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.
What is the difference between a well-dressed charity donator on a unicycle and a poorly dressed charity donator on a bicycle? Attire. We compare so much in a joking manner in life but when it comes to charity, no jokes are needed; just time and action.
“So, you give how much to charity?” At the end of the day, no one really cares about how much you give in material worth, what matters most is time. Likewise, if these charities earned a dollar for every time someone said, “I’d do that”, more people in need would no longer be needy. The point here is that unless there is action, nothing will ever be achieved, regardless of intent.
Charities, great and small aren’t after scamming cash to feed their own pockets, despite being one of many excuses we use to: a) avoid giving and b) relieve ourselves of guilt when ignoring need. Many charities are more worthy than others so before you go giving away money to just anyone, I urge you to think about the substitutes that are just as helpful to these causes.
I have to say; I was rather surprised recently when my peers almost deliberately turned a blind eye on my call to arms for charity. And moreover, the turning of that same blind eye from my own generosity. I am not some filthy rich aristocrat parading around in an Aston Martin filled with the latest gizmos and gadgets. Nor am I trying to flaunt my amazement, I am merely using my minor status within the community as an author and semi-professional footballer to promote positive action. The message I convey is that giving is taking, in that you give, then take the reward of feeling good. It’s the ultimate win-win. Anne Frank famously said, “no-one ever became poor from giving”. For me, it is not too difficult to analyse the importance of this giving and in return, feel great. It helps me tick. Why don’t more people give? I have been asking myself this for a while now. Let’s indulge a little.
Giving is great; it releases these amazing hormones into the body that have been more or less on the ice, waiting. Oxytocin, otherwise known as "the love drug", is the single greatest drug on earth and it comes free with positive interaction. Better yet, we produce it ourselves. In the words of Toyota, “Oh what a feeling”. So why don’t people get off on it more often? I mean, if it feels great and it is good for you, shouldn’t we be raving home about it? The answer is still as unclear for me now as it was when I first researched it. I gathered this much. In this narcissistic, pompous and self-absorbed world we live in, who has the time to even think about others, let alone the benefits of helping others through positive action?
It is difficult to even spark ourselves into action when we are the only ones who will directly benefit- diet, exercise, saving, gardening, getting out of bed- so how can I expect others would even bat an eyelid when prompting a charitable coup? Here’s where our society gets nasty, envy creates bitterness and hence, forth comes hate. Take some time to digest that. Scientists say, “68% of the western world will actually retract further from giving to those in need when called upon by someone they feel they are better than”. This is not only heinous and true but really alarming, almost unfathomable. Then I thought of that guy in Melbourne, Swanston Street, standing there, waving his BIG ISSUE asking for aid, you know the one. We are certainly more likely to be happy accidentally losing a gold coin on the train than to parting ways with it, to this guy, right?
I wondered why I’d get the reaction I have, time and time again when calling on others to donate. Like people, charities don’t want money, what they pine for is time. So, there is hope, people; you don’t have to give money. Some people, I mean, really good people just need your time. Perhaps a smile, a hand or an ear will help in ways you didn’t think possible. Time is the single most important asset we have to give. Most of us have it in bucket loads so please don’t waste it.
At JustZeusBooks, we kindly and proudly support the staff at Perth Children's Hospital and its foundation. $3 from every sale of Timothy's latest children's book, 'I'm The Best', goes directly to this amazing foundation. We maintain that the single most satisfying thing is to watch kids and their families in need smile. This act is magic. Help us create a little magic.
PMH BIG WALK, November 12.
“It’s raining men. Hallelujah!” The melody rings true in our ears, we visualise the film clip or even just a vivid memory that links to this song. What doesn’t exist though, is the image of men in the modern day primary school classroom. It’s in a drought and, if recent research is anything to go by, it ain’t showing any signs of precipitation anytime soon. In fact, the trends are telling us that if the rapid decline in this once abundant wetland continues, the male primary teacher may cease to exist completely in the not too distant future. The question everyone is asking is, "why?"
In light of this alarming information, I deem it necessary to inform you of the benefits in which the male primary school teacher brings forth to not only a school but also a child’s development as they enter a swift roller coaster ride into adolescence and beyond.
Oh, and whilst I’m there, I may as well throw in my two bobs as to why men are leaving, or worse, scared to even enter the primary school classroom in the first place.
We all hear (or tell) those stories about 'this school' or 'that school' and their scarcity of males roaming the school grounds. Most have one, even I do. My first school was amazing! It had such a supportive group of mentors, inspiring educators and a well looked after axillary staff. It was a place where, as a teacher, you wanted to be. What it didn’t have though, was a male existence. Of thirty-two classroom teachers, I was the only male. The Physical Education teacher was male and one of four assistant principals was male, but that was literally it. It was certainly something that I took note of, particularly following my recent departure from university studies whereof the eighty-four students to have graduated, just nine of were male.
So why this starvation of such a powerful resource? Let’s uncover some pros and cons of the modern day male teacher, perhaps this will allow an insight as to why this occupation is becoming more and more dominated by their female counterparts.
As an intrigued male teacher, I empathise with those who have left the profession and stand with those who remain. In a recent study of entry-level teachers, one in five leave the profession within the first four years of practice. In fact, the ratio of men to women has now hit an all-time low of less than one to five and this number continues its dramatic decline. That’s right, only 18% occupation from men in primary classrooms around Australia. With first-hand perceptiveness and many tales to tell, I have summed up a diagnosis of why this statistic is becoming more than just alarming and the slide may just hit extinction in the not too distant future.
Within this industry, there’s a really big elephant in the room, always. It may be swept under the carpet in many schools or tucked away behind the art supplies but its festering head is near inescapable. Male teachers are paedophiles. ‘Ummah! He said the unthinkable.’ The longer I stay in the industry, it seems to be creating some warped perception in society, males simply do not belong in the classroom. Why? It's a good question. But, as a male, you feel the brunt of it. 'They wouldn’t be mingling with kids unless there are some hidden motives; some really creepy sinister ones, right?' It is actually really saddening but it’s undeniably true- these comments have been passed. The slightest hint of students in a learning space with a male and questions are asked. Any form of care, nurturance or support for welfare beyond the, “she’ll be right, up you get. You’re tough, wipe those tears away and get on with it”, eyebrows are raised. “What is he doing? That’s unprofessional”, more remarks continue to arise. And the vicious cycle regenerates. Meanwhile, data continues to forecast that, at the rate we are losing males in the classroom, there will be none by the time our calendar ticks over, 2054. Con.
Classrooms need males; their kooky personalities, their leadership and their experiences (yes, this differs to that of women). The men of today grew up in a different world; one filled with stigma and more importantly; one without male teachers. Without them our youth may not be as able to adapt to the rigours of new adulthood as a male of tomorrow. Men need to be brave and tough, yet sensitive and kind. They need to handle stress as if it doesn’t exist, yet open up and talk about their feelings. In a classroom, many a student barely interacts with a male of any kind, let alone a male teacher. Many even grow up without a male role model at all; Dad moved on, Mum and her girlfriend don’t have many male friends to look up to or the child’s iPad is too important to join a football team where the male- to- male relationship can flourish. All of these issues may not have been around thirty years ago and, let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like the bond a teacher and their students can establish. Role models come in many forms but the male in one’s life is memorable. A teacher spends just as much, if not more time with a student than its family, hence setting the ideal path for development on social, emotional and academic trails - this is critical. The male teacher fills this void idyllically. Pro.
Huge generalisations here. Men are scary, messy and extremely lazy. Women are tidy, proper and driven. Kids, as we know, are like sponges; taking in mannerisms, traits and even the way we demonstrate basic functions such as; respectful body language, empathic emotions and taking pride in one’s day to day routines. With the aforementioned generalisations in mind, it’s clear to see why men are a decreasingly meagre resource in the primary school. And with these generalisations, modern-day stigmas are being established as well as a robust refutation to the teaching profession entirely. Con.
The reality lies in the facts. Male teachers are disappearing. My experiences though, showcase some of the most rewarding endeavours I have ever met. The journey of teaching, from year to year, can often be tumultuous and as a male, most of its tribulations occur away from the realms of one's own classroom. Within its walls can be sheer bliss; the bright personalities are worthy of life’s gold stars and the mesmerisation that occurs whilst watching skills, relationships and a sense of belonging mature is beyond inspiring. Men are hearty beasts and dealing with the day to day politics and misconstrued messages behind the scenes, alongside a continual demand for unnecessary catalogues of data are quite frankly turning men away. I, like most, love a yarn, thrive on challenge and aspire toward great relationships. Many schools are in discord and men, again speaking in general terms, haven’t the time nor patience to resolve with pettiness.
A more driven focus, based upon nurturance of positive relationships with kids and their community would enhance the attractiveness of the institutes. The learning should be based upon lifelong skills, allowing for growth in a range of areas and be all-inclusive of individual needs. At the moment and with current directional trends, schools are spiralling toward unwanted territory; rigour is sought yet confrontation and defiance is achieved, respect is commanded though authoritarian bias is clearly evident. As a male teacher, more over, as a human being, I like knowing that my opinion counts but the way schools are headed, teachers are becoming just another brick in the wall. So, what hope is there for the students?
To conclude, boys never really grow up and one of their favourite things to do is bend the rules; and that’s entirely fine, actually, it should be positively reinforced. Within reason, this act in itself should be encouraged. The best kind of learning is done in an environment where we mess up, push boundaries and ask why?, yet do so without fear of ridicule. If we delve in and actually investigate why men are no longer wanting to teach in the primary school environment, we would find the answers in this very same philosophical notion. Men and boys are merely the same - just in different developmental phases of life. How do we expect the classroom to be more appealing to a male when the very system the teacher is asked to enter is handing each a strait-jacket on arrival? All this is difficult to swallow; but try swallowing when being strangled. You ask, “why don’t more men teach in primary schools?” I ask, why would they?
Dusty Martin; not necessarily the traditional type, but a role model for the ages.
Just the sight of him, for those not knowing he’s an elite athlete, could be the showcase piece in your children's nightmares. Yet, these same distinctive features; rapidly becoming the most recognisable in the business, offer something so remarkably desirable, it’s actually hard to ignore. On the surface, Dustin Martin reeks of bad news and just a few months ago I would have undoubtedly broadcasted, ‘he is!’ There’s a certain waft of “thug” when his presence ceremoniously arrives. But this is certainly not the case. Most noteworthy, if one who is indeed lucky enough to come into his presence you may witness an impression that is quite the opposite. And with this we stand in ovation, this champion idol, his very finest endowments in tow, has shone gloriously on the mightiest of stages. This Richmond icon, 'Dusty', is a lot of things but foremost an ideal role model for all.
The old saying goes, ‘never judge a book by its cover’, and within this incredible script, albeit one that would sell millions of copies regardless of what was slapped upon the shell, the contents would embrace something far beyond the imagination of its readers. Of what may occupy the mind when peering at the book’s jacket, a very different tale would ensue. This rough, tattoo-laden and uncultivated bloke brings a certain wonder in all walks of life but throughout what will most likely go down as the most brilliant year of his life, a charismatic, almost adorable personality has surfaced from beyond his image. He smacks of swagger and arrogance, yet instils warmth in thousands, filling the hearts of not just his Tiger faithful. You could be forgiven for preconceiving Dusty as many things; a footballer straight from the brute-lit eighties perhaps. Alongside Dermie, David Reece-Jones and ‘Wacko’ Jacko, carrying on with hard-hitting thuggery, instead, we watch in awe the bullocking prowess though within every inch of our great game’s rule book. His attack on anything that resides in his path is relentless, his power is jaw dropping and his sheer will, nauseatingly intimidating. What is most captivating though, and perhaps unrivalled, especially now Bob Murphy from the Western Bulldogs has retired, is his selflessness. I know right, who would’ve thought this attribute would leave such a mark on us? Using your strengths to strengthen others and bring about solidarity is something even the world’s greatest leaders are unable to achieve. Yet Dusty practices this. All the time. This Richmond icon is an ideal role model for all.
His story voices a careless kid, who left school at fourteen, drifting meaninglessly; in every sense of the phrase. No doubt, he gave his teachers little respect in which the favour would’ve been returned but for this lad, dreams weren’t to be chased in text books within a classroom. Once again, this image of society’s failure emits itself but Dusty had other ideas. He matured quickly and took great pride in three things: loyalty to his family, his hair and his footy. A distant drought that was the Richmond Football Club’s premiership tilt was beseeching upon a forecast of rain. Despite many in this teen’s life stamping him a good for nothing failure, Dusty devised how his dream of AFL glory would become a reality; for, on this platform, he could show his doubters he was made to create history, his way. Once again, the cover could never quite tell this tale.
Like all fairy tales, Dusty’s road to his happy ending (which culminated on AFL Grand Final day as he etched his name in history as the first, perhaps never to be repeated, to win the medal treble, winning the Brownlow, Norm Smith and Premiership Medals all in one season) had plenty of potholes; many threatened to derail his journey completely. None more so than his off-field misdemeanours. But, ever resilient, this determined greenhorn proved everyone wrong for not the first time in his life. He grew wiser; his preparation become more diligent and his performance enhanced accordingly, becoming exemplary in his consistent ability to dazzle in front of a stirred footy nation. The mental rigour, robust and uncanny, lays a foundation for the softer, more palatable (in the eyes of mothers around the country) side of Dusty. He inspires others to give only their best, regardless of the, what he tongues, “outside noise”. He generates excitement and puts bums on seats. This man is contagious, even addictive. His expertise on the footy field is transfixing, "will anybody ever tackle him by the hips?”, we query whilst shaking our heads in sheer delirium, for haven’t we seen this before? Consistency is a product of the ‘behind the scenes’ work this weapon completes but surely he can’t keep fending off and baffling his opponents. Can he? This guy is so driven; it is hard to see him ever slowing down. His dash excites and we will continue to question whether he will ever be beaten in a one on one battle. These individual attributes are simply special but they are not what makes him so uncompromising.
We watched his interviews on Brownlow night and the ensuing days with cynical smiles. Many even patronised. We loved his honesty yet couldn’t help but giggle at his manner. Clearly uneducated, at times inarticulate and often leaving a distasteful lump in our throats. He is a ruffian; bordering bogan so why is he so appealing to listen to. We hang on every short sentence he tries to project; he is helplessly mitigating incomprehensible lines of questioning to the best of his ability. He is not a journo, nor is he a scholar; he’s a footballer and a bloody top bloke. He, like his statements in response to a Bruce McAveney ‘special’ proposition, is raw. We, as an adoring cheer squad for the guy, hopelessly hold our hearts, for the bloke is as genuine a person as we’ve seen. He navigates difficult prophetic interrogations like he is talking to his high school councillor; a shrug of the shoulders here, a nervous and defensive profanity there. There’s so much to pick at this guy but we don’t, we just sit and admire. What Dustin Martin brings to the table and the footy field is realism. He is who he is and that’s commendable. He has had leadership of a different kind inherently bestowed upon him now and kudos to that. Kids should go out try the ‘don’t argue’ and inside out banana kicks directly in front of goals, why not? Heck, even let them shave the side of their skull like the Tiger number 4. If it makes them more driven, to aspire to be like their hero; their role model, then so be it.
Nobody is perfect and Dusty Martin is far from it but what his imperfections allow us to marvel at most is his ability to do just that: be imperfect. He has and will continue to make mistakes; on and off the field. We acknowledge he, like everyone else, is human. We long for our own kids to look upon this unfolding reference in history as they make independent choices in life. We realise people don’t need ‘the look’ or pretentious badges in life – the private school upbringing, the model citizen of the month certificates or the clothes which radiate ‘darling kid you take to neighbourhood bbq’s with pride', we just need undisputed authentic individuals. And one Dustin Martin encompasses this with high distinction. Champion player, a role model for all.