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Let me love you.
Let me support you.
Here, I have enough.
You take it.
You need it more than I do.
Following your dreams.
Love, over and over.
This is a picture. And it makes me cry with its meaning.
Miss Year 11: “Tough call for me last night Ms Kwok; I had to choose between making brownies or plucking my eyebrows. So I chose the brownies + decided to rock the hairy brows.”
Me: GUUUUUUUUUUUUUURL! I be so PROUD! 🙌
YOU ARE WINNING AT LIFE. 👊
Teaching teens as well.
And I absolutely did this as a teenager, even though I loved learning + school. I pushed to see if my teachers really cared for me unconditionally, and not for my excellent grades and for being a good student. I wanted to see if I was SEEN + VALUED for who I was, rather than just a nice little marks generator.
And I was lucky; I was fully seen, valued, and loved by many wonderful teachers + mentors, for me as well as my achievements.
WOW, today. SUCH a huge example of the quote: “It takes a village to raise a child.”
This morning, I experienced that quote realised in full colour. Playing for a young man who has struggled long and hard throughout his schooling, supported by a small nation of staff, adults, family and friends, and undertaking modified Year 12 Solo Performance with me this year.
He was the pre-music for the whole school assembly, singing “Let It Be”, and quite simply brought the house down. The response was tear-worthy and unprecedented. My heart was beating out of my chest at the piano, and not from nerves. All of it was pure buoyancy and joy at the moment he was creating. 🌟
Thank you so much to the Pulteney community, teachers + students, who have been so open in their support of him this morning. He is walking around believing that Year 12 Solo Performance, and life in general, is possible.
I have to say, tutoring + accompanying for him is VERY much like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. Honest-to-God, you really DON’T know what you’re gonna get. It’s an exciting ride from beginning to end, and I think John Lennon + Paul McCartney would have gotten a laugh out of how many viable combinations of words you could get out of Verse 1 alone, when applied to the entire song, INCLUDING the instrumental interlude.
An interesting moment of clarity for me these last few weeks:
That I have always struggled with doing things for the pure joy of it.
That is strange on so many levels as I’ve always been so passionately in the guts of life. I have always fought to live well, been motivated, worked hard, been dedicated a committed as a student, a teacher, a friend, a daughter, a partner, a woman.
But when I ask myself, “What shall I do because I am motivated just by the very essence of who I am, and for my own gain and worth?”, there are days I genuinely struggle to differentiate duty from desire, hustle from worth.
For example, I am dedicated to my piano practise because I have Year 12s I need to look after and play well for. I like maintaining my technique. But how often do I play for the pure joy of playing, for the creation of sound and feeling and light? And more tellingly, how often do I tell my students to do this without doing so myself? And then when I actually catch myself playing for the pure joy of playing, when my soul is alight in my fingers and the phrases roll like waves, that feeling of authenticity makes me shiver with recognition, but also simultaneously grieve my iron-clad sense of duty.
And then I wonder, how many times have I acted from that sense of duty? In the immediate sense, I am a woman of my own moral compass. I am strong, independent, joyful, and courageous. I am imaginative in my ideas, interested in the world, curious about happenings, compassionate to humankind, loving by the minute and day. But I wonder how many times I’ve had to be forcefully selfish to prove to myself that I can choose for myself. And as warped as that sounds, I am sure many of you know what I mean. That you need to go a little too hard out, a little overboard in your rest-time, spending, arguments, ideas, and so forth to make sure that you are being fully yourself, and that you are fully realising your net worth.
The fact is, you don’t. Ever.
You get to make the choice.
Quite simply, I do not have to defend anything, I can state it. Sounds great, but my goodness, in practise, that pang of lingering doubt is hard to erase.
I can walk in and just be.
Be, be, be, all of me, over and over.
With each day, I marvel that I can sit at the piano and play, and my heart rises up in what it recognises to be deep, unshakable joy and brimming self-worth, rather than just a youthful, girlish, manic sense of duty. That the words I choose do not have to be overly preppy or enthusiastic to make their point, they just have to be spoken. That I can use my time and space any way I want, and when people walk into my home, or into my presence, they share that realm with me, I don’t bend to make them comfortable. That I can sit in a conversation and be so far left of the middle, but still be gracious and calm and interested.
It’s a good place to practise being.
The gala piece that became the Olympic free skate for Adam Rippon.
And the story behind it which I never knew until now; a strong capable leader of the flock injured and in recovery, creating a new strength + redefining themselves.
A reflection of Adam’s own personal journey and his confidence in defining his own artistry, which in my opinion stands him apart from the crowd despite not having the technical merit of the top contenders.
Amazing, the light that shines when we each of us commit to being authentic.
Happy Chinese New Year, with an Aussie footnote. 😁
We did a professional development as a whole staff recently where we were asked to name, in a sentence, what sparks our passion as people. Not as teachers, but as people. And found myself saying immediately, without thought or preparation:
“If ‘excellent’ is the highest pinnacle, like the North Star, or the top of a mountain, then I am determined to find a way to get there with my students without shame. I will not hold any of their personal attributes or actions against their inherent value, or allow that to colour their pathway to achieving excellence. But I WANT excellence. That’s unmistakable. It’s in the blood. I just think that you can do it joyfully, with a love of learning the whole way. It can be honest, gritty, no-frills, and monotonous, but it will not cut or hurt them personally.”
So my spark of passion in one sentence is this:
I want to bring the students under my direction to their best selves in an envelope of joy and worthiness.
I’m an example in my words, in how I am as a person, in how I recover, in how I deal with stress, in the challenges I choose to accept, in how I love and care for myself and the people important to me, and even in how I interact with the people I do not like or respect.
You can get to “excellent” by squeezing it out of a kid, by threatening them, by coercing them, by holding academic barriers over them, by comparing them to others, by pitting them against your own self-worth, by unwittingly emotionally cornering them into doing what you want. You know what? It all produces the same result of excellent. How twisted is that?! I hate that. But there it is. I will actually get you the result that you want. I’ve seen it happen.
But THAT version of excellent, forged from a foundation of shame – and that IS what it all is, shame packaged in various forms – doesn’t eff-ing fly. It doesn’t stick, it’s not life-long. And students will fight it the way their bodies fight disease; instinctively.
And why would you want to connect that with excellence and their self-worth?
Teachers, check your words + intent carefully. I have to on a daily basis.
And find another way.
I will find the only other way to “excellent” that doesn’t involve shame, even if I have to find the goddamn scenic route that takes twice as long.
Because that’s my spark.
I was thinking about the concept of self-worth today, not in terms of how effectively we set boundaries, but what we actually do to follow through with them. I see myself as a comfortable and developing boundary-setter; I need time to consider a situation, consider what I need versus the greater good, and then decide what I am comfortable with and what my boundaries are. I also line up my decision-making with my values, which, I have found to my equal joy and frustration, are continually evolving. Values are elusive things that are continually shifting ever-so-slightly, constantly becoming more defined as you gain life experience. For example, one of my values is to be kind. This then grew into, “Be kind where possible, and if that is not possible, be accurate and honest.” The addendum to that was, “And if all of that is impossible, then don’t say anything at all.”
I like my values. They have formed me into a compassionate, imaginative, articulate, courageous, and determined woman with a blood-linked desire to grow.
My errant thought today was to do with kindness. I have always made it cost “more” to me when an apology is being made. That is, when I can see there has been genuine suffering and remorse, and someone I value is making an apology, I accept it quickly and readily, almost to take the pain and suffering away. Why? Because, I figure, if they’re sorry enough to make an apology, they must really be sorry about the action that caused it. I also see it as a good mark against my own character, “Oh, there’s Annie, so easy-going, and ready to let things go!”
But the thing is, generally I’m not that girl. I’m not that easy-going girl. Forgiving, playful, and joyful, yes, but forgetful and easy-going? No. I like checking things out. I like understanding the inner workings + motivations of people. It’s what makes me the teacher I am today. It’s my super-power.
But then there’s the shadow-side; it’s also my kryptonite. I think that I can predict good behaviour, and I have an unfailing ability to see the best in people. Sometimes, I have to protect my ready compassion + optimism my fencing people out until I can observe them a little longer. And why should I apologise for my own values? If I forgive, and I DO forgive well, I want it to be because some new understanding has been reached, some border crossed to a new level of connection…or moving on.
And the “AH-HA!” moment I had today?
If I continue to let people easily off the hook just because I feel sorry for them without proper conversation + examination of the issue, then who gets cheapened? Whose boundaries get worn down?
I am taking away value from myself by allowing people off the hook the moment they start anything that seems like a compassionate apology. Small everyday moments, no worries. But disagreements or hurts that go against my values? I shouldn’t let those go so easily.
And what will that mean?
I need to be more courageous.
I need to step into the place of discomfort and examine the situation and have the conversation with the person apologising. I need to redefine and realign the relationship and the value.
And I need to treat myself with the grace and value that I deserve. I need to hold people accountable. Which means engaging in conversation with them about the issue.
The apology need not be a blood-bath. It can be real, informative, and calm. It can be the most connective conversation, transforming two people.
But I need to hold myself with higher integrity in how I accept apologies and how they look alongside my value of compassion + kindness.
If I am not happy, speak out.
If there is something to be done, then I am “somebody” that “can”.
If there is something to be seen, see it and articulate it.
If I am given plenty to create with, create with wild abandon.
If I am given nothing, I still have a reservoir of creative spirit within me.
If I am pushed to the limits, I will find more stretch in the limits.
If I am given a stage, sing.
If I am silenced, sing.
If I am made small, rise up in spirit. Grow with the complete glory of all that I am.
If I am celebrated, stand with humility and joy on my own sacred ground, in my own light.
Let me know and remember that I am undoing “CAN’T”, and replacing it with love, curiosity, and wonderment.
I ask myself to stand and have a look around, and see what is possible to problem-solve.
I have no idea the greatness of my spirit if I would only try.