#ChangeTheDate

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#ChangeTheDate

I have written a post previously about Australia Day. I have never celebrated Australia Day. It is a silent day of Commemoration for me. Other people surely understand the significance of the ongoing debate, since 1994, why January 26th is inappropriate? It was the beginning of a chain of events, displacing, occupying, murdering this lands traditional owners.

My heritage understands what occupation means. On June 14th every year, it is Commemoration Day, or a Day of Mourning to remember the thousands of people who were strategically removed from their homes in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania during this night in 1940 and sent to Siberia to Concentration Camps, where many were murdered, or died. Estonia was from thereon under Soviet Occupation. It is not a day of celebration. I observe this day as it impacted on my parents and family. It is important to remember history. Nor is 26th of January a day of celebration. It is a day of mourning.

Insert eye roll here…… if your response is ‘just move on’, ‘It wasn’t my fault’, ‘get over it’……I could go on with hundreds of defensive reactions. The truth is, atrocities occurred. We should acknowledge this countries ancestors who suffered, and as a consequence, ongoing generations who have suffered, and continue to feel the effects.

I do however, want to acknowledge Australia as a nation, for its cultural richness and diversity. Always acknowledging the traditional owners, where I live, the Kaurna people. I understand that I was born on this land and have a responsibility to respect and care for where I live. The most important thing I hold, I own and no one can take from me is my cultural identity. My Estonian heritage. I have reached a deeper understanding of my culture, my identity by continuing to gain a greater understanding of this lands traditional owners. All of this knowledge, empathy and learning makes me Australian, and proud.

I support #ChangeTheDate for Australia Day.

I support January 26th as Commemoration Day.

It’s ok to feel angry, sad or depressed……

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It’s ok to feel angry, sad or depressed……

On occasions, people have passed judgement on how I lead my life and some decisions I have made. Things like “I wish you could be happy…like me” or “Don’t you want to feel happy all the time?”.

I live by my own mantra. Learn from life. 

I embrace the things that go wrong, the feelings and emotions I experience. I am a very emotional human being. I feel things deeply. 

A stabilising way to lead my life has been meditation, which I have been experimenting with from the age of 18. Daily meditation since 2010 has been life changing for me.

MINDFULNESS especially has triggered curiosity in day to day life. It has taught me to be comfortable in feeling emotions and not to be dominated by their often imprisoning effects.

Why did I make this decision? Being a carer for both parents with Alzheimer’s, a father in law with dementia, working full time with two young children and being present in my relationship welcomed daily wine medication into my life. I realised one day in 2010, that I drank wine on a daily basis for nearly eight years. Not in excess, but 2 -3 glasses a day. Alcohol is a depressant. After time, it only made me fall asleep faster. An escape from uncomfortable feelings. I felt exhausted emotionally, physically and it was my self medication.

It took perseverance, self discipline and optimism to meditate on a daily basis, but also to moderate that tasty red fermented grape juice in my life. So…….welcome to only drinking wine in moderation. On weekends, at celebrations. Sure, I have often strayed, but always go back to no alcohol during my work week.

Alcohol is the prefered self medication used by people in my profession….education. All too often , I see its negative effects in professional lives.

I am not always happy….it’s not a natural state to be always happy. But I am optimistic. I am curious. I experience happiness, sadness, anger, frustration because they are all normal for me.  With curiosity, I observe the feelings as they arise, experience them, then move on……..

I am resilient………

I pay attention to what I feel and think……in the present moment. Always knowing I will move on……..

Self Care

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These holidays have been a timely reminder that meditation has become an intricate ‘artery’ for my existence. I draw upon it for strength and guidance to mindfully manoeuvre through my often complex life. 

Resilience has increased through the marriage of a variety of mindfulness/meditation practices and my own cultural practices, passed down through my mothers teachings and guidance. How I maintain and build relationships at work, home, with friends and continue relationships with those who have passed, remain a living ‘nucleus ‘.

From not meditating, or conducting myself mindfully over the past six days has contributed to feeling depleted in energy and emotionally ‘out of sync’.  

Indeed, meditation is my ‘medication’…….it must be taken regularly to build resistance. 

Back on track now…………

Thirty years on……….

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Thirty years on……….

This is my thirtieth year of teaching. Something to be celebrated. Especially as I still love what I do, I am still learning and am excited about future possibilities.

(My mentor – Pip Field)

Teaching VET Cert 3 Music

Teaching VET Cert 3 Music

There are important people who have inspired me along the way, mentioned in a previous post. The person who has been the most critical in my 30 year journey has been my mentor, Pip Field. Pip passed away on May 25th. Her impact on Education has been phenomenal. Learner Wellbeing Framework, AITSL (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership), TfEL (Teaching for Effective Learning) framework, and more recently working with Graduate Teachers with Associate Professor Susan Krieg, and @dlgiles1 Professor David Giles from School of Education at Flinders University. I met Pip in my first year of teaching as a Graduate at Port Adelaide Girls High School. Pip was a colleague, a friend, a part of my extended family…

Pip was my ‘go to person’ to theorise about all things. Education, family, life in general. She lived her life in ‘the present moment’ daily. My last education discussions revolved around how to integrate my daily meditation practices into daily work practices. (Enter…..Catherine Johnson….Mindfulness PHD student, Flinders University, looking for trial schools.) Another conversation Pip and I often had was “things happen for a reason” .

What I learnt from Pip was how critical it is for graduate teachers to have a mentor. That all teachers need to lead by example and keep the conversations going. That education is in a constant flux of change, and it’s fantastic! That collectively we all make a difference…staff…students…parents….community.

I am eternally grateful for having Pip in my life. As I sit with grief, it’s ok……..as I experience it mindfully.

She will continue to influence me. As I hope to play the part of mentor to others…….

Mindfulness Benefits……..

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Mindfulness

At the beginning of my holidays I shared Mindfulness strategies on a blog. I am pleased that I have maintained Mindfulness meditation every day during my break. I feel prepared for what I know will be the most demanding of school terms. Building capacity to be resilient is also crucial. I am grateful that I remained self disciplined over these past two weeks…

I am excited to continue planning implementation strategies to my workplace with amazing colleagues…

Mindfulness In The Connected World

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Mindfulness In The Connected World

I am on holidays. My day begun with Mindfulness Meditation for 25 minutes at 8am. A daily, regular routine for me in my working day to day life. However, a new thing for me during holidays…..as I usually have a break from morning mindfulness.
The reason? Too much is happening and my brain is over stimulated. I now need to maintain daily mindfulness like a Diabetic requires daily insulin.

Let’s explore why I am over stimulated…..work……life events…..cultural community……technology!
I love technology….it has enhanced my professional learning, teaching, counselling and personally. However the realization is that my brain now rarely switches off! Even in sleep my brain wakes me with a ‘to do list’ for the next day. I was reminded by a healthcare professional that I am not paid to work at 2am……so true.
So…my mindfulness has incorporated new strategies, with the realization that everything evolves and changes….so why should my mindfulness practice be any different?

My Daily Mindfulness Practice
25 minutes Mindfulness Meditation at 5.45am
5 minutes Mindfulness .b during day (stop, breathe, be)
5 minutes Mindfulness meditation before sleep
(Using Insight Timer App)

The benefits…….no more waking with work thoughts during the night, and if I do, I distract my mind with times tables until I go back to sleep. It works!

Mindfulness strategies
Drink 3 large glasses of water during each day.
Ensure I am mindful during eating at least once a day
Take a 20 minute break from work each day
Build in technology free days into weekends and holidays.

I have been extremely lucky to be working with Catherine Johnson, a .b Educational Trainer, trialling benefits of Mindfulness programs in schools. The benefits for young people I see as critical in our digital age. Also to build resilience and prevent depression and anxiety. Mindfulness has also been scientifically proven in various studies to assist people in managing and recovering from depression and anxiety. So…..the prospect of implementation at the workplace for students and staff is an exciting one!

A great website with resources:

http://www.mindfulnessinschools.org/

A great meditation app : Insight Timer

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Who counsels the counsellor?

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A question asked by a friend of mine who’s profession is therapeutic massage. After she asked me how are you, and I gave her a 20 minute run down on the magnitude of mental health and wellbeing issues school counsellors deal with on a daily basis, she questioned ‘who do you speak with, debrief with and receive therapeutic attention from to enable you to effectively fulfill your duties?’

I consider my workplace to be one of the most supportive spaces, where communication is open, I certainly feel valued and listened to. We regularly debrief. The reality is, time is a precious commodity in a school. However the support my friend was speaking of was external support. I certainly don’t debrief with my partner or friends, as the issues are sensitive and confidential. We have area counsellor training opportunities, but not personal debriefing opportunities. “Who counsels the counsellor” is a very real question. I have since sought out a professional to debrief with.

One of my social media support networks is through Twitter. I enjoy following and conversing with my PLN. It is immediate access to research, data, organizations, strategies….and people. Useful chat sites such as #spsm @SPSMChat (suicide prevention social media) gives me access to health care professionals in this area. #SCCrowd @SSpellmanCann allows me to connect with other counsellors globally, mostly in Canada and United States. My favourite Australian based chat site is #teacherwellbeinchat @equilibriumctc. A great forum for educators to share work and self care strategies.
What I have discovered, is that not many school counsellors in Australia use twitter. Louiza Hebhardt(@equilibriumctc) has been looking for this maybe, secret society with only a handful identified. Lobbying at my local counsellor network with 30 attendees inspired only two to join. It’s a start.

I have used social media professionally since 2007. It has played a powerful role in my teaching and counselling. Recently, I attended an awesome conference in Brisbane @EDUTech_AU, with the context of using technology as a wellbeing tool. Also, how to inspire other colleagues, who have 30 years or more experience in education to integrate technology and social media to enhance their practice.
I am the first to confess that over the years, I interchange between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset . Often overwhelmed by the magnitude of what needs to be done, rather than the how and why…..

This was shared today by @SSpellmanCann….great food for thought on the reality of social media and it’s power.

http://youtu.be/Uppg_2nGo54

The value of homework

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Pump Rocket

Pump Rocket

Homework……..a topic I continue to question…….below is an interesting article by  Justin Coulson: https://twitter.com/justincoulson/status/428717459710169088

I have two children. Ten and thirteen. Homework has been a topic of arguments in my household. The resonating quote being”this is so boring” However, like in all households, my children are different beings and approach everything differently.

My thirteen year old son may think tasks are boring, but he will do them. He expects to and feels everyone else expects this of him as well. This can be a strength….contributing towards perseverance. It can also be detrimental to ones wellbeing, as I found out.

Last year, he was absent for three weeks due to a medical condition. Most of the time was spent in pain and unable to complete work school had sent home for him. When he returned to school, he was expected to complete all assignments missed. (Remembering that he was in year 7.) His immediate response was that he was being punished for being ill. He diligently worked on homework for often 2-3 hours a night. No matter if I sent him to bed, stopped him from working, he took his books out when we were asleep to continue. This impacted on his emotional and mental health. After two meetings with his teacher and a conversation with the Principal, they finally listened to me, as a parent. I negotiated for him to complete assignments that had educational purpose and value. Ones which demonstrated comprehension, critical thinking, calculation and analysis. It was important for him to be included in consultation and negotiations, where his voice was listened to…….and valued.

My  ten year old approaches school and homework differently. From grade one, he refused to do homework which was boring. He constantly questioned why he had to read boring books, with no meaning. He turned to books on dinosaurs, building, animals and still loves to watch David Attenborough. He will read books, fiction and non fiction, magazines, watch YouTube and documentaries. His self directed homework consists of designing, constructing, experimenting and analyzing what he has made. His Saturday”..I’m bored” activity has been making a rocket from plastic bottle, cardboard, paper and tape. It worked well…..and fast.

Technology plays a part in our household. My 13 year old is gifted on computers, as most are at his age.  He is a gamer…..and a good one. He can explain to me the purpose of missions, but relates his skills to how the game is designed and constructed, rather that the story mode. My 10 year old son is great at following instructional text, whether  in written text or visual. He loves to play and create worlds on Minecraft…..a fantastic educational tool.

Building a young persons capacity for resilience is key to success in life. My sons have completely different personalities, therefore how they learn to build resilience will differ.  Differentiation is not only a reality in the classroom, but it starts at home. At home and as an educator I follow the same process. Listen, don’t react, empathize and discuss. So………back to the topic of homework. If I can help my boys see the value in the task and how it connects to their world, they are happy to do homework.

January 26th

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Every 26th January I experience a lead up to Australia Day. I feel anxious, and analyze what it all means……..to everyone. And try to understand different perspectives. To empathize.

However , the people I empathize the most with this time of year is Indigenous Australians and their ancestors.

I definitely feel we should celebrate Australia and it’s cultural diversity….and that is what it is. Not celebrating only that Europeans landed and decided to make this land theirs without permission……but Australia is a culturally rich and diverse nation. Within that we need to always acknowledge traditional owners of this land, as they were here before everyone else. We have responsibility to care for the earth on which we live.

Every February 23rd, being of Estonian heritage, we commemorate Independence Day. On this day in 1918, a document was signed by elders to declare Estonia a Democratic, Independent Republic. This changed with Soviet occupation during WW2. My parents were refugees to Australia in 1949.
In 1991, independence in Estonia was realized. Estonians are masters of peaceful demonstrations , and did this with song and culture.

Australia Day is not Independence Day. We celebrate this land on a day which should be commemorated for what really happened. Australia Day should be moved.

Anyway…..these are my thoughts…what does Australia Day mean to you?

Tomorrow. I celebrate and acknowledge the Kaurna people, traditional owners of the land on which I live. I thank the living Kaurna people today and their ancestors for this beautiful land which we share responsibility for.

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