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When you going into “warrior-training” and actually open the floodgates into all the things that you haven’t given time, something really curious happens. You start waking up buffeted, tossed, and turned by thoughts, ideas, errant emotions, extreme highs and lows, and scraps of memories.
Everything is so utterly present that it’s disorientating. I am so glad for time to fully experience and feel all these emotions, because I am all-too-good at hopping onto the “routine bandwagon”, being industrious and not having a good look, because it’s all too messy. I like tidy. Like, bento-box + OfficeWorks tidy.
But seeing as my “thing” has been leaning into whatever scares me, or makes me nervous, or I think will take up more time than I am willing to part with, then I’ve been seeing a hell of a lot of stuff up close that I have smoothed over all year. It was a good year, but a very safe year last year. I’d like a different point of view, just to see if it will give me a different result.
Refreshing, but slightly crazy-making.
So here’s my thought for today while navigating all this chaos:
I have a heart. I have a mind. Both of which I am allowed to use fully.
This is extraordinary.
I am alive, and I get to affect the course of my day, the next minute, the next hour, the air around me.
The capacity and agency to think my own thoughts, wonder what I will do today, how I will affect the space, people, and world around me.
What worth, magic, mo-jo, spark, new viewpoints, positivity, serenity, insights will I dare to bring to the table?
Isn’t that extraordinary enough?
This is exactly how I feel about teaching! I’m always surprised, amazed + humbled when people comment on how much I love my teaching, and how innately and naturally it comes to me.
YES to how much I love teaching, I wouldn’t put up with it otherwise!
But everything else? I practise, and I practise my arse off. I drive home rewriting lesson plans in my head, I test out weird and wonderful choral warm-ups when I’m walking around the block, I rehearse the difficult conversations I need to have with students with long-suffering family members, kindred-spirit colleagues and friends. It may look unconventional, but I PRACTISE.
The most humbling of all? Everyday, our students hold up a glaring mirror to all our weaknesses + faults. I practise being the best person I can with the tools I have.
Listening to a conversation between Oprah + Liz Gilbert this morning, and laughed out loud and was so affected by what she said about heading into a new year; the changing of the years from old to know, and how different people celebrate them. And I’d never thought of a new year in the way that she has described it in the interview, but I LOVED it. So many of us see in a new year with too much expectation tinged with regret of the previous one, and put a little too much anxiety and pressure into the first few days, only to relax into something way too ordinary later on.
How inimitably quotable is Liz Gilbert?! And Oprah, I hate to confess it, was a hard-sell to me, but I’ve loved her ever since partaking in Brené Brown’s CourageWorks courses online with her. Wisdom beyond what you see, and I’m so glad to know it.
New Year’s Day is my favourite day of the year, because I feel like it’s such a miracle that you get a brand new one. No matter how MUCH you screwed up, and they give you a BRAND NEW ONE every year!
Every year, they’re like, “Here! We’re just gonna give you this brand NEW one! It’s got no dings in it, no miles on it, it doesn’t smell like cigarette smoke, nothing’s spilled on it – BRAND NEW!”
And I’m always like, “I can’t believe you guys are giving me another one of these! Didn’t you SEE what I did with the last one?!”
I tend to go through each day and love all the tiny little moments in each day and all my special days just happen, regardless of the date or occasion. So New Year’s Day might just end up being “The Really Great Day At The Beach” that started later than usual with a lot of loud cheering, rather than the momentous and overloaded start of a new year. And the start of something might end up on a totally nondescript day, which I’ll end up treasuring forever. It’s the most resolute of anti-resolutions, and works just beautifully for me!
But Liz Gilbert’s summary?! So much better!
And here’s the interview:
At a time of year where we are both joyful and tired in spirit and soul, let us love gently, passionately, and love well.
There is only love. Even when there is divide, there is love in the way we communicate and relate to each other.
Are you happy with how this year has gone? I both love and am turned upside-down emotionally by this time of year as it’s a time of deep reflection. Have I done all I can, been the best I can be, loved where I am able?
And as I journal, and the words thread themselves into heartfelt sentences on the page, I remember that I am utterly human, that I will fail, but that there is always a second change.
Take those chances, love, reach out, be courageous…life is only tiny little steps of daring, captured in fleeting moments of joy.
Oh, LEAN into those. With every ounce of courage and vulnerability that you can.
After some deliberation, I’ve decided to leave this original post on my timeline as a celebration of an extraordinary and very much loved person, my wonderful piano teacher, Clemens Leske Snr.
When two well-loved friends and colleagues rang me out of the blue to tell me that he had passed because they knew how much he meant to me, I was honestly just overwhelmed with memories and thoughts, and much love.
We’ve since found out that it was ANOTHER Clemens Leske who sadly passed this week, who was ALSO living in Sydney having hailed from Adelaide. “Our” Clemens Leske Snr is very much still with us, as his students are fondly saying at present!
So what I wrote today, and what I mean with full heart, and that I was so glad to be able to reflect upon today:
“A teacher of such gentle compassion and musical excellence who had a profound effect upon me, and the teacher and person I would become. A mentor I loved with all my heart, trusted, and respected, because I knew that my skills and self were safe under his care, and that he would ask the absolute best from me without damaging my love of music + learning. When I saw him at the Gala Concert at Elder Hall in 2015, I was overwhelmed but unsurprised at the sheer number of friends, past students, and colleagues who came to celebrate himself and his wife, Beryl Kimber. So utterly different! She was bursting with exuberance, colour, and WORDS!, and he the very quiet and reserved one. But such a special love between them.
I had him as a Single Studies scholarship student during high school between the ages of 15 to 17; the ages where you are the MOST annoyingly smart-arse, impressionable, fragile, and skeptical. He quietly and simply loved + taught me, exactly as I needed, and I flourished musically and as a person. I fell in love with sounds, performance, rigour, and excellence. I practised as easily and as naturally as if I were just breathing. I loved playing completely and won the Don Maynard Music Prize for Year 12 Music under his tutelage.
To sit in the same room as him was to share space with someone who taught without pride or ego, just pure gentleness, fierce and unrelenting excellence, and overwhelming love. It is a light that I carry with me daily when I teach. My heart overflows today.”
…and still does, with joy.
I was thinking today about where I’d like to head in the future. Right now, I’m up to my armpits in secondary school classroom music teaching, and I love it. It’s exactly where I want to be, and I’m happiest in the classroom, no matter how demanding the day, and love connecting + being in conversation with other teachers.
But if I were to ever raise a family, I would never inflict this intensity of full-time teaching upon my children, or my husband or partner. I would rather the be poor and living on a creative shoestring than stretched to the limit with no emotional energy to spend. I wouldn’t want to miss a moment.
So I thought about lecturing, composing full time, working at tertiary level, writing, doing workshops, and at the end of it all, I realised one thing to be true.
It’s not the intensity of work per se; it’s how much connection there is. No matter where I go, there will be demands, even if I step down from full-time. There will always be things competing for my attention, and if it’s not work, then it will be family, friends, my own expectations, creative ideas, community…all of it. All MESSY lot of it! And I realise, now in this little oasis of holidays, that I can only be grateful for this peace when I’ve had intensity of work. I don’t wish maximum loading on anyone; no-one should do that for a period of time.
But life goes in ebbs and flows; there will be mad scrambles and moments of calm, times where you won’t think you’ll make it through another step, and other days where you fly through with energy to spare. The thing is, it ONLY makes sense when there IS that variety and contrast. Joy only happens in the light of grief. Rest and repose only after a period of regular work.
So wherever I go in the future, let there be laughter. Let there be joyful connection that lifts me up and inspires my very authenticity and humanness. Let there be examples of courage and love ALL AROUND ME, EVERY DAY, asking me to be better. Because I can err on the side of caution, joyful as I find myself normally. Let me be moved and shaken by people who are heartfully alive all around me, that I may be alive always, no matter where my place or intensity of work.
Through connection and love, everything has purpose, becomes interesting, has agency, and has resonance. I don’t want to live any other way.
Love this. Goodlife project + the wonderful work that Jonathan Fields is doing has captured my attention. Heartfelt, poignant, inspiring, challenging, and thought-provoking interviews from the couch.
Hop on and have a listen!
You know that Autumn rain that is temperate, but not cold? That is not harsh, but is undeniably cool and soothing? One that makes the windows misty and grey, and the insides of houses and cafes seem warmer without even trying?
That is what I long for right now, and that is what is predicted for us in Adelaide this week. Beautiful Autumn rain.
The sort of rain that makes you long for pumpkin soup and woollen socks, to be wrapped up in cuddly large-knit throws, with hands cupped around a hot chocolate. Molten and dribbling cheese toasties. Baking.
On the couch in a nest of pillows, reading, or dreaming, or writing, or composing, or conversing, letting time draw longer and longer, deliciously, into the afternoon.
It’s the time of shedding leaves and shedding fears, embracing change. It’s a time of preparing for deep rest and reflection. A time to lay down foundations, slowly and methodically. There will be no green and promise right now, only gentle goodbyes.It’s the time where stocks and stews are made to nourish the soul, and the heart, where life still has a steady optimism and heartbeat before the real metamorphosis of winter begins. It’s transient, but not unbearable. It’s shifting, it’s changing, and it’s beautiful.
I love this rain, still welcoming to walk outside in, fresh and new, but pulling enough that you’ll want to be inside, dreaming. And if it’s constant, in steady slow blunt tears, there’s such a cleansing beauty to it.
It inspires and washes away, without harshness, like a person lit up internally by their work, glowing. It’s the focus that goes into creating. It’s simple and nourishing. It’s inspiring.
This week, I visited a very special place. The old home of my most beloved piano teacher, Clemens Leske Senior and his wife, Beryl Kimber. They now live in Sydney, but this home has a place all its own in my heart.
I am working on my presentation for the Year 12 Lecture Series at Pulteney Grammar School where I teach. It’s a series of talks presented to Year 12s from members of the Pulteney community; teachers from all the different sub-schools, support staff, and community members. I love the idea, and have put my hand up to present again since its inception last year. I have also done the usual “OMG-what-have-I-signed-up-for-these-are-freakin-Year-12s!” dance, thus I am conscientiously working on my talk these holidays while I have functioning brain cells and some coherence to my ideas.
And I have arrived at some interesting myths that I’m thoroughly enjoying pulling apart and debunking, alongside what I know to be true in my experience as a teacher.
So, demystifying some myths about growth + fixed mindset, let the conversation begin!
MYTH: Growth mindset is akin to a Disney movie, all warm and fuzzy. It’s all about encouraging student to just try their best and rewarding the effort, not the outcome. Everyone gets a certificate of participation in the Game of Life.
MY UNDERSTANDING: Growth mindset is the highest form of hard-assery that you can possibly get. While growth mindset relies upon the “try” muscle, and for a learner to understand that they need to practise their skills to reconsolidate learning, REAL growth mindset asks the learner to know their skills set well, be vigilant on resting on past successes, and to call BS on any half-arse efforts. Growth mindset is KNOWING your skills and achievements, and being willing to look for the next logical step in learning. It’s exhilarating, never-ending, and sometimes quite relentless. But always, ALWAYS satisfying when done right.
MYTH: Fixed mindset is bad, and you’re doomed if you find yourself in this mindset.
MY UNDERSTANDING: Fixed mindset is just that, a way of thinking + learning. Thinking and learning is as mobile as you allow it to be; the first and most important step is awareness of how you learn, that you may monitor how you respond to new information, failures, and even successes, to interpret which way you think and how to adapt to a more growth mindset approach.
MYTH: Fixed and growth mindsets are just learning tools.
MY UNDERSTANDING: Fixed and growth mindset are an insight into your sense of self-worth, and how valued you believe yourself to be independent of your achievements. For someone who is working from a place of strong self-worth, it is almost instinctive that they get curious about the world around them and want to learn. They engage with new experiences knowing that any mistakes they make in learning and life do not diminish them, that if they make a mistake, they are still exactly the same worth and value at the end of the day. So my biggest challenge in teaching students to adjust their mindsets and to become brave in their learning actually stems from having a healthy sense of self-worth, not a learning and mindset problem, to begin with.
MYTH: People who are embedded in fixed mindset can’t have fun.
MY UNDERSTANDING: It doesn’t matter whether you find yourself embedded in growth or fixed mindset; you can have fun in your learning. Growth mindset means that you are not defined by your learning, and that your sense of self-worth is independent from your achievements. Growth mindset also means that your learning is unfixed in every capacity, and that you have the opportunity to affect and change your skills. Fixed mindset can be innately playful and creative, it just limits your sense of self worth when you come up against struggle and failure, and therefore you end up limited yourself.
MYTH: Fixed mindset people are not spontaneous, and cannot adapt to new circumstances.
MY UNDERSTANDING: I think that people from both mindsets can be incredibly accommodating and adaptive. It’s just at what personal cost, stress level, and outcome at the end of the day? If you look at at fixed-mindset learner who knows they have to study in order to obtain a good mark to reiterate their sense of self-worth, they will adapt to whatever strenuous conditions are required to get that result. They can be incredibly creative and versatile, and have a wonderful time doing so. And if they get the result they are after, their sense of self-worth is verified. However, if they fail, they not only have their sense of self-worth shaken, but also their learning, skills associated with that step in learning, motivation, drive, and personal optimism. Someone in growth mindset will still feel the disappointment and failure just as keenly, but will figure out new ways to adapt and adjust their way of thinking. They are not permanently damaged or sidelined by a disappointment, and their sense of adaptability is still genuine and intact.
MYTH: Failing when you are in growth mindset doesn’t hurt as much.
MY UNDERSTANDING: Failure hurts just as badly no matter what mindset you are in. Being in growth mindset doesn’t magically cushion you from life’s disappointments, you poor choices, or unexpected events. Life is certainly not easier, and mistakes suck just as badly. But someone in growth mindset has the healthier skills set to get out from underneath failure and disappointment; they know that while they feel bad right now, they will inevitably want to examine where they went wrong so that they can improve. And they can do all this because they are not defined by their failure, they are (eventually, after the dust settles) made curious by their failure and their desire to learn wins out.
What do you think?