An ode to our snot-wipers, butt wipers and spark igniters.

Cheers, teachers.  We’re in the last week of term one in New Zealand.  Parts of America and the UK are just entering or just leaving Spring Break.  And Australian schools are breaking for an Easter holiday too.

Cheers, teachers.  You’ve made it. We’ve made it.

You’ve gotten to know your class of little or big darlings.  You’ve done a few rounds of testing in all core subjects, you’ve met with as many parents that were willing to meet at their pre-arranged time as possible, and no doubt you’ve returned many an email.  Some necessary.  Some…maybe not so much. Or not at all.  I’m sorry about that one I sent last week about my darling’s non-regulation sandals for the beach day.  Yep.  I am.

Cheers, teachers.  I don’t know how you do it.  You maintain peace and order, while stimulating brain cells that are an endangered species from having watched far too many Stampy Cat tutorials, you sort out lost uniform pieces, lost lunch money, lost lunch orders and lost kids.  And all with a smile on your dial.

Cheers, teachers for encouraging my kids.  For running with their crazy ideas when they spot an opportunity for a little something extra to participate in.  You see initiative, I have to try harder to see that, to look above and beyond your lost lunch hours and major negotiating skills put in place.

Cheers, teachers for all the snot wiping and the butt wiping that you do.  Some days I walk into kindy and see you cleaning up someone’s number twos.  Never a harsh or unkind word spoken.  Sometimes that’s barf material to a kid’s own mother.  Not to you.

Cheers, teachers for all the hours you put into your job…hours put into my kids, when sometimes your own kids are waiting patiently in the sidelines.  Thank you for your insightful words.  Thank you for seeing the good in every situation.  Thank you for seeing that spark of interest, and lighting a fire that will hopefully burn bright for many more years.  For the laughs and the tears, thank you that they are never at the expense of my children, but they come as part and parcel of this privileged partnership.

Cheers, teachers.  One term down.  Three to go!  I’ll continue to cheer you on from the sidelines, and let you do what you do best.  But just give me the nod, if you need a spot of this……

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Cheers, teachers.

Awards and Accolades.

I’m finding it very hard to believe that we’re near the end of August.  Next month we’re in the -ber months.  Here in the Southern Hemisphere we’re near the end of the third term of a four school term year….weird to think that schools right across America are starting up again after their long summer break.

As we roll into the fourth term and all that ‘fun’ end of year stuff, our diaries are going to be filling up with all sorts of events; concerts, parties, shows and yes, prizegivings/ awards nights.

I’m sure that the people reading this post all have very set opinions on awards and prizes for kids.  They are a funny old thing indeed.  This is our first year at this particular school we’re at now – so I’m not sure of how this goes and what the deal is…..I’m not sure what ‘things’ are noticed and rewarded, but I do know what I’d like to see happen, and I do know what I’d love to see rewarded.

Students who do well academically, and behaviourally – they are easy to notice.  Easy to pinpoint.  And of course as parents we want our kids to be achieving, and there’s a certain amount of pride that comes along when they are seen to be ‘achieving’ too.  Yes I’m a parent who does proclaim on all forms of social media when my kids do well.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say I did this.  But.  And here’s the thing, I think it is important to proclaim all things amazing about our kids.  Get that?  All things amazing.  And therein lies the massive gap between what is sometimes celebrated in schools and what I think needs to be remembered more.

A bright kid who is self-motivated will go far in this world.  A child who gains top marks across all or most subject areas is more likely to go on to gain a higher education.  And this is good.  And this is necessary.  But lets not forget character.  Let’s not forget the qualities that will take a child into adulthood and give him or her the skills needed to be an excellent employee.  A compassionate co-worker.  A caring member of society.

I just so believe that what is in a child’s heart is so much more important than achievements and accolades.  And these character traits aren’t always recognised in this competitive world we live in.

Some schools do have ‘character’ awards, and that’s great, but I believe this is something that should be expected of any and every child.  And not just one picked out of a class of 30.  So how can we nurture this in our children?  How can we as parents make this expectation known?  Is this just another example of me and my ‘pie in the sky’ ideas?  I dunno.  But I do know two things…..

One – we have to model kindness.  We have to model speaking kindly of others. And to others. We have to model actively reaching out to others and showing concern.  All the things we desire of our children – how can they know these things, if we’re not illustrating them ourselves?  Not any easy gig huh, this parenting thing.

And two – I was taught this at Teachers’ College and can see it as being appropriate in any situation with kids, we need to ‘catch them being good’.  For those times when my kids surprise me and respond positively to tricky situations, I need to thank them.  For the kind gestures they make, I need to recognise them.  For the thoughtfulness I see them show – I need to point out that this was seen and appreciated.  This ‘catch them being good’ business – it works wonders, I know I need to do more of it.

As we enter the -ber months and when you find yourself sitting in numerous special assemblies and prizegivings, please can I urge you to remember this…… You may clap loudly when your kid’s name is called out and they walk onto that stage – and that’s wonderful.  Nice one.  You post that pic and status on Facebook.  Honour should be given when honour is due.  Some kids do work jolly hard.  But if your child’s name is not called out – and they sit in their chair the whole evening – and you find yourself clapping for lots of their classmates – don’t think any less of your child and their abilities.  What’s inside of them – what’s growing in their attitudes to others and in their general countenance, is so much more important than what any award will indicate.  And I really do think we need to remember this.  In this achievement driven society perhaps now is the time that we as parents can stand up and really encourage kindness, gentleness, self-control.  We can be the ones handing out ‘verbal medals’.  And who knows – these ‘verbal medals’ could help create a generation of even more amazing young people than we could ever hope for.

  Do you have anything to add?  Any personal views on this topic you’d like to share?  Feel free to leave a comment.

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Stepping over the line.

I popped into a supermarket on Saturday, just to get two things.   It was supposed to be an in and out errand….five minutes max, as the rest of my family were waiting for me.  I found the two items I was after, and in doing so noticed a Mum with her two boys…..the boys at this stage were running around.  Dashing here and there.  The Mum was calling for them halfheartedly.  Somehow she managed to wrangle them up to the counter and I ended up in the checkout line behind them.  What followed was a rather painful five minutes of the two boys not doing what they were asked to do, then two boys physically fighting on the floor of the supermarket, the Mother threatening to take their massive bag of sweets off them (she didn’t – she ended up buying it along with her other groceries) and then there were massive tears from the youngest child as the older child continued to sit on him and hit him….then the Mum ended up carrying the younger one out of the place.  And everyone around finally breathed out in relief.

At the time I was pretty astounded at what was happening.  But at the same time I was trying hard not to judge.  Who knows what had already gone in this family’s day before the supermarket ‘event’.  They may have been up before the birds.  They may have just said goodbye to Dad before he went away for a trip.  Grandma may have given them food with red dye in it and they may react to that.  There’s a whole range of things that could have caused the unruly behaviour.  But because in our generation of bringing up kids we kinda like to let people be, and heavens above if anything ever looked like we were judging, I stood by and said nothing and did nothing……What I would have loved to ask the Mum was ‘is this normal behaviour?’.  Because if it was, that lady needs help.  What those kids were doing was not ok and was not normal.  But who’s going to tell her?

This week in New Zealand I was horrified to read of the murder of an Indian shop owner in a suburb we’re very familiar with.  This event was shocking enough, but then it came out in the news that the two accused of the crime are aged 12 and 13.  Yes.  12 and 13.  As far as I’m concerned every 12 and 13 year old should be at home at 7.30am on a weekday morning, eating their Weetbix, playing minecraft on the computer and about the most trouble they should be causing would be pestering their Mums about what’s for dinner.

But obviously this is not the reality for a lot of families and life is not the simple and easy thing it absolutely should be, for a lot of young people.  And because of this, my heart breaks.

And isn’t it easy to feel helpless?

And isn’t it easy to feel angry and deeply saddened about the way some children have to live, but feel absolutely clueless about what to do to help and make ANY kind of difference?

It is easy to feel powerless.  Absolutely powerless.  But maybe, just maybe, we don’t have to be.  Maybe, just maybe, we all need to step over the line and act on things we see.  And not stand by when we see little things happen, because in my simplistic way of thinking….the little things mount up…the little things add up….and the little things can make a huge difference.

Coming back to the Mum in the supermarket….I could have firmly but kindly knelt down to the little boys and said something along the lines of ‘hey, is that kind behaviour? How about you show me (and the rest of the store!) what a brave and kind big brother you can be’.  I could have said to the Mum ‘hey we all have bad days, can I help you to your car?’.  None of those options would have been judgemental – just a friendly face with a desire to help.

Sometimes we can just step over that line – and actually help.

How about if we see a bunch of kids in our neighborhood, hanging out when they should be at school?  I am naive enough to think that if we actually called the neighborhood police and alerted them to that…maybe, just maybe having an authority figure step into the picture would actually get them back in school.

How about if we did everything we could to support our teachers and youth workers?

What if we actually struck up a conversation with the young single Mum in the same waiting room as us, and took an interest in her and her child?

What if we actually started parenting as a village?

What if we admitted to our friends when things weren’t going well and needed fresh ideas on how to deal with certain issues?

What if we became less timid about sharing our successes and useful tips – not to show-off or blow our own trumpets, but because we saw a real need and could actually provide someone with a practical thing to help them with a parenting issue?

What if?

I certainly don’t have any real answers to deal with these major issues that society is facing….I know I’m simplistic in my thinking and there’s a lot more at stake here than I”m looking at in this short blog post…..but I do know we have power in our shared experiences.  What if we stepped over the line a lot more?

 

This is a very interesting article, that I’d love you to read – an interview with a pediatrician in New Zealand.  Kiwi kids:  how we can save them.  

 

The Back to School Blues?

Well.   The time is fast approaching for bambinos all across the Southern Hemisphere is go back to school.  The shops are full of brand spanking new lunchboxes, school bags, stationery and enough pre-packaged snack sized marketed to the kids tiny meals to feed small armies for days.

Whether you love school holidays or really struggle through them – there’s always a certain little bit of trepidation with starting a new school year.  I’m talking about for the parents as much as the kiddos.  (And hey – I realize some of you homeschool, I’ve just done that for the last five months too, homeschoolers your steady presence and understanding is needed for your fellow parents experiencing the back to school blues.) (I’m all about personal choice here – this isn’t a pro ‘school’ school post at all).

So the internet is full of helpful advice to do with all things school – lunchbox ideas (the constant pressure to fill up those boxes with food that the kids will actually like – and for that food to be HEALTHY!), come on!  There’s also tons of useful hints around like label everything, and have a pre-arranged pick up spot (for older kids) etc.

But how about for those nerves of yours?  Those feelings of newness you’re experiencing?  Have you even been stalking your teachers online yet?  How are your private investigating skills coming along? (if I were a teacher I’d have all my privacy settings on Facebook set for sure!)

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here – but I’ll admit to some nerves for our back to school adventures.  My boys have been out of ‘school’ school for seven months.  We’re entering a totally new curriculum to us – we’re not sure how their schooling in the past will match up with the new curriculum.  The boys don’t yet know any kids their year levels.  This is their first time in uniforms.

And I know a lot of my friends have children entering new schools too – intermediate/ middle school for the first time is a big deal.

There’s so much I don’t know about the whole back to school prep thing – but there are a few things I hope may help you as they are helping me…..

*  Yes I reckon do talk with your child about what to expect and the things you do know about the school – but don’t go on and on……I believe there is such a thing as over-preparing and then there’s the danger of what if things don’t go exactly as you have outlined for the kid?  What if the teacher changes things?  Also, the more you go on and on about things then the more the kid is going to pick up on your own nerves.  Let’s all just chillax a bit, yeah?

*  You have to be a friend, to make a friend.  As a parent the more you smile at other parents and ask them about their children, the more they will respond positively to you and maybe show you some reciprocation.  The same works for our kids too.

*  You and your child’s teacher are part of the same team.  You’re allies.  The more we see our teachers as that, the better.  The same works with any special needs teachers, teacher aide, any kind of extra assistance.  Allies.  Teamwork.  They all have the best interests of your child at heart.

And lastly – this is the one that I keep coming back to – whenever I think about the what ifs with making this transition – from American state school – to homeschooling and travelling and then settling – to private Christian College – this is their chance to soar.  One of the goals of parenting is to grow children into lovely, independent, mature, impactful young adults.  That ain’t gonna happen with Mama right by their side, every step of the way.  Yes my children might make mistakes and will disappoint, and my husband and I will be there waiting in the wings to encourage and get them back on track, but they are going to have to learn to soar by themselves – and this will happen faster and easier when I stop fretting and hovering and just let them be.

There’s no need for the back to school blues – this is the time for our kids to soar and shine!

Teacher friends and more experienced parent friends – what would you add to this??  Please leave a comment!

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