Friday, February 24, 2012

Here's what I've been thinking about

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about.

Today: three children, three parties. Two at the same time. Two at the same place but at different times. Diva is still selling Playboy jewellery.

The children’s news. Clancy did a power point presentation on Bolivia’s Laws of Mother Nature. Matilda is going to do a presentation on where mobile phones and ipads come from (Congo,China). I’m glad to see this story now has some traction. Lots of FB posts, and GetUp has a petition. Matilda has an article published in the hardcopy version of New Moon Girls, about how animals are treated in food production. I’ll put up a link when I find it online.

The children complaining that I no longer come running every time they get hurt, or that they cry. I guess I’ve got used to the fact that they’ll probably live, and I need to push on with making dinner. Clancy has asked me to come and comfort her whenever she runs to her room in a huff, because that’s what mums on tv would do. (And, she needs the attention.)

Shopping for high schools. Lots of open days at schools. I’m thinking that shopping for high school is an exercise in family branding. “We consider ourselves... THIS type of family.” I resent the expectation that we shop for a school. We are given the impression that we choose, but really the schools do the choosing. Our local public school is fine. I don’t know what I’d do if it wasn’t fine. I’d like to think we’d join and help make it fine. Sure, Matilda will be applying for a place at a selective school. She’s the kind of student selective school are for. She’s decided against auditioning for the performing arts school. If she doesn’t get in to selective, she goes to the local public. I’m considering us to be quite French in going to the local public school.

Mamapalooza. Now it is only Vee and I organising, with Tap Gallery, and some help from Joan. If anyone else wants to come on board, you’re very welcome.

Work. I’ve had two days at my new job - storyteller/performer using puppets and props at a library. The program is for clients with disabilities. I’m thrilled to be paid to work, and the work fits into the school day. The show is for two small groups: children in primary school - they are mostly in wheelchairs - and a group of adults, who are more interactive with the story. My only reservation is me running out of ideas. I need to do more research and collect resources. Yesterday I popped into the community centre where I was on the management committee for the last few years. The manager offered me the job of running the supported playgroup one morning a week. That’s a yes. And now my friend has told me about a job at another school during school hours one day a week running the uniform shop. I’ll apply, but, as for all the little jobs, I need to let people know that I’ll be unable to work when I have teaching pracs for uni. That’s a disruption.

Uni. This time last week I was ahead. Now I’m behind.

Ethics. Wow. I made my submission to the inquiry - I pieced together things I’d already said here. Really, the whole thing is discrimination. Part of me is hoping that the inquiry is successful in repealing the legislation that permitted the teaching of ethics in the SRE timelsot. Then we can have inquiries into the curricula taught by all the scripture groups, and get on with getting SRE out of public schools. Give teaching time back to school teachers. And wouldn’t that free up a lot of volunteers for other jobs, like helping children to read!

The Gonski Report. Lets just get on with funding schools properly and fairly. In my studies last year I read a lot of about the complicated way schools are funded. My concern with the Gonski report is the part about no school will be funded less. That is a clause from earlier funding reform that exacerbated the inequality. Redistribution of resources to those with greatest need should involve some schools being funded less. End of.

Kevin and Julia. Silly me. When I heard Rudd resign I thought, ‘oh good, now he’ll just quietly go away.’ But no. A leadership challenge. Why would he want to lead a party that doesn’t want to work with him? That’s madness. Really, it’s playing out like a David Williamson play set in a bowling club. Can’t we just skip to the part of the story where Penny Wong and Malcolm Turnbull are party leaders??

Rachel Cusk. I’ve been reading her books since I became a mum. Her husband stopped work as a lawyer to look after their children so she could write. Now they’ve broken up. She’s written about it. In this piece from The Guardian she describes the pain of the separation, her surprise at realising that her husband hates her, and how her situation has challenged her idea of herself as an feminist. The subtext, for me, is again about the challenges of being an artist and a mother. The comments here are 99% negative.

I’m still trying to get used to the new routines for the new school year and fitting everything in. And in between everything and always needing to be done, grocery shopping, food preparation, washing up, washing clothes and putting them away. Ah, life.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Volunteer to be an ethics teacher

I am now an ethics teacher in our local primary school. I'm teaching the course during scripture time, as an option for those kids who would otherwise be in non-scripture, where, according to policy in NSW, the students are to receive no instruction during the Special Religious Education (SRE) timelot.

Hence ethics. It is way of ending the discrimination against primary school students who don't enrol in the SRE options available at school.

The ethics course doesn't teach atheism. I think you'll find all profesions have an element of teaching profesional ethics. The course is about critical thinking. About creating a community of inquiry in which to explore ideas respectfully, to challenge assumptions and try to work out together what might be right and wrong in given situations. It is an exercise in thinking. The students really enjoy it.

At the moment the course is available for students in Stage 3 (Year 5&6). At our school nearly a third of Stage 3 students are enrolled in ethics. The course for Stage 2 will be available in the middle of the year.

The course is devised and delivered by Primary Ethics. They are looking for more volunteer teachers, to help deliver the course. At our school Stage 2 and Stage 3 have SRE at the same time, so we'll be needing more teachers too.

Primary Ethics offer lots of support. They provide teachers with good training and lesson plans. They have done an amazing job of getting the program off the ground with little money. The volunteers are all committed and wonderful.

The ethics teachers I've spoken to say they find being involved is very satisfying. They learn from the students, and enjoy being involved in the school community.

It takes some time to do the training (a day at home, two days at training), and once you are teaching, it take some preparation time for each lesson, and the lessons run for about 40 minutes, depending on the school. If you can volunteer, click here.

Sing and Swim

Either I have too many children, or we have too many activities. That was my thought for Wednesday. On picking the kids up from school, going straight to the next activity, and prepared to go back to school after that for Meet the Teacher Night, dinner in the slow cooker, I asked the children if we could withdraw from the band program. That one program means five appointments a week for one child, and four for another. (Two of those are the same appointment for them, but the whole thing adds up to seven a week for me.) And practice. And money. My life would be so much simpler if they just weren’t in band. But no.They love band. And they love dancing. We’ll get used to the new routine, they said, as I had said to them that morning. It’s just hard to get the new routines started up, but we’ll be OK. I said that to them before I was at home alone feeling like my mind had snapped.

Of course, I don’t want to give up any of my activities - my new job one day a fortnight, teaching ethics at school, uni study, and helping with Mamapalooza - and neither do the children. But I’m not convinced.

So far, with all activities not yet factored in to the term, I have two days where I’m supposed to be in two places at the same time. Morning lessons, before school, aren’t as early as last year, but leave less time for packing lunches and getting back to school. On different days this week I’ve been to school four, five and six times. Going to school twice a day is a slow day.

After talking to the children I decided to not stress. That didn’t mean I stopped stressing.

Thursday I went to withdraw money to pay rent. I went to the shops, got to the ATM and didn’t have the card. Went home. Got another card. Went to other shops, returned kids’ dance pants, bought drumsticks (not the chicken variety), went to ATM and ATM swallowed old card. Got home. Found my card in my wallet. Put the garbage out, even though it wasn’t garbage night, and had an early night. I’m thinking every night needs to be an early night.

I’m holding tension in my jaw, so I starting singing while making dinner - I’ve been making good dinners every night. Singing just split my lip and gave me a headache.

Friday I went for a swim.

I don’t have room in my head for what’s happening in Greece, what’s happening to Dexter, or planning more playdates for Banjo, or organising a sleepover for her - Clancy thinks it is unfair if Banjo has more sleepovers than she had at her age. We have three girls in one bedroom and our sleepovers usually are just swaps with another family with a similar set-up. Banjo wants to join the recorder group and choir at school. That might fit OK. But no to Japanese and tennis lessons. Clancy’s friend has Tourette’s and has added physical tics to her verbal ones. Matilda needs pointe shoes. Whole new worlds for me.

So, if we’re not cutting back on activities, here’s the plan. Other people can bake on the weekend and prepare for the week. Other people can occupy themselves while I get some work done. So long as the washing is on the line (particularly the absorber we need to wash most mornings and have back on the bed each night) I’ll be regularly singing and swimming to repair my mind and keep body and soul together. I don't know if I'll join the singing group - that might be one appointment too many. I can sing, walk, stretch, swim, on my own if I need to. It’s either sing and swim or sink and swim.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

A step in the right direction

Fair Wage Australia announced yesterday a wage increase for workers in the community sector, a predominantly female workforce; a step towards equal pay for women and society valuing care work.

It means pay rises of 19 - 41% to be phased in over eight years. Many community workers work in government sectors, however, the implication for community workers employed by smaller community centres (such as the one I've been involved in) is yet to be seen.