It only comes around once a year, kids from around the country are mighty excited and anticipation fills the weeks leading up. Now don’t mistake this time for that of a visit from Saint Nick and his reindeers.
Parents race around, making the final touches to what is to be the ‘best’ year yet; last minute visits to the store, final stitching and tying of bows. Please take note, we’re playing for sheep stations here. It lasts for a whole week; parades, sharing and even special visits that trance us in wonder. No, it’s not our festive season in December, it’s something much more. I-pads and Nintendo and phones take a back seat; even if it’s just for while, for there’s nothing quite like that tactile experience. Its rigid spine and glossy face; it headlines in all its glory! A book, of course. Bravo, for Book Week has arrived!
Perhaps though, the most excited of all the children during this time are the ones who bring those smiles most readily, the authors and illustrators themselves!
‘Book Week’, Christmas for all those folks with their names on the covers of our beloved paperbacks. It is quite the experience seeing eyes glistening with ambition, without one set of googlies being glued to screens. To stand and present is a gift in itself, but to present a book is something very, very special. Something I can say I am lucky enough to have done. To stand before our inspired future and verbalise the bold world I use to live in when books were a gateway into one’s imagination and television was for adults and the boredom dwellers is something quite surreal. Even more so eerie is the sea of eyes that watch in complete disbelief.
“You mean, your imagination was your entertainment?” A question is posed. “Why yes…” I reply despondent, though empathetically.
See I was once the “techno” generation, where we needed to get outside and play more or sink our minds into the covers of a book in order to develop some idea of what really goes on beyond the front fence.
There’s nothing though quite as astonishing or important during one of my productions as the magic that takes place without the presence of digital technology. Conversation. The kids laugh at my quirky spin on being a kid and their hearts sink with sympathetic glee whilst they discover each other’s times of hardship and triumph. The air is suddenly filled with something reminiscent of home, a safe place where people smile and share in great company. It’s empowerment, it’s inspiration. It’s a bond that goes beyond just ‘you give, I take’. It’s friendship.
‘All this from a book and its message of dreams and resilience?’ You may query. It is rather hard to explain it until you see, but the experience of sharing a book to one, two or two-hundred kids is much much more than simply speaking and listening. And this is why books are so important. They really are spellbinding. The ownership of interpretation you have can only be sold to others through conversing. How powerful is that? Some say, ‘knowledge is power’, I feel it should be, ‘reading is power’. And, ‘sharing is all conquering’. The experience of reading and sharing a book may last only minutes but the impact may last a lifetime.
People now ask me, ‘so you’re an author who inspires kids?’ The answer is simple, no. I am an everyday person who encourages others to create. Children inspire my creation and Book Week enriches my writing. Try it out; grab a great book, share its beauty and go and live with a true zest for life. At JustZeusBooks we urge everyone to create their own magic and what better way to start than by reading a book? What better time to start than in Book Week? Happening across Australia right now.
JustZeusBooks. Read. Write. Create.
It’s amazing how we remember the weirdest of moments in our schooling lives. One classic for me was the ‘Phantom Farter’ moment in Year Three. Mrs. Mac was an incredible educator, one of the only teachers I had who, about, I didn’t have too much negative to say. She was most likely past her prime and essentially in her twilight of her teaching. I’m sure many a teacher can relate to the state she was in; aloof and disengaged, more or less, going through the motions. She didn’t take any nonsense from us students though, although she was probably unaware of half the mischief we’d get up to. It was a middle block session and tactfully I was placed, with two of my mates, right alongside Mrs. Mac’s desk. She awoke from her slumber at her desk and arose to greet a student’s question to the other side of the classroom. As she sidestepped passed my trio’s table, an enormous foghorn erupted from her behind! This was echoed by the fact she was on the move and intensified with progression, drilling the memory into my mind forever, as her rear end was protruded directly in line with our faces. As young boys do best, faces cherry-ripe red, we broke into hysterics. We thought this scene was quite simply the one greatest moment to ever greet us; a teacher farting in our face! Perhaps more of a surprise, and to Mrs. Mac’s credit, she was stone dead serious. She turned to us, in a brandish barrage of laughter and looked each of us in the eyes before speaking. “Calm down boys, it’s natural”, she spoke, wise with tone, and proceeded to move to the aid of the needy students. I can’t say neither the incident nor its response taught us boys much that day but it did, however, make for a funny analytical analogy into the school system, its teachers and its consuming connection with flatulence.
‘Where’s this going?’ you may ask. Okay, perhaps I need to justify this obscenity. But it’s not too far a stretch from what may just be an ironic association. For many to idealistically think about what schools are; what they value, what they stand for and how they present to their communities, many a school system would look quite theatrical. In this image, schools are dynamic learning organisations that are continuously enhancing practice to lift learner and life outcomes. Sounds beautifully poetic but realistic oversight tells us a slightly different story. Schools are struggling to emit an environment suitable for individuals so that learning for life can take place, whilst, by far and a way, missing the inclusive sense of tribe needed for the holistically nurtured development of the greater community. Put simply; it stinks. And so do farts.
We all see politicians, educational leaders, union savvy representatives and school staff bellow on about how schools need to get better. How to give more of 'A' whilst receiving less of 'B'. Some of 'this' process, a little more of 'that' reform, a change in leadership 'here', a tweak in the curriculum 'there'. The recipe seems simple, right? Teach like an expert without the drop of support, mix in some unwarranted autonomy but hold the accountability. Preheat the kids to a point of desiccation and sprinkle with preservative A’s. Finally, add some unnecessary professional development from a recipe outdated, but just a dash – you don’t want too much- and then force feed data, hot, and serve the community. The fact is; that if you are to eat so many beans and from so many different cans without expecting a backlash, you’re sorely wrong. To the point where immediate retreat is imminent because something is going to blow.
Farts and schools are often loud and bothersome, other times silent but deadly (these are the worst kind- the naive never stand a chance- suffocation is pending). Schools, like farts, are at times pungent and repulsive, one interaction and your mood becomes dire. Farts and schools are ominous and never help a situation. Then there are the ones that make your ears prick up; you lend an ear to its forthcoming zest and question its sensational occurrence, now that’s something to claim as your own, something to be proud of. Schools, like farts, come from many walks of life and wish to achieve many different things; to release the most heinous of creatures from within its lair, to break the silence and set an ambiance and even to try put a smile on another's face. A fart, like schools, is often out of control, just when you think the head master obtains all the tricks needed to govern its power, the product is so intolerable a pause and reflect is no longer needed, just a swift exit through the nearest door. Many farts and schools promise so much but right when you feel it’s going to be the saving grace of tension, it continually lets you down and the grumbles continue. Many are irreproachable and problematic as if its grotesqueness simply suddenly appeared, it's hastily swept away in the hope that no one was alert enough to notice. The blame is merely offloaded, “they smelt it, they dealt it” we cry in weary confusion. And some schools, like farts, rarely, but not nearly enough, actually follow through. This brings about an exhaustion of paper work at first but when the dust settles a feeling of complete and utter liberation is achieved; leaving all involved a vision of gratitude - for all awkwardness and past misdemeanours are all but forgotten.
You see, farts and schools aren’t too dissimilar after all. The more we try to ignore the bad ones even exist, the greater the angst surrounding them become. We need to be more forthcoming with schools and farts and let them air out. Stop the build-up, the back log of crap and clear the air. And when it’s out, withhold the contaminating so called “fresheners”, let it obtain freedom as it so holly desired in the first place. Schools and farts like this make the most impact. The fact is; farts, like schools, aren’t going anywhere, everyone experiences them at some point (some more regularly than others), everyone needs them and each and every one of them has a role to play. Be loud and proud; no fart is perfect, no school is perfect but if nurtured and recognised for its indifference and unique beauty, who knows what the world can produce? Perhaps the greatest global farting, I mean, schooling community we've ever smelt, I mean, seen.
Timothy Bristow is the JustZeusBooks resident author and an inspiring teacher. He blogs about schools, children, literacy and anything worth observing, in a creative and intriguing manner.
His first two children’s books, Billy The Brilliant & I’m The Best, are written in OpenDyslexic Font and helps raise awareness for those in need most of a good read. For more blogs or information on his books, head to www.justzeusbooks.com.au