Dear Adult, JTLYK about authenticity

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After a whole month of reading through, talking and thinking about this post, the person who it mainly involves has finally given me permission to share it with the world. In his words; including the Australians, New Zealanders, people on those small islands if they have Wifi, Africans, Americans, Hawaiians if they are not just relaxing at the beach all the time, the Europeans who can can read English and the Chinese, Japanese, Indians Russians and Mexicans. Did we forget anyone? I’m sure that we did, there must be more countries than that. At least I know he really understands that sharing online means  anyone can see and read it.

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If there is such a thing as a ‘homeschooling’ closet then today marks the day of me coming out of that closet. It has taken more than four months to write this post and I hope that those of you reading it will appreciate the angst and uncertainty I had about putting these words into writing. Every morning for the past 4 months and the many months before making the decision to homeschool our 8 year old son, I have woken up and felt rather overwhelmed with this burden of knowing that one day I would need to come out and explain it all. I have mostly felt waves of guilt, as though I am some sort of traitor. After all, I am an educator myself and taking my child out of a formal education system is making quite a massive statement. Yet not talking about it made me feel like I wasn’t being authentic and true to myself, family, friends and those of you following this blog.

After some unexpected changes to our son’s schooling options, we decided to take a year or two out of the daily grind and are currently living in a quiet sea side village. We are enjoying the slower pace so much that it may just turn into a life in an off-grid bunker, full of books, art and music in a village surrounded by nature and all things authentic. Well that’s the plan if the world doesn’t start getting real again, but I know it will. It has to. I know that at the moment we are seeing a rise in ‘fake everything’ and that’s good. The more unauthentic we become, the more driven we will be to find our truth again. I am excited about the changes we will see in the world and in education systems but acknowledge that change does have some bumps and challenges along the way.

 

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Unfortunately many schools have also become caught up in the unauthentic and perfectly presented version of our time, striving to be the best school on the block. Not intentionally, but passively and maybe without even realising it as they cater to the fears and anxieties of parents to provide our children with the best. If there’s one thing I would like to see phased out sooner rather than later is this whole hype about the best school and the worst school. Seriously, are we happy to send our own children to the best school knowing that other children are at the worst school. Does this make us feel superior as parents that we can give our children more than other parents can as though our love and intentions are greater than theirs. Shouldn’t we all be wanting the same for every child. After all, when school ends, the children from the best schools will still be living in a world with the children from the worst schools.

The best school is not the one with the best results. That only shows that the students are good at tests. Often, ‘the best schools’ have a selection process that allows them to choose the most academic students ensuring high academic results which says nothing about the quality of teaching and learning. The best schools are actually schools that have a culture of building confident students. Students who have a voice and who are decision makers in their own learning. The best schools create students who are not afraid to walk straight up to a 6ft something principal, take a hold of their tie and say “nice tie”. (That is a true story and some of you reading this post may know exactly what I am talking about) So when you take away academic results as a way of determining which schools are the ‘best’ then every school has the potential to be the best school and every school should.

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I am forever grateful that I have been part of such schools and so I know they do exist. This is what gives me hope. I know and trust that there are more teachers and leaders out there fighting for what is right and what is important for student learning in the 21st century than there are teachers and leaders who are addressing their own egotistic needs and demanding full control. Giving teachers a voice in the staffroom is just as important as giving students a voice in the classroom. One person or a leadership team or worse still, a government, should not be driving the tour bus without allowing everyone on it to take part in writing the itinerary.

Eventually we will be back at school again because nothing can replace the power of peer learning, collaboration, sharing and being part of a vibrant learning community. For now, we are enjoying less routine and structure, more exploring, travelling and real life learning. An adventure and time that we will reflect upon and cherish as wonderful memories.

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So you may want to know what happened? What was the the drama, the story, the failure. What was it? Well there was no drama, it was nothing really, other than my belief as a parent and an educator in 2017 that children should have daily access and opportunities for 21st century learning, including 21st century social and emotional learning such as mindfulness. Now if the 21st century was something in the future then maybe I wouldn’t have such an expectation. However, we are now 17 years into the 21st century and to be educating in this time without having any understanding or even willingness to open up student learning into the 21st century is unacceptable.

To see our curious, enthusiastic, creative, inquisitive and ‘thinking’ child turn into a worksheet zombie doing hours of homework every night on meaningless and random worksheets was very hard to watch. To see him hate learning, cry and stress because he didn’t have time to play with his friends due to mountains of homework was heart breaking. Knowing that the teacher was working tirelessly to find, copy and correct worksheets and homework instead of having an opportunity to plan and work collaboratively with other teachers made me feel extremely guilty for hating the ‘work’ that our son was doing.

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I learned that everyone hates it but nobody says anything and people just keep doing the same thing, afraid to share their views because the judgement and perception would be that their child cannot cope. This is the story, this is how it goes. Some people can cope and work the system and others cannot. Those who cannot are labelled as failures. In fact, my son could cope, he was receiving A’s and 1’s, if that even means anything because it didn’t mean a thing to me. But coping came at a cost and that cost was losing his own way of thinking, his own problem solving strategies, creativity, making connections and really, just thinking.

I do know that many well-intended parents are so set on the academic results that they ignore the signs and indicators that are showing them that those results do come at a cost. In one way you can argue that parents are just preparing their children for a world that operates in such a way. They are giving their children a head start. After all, success in our world is not measured by how happy we are or how authentic we are. Success is measured by titles, money, positions, assets and wealth. Success is measured by being better than others. I have discovered that having expectations that are centred around happiness and saying them out loud puts you in a box labelled ‘crazy lady’.

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Instead of choosing to prepare our child to ‘cope’ in the world the way the world is, like it or not, we are simply choosing to prepare our child for a world that can be through imagination, creativity, curiosity, collaboration, community, LOVE, skills that are adaptable, learning that is autonomous, life-long and meaningful. We are helping him to be a true expression of his authentic self by being true and authentic ourselves.

But still I am left to wonder; how do we teach our children to be authentic and real in a   world that has become complacent and comfortable with being fake. I am yet to find the way.  Although I do not have an answer or any instructions, it doesn’t mean I cannot  take action. It isn’t easy, in fact it is harder than just staying on the path most travelled even if that path is a daily dose of stress, frustration and all things other than joy. But somewhere, deep in my heart I trust the process of life and of learning in such a way, I know all that I need will be revealed to me just as I need it. I also know that nothing will be revealed nor will anything change if I don’t at least take that very first step. So it is with our children. It is not the job of teachers and parents to fill children’s minds with facts and knowledge. Our job is to inspire, encourage and believe in our children in such a way that they are jumping at the chance to take their first step and never want to stop. This can only take place in a learning environment that supports teachers. There is so much evidence of this. Every child deserves to be educated in a setting that truly provides teachers with all the support they need so that their energy and creativity is going into the direction of student needs rather than ‘school outcomes’. The same can be said for any workplace. Imagine the quality of work and joy that can be achieved.

Knowing what I know about the future which is basically not knowing anything at all about the kind of future we will be sending my son and other children into, makes me know for sure that they will not be prepared. If all that students are learning is to do their work quietly and be good, make the teacher happy by letting the teacher present his/her lesson according to his/her plan, not asking any questions, not talking to anyone in the class, finishing the work as fast as they can, remembering things so that they can pass a test, then no, students will not have the skills needed to make it in a fast changing 21st century world. They will continue the process of . . . do the work, don’t think, keep working, don’t question, keep working even if you hate it, keep working even if it’s making you sick, forget learning, forget dreaming, this is life, this is reality, get over it. Do we really want a world full of unemployed and unfulfilled young adults who are being judged as ‘lazy’ as if it were all their fault. After all, they just did what their parents and teachers advised them to do. Go to school, get good grades. The pathway to success.

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Now I know this post may strike a nerve with some and this is really just an opinion based on my own experience, but please hear me out. I am not saying that my son is so amazing and special that he needs some sort of exceptional education. For the record, what I want for my son is what I want for all children. An education that develops an understanding that learning brings joy, fulfilment and empowerment rather than pain, suffering and a feeling of being judged, compared and controlled. I want with all my heart that we can say schools are amazing platforms for collaboration and inquiry. That schools build confident, happy, responsible, respectful, emotionally healthy and capable young adults who are ready to make positive contributions to their world, whatever that world may look like.

Expecting teachers to engage 21st century learners in a system that operates in the same way it did 100 years ago, is the same as expecting a surgeon to perform an organ transplant with nothing but a blunt knife.

 

 

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Taking our son out of school which meant having to say goodbye to his friends and familiar settings was not easy, especially after having recently relocated from Australia to Europe. In fact my heart still aches just thinking about it. In real life learning however, we are showing him that there are always options in life and you should never resort to being ‘stuck’. Learning in an environment that is obsessed with testing, grading and working silently is not a place where we want our child to be educated. What children experience is what they become and I can say without a doubt in my mind that after 18 months in such a setting our son disappeared into his environment and we could barely recognise him. So with heavy hearts, disappointment and frustration over having to create a solution for a problem that came upon us unexpectedly, we took him out of his ‘new’ school. With nothing but a deep feeling of trust that some short term difficulty will one day all be forgotten in the benefits of long term gains. It didn’t take long, slowly we got him back and this is how it unfolded.

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As we started with an inquiry approach to learning, he was unable to articulate his thinking because he was afraid that it wasn’t right. He couldn’t ask any questions without being prompted. Instead, he kept asking if this was a test. He constantly wanted to know which ‘subject’ would be next and how long it would go on for. He was never really  present in the moment. We had to do a lot of breathing, relaxing, lowering the shoulders and reassuring him that making mistakes is a wonderful part of learning. This was not easy for a child who had learned that making mistakes was bad.

He kept referring to himself as dumb which was heart-breaking.

The first month was really all about building self-confidence and reintroducing him to inquiry learning, thinking skills and taking risks.

Convincing him that learning is fun, interesting and empowering in that it gives us skills to take action was a very difficult task but eventually through experiencing it, he began to really own and feel the learning in such a way.

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By the second month he was singing daily. Oh this was so nice. He would just whistle, hum and sing.

He was more relaxed than ever before and always happy.

He started asking questions again and making connections through real-life learning.

He could slow down and experience being bored, even inventing his own play.

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His reading improved as he began reading what he was interested in.

His spelling improved without any spelling tests, spelling homework and those awkward spelling sentences.

He learned his 2, 4, 3, 6, 5, 10, 11, 12 times tables through playing games, making connections, using concrete materials and finding patterns. Most importantly he halved the work himself by discovering that 2 is half of 4 so if he knows his 2’s then he doubles them for the 4’s, same goes for 3 and 6, 5 and 10. He learned the meaning of multiplication and with prompting began to articulate his thinking.

 

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The third month continued with more moments of wondering, exploring, questioning, finding out, making connections, creating, using new knowledge, skills and understanding to take action, do something with it, apply it, use it, make it real, flaunt it!!

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Now into the fourth month, he is planning to start a business selling drinks to the tourists who pass our house every day. He even suggested that it would be better if the customers paid in euros instead of the local currency so that he could choose when to convert the money and maximise his profits when the exchange rate is higher. Although it is illegal to accept a foreign currency for goods and services, not bad for a child who was labelled as ‘slow’ at math. Which he is, if you’re judging him on his ability to complete a worksheet in a set time. However, we are raising a child and not a calculator so that didn’t bother us too much.                                     

Let kids be real and authentic versions of who they are meant be so that they can be happy.  So that they LOVE and respect themselves in order to be able to LOVE and respect others. 

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Dear Adult JTLYK about authenticity,

Authentic means real. Living things are real. People are living things so we should be real. Real things grow, live and die. Living things need to be cared for. Living things need water, food, love, rest and shelter from bad weather.

Living things always give something to the world. Even a worm gives the world good soil so that more living things can grow but a worm can only do that by being a real worm. If a worm was trying to be like a snail, the worm would not be giving the world it’s gift of making good soil.

A lot of things happen to living things when they’re alive but one thing stays the same. The living thing is always what it is. A living tree does not become a dog, or a person does not become a tree, unless you are doing yoga. But you’re not really a tree. You are still a person. Even when you are wearing a mask, the real version of yourself will always be behind the mask .

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Some animals can mimic other animals. This is how they protect themselves from predators, but they are still the same animal. Humans are lucky, they don’t meet any predators when they are at the market buying food so they can just get their food without having to mimic other humans.

Sometimes I make animal sounds to an animal like a dog or a cat. I noticed that when I do this the animal gets tricked with it’s ears but then it uses other senses like sniffing to find out for sure. That’s pretty clever. It must be very hard to get away with being fake in the real world.

Unless the real world living things dig the parts of their bodies that have the most senses such as their head, since it has eyes, ears, a nose, a mouth and of course a brain, into a big hole then I would say it is impossible to trick living things.

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Even a tiny ant knows the difference between real food and material things that you cannot eat.

I know what I am and I know who I am. I knew this when I arrived into the world.

In my first 7 years I was so connected to my inner-authentic self that I was free to be me. Later I started to become a reflection of who the world was showing me I had to be.

As I became more like the world and less like me, I didn’t feel so real anymore.

The more I tried to be like others the less I knew about me.

The more I learned to want what others had the less I knew what I really wanted for myself.

The more I tried to do what others were doing, the less I could do things myself.

The more I tried to look like someone else, the less I started to look like myself.

The more I searched for approval from others, the less happy I felt about myself.

The more I listened to what others thought, the less I could hear my own voice.

The more I surrounded myself with non-living material things, the less space I had for things that are natural and real.

The more I followed other people’s dreams, the less dreams I achieved for myself.

We start life as real living things, we should just stay real until we die.

Then we can say we were really alive.

YW

 

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Dear Adult, JTLYK about Time

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There was once a time in our lives before we had met Bruno. When we did meet him, it was only for a few short minutes. Those few minutes would be the only time we would spend with him and it is almost certain that we will never see him again. Yet Bruno has made a huge impact on my family and we will forever be grateful for our short encounter with him.

What started as an ordinary evening, winding down after a busy day of exploring our new neighbourhood and sea side village, turned into an evening of wondering about a life and a time, long ago. As we were relaxing on the couch, there was a knock on the door. I opened the door to discover a neatly dressed, older man in his late seventies. His face was bright, eyes wide open with joy and excitement. The man looked at me and was rather surprised, caught off guard. He managed to say, hello, my name is Bruno, who are you? Where is ………. ? It occurred to me that he was referring to the previous owner of this old sea side cottage that we now call home.

The excitement on his face started to clearly fade and his expression changed to that of curiosity, maybe even worry about what had happened to the previous owner. He told me that his friend used to live in the house. They had grown up together as young boys in this little fishing village. His friend had moved to the city for work but he always came back every summer for the past 60 years. The man at our door had noticed that the shutters were open so he assumed that just like every other year, his friend was back for the summer.

We talked a little more and then he apologised for troubling us. With tears in his eyes and less excitement than when he arrived, he left. Just like that. He would never return to this house or drink another coffee or summer beer with his good old friend.

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I returned to the couch, my son was still sitting in the same place with absolutely no idea about what had just happened. Who was at the door mum? he asked. I told him about Bruno. I thought that my son would be satisfied with my explanation about an old man looking for his friend who used to live in this house, but he wasn’t.

Why couldn’t Bruno just call him on his mobile mum? How old was this Bruno guy anyway? Can he drive a car? Do you think he can still swim? Can he walk up that steep hill because it’s even hard for you and Bruno is twice your age. What did they play together when they were kids? Did he speak German, English or just Croatian? Were they born when the Italians were in charge of this place? I wonder if they ate spaghetti. Maybe they did when the Italians were in charge. Anyway mum, where is his friend?

And then it sank in, that feeling, that deep knowing that we all have but avoid by staying busy and distracted.

Life is a journey that doesn’t go on forever.

I was certain that Bruno would have spent his evening thinking about where all the years went. Wondering if not regretting that maybe he didn’t do all the things he thought he would.

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Dear Adult, JTLYK about Time,

I’m 8.

My mum said Bruno was maybe 78 or 79 so I just made him the age closest to the next 10 which is 80.

I know that 8 x 10 = 80

Bruno has been alive for 8 years 10 times. I have been alive for 8 years once. That means I need 9 more lots of 8 years to be the same as Bruno.

I know that 8 x 9 = 72

I also know that 80 – 8 = 72

Bruno is 72 years older than me.

In my first 8 years, I learned to crawl, walk, eat, drink, talk, play, read, write, add, subtract, use technology, be a good friend, pack my school bag, make my school lunch, make breakfast, tie my shoe laces, make my bed, avoid vegetables, draw pictures, build towers, tell funny jokes, swim, dance, sing, make things, ski, kick a ball, catch a ball, bounce on a trampoline, make jelly, lock a door, un-lock a door, fold a towel, brush my teeth, use Netflix, count money, cross a road, climb trees and so many other things.

I wonder what else I can do by the time I’m as old as Bruno?

Please let me.

YW

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Dear Adult JTLYK about Comparing

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My family and I are in a little fishing village on the Istrian Peninsula in Croatia at the moment. We walked past a row of fig trees in between the ruins of forgotten stone houses and I couldn’t help but think that in Melbourne, the fruit of these trees would probably have a net worth greater than the current balance of my retirement fund.  As I stood there admiring the fig trees I noticed a little granny who I assumed owned this bit of land. My first thought was, what a lucky lady, she gets to eat all these organic figs, she actually knows where they came from and who touched them and she’s not even paying $50kg for them. As I walked off I had another thought. Maybe the little granny was looking at me in my neat clothes and also thinking, lucky lady, she’s had an easy life, working in an office, a clean, non-strenuous job. By assuming so much about the village life and those fig trees, I was actually feeling like I had missed something, like something was lacking in my life because I didn’t own 10 gigantic fig trees. Up until that moment, I was unaware that I even wanted 10 fig trees. Had I forgotten how to simply admire something without wanting it for myself?

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In the same village, I spotted a group of five unsupervised children led by a three year old on a battered balance bike. The children were talking amongst themselves and I could work out that they were planning an expedition in search of wild asparagus. I was there with my son and as I looked at him I realised that he was wearing three items specifically designed for safety even though he wasn’t going anywhere particularly dangerous. In fact, he was on a supervised expedition with his mother in search of a safe place to play with his soccer ball. I looked back at the group of children then at my son and sighed. I can give him so much but I cannot give him an unsupervised expedition into the forest in search of wild asparagus. The children in the village, looked over at my son. They could tell that he wasn’t a local. They probably thought that he had come from a better place than there’s because he had greater material worth, yet they were totally unaware of their own fortune. All the money in the world cannot buy you an unsupervised expedition into the forest with your friends, especially when you’re 3!

As long as we look out and see what they have and we don’t, we will never find true happiness, gratitude and joy. Without even realising, comparison by comparison we have filled our minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years and in essence our whole lives with discontent and a deeper connection with lack and want instead of gratitude.

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Oh Mr Roosevelt, you had no idea back then that joy would be replaced with an obsession for things, approval from others, likes, haters and followers. Joy went out of fashion a long time ago.  Comparison and it’s close friend judgement are indeed the thieves of joy and life!

When we compare ourselves to others, our relationships to other relationships, our clothes, our homes, our bodies and everything else, we miss the whole point of knowing who we are, what we have and making the most of it. Sometimes it takes a new perspective to see the true value of things. We often think that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. No, my son cannot go on an expedition into the woods with his friends and I don’t have access to 500kg of organic figs, but we have other things to be grateful for.

Don’t get me wrong, not all comparison is bad. If we can see, experience, compare and learn from each other without connecting to a feeling of lack then this is healthy and allows us to grow. But this kind of comparison can only reside in a person who is experiencing life authentically. A person who is at peace and in sync with themselves and the life they are creating. Seeing the group of children planning their expedition into the forest made me think that perhaps a helmet, elbow pads and knee pads was a bit too much for my son.

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And at the end of the day . . . 

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Dear Adult, JTLYK about comparing,

Dealing with comparison is hard when we are growing up and learning so many new things every day. We need to make lots of mistakes while we are young. We need to learn who we are, how we feel, what we like, what we dislike, what we are good at, what we need to improve, how to be happy and proud of who we are. We need to learn from young that everyone has a place in this world. Your time was different to now. This is a time of creating like never before. Every one of has something to give, to do, to be and experience. Stop worrying about us and stop fussing about all the little details of what you think we need. Love, nurture, support and believe in us so that we can learn to believe in ourselves.

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Comparing us all the time to other children isn’t helpful. It places too much attention on good, bad, better, the best, the worst, the fastest, the slowest. Save your comparing for when you’re choosing your next car or internet provider. We are human and comparing us all the time hurts. What if the adults were being compared the same way as us. Imagine, every adult in the world had to bake a cake and then receive a grading for the cake. What if they were told that if they didn’t receive a high grade for the cake then they wouldn’t succeed in life? When you set a list of conditions as a way of measuring success, not everyone can be successful.

After all that measuring and comparing, you tell us to love and be proud of who we are. You tell us not to compare ourselves to others and yet that is all we know.  Is it just another adult created, artificial platform of what you call life? As if we cannot see right through your well-intended words of wisdom and feel their lack of authenticity. Please give us more credit than that.

Imagine a world of happy, confident, flexible, life-long learners with an open heart and compassion for all living things. This is the future we want to create. So please, please, please, stop making us remember things so that we can complete tests for you to compare us. Teach us useful skills so that we can create!!!!

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When I feel good, I do good. When I do good, I see good in others. (dearadult.com)

YW

Dear Adult JTLYK about Identity

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I have to smile whenever I am asked the very common question about my identity. “Where are you from?” This question amuses me beyond words. I am always tempted to say something like; I come from an infinite space not visible in the third dimension. But I want to have friends, so I don’t say that.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could tell people where we are from in adjectives instead of nouns. Just for fun I would say I come from beautiful, I used to live in disgusting and evil but then I moved to abundant, I didn’t stay there long. I got a job in average and then travelled through happy and now I have settled here in exciting. I’m planning to retire in relaxed.

What if we told our stories of where we are from in emotions. I come from bliss, I lived in fear, I worked in misery, I travelled through anger, frustration, loneliness, grief, happiness, joy and excitement. Now I have settled down in content. My husband and I have bought a little villa in hope where we plan to retire.

Or food! I was born in pasta, I moved to cheesecake when I was 5, then travelled through goulash, fried rice, noodles and salad for about 5 years and now I live in sushi. I work in watermelon. I’d love to retire in mango.

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Oh the fun I could have, stories of our identity without a mention of country, city, suburb, school, community. All of which tell a story of their own.

Why should I tell you where I am from? Why should I help you form a profile of my existence. If I tell you where I am from and if I share with you where I am going then I open myself up to your preconceived ideas about me. In an instant we would have lost the possibility of connecting in the ever so important space of now.

In this world and in this life I am lucky. I come from many places and I can choose my identity according to who asks me. I am like a chameleon able to camouflage myself into many settings, well maybe not as a ballet dancer on a stage with other ballet dancers, but in general I am adaptable. This is an absolute luxury in a world full of judgement. It also helps that I am white, english speaking, middle-class and educated. In addition to that, I have good teeth, which gives a positive impression about my background. I can easily navigate through western world cultures without having to work too hard to prove my worth.

However, from a 3-D physical world perspective, my family comes from one of the poorest countries in Europe and I grew up in the northern working class suburbs of Melbourne. I wouldn’t even have to tell you that, as soon as I utter the name of the country and the name of the suburb you would have made the connection. If I presented myself first as a country or as a suburb before I showed you myself, then you would have placed me in a box before you even got to know me. It is not that I am ashamed of where I am from, in fact, it is the opposite. My goal is to challenge your ideas about where I am from, so that you may one day speak in defence of my home and my people. “Hey, I once met a woman from  ******  and she was nice, she was smart, she didn’t steal my car 🙂 ”

I want people to get to know me first so that their experience of where I am from is based on the exchange of energy with me instead of preconceived, old and out-dated views of the place I am from.  In that experience, we have the ability to ignite a new reality into existence instead of repeating old patterns, old judgement, old fears, old hatred and old divisions. I want this now more than ever before, not even for me but for the generations of children who will be the adults of the future, so that they can all say;

I come from the same place as you do, mate!

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Dear Adult JTLYK about Identity,

I am not a country. I am not a place. I am not a colour. I am not a religion. I am not a flag. I am not a shape. I am not a condition. I am not a feeling. I am not an action. I am not the past. I am not the future. I am not a version of you.

I am me and if you get to know me you will see who I am.

When you know who I am, then you can help me become the best version of me.

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I come from an infinite place of pure potential. However, when you build a profile of me based on the physical place from where I come, you are doing a disservice to yourself and to me. You are creating a compromised version of me built from limiting ideas of who you really think I am.

Once, I got angry at school. I was angry because something happened that was unfair. My teacher saw my anger as something ‘in my blood’ because of where my family comes from. My friend also got angry but his family did not come from an angry country.

I could have learned to deal with my angry feeling that day, instead my teacher showed me that anger is who I am because of where I am from. My teacher’s judgement did not help me, it did the opposite. It formed a reason, a narrative, a profile and most dangerously, an excuse for my anger as though it is something that is in-built and I have no control over. I didn’t even know that my family came from an angry country and that anger was in my blood. Which leads me to the question. Are the adults building profiles of children in order to help us or are they simply making excuses in their own defence when we don’t respond the way they had planned?

If my identity is formed through belief systems about me, how will I ever form my own?

I want to show the world that I am a version of me that I have created myself with the loving guidance of the adults in my world who chose not to judge me.

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And, just for the record;

If I were a country, I would be a progressive one.

If I were a place, I would be a peaceful one.

If I were a colour, I would be a vibrant one.

If I were a religion, I would be one that is free.

If I were a flag, I would be a colouful one.

If I were a shape, I would be an interesting one.

If I were a condition, I would be a fair and equal one.

If I were a feeling, I would be LOVE.

If I were an action, I would be a helpful one.

If I were the past, I would be content,

If I were the future, I would be hopeful.

If I were you, I could never be me.

I can choose progressive, peaceful, vibrant, free, colourful, interesting, fair, equal, LOVE, helpful, content and hopeful regardless of where I come from.

Can you please choose that for me too.

YW

Dear Adult JTLYK about Money

Is money a friend or an enemy? Is it something we love or hate? Is money good or evil? Will money solve problems or create them? Will money lead us to truth or will it seduce us into telling lies? Does money increase our wellbeing or does it make us sick?

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One of my personal struggles with the physical world has always been around the topic of money. I have long believed that the way we treat money provides insight into how we deal with other things such as love and relationships.

It is my belief that money is nothing but energy. When I share this view I am always confronted with the same response; but you cannot live without money! Yes, I totally agree with that response. In this physical and material world we live in, we cannot live without money.

But still, I believe that money is only energy.

Why? If I resort to the fact that money is more important than anything else and if I give in to fears that a certain amount of money is required to live a good life, I lose my faith in my own abilities and skills. My capacity to create and make something from nothing is diminished the very moment I give in to the notion that money is everything.

As long as I have my health, my ability to think, skills to create and most importantly, love in my heart, in the sense that I use my skills to be of service, not service to myself (and ego) I will always have something to give and that giving alone in this material world will be returned in the form of energy known as money.

You may be wondering; what about all the people in our world who do not have health, ability or freedom to think and create? Then those of us who do, should share a little with those who do not and cannot create something in exchange for money. In doing so we are bringing light to those who are in the dark.

It is never wrong to make a lot of money if your values and treatment of money are well intended. Money has the ability to be of great service.

On the other hand, money taken, which does not belong to us or where we have not given a fair share of energy in exchange, shall be money received in great discrepancy and no true happiness will ever be attained from it.

When we go back to our child self, we would use our adult money to;

get what we need

have fun with it

share it

keep some if we ever had to wait for more to arrive

We would know that money is just a physical symbol in a material world that comes in the form of energy and should be kept in constant flow.

Anything other than that is a learned behaviour about money.

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We cannot win the battle of greed, for the greedy will always be, but we can boycott the circus that has convinced us to want the things that cost way more than they are worth.

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This post was inspired by the most interesting conversations and questions asked by my son when he was about 4 years old. I openly admit that it was at that point when I truly realised that perhaps, other than biological reasons, I may not really be the adult in this relationship, at least when it comes to money!!

Dear Adult, JTLYK about money.

When I was born, I got things when I cried and made some noise. As I got a bit older I started to realise that crying was not enough. I had to be more creative, I screamed, grabbed things and held them close, sometimes hid them (adults called it stealing). There was always a level of energy and creativity required to get things.

Later I learned that energy or creativity was not needed, I just had to have some round metal things and other paper things with pictures of people who looked really sad. I believe you call it money.

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 So I discovered that the more coins and notes I had, the more things I could get. It was easy to know exactly what I wanted to get because the world kept showing me all the things I should get. It was a very simple process to understand.

Money = things

More money = more things

The most money = the most things

I learned that things needing more money were extremely precious and protected. I also learned that money doesn’t grow on trees. You have to work hard for your money. You need to save your money and I even learned that money is evil. I’m still confused about all the mixed messages I received about money. Is it good, or is bad? Can it be both?

By the time I grew up and realised that money does not grow on trees, I was so addicted to getting things that I had to resort to anything  just to get the things I was addicted to. It’s what adults call work and it is often linked to misery. I also noticed that most adults wished they could win a lot of money so that they never had to go to work again. I know this because I once saw a lot of adults playing games on a television in a restaurant and when I asked my mum if  could also play, she told me it was a game for adults. I know now, the game is called gambling and lots of adults do it because they have forgotten the skills they have to create something in exchange for the money that is needed to live in the physical world.

When money stopped being a form of energy, a sort of game of giving and receiving, it turned into something to be chased. Chasing money made the adults very busy, tired and even grumpy.

One day when I was watching television I saw an advertisement where a lady carried a lot of bags with things that she had bought from the shops. She was very happy and she showed a plastic card and I found out the card was called a credit card. I asked my mum if I could have a credit card so I didn’t have to carry all my money around. It would be easier to just keep a credit card in my pocket. I also asked my mum what a credit card is and how does it let people buy things. My mum told me that using a credit card was like borrowing money, the money doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to someone else, you just use the money that you borrowed. I thought about this, a lot. When I borrow something, I have to give it back. How do I give something back if I have used it all up? That didn’t really make sense to me. It would be like borrowing somebody’s sandwich, eating it and then how could I give it back? So I asked my mum, how do I give it back after I used it? My mum told me that you have to get some more money to give back the money that you borrowed, and you have to give it back by a certain date, otherwise you have to pay more money than you borrowed. I didn’t feel comfortable giving back more money than I used because I worked out it would mean that I always had less. I told my mum that I didn’t want a credit card and that cash would be just fine.

My mum (using her old world ideas abut saving) insisted that I take all my money to a place called a bank. She told me that my money would be safe in the bank. I was very curious about what the bank would even do with my money. Surely the bank could not buy things with my money because the bank did not use any energy to get that money. My mum also told me that the bank would take some of my money just for keeping it. Well, after that bit of information, it was clear that I would have a lot of work to do teaching my mum and other adults about money. I didn’t even bother to ask if some of my money was being used to pay for the fancy things I noticed all around the bank. I was too scared that the answer may be yes, or worse still, “I’m not sure”. That’s the other thing I noticed about adults, they work so hard for their money and then they just give it to people in fancy suits, sitting in fancy buildings and not even ask what will happen with the money. No wonder there are so many rich people in the world and others begging for food. It seemed to me, the world had some very strange ideas about money.

The other thing that I was very curious about was who actually pays for things? I discovered that parents pay for a lot of things, even plants for the garden. But who pays for plants on the street? This is when I learned all about a thing called tax. As an adult, you would already know about it. I think that tax is a very clever idea. To have shared money that pays for all the things that a community needs such as schools, hospitals, roads, parks and other useful things. I would be happy to share some of my money to pay for things that my community needs. Which led my to my next questions;  Who decides what a community needs? Who keeps all the money? Who does all the community shopping and how much money does the community actually have?

So, can the adults of the world who control the money please show the children how to do good things with money or better still, just ask us! We do happen to have some great ideas about sharing money, but unfortunately we don’t get to properly use money until we are adults and by then, well you can see the pattern, we are already adults. When we are adults we know what we know and we learned what we learned . . . about money . . . from you . . . Dear Adult.

PS: I don’t blame you for putting money above others things because I know that you came from a time and place where money was needed to ‘make it’ in the world. For example; money to study at a really good school and get a high paid job. Those times are changing. The old ideas about money come from the old ideas of power and competition. You need to know that skills, ideas, creativity, community, being of service, problem-solving and doing good are the new ways and future of making money. So please teach me the habits and skills I will need to create a future world where everyone has enough, more is not better and the person who has the most is not the winner.

YW

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Dear Adult JTLYK about Creating

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Let’s start with the many available definitions of the word create.

(or, if you’re not in the mood for a trip down memory lane WARNING that may involve dark corners of grammar  lessons – just scroll down to the Dear Adult section)

Create (verb) creates, creating, created

To create something is to make it exist.

Synonyms for create
conceive, constitute, construct, design, devise, discover, establish, forge, form, found, generate, initiate, invent, make, organize, plan, produce, set up, shape, pawn, start, actualize, author, beget,coin, compose, concoct, contrive, effect, erect, fabricate, fashion, father, formulate, hatch, imagine, institute, invest, occasion, originate, parent, perform, procreate, rear, sire, bring into being, bring into existence, bring to pass, cause to be, dream up, give birth to, give life to

Indicative

Present

I    create
you  create
he/she   creates
we   create
you  create
they create

Perfect

I    have created
you  have created
he/she   has created
we   have created
you  have created
they have created

Past

I    created
you  created
he/she   created
we   created
you  created
they created

Future

I    will create
you  will create
he/she   will create
we   will create
you  will create
they will create

Future perfect

I    will have created
you  will have created
he/she   will have created
we   will have created
you  will have created
they will have created

THE NEXT ONE IS MY FAVOURITE AND THE WHOLE POINT OF DEFINING THE WORD CREATE IN THIS POST!

Conditional (I added some words for thought)

Present

I    would create   (if)
you  would create  (though)
he/she   would create  (if not for)
we   would create  (although)
you  would create  (except)
they would create  (granted that)

Perfect

I    would have created (when)
you  would have created (but)
he/she   would have created (however)
we   would have created (nevertheless)
you  would have created (on the occasion that)
they would have created (whenever)

Last but not least . . . .

Imperative (just gorgeous when defined as; of vital importance; crucial)

you  create
we   Let´s create

OTHER FORMS OF CREATE AS AN ADJECTIVE, NOUN AND MASS NOUN

Creative (adjective)

Showing imagination and thought as well as skill.

Creator (noun)

Someone who creates something

Creation (mass noun)

The action or process of bringing something into existence.

mass noun is a noun denoting something which cannot be counted (e.g. a substance or quality), in English it is usually a noun which lacks a plural in ordinary usage and is not used with the indefinite article, e.g. happiness.

All that grammar and technicality, does leave me to wonder about something . . . . . . (other than the grammatical sarcasm in the conditional perfect tense – I would have created – said by many of us, many times and for many conditions, I mean reasons)

If all that is and all that was and everything that will be created, is in fact created through creativity, thought and skill (not money or evil or greed) by a creator (an ordinary someone who creates something NOT someone idolized as a creator) then why are we not creating the things that we say we want? After all, every one of us is a someone.

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Dear Adult, JTLYK about Creating.

When I arrived into this physical world and before I could see things with my eyes, I relied on what I could see in my mind. I could see a lot of things in my mind. There were no limitations or pre-conceived ideas about failure, success and about being right or wrong. In my mind I saw possibility.

By the time I learned the skills I needed to create into existence that which I was imagining, I lost the imagination I needed to create.

You see, in my mind I can see things that adults cannot see and often cannot even understand.

Adults have spent too much time looking at things that already exist and idolizing things that have already been created.

Imagine, if you can, a world created through the eyes of children and with wisdom and unconditional love from adults.

Please stick with your adult focus on developing my skills, I will need skills to create my future. But always remember that the pictures in your mind may not be the same as the pictures in mine. Give me a chance to tell you about my pictures so that you can make better choices about the skills I will really need to create them into existence.

YW

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Let’s Create

It is imperative that we continue this essential human process of existence with wisdom, love and all the skills required for our present and future world!

Dear Adult, JTLYK about stories

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Dear Adult,

Please let me write my own story.

I come from a better place than you do.

YW

 

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Before The Story

Before the anger

I was love

Before the silence

I was a song

Before the sorrow

I was joy

Before the dark

I was light

Before the tears

I was laughter

Before the war

I was peace

Before the hunger

I had plenty

Before the fear

I had hope

Before the cage

I was free

Before the poison

I was healthy

Before the nightmare

I had a dream

Before the story that you told me, I had a story of my own. My story was one of love, music, joy, light, laughter, peace, abundance, hope, freedom, health, imagination and creativity.

Let me show you my story before you tell me yours.

My future and the future of the world depends on it.

Dear Adult JTLYK about Power

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Power in it’s literal meaning is; the capacity and ability to do something in a particular way. Yet power, thanks to history, as well as the current state of the world, does not have the same meaning to most of us anymore. Maybe it’s because we have built systems where positions and titles are seen as power instead of acknowledging power as the ability to do something in a particular way.

Power is also often referred to as some magical force within us all, a power to change, a power to be our true authentic selves and a power to create. Although I do resonate with this notion of power, I never truly owned it. I never truly embraced that word as something I could use to move me in a positive way. My life experience of power was too great and therefore unable to shift the deep connection that I have with power that one must be forceful, in control and in high places. This idea of power has been created throughout history and no matter how I looked at it, the word power was too dramatic, too clique and too forceful. Most importantly, when I used the word power in a positive affirmation I just felt too ‘cheesy’ too fake and no matter how much I tried I could never seem to soften it.  Until, one day, a student who I was working with finally made sense of it all for me.

The student said; “I can do this”. Yes, that’s it folks, really, that is all there is to it. I can, I am able, I am capable. I don’t have to be powerful or forceful. I have the capacity to do something in a particular way and this capacity, this ability is the power itself.

For a long time, my expectations of power were far too grand, almost out of reach. This child taught me to simplify my understanding of power.

Be willing (intention) be capable (have skills) and be gentle (do it with love).

I am very lucky to be able to spend most of my days around such wise little people. Seeing things through a colourful lens of simple reality, inner knowing and truth.

It made me think, if we actually replace the word power with the word ability, then we can eliminate the belief that positions and systems are power itself. If we can just give children the skills they need to be able and capable to take action. But to do that, we must STOP modelling to our children that positions, money, gender, skin colour and fame are POWER!

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Dear Adult,

JTLYK about Power

When I came into the world, I had special powers just like a superhero. An unseen energy that could move things in a way that gave me access to whatever I needed. I did this even before I could speak. I loved that time. But as I got older I learned that in order to be capable and able to take action I had to be powerful first. I realised that power was assigned to people according to their positions and place in the world. I learned that people in higher positions such as adults had more power than me and so I stopped doing things because I no longer had any power.

I discovered that people had more power if they had more money, nicer clothes, important jobs and even the colour of people’s skin made them more powerful than others. I forgot about all the power I once had within me, all the energy, ability and capacity to be me. I was shown by the adults in the world that only powerful people could take action. Powerful people make all the decisions, powerful people need to be obeyed and powerful people are more than I am, maybe more than I will ever be. I’m not sure how I came to believe all of this but it must have happened gradually over years, it must have formed in my mind as truth the more and  more I experienced life.

To me, power is just energy and ability to take action. Power is not forceful, power should not make some people successful and others helpless.

I spent a lot of time and energy learning skills to make me capable and able to take action, but those skills were wasted when I found myself in situations where I could not take action because I did not have power or authority to do so.

Can we please put power back into the action, not the person or the position they have?

YW

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Dear Adult JTLYK about starting school and first impressions

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True Story

Q: (Parent) How was your first day at school?                                                                                                   

A: (5-year-old child after 1st day of school) “It was great mum, the teacher talked all day long and I got to think about my favourite animals in my head when she was talking.

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One must admit that at first, I felt a wave of embarrassment move through me as I knew exactly what this child had experienced. The first day of school, so many things to be covered, so many things children need to know about school. Messages delivered by excited teachers and often anxious teachers about the year ahead. I have done this, I still do this but thanks to the insight of this very wise 5-year-old I am now conscious of it and although I have certainly not mastered the concept of child-centred conversations I am  better at listening to the little people instead of rambling my to-do list out loud.

The feedback from this child, was not about me directly, but clearly about teachers in general. This comment went on to shape me as a teacher more than anything I learnt at university, at any professional development session or from any book I had read. This comment by the very insightful 5-year-old could not ever be reversed in my head as a form of accountability on my part as a teacher. After all, in my profession as an educator I am and should be accountable to the student first, then all the other stuff. In reality, if I play my cards right and do my job well and most importantly drop my ego at the door before entering this sacred space that I chose to share with such wise creators (I’m talking about the classroom, not the staffroom) then the learning can be nothing but student driven and purposeful.

When the students arrive, just like the guests at a dinner party, they are more likely to notice the experience and the human interaction rather than the matching napkin holders. Certainly there will be admiration for such pretty things assembled in Pinterest Perfection, but that admiration will wear off quickly when the dinner host is cold and resentful of all the effort he/she has put into creating such a table.

I must admit, I am a little sceptical about the rise of The Perfect Pinterest Teacher and the Perfect Pinterest Classroom. No doubt I agree with the need to provide comfortable, organised and inspirational learning spaces. Let’s face it, nothing says I hate my job more than a classroom full of mouldy coffee cups and walls covered with wrinkled student work on display from 1997. But teachers are not interior designers, what looks good may not necessarily be good and it gives our beginning students the impression that the world values beauty and perfection over everything else. Whilst many great ideas were born and shared on Pinterest, a teacher who is not engaged in collaborative and purposeful planning is likely to be picking ‘work’ that looks good instead of planning and facilitating learning that fosters student thinking, inquiry and explicit strategy-based learning for numeracy and literacy according to the individual child’s ‘zone of proximal development’, Lev Vygotsky (1896–1934)

Also, JTLYK the same child replied to this question from his mother on the first day of his second year at school. True Story!

Q: (Mother) How is your new teacher?

A: (6-year-old child) Exactly the same as last year but with a different head.

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Dear Adult

JTLYK about starting school and first impressions.

I didn’t really think about school as much you did. I saw it as a place, somewhere in the future that I would go to one day, but only after you told me about such a place. It didn’t exist in my imagination. I never imagined that there was place, a building of some sort filled with children who were all there for the purpose of learning things that mostly adults had decided were important to learn. Before I started school, I didn’t really spend that much time thinking about the future. I enjoyed playing, exploring, talking and thinking about things that I really liked. I spent my time in the present, doing, creating and simply being.

I know that some adults are still very uncomfortable with the concept of student-centred learning because they think that if children are allowed to do what they want and what they like then they will become selfish, ungrateful and not follow orders from important people like adults. However, as a child I think it is really silly for adults to be doing the same thing as other adults even if they don’t like it or even if they are not good at it. For example, some adults are really not good at being teachers or doctors or shop keepers but they still do it and they are really unhappy when they do it. That doesn’t make sense to me. I like to do things that make me happy, things that I am good at. I like to watch and learn from people who are doing things that they are good at like playing the piano, designing a cool game or building an amazing cubby house.

I know for sure that if more adults were actually doing what they were good at and at least liking if not loving what they do, there would be more happiness in the world. If the adults were more happy, then surely they would see that children, at least until they are adults, seek to be happy before they seek anything else. When children and adults are co-creating in a space of happiness,then the need for power, control and ‘battle’ is not required.

When I arrived at school, I was very happy to follow the rules when the teacher took the time to show me and my friends how the rules keep us safe and respectful. I liked it when the teacher pretended to fall over the chair that was not pushed in properly under the table. I also liked it when the teacher from the classroom next to us came in and pretended to be rude to my teacher and then my teacher pretended to be sad. It helped me to think about how other friends might feel. It was also very funny. I remembered that.

I also liked it when the teacher noticed that I was feeling a bit nervous being in a new, big school and when they held my hand to reassure me. I liked it when the teacher noticed that I  happen to know a lot about dinosaurs. In fact, some of my friends actually think I am a dinosaur expert and I love it when I get to share the things I know and love. I liked it when the teacher smiled and talked slowly as though we had all the time in the world to explore and enjoy our learning journey together,  You know, 5 and 6-year-old children have no concept of time at all so we just feed off the stress and anxiety about time through the adults in our world. It was nice when the teachers could join the children and be fully present in the moment, instead of rushing to finish because they were already thinking about the next thing on the list.

I liked it when the teacher made an effort to really get to know me before deciding who I should be. The teacher observed what I could do before making me do things that I really couldn’t do. It was really nice of the teacher to do that, especially when they noticed that I could not hold my pencil like some of the other children in the classroom. It was a big deal for the teacher,  I know, because a teacher is an adult and an adult mind would worry that if I couldn’t hold the pencil properly, I wouldn’t be able to begin my journey as a good writer. But the teacher did not pass that worry onto me. They kept their adult worries to themselves and noticed all the other things that I could do really well. The teacher noticed that I had good ideas when we were sharing things about our learning. The teacher helped me hold my pencil properly, but in a quiet and gentle way so that nobody noticed how difficult it was for me. With the teacher’s patience and belief in me and without a struggle, I learnt to hold my pencil and began to write some pretty awesome stories.

When I started writing words, the teacher didn’t cross out the words that were incorrect, instead they put a smiley face on the parts that I got right and gave me ideas about how I could think about replacing the parts I got wrong until I worked it out myself. Most importantly, somehow as though the teacher had some special magic powers, they did it all without even using the words right or wrong. That made me feel safe to try, take chances, discover, learn and grow.

I noticed that the teacher always felt happy when another adult came into the classroom and made a comment about how we were such a good team of learners. It made me feel very proud and I also felt like I really belonged in the classroom surrounded by other people who were equally valued and important just like me.

When I got angry or frustrated and pushed my friend to the ground, the teacher didn’t see me as a bad kid without any respect or manners. They didn’t write a story about me in their mind based on what they saw in just one moment. The teacher did not judge me or label me and tell all the other teachers to watch out for me. They didn’t start a process that would see me placed under a teacher microscope for the rest of my days at school. The teacher didn’t see my actions as an intentional act of disrespect against them or others. The teacher acknowledged that I struggled sometimes to keep my hands to myself when I was feeling an emotion that was overwhelming for me. They noticed, that for me, an unfair situation such as another child pushing into the line was a big deal. The teacher helped me understand what I was feeling and that I had other choices instead of pushing my friend to the ground. They showed me that I could take deep breaths, or shake off what I was feeling, to use my words and tell my friend, “hey, that’s not fair, I was there first”. After all, it was the teacher who chose to be a teacher and when you choose to be a teacher I guess that helping us kids to become the best version of ourselves should be high on your list of priorities. It is not possible for every child to be the same. I cannot be like the student sitting next to me. I’m glad that the teacher didn’t expect that from me, I would have wasted so many years of my life trying to be somebody else instead of learning, (through lots of bad choices and mistakes) how to be the best version of myself.

Anyway, what I liked most about that day is that the teacher made me move away from the other children when I pushed my friend. This showed me that I should learn how to manage myself better. The teacher made it clear that if I was being unsafe, I couldn’t be part of the team. They made me take responsibility for my actions and understand that although my world is all about me, I need to know how to be me around others, because the world is also full of others who are busy being themselves. If we are all better versions of ourselves then we become a very happy ‘us’. A community of interesting individuals, who have different beliefs, talents, challenges, likes and dislikes. A community of individuals who have all come from a different place but here, at school, in our classroom, in our magical place of learning, we are all in the same place.  A place where we are all valued as equal and important. In that place it doesn’t matter if my parents are doctors, lawyers, rock stars, unemployed, drug addicts, happy, depressed, angry, content, loving, caring, good or bad parents. It matters that I am there in that place and I have the right and chance to become the best version of me. I have that chance with a teacher who chose a profession because it is something they are good at and something they feel happy doing. A teacher who is able to put aside their adult worries and concerns at least during the time that the classroom is filled with the energy and creativity of little people like me.

YW

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Most teachers choose to teach because they love it and they are good at it. However, even the best teachers will be unable to bring the best out in their students if they are in an environment that does not support or value them. Just like students, teachers also need certain things from their school in order to thrive.

Teachers will thrive in schools where they are treated with respect and where their craft is valued.

Teachers will thrive in schools where they are allowed to speak and have an opinion.

Teachers will thrive in schools where professional communication is achieved in an ego-absent environment.

Teachers will thrive in schools that value happiness.

Teachers will thrive in schools that recognise and reward hard work and long hours.

Teachers will thrive in schools that provide ongoing professional learning.

Teachers  will thrive in schools that have up to date resources.

Teachers will thrive in schools that are fair for everyone.

Teachers will thrive in schools that are professional and organised.

Send me some feedback! Add to this list, not by focusing on the negative or the problems, just other things that should exist in every school so that teachers can thrive.

When teachers thrive in schools, the whole world benefits as every child unfolds into a person, ready to make positive contributions to their community, whether it be local or global!

Ps. Don’t all rush to a place that claims to provide all these things. First, try to work together to create these things in the place that you’re already at!

However, just like any relationship, we know intuitively if it is possible to work together to improve things or when it is time to give thanks for the experience and then gracefully move on……..