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October 11, 2017

Total boss lady.

whatever gets you through!

October 11, 2017

Sir Year 6: “Ms Kwok, why is your icon for Year 6 Music a glass of red wine?”

Me, outside voice: “Because there were no purple or orange stars in the same series left.”


This brought tears to my eyes. Two extraordinary, exceptional young men. The connection and love between them. The quiet sincerity and articulateness of their responses. The fact that they argue! The unmistakeable bond between them.

They are a wonderful example to all.

October 11, 2017

creative blackmail #teacherlyfe

October 11, 2017

Being a teacher is signing up to be creative, having a sense of humour, practising patience every day, and being surprised over and over. And the “laugh out loud” moments that make your cry and your stomach ache come as part of the deal, too.

Here’s one from yesterday.

This is what I sent out to one of my Year 12 Composing + Arranging students:

And here is the response I got back:

Not bad for a tortured soul! I particularly like the use of the word “crashy” in a sentence!


balance in the agency + industry

October 10, 2017

As much as I complain about being busy, it is genuinely what makes me grateful for the time I have. Time and time again, I keep thinking, “I can’t do this. I can’t give this much! I’m exhausted!” To put things in perspective, I am a fierce introvert in the true sense of the word, who is a secondary school music teacher. Who loves people. And wears ridiculous amounts of colour. Oxymoron, much?!

But come Week 6 or 7, after a term of intensive teaching, one-on-one, Year 12s, ensembles, rehearsals, and pushing to the max each week, even a healthy routine and good diet are not enough. And I’ve found that it’s really not because of the HOURS spent. It’s the face-to-face, IN the coalface, time spent in the classroom. The immediacy of being in human interaction, over and over.

My goodness, I LOVE it with a passion, otherwise I wouldn’t have chosen this life for myself. I love the connection with the students that grows strong, secure, and joyful learning. I love seeing the inexplicable magic of slowly stepping away from my students so that suddenly, they are walking independently and full of confidence and bursting with worth, and they didn’t even know it.

But it always amazes me how emotionally tired I am. Exhausted from human interaction. Of problem-solving, and being IN it all, of enthusing, and of moving. Of connecting, over and over.

Yet, I find now, in the oasis that is holidays, (and the only time I blog daily, by the way!), is that given hours to spend, I do not want to spend them in mindless wanderings. Actually, honestly, I CANNOT.

I NEED momentum, change, and the rush of time. I need agency and purpose, otherwise I am more tired than if I had slept the whole day. And it amazes me each time that I think, “Oh, I can’t WAIT to do NOTHING!” Nothing, honestly, sucks. It SUCKS the lifeblood and energy out of you.

We each of us need to be doing, every day. Creating, living, connection, loving, discovering. We need to be a little too tired sometimes to learn how to relax. We need to overuse our time in order to understand HOW to use our time. We need to have a full day to be grateful for the rest. Too much rest hurts us to the core; hurts our humanity, and lays our creativity to waste. We need to be IN life, living it, wondering, discovering, and being ALIVE.

This aliveness and agency is the core inspiration that will fill me up and nourish my spirit for a busy and intensive Term 4. It’s not the hours I need, it’s the peace away from giving and connecting, and the time to be individually creative and industrious. It’s like I re-learn this lesson every time I hit holidays. Lying on the couch for anything other than recouping a sleep deficit does nothing for me. It might be exactly what is required for other tired teacher-souls, but for me, I need to be quietly in my “introverting” state, doing things. Creating things. Sometimes very energetic and physically challenging things, but nevertheless, being. 

Because that is what energises my heart!

her time

October 9, 2017 1 Comment

the human-ness of courage

October 9, 2017

There are so many examples of beauty and courage around me, every day, every moment. People whose stars burn bright for a moment, or a lifetime. Some stars who dazzle from their very brilliance; others just a glow which resonates softly and simply. These are the people who affect and change the momentum around them, even if they don’t mean to. Usually when they don’t mean to.

When I am stuck, I look to people around me who have faced far bigger challenges, bigger life up-heavals, and take notice. Their courage in their moments of humanity inspire me to keep walking. As Elizabeth Gilbert was quoted, “Don’t hurry, but don’t stop”, and I have been saying that regularly, even through the peacefulness of my holidays. Don’t hurry, don’t stop. Take that extra step, quietly, mindfully.

The people I look to didn’t ask to be different or extraordinary, they simply MET the world with their version of extraordinary when called to do so. People like Captain Chelsea “Sully” Sullenberger, Amy Purdy, and Maya Angelou.

The way that Barack + Michelle Obama held their term with grace and class. Brené Brown’s work, and her own struggle with vulnerability, Sheryl Sandberg’s grief and strength of inspiration, Nelson Mandela, and J.K Rowling. So many people are walking their path, and the light that comes off them warms and inspires me.

Last night, I happened to stumble upon the movie, “Kiss and Cry”, telling their biographical story of Carley Allison, the young Canadian skater who passed away from a rare form of throat cancer while always determined to be present, alive to the world around her, and human.

So step up. How will we affect change? What will I do? I have everything I need to contribute to the world…how will I choose to use my talents, my voice, my ideas, my gifts? How will I love and connect?

That longing and agency to LIVE a good life; when you step into that thought FULLY, like these amazing people have, what an extraordinary gift that is.


October 8, 2017

We all want to be seen, heard, and loved.

why take that extra step?

October 8, 2017

I don’t start every day excited, as excited by life as I usually am. And I don’t mind at all that I feel the full gamut of feelings; it somehow makes me feel more grounded, even if it is uncomfortable. But a conversation I’ve had regularly with myself recently, especially toward the end of Term 3 when I am “Secondary Music Teacher Exhausted”, an exhaustion like no other, has been, “Why take that extra step?”

Why even?

Especially when it seems like it doesn’t matter, or no-one cares, or that the joy is belittled, or that it seems like the gesture is not valued. Or that it costs way too much of the precious energy that I have left, that I’m literally scraping the bottom of the barrel to get to. Why EVEN?

Because that is the very definition of life.

It’s the very defining feature of being alive and human.

I don’t mean that anyone should push to the extremes of their limits every day, and to jump hurdles that should never be jumped. I mean to say that extra caring word, make the extra gesture, the little moment of connection and love and too often we stuff back into our pockets because, well, “they won’t value it anyways.” Or that there might be that horrible awkwardness of a tender moment somehow marooned on a desert island in the middle of the hustle of a day.

Well, get stuck on that island. Hijack a little bit of the relentless pace, and build a pontoon. The little awkward moments are the fleeting moments of being purely alive and human!

How often have you been on the receiving end of one of those leaps of faith? When someone went out of their way to come to you when you looked and appeared okay, but really REALLY, you so much appreciated their care?

Now reverse it.

Be that little fairy sometimes. Because you don’t know HOW MUCH people need tender-awkwardness in this world.

The dorky-tender shall rise up!

the wonder of reading

October 7, 2017

I read to my parents whether they wanted to hear me or not, I was so excited about reading. And when I learned to swear, so did they.

Learning English together, especially finding all the “linguistic problems” with it, was a real connecting point in our family. A lot of shameless laughing AT each other.