A Master of What?

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This blog began some three and a half years ago and at the time I couldn’t really put a finger on what I was good at and hence the title.

Over these past years, kindly folk have suggested various masteries I could claim as my own but I’ve usually shrugged them off.

I’ve always struggled to say “I am good at…” and always wondered why.

Recently, I realised that perhaps it is because I possess no socially acceptable standard that I am a master of anything. It is hard to claim something for which you have no proof.

If you can say in society, “I have a degree in Literature/Creative Writing/Journalism. I am a good writer”, everyone around you will nod their heads, admire you and agree “You are a good writer.”

If you can say in society, “I have a Masters of Education from [name your own prestigious university]. I am a good teacher”, you will be regarded as an asset to any classroom.

If, however, you possess a degree in Mathematics but do not work in the field, what is it worth?

If you are qualified to teach science and mathematics but teach in an area where those skills are irrelevant, what good are you really?

And yet, I know I am a good writer. I know I am a good teacher. But my evidence for such claims is circumstantial and personal.

It is the people who tell me, “Write more blog posts, we love your writing”. It is the staff who smile happily when they realise you will be teaching in their classroom.

Fine for me.

Not so much for society.

One of my (pathetically) prized possessions is a photocopy of the front page of a training manual I once wrote which was reviewed by the upper management Training Manager (for some reason that I do not recall).

On the page, he had written “This is the best training material I have ever read in my 13+ years of training”.

Like all positions of employment I’ve ever held in my life, I had neither the qualifications nor experience to be employed as a training developer but for some reason they gave me the job anyway and I got this review within my first year on the job.

But it doesn’t look as significant hung on the wall as a Bachelor’s degree.

I’ve never even sat a music exam. So I have no proof that I can sing, play piano or guitar or write music. Well, I do have a school report from Year 9 Music that says, “She has a good working knowledge of music theory at this level and in the end-of-year examination scored an impressive 100%” so there’s that, I guess but I’m not sure how that would play out.

“So, what Grade level did you reach?”

“Me? Oh, well, none. But I have this great report from my Year 9 music teacher. Want to read it?”

“Probably not.”

The prompt for this post was a comment that found me consumed with jealousy for those who can claim a qualification to legitimise their obvious skills. I’d offered some assistance with a task on the basis of believing I possessed some relevant skill but was countered with the explanation that the other person possessed a high level qualification in the area in question and would therefore not require my unqualified help.

I can’t argue with that.

Of course, if it concerns me so much, why don’t I go out and gain such qualifications? Because I’m a Jack of ALL Trades. Which qualification would I pick?? I’m not sure I’ve got enough time or energy (or money!) to pursue a degree in literature, journalism, music, fine arts, computer programming, IT support or a Masters/PhD in Education, Science, Mathematics or a trade qualification in building, carpentry, painting, textiles, electronics, costume design, cake decorating or car maintenance.

So I think I’ll just go on as before, having a stab at anything that takes my fancy whether qualified to do so or not, and live the life of a Jack of All Trades.

And hope that someday someone introduces a Master of All Trades qualification.

I’d like to hang that on my wall.

MofAT certificate

 

Coming Up For Air

Up For Air

In case you were wondering where I’ve been lately…..

I’ve been working full time for the past two weeks.

All the full time working readers: So?

Well, I also have kids.

All the full time working parent readers: So?

Well, I’ve also been sick. In fact, one day I felt so sick, I actually thought I might have caught man-flu.

All the sick full time working parent readers: Sss….. Yeah, okay, that’s probably fair enough.

To be honest, I felt pretty wimpy. I mean, people do this all the time. At work, I’m surrounded by working parents teaching full time in a challenging environment. And, being full time teachers, they also have all that other accountability stuff like Professional Development Plans and reports and checklists and planning and…. It exhausts me just thinking about it.

Even allowing for the added challenge last week of spending each day fighting off a headache and trying not to cough up a lung, it concerned me that I was so tired at the end of each day.

But then I thought, maybe working is like any other physical activity. It takes fitness. Just as I used to be able to run 10km without really thinking about it, now that I haven’t run in months, even a short 4km is an effort. Maybe working full time takes training.

Apart from the occasional short stint, I haven’t worked full time since I had the kids. Prior to that, I was working full time on an IT project in a large corporation. I was commuting by train for over an hour each way and I was working long hours. And I really mean long. Six o’clock train in the morning, 7.15pm train home was the standard day. A 9.30pm train home was not unusual. Then there were the days I’d catch a taxi home at 3am. (The trains stopped running at midnight.) Or the one memorable day when I caught the 6am train to work and then came home at lunchtime the next day.

It’s been over twenty years since that mad stage of my life. There’s no way I could sustain that now. And it’s not just because I also have children who need me at the end of the day. I just don’t have the fitness for it any more.

But unlike my running that I do need to get up and … er … running, I’m not sure I’m ready to put in the training for full time work just yet. So I’ll stick with the casual relief work and take each option as it comes. And hopefully I’ll still find the time to hang out here in the blogosphere for a while yet.

Have you ever felt like you’ve lost your fitness for something?

I’d like to dedicate this post to my friends and colleagues who work full time in challenging environments. You rock.

 

 

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Is This The Real Life?

Or is this just fantasy?

I’ve never been a real anything.

Well, okay, yes, I am in fact a real person.

However….

As I have explained (ad nauseum) on this blog, I tend to flit from one activity to another, pretending to be whatever it is that takes my fancy at the time. Currently, I’m pretending I can play the banjo.

kermit_11

Maybe I’ll be as good as Kermit one day.

This pretend life has not only applied to my leisure activities. Every job I’ve ever held, I’ve spent the bulk of my time pretending I know what I’m doing.

And that’s because for every job I have ever held, I possessed neither the qualifications nor the experience for that particular position. They gave me the job anyway.

I know. I don’t understand it either.

But something changed recently.

At the beginning of February, I was given a fixed contract of three days a week for an eight week term in the school where I’ve been relief teaching.

I filled out the required paperwork and the bureaucratic wheels began to turn.

First, I was given an employee ID number by the Education Department. Having never held an official teaching position before, I’d never had one of these. Apparently this one will follow me all of my days. Mine to keep.

Along with the employee ID, I was given an official Education Department email address. Apparently this one will not follow me all of my days. Mine to give back at the end of my contract.

As far as the Department was concerned, I now existed as a teacher.

[It’s worth just noting here that all potential teachers in this state, even those only undertaking relief teaching, must be registered with the state Institute of Teaching before they are allowed to teach. We do have some standards.]

More was to come.

I was called to the office to collect my badge. A real name badge, not the paper and plastic one I usually wore as a relief teacher. This one even said “Teacher” on it.

Could this be? Was I becoming something real?

Blue Fairy meme

Two weeks ago, the photographers showed up and I had my photograph taken. My first ever official school photograph as a member of staff.

It was like the last piece of the puzzle. I was a teacher.

Being a real teacher has also meant three meetings a week and writing reports.

Pretending can have its advantages.

The term ends this week. After the following two weeks of school holidays, I’ll no longer be a ‘real’ teacher.

I feel a bit like the Blue Fairy has jumped out and said “Only Kidding!”

 

 

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The No. 1 Buzzword Schools Love And Parents Hate

Is your child being bullied by other children? Your school has a fix for that. Is your child struggling to understand mathematics? Your school has an answer for that. Is your child having trouble getting along with the class teacher? Your school knows what’s wrong.

So what is this magical cure-all?

Resilience.

If your child is being bullied, they just need to be more resilient. If your child is having difficulties with mathematics, they just need to be more resilient. If your child is not coping with the class teacher, they just need to be more resilient.

Schools love to use resilience as an answer to anything. Yes, children need to learn to be resilient. Unfortunately, the true meaning of resilience has been lost in the easy fix-it of putting any problem back on the child.

These days, the use of resilience in schools has come to mean:

“I really don’t want to have to deal with those kids’ parents. Can’t your child just put up with it?”

“I really don’t have time to go over everything again. Can’t your child just work harder?”

“I really don’t want to adjust my teaching methods to suit your child. Can’t they just get along?”

When my eldest child was seven years old, I went to pick him up from school and a parent informed me there had been an incident during a Physical Education class and I should go and talk to the supervising teacher. Apparently my son had screamed and cried at a group of boys who had been teasing him about his skipping abilities.

The teacher’s advice? “He just needs to be more resilient.”

What this teacher didn’t know and obviously didn’t care about, was that my son had been subjected to teasing by these same boys every day for several months. We had not reported it to the school, preferring to work with him to help him navigate and deal with the situation. We knew he would encounter difficult people all his life and we were trying to teach him strategies. Clearly, on this day, he’d had enough. Who could blame him?

It always astounds me that the kind of treatment our schools expect small children to endure in the name of resilience, were that same treatment to be meted out to a teacher by colleagues, would result in disciplinary action against the perpetrators for harassment.

Too often schools seem to think that being resilient means a child should not feel anger, sadness or frustration. But that is not the meaning of resilience. Resilience does not mean that we do not suffer hurt, confusion or doubt as a result of a situation. What it does mean is that we go on and try again, even when we do.

“Why do we fall down, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”  – Alfred, Batman Begins

A resilient child gets up and goes to school each day even while knowing they will be teased. A resilient child sits down to do their mathematics homework even while knowing that it will be difficult. A resilient child continues to try and communicate with the class teacher even while knowing they will not be understood.

I look at my eldest son now, ten years later, and I see a young man who loves school and has a large circle of friends. Has he got to this place by compromising who he is? By hiding his true self so as to fit in? By ignoring his feelings? No. He is still the same beautiful, quirky, sensitive soul he was when he was seven. He has just given the world time to recognise that and accept it.

That is resilience.

Resilience

 

 

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My Child, My Teacher

I taught you how to walk but I learned from you the meaning of persistence.

I taught you how to read but I learned from you that a good book can be read a hundred times and still make you laugh.

I taught you how to cross the road but I learned from you that sometimes you have to stop and marvel at the shape of the clouds first.

I taught you how to write but I learned from you that made up words can hold the most power.

I taught you how to tell the time but I learned from you how to spend time.

I taught you how to handle conflict but I learned from you the true nature of forgiveness.

I taught you how to do algebra but I learned from you how to be patient.

I taught you how to ride a bike but I learned from you how to conquer my fears.

I taught you how to be safe but I learned from you that sometimes you have to take risks.

I taught you how to use a computer but I learned from you that I will never know as much as you.

I taught you about the world but I learned from you about life.

 

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Written in response to the Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge – Student, Teacher.

 

 

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