, well-manicured and precious, almost robotic personality. But, on quick roll-call, it's easy to see: that insensitive, backward thinking dickhead is still ever present. 'Why is this relevant to anything in the grand scheme?', you ask? Let us treat ourselves to a lesson in narcissistic nuisance.
In a world where cheating knowledge, qualification and looks is child's play, you don't have search long to see the obvious evidence of a society riddled with miniscule morals and 'whatever it takes' attitude to get the most by doing the least. Think about what the mining boom and bust has caused the past decade. The average slacker could assume his own throne within a huge mansion, look across million-dollar views and basically patronise others instead of planning for the future, working for a dollar and living the real Australian dream. These people had cash to blow, they had reputations to create and they had… kids. Kids that believe that life should be easy; their parents did it, so surely it can be inherited. To do minimal and gain maximal. Life is tough but in this little bubble, it wasn't. We spoke our mind because we had power and we were better than those who actually worked for their worth. And if we didn't have the best, we'd cheat. That gadget, that look, that life. Things are hard to attain and so they should be but, in this time, people rorted the system; the moralistic ecosystem was collapsing before our eyes. Then something gave. The bubble burst and things levelled out. Those who worked hard remained the best off and those who got lucky left the field of four-leaved clovers. But something didn't quite plateau back to normality: our willingness to do anything it takes to get to the top; the easy way. The saying goes, 'when the going gets tough, the tough get going', but, unfortunately, we had passed down some terrible traits and hence we assume a predicament. We cheat.
As an Aussie, I love a good underdog story. We all do. But underdogs weaken when things aren't done right. They feel the burden of moral courage (the ability to do the right thing all the time) when no-one else is showing it, weighing them down. So how do we solve this issue? Easy. We set standards, high standards. And if things don't work out, and when cheating has been used in the past and the thought crosses our think tank of 'where to next?', we set precedents. We make an example of what not to do. Sure, this is harder, but necessary.
In classrooms or work places I have known in my time, it is not uncommon to come across these such issues. In fact, it happens all the time, hence the aforementioned information about the culture of cheating. I see it daily, in many facets of my life. For cricket fans, we worry about the future and integrity of the game in our country, and rightly so. But think about it like a classroom with Steve Smith and his merry men, the students. We could quite easily let it slide with a slap on the wrist because we need this great man, he has learned his lesson, right? No. A student once openly said to me, "we know our boundaries and if we don't get into the trouble which was just, we just get worse". Same thing applies here. Same applies in life. If consequences, both positive and negative, are not achieved as a result of our actions a cancer (even if small) starts to spread. If not rectified immediately, like cancer, the toxicity develops.
In our society, far too often we accept shortcuts, the quick fix. In football clubs, we pass when given the chance to start a fresh and build culture; quick fix: recruit. Does this work? Short term, sometimes. Long term, no way, the same issues begin to rear its head over and over again. In workplaces, we see dodgy worksites, procedures and lack of accountability; quick fix: make over. Make the office or space look pretty to divert the real, deep seeded issues of competency and toxicity. When in friendship groups; youth or adults, there are always issues; quick fix: blame the other. It's laughable but so true. We walk away and continue finding the same issues with each and every friend we ever attain. Solution to all scenarios, change the root of the problem.
In light of the weekend's outrageous and unceremonious capitulation of our heroes' reputations, are we really at all surprised? I for one am certainly not. The real test is now for our general public to rebuild a trust and ensure the right thing is done here. Then followed through. In the past and present, we, as a culture, have swept these things under the carpet, turned a blind eye or blamed others. We took the easy route, we cheated. Don't agree? Take a look at the Sydney v West Coast game at the weekend. Sydney was too good, mainly thanks to one Buddy Franklin but that's not what was heard as the fans left the stadium on Sunday evening. It was the umpires' fault. We are all passionate and love winning, love getting ahead but the cost has become too much. It's not good enough, it never was!
There is a way back from this for Steve Smith. One cricket fan can look not too far into the past and remember Brendan McCullum; master blaster and all-round nice guy cricketer; a New Zealand captain and role model. He world loves him as a player, entertainer and as a person. Fact check. He, like Smith, took the competitive, 'win at all cost' mentality too far once upon a time also. Sri Lankan great and number eleven batsman, Muttiah Muralitharan naturally bowled like a magician but batted like a fifth-grade child. It was a dramatic and tense test match in Christchurch, New Zealand and this particular day, Murali starred with the willow. He blocked out over fifty balls to stay alongside his mate, champion, Kumar Sangakkara, who eventually hit a single to bring up a testing ton. The whole issue in this fairy tale story was that Brendon McCullum had retrieved the ball from an outfielder and, whilst the Sri Lankan batsmen went to celebrate Sangakara's feat mid-pitch, Brendan removed the bails and appealed. Technically, the ball was still in play and the umpires adjudged it out, runout. There was huge uproar; not because the wicket wasn't correct, but because McCullum, Kiwi hero had tampered with the spirit of the game. He resights ten years on, asking to turn back time. "Nearly ten years later I still regret this and hope I can be forgiven for breaking the code of ethics of the game. I hope I am a better person after what I have done". From then on, he led his team with a culture of tact, fairness and care. They played with a competitive edge and strong morale, they had principle. He set a precedent of his own poor decision and, for that, he was once more, if not more, loved. By all.
Steve Smith, on the surface, has done an unspeakable act, on the world stage. But at a deeper look, was he just doing what we all do as Australians? The game was slipping away from the Australian captain, something had to be done. He bent the rules. He didn't think about the consequences. He cheated. Winning and being the best is just so important to us, any measure seems reasonable in the heat of the moment. We now need to support the process and learn from these monumental mistakes.
This episode of horror on the international stage should offer us all an opportunity to reflect on how we act in our everyday lives. What do we want from our children when confronted by their very own Steve Smith moment? We've all been cheating for far too long. It's time to make a tough call people.
The first few weeks of the school year; early morning routines, strict bedtimes and stress that comes out your ears, for no real known reason. What can I say, it’s a tough period. You know you’ve done it before, but still each time it rolls around, it hits you like a tonne of bricks. And boy does it tickle our ‘touchy’ buttons – everything seems to make us cranky. Here’s how I reflect on snippets (only the best) morning school runs when this, the most stressful time of the year rears its head.
Screeching and ranting, foam coming from your mouth. Your feet aimlessly palpate the surface beneath it. The veins on your hand protrude with a mind of their own. Your knuckles rise and fall like magma brewing from its chamber. There must be a reason for this despondent shower of sweat, right?. You look left and see clarity, a free utopian oasis; your eyes grow like dinner plates and pupils open an orb of bliss. At last, you’ve made it.
What is going on? Let’s take it back about ten minutes.
You race through the corridor a la Tom Cruise in Risky Business, but there’s no time for old Time Rock by Bob Segar. You’ve an important event (some would say) to attend. The door closes and time slows down to a halt. Just as the door clicks shut in high tension, you squirm for the handle in a last gasp effort to keep the door from securing. In a split second, before the swipe of the hand is complete, your brain acknowledges you’ve not only left the keys inside, sitting on the table beside the door, it also admits defeat in that you are too late to save the door. Like a remote control’s slow motion mode, your hand continues its follow through, catching the handle, quite clearly too late. Time catches up and you let an instinctual and primal grunt. “Stupid” you reverberate in sync with a nasty slap upon your poor forehead. This can only mean one thing; Tardy Tim will continue his never-ending parade at work.
As if a light bulb suddenly appeared, assuming a halo, you remember the balcony door is left ajar. A quick glance at your time piece and it’s go time. You can still make this on time, you think as you collate all the things that would need to go right to forecast an arrival of punctual procession. You race around to the shed to arm yourself with the necessary tools for the forthcoming and swift break in. You reach for the ladder, unbeknownst to the hardnosed spider whose web you’ve just made a candy floss cone upon your arm with. You panic and spiral into a frenzy of aggression, dancing and prancing as if this sticky twine will somehow release itself with thanks to your sheer dazzle. Your cheeks are scorching red and your ears burn like sunburn. This little critter has feasted upon your skin, sending your immune system, along with your adrenalin into meltdown.
The surge passes, it was only an Australian native, lacking one red or white rear. The ladder plays its role and, like a cat burglar in his prime, you’re in. You collect your missing items and proceed, albeit ten minutes later than anticipated, to your car. Now on the road, what could possibly go wrong?
The car starts, little nervy, mirroring the owner yourself. Onto the road and the streets are busier than you remember last time you voyaged along these parts. You tap the top of the steering wheel in sync with the music. But like the song coming to an end, so to your patience. This may have been easier walking, you think. And quicker! Not much time, you imagine a game show watching your every move and the embarrassment of making one wrong move flutters around you like butterflies. You make your next move; a rash and abrasive one. You have never turned right on this journey before. It’s bold but it seems to be paying off. A short cut- designed to cut off part of the way and shorten the time of a particular trek, it's genius. Cruising along a side street, when you realise that red light, causing the back-up may have subsided by now, but you quickly erase the thought. You squash it with a motivating and reassuring, ‘you’ve made the right choice’ you nod your head in self approval and continue, ‘definitely quicker’. That’s when you see it, a red light ahead and you have to take a left to head back in the direction from before. You inhale not once but twice through your nostrils and then purse your lips. ‘It’ll be green shortly, I’m only third in line.’ The hardest part of this is the gap the minivan in front has left between them and the car in front. Although it makes no difference, the lights are censored and will most definitely change soon, you urge to sneak right up to the line, ready to pounce, yearning for poll position at the first flicker of green. To your shock, amazement and pure bewilderment, the arrow light does not change to green with the overhanging traffic light signalling forward only. The rage boils to your eyebrows; they furrow with angst and one single bed of sweat trickles down your forehead onto your cheek. This cannot be happening! It goes orange, then red, and again the cars flow from left to right and right to left. ‘Not long now’, you try calm yourself. Finally, the flow comes to halt and, at long last, a green arrow is coming my way… What the F#@K is going on?! There is a long, uninterrupted bleeping of the horn from your behalf! Inexplicitly, the arrow is not turning green. Infuriating heat radiates from your temples and you give up. You decide to just go around the turning van in front and head straight, you can always make a u-turn or left on the next street. Without having wriggled out two metres, you can see, bewilderingly, a space the size of a small farm truck in front of the van, ‘that incessant peasant!’, you think and let out an internal roar from within safety of your car.
You now slam your foot down on the accelerator and let your presence known. The jerk wasn’t even over the sensor – that whole time! Doesn’t he realise I am in a rush?
Finally, you wheel around the corner into the haven of, ‘I’m here’ to a surprisingly quiet and barely populated space. You pull into the carpark but find merely a handful of vehicles. You turn on your radio and hear a weirdly unfamiliar voice. The radio host finalises his segment and cuts to the ‘Sunday Morning Show’… Wait, “Sunday”?!
Our inner Demon wins again. Pathetic!
It’s not too uncommon to read blog after blog, listen to educators, lecturers and so-called experts in this field or another, and consume mountains of “research”. ‘Research suggests’ and ‘in a recent study… research allows us to…’ but the thing that truly matters when investigating the benefits of learning is one’s ability to love.
Books offer so much without ever asking anything in return. For its words act as a path into the unknown, its pages as a gateway to new pictures, words and sounds, all willingly being offered for your very own acquisition and regurgitation. The themes and messages seek relatability and its plot lines mesmerise our very idea of reality. When we learn to read, great things happen- “research” will tell us this; the vocabulary strengthens, the brain activates neural pathways stimulating both creativity and a worldly comprehension, so that we can better operate and navigate this complicated planet. “Research” suggests reading entices independent thought and prompts a heightened social skillset. It also concludes that from reading, one can access information in a way that imparts knowledge, hence leading us to a certain social status and bring about a scholarly opportunity into the future. This is all perceived as superior in some subconscious hierarchy, but why?
There is, however, an overarching all-conquering skill we gain from reading which we often take for granted, and inherently think comes naturally: the ability to love. “Research” suggests… well actually it doesn’t, but we know it happens. In every sense of the experience of reading.
Reading should be seen as a fun and enjoyable experience. It promotes story-telling at its finest. And storytelling, as part of our make-up, has enlightened love through the ages. Heck, you don’t even need the ability to read to tell a great yarn and people have been idolising story tellers since before books were even invented. But why does reading offer us such an authentic chance to love? Let’s indulge.
Firstly, reading is best done when with someone else. This experience alone can form the best basis of love and all of its might. Whilst the rest of the world indulges in self-obsessed whitewash, we listen intently to another; we watch for cues in a mood, tempo, and drama with adoration and best yet, we soak in all that is within a book through the eyes of another. We subconsciously learn to do all of these things filled with love. Together you learn to love the reading experience and overwhelmingly learn to love. Full stop.
Next, we unknowingly fall for our characters. There’s nothing quite like that unattainable protagonist within the pages of a book. We love their mannerism, their look and their confidence. We know they are not necessarily real but we tumble head over heels nevertheless. Without ever leaving the safety of this bubble in which we read, a never-ending addiction takes its course. Characters of every walk of life on earth (and beyond) are depicted right before our very eyes. Even the ones we hate, we love. For these special characters offer us a chance to forgive and understand that no two people are truly the same. We learn pain, resilience and triumph. We become a better person through the love of books. Then, as the book slams to a halt, our hearts shatter in need for more.
Lastly, books hide away values and life messages, sometimes innately. ‘Big deal’, you may think. The deal is; reading evokes emotion of all kinds; it makes our heart race when we least expect it and some may even relate to crying from the thoughts that a book’s tale instills in our imagination. Through these messages, we draw out the deepest of raw emotion and thus, learn to love a paperback’s content. Kudos to reading, how special!
So, what are you waiting for, get out and pick up a book? For the love of reading!
Often, we are asked to have 'a good hard look in the mirror' and think about what we see. Quite naturally, most will reel off the flaws in our physical appearance, others may observe the positive quirks we all own and some may even cringe at the way they feel within. Hence, the saying and its action foresees an incumbent chore which many completely avoid, at all costs. Then the New Year rolls around and the hot topic springs to the forefront of everyone’s thinking; "resolutions". Look at who and what you are and think about, then act on what you may need to change in the ensuing twelve months. But this year, I’ve got something better for you to do, simply reflect.
Although the words, ‘charitable’ and ‘humble’ come to mind when thinking about my strengths, a small void starts to open when I turn the tables to the thought of what may be my weaknesses be. I start by regurgitating what others have indulged, “you care too much”. Lame. “You’re too hard on yourself”. Obvious and overused. Then I really think about it.
They start to pile in, like the letter latch, then all regions (chimney and all) of Harry Potter’s house when his uncle persists on ignoring the young wizard’s invitations to Hogwarts. Irrational, moody, awkward and so on. I can’t get a break as some sort of inner self enrols in ‘Self Loathing College” with classes commencing immediately! So, my advice when doing this (because you are all going to do this right away) is choose three. No resolutions; no fad diet or get rich quick plot or pyramid scheme happening here, just three easy things to work on in the upcoming 365 days. So, choose wisely.
Firstly, my biggest need for improvement would be my judgmental sentiments. I cannot help it; nothing seems to work properly, no-one fills my needs and nobody ever seems to get things right! This includes me. The reason I am so critical on most things outside my own box is because, within that same little box, judgement lives, festering away. I fear what I do every day as if it’s the worst thing to do. And even when something amazing happens, I yearn for more and rethink a new and better way in which the initial deed should have been fulfilled. I just cannot win, so good luck to anyone else! To Dearest Me, be less judgmental!
Secondly, speak nicely. I am aware of it but like an ant to a sugar mound, with each sentence, I cannot resist. I swear like an Irish sailor! And it does my head in. On the very first day of 2018, I made a pact with myself; do not swear! Or else! “But you’re a teacher”, you may be thinking. I know, right. Soon the day will come when I slip one out. Trust me, the consequences would be even worse than the time Granny left a rotten rendition of Advance Australia Fair through her bum trumpet as I laying across her lap. I caught myself out once around lunch and thought of the creation of a swear jar – a great way to save money for the next big chapter in the life of me! No this isn’t going to work, I’ll end up just filling a jar up and pissing (I mean, throwing) it down the drain. As dinner and a game of cricket rolled round, my tally had topped around fifteen potty words – this was when I was consciously trying not to swear, imagine when I got to footy training or even worse, lost my temper! Nevertheless, I will try mightily to curb this naughty habit. To dearest Me, stop swearing!
Although there were several honourable mentions in this list, three is the magic number. Drum roll please… negativity! Maybe it’s my hectic lifestyle and inability to sleep (even now, I’m writing this instead of sleeping like the others in this holiday shack) or perhaps my number one flaw? It could even just be I am a pessimist! Nope, the opposite actually. Whatever the cause, I need to be more positive about things in everyday life. Most of us do. As the metaphoric title coincidently adopts, this is certainly my achilles heel, and I must add, my footballing injury which has been disrupting my true passion, playing the great game, is; yep, you guessed it, my achilles! I wonder if I succeed with these remedies to a happy and fruitful 2018, my injury will subside? Only time will tell. To dearest Me, be positive!
Anyway, what are you waiting for, start brainstorming (but not too hard, you may bring out your inner demon) all your flaws and pick three you are going to change this year. It’s far better than setting unrealistic and ridiculously boring goals for the eighth year straight. Just be the person you have always wanted to be and rid yourself of those nasty bad points your personality relentlessly tries to swat. There you have it, that feels good. Honesty helps. Is that a strength or a flaw? Too much storming for this brain… Happy New Year!
As the year comes to a chaotic but an abrupt end, we thank those whom have made the biggest of impacts throughout the preceding twelve months and lick our lips at the prosperity the next may bring. We collate an abundant Wishlist, filled with dreams, sparkle dust and all, but what is it we truly seek. Each of our lists tell a different tale as to where we are at and where we want to be next. Our very own Billy has created a list which we refined so that the trail of paper scroll cannot outreach the far away hills. Despite finding many treasures during 2017; including jewels of love, golden fields of smiles and even as sweet ride in a Maserati, the world of JustZeusBooks wishes for something a little closer to nuance than unnecessary.
Billy's five Christmas wishes:
5. JustZeusBooks' loyal magicians continue to inspire others in 2018!
- throughout 2016/17, Billy's magicians; Max, Jake, Matt, Imogen, Francesca, Bridget, Reily and Ruby have wowed over 6000 students across three states. With comical wit and awesome acting, their selflessness, they continue to put themselves bravely into the spotlight for the benefit of others. May they keep entertaining in whatever they choose to chase beyond Christmas.
4. May the festive season bring an abundance of joy to those in need!
- proudly supporting the incredible endeavours of Kai Eardley Fund, promoting mental wellbeing in youth, as well as the altruistic community in at Perth Children's Hospital. With pride, we stand tall supporting such special people. A medal of honour for all involved.
3. Equality reins over all!
- Much work has been done bridging necessary gaps but, still more is needed. Wishing away inequality in gender bias, pay discrimination and the heinous stigmas that continue to plague our society. Enough is enough. May 2018 bring about more overdue change.
2. A delightful Christmas break for my creators, Timothy Bristow and Natalie Martin.
- Without these two charitable legends, I would still be merely a figment of Timothy's imagination. Their undeniable work ethic, selfless friendship and constant inspiration allows those around them to rest easy, knowing there are incredible people in this world. Wishing a merry Christmas to the pair of you and your beautiful family.
1. You! Our amazing supporters rock!
- These past 12 months have been rewarding, insightful and a time of much growth. Without your support, kindness, preaching of our work, sharing our magic and purchasing our product, this adventure would have been over before it truly begun. May you all have a safe and happy festive season. Here's to another incredible journey in 2018.
Merry Christmas from Billy & the JustZeusBooks Team.
We know the lost boys of Neverland and the folk from Narnia, their mighty mystique seems to awe even the most cynical of beady eyes. At which stage of life and with what environment do these enchanted places become just a childish and detached haven? One glorious paradise I was privileged to visit across Victoria was the common school. And there were plenty of them. A most amazing place; one of pure magic, schools are quite simply the bomb. With many a visit to all kinds of schools this past fortnight, one thing is a certain commonality; kids are incredible.
Despite repeating the same presentation, on more than thirty-five occasions, the reaction on the students’ faces is pure bliss. They represent so much more than the pupils in this school or that, more than that number in the system or ‘bum on a seat’, ensuring funding. On the grand scheme, these little champions are our future but for now, they are just a big bunch of impeccable human beings. I can’t help but wonder what goes through their minds as I strut my idiotic acting and inspirational tales before their eyes but I do know, their innocence reassures me there’s a little piece of magic in every experience in which kids encounter. Oh, to be a child again, the world is such a simplistic place to grow in and explore.
The most impressionable of souls, children only see mystical power with all they consume within each day’s experience. So, for every student, the amazing realms of one’s imagination are transformed to all extremes, each different from the next. It is rather inspiring just watching how the kids soak in what my magicians and I have to offer. I feel humbly blessed for just being asked to show off and share with these kids.
As the magic of Santa’s special visit rolls around, spare a thought for the child within. Be thankful for the incredible world your childhood brought and spread its beauty with honour, for the greatest gift one can share this festive season with our youth is of course the wonder of childhood joy. We are adults a long time, celebrate childhood like it should be.
Ok, time for a social experiment. I shall call this one, “Car Park Chaos”.
Trust me, you want to hear this one out!
Billy The Brilliant had just been published, I had a fresh take on life and a yearning for support. Something which the students at my, then school began growing tired of craving.
Correlating with my passion for teaching comes my loathing of negativity towards kids. This, I was finding hard to deal with when a student myself and was witnessing first hand at my workplace. Students were battling it out each day with their teachers, locking horns over anything and everything. The student cohort, despite being so different and dealing with the rage of hormones, social hierarchy and the dynamic of mountains of study, rose as one to fight against their authority. You gotta’ give it to them, I was incredibly disobedient as a kid yet I did it alone. This bunch worked together for a common goal, to rake the teachers over the coals. I observed from a distance and shook my head. Imagine if the teachers just talked to the kids, showed they cared and hell, even built a rapport! This lead me to the beliefs that kids are mighty powerful, but moreover, how detrimental the teachers are to the well-being and overall development of our students.
So, being the over analyser, social experimenter I am, I decided to put this to the test. Being one of the first to arrive at this K-12 private school each day, I was of the opinion that my car would be noticeable in the carpark for most, and that, although my vehicle was always there before others’, they would more than likely have to investigate in order to work out who the car actually belongs to. It was going to be great.
Purpose: prove the willingness to spot and boast another’s flaws whilst consciously ignoring their strengths, regardless of its magnitude.
My relationship with the students was exemplary and their happiness at school was certainly wavering. It wasn't hard to see this. Me, on the other hand? Well I was just amping up my book promotion! We were doing radio interviews, library visits and featured in several newspapers. It was special. What an adventure I was embarking on. Meanwhile, in the car park of my workplace, something else was going on. Arriving so early, there were a plethora of car spaces to choose from. The newly appointed military style boss had made the poor groundsmen paint numbers in each of the spaces (so no-one could steal anyone else’s) a week earlier - because that’s the number one priority when you lead a school, for those who were unaware! Mine was ‘58’, right near the front bay area and against the path which leads from the back half of the parking complex to the gym at the front end. Let the experiment begin.
The Sunday night we softly launched our book, Billy The Brilliant, for sale online and come Monday morning, I was ready for an influx of questions, compliments and pats on the back, from whoever. Who was I kidding? With the air so thick at this workplace, you would need to slice through its negativity with a machete’. Not one person was to raise it once. That’s ok, who looks at social media and the newspapers anyway? (That was a joke people; everyone knew I was launching, we had fifty sales online in the first forty-eight hours). As Tuesday rolled around, I started to just swing into my designated carpark, not taking any notice of the newly painted lines or numbers. At this stage, I was simply testing the waters: who would actually notice and investigate my reasonably average parking efforts? The first was my brother. He rolled in about thirty seconds prior to me parking and greeted me with his standard query, “what the f**k is that?’ gesturing toward the park I had just made. I laughed and together, we walked in. My sibling worked in the Senior School of this place and we would often share the first leg of my long morning walk from the carpark to the Junior School, situated down the far end of the property. I informed him of my experiment. Now, let me point out at this stage, even he did not ask about the book we had conspicuously launched two days prior.
As they do, teachers started to gossip, and by Wednesday my park had, along with the attention of my recent joy in having a published book released, skewed to a noticeable amount. Although my Thursday and Friday parking efforts were of ninety-degrees, my allocation of my vehicle within those white painted lines were resembling a caravan trying to fit into a McDonald’s car bay at Christmas. I was secretly giggling to myself for large portions of the morning. Watching the faces of others’ as they tried to work out who had parked across two spaces, like a domino, forcing the whole system tumbling down like the little pigs first two homes. The car in bay '59' now had to go to '60' and so on, until the last bay in the row had nowhere but the overflow to go. Like a used dirty tissue in the flu season, teachers scrunched their faces in anger as they entered the staff briefing and soon, a whole table was asking who that four-wheel drive belonged to. I just chatted with my Junior School colleagues and let the High School Maths Department squabble in isolation. At this point, my experiment was going swimmingly. And whilst I sat in this briefing, the most caring and perhaps the most underrated staff members, the receptionists, proceeded to comment and ask questions regarding my new book. “Where can you purchase?”, “So amazing. Aren’t you a clever bunny?” and “Who did the illustrations, they are incredible?”. It was really pleasant to have these conversations and helped me justify how the students must feel when, instead of being greeted with, “Wow, looking sharp, a new haircut?” or “You play netball over the weekend?”, they are openly belittled with, “Tuck your shirt in!” or “Why are we talking when we should be waiting in silence?”. Despite the fact that yes, the students more than likely know they are to wait in silence for class and that their shirt is out rather often, they are humans, with emotions too. I get it, teachers are busy, but that thirty-second conversation, in a peaceful tone may be the difference between a hostile and receptive relationship, impacting more than just a few seconds in the long run.
My School psychologist, a beautiful soul, approaches with a smile on Monday morning. “What's the go with your parking lately?” I started to chuckle as I asked, "What do you mean?”. The whole thing was starting to get legs; something I had hoped for my book. By this time, we had sold over seventy-five copies, without our official launch or having any presence in bookstores, anywhere. A couple of the Junior School teachers made the comment of the posts which had started to pop up on social media surrounding our book and its varying features. In fact, I had even started conversations with my Head of School about a possible Billy The Brilliant week where I visit each year level and chat about the book, do a reading and where parents could purchase a book. Dominating the conversation at the briefing that Monday was still that bloody car park. The Principal’s Assistant asked our table, “Who is parking all over the place?”. We all looked puzzled and as she moved onto the next table, I couldn’t help but snigger. My close friend and colleague punched me in the arm and shook her head, “You’re a bugger you are!”
I decided to up-the-anti the next day and riding up onto the gutter, my wheels were resting in the garden bed which separated the different sections of the carpark. It was actually hilarious to do it, let alone seeing it when stepping out. Unbeknownst to the staff, it was not an accident. Put yourself in this position: rocking up to work each morning to see this random car parking like a tourist in an off-road camp-site. As I entered the Middle School during my lunchtime duty that day, the art teacher questioned me, “Have you seen that car in the carpark? Why would anyone do that?”. I avoided the negative dialogue and proceeded to compliment kids on their quirky personality traits and asked the teacher about her weekend. One thing I was finding out during this experiment was that for every five questions I would ask another teacher; “How’s your day?”, “What did your weekend achieve?”, “How’s the students going?”, “How long have they taught here?” or “Did you see that football match over the weekend?”, I would be lucky to score one in return. The real problems of schools were starting to rear their ugly head. Student achievement starts with more than just learning and the ability of a kid, each special individual needs to be treated, if not told just that; they’re special. Not all the time but a little bit of genuine care goes a long way. With each conversation between other teachers and I that did take place during this experimental phase, I acknowledged only two asked me ‘how my weekend was?’ or ‘how was my football on the weekend?’. This prompted my thinking further. I posed, alongside my initial purpose, if the teachers at the school show such minute interest in each other, what hope do the students have? By Thursday of this week, for those whom were interested, the book was flying and smashing through preconceived estimations of success. At work, the chatter and anger surrounding the chaos in the carpark was a little concerning. Everything I thought of the manner in which we treat students at this school, plus the manner in which we approach each day in general were being made look silly in comparison to the mountain these people were making out of this parking mole hill.
As week three, the final week of the experiment, rolled around most staff members were aware of my parking debacle. I had, if people were previously unaware, or were forgiving me for just poor judgment in my execution, more than certainly done my utmost to ensure the rest of the world that something was up. Come Wednesday, I had parked across two parks, mounted curbs and finally, the biggest showing of all; I parked halfway across the path. I think I laughed all the way to my classroom that day, a whole six-minute walk. To see a car randomly, but surely by now most knew deliberately, parked like this would have to brighten your day. One particular staff member came to me and said, “seriously, why are you parking like that?” He then motioned his interest in joining in, “I’ll park weird tomorrow. It’s crazy!”
I acted obliviously and just like that, the experiment was over. The next day I parked, as I knew how to, perfectly inside number ‘58’. And nobody ever spoke of it again. Until now.
As true social experiments go, there must be a purpose, aim and some variables, followed by some results showcasing a small sample of behaviour representing the greater majority in one particular field. From there we can precedent conclusions based on the data assembled.
My aim was to investigate the correlation between one’s flaws and people’s ability to pick up on it. This would hopefully represent the same demographic (perhaps on a global scale) and reflect their tendency to only announce one’s flaws, without ever taking into account the power of driving practice through one’s strengths. In simple terms, I had something life-changing, simply incredible happen simultaneously with a parade of poor parking. Which feat would people firstly notice, then feel the need to promote with justice? Surely society loves the under-dog, the guy out there having a go and rightfully supporting and promoting the good vibes that success brings. Instead my the results differed greatly.
In the three weeks ensuing the soft launch of Billy The Brilliant, leading up to my true launch, the following happened.
• A huge following occurred on the Billy The Brilliant train
• The book found its way onto the shelves of over 100 homes, across four states and three countries
• The new book found itself a news piece in five newspapers, across three states
• The author featured on two radio programs
• A film crew from Chanel 7’s Today / Tonight had visited and filmed at my school for an upcoming segment
• A banner and sales bench was set up in the school’s reception area
Impressive or not, the biggest eye-openers were to come. These would be most telling in the social experiment and help shed light on why this whole thing took place in the first place.
• 29 people had directly questioned me about my parking within those three weeks
• 4 emails (3 were a joke) had been written to me as a friendly reminder my parking wasn’t up to standard
• Many staff found solace in telling me others were moaning about the car park chaos
• ONLY 7 staff members asked me about the book
The questions you be asking are perhaps worthy:
- Why would you do this in the first place?
- Are you, in trying to prove a point, unknowingly diverting the attention from your glorious deed?
- What can you conclude from this weird experiment?
To conclude, I wanted to prove our impact on students, how our demeanour, personality, emotions and manner in which we approach and interact with our youth is of huge significance.
Our kids deserve attention; to feel they are valued, their opinions matter and are important. We preach kindness and unity, respect and positivity but do we truly practice this?
It was alarming that when I interacted with other staff, the conversation was terribly one-sided. WE are so caught up in our own lives, we don’t even give ourselves the chance to stop and smell the roses. When something good may be happening, right under our noses, instead of celebrating it, we are too caught up in that same person’s flaws to observe they have anything good to offer. We are so quick to pick out the weaknesses in others. 29 people took the opportunity to stop me and ask about my parking yet only 7 took the time to stop and celebrate something genuinely special. How do we want people to see us? As negative jerks, putting down every small detail or as leaders in care, positivity and builders of authentic relationships? Each of us has so much to offer, we are all special in so many ways so let’s celebrate it.
How’s your parking been lately?
After the horrible tragedy, which took place in Sydney’s suburb, Greenacre, where 52-year-old, Maha Al-Shennag ploughed into a classroom – just writing this is almost unfathomable – we mourn as teachers, Australians and sympathetic human beings.
It opens my eyes to one really important fact: life is finite.
You hear these quotes about the meaning and purpose of life and it kinda’ becomes a drone. “You only get one, make the most of it”, or “Life is too short to worry about what doesn’t make you smile”. Perhaps some all-conquering inspirational and cringe-worthy words are floating within your mind this very moment but the reality is, sometimes life just hurts.
For two young Sydney western suburb families, the hurt yields stronger than ever. They are probably wondering this morning whether life is really worth much at all anymore. One minute they are kissing their little angel goodbye; watching a glowing halo protect their bundle as their eyes follow the little one’s path into the exquisite world of learning, the next they are frantically panicking asking 'what have I done to deserve such a horrendous mishap?'.
Details of this freak occurrence will come to light in time but before we stop to take a breath I want to bring light to one simple point; children are the most precious resource we have. They are the sun on a cloudy day, lighting the dullest of situations, their honesty and spunk taste like a fresh mint to a bitter mood. Their smile, unknowingly contagious, creates a tidal wave of joy. The funny insight into absolutely anything and everything is breathtaking and the way their minds create something from nothing is something to truly embrace. Despite most adults’ idealistic view on being successful as a means of discovering happiness, our youth are happy just being. What would it be to live in that euphoria without even knowing you’re riding the waves of life like a pro? Yet this is the day to day demand of Australian kids. It's glorious. Then the unthinkable happens.
So many questions are still unanswered: What was going on in that car? Was there influence or impairment on the driver’s behalf? How did the car even get into that part of the school- it was the staff carpark, beyond a large automated security gate? What about the classroom? Were they reading in pairs when their walls and worlds were smashed? Did their smiles shine right until the end?
Is the family of each little boy able to get up today and seek the answers they wish to find, without buckling with every movement?
I can’t help but put myself in this situation, as a teacher. I put my heart and soul into each day with the gems that reside within my classroom’s walls. Yes, they often annoy, don’t listen and even make mistakes incomprehensible to others, including me but; they’re present. And will be again tomorrow. This would be simply unbearable, to not show presence, ever again. To scan the room and see two empty desk spaces, having to remove name cards, labels and stationary because these students now cease to exist. At no fault of their own, teachers take the blame for anything and everything that happens at school, and so they should. They’re the leader, the mentor, role model and protector. Their students will sponge off them in every way possible. But what now? Sure, when kids bully each other, teacher needs to mediate, then promote positive relationships. When a tantrum is thrown, the teacher picks up the pieces and forgets that grudges and judgments exist. Seemingly problematic, these are minute in comparison. But this just cannot be registered. How to hold yourself together after this; I can only shake my head in bewilderment. This wasn’t part of the contract the teacher signed when propelling themselves into the world of classroom utopia. Nowhere it said, ‘in case of…’ or ‘in the event of…’.
It is truly heart-breaking. For all involved. When your head hit the safety of your pillow last night, the worry of failure or that itch from workplace politics that needed to be scratched which consumed your last waking thoughts, quite simply meant nothing. If sleep was encountered at all in Greenacre last night, the sudden and insular awakening from the heftiest of night terrors would have brought it all screeching back to an abrupt and reality-bending end. Then, when the sunrises, whilst our demons are whisked away for another day, tucked into closets or under our beds, the nightmare continues and the plot of an unsavoury event thickens. It will take time for this to truly sink in and only then can this community start to grieve properly.
So while we sit and enjoy the smallest of life’s pleasures today, please spare a thought for those without that choice.
Kids are precious and represent all that is good in this world; they are our future and the empowerment of what true happiness is. Let these little angels watch from above with pride as we pick up the pieces of this mess. But we must do so with unity, forgiveness and perpetual care. Although this has happened in Sydney, across this great country of ours, we hold our hearts heavy.
Take nothing for granted.