The delectable long summer school holidays are almost over. That of which snide remarks are made about teachers only working so few weeks a year. Due to the Australia Day Public Holiday on Tuesday 26th January, most Queensland students return on Wednesday 27th, making a short “Week 1” to ease the youngsters in gently.
Staff, at least at our school, return the week before, mostly on Wednesday 20th. So, for me, it will very soon be “Off to work I go”.
A new school year with many new beginnings…. as shared in previous Blog entries, I will have a number of new colleagues as well as a new departmental structure. A good many new students – mostly Year 4 beginners – which is always enjoyable as their enthusiasm is infectious and it is wonderful to teach them an entirely different skill. Plus, the delight of getting to know names, faces and young personalities.
Renovations to our physical department have added a fresh lick of paint, cheering up a suite of rooms which had become tired, and two rooms have been combined into one, giving me my very own useable space for the first time. (Previously, we had one large room and one very narrow room between the two main Instrumental teachers, necessitating frequent swapping around, dependent on who needed elbow room to minimise small cellists poking each other, or space, or those needing bulky percussion equipment).
Maybe staying put in one room, rather than this accustomed dance, will improve my organisation and efficiency…well, I can but try.
So, many good things, but change as well, and change can be unsettling. I have a habit of doing too much, of becoming too involved, of going the extra mile.
This can be a good or sometimes a bad thing.
My plan, going forward, is to attempt to take the beginning of all these new things slowly, allow others to take charge, be helpful but not “too helpful”, try to breathe, try to step back, attempt NOT to be the stick-in-the-mud person who repeatedly says “But we’ve always done it THIS way…”
There will be some fine lines to tread and I suspect some “Holding hard” necessary.
Lots of “try” and “attempt” there I know, as some of these things will be going against my instincts, but I will see how I go.
Maybe I might get through January and February unscathed.
Thinking of “work” and “workers”, just today I picked up on a friend’s musings on the topic of ants.
Now, I don’t mind ants – they aren’t cockroaches or wasps. We have tried, unsuccessfully, to corral them into an ant farm or two. I once killed a school laptop computer by a number of the creatures crawling inside and mounting a kamikaze attack on its inner workings. I have murdered hundreds, if not thousands of them over time, including with – a marvellous discovery – ordinary “Jif” Kitchen spray.
Despite all this, I do admire ants for their hard working nature and determination. The way they at least appear to work around obstacles and find new ways to succeed, whether working alone or clubbing together. The epitome of the concept of “Never Give Up”.
Anyway, here are my friend’s thoughts, which rather spoke to me as I contemplated vacation’s end:
Ants think winter all summer.
That’s an important perspective. You can’t be so naive as to think summer will last forever. So ants are gathering their winter food in the middle of summer.
An ancient story says, “Don’t build your house on the sand in the summer.” Why do we need that advice? Because it’s important to be realistic. In the summer, you’ve got to think storm.
The ants have small leaves laying next to its entrances, if it starts raining a door ant will move the leaf to cover the entrance, leaving the rain out of the tunnels
There might be something to learn from the ant about work ethics, and about work ethics only. There is a work life balance and it is important to relax and recover as well. I just spent the day in the forest with my wife and kids enjoying the sun, the warm weather and a nice cup of coffee.
On the other hand, I do not know what the ant is doing when the sun sets; maybe it is all fun and games, getting ready for tomorrow?
(Thanks to Herbert Mtowo)Previously in such holiday times I have done some measure of preparation and planning for the new year school ahead, even the odd conferring with colleagues during the break, but at present there are too many unknowns to do that. I could have become really stressed and worried and apprehensive about this, but I have managed not to.
Instead, I have prepared, like Herbert’s ants, by really taking my foot off the accelerator, relaxing and refreshing, and concentrating on gratitude for the many blessings I have, including my family and the wonderful place in which we live.
In doing so, paradoxically I am possibly (I hope) better mentally prepared for the weeks and months ahead, rather than if I had spent time in fretting and worrying.
The previous owner of our home bred birds, and had a number of aviaries along the back fence. When we bought the property, he removed them but left the boards which were the backs of the cages. Now, a year later, we have finally begun something we have talked about – letting the children turn the fence line into a painted mural. This week was step one – preparing the initial surface.
That’s how I’m looking at my return to work – as clearing, to an extent, the slate of the past, and starting anew, but not tearing down the good, rather, building on the best of what is there.
Ants, Murals, People, various ebbs and flows… in everything we need to endeavor to create balance in our lives.
I’ve always loved a good joke, and if it is against myself, more the better. One of my collection of favourites is indeed on the topic of “Balance”. It goes like this:
Once upon a time in the Kingdom of Heaven, God went missing for Six days. Eventually, Michael the Archangel found him, resting on the seventh day. He inquired of God, “Where have you been?”
God sighed a deep sigh of satisfaction and proudly pointed downwards through the clouds, “Look Michael, look what I’ve made.” Archangel Michael looked puzzled and said, “What is it?”
“It’s a planet, replied God, “and I’ve put LIFE on it. I’m going to call it Earth and it’s going to be a great place of balance”.
“Balance?” inquired Michael, still confused.
God explained, pointing to different parts of Earth.
“For example, Northern Europe will be a place of great opportunity and wealth while Southern Europe is going to be poor; the Middle East over there will be a hot spot.”
“Over there I’ve placed a continent of white people and over there is a continent of black people” God continued, pointing to different countries. “And over there, I call this place America.
North America will be rich and powerful and cold, while South America will be poor, and hot and friendly. And the little spot in the middle is Central America which is a Hot spot. Can you see the balance?”
“Yes” said the Archangel, impressed by Gods work, then he pointed to a smallish land mass and asked, “What’s that one?”
“Ah” said God. “That’s New Zealand, the most glorious place on Earth. There are beautiful mountains, rainforests, rivers, streams and an exquisite coast line. The people are good looking, intelligent and humorous and they’re going to be found traveling the world. They’ll be extremely sociable, hard-working and high-achieving, and they will be known throughout the world as diplomats and carriers of peace. I’m also going to give them super- human, undefeatable, strong in character citizens who will be admired and feared by all who come across them”.
Michael gasped in wonder and admiration but then exclaimed, “You said there will be BALANCE!”
God replied wisely. “Wait until you see the buggers I’m putting next to them”.
I know I am not alone amongst women, who, when they become mothers, very quickly develop “Mummy Guilt” over working outside the home. Somehow, whatever you do never seems enough – when you are away from your kids (especially at preschool age when you are entrusting them to the care of others) you feel bad for leaving them.
Yet, when you dash off from work to retrieve the small ones or prioritize family events, its easy to feel the poor relation compared to staff members with older or no children who are able to devote themselves 100% to the job.
So why do we do it? For me, and others (not all – there are those who are perfectly content to be Stay-at-Home Mums) there is the feeling of drowning in nappies and sleepless nights, and that you are divorced from the adult world. And feeling that you have more to contribute to the outside world. “Getting it right” is tricky, and maybe impossible. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
I have taught music in some form for the majority of my life – my first student was a delightful young lady who lived in my street, appearing at my house for piano lessons, a picture of blonde pigtails, holding tightly to her Mum’s hand as they walked together up the road. She was six, I was sixteen.
And so it began. I have continued teaching, as well as playing music, more “on” than “off” ever since. I have held a number of full-time Music Teaching positions, both Instrumental and Classroom, in England and Australia, but I’ve often taught alongside other things. My “Day Jobs” over the years have included White Goods Sales, Sales Assistant in a Newsagent/Toy store, Accessory Sales for Shoe repairer/Locksmith, Reception/Personal Assistant for a Graphic Design and Advertising Company, Vehicle Management for QFleet, Admin/Payroll at a Retirement Village and Admin for Disability Services. I’ve had periods of being “Busy doing nothing” especially when establishing life in a new location. I was at home full-time with our first child Cassie when we lived in South Brisbane, but on moving to Country Victoria when she was 18 months old, I felt it time to take up the challenge of part-time work.
I also felt it was time to return to the field in which I had real skill and passion – that of Music, especially as I discovered that there was a limited amount of teachers in the local area.
There the attempt to juggle work and parenthood began in earnest.
One of the additional challenges of being “The Pastor’s Wife” is that, by definition, my work is less important than what my husband does, as he sees himself as not working for a specific congregation/group of people who pay his wages, but that God is his Boss. (Always makes me think of “The Blues Brothers”).
So, to an extent, anything that I do is easily trumped by what he does, and the unpredictable nature of the role of a conscientious Pastor, who is the only one working in the Parish, means that he is basically on call 24/7, regardless of his nominal working hours. There have been numerous occasions where we had made plans but everything was dropped for some unforeseen need. Such as one year he was out at a hospital with a literally dying congregational member at midnight on Christmas Eve.
So right from the time that I started Music Teaching in schools in Ararat, I pledged to be largely responsible for Cassie and make arrangements for her care when I was committed elsewhere, whether that be formal childcare, or babysitters. Since becoming parents, we have never had the benefit of living in the same town as any close family, so have needed to rely on each other and the generosity of friends. More so later when James was born, and this has continued to this day – although the children are evidently much more capable now at 13 and 10 years old. My husband is a hands-on, loving, dependable and reliable Dad – but I still make sure I have all my bases covered, and never just assume he can drop everything and cover.
Working three days per week here is just about the right time for me – although probably a day equivalent of my two “days off” has tended to be spent doing school work – preparation, planning and administration.
Meaning there is roughly a day to get other things done. And breathe.
My intention is to do more of that.
And I perhaps might take the plunge to make a few new interesting plans. We shall see.