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Twenty Bucks!

By Wayne Bainbridge

Over the holiday period I stumbled across many media reports on the huge costs of children starting school. I read of huge school donations suggested by schools; $500 for inner city schools, $1,000 at a Remuera school (per child). Even in West Auckland, $150-$200 per child is not uncommon. Then we read of uniform routs where a polo shirt with a school crest costs $45, but the same polo without the crest sells at $12.

Another reported cost is all sorts of ‘compulsory’ levies:
− $5 I.T. fee.
− $5 photocopying fee.
− $10 art fee.
− $10 classroom consumable fee.

These ‘fees’ are illegal, yet schools continue to charge them. School donations are not compulsory, they are voluntary. The compulsory levies are criminal.

It is very common these days for schools to have BYOD – bring your own digital device to school. Not only are parents responsible for the cost of the device, but also for insurance in the event of loss, theft or damage.

What makes me irritated is that schools seem to get away with it. The Ministry does nothing to enforce its own policies and seems to turn a blind eye to it. Later in the year, we hear of high schools refusing to let children to go to the school ball if they haven’t paid this school donation.

I am proud of the fact that at this school we have no compulsory levies. We have no uniform so there is no extra cost to parents. We don’t rip people off with stationery costs charging just $20. The amount of profit the school makes on stationery sales over the year is around $600. School donations are $70 per child or $100 per family. They are not compulsory and there is an incentive of a lucky prize draw – this year the prize is a Sharp Microwave and a second prize of a free car oil service.

I have talked about several emotions in this blog: anger, embarrassment of some of my colleagues and finally pride in the position of our school. Best wishes for a relatively free education this year. Twenty bucks is all it costs to start school at Matipo!

Graduation Speech by Suzie Espie-Chal

Like many of the teachers sitting in this room I didn’t leave University with teaching on my radar. I left Victoria University with a passion for media and determined to find myself in the hot editor’s seat at a NZ editorial publication. 9 years and 2 careers later I find myself extremely satisfied having grown on a personal journey and working in a job that reflects that. A job I am extremely thankful for and never ever find boring.

To give you some context, I spent 4 years syndicating international celebrity paparazzi photos to numerous national and international magazines. I would hold bidding wars between editors and hike up prices to make huge sales. I would schmooze, wine and dine and talk about the latest celebrity scandal.

Following that I spent a couple of years as a working sole charge out of NZ for an Australian Home Rental business. I spent my days designing collateral, negotiating budgets, attending sunny conferences- and although outwardly it should have, none of this satisfied- I was trapped no matter which way I looked.
After 4 years I grew tired of pretending that meeting financial targets was stimulating or inspiring for me. I couldn’t keep up the façade that the latest exclusive sale of a Victoria Beckham image was something I cared about.

Don’t get me wrong, the travel, hotels and jimmy choo served my early to mid-twenties very well, but every 14 hour flight I found myself reminded that the glitz was funded by a career that was suffocating. I couldn’t deny that I felt very strongly about contributing to people – standing up for the underdog- giving something to people that they could take away and use to make their journey in this wild world better. And so my venture into education was born.

We were told at teachers college that to be teacher you have to love children. But I know now that is not enough.
It’s about being a supportive team member and meeting deadlines. 
It’s about communicating with parents and reassuring them when they are worried
It’s about early morning band practises and dusting shelves. 
It’s about lists and auditions and turning on sound systems. 
It’s about preparing, planning, research and design. 
It’s about timetables, folders, data entry and analysis. 
It’s about buying fish tank filters and holding goldfish funerals. 
It’s about searching for backing tracks in the perfect key and becoming very familiar with Karaoke world on iTunes. 
It’s about trying your best to hold it together when the cockroach you find in your desk drawer tries to eat you alive

Thankfully- this colourful list of tasks all serves a very important purpose. They contribute to a role where you can support the young person that walks into your classroom each day with wide eyes. Eyes that are hopeful and excited and full of ambition, or eyes that are, tired, weepy and say ‘today I need you to just understand that the fact that I made it to school today is all the achievement I can manage’.

This past two years I have been reminded, and reminded myself something very important. I have been reminded that the relationship that you develop with your students makes all the difference. I have learnt that children knowing that each day they have somewhere safe to go where they will be appreciated, valued and understood, is important. Whilst positive shift in a child’s learning is so vitally important also, I have learnt that if you get the first step right, the bond, then the learning will come more easily.

I wish I could say that I have been consistently good at this over the last two years, but I have been learning, and as we all know learning is so often preceded by making mistakes.

I have watched a mimicked the behaviour of so many incredible staff members from this school over the past two years.
I have watched how you balance home life with your work life, and in teaching that is not an easy feat. I have watched you guide and support one another when you didn’t always agree. I have seen people sharing ideas and being extremely generous with their time. So many of you have been generous to me on this teaching journey and I’m really thankful.

Specifically I would like to thank Wayne, and my two tutor teachers Marion Clark and Leanne Siaki.
Marion- you helped me so much, and you were very influential in my learning to love children. You taught me that it is ok for a grieving, sick or miserable child to skip handwriting for a day and just sit on the couch for a while until he/she feels a bit better. Thank you for the coffees, rides home, listening ears and many gifts.

Leanne – I will never forget the day that you showed me how you organise your weekly planning. It was like giving Usain Bolt the perfect pair of running shoes and from there I was really able to get stuck into teaching, and balance my life more carefully again. I am also very thankful for the many useful, fun resources you gave me. Most importantly for me, you restored my confidence in my own ability to do and teach maths effectively. You showed me fantastic strategies that have carried me through teaching some of those more difficult maths stages.

Wayne – you took a chance on me and gave me opportunities that I am extremely grateful for. You allowed me to shine in the areas that I was particularly skilled, and let me learn privately and at my own pace in the areas where I needed to grow. Thank you for my job and for defending me when I have needed it. Thank you listening to what I say and for respecting me enough to trust my decisions.

I have made great friendships at Matipo that I treasure. Now I am off to take a short break to venture into one of the hardest jobs there is – motherhood!

Thank you again to the staff, children, parents and teachers that have supported my two year journey to becoming a registered teacher. I wish you all a very safe and relaxing holiday.

Thank you.

Suzie

Blog: Better writing practice

By Phillip Simpson, April 2012

Writing, both the practise and assessment of it, is highly subjective. What one teacher considers good writing may not be considered as such by another. In terms of assessment, it is often hard to get consistency from two teachers on one piece of writing.

An important consideration is that nobody is born knowing how to write. Everyone has to work at building and growing their writing ability. A colleague once said that she didn’t enjoy writing at school because she knew she wasn’t going to be a writer. I didn’t know I was going to be a writer when I was that age either! It didn’t stop me from enjoying the writing process. And in fact, like most things – I enjoy writing more now that I have become better at it. It is human nature to enjoy things more if you are better at them.

I come from a background of both a teacher and a writer. As such, I do hold a few beliefs that won’t be shared by others in my industry. In other words, whilst this pedagogy may work for some children, it won’t work for all. But then again, what does?

Practise makes perfect

I was never explicitly taught how to be a writer. I don’t remember learning it at school and I didn’t go on any courses. I read some of my earlier work and I confess – I cringe a little. Something inside me dies just a tiny bit. But I’ve got better. You know why? Because I write a lot and I read a lot. In my case (and this won’t work for everyone), I have become better because of practice. It certainly didn’t happen overnight. I’ve been writing seriously for over ten years and during those ten years, I’ve read a lot of books and I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words. Basically, becoming a good (or better) writer takes time. Like anything – you need to work at it and practise. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Nothing good comes easy.

I can’t stress practise enough. Whether it be playing tiddlywinks or driving racing cars, you need to practice. The more a child reads, the more than are exposed to good writing and a wider range of words. The more language they are exposed to, the better they are able to correctly write their own sentences. Read every day. Write every day. Practise, practise, practise!

Reading makes you a better writer (but not always)

“Good readers will become good writers!” is a mantra frequently heard but like most statements, is sweeping in its generalisation.

The statement simply isn’t always true. Sure, some good readers can become good writers, but good readers will not automatically and inevitably become good writers.

This statement can be dangerous when used as a basis for a teaching pedagogy. Encouraging children to read as much as possible as well as giving them opportunities to write creatively is fantastic but … if it’s your only form of writing pedagogy, not all children will be successful. Sure, some will but certainly not all.

In my classroom, I have a number of good readers. Out of those good readers, probably half are good writers. Why not all though? This is the question that needs to be answered. I’ll get to that.

I’ve been an avid reader since I was a youngster and the predominant reason for this is cultural capital and a ‘monkey see, monkey do’ attitude. By cultural capital, I mean I was always exposed to a great deal of literature at home. My father collected books and they were stacked in piles all over the place (they still are). You couldn’t move without tripping over a book so it was inevitable that I would pick one up and start reading it at some point. That book led to lots more. I also saw Mum and Dad reading. A lot. Let’s face it – children are easily influenced by what they see.

Make it fun

I read for fun. I love reading because it transports me to another place, another reality. My wife likes me to read more contemporary fiction but I often don’t see the point. Reading for me is an escape from reality. Another world that envelopes me. And reading should be fun for children. It shouldn’t be a chore. Let them read whatever they like, as long as they enjoy it. It’s about joy so when teaching, don’t overanalyse it to death – it does have a tendency to take away some of the enjoyment. You want children to lose themselves in a book.

Saying that, while enjoying it though, a good reader should question why. Why do they enjoy it? Was it the sentence structure? The story itself? The characters? What we learn as readers, we use as writers. It’s an eclectic process. You’ll take stuff you like from this author and that, mix it together to create your own style.

But you need to enjoy your writing. A child who doesn’t enjoy writing will probably not develop as a great writer because of their reluctance to write. A naturally talented athlete may not perform to their potential simply because they don’t practise – they don’t work at it. Therefore, you need to make sure that what the children are writing is fun.

Reading and writing needs to become a habit. It has to done every day and (for children and the reading aspect at least) from a wide range of reading material.

Exposing them to good source material

Get children to read great writers (or storytellers). Writers that aren’t necessarily literary giants but are just good storytellers. That will make them enjoy the reading process even more and hopefully try and emulate this or that writer.

As a writer, I often feel myself being influenced by what I am reading. This is great for children. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. I couldn’t ask for anything more than for children to try and copy Roald Dahl’s style for instance. And writing is so subjective. A great writer to me may not be a great writer to other people. Just because one writer is using lots of complex sentences, metaphors and other aspects of more advanced writing – doesn’t necessarily mean they are a better writer.

To be a good writer, a child (or an adult for that matter) needs to be able to communicate ideas using the correct language patterns. They need to be able to understand sentence structures and to be able to pick the correct genre. An understanding of both surface and deeper features is also needed. Creativity is fantastic but not always readily available.

There is an old adage – you can’t get something out of nothing. Children require inspiration which is why much of their writing has to be based on personal experience. They simply can’t produce thoughts or concepts that they haven’t experienced in some way (now this can also be through something they’ve seen on TV or read in a book). Even the most unique, creative and extraordinary ideas can only exist as a combination of previously learned bits of information.

If, as teachers, what we need to do is give children an experience with appropriately sophisticated language patterns, then wouldn’t exposing them to great examples of relevant literature be the best way. Reading should give them the right skills then? Right?

Sometimes, but not always. Many children who become early readers – independent readers – often do not store the correct language patterns in their brains.

Good readers will often skip words, phrases and even complete sections of books that might hold them back. Therefore, these bits they skip are not going to be stored for use in their writing.

So, what should they do which will allow them to store the correct language patterns in their brains? Listening (reading to) and memorization.

Reading to

I tell parents all the time that they should read to their kids. Yes – even if those kids are reading independently and confidently. By not reading aloud to them, we deprive them of the chance to hear reliably correct language patterns and they never get an opportunity to listen to language patterns above their own level.

We want to challenge and expand their vocabulary and understanding. We want to give them an opportunity to discuss words and their meanings. By not reading to them, they miss practicing being a good audience (good listener) and just enjoy that happy warm feeling I always associate with being read to (by a good reader at least). What about opportunities to ask questions about what they’d read?

Children who have been read to with correct and sophisticated language patterns for many years, are much more likely to develop competence in written (and verbal) communication skills.

Memorization

Memorization seals language patterns into a brain. Andrew Pudewa (Classical Teacher, Winter 2005) argues that there is no greater tool. He goes on to say that memorizing and reciting poetry gives the brain the perfect opportunity to seal these language patterns in. Of course they have to be the right poems with reliably correct and sophisticated language patterns. Rote memorization may not be in vogue but it has its place in education. It certainly served previous generations (for hundreds and even thousands of years) who don’t seem to suffer from illiteracy as much as the current generation seems to.

Memorization, Pudewa argues, is a powerful way to teach, to learn, to develop skills, and to preserve knowledge. Memorizing and reciting helps fuse neurons into permanent language storage patterns which can then be applied into writing. Relevant poets can also help stretch our vocabulary and our language patterns. “A child with a rich repertoire of memorized poetry will inevitably demonstrate superior linguistic skills, both written and spoken, because of those patterns which are so deeply ingrained in the brain,” says Pudewa.

Some (not all) children even love to recite poems. Creativity and language are given wings to be called upon at will. I know people who can still recite poems learnt twenty, thirty or fourty years earlier.

Conclusion

So not all good readers will be good writers and not every method listed here will help every child. But used together – they are potentially quite powerful. Be innovative. Remember that good writing is subjective. Don’t be afraid to try out different things. I don’t believe there’s any right or wrong way in teaching. Just do whatever works to turn the kids on to writing.

Blog: Finding Balance

By Amanda Render

When I was returning to work at the beginning of Term 2 after being on maternity leave for 8 months I had many a wise person tell me that I would need to find that spot, the perfect balance between my home life, with my husband, son and dog and my work life, with my class and professional responsibilities.

You need a balance in life between dealing with what is going on inside and not being so absorbed in yourself that it takes over…

-Nigella Lawson

 

Coming now to the end of the year I am wondering what exactly is ‘balance’?  Do I have it? And how can I get more of it? It also got me thinking about how my friends with young children who also, have recently returned to work find balance and if their idea of balance is the same or similar to mine…

After talking, ‘Facebooking’, texting and emailing friends, and reading articles entitled ‘The Importance of Maintaining Balance’ and ‘5 tips for a Well Balanced Life’, I have come to the conclusion that for myself and those that I spoke to the principles behind finding balance are very similar if not the same.

  • Quality not Quantity!

It is all about how you spend your time with your children rather than the amount of time spent with them. Playing, reading, rough and tumble, going for a walk, finding a new playground to explore and creating memories with and for your little one. Nothing makes me happier than watching my son develop and grow. Having special time each day where nothing else is important but him and whatever happens to be interesting to him at the time. At the moment it is all about books and sitting on our laps reading. Ensuring I make time that is just for him helps me to find balance in my life.

 

  • ME time!

It is important to look after yourself as well as those you love. Take some time out each day to do something that you enjoy and find relaxing.  Take the dog for a walk, have a bubble bath or find a quiet corner to read.

It is only recently that I have come to appreciate just how important it is to take time out for myself.  My ‘me’ time has come to include getting my hair and make-up done in the morning before leaving the house and taking an exercise class that I love twice a week. Including these things in my week is helping me to achieve and maintain balance.

 

  • Knowing your Priorities…

Balance doesn’t mean doing everything you can. Decide what is important to you and fit those things in first.

One of my friends said to me, “The house work will always be there. It can wait until later.” She is right. Quality time with my family comes first when I am at home and if there are toys scattered around the floor and washing to be folded, it can all be done once our son is asleep.

I try to do as much school work as I can while at school and in the time that I am there my class and the children in it are my highest priority. For me separating my home and work life helps me to feel more balanced.

The final thing that really stood out for me when talking to other full time working mums was that they all thought it was ok if at times we lost our balance and not to be too hard on ourselves when this inevitably happens. It is those times when we do our most learning, when we learn what our boundaries are and how far we are capable of pushing them. Keep thinking positively and get back on track as quickly as possible. Realise that something’s happen and they are out of our control. Do what you need to do to achieve balance. Write to-do lists, plan your time on a calendar so everyone knows when and where you and they will be at what times, make sure to include time for yourself, your family and your friends.

At this stage in my life I am happy with the balance I have achieved. I feel that I am giving the best of myself in everything I am doing. I take time for myself each and every week and enjoy that hugely. I play and read with my son every day and my favourite time of day is right before bedtime when we sit quietly together, have a story and wind down.  My husband and I always sit and have dinner together no matter what time it is… that is our time to unload, talk about our day, talk about what is coming up and just enjoy each other’s company. I enjoy coming into school and getting ready for my day with my class. I enjoy how hard they all work, their sense of humour and their ready smiles. I enjoy watching them achieve goals and set new ones.

So… do I have balance in my life? Yes, for all of the reasons above and more!

Blog: National Pride

By Natalie Kennerley

We often watch movies or news stories about people in other countries and their national pride. Although Kiwis are a proud people, I don’t think we are quite at the same point as Americans with their Independence Day celebrations, or even the Aussies with their Australia Day. Is there something we can do with our children to develop this pride?

Recently, my husband and I have been hosting German exchange students, and so we find ourselves showing off our country. And it becomes more obvious how much we want people to enjoy New Zealand, to appreciate all the things that we appreciate. But not only that, how special New Zealand really is. I think we have started to see our surrounds through a visitor’s eyes and see things in a whole new light. How lucky we are to live in a beautiful country, with such places as the black sands of Muriwai beach, the geysers of Rotorua and the expansive golden beaches of the Coromandel Peninsula. And that’s just the landscape, not taking into account the (generally) friendly people, relaxed way of life and Peanut Slabs.

With the Rugby World Cup we have been talking a lot in class about New Zealand and the All Blacks. The children are surprisingly knowledgeable about these topics – naming players, cities, and keeping up to date with the results of the games. If you came to our RWC opening ceremony, or even watched the video, I’m sure you can see the excitement that had taken over Matipo on that day. What better way to encourage our children to be proud of their country? I think all of New Zealand enjoyed a brief time in the spotlight where people enjoyed supporting their team, watching them win and proclaimed the All Black victory as “Not bad, not bad”.

I think we are becoming an increasingly proud nation, which becomes much more apparent as people go for their OEs. Who hasn’t sent a Mr Vintage t-shirt or Pineapple Lumps to a friend or family member living overseas? I know that I certainly rely on such Kiwi inspiration when sending gifts to my brothers who live abroad.

So, are we really not a proud nation? Or is it that we are just not very vocal about it?

Principals Office Blog: Election

By Wayne Bainbridge

A blog is a personal statement or opinion. Mine is about the election which for the first time in my adult voting life, I had very little interest in…almost to the point of not voting. The cup of tea saga and over reaction,the deals between National and Act and Peter Dunne leave a bad taste in your mouth and a feeling of a tainted democratic process.

That Mr Key and National have done well over the last 3 years is without doubt. Key is very good and he relates well to us all. His photo paying the pizza delivery person in shorts, bare feet and a polo on election night epitomizes his ordinary guy next door image. Tony Ryall has been a very good Health minister and Steven Joyce has been a very impressive Transport and Tertiary education minister. He gets things done

Labour have been an embarrassment to themselves and their history. For too long they didn’t realize they lost the last election. Too many policies were a tired return to the old socialist rhetoric of the 50’s and 60’s. The economic rational of raising the super age and making Kiwisaver compulsory were endorsed by every economic commentator in the country but it wasn’t sold well enough and for a long enough time. Goff surprised by running a very good campaign. Bravely, Labour
campaigned on policy not personalities but Goff was sabotaged from within.

Why didn’t he have the costings of their policies at the Christchurch Press debate…because Finance spokesman David Cunliffe either withheld them or didn’t have them ready

So, the Greens get 13 seats and NZ First 8 seats but neither could win a single electorate seat. A number of sitting MPs were dumped by the voters, sacked in fact, but parachute back into parliament on the list…the losers list!

Now Labour will try to resurrect themselves but are doomed to failure. Their party list rewarded the incompetent. The affiliated unions pay just 50 cents a member to control the constitution. The same old tired faces litter the top table. The leadership battle will further divide the party and reward the vain. What is needed is a clear out of the old and incompetent, the gender/sexual orientation representation and the union hacks.

David Lange became leader after just 3 years in parliament. He was a circuit breaker and Labour desperately needs another one. Phil Twyford/Jacinda Ardern would be a great new leadership combination, both telegenic, young, intelligent and an obvious break from the past and a metaphor for the future.

Likely to happen?
Not in a million years!
Australia continues to look better and better.

Blog: Arts and Creativity

A View From A Classroom Blog

Our wonderful Mrs Fotheringham brings us the latest ‘view’. It is a reflection of her personal journey through education as well as a highly insightful piece on the importance of creativity in the classroom. You only have to walk into Room 12 to see that she is truly living this philosophy to benefit the children in her care.

“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once one grows up,” Pablo Picasso.

I was a shy child throughout primary school because I grew up not wanting to be wrong. Therefore I tried really hard in numeracy and literacy so I always had the right answers. But the subjects I really loved were the arts because creativity was valued and there was no right or wrong outcome.

At college I chose subjects where creativity was valued and in my final year I was the Arts Captain and was fortunate to receive a scholarship for tertiary education. My teachers were surprised to find out I had not pursued an education in arts but choose a business degree instead. Being the only child in my family to go to university I was told, “Don’t do arts. You can’t make a living being an artist”. The only sensible choice seemed to be a business degree because you can make a lot of money and you are guaranteed a job. NOT! Businesses actually seem to be more interested in creative thinkers rather than academic achievers with degrees.

Now I am a teacher and get to see, support and value kids’ various talents. I am always amazed at what my kids can do. If you give them the opportunity and support to be creative they will show you what they are capable of. They get to succeed in all areas of learning by expressing their creativity rather than always remembering the right answer.

The arts can easily be linked into all learning areas. Literacy can be taught through dance where children can build a dance based on new vocabulary. Children can relate to characters they are reading about through drama. They learn new maths knowledge through music and express ideas about inquiry through visual arts. Matipo Primary does a great job in supporting these creative talents.

No one knows what the world will look like in 5 years time, let alone 6 months in this economy. But as teachers it’s our job to educate our kids so they can prosper in 20 years time! So it gets you thinking, what are the most important things to teach? What things are going to benefit these kids the most? If our kids talents are in arts, who are we to teach them out of creativity when we don’t know what will be valued in the future?

By Ariki Fotheringham

Blog: Waking Up

A View From A Classroom

This week’s blog is brought to you from the highly creative Mr Tony Nemaia. Who said real blokes don’t write poetry? Tony is one of beginning teachers here at Matipo. He has, I believe, followed Marion’s advice from our last blog and stepped out of his comfort zone to bring you this wonderful poem. A chocolate fish goes to the first person to tell us how Tony’s school day has undergone a transformation over the course of the year.

 

waking up

the Alarm rings

6am

padlock cold, wet and awkward

coffee, 1 sugar and milk

photocopy, plan, organise

“morning mr nemaia”

 

the Alarm rings

6am

driveway lights bright, puddles plenty

coffee, 1 sugar and milk

marking, photocopying, thinking

“ morning mr nemaia”

 

the Alarm rings

6am

runners, walkers and dogs go by

coffee, 1 sugar and milk

printing, marking, reflecting

“morning mr nemaia”

‘the Bell rings’

“mr nemaia does this mean this?”

“mr nemaia but if this is this then is that this?”

“mr nemaia,

… mr nemaia,

… mr nemaia”.

MR NEMAIA

 

Awake

The alarm rings

6am

Unlock the gate

Drink the coffee

Think, plan, think, plan, think, think, think.

MR NEMAIA.

“Good Morning Room 11”.

Blog: What is your comfort zone? And do you really have to step outside it?

Marion Nicolson, the teacher in Room 5, has written a super blog all about a subject that might make some of us cringe with the very thought of doing it. Let us know how you do it, if you dare!

 

It’s one of those phrases that’s used a lot. I’m sure most of you are familiar with it. Wikipedia describes your comfort zone as “a behavioural state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviours to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.”

We each have our own comfort zone, our own behavioural state which is anxiety neutral. It’s that space where you coast along, you feel happy, you’re content, you’re doing your thing, and you are anxiety neutral.

And then someone comes along and suggests that you step out of this zone, that you challenge yourself, that you do something different. In short, they want you to increase your anxiety level so that you are no longer anxiety neutral. Why would you want to do that?!

Maybe you don’t want to. Maybe you are happy in your anxiety neutral state, thank you very much. My question to you is – is that really living or is it just existing?

When you do step out of your comfort zone what actually happens? If being in your comfort zone means that you are in an anxiety neutral state, stepping outside of that implies that you raise those anxiety levels. Surely increasing your anxiety sounds like something that you should avoid. Could that increase my blood pressure? Could that make me ill? Surely that’s not the right thing to do? However, doing that can actually have a positive consequence. When our anxiety levels are raised it can cause an enhanced level of focus and concentration. We achieve more by pushing ourselves. Of course, the danger is that if we push ourselves too much the anxiety levels and stress rise too much and so it has a detrimental effect. But pushing ourselves just the right amount can have amazing consequences. If people never pushed themselves just think of the theories, inventions, cures, performances, decisions, discoveries that would never be made. The list could be endless.

Of course, not everyone will want to go outside their comfort zone. It can be hard work. It’s pretty scary.

It can be done passively – going to the theatre to see Shakespeare when it’s not really your thing (done to keep your partner happy!), watching a movie that you think you’ll have no interest in (because someone you know wants to go but has no one to go with) and other such events.

You can also be an active participant in stepping outside your comfort zone when you have little choice in the matter – chairing a meeting at work because a promotion means that you have to, organising a conference as part of your work, speaking in front of colleagues, writing letters to people regarding their employment, confronting people whose work is not up to standard. These could be seen as the necessary evils of our jobs. We have no choice if we wish to still be employed.

Your children are put in that kind of position, usually on a daily basis. We challenge children every day to go one step further, to reach the next goal, to take the next learning step. They have no choice. We push them, cajole them, guide them, teach them. Whichever way you would like to phrase it, we push them outside of their comfort zones. Every day. Maybe that’s just part of their and our job.

Of course we could choose to step outside our comfort zones. Just because we can. Just because we feel that living means challenging ourselves. Just because it’s a way of showing that you are more capable that people give you credit for. Just so that we can simply experience what it’s like to be outside our comfort zones. Just so we can then identify with, and understand, those who are pushed outside of theirs.

What is your comfort zone? Step outside of it. Go on, you know you want to.

Blog: Save me Austin Powers, save me! I seem to have lost my mojo!

By Susan Ludbrook

Ahh, if it were only that simple to get you mojo back. One quick helpless cry to the super spy Austin Powers, a quick time travel excursion together, battle a few dastardly villains with terrible outfits (and accents!) and ‘wallah’ mojo restored back to where it should be, like it was never gone. All the while looking super cool and having Madonna or Beyonce singing your soundtrack………

However, real life doesn’t seem to quite fit in with the script. We all lose our ‘mojo’ every so often through the daily stresses of life, but most of us are able to bounce back, or at the very least just get on with things until our normal mojo-ness returns. But what happens when you truly and utterly find yourself ‘mojo-less’ for more than a few days or weeks? What happens when your mojo goes on what seems like an eternal holiday?

Mojo disappearance can be brought on by many factors; chronic illness (of oneself or someone close to you), long term work stress, grief, natural disasters to name but a few. The characteristics of being without mojo go beyond the usual tiredness and feeling low of feeling run down and exhibit themselves as a complete inability to function as one would expect a productive member of society to do. Thinking slows down, being able to give family, work, self or community equal time, love or energy is nigh on impossible. Maybe you can’t work, do housework, play with your children or enjoy the activities you once did. Most importantly a loss of your identity occurs as everything you have (probably) taken for granted and defined you is taken away.

Many people do have an amazing resilience to cope with huge life-changes. I call them the mojo masters. They never lose sight of the bigger picture, no matter what life throws at them. However others are not so fortunate. No matter how groovy their mojo was before suddenly it is whipped away and they are left struggling to comprehend their new world without this magic, invisible but life giving awesomeness.

We live in a society that does not allow every person to truly focus on finding their lost mojo. We have mortgages to pay, children to look after, spouses to relationship with, colleagues to support, deadlines to meet, paperwork to fill in and in the case of teachers a huge responsibility to deliver the best education for the children in our care. The most obvious cure for re-energising one’s mojo is, of course, Time. Simply being able to give oneself the necessary time to heal the mind, the body and the mojo. However when you have the demands of life to cope with how is it really possible to give yourself the time needed to restore? These constraints inevitably lead to longer ‘no mojo’ zones.

It is possible to escape form this mojo malady. It has to be. Obviously this is a very personal view, as the author has been without her mojo for quite some time. However she has recently felt glimmers of the ‘foxxy’ mojo juice starting to return…….When the mojo returns in its full capacity she is going to try and do everything in her ‘Powers’ to hang on to it.

To my parents, my Principal, staff members who have allowed me to cry and vent and despair at my lousy condition and then gave me hugs or a reassuring word, friends who listened to me, the healer Kathryn Hudson and Facebook. I thank you all. I thank the children of Room 18 who give me so much pure mojo-ness every day in the classroom and their wonderful parents who have been so kind. Mostly I thank my own children who have loved me unconditionally and my long-suffering husband who has (mostly) put up with a highly dysfunctional partner for far too long.

And to all my fellow mojo-free comrades, there is always hope. No matter how desperate things seem, there will be a way through to becoming the person that you once were (or even a better version!).

My apologies to Mike Myers and any die-hard Austin Powers fans for the terrible use of puns.