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Payback at its finest. The email I have composed for my darling kiddies who have been flaky with rehearsals this year.
Music teachers are bitter souls who like exacting revenge. 😆
The thing is, if you want a child to become more confident, you cannot say, “Just be more confident!” Yet how many of us as teachers are completely guilty of this? I find myself saying this to my students despite myself, with ill-founded best intentions to support and build them up in confidence.
So what do you do?
You make eye contact with them.
You catch them in a moment where they are doing the right thing and you celebrate it.
Use their name, and not just in vain. Because you are glad to see them.
Thank them for the times they have done something to the best of their ability.
You are playful with them.
You see and acknowledge things about them that they did not even realise themselves.
And you love them and value them for who they are, not what they will become, even if it’s your duty of care to pull them forward and draw this out of them. You love them exactly as they are.
And then their confidence will grow, sure and steady, and the tiniest thing will take, and spark, and flourish.
Madly running around this morning trying to locate a missing Concert Band kiddie for the Remembrance Day service and I happened to look over at our perpetually-late, never-quite-groomed-to-our-satisfaction, more-laid-back-than-a-drunk-lizard Sir Year 11, and said:
“It’s WAAAAAAAY more fun when it’s not you, hey?!”
The return grin was wide + genuine.
I have been thinking a lot about nuances in language as a starting point for connection, as I’ve been reflecting on my role in caring for and mentoring my Year 11 Tutor Group.
Listening to a conversation between the incredible Brené Brown + Marie Forleo, and Brené said something to effect of:
Don’t ask someone who is in suffering to ‘call if they need anything’. They won’t call. It’s an empty sentiment designed to make us, the helper + supporter, feel better. Ask them instead: ‘What does support for you look like right now?’
And my heart did a backflip.
I realised that I had been asking my students to “call if they needed anything”. I had missed the opportunity for connection every time I said that. I needed to change my words, and therefore my intent, as the beginning point for connection.
The sheer power of language is unmistakeable.
The EXPRESSION on this doggo’s face when he realises what he has done!
A good read.
In Dymocks and a group of excited + noisy “tweens” exploded into the store, went all still, inhaled deeply and said happily to each other: “Oh, it smells so GOOD!”
There’s hope in the world.
Accurate representation of how Year 12s navigate Year 12.
I’m using this to open my Year 12 presentation lecture this year. 🤣
The first time I watched this, I was in total agony. The music! The drama + suspense! The tragic music at the end! 😳 But it DOES have a happy ending. 😅
And the parallels are just too good:
“The perfect drop. And a controlled launch!”
“This is as good a descent as is possible to make.”
“It’s parents are there to meet it. A little dazed, perhaps, but all in one piece.” 😂
Plus that fact that is David Attenborough commentating just MAKES it.
Comfortable with Discomfort
How do people get comfortable with discomfort?
How do people engage mindfully with challenging discourse, differences of opinions, aggressive interactions, and high emotions whilst maintaining a joyful, resilient and open heart, but a strong backbone?
It’s something I have been consciously practising this year, partly to develop my ability to stay in discomfort with a level head, but partly because I have had no choice. It’s been spirit-ruffling, enlightening, uncomfortable, and stretching. I always think I am doing crap and very often FEEL crap, when I also instinctively know that I am doing the best job possible.
The need to work with integrity drives this desire to engage with the challenging, but it doesn’t come easy. I am often caught at a crossroads when I find myself the only one standing with one side of the opinion, and the rest of the people around me swept up by the momentum of the argument, or a personality which bulldozes. I am not a bulldozer. Words have meaning and merit to me. What simply is “shooting the breeze” or “meaningless rubbish” and falls by the wayside for others affects me until I make peace with it and decide I am done. I am not a needless “hanger-on” person; words and feelings simply have purpose, merit and meaning to me. In fact, I am working hard to let go when conversations are done and expired. And the relief is immense. It’s healthy and wholehearted. But again, never done carelessly without necessary attention and thought.
How do I then learn to walk in integrity, connect with the challenge knowing that it will affect me deeply, and repair myself that I may walk into difference + disagreement with a calm and clear head?
Many of my friends, colleagues and family members think I can do this instinctively. But it doesn’t come naturally for me. If anything, it comes particularly unnaturally, with me having to sit in excruciating discomfort as I work through the framework of each problem and decide what action I need to take. Not what I WANT to take, not what would feel nice and comfortable for me. But what I NEED to do.
It’s times like this I HATE having a moral compass, because when you have stuck with this north-facing pin of integrity, you do not feel RIGHT until you’ve arrived at the course of action which you know is right. And often, the right decision affords personal peace, but it comes with an emotional mountain to climb first; a conversation which requires rehearsing, losing 3 hours sleep, spending the day before dipping in and out of worry, going back over ideas and ground until you are satisfied. There is no easy way to coexist with a moral compass and be a vulnerable, joyful person of integrity.
It WRINGS THE FUCKING LIFE out of you.
But there is no other way.
You need to do it.
So here’s the question: How does everyone else get comfortable with discomfort?
I’m not talking about deodorising a workplace or situation where everything is hunky-dory and annoyingly, superficially “fine”. I don’t buy in for that. I welcome safe discussion and discourse. I WANT accuracy for where I stand and what I do. But too often, pride and ego get in the way, and safe discussion without incidental power-over is impossible. And it breaks my heart, because I am no weakling. I just don’t want to be unnecessarily hurt by thoughtless, pride-driven conversation.
What I am talking about is when integrity does NOT win the day, and you watch as mud-slinging, bulldozer personalities and power-over get top spot? HOW do other people practise being resilient and courageous in this environment? How do you make peace with having to walk into battle, when you didn’t ask to walk into battle? How do you become more capable warriors in navigating shit-storms, without losing yourself? How do you keep your energy levels up? How do you learn to let things go after they are done? When do you know that they are done?
I don’t want total agreement. I want a safe place to put ideas on the table, the be deeply seen and valued, to not have my intrinsic work questioned when I am discussing difficult topics. It’s how we all want to feel.
Seen, valued, and heard, with worthiness which affords us the courage and audacity to have different opinions and creative ideas.
I know that I have instinctively walked this more challenging path all my life, because that’s how I was raised, that is what I am made of to the very core. I am so LUCKY to be lifted in heart and spirit by family and friends, who know me, and know what I do. They know my humility, they know my faults. They know where a should be fighting harder, and they also know where I am gentle in my strength.
For me, I know the cost of this walk of integrity. And I am tired from the heaviness of responsibility. As you know, this comes as UNNATURALLY to me as possible, yet I must do it. How do the great leaders of the world do it? How did Barack + Michelle Obama walk through their presidential term and maintain warmth and humanity, whilst making the hard decisions to guide and shape a nation? How did Nelson Mandela make wisdom and peace from hardship, over and over? Not just for a mere day; but when he least felt like it?
I am asking for some momentum and wind beneath my wings, some advice + wisdom, on how to continue to sustainably walk into challenging situations and understand how to chart a course of action without apology, but without sacrifice.
Day 13: Charlottetown to Cavendish, Prince Edward Island
IT’S ANNE OF GREEN GABLES TIME!
Steps taken: 22,489, mostly around the glorious Prince Edward Island National Park, which is on the doorstep of Green Gables. Did you hear that?! On the doorstep of Green Gables.
One memorable meal or food item: I finally got my Cows ice cream, an absolute Canadian staple, and somewhat of a feature in Prince Edward Island. The names are all cute, corny, and cow-related; gems such as “Cookie MOOnster”, “Wowie Cowie”, “Cowconut”, and “Caramel MOOcacchino”. I chose the very aptly named “Cownadian Maple”, which was a maple syrup, maple butter swirl, and maple cookie concoction that was as overly sweet as it was UTTERLY AWESOME. Even the chocolate-dipped cone was fat and rich with over-done chocolate, slightly too thick to bite through daintily, and completely, wonderfully, honest in its welcome. You cannot get ice cream like this in a big city. This is real country love.
One special photograph: Green Gables, in all it’s glory, the place where a feisty little red-headed girl taught so many other girls to love wholeheartedly, imagine possibilities with wild abandon, unrelenting resilience in times of struggle, and to be bold and stand your own ground, and to never apologise for your background because YOU own the story from here onwards. Anne Shirley, you were an inspiration who crept into our hearts before we even knew how to analyse just how extraordinary, and totally “Brené-Brown-perfectly-imperfect” but damn exceptional that you are.
One decent coffee: Receiver Coffee is totally getting my vote! Australian standard coffee in small-town Charlotte. Five stars.
One amazing moment: Seeing Anne’s room. To read the books and to be inspired is one thing, to stand in the hallway and look into a room that has captured the imagination of so many through the words of Lucy M. Montgomery was so very special. And the fact that she is not even a real girl, but made so UTTERLY REAL in the hearts of people all around the world; that makes it even more special.
One unplanned detour/adventure: A chance meeting with Jay + Sujing from Korea who are planning to move to Australia following their teaching degrees. A day of connection + wonderful conversation followed. I am sad, surprised and joyful at how I don’t connect so easily and freely when I am safe at home, and to see how easily and joyfully new connections can be made when travelling. Let me open my heart up, that I may remember this way of connecting, with child-like joy and wonder, when I am at my most busy at home.
20 minutes reading: Anne of Green Gables, on the bus to Cavendish.
30 minutes composing: I’ve finally rolled up my sleeves and hit a commission that I’m editing! What I’m most happy about is not what’s on the page just yet, but the feeling of working, reworking, and getting deeply into a piece, with steadiness and methodical focus. I always have that flip of the stomach where I wonder if I can immerse myself so deeply, or if my mind is too flighty during a trip. Can I do this? What if nothing works? And then I start. And that wonderful reliability and weight falls on my shoulders, and I find I am at peace because I have finally started the process.