Cherishing the cliché

Happy Mother’s day.

I’ve long viewed this day as a cliché and the commercialisation of it irks me. Still, my family  celebrates it every year and it’s a lovely family day for us. Here’s the thing, as years pass…as I get older, I’m learning to cherish this day when motherhood is celebrated.

After all, what a privilege! I have 2 lovely daughters, 2 lovely human beings. I learn so much from them and they challenge me to be a better person. It’s a tough gig  but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

mothersday2015

I’ve been lucky, too, to have a mother who I’m sure was born a generation too early! I’ve learned heaps from her directly and vicariously…and that includes the love of learning and reading and crafting and volunteering and giving and mother-ing and so on.

What’s more, my social media is full of well wishes to the many mothers I know. This has made me realise that not only do I have wonderful kids, I’m also surrounded by amazing women who have raised wonderful kids as well as many friends raised by wonderful women. Now, there’s a happy thought!

None of us will be here without a mother.

So cliché or not….

 

I cherish this day then, not just for the wonder and privilege of being a mother but for all the mothers, including my own, as well as would’ve been, would-be, can’t be and don’t-wanna-be mothers.

More and more, I view mother’s day as a celebration of women.

Is there a ‘happy women day’? Maybe there should be.

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Can we teach resilience?

Is it possible to teach resilience? I guess it depends on what we think ‘teach’ means, i.e. direct instruction vs facilitation vs guidance, etc. Whatever. I think there is more consensus that resilience can be learnt….somehow.

As a mum, I think resilience is one of the most important things my daughters ought to learn. I have a professional and personal imperative to know how to teach resilience. Previous advice and research have taught me to expose my kids/students to challenges/difficulty and failure; easier said than done, at home and at school. Still, it seems to work (at home, at least) and my daughters are fairly resilient (lucky me!) BUT not so much when it comes to school stuff.  We’ve had plenty of dramas on this over the years (“I’m stupid; I’m dumb; I’m no good at Maths…).

Whatever happens at school, at the end of the day, us parents have to help our kids deal with it. Likewise as teachers, we can perhaps help our students learn resilience.

@anniemurphypaul wrote Tough as a drill sergeant (apropos, it’s worth subscribing to her posts….do it) with strategies that make sense and are easy enough to remember.

Think like an optimist.

Optimists see setbacks as “temporary, local and changeable”.  This phrase appeals to me far more than related clichés: Think positive, Don’t sweat the small stuff, This too shall pass and I dare say: Keep calm and carry on.

Fight back.

Negative and disparaging thoughts will come so it’s important to know that one can and should fight back. Block them. Challenge their validity. Search for a different/positive perspective.

Be grateful and generous.

Find the good and be thankful.

 

I’m not so sure this would work but I’m willing to give this a go. With my kids. With my students.  I love that the strategies are action-oriented, concrete vs. abstract.

I wonder, is resilience context-specific and how can it be made transferrable?

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Too cute to die – a tale of advertising and extinction

This is a re-blog of an email from Bruce Oppenheim (@brucew_o), a Science teacher at my school. To promote interest in Biology and extend beyond the content of the curriculum, Bruce sends out a weekly email to opt-in “subsribers”. This is the most recent:

gorilla

Photo Credit: Martha de Jong-Lantink via Compfightcc

A story of Beauty, Cinderella and the ugly species

I like Pandas,

And baby gorillas

Snow leopards are to die for.

We all love polar bears.

We care.

Look at their babies with their cutesy little faces looking out of the pictures at us.

It would be an INJUSTICE TO SEE THEM DIE!!!!

Yes it would.

The world would be less rich, interesting, whole without them.

source: commons.wikimedia.org

source: commons.wikimedia.org

But what about the giant salamander? the slimy worm like amphibian Sagalla caecilian? The mexican burrowing toad?

I haven’t even gotten onto plants….

 

Ugly? Welwitschia Mirabilis

Welwitschia Mirabilis

source: commons.wikimedia.org

Boring? Snowdonia hawkweed –

Recent studies suggest that conservation organisations focus almost entirely on just 80 species of mammals to raise funds and awareness to protect our world from species extinctions.

But 61% of their campaigns raise fund only to save those particular species – ignoring the 1000+ other species of mammal also on the brink.  Let alone the 16,000 known non-mammal species following the Dodo.

These are the flagship species, the lucky ones,

The pretty ones.

source: commons.wikimedia.org

source: commons.wikimedia.org

Analysis shows that these are 80 species are generally cuddlier than the rest – larger (like us), have forward facing eyes (like us) and furry (like our cuddly toys).They are also mainly primates or carnivores.

Why?

‘cos the public can relate to them, buy postcards of them, feel sorry for them, give money to save them.

And in many cases it’s a case of aesthetics over need.  There are levels of endangeredness from “critically endangered” at one end (the end nearest death) to “vulnerable” and many of the flagships are at the vulnerable end, while many critically endangered are ignored by the world’s media, public and funds. Just the wrong end of the extinction fashion parade.

But is this the best way to save our cousins on the tree of life?

So here  are a couple of suggestions people have been coming up with recently.

1)      Cinderella species.

 

source: commons.wikimedia.org

source: commons.wikimedia.org

Scientists have sat down with the UN red list (the list of all the known endangered species and their levels of risk and said

“Which ones here are forgotten but still adorable in the right fashion shoot?

Maybe these too could get to the funding ball”

They are recommending upping the Flagship list, not purely based on looks, but risk too. Bringing some critically endangered species to meet the Prince Charming’s of international attention, sponsorship and conservation funds.

Front runners include:  The African Wild Ass and the Pygmy Racoon

2)      Let’s be different, let’s allocate funds based on number of species helped.  Let’s look at possible conservation areas where there are many endangered speces (including the ugly ones) and put our conservation funds into protecting as many species as possible – if forest X contains 50 endangered species, whereas forest Y contains 5, maybe forest X should be the focus of conservation efforts.  This approach is being developed by scientists at New Zealand’s department of conservation. Some don’t like this as it does seem like choosing to sacrifice some species for the sake of others but the tragic fact is that present conservation funds are 1/10th of what is estimated we would need to spend to save all presently endangered species.

Extinction rates are high right now (over the last 2-300 years)  – 100 to a 1000 times higher than they have been since the last major extinction event when the dinosaurs went pop. Lets hope that we all start to look out for the ugly critters and flora and not make humans the earths next asteroid impact!

Depressing Financial Commentary:  Last year scientists calculated an approximate cost of protecting ALL 16000 endangered species on the planet.  Spending as little 5 billion dollars annually could reduce each endangered species by one UN endangered category.  76 billion dollars annually could bring them ALL into the clear. Even the ugly ones.

This may sound like a lot until you realise how much people around the world spend on everything else.

The world spend 1,700 Billion dollars a year on their militaries.  America alone spends 20 Billion each year on air conditioning for its military.  Italy alone spends almost 8 billion dollars each year on astrologers and fortune tellers.  Australians spend around 17 billion dollars each year on gambling. Compared to these numbers 5 billion spread across the world  doesn’t sound too big does it?  Presently the world spends 1/10th of that on conservation 🙁

Disclaimer:  I made myself sad researching this “fun” fact.  If it made you think about helping global conservation then it will make me happy again 🙂

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I’ve been asking Bruce to set up his own blog and write posts instead of emails. His work deserves wider readership than the limited distribution list.

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Was it a waste of time?

My year 10s had just had their storyboards assessed and approved.

They were supposed to get started with planning for the next  stage of their multimedia projects; maybe even get started developing components of it.

BUT

My year 10s were visibly unsettled today at period 1. They said they had an English assessment next period – speech. They exchanged stories of how late they went to bed to get this ready and the ‘winner’ (not in my class) went to bed at 4:30 a.m. How anyone could function with such little sleep is beyond me!

We ploughed through the work that needed to be done but they were easily distracted and not really focusing.

SO

In the end, I succumbed and gave them the last half hour of the lesson to practice for their speeches. They had to pretend it’s the real thing so they had to perform in front of everyone as against doing it quietly in their own ‘corner’.  I figured, they weren’t really being productive in my subject so they might as well be productive in something.

Here’s a gist of what happened:

  • I had a glimpse of their creativity, literacy and thinking skills in another context (English)
  • Students took on roles voluntarily as time-keeper and editors
  • Students gave each other constructive feedback
  • I gave constructive feedback
  • Students felt more settled and ready to face their assessment, even those who did not perform but still got editing help
  • We’ve got a concrete example of positive collaboration – one I’m going to keep promoting in MY class

Part of me feels like I’ve been sucked in. Yet, was it really a waste of time?

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Merry Christmas

As 2012 comes to a close and with Christmas cheer in the air, I’d like to wish one and all a very Merry Christmas! Not everyone would see this post (or my front door) but I thought I’d write this anyway.

Increasingly commercialised, I need to remind myself that Christmas is so much more than shopping or even exchanging gifts…fun as that can be. It is a time to share with family and friends, celebrate traditions, and also a chance to look back on the year about to close (a good one for me) and forward to the year about to start (a promising one for me).  Ironically, it’s a stressful time for many, lonely even.  So this is a reminder for me as well to chill out and enjoy the time I do have with family and friends.

I  have no new year’s resolutions; haven’t had any for years!  Perhaps I’m never resolute enough early in the year.  Anyway, change, if desired enough, can happen at any time.

Merry Christmas! Here’s to a happy 2013, full of pleasant surprises, peace and goodwill.

…one can wish….

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