Pandemic Survival 4: Good Karma

Do you believe in karma?

I like to do things for other people. It’s not because I’m saving up brownie points to get into heaven. It’s not because I think it will allow me to come back as something better. It’s not because I’m hoping I’ll get something in return. I do it because…. well, because it’s just who I am.

In my last post, I wrote about my way of coping with losing a job I love by making resources for others to use in my own time. I didn’t do it to show off or to look good. I did it because I saw a need and I like helping people. Well, okay, and I also like making things and this seemed like a good use of my time.

I’ve also written about losing my job and how it wasn’t about the money.

As a casual relief teacher in an environment where students are now studying from home, I knew there would not be opportunities to teach until schools fully reopen so I found a way to fulfil the joy I have for teaching in other ways. It felt good.

Do you believe in karma?

Today I did my first of three days of work at my school.

I know.

I still can’t believe it.

For some reason, they were short on teaching staff and a member of staff I had chatted to recently on one of my runs around the river mentioned how crushed I’d been to lose my job and how much I would miss the kids.

So they called me and offered me three days work with a possibility of more in the future.

I don’t know if I believe in karma in the full religious understanding of it but after the events of this week, I have to believe that what you put into the world will come back to you.

Be kind.

Do good things.

Give what you can.

It will come back to you.

 

Kindness

Pandemic Survival 3: Finding a Way Through

The announcement finally came. It was predictable and I was expecting it but it still hit hard.

On April 7, our state government announced that students would continue to learn at home for Term 2, due to start after Easter. So another three months of unemployment for me.

But, as a dear friend said to me, “You can take the person out of the teaching but you can’t take the teaching out of the person.”

I’ve been finding a way through.

I have you wonderful people in this amazing blogging community to thank for the first step. When I first wrote about losing a job I love, many people asked if there was a way to communicate with the students online. Being a casual teacher, I don’t have access to those platforms at my school but then Dan mentioned recording videos and a germ of an idea sprung up in this still fertile mind (it’s all that bullcrap I store in there).

My ‘thing’ when teaching is music. I get a lot of jokes about moving out of home when I’m working because I walk in and out with an enormous suitcase and a guitar on my back. The suitcase holds a collection of instruments and song props – my own ‘bag of tricks’ as all good CRTs carry. I’ve previously mentioned that a favourite song is “When You’re Happy and You Know It” done with all sorts of different emotions and different actions to match.

So, I took a deep breath and I videoed myself singing this song, doing eight different emotions. (Trust me, this was huge. I am not a fan of being on camera.) I then split them up into different videos and edited them to include the PCS (Pictorial Communication System) card for that emotion before and after the song.

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Sample of PCS cards for feelings

The videos are not flashy. They are just me singing and playing the guitar with no great video effects. It’s because I wanted it to accurately replicate what it would be like for the kids at school. Truly. It’s not at all because I honestly couldn’t be bothered doing that much editing. Besides, there’s a plethora of flashy songs on the interwebs for the kids to access. How often will they get to see ME this term?

I also tried to keep the file size as small as I could while trying to keep a reasonable standard because some of our kids won’t have access to great internet.

Here is where I want to thank my lovely friend Naomi who has been my cheerleader through this process. She was the one I sent them to first because I knew I could trust her to tell me honestly if they were okay.

Fortunately she thought they were more than okay.

The next step was to send them to a suitable focus group. Luckily I am great friends with a number of preschoolers (even related to a few) so I sent the videos off to this treasured cohort and received a very positive response.

Last step – send them to the music specialist teacher at my school. I needed a gin and tonic before I could hit that send button despite all the previous positive feedback. Sharing your own creation with others is like sharing some deep uncertain part of yourself.

To my enormous relief, my work was received with great enthusiasm and gratitude.

Phew.

The videos are on YouTube but marked as Unlisted so you won’t find them without a direct link. While I wanted them easily shared, I didn’t particularly feel like making myself available to the world’s troll network.*

However, in the spirit of community and doing new things, I’ve included one of the videos here for you to have a squizz at what you helped create. I chose Sad because this is the one the kids always find hilarious at school and the great-nephew also declared it his favourite, with a giggle.

 

My other task to keep the sadness away has been to build activity boxes for a couple of three-year-old coffee buddies I know. I knew their parents would appreciate a bit of help keeping these bright and active little boys occupied over the coming weeks. Along with my colleagues Fellowes and Carl, I’ve been madly producing resources over the past week to box up and deliver as an Easter surprise.

If I were to list activities that help my mental health, I would definitely include laminating with rotary cutting close behind. I’m also a big fan of Velcro. So making these resources was like being in my happy place.

I knew I well and truly had my teacher hat on when I found myself with fifty gazillion tabs open in my browser from eleventy hundred different education websites and blogs looking for ideas and resources. If you think I’m exaggerating, you’ve obviously never done lesson planning.

As is always the case, it started out as a tiny idea that probably would have fit into a standard envelope that then morphed into a major undertaking for which I had to buy a packing box for delivery.

But boy, did I have fun? You bet your last dollar. Or my last dollar. In light of my current situation, I probably shouldn’t have been wandering the virtual aisles of the local office supplies store and hitting that Buy button quite so regularly but it’s always been way more fun to spend money on other people than on myself so really from a mental health perspective it’s money very well spent. Cheaper than therapy anyway.

And this little episode during a video chat with one of my little friends after he opened his box made my day:

A: Thank you for my box of things just for me! It’s awful!

A’s Mum: Awesome. You mean awesome.

My little teacher soul has been fed and will feel able to carry on for a little while.

I’m finding a way through.

How about you?

*If you really want to see the full playlist because you’d love to see all the videos or you can think of some little person in your life who would enjoy them, you can email me at mosyet42@gmail.com and I’ll send you the link.

Pandemic Survival 2: You Will Be Found

One of my survival methods in those times when I’m feeling overwhelmed by thoughts of what may lay ahead in these Lockdown Days (and those waves rise up several times a day) has been to take myself out of myself (if you get what I mean) and reach out to others to find out how they are faring.

The act of caring for others brings a surge of positive energy and helps keep the feelings of isolation at bay. One of the most important things we can do in this crisis is try and maintain a sense of community and mutual care.

Taking ourselves out of our own heads for a while and listening to someone else can help put our own problems into perspective. As challenging as our own issues may be, we need to put our heads up once in a while and check on the other people in our lives.

So, when I saw this clip from James Corden recorded at the end of the At Home version of his Late Show, his words resonated with what I have been experiencing.

“Reaching out to somebody else who you think might be struggling too is pretty much the best thing we can all do right now because we absolutely will get through this.” – James Corden 31.03.20

And then he finished with a performance of the song “You Will Be Found” by the cast of the musical Dear Evan Hansen via social distancing rules of course. (Yes, there is something of a consistency of musicals in my coping mechanisms…)

Watch it. It will lift you up. It may also make you cry but in a good way. And then go and check in with someone you know. You’ll help them and you’ll help yourself.

Stay safe.

 

Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need a friend to carry you
And when you’re broken on the ground
You will be found

Pandemic Survival

I’ve escaped to my she-shed. I have The Sound of Music* on my laptop, a glass of Four Pillars Shiraz Gin and tonic to hand, also a (large) packet of sweet potato chips and there are pretty candles inside and out and the city lights twinkling away.

Sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to survive unemployment and a house full of men in the Age of Lockdown.

*Yes, tragically I am quoting whole tracts of dialogue and singing all the songs. It’s my own special Isolation Sound of Music Singalong.

How are you surviving the close quarters with your loved ones?

Not About The Money

I lost my job yesterday. I work as a casual relief (substitute) teacher in a special education school. On Sunday, our state government announced that schools would be closed from Tuesday. It made sense. We were due to finish for two weeks of school holidays at the end of the week anyway so it’s only an extra four days. And I’d be happy to view it as that except that in the current environment, nobody actually knows how long this will last. Three weeks, six weeks, six months? It’s the unknown that gets to you.

Permanent and contracted staff will continue to be paid. Casual staff will not. I was booked in to replace a teacher for the whole week but that’s now ended. Should schools remain closed after the holidays, teachers will revert to the online provision of a program. How that works with high needs special education, I don’t know but what I do know is that online teaching will not require casual replacement teachers so there will be no work until the schools open again.

I’m luckier than others. I know that eventually, when this crisis is over, schools will reopen and my work will return. Others will not be so lucky as extended lockdowns send businesses to the wall. We’re also in a pretty solid financial position so we will survive the loss of income. I know I shouldn’t complain.

But here’s the thing – it’s not about the money.

I love my job. Work is my happy place. My students fill my heart and soul with joy and satisfaction. It’s the loss of this that has me feeling weighted down and my heart aching.

What will I miss?

I’ll miss

  • the utter joy on faces as I play my guitar and we bop along to I’m A Believer or Down On The Corner
  • the hysterical giggles when I sing all the funny voices for the different emotions in If You’re Happy and You Know it (angry and sad are favourites – that my students find my singing a song while crying as hilariously funny is slightly disturbing)
  • the literal tears of pride when a student achieves a learning goal for the first time
  • the cheeky and mischievous grins
  • finding that new way of doing something that means a student has a better day
  • the cheerful greetings as I walk around the school – as a CRT, all the kids know me and I know the name of every single one of them
  • working as a team with my Education Support co-workers, the true rockstars of special education
  • singing made up songs while pushing a swing to give a student with difficult behaviours a happy play time
  • all the feels – when my students are happy, sad, angry, upset, proud, unwell – they touch my heart so deeply

And I worry. I worry for the students for whom school is their safe space, the only place they receive what we call ‘unconditional regard’ and are nourished in body, mind and soul. I worry for the parents forced to give up work to care for their child every day and the financial impact of that and the lack of respite they will receive from the intensity it takes to care for a special needs child.

I know I am luckier than so many others but sometimes you just have to acknowledge that pain in your heart and what is causing it. I am grieving and the only thing that will fix it is a return to the job I love. It will come but it’s likely to be a long and challenging journey to get there.

How are you bearing up under the conditions imposed to combat COVID-19?

Stephen King quote on change

A World Gone Quiet

One of my favourite books is Quiet by Susan Cain. It’s one of those books that made me go, “Oh. So it’s not just me then.” It describes all the great things about introverts even though it’s a struggle to get that known because we live in a world designed for extroverts.

The subtitle of her book is “The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”. Well, the world has just gone a little quieter.

Containment measures are being implemented across the world to try and stop the spread of COVID-19. People are being asked to stay in their homes and only go out for essentials. Non-essential activities have been cancelled.

The Australian Football League has just suspended the season. My son messaged me with the news and Messenger gave me the option to reply with “Yay!” It’s a little worrying that my phone knows me so well…

Of course, introverts around the world have responded to these extreme measures with “You mean I have to stay at home, limit contact with people and avoid crowds? Sweeeet!”

 

But what does it mean for the extroverts of the world? Well, dear extroverts, you get to walk in our shoes for a while. It’s uncomfortable, isn’t it? It feels unnatural and way outside your comfort zone, doesn’t it? It has sucked all the energy out of you, hasn’t it? Yeah, tell me about it. I live it every day.

Do not fear, extroverts. Help is at hand. I have long advocated for extroverts to make friends with at least one introvert. Introverts make deeply thoughtful, compassionate and loyal friends. We may not be good at chitchat but we’ll give serious thought to a request for advice. We’re unlikely to want to go to a party with you but we’ll come around and help you with a task whenever you ask. We won’t be the ones making the speeches but we’ll make sure the dishes are washed and the chairs are put away.

But now, we really come into our own because we know how to spend vast amounts of time alone.

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This will be good for you, I promise. You’ll have more time for reflection, for new activities, for careful thought and consideration.

It doesn’t have to mean hours in front of the television. Read a book, do a jigsaw puzzle, make some art. Lie outside on the grass or sit on your balcony and just watch the clouds go by or contemplate the stars. But do it slowly and deliberately. It’s not a thing to be completed as soon as possible, it’s something to spend time on and as much time as you have (which is likely to be lots, let’s face it).

If you’re craving physical contact, go outside and hug a tree.

If you’re allowed to leave the house, find a remote natural area and spend time in the nature. I promise it’s just as rejuvenating as a boisterous crowd if you allow your mind to settle in it.

Trees

Since contact with others has to be so limited and deliberate, utilising various virtual arrangements, take the opportunity of one-on-one contact to really talk to someone. And, more importantly, listen. Really listen. Who knows what you may discover about a friend that you never knew about them?

Take the time to be less task-oriented and just BE.

Extroverts, you can do this. After all, introverts have survived in an outgoing world for millennia. Surely you can survive a few months?

And remember, if it is all getting too much, your introvert friend will always be there for you. Because that’s what we do.

Just don’t expect it all the time. We’ll be enjoying the lockdown.