HOME, SWEET HOME!

So-home at last! What a wonderful holiday-so many ideas, images and memories competing for my attention! To my huge surprise (and probably due to the addition of some red wine!) I slept soundly on my way down to Singapore. Then 2 wonderful days for massage, rest and meetings and home to OZ. So sad to say goodbye to Jess and our wonderful time but we will be there again next year!

The JOLLY LEARNING conference was marvellous and will happen again next July. I shared highlights from the conference with my staff tonight and happy to report they all did a marvellous job without me. Our manager of educational programs, Danielle, has totally organised, innovated and wonderfully managed ICE while we were away. She has re-started our program for 3-5 year olds-ICE-CREAMS and today we planned the launch of JOLLY MUSIC on Saturday mornings. We are offering this JOLLY MUSIC to 5-8 year olds and very excited about this world-class, excellent music program. It is based on the Kodaly method and gives kids a great background in music and raises musical intelligence.

This Saturday we are beginning SPARKY BRAINS -a program for bright children in need of extra stimulation and challenge. I am so happy that we have finally found the time for this much asked for  program.

We are up to week 2 for our EQ4KIDZ cycle and I am reflecting on a conversation I have had with a colleague. We are so concerned that depression, sadness, anxiety about exams and tests are really rife amongst young people- here in OZ and also for our children in Singapore and the region. We need to ensure children learn practical strategies to increase resilience, increase confidence and learn to deal with strong feelings-especially those of anger, disappointment, frustration and sadness. They need to learn how to “flick a switch” to interrupt these negative tracks and help themselves to a slice of happiness! We DO teach them that negative feelings are natural and that we certainly cannot control all that happens to us-HOWEVER-we want them to know practical strategies to crawl out of the black pit. We will be offering training to ALL Aussie schools to implement EQ4KIDZ from early next year.

We ALL need these EQ enhancing strategies! To this end, we are resurrecting our EQ4BUSINESS and general EQ programs for adults.

If together we can save just one young person from depression and even worse, we will have achieved something worthwhile.

 

ONE DAY TO GO

One day left in the frosty Isle!!! (Is this really summer-did I REALLY spend summers on the beach here as a kid???)

I have dragged my poor son from Church to Church in Norwich looking for a Viking porch I KNOW is here somewhere-today I will give him a day off and reflect and just enjoy having time in this loveliest of all medieval towns!

I have been to Ely Cathedral and shivered in wonder yet again at all that rich history and just finished reading about it in THE WORDSMITH’S TALE. What a feast of pictures, sacred and not so sacred memories wrapped up in those stones.

While at Ely I bought a tiny medieval style notebook for re-writing goals.

This will be my happy task on that dark, dark night from the Northern to Southern hemisphere-when everyone but me sleeps!

REFLECTION AND BACK TO NORMAL (What IS normal??)

So-only 2 days left in the UK and then back to Singapore for a couple of days to relieve jet lag and have some meetings.

I feel renewed-have not had a long holiday like this for so long.

So many images are competing for space in my head and heart.

It was so good to attend the JOLLY LEARNING conference in London-met loads of interesting people and learned more about this wonderful program. It makes me sad to see the press here about low literacy levels when UK has the answer-same in Aus. I have just written an article about this for THE PARENTS’ PAPER in Perth. We HAVE to teach these basics or kids are severely disadvantaged. There is an awful lot of “fuzzy-think” going on in education!

I love the JOLLY MUSIC program and we will be offering it at all levels in Perth and integrating a lot more of it into lessons. I am convinced that MUSICAL INTELLIGENCE is vitally important to children as it helps their basic sense of rhythm/timing and concentration. It also helps enormously with listening skills-a real problem with so many kids at the moment!

Since leaving the conference Martin and I have planned and commenced our own reading series-very exciting. We have phonics readers and readers with sight words and specific sentence patterns-lots of repetition. It is incredible how a holiday can clear the cobwebs and allow ideas to coalesce!

Paris was amazing as always. We attended Mass at Notre Dame, ate far too much and wandered streets with happy hearts and open minds. There is always so much to see and “grok” there.

I noticed a huge amount of litter this time, plus aggression on the streets-have not really picked this up before- sad.

St Germain on the last day-wonderful bars/restaurants and amazing shop fronts.

Our hotel had a beautiful walled garden -the sort that makes me want to lock myself in for days and just write and draw!

Rhodes was the most amazing experience. The people were so relaxed and friendly and the Christening was amazing. (Christening was reason we actually went!) Greek Orthodox Churches are so richly decorated and all the lights on make them look like Christmas!

The beaches were fascinating for me as so different to Aussie ones-mainly pebbles and sun-lounges all laid out. I lay on a lounge every day-only a metre from the water and just watched families from all over Europe playing/relaxing. It felt like the centre of the world to hear so many languages at once-and to top it off-there was the outline of Turkey in front of me!

We were very blessed because we stayed at an amazing place called HERMES hotel-new town behind us/old walled town to right, harbour in front and beach to left-paradise! We had a 180 degree view from our room and cool breezes blowing over the balcony right onto our bed each night.

The food-ah the food-breakfast with thick yoghurt that would not even run off the spoon, golden honey and the best olives and fetta I have ever tasted!

Every night was a feast of Greek food and great local wines-some dieting coming up!

One day we visited Lindos-on a donkey up to the Crusader fort and then by foot to the Acropolis and to look at St Paul’s Bay-what an amazingly sacred, strange and wonderful place it is!

So-now in Norwich and soaking up history, ghost walks, spending precious moments with my son Jesse and re-connecting with my earth-Norwich being the city of my childhood. When I am here I always have this strange feeling of peeking into all the corners of my past, looking at what my past might have been if my parents did not migrate and staring into the faces of Norfolk people my age and imagining I might have known them!

So-I am feeling a bit sad to leave but also eager to get back and see children, parents, Joanna, friends etc. Danielle has manged ICE so well and I am looking to giving her some well earned time off!

We have had a parent pass away so some sadness as this lady was very dear to the local community and to us!

So-2 days to pack and worry about excess baggage, soak up all the history and son-love I can and then the long journey back. I feel like I am re-surfacing after a massive, deep sleep with the most wonderful, strange dreams!

I would somehow like to create a montage of all that has happened-want to pin down these ephemeral images and see a pattern-and get a shape to it all. Maybe when we look at all the thousands of photos I will be able to consider this.

I think my brain is simply soaked in so many new images and it will take a while to sort them. I wonder if this is how kids feel when a lot is happening and they are not sure which bits to concentrate on? This could be why art always seems to help them-think it might help me as well!

 

RESURRECTION AND DELIGHTS OF SLOTH

I am sitting at St Pancras station waiting to go to Paris and then Rhodes (volcano permitting!)

What a trip this has been-a wonderful 11 days in Singapore-consolidating programs, meeting potential licencees etc and then to London. London-so full of excitement/weird sights/feeling that anything could happen at any stage! Running around art galleries-soaking up favourite paintings plus lovely sunshine-and then IT arrives! IT being a nasty, nasty virus/flu/whatever-the sort that saps you-sucks up all your energy and just leaves you dreaming of pillow! I had forgotten to rest and pushed myself to the limit-this is a real lesson-woke up 2 days ago feeling fine and thought about the real meaning of health and being in harmony. People like me tend to dwell too much in our heads and I am going to remedy this. Diet/exercise/timeout for dreaming-will all get my attention! So often this has happened in my life-go on holidays when absolutely worn out and all reserves gone!

So-my joy button is back on and Paris is beckoning with all the delicious cafe sitting, ideas gathering and totally relaxed feelings I always associate with it.

Norwich was as always wonderful. I don’t think I have ever seen a city that has so much to offer!

I am a kid on Christmas morning!

I woke up today with that lovely feeling of excitement-similar to Christmas morning when (especially as a kid) you would see a pillow case in the half light-all strangely shaped, with odd angles and enticing you too dive in to see what Santa had brought you! We are flying to London today and I never fail to LOVE this trip. Getting on close to midnight has an odd, exotic appeal -sort of naughty to stay up so late! Then I love the bit where we fly over the Middle East and you can sometimes see little circles of lights and know you are probably gazing at small wadi desert settlements. I love the strange, the different, the weird-the stuff that makes us think and stretches our minds.

I believe this feeling of excitement needs to be nurtured in children. We had a meeting with an educator interested in puchasing my programs and I was trying to tell her about the physical environment of our centre-how we use certain symbols and effects to get the kids enthralled when they arrived and excited about education. I love to watch kid’s eyes when we tell a new story, sing a funny song abour grammar etc-they shine and even kids who get bored easily are WITH us if we have a degree of surprise and excitement somewhere in the lesson. I have come to learn that children have a deep understanding of symbols and love the layers of mystery and meaning wrapped around these.

So much has happened on this Singapore trip! We have a number of people interested in our licence and it was so exciting to observe the children at Genius Learning Hub being taught with my lesson plans. The teachers followed the plans so well, adding in their own creative twists and the kids are doing so well. The methods are really starting to ripple out into the world.

So-journeys of all sort-educational, ones that cross the world, those that take us into uncharted areas of the mind-they all need this sense of mystery and excitement-the destination is important but the journey even more so!

CONTEMPLATION TIME

I am sitting up in bed eating a perfect banana in a Singapore hotel. Bananas have become an incredibly expensive fruit in WA due to floods etc so they have acquired an exotic, luxurious and almost deliciously forbidden nature for me!

This is day for thinking-catching up on report writing- breakfast and swim at the Tanglin Club-starting a new book-a day to ponder and enjoy-a jewel of 24 hours!

I think a lot about time because I notice-
1. How quickly it goes-how appallingly fast the years are flying by!
2. How no-one seems to have time to wonder/dream any more.
3. Kids are hassled/hurried/worried and restless from continuous activity
4. We feel guilty doing nothing!

And yet-NOTHING-this wondrous NOTHING is when SOMETHING can come-can plop into the soft, waiting space we created. If we have no spaces in our life-no fuzzy edges-no interstices-how can anything come in?
I find days like today, although preciously rare, are the true drivers of my soul and purpose. They are the days when God can whisper- “Come, consider this. Look at this possibility. Try another way”.
So I have this gift-this 24 hours to use or rather not to use-to just BE!

 

A BOOK TO INSPIRE!

Just finished reading WARSAW ANAGRAMS by Richard Zimler-utterly breathtaking, amazing book. I want to go right now to Warsaw and stand on Ghetto ground and just pray, pray and pray.
laughed and cried and delighted in the language-such economy of words and the clever interveaving of Yiddish to entrance an “in love with language” goy like me to want to learn more!
How about this made up Yiddish word: Zunfargangmeyvn-a connoisseur of sunsets: someone who has learned to savour what others take for granted. This is what I aspire to be!!!

And how about this, ” And I try to live in a world where the most soft-spoken people win all the arguments”.

READ IT-you won’t be the same!

A REAL AWAKENING IN COMPASSION

I was reading more of Goleman’s research on empathy and compassion and reading about various experiments that show supposedly intelligent, caring people can easily walk around and over sick and distressed people without offering help.

The next day I was driving through Guildford and saw a guy eating from a rubbish bin and thought, “That is so sad!” There were people all around eating/shopping etc in the trendy precinct.

I drove on feeling sad for the guy and then it hit me-I was doing the exact same thing Goleman had referred to-ignoring-too uncomfortable to really acknowledge what was happening and confront it.

So-a big U-turn later I pulled up in Guildford and hurried towards the man who was by now laying on a bench with everyone walking past, ignoring him! I walked with trepidation up to him-he stuck his hand out and this somehow made it easier-he knew what he needed and I knew what to give-transaction complete-he leapt up and took off towards a cafe to get some food. For me this was a seminal moment and somehow this changed me-I want to stay awake.

EMPATHY AND THE BASICS IN EDUCATION

Just been reading and reflecting on Daniel Goleman’s book: SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE.
Surely EMPATHY must be one of the most important qualities we develop as teachers. It is the ability to look deeply into a child’s eyes, notice their body language and listen attentively to the tone as well as the words they say-this ability defines great teachers. We need to look at HOW we can develop this within teachers and I am going to emphasise this in our EQ4SCHOOLS training. Everyone can learn teaching strategies and consider the good/bad points about available programs-but not everyone can really “see” the children they teach. I have noticed lately that the teachers I employ have this quality and yet I didn’t even know that was the quality I was looking for!
When a child is truly recognised -when their ESSENCE is honoured, something magical happens. Last night a child handed me something beautiful and passionate she had written about honouring Aboriginals and I SAW her properly-not just her educational needs but the beautiful ESSENCE-her ability to really care and empathise with marginalised people. This glimpse deep into a child’s ESSENCE or FLAVOUR can lead to a subtle difference in communication and to more tuned-in, and finer choices of reading materials, educational programs etc.
Of course all this takes TIME and I am so convinced that SLOW-TEACHING is really important. Children cannot learn at speed and we need to slow down the process and make sure each piece happens deeply and thoroughly.

We are running our own SPELLING RULES program this term and have been revising alphabetical order, capitalising Proper Nouns etc and our teachers have been amazed at children 7-11 who simply do not know these things. Schools have more and more pressures to fit in more and more-and yet the basics are being missed. This is what we MUST provide at ICE-in the most interesting, creative and explicit and effective manner as possible! This deep understanding of basic literacy and numeracy, plus improved levels of EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE through our EQ4KIDZ course-these are the gifts from ICE to our children.

BEST OF TIMES-WORST OF TIMES!

Just been reading about the protesters in Madrid – seems to be great waves of grass-roots protests around the world. I am so amazed by the brave people of the middle east – these are amazing times!

EVERYWHERE people are standing up and it is so good to see the difference that can be made by individuals joining together to be counted.

Children will be learning about these times and history will have names for these grassroots movements – we are truly living through inspirational times.

I wish the same could be said for education – especially in Australia. The NAPLAN tests are just finished and we have worked with scores of children this week to help them deal with their fear and concerns about these tests.

I don’t have a problem with sampling standards and ensuring students are working at appropriate levels. Problem is – all the hype and pressure that has been brought to bear on teachers and children. These kids have been working flat out on sample tests from February to now and both kids and teachers are utterly sick of it! NAPLAN has become the default National Curriculum for yrs 3/5/7/9 and will remain so when-

a. Teachers are judged and rewarded (or not – especially if they have children with problems in their class)

b. Many private schools ask for children’s NAPLAN tests before enrolling children.

Parents/teachers and children are all stressed out and many children are incredibly worried about the results.

Surely it would have been possible to have standardised school-based assessments rather than this expensive, self-esteem eating monstrosity.

Teachers ARE teaching to the test and this year the children we teach have been put off persuasive texts for life!!!! What a neat way to totally kill a love of writing!