Who am I?

and what gives me the right…?

I have been participating in a 21 day challenge, where every day we pledge to do one thing to honour ourselves, or to help us change old habits that don’t serve us anymore. After coming to the realisation quite suddenly through the night that, whilst I feel good about this blog as a way of using my voice, I have completely hidden myself from it. Here I am, encouraging teachers to take ownership of what they do, and I have been too frightened to put my face on this website! I have actually had some of my old dialogue running through my head – Who do you think you are, giving tips to other people? Who would be interested in what you have to say?

The thing is, since making the very tentative first steps, many people have expressed that they do want to hear what I have to say! So, here, as much for myself as for anyone else, I am going to talk in more detail about my journey to the classroom, and how I came to reach my current world view.

I grew up in a small beachside town in New South Wales, Australia, which I returned to some 10 years ago after a little gallivanting. My parents divorced when I was very young, and whilst there was some trauma and tough times, I always knew my parents loved me. My father’s parents provided a safe house for me throughout the darker days, and in that home I always felt safe and protected. My Grandparents taught me forgiveness, kindness, patience, and the value of a strong family. I now live across the road from that home, where my Grandfather still lives, every day grieving the loss of my Grandma some years back, but forever thankful for the family he is surrounded by.

Here he is with the latest addition to his tribe!

My mother is another kind soul, who has had more than her share of hardship. She battles with anxiety and depression, and I believe that her alcoholism is just a symptom of a deep loneliness – a scar from her own trauma. She teaches me compassion and understanding.

I have a brother who lives with Schizophrenia. He teaches me that there is always another perspective, and that none of us know what another person is dealing with in their own lives.

Apart from these family members, there are many more siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles who have contributed to the person I am today.

Throughout my teen years I suffered from anxiety, depression, and a range of eating disorders. A friend of mine was brutally raped and murdered at my cousin’s 16th birthday party, and that event went on to have a much bigger impact on me than I realised until just a couple of years ago. It has taken 30 years for me to really stop and examine this life-changing incident, to accept it, and to spend some time just trying to heal from it.

After I finished school with very underwhelming HSC results, I studied Hospitality and Tourism Management at TAFE, and soon met my future husband, Andrew. We had only been together for three months when we decided it would be fun to have a baby, and in 1996, at the ripe old age of 21 years, I almost died giving birth to our precious, and very tiny, Isaac. 12 months later we married and went on to have two beautiful girls, Isabelle (1999), and Lily (2004).

Andrew and myself in April, 2019

Whilst working in hospitality, around the time of meeting Andrew, I also met my very dear friend and mentor, Cath, who had not long completed her Medical Herbalist qualifications. At that point in my life, I was far from happy with the person that I was, and sought to be like everyone else I met. I was pretty much infatuated with Cath, who freaked out and backed off a few times because of my intensity, and I went ahead and enrolled in an Advanced Diploma of Western Herbal Medicine in 1998. Of course, it wasn’t just to become Cath. I loved every bit of my study and ensuing practice, but there was always something there that just wasn’t right for me.

My husband was a chef for much of our early marriage, and he is still an artist when it comes to food and cooking (lucky that, because he would be a hungry man if he was waiting for me to provide gastronomical sustenance). While I was finishing my Herbal Medicine study he was cooking in a bowling club restaurant, and by the time Lily was born, he was running the place himself. We decided to take this a step further and open a restaurant in a little heritage tourist town. Bad move, financially. People did warn us, but, like my dear old Aunty Evy used to say, “you can’t put an old head on young shoulders”. Despite winning awards and being featured on major tourism TV shows, we shut the doors after a couple of years, much wiser, broke, and with a marriage that was in tatters due to so much stress from so many angles.

We almost walked away from said marriage, but decided to give it one last go. I had, by this time, developed a reasonable Herbal Medicine practice, and developed my own business creating a range of herbal tea blends that I was selling at markets and supplying to restaurants and cafes throughout the region, and a range of all natural skincare. We used the last of the money from the sale of our house (the rest went into the restaurant) to buy a big green bus, smother it in my business logo, and hit the road. We took the kids out of school (they had been in a Steiner setting, and teachers were all for the learning that would happen on the road), and set about working out who we were.

After 6 months on the road we were completely broke (next level broke – like, how do we afford milk and bread?), but a little stronger, and we decided to come back to our home town, moving into a house across the road from Grandad that was owned by my Dad. I continued with the business and my practice, but I started feeling the tug of further education. I had always wanted to be a teacher, but I guess I was scared to take it on – a 4 year university course, mothering, working…how would it ever work? Something must have switched though, because, all of a sudden, there I was in my tiny little office in Hunter Street, invoicing at my computer, and I found myself completing a university application. Nek minit, business was sold, and I was a student teacher!

It was a hard slog. At one point I was working 3 different jobs. I had 3 children in school, and I was determined to maintain a Distinction average, just to prove to myself that I was smart enough to do this. And I did. I made some amazing new life-long friends, I graduated with Distinction, and, just as I attended my graduation, I accepted a position as a permanent teacher at a new school (I was working in a temporary role in my internship school). I was amazed. It was like a dream. I never had faith that hard work would pay off, but it did!

Well, so I thought, anyway. I started in my permanent position, and went through some extremely tough and traumatic years, all while tying to support my family through their own individual traumas – mental health and substance abuse at the forefront. One particular person made my entry into the teaching profession a very steep learning curve. I worked in that environment for 4 years, at which point I took a temporary engagement at another school to get away from it. And I took myself to therapy.

And the rest of it, I have already explained in earlier posts. For four years I had one very toxic person in the forefront of my mind at all times. I neglected my family, I became someone I didn’t recognise, I survived. But, after much work and self-examination, I don’t even hold any anger or resentment towards that person, and the knowledge that my response to the situation was up to me was the most joyous, freeing feeling I have ever experienced. And it is this realisation that has brought me to where I am now. I should add here that my husband has been my right hand man – he has fed me, clothed me, carried me through a degree and a pile of emotional baggage dropping. I am so thankful we worked through the tough times together!

Don’t get me wrong. I am far from perfect. But I am perfect in my imperfections! What I have gained from this life of ups and downs is far better than what I would have had if I’d led a smooth, consistent, predictable life. I was always meant to be a teacher, but now I know that I needed to develop my compassion, my understanding, my tolerance and my strength so that I could be what I wanted my students to see. I do my very best to withhold judgement and blame, because there, but by the grace of God, go I.

I have been part of the Steiner system with my own children. It is so beautiful, and suits almost all children in its whole child approach – something so in-line with my own experiences as a holistic healer, and I believe that if I decided to go down this path in my career, I would be welcomed. But I believe that I was put here for the greater good. I am active in my Union, fighting for a better, more just world for my students. I believe that EVERY child has the right to a quality education – not just those whose parents have the money, the awareness and the inclination to send their children to private, specialised schooling, and so, at this point in my life, I am sticking with Public Education.

And there is my story. Well, a quick skim-read without getting deep down and dirty. I still enjoy a glass of wine, I can swear like nobody’s business (but only in the appropriate settings), I still question my own abilities and am overly critical of myself. But everything I do now, I do mindfully, catching myself in my regressions and reminding myself that I am enough.

So, I come to this new platform, The Sustainable Teacher, with an understanding that I have far more power than I would have given myself credit for, and so do you. And, as one spidery hero was told, “with great power comes great responsibility”. I am responsible for living my best life, and providing my students with a mentor who walks the walk. I’ll make mistakes, but that’s okay too.

#bethechange #alwayslearning #fixthefuture

Time to put on your oxygen mask.

Put on your oxygen mask!

So, if you want to change the world with me, you’ll need to make sure you’re in tip top condition. After a week camping without internet reception, sitting in my hammock by the creek with a book in my hand, I’ve found my equilibrium, and I’m ready to take on 2020.

Image result for hammock by river

Most teachers are already aware of the power of a positive mindset. Many of us use Growth Mindset and Positive Behavoiur for Learning in our classrooms and schools, we get to know our kids, we try to convince them that they are awesome when we can see that they don’t believe that themselves. We teach them mindfulness, and sometimes even meditation. But how many of us actually take on the advice we are giving? How many of us have an intrinsic belief in our own abilities, and in the good of this world? Who here spends enormous amounts of time concentrating on what they are not perfect at, and what they need to do to be more perfect?

Until fairly recently, I was very focused on what I lacked. I needed to be better, I needed to be thinner, faster, stronger, more organised, more engaging. I needed to hear people tell me I was doing a great job, and I was trying to be everything to everyone. This behaviour reached a crescendo after finally escaping a traumatic work environment after 4 years of daily psychological manipulation. Suddenly I found myself in a relatively stable workplace, and I started to come apart at the seams. Quietly. Alone. Until I sought help.

I began with seeing a therapist who put me in touch with my trauma – going back to some very early challenges in my life, right up until the most recent – the workplace situation and a string of sudden passings of friends and family. Once I accepted the trauma of my own experiences, I began working with the amazing Casey Warwick (you can find her on Facebook) to begin the rewiring of my thought patterns. As my anxiety abated and I started to focus more on the things about me that were great, I realised how much I was limiting my impact on the people around me – my family and my students – by limiting my opportunities for personal growth. I was a whinger. I focused on all that was wrong with myself and the world. And I was ready to find magic.

So I embarked on a journey that seems to have no end. Instead of listening to the news and true crime podcasts on the way to work, I began listening to audiobooks by people such as Brene Brown, who writes much about shame and vulnerability; I listened to Joe Dispenza’s Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself; I listened to Russell Brand’s podcast – Under the Skin. I looked for anything and everything that was going to lift me up. I journalled every day. I meditated, did yoga. I faced some ugly things about myself, and then said goodbye to them. I learnt to really consider whether I had put my best foot forward in every situation, and to take action and approach someone when I decided that I had not done the right thing by them. I started working on positive habits with regards to my diet and my relationships, and I forgave a lot of people.

As soon as I began to expect good things, good things came. I realised that if I was going to teach my students to be mindful, to develop a growth mind set, and if I was going to create a positive learning environment, I had to be all of those things myself. The thing is, we can never be those things if we are putting all of our energy into criticising ourselves and relentlessly trying to be better. We MUST have some time to just be. In this perfect moment. In this perfect body. In this perfect mind.

I say that we are “perfect” because I believe that every single one of us is exactly where we are meant to be right now, and we rarely stop to consider this. The Abraham-Hicks Emotional Guidance Scale places love and joy at the very top of the emotional scale, and fear at the very bottom. Of course, we all feel all of these emotions at times, but we hope to not get stuck in some of those areas at the lower end of the scale. The more people around you who are sitting mostly in the top end, the better you actually feel! So, if you get to this point yourself, imagine how much better you will be for those pliable little minds that you guide each day.

LOA Emotional Scale
From http://www.thelawofattraction.com/law-attraction-learning-move-emotional-scale/

So, now is the time to put on your oxygen mask. It’s not easy, which is why it’s great to use this time where you have a few weeks up your sleeve. Find yourself some mentors. Who makes you feel good? Hang out with the right people, and you’re halfway there. Pay attention to your conversations. What are you talking about? Does it fill your cup? If not, maybe you need to consider where your time and energy are going, and with whom. Think about your food and other lifestyle choices. I have developed this habit of saying “am I honouring myself right now?”, and if the answer is no, I walk away from it. Sometimes I am totally honouring myself by having a wine with friends, or a decadent dessert. Sometimes it is perfect for me to have a little Netflix binge, and sometimes I’m better to get up and clean out the office like I’ve been meaning to do. Once you start listening to what you’re really saying, it will get easier to make the best choice for you.

I already had a background in holistic medicine, so this recent work wasn’t a big stretch for my, even though it was certainly challenging. But almost all teachers have similar intentions. They want to have an impact on their students, and they want to educate the whole child.

I say it takes a whole teacher to teach a whole child. Use these weeks to be kind to yourself. Re-energise. Do things you love to do. As we get closer to school days, I’ll do a post about how to put in boundaries and keep them there throughout term for a better, more balanced you. You can’t be effective in caring for others if you don’t properly care for yourself! Find some magic!

First, the planet…

#bethechange #teachersleadtheway #fixthefuture

As I have already mentioned earlier, in order to fix the problems in our world, we need a global shift in consciousness. We need to be motivated by something other than money. Now, I use the term “we” very loosely, because I know that teachers generally are not guided by money – we would have made a different career choice if that was the case. However, there is no doubt that we live in a world driven by consumerism, and teachers are incredibly busy, so we need convenience as well as economy. Don’t get me started on funding our classrooms because of underresourcing of schools, but you know what I’m talking about.

Unfortunately, the suppliers that fit our needs are some of the planet’s most irresponsible companies. We fill our classrooms and prize boxes with cheap stationery and gimmicks that will break and go to landfill not long after we hand them over. But it’s not just the landfill we are contributing to – consider the amount of water used to bring one cute pencil sharpener or felt tip marker to our room. Enormous amounts of water are required for the manufacture of the plastic, then the moulding, then crazy amounts of water required to ship products from China to Australia, and then shipping within Australia. Not only this, but every step of the process creates more pollution – both air and sea. Then we have the issue of what happens to these items after we are finished with them…

Thanks to WWF for this explanation of how our choices will affect the planet for generations to come…or even forever. You can read more here: https://www.wwf.org.au/news/blogs/the-lifecycle-of-plastics#gs.nm0rks

And then, the human cost. While we are buying cheap, convenient resources to help manage our students’ behaviours, children in other parts of the world are working for next to nothing, sometimes even dying, to build our smart phones (read here https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/oct/12/phone-misery-children-congo-cobalt-mines-drc ), not so smart, huh?

This problem can be so overwhelming that we find ourselves frozen with apathy. We say one person doesn’t make a difference, but if I start choosing stores like these ones: https://zerowastestore.com.au/ or https://www.buyecogreen.com.au/school-supplies-c104, I can talk to my colleagues about it, I can share it on Facebook, I can tell my students about it, and I can show them that I am taking action for their future. I can educate and explain options for the school community. I can be the leader and the role model. The movement has started already, but look at the power that YOU have to spur this change onward, just by walking the walk!

YOU CAN SAVE THE PLANET JUST BY MAKING PEOPLE CARE AND PROVIDING THEM WITH ALTERNATIVES!!!

Some other things that all teachers could be doing to set the example include:

* Using reusable shopping bags (of course)

* Using reusable produce bags like these:

* Purchasing larger items secondhand – Gumtree, Ebay, etc.

* Instead of prize boxes, have privileges, such as sitting in the teacher’s chair for a day, or 10 minutes computer time. I know casual teachers especially need SOMETHING to offer for their own survival!

* Buy locally grown/made wherever possible – it’s a win on so many levels.

* Spread the word about everything you learn. We’re only frightened of things when we feel we have no power, but this has to change. Tell people what’s happening, but also tell them what they CAN do!

* Teach your students about the costs of our lifestyle and show them what they can do. There are some links at the bottom of the page for lessons and resources. There are so many things out there now!

* Stop laminating everything! Use write and wipe pouches instead, or if it’s for display purposes, paper is fine! Every time you laminate something, that’s another problem for your grandchildren.

* Recycle! Is your school recycling? Are they accessing the Return and Earn scheme? Not only are you helping to save plastic from heading to landfill, but you can earn money for your school! Here is more information: https://returnandearn.org.au/. There are so many great things that can be made from recycled plastic – take a look yourself! https://www.wwf.org.au/news/blogs/17-cool-products-made-from-recycled-plastics#gs.nm2s9x

But, most importantly, stop and think. Ask yourself what happens to this after you have finished with it. That shiny plastic cutlery looks so beautiful for the Year 6 Farewell dinner, but is it really worth the environmental cost for one moment of viewing pleasure? Is there another way to meet that requirement?

I will continually post links and other cool things that I find that empower all of us to make positive changes. Really, this post has only scratched the surface, because there are so many aspects of the environment that we need to consider. We have to start somewhere though.

Go out and BE THE CHANGE!

LINKS

Your water footprint:

Educational Resources:

https://www.wwf.org.au/our-planet/education#gs.nm35ho

https://sustainabilityinschools.edu.au/teaching-resources

It’s up to us, teachers!

Do you ever feel a sense of hopelessness in this job? It can eat away at you – neglect, abuse, learning difficulties, undiagnosed disabilities, underfunded resources, colleagues working in isolation and often against one another, pressures from above, pressures from below, changing technologies, governmental policies and expectations that are at odds with education mission statements…and that’s just with regards to your job. On top of this we have the things happening out there in the world around us – mental illness, climate change, crazy amounts of waste and consumerism whilst third world countries don’t have enough food to keep children alive. I could go on and on, but it gets me down.

So, I guess I was searching for some hope. Something positive to focus on, and I actually do believe that there is a change coming. That these political leaders who steer our “democracies” are at the peak of ridiculousness, embodying all that is messed up, just so that enough people will stand up an say “enough is enough”. Look around. Look to New Zealand and Jacinda – a leader who empowers her people. Look at https://thechive.com/2019/12/09/forget-all-the-bad-news-here-are-the-best-facts-from-2019-36-photos/?fbclid=IwAR3Q42Xd1AaWjiuDg_rjFOL3DBlMCDkuC0suI6BpdJKEUmiNgwPMhmacNls. Smile. I found hope.

But let’s jump on the band wagon. I am going to draw on my experiences as a mother, a teacher, a learner, a wife, a healer, a business owner/manager, an artist and a fighter to bring you tips and ideas that I hope you will use and share with others. We are going to teach children everywhere to CARE. About each other, about the Earth, about EVERYTHING. Once enough people care, compassion and kindness will lead the way to a better place.

I’m on holidays now, so I expect to have some time to write. Today has been a big setup session, and learning how to manipulate social media and websites, so this one is a short one. I expect to get better at this with practise!

Please, share your own ideas, but I insist on kindness. Nothing else will be tolerated.

Dr. Eric Perry

Psychology to Motivate | Inspire | Uplift

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