Tag Archives: Opinion

To the world: please accept our children unconditionally and look after them

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On freshly pressed right now is a post that is close to my heart. It is from the blog Raising My Rainbow. The woman who writes this blog, Lori, shares with her readers experiences of her family, especially around her “gender creative” son C.J.

Lori's blog tells her story and she has written a book as well.

Lori’s blog tells her story and she has written a book as well.

What has gone down recently, and what has featured on freshly pressed, is that some parents at Lori’s son’s school have spoken up both at a PTA meeting and after the meeting, with some discriminatory, homophobic and transphobic statements around the rights of children to express their gender identity.

One particular issue revolves around children’s right to use the toilets of the gender they identify with, not necessarily the gender they were assigned at birth. Apparently C.J. has not been using girls toilets, this is a rumour. But, he has been bullied in the boys toilets by other boys who demand to see whether he has a penis or a vagina. Bullied in the toilets. And these parents speak like this at the PTA meeting. Perhaps the apples don’t fall far from the trees. What a battle this family and this school have with these parents.

The situation can be read about here To The PTA Moms at My Son’s School and here The Last PTA Meeting I Will Ever Attend.

There are a lot of poorly informed, under-empathetic and under-caring people in this world. For starters, these are children we are talking about. How messed up do we want our future generation to be? Let them just be children. Without all the adult negativity and prejudice, I bet these children would all play happily together, going to whatever toilet they choose. At my school, right next to my art room there are two toilets used by boys, girls, women, men. No, stop it, please. The world is going to end because we share toilets. There’s no intention there, it’s just how it ended up in the design of a new building, we have two unisex toilets at that end of the building. Children have an amazing ability to be flexible of mind and accepting of others. We shouldn’t kill this.

As a teacher in a primary school, I see children who show different degrees of gender identity. We have not had an experience like Lori is going through at our school yet, but I would like to think my school would be very accepting and work through the issues, with the child and all the children’s welfare in mind. I know that I, as a parent of a gay son and one more informed than the average person, will be there to share information and encourage understanding. However, I know parents can be extremely single minded when discussing issues, and that is a problem.

There is a lot to be gained from informing oneself before opening one’s mouth. This article from an Australian TV program called Four Corners is a perfect way to share stories of the children who struggle with their gender identity and acceptance in the world.

Being Me by Four Corners

Being Me by Four Corners

It is through these stories that people can access information, information that they do not necessarily access otherwise in their lives. Not yet anyway. Society, in varying degrees throughout, is just beginning to learn about LGBTI acceptance and equality. There are places where LGBTI issues are open and understood greatly, but I would not think that many suburban or rural primary or secondary schools (elementary or high schools) are there yet.

At the end of the day, these are our children, they are born with promise and a bright future, let’s look after them and keep it that way.

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What is normal?

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Black Sheep

I think society is too concerned with being “normal”.  This is my opinion and you may not agree with it.  I will tell you what led me to think this.

Presently my health has been spiralling in and out of fatigue in an uncontrolled and erratic way.  I am not sure what to blame, whether it is being busy, being stressed, not getting enough sleep, erratic weather, or perhaps it is just bound to happen periodically no matter what I try.  I am feeling very abnormal at the moment, like I cannot keep up with my peers and live my life like others.  For example, tonight I drove home from work and parked in the carport only to have zero energy left to actually get out of the car, unlock the door and go inside.  When I finally went inside every second focused on me getting into bed for a nap. I don’t think my peers are sleeping at 6.30 pm because they almost crashed asleep in their carport.

It happened that before I came home tonight I was sitting in the car briefly listening to the radio. There was a lady on the radio (possibly an expert, but I didn’t hear her name), talking about depression and offering advice as to how to help a friend regain a normal life after being depressed.  I kind of got angry inside when I heard this lady use the word “normal”.  I thought, “what is normal lady, maybe this is normal for this person?” I think this was a regrettable choice of word. To tell a person that they must aim to “get back to normal” is to dismiss the struggle, to ignore the effort on the days where depression was experienced and survived, to categorise and ostracise the individual that this person is. Trying to gain “normality” may equate to setting this person up for failure. Trying to gain a more positive outlook might be more appropriate.  Or trying to regain constant work life, that might be what the person needs. Being told he or she is living an abnormal life, that is not needed.  What happens next time the illness becomes bad again? Does this person feel like he or she failed because they have to admit they are unwell again? Is the illness hidden on subsequent episodes? Does this person begin to hate who they have become?

What is normal? The dictionary says normal is ‘conforming to a standard’, or ‘the usual, typical, or expected state or condition’ (Google).

If I wish I was “normal’ I’m not sure what I am wishing for.  It would be much clearer for me to say I wish I didn’t have a chronic illness. Everyone leads different lives with different issues, challenges and problems.  The variety of personalities, experiences and lifestyles of people means that normal is a fallacy.  For some people, having a chronic illness has become their normal, their life.  Because if you start to think you are abnormal then it is like the illness is taking control and the true person is lost.  It does not matter if you are in a situation where you could be classed as “abnormal”, you continue to be a valued individual- you continue to be you.

Unfortunately, having a chronic illness is normal life for many, many people.  I read a paper that said 26.1% of people in my age bracket, 25-44 years old, reported having at least one chronic illness in Australia in 2004-2005.  Ten years on, I am sure this is even greater today, as reporting is more common and diagnosis and treatment for illness more accessible nowadays. This survey also found that 53.1% of 45-64 year olds and 79.6% of those 65 and over reported having one or more chronic illnesses.  As the two older age groups had over 50% with chronic illnesses, does then mean that chronic illness is in fact normal for over 45s? Hahaha. That isn’t true is it? But statistics show that chronic illness is the expected state of older citizens.  Perhaps I am just a few years ahead of time?

The concept of normality has a judgemental element to it.  It is like organising individuals into “OK” and “not OK” categories. Everyone stands around pointing fingers at each other saying you aren’t normal, when in fact, variety, as seen in everyone as a society, is normal. Is it normal to not be normal? That would make a lot more sense.  Coming with the judgemental concept of normality is stigma.  The stigma towards being abnormal is what is to blame for self image and self esteem problems, mental health issues, hiding the truth, staying in the closet, etc.

If we instead considered that what is normal for one person is not the same as what is normal for another person, much of the stigma disappears. Perhaps, the idea of normal is also fluid throughout one’s life.  This type of normal does not fit the Google definition given earlier.  I am sure sociology academics would find all sorts of explanations for the concept of normal and how it assists society with self-regulation.  However, it seems that the actual definition of the word normal does not work in reality. Enacting the idea of normal is impossible and likely to lead to feelings of inferiority and rejection.  The hiding and disgrace that occurs when a person thinks them self abnormal does not need to happen in a world where all types of normal exist. In this type of world, there is no abnormal.  There is unusual and unlikely and not common, but no abnormal.

I have a chronic illness, struggle with that illness on and off, but I also want to be considered as normal. I am a normal person who has an uncommon illness. My illness does not make me abnormal.  It means I have a chronic illness.

Teaching is a work of heart

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Teaching is a profession that cops a lot of negativity in the media on and off. Regardless of what some people say, I believe most teachers try to make a difference in the lives of the children in their care, in just about everything they do, all day, every school day of the year.  I am guessing that’s accurate of about 99% of teachers.  I don’t think many teachers stay in the profession if they have no passion for teaching or for children. It’s really hard work, it would be almost impossible to do if you didn’t have a love for it. I see and hear about teachers who move on every year to places more suited, like to the police force or to a desk job or to retirement.

A lot of teachers and school staff go nameless and faceless even though we spend a huge amount of time with the children in our classes and at our school every week.  After the children have survived their first year of school successfully, their parents start slowly dwindling off and we rarely see many of them by the time these children reach the middle and upper primary grades. (Unless of course, in their child’s eye some injustice has been done and the parent comes to the school and threatens and points fingers at teachers and tells them to go to Weight Watchers- but that is another story). Lucky for us, the amount of parents that engage in disrespectful behaviour is probably only 1%.  I’m very lucky, I work in a pretty safe and positive environment.

Most parents would not know my name, except maybe if I have had their children in a previous year where I was their child’s classroom teacher. I’m just the art teacher now.  I was primary carer for about 125 different students throughout the day today. Even though very few parents of those students would be able to call me by name, they trusted me (and many others) today with the job of keeping their children safe, happy and learning.

The thing is, a lot of us teachers work our arses off for the good of our students, but we do not like to be singled out.  We don’t mind small quiet notes or gifts at the end of the year, but parents please thank us quietly, we do not like the limelight.  We are a team and often you will see a teacher brush off attention, saying something like “It’s just my job” or “It was a team effort”.  We don’t mind if parents don’t all know our names.  We don’t even mind parents don’t realise how effective our work is in developing the whole child, all the different parts that perhaps you can’t see changing ever so subtly, and parts you certainly can’t test. That’s ok. We work for the children to grow and learn and develop and gain new passions and confidences and become an older more educated person at the end of our year. I don’t know why we all teach so fantastically and then don’t really advertise the fact, it’s just who we are- we teach because we are passionate about education, not about accolades and applause.

Today all five of my art classes went fantastically.  Everyone engaged in the learning and the art was complete expression of self.  I know that most of those children gained some insights into themselves, their inner workings and their abilities.  I was inspired by the children’s contributions to discussion, their reflections, and the insightful art they created. Some children learnt a lot, some children learnt a little. But all students moved forward. And that is all I want for today.

Teach from the heart

Pumpkins, where art thou?

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This is an observation, not a whinge, (well, maybe it’s a bit whingy).

I turned my wall calendar over to October. The picture was a very cute baby in a pumpkin. Well, I live in Australia. Pumpkins aren’t out yet, there will be pumpkins abounding in probably March next year. I get that pumpkins are relevant to a lot of people in October. I looked in awe at the decorating feats of my fellow teachers in North Carolina to honour the great pumpkin month and season of Fall (I lived there for a couple of years).

However, there are many people to whom the arrival of a pumpkin picture to represent October means nothing. It was a pretty cute baby though, so not a complete disappointment.

If your audience is international you might want to think about that.

Just saying.

Baby in a Pumpkin

WordPress is better than Facebook

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I don’t think I like Facebook anymore. I haven’t been visiting there much lately and I don’t miss it.

The people on Word Press are a lot nicer.

The people on Word Press aren’t constantly in your face.

The people on Word Press seem to be more intelligent because they have more interesting things to say.

The people on Word Press are positive thinkers.

The people on Facebook are always having dramas and insulting each other.

The people on Facebook sometimes bully and exclude others with their hidden double meanings that only certain people catch onto.

The people on Facebook think the ability to take a photo of yourself with your phone is a skill worth celebrating.

The people on Facebook are actors, you don’t know what people are really like.

If you vote Facebook, do nothing.

If you vote WordPress click like.

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