Monday, August 30, 2010

What's his name again?

It's not often these days that I feel a sermon is particularly brilliant. While many are good, they don't always strike that perfect balance of entertainment value coupled with hard-hitting message. Usually they're either one or the other, or neither.

But this Sunday past was one of those rare occasions when I heard what I think must be the best sermon I've heard all year.

Sibs Sibanda. Google him. You'll find very little as far as his bio is concerned, but lots of links to his sermons. He's a preacher (part of a team of people) at a church in Jo'burg called Godfirst.

The man is a gifted communicator. No. He's a genius at communicating.

While he's driving home the most incredibly hard-hitting stuff, he has the ability to give a little humourous aside that allows the congregation to chuckle, without losing the building tension of the message itself. Brilliant! I want to learn to do that.

Plus he's just very funny.

Plus he really has a gift for opening up the scriptures to us.

I would say I know my Bible pretty well. I've read it through more times than I can remember. (Not lately, of course, but in the course of my Christian life.) For this reason I find I often skim read passages, because I feel like I know them so well I can't really learn anything new from them anymore - I can just be reminded of what I already know. I recognise, of course, that that is just my own arrogance, but that's the way I often feel.

Well, Sibs Sibanda shure showed me. He took a passage I was very familiar with and blew it completely wide open for me. He showed me things I'd never realised before (about the passage, I mean).

Oh. My. Word.

All the while, making me both laugh at myself and take a good, long, hard look at my sin.

PLUS - not once did he make me feel judged or inferior.


Just incredible.

I don't ever download the podcasts from the sermons. I think I just might have to download this one to listen to it again. If you want to have a listen, you can find the mp3 here. Give it a listen, seriously. It'll be worth both your time and your bandwidth.

Friday, August 27, 2010

OMW - the best day ever?

Do you ever have those days where everything just seems to go right? Where you find yourself getting more and more excited? Where you find yourself getting creative, making connections, seeing possibilities? Days when the future is rosy and golden?

I had one of those days today. It was so great that I had verbal diarrhoea for about 45 minutes when G and I met for coffee at lunch time. And then again all over my principal when I reported back to him about my day. Terrible, really, but I had such an amazing day I couldn't help myself.

I think one of the reasons that today was so awesome is that it ticked all my boxes for the things that really make me happy - meeting new people, learning new stuff, playing with technology, getting creative with problem solving, and lots of excellent, free food!

I went to a breakfast this morning, at the Mount Nelson, on someone else's account. What a great start to the day, right? I have to say, it's been a while since I have had a breakfast that awesome. Truly. There's a reason that the Nelly has such a great reputation.

But even before we got to the eating bit, the day got off to a great start. I had just walked through the door, when in walked someone who's face I recognised. (I'm good with faces, hardly ever forget a face, but names! Ooh boy, I'm rotten with names.) Since I was there on my own, I decided to take the bull by the horns, figuratively speaking. I wandered over and mentioned that I recognised her face, and would she mind telling me her name.

Wouldn't you know it? It was Maggie Verster! (She had been the keynote speaker at an ICT conference I went to 2 years ago, and have been following on Twitter since.) So the conversation goes like this:

Me: MAGGIE! Of course! Now I remember.
MV: (looking mildly confused)
Me: (seeing her confusion) Oh, not to worry. I've followed you on Twitter since the ICT conference 2 years ago.
MV: Oh! Right! (brightens, smiles broadly) What's your twitter designation?
Me: I'm Nixgrim.
MV: (huge smile) Of course! Fabulous to finally meet you! (and gives me a bear hug)
Turning to the others standing in our circle, she says: See how amazing Twitter is?! Isn't this amazing?


I follow a blog of a woman in the US who frequently goes to conferences where she meets people she follows/ is follwed by on Twitter. She often comments on how lovely it is to meet people and put faces to names. As the above scenario was playing itself out, I couldn't help but think of Cecily and think to myself that this must be what she experiences on a regular basis. It's SO COOL!

Then I got to chat to a whole bunch of other people, Maggie included, who are keen to see how they can use web 2.0 and technology in the classroom. This was awesome for two reasons - firstly, I got to meet new people. I love meeting new people. It gives me a certain kick. However, I like meeting people with whom I have something in common even more (who doesn't?!). So meeting the people at this breakfast was exciting because I found myself having conversations that were meaningful, not just the usual social chit chat that one makes when meeting new people.

The purpose of the breakfast was to officially launch FullMarks (see yesterday's post). Hearing afresh the details about the programme, what it does and how it works, got me thinking long and hard about what's happening at the school. It struck me, as I was listening and pondering, that we aren't going about things the right way. We're doing it all (as my father would put it) arse-about-face. (I think that's a rather apt description...)

Not being one to be satisfied with identifying the problem, my brain immediately set to work trying to find a solution. This in itself was fantastic. As long as I'm not tired, I love problem-solving. I love working at a practical problem and finding a practical solution.

Well, I came up with a possible solution - KACHING! - one that has the potential to make my job even more interesting, which would be a win-win. So I'm feeling good because I think I've found a workable solution, and I'm feeling excited at the possibility of what the future might hold.

Then, since the brain cells have been nicely oiled, and since I was sitting at a table of like-minded individuals, we got to chatting about other problems. During the discussion, I came up with yet another solution to a problem we are currently facing at school - KACHING! Now I'm really hitting the ceiling. I'm on top of the world!

Things can't get any better, right? Wrong. I've had a particular problem/ project I've had for several weeks now, that I've been trying to solve, to no avail. In chatting to Maggie this morning, she made a flyaway comment that could be the solution to my problem. Wow!

Oh there were a few other small things, connections I made for myself, with things that I can do to help my kids, but they're small, so I won't waste time on them now.

End of the breakfast, and off I went to a meeting that didn't happen. Instead, G and I went for coffee and biscuits. And I got to pour all my enthusiasm and excitement over him. Poor guy. He took it really well and even asked some really penetrating questions. I love that he listens to me, really listens to me. I'm a very blessed woman!

So feeling more grounded, but still buzzed, off I went to school and happened to find the principal with a few minutes to kick around. I promptly sat him down and gave him the edited highlights package. Nervously. In a completely unrelated situation I discovered that some people don't react well to initiative. While I know that the principal isn't one of those types, my confidence was shaken, so I'm nervous of over-stepping boundaries. But he responded very positively to my comments and suggestions. Very well. Yay!!

Reading back through this, I know that I haven't really given you the details that some of you would like. Sorry. You can blame that on a crisis of confidence too.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The 18-month itch

Yup - it's that time again. I've got the itch...

For those who are relatively new to my blog, let me fill you in. When I was a kid I used to move home, on average, every 18 months. Shocking. I know.

So, roughly every 18 months I start to get twitchy. I feel it in my bones, in my blood, in the very fibre of my being. I feel the need to MOVE.

However, my financial situation being what it is (see my post about why teachers are currently striking) I can't afford to move house. Plus it's just a huge hassle - all that packing and unpacking. Really, dahling - that's just, like, SO for the birds!

But never the less, I get the itch. I think it's built into my DNA now. Every 1-2 years, G will come home and find one of our rooms rearranged. And my blog gets a new look too. And anything else I can find to change that doesn't cost me the earth. (Except my hair. I don't ever change my hair. Not sure why.... hmm... food for thought, and maybe a separate blog post, that one.)

Et Voila - the blog has had a face-lift. I quite like this template, don't you? And yes, Nellie's room will get a reordering over the weekend. The difference this time is that she requested it. She told me she hates her bed next to the wall cos she's scared the spiders will come down and bite her. Poor mite!

Since G's away for the weekend, I'll wait till he gets home on Sunday and we can do it then. After all, it's much faster with two. (Although, given the state of his shoulder after his recent bike accident I'm not sure how much pushing and shoving he will be up for.)

(Did I tell you about his bike accident? Yes, I thought so. I'm still cross with him about that one.)

Breakfast at Tiffanies (or something like that)

So I get to have breakfast at the Mount Nelson tomorrow morning - and best of all, I don't have to pay for it! How exciting!

Of course, there is a catch - there always is. In order to be given this fantastic breakfast, I had to give away something in return. Fair trade, and all that.

The Shuttleworth Foundation are launching a programme called FullMarks, which is an online database of assessment questions for the South African syllabus, particularly aimed at under-resourced schools or at teachers who are inexperienced in the subjects they are teaching.

The idea is that teachers will continually add to the database. However, in order to avoid the 'chicken or the egg' scenario, they asked for teachers from high performing schools to contribute some of their questions to set the database up. From Pinelands, three departments decided to help out.

Finally, the official launch day is here, and so some of those who helped out have been invited to share in the launch of the project they helped to build and create. And hence, I get to have breakfast at the Nelly.

YUM!! Now then, what does one wear to an official launch held at the Nelly??

Spreading the love

What a day of mixed emotions...

The wife of a friend went to hospital this morning only to be told her worst nightmare had come true: she was having a miscarriage. I feel their pain keenly.

Then came the news item about a taxi accident in which 9 children were killed. The taxi driver decided that he couldn't wait for the train to pass the level crossing, so jumped the queue, and got hit. He survived, but 9 children ranging in age from about 9 to 16 died. Normally, I would read a story like this, shake my head, and feel mildly outraged for a while. Today, I read it and burst into tears. All I could think about was those poor parents who kissed their kids goodbye this morning, only to receive a phone call an hour or so later to tell them their baby was dead. If that were me, if that were Janel.... my world would implode again. I don't know if I could survive another grief on that scale. How these parents will survive to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives is beyond me, even having walked my own grief journey.

Then, I did some community service with the kids on cross-curricular week today. We were making sandwiches (over 800!) for the School Buddies programme. The kids were wearing aprons with the slogan "Spread the Love". One of the kids piped up with the tag line - spreading the love one slice at a time. Beaut!

But a highlight was coming home. Nate was having a bottle. I waited until he was basically finished, then walked in and sat down next to him. He squealed, jumped up and burrowed himself into me - not just once, but several times in a row. When all is wrong with the world, there's nothing like a hug from your baby to make you feel loved and special.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

All my boys

When you're a teacher, you are not just a parent to your biological kids. You wind up being a parent to lots of other kids too. I don't consider myself a parent to all the kids I teach, but there are lots of them for whom I do have parental love. I cry when they are hurt. I worry when they are sick. I laugh when they are happy. I celebrate when they succeed.

This morning I just got some fantastic news about 3 boys for whom I do have parental feelings. These boys are in my chess team, plus I teach them. So I get to see a lot of them. They are all wonderful, wonderful boys - typical boys, but that's what makes them so lovable. The fact that all 3 are fairly bright helps too, because they keep me on my toes too.

Well, like any parent, I just have to brag when I get good news about them. After a year of hard, hard slog, near-daily practices, and long hours over countless weekends, all three boys have made the under 18 WP chess side!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOO HOO!!!!!!!!!!!! I can't begin to tell you how excited and pleased and thrilled I am. My boys are just awesome!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

End of an era (video post)

I can still remember when the cooling towers at the current Old Mutual HQ site near the Old Mutual train station came down. I remember being on my father's shoulders, and wishing I could be up on the roof instead. Today, nearly 25 years later, I got my wish!
Up on my own roof this afternoon, I nearly missed the implosion. Yup, the organisers and Dan Plato (the mayor) hit the button nearly 5 mins too early! So, although I had the video camera, I missed it. However, thanks to the marvels of modern technology, I can show you the video that someone else took.

First though, here are some of my photos:

This one comes from 94.5 kFm's Jacques:

And finally, the video... (There's an even cooler vid from News24 here.)

Rock on! (video post)

You can tell that I have time on my hands - either that or I'm not feeling ready for bed yet: I'm spending time catching up on the video posts I want to do.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Old MacDonald & baby signing (video post)

Here's the second in the series of Nathan learning to sing Old MacDonald. Notice half way through that he tries to sign "bee". We've been trying to teach him baby signing because he's getting SOOO frustrated at not being able to communicate clearly. Some signs are starting to pay off - like 'more', and 'bee', apparently.

Old MacDonald (video post)

Nathan has been learning to sing "Old MacDonald". Excuse my poor excuse for a sheep - I have sinusitis so can't do sounds properly.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pixelpipe - my life is saved!

For those who love the online life (like me!) it's often a real las to upload stuff, because you have to upload it 3 or 4 times to keep all your various sites up to date... flickr, youtube, twitpic, picasa, blogs, facebook, twitter..... sjoe! And when you've got a video to upload, then you've got to start thinking about bandwidth consumption.

BUT! No longer is that an issue. There is a solution. I was recently informed about a site called Pixelpipe. The beauty of this site is that you give it permission to post your stuff to ALL your social media sites, and then you only have to upload stuff once, and like magice it will appear in all of them.

How awesome is that?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Teacher's strike - professional babysitters

This week saw a one day's strike by government employed teachers. Why? Well, for lots of reasons. I know that many of the public don't really understand the reasons for the strike, and think that we teachers are just being selfish. Of course, I disagree, but let me explain why.

What does a typical work week look like for me? I work, on average, a 40hr week, which includes teaching lessons, cooler lessons (where I get to supervise the kids that get thrown out of class), substitution lessons (where I get to babysit for teachers who are off sick), subject meetings, management meetings and sport extra-murals.

On average, I get a 5 min tea break around 10am, and about 10 mins lunch break around 1pm. I'm supposed to get a 20 min tea break and a 20-25 min lunch break, but I'm often either working or meeting with pupils, so I either don't get to take them, or get a dramatically reduced break. Unlike other occupations, I cannot go and have tea (or take a loo break) whenever I feel the need. The ONLY opportunities I have for these things are the official break times.

Now, notice that nowhere in all of the above is there any time allocated to lesson preparation, marking or attending parent-teacher meetings. Those are IN ADDITION to my 40hr work week. Notice that there is also no time allocated there to the admin tasks that come with my job - like record keeping (code for: catching up on paperwork for naughty kids so that when we have a hearing to have that child expelled there is sufficient evidence of misbehaviour to warrant an expulsion OR sorting out the paperwork associated with being a tutor - attendance records, detention records, etc) or managing my inbox. Neither is there any time allocated to being a mentor (I have 3 kids I don't teach that I mentor). Neither is there any time allocated to setting tests and exams, or printing of worksheets/ notes/ tests or attending ProGro (professional growth) weekends away.

So when does all this extra work take place? At night and over weekends. On average I would say I spend anywhere between a further 2 and 15 hours a week doing all of that stuff.

Some people have commented to say, with a sneer in their voice, that I am obviously trying to be a "good" teacher. What they mean is that they think all the extra time I put in is because I either don't have a social life, or don't want a social life, or because I'm just too committed to my job. When we were discussing this in the staff room today, one of my colleagues commented: so do they want us to be BAD teachers then? Do they want us NOT to prepare lessons or mark the kids work? Do they want us NOT to prepare the youth for the future when they will be leading us, employing us, healing us?

Teachers supposedly get such great holidays. In fact, many people have commented that we've just had a 5 week paid holiday, so why are we up in arms and striking. We've clearly got it so good.

Yes, let's think about those holidays, shall we? We started work this year on 11th January. Our first "holiday" was on 29th March. We got 2 weeks. Although we did go away for 1 week, I spent the other week working:

*I gave a workshop to teachers from under-resourced schools on how to do practicals in Bio without having lots of expensive equipment.
*I set an exam and a test.
*I marked a set of projects and a set of reports from a field trip.
*I put together a financial plan for a revision workshop for the matrics.
*I put together a revision cd-rom for the matrics.

Back at work for the second term, and after several weeks, we were on holiday again on the 11th June. Supposedly for 5 weeks. What did I do?

Well, I had 10 days away on holiday (including weekends) and then was back at work. This time I was:

*preparing two revision modules covering half the matric syllabus
*planning and preparing for the revision workshops (Graeme & I organised the whole thing)
*preparing the school diary for 2011 (I publish a diary that is tailored to the school so has lesson times and all the calendar events already in it, etc, etc)
*running the revision workshops
*delivering two modules at the revision workshop
*preparing and planning various items for the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists
*preparing lessons for the 3rd term
*sourcing material to use in the matric mock exams

So, thus far we're 7 months into the year and I have had 2.5 weeks holiday.

Okay, end of this term (which is still 5 weeks away) we get one week. What will I be doing? I will get 5 days at home as a single parent as Graeme is away on a ProGro, and then I'm taking about 20 kids to a science Expo in Pretoria for 4 days. During the 5 days while I'm at home, I will also have to:

*make final preparations for the 2011 Science Fair, which will actually begin in the first week of the 4th term
*prepare the sets/ classes for Life Sciences for 2011, including sorting out the current Gd 9s who are choosing LS for Gd 10 and putting them into correct sets (balancing sexes, abilities, races, etc, etc, etc)
*prepare final revision lessons for matrics
*prepare lessons for the other grades
*set exams for the start of November

Then we'll be into the 4th term, with all the stress of final exams. Of course, I've applied to be a matric marker, which means that I will finish work at school 3 days early... so all my marking and reports, as well as all my admin as head of subject, have to be finished 3 days early. Then while other teachers may be on holiday, I will still be working and marking - probably until the 16th December. I will then get about 3 weeks' holiday until I have to be back at work for 2011.

S0 - grand total of ACTUAL holiday in a year: 5 weeks.

So I work at least 40hrs a week, often as much as 50hrs in a week. I don't get the sort of tea & lunch breaks that you get in other jobs. I get 5 weeks of actual holiday. And what do I get paid for this? A first year teacher gets less than R10 000 a month. Most teachers earn between R12-R15000 a month.

Do you still think we're unjustified in striking when we're asking for a living wage?

The government has offered us R630 a month for housing, when they're currently paying Eskom workers R1500 a month. Seriously? More importantly though, they've broken their promises to us. 3 years ago they promised that they would sort out the medical aid debacle. Oh? You don't know about that?

It's simple - they will give you an EXTRA R1000 a month if you join the GOVERNMENT medical aid. If you join any other medical aid, you lose R1000 a month. Effectively, they are forcing all their employees to join their scheme - which is completely unethical.

They also promised us the salary progression scales would be 1.5%, but now they're only willing to give us 1%.

They gave Eskom workers and steel workers a cost-of-living increase that was in the 20% bracket, but they won't give us the 8.6% we have asked for. Instead, they've offered us 6.5%. Seriously? 22% or 25%, compared to 6.5%?

They promised to back date our cost of living increase to April. Now they're reneging and saying they will only pay it from July.

Add up all of these, and you're looking at about R20 000 a year - that's about R1500 extra a month. And we're not even demanding that they pay us what they're paying other civil servants or parastatals.

But an extra R1500 a month would mean that I could actually pay back my bond interest PLUS some capital, instead of my repayments bouncing once in every 3 months. Or it would mean that I don't have to get to the end of every month and worry that I don't have enough money to buy enough electricity to last till the end of the month.

So - do you still think that the teacher's strike is unwarranted? Don't you think I'm WORTH an extra R1500 a month? Seriously? When you look at what I do, and how hard I work, and when you consider the fact that I am training the future leaders, engineers, doctors, nurses, firefighters, policemen, judges, lawyers, IT guys, etc, etc of this country - don't you think I deserve to be paid more than a professional babysitter gets?

Monday, August 09, 2010

Rethinking Einstein: The end of space-time - physics-math - 09 August 2010 - New Scientist

Rethinking Einstein: The end of space-time - physics-math - 09 August 2010 - New Scientist

It's not often that I post really academic stuff, but I read this and have got SO excited by it, I decided I would. What excites me about this is the fact that the nature of science is still at work in this example. It's often so hard to explain to the kids at school how science is constantly changing as we discover more things, and learn and develop new technologies. I just LOVE this example. It may prove as huge to our understanding of the universe and life as Darwin - or Newton - or Einstein... In generations to come, kids may know Horava's name in the same way they know these others.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Baggins is the business

At home he's a terror - digs ALL the time. I've given up on mending my back lawn because there are more holes than lawn now. He also chews all Nathan's toys - anything left lying around will later be found outside, half destroyed.

It's not for lack of exercise - he gets walked every day. It's just purely that he does it to annoy me, as a punishment for leaving him at home when I go out. (So I'm trying the reverse psychology thing - I'm not reacting to it, and we'll see whether that cures it.)

When I walk him, I have no issues with him. When anyone else walks him, they have issues. Clearly he understands that I'm top dog. Never the less, my mother decided that he needed training, so she's paying for me to take him to dog training.

We've had 3 weeks with the dogs now, and every week I've been amazed at how BRILLIANT he is - the star of the class. Really. Last week we were put between two difficult dogs specifically because he is so well behaved and obedient. This week, he far outshone all the other dogs.

What this tells me is that Baggins is bored at home. He ADORES the stimulation of training. He could probably win competitions if I decide to take him along that route. Seriously. If he continues to shine like this, then I think I might just have to train him for jumps and things, because I can't tell you how his face SHINES at training. Even when he has to sit/ stand for ages, he accepts it all and just shines.

He really is the business when it comes to this training malarkey.

And I just love him all the more for it.

Evolution and God

In our cell group we've just started studying Mark Driscoll's book 'Vintage Jesus'. It's kind of like Alpha (for those who know what that is). There's a DVD to go with the series, which we watch (about half an hour each week) followed by discussion. The idea of the series is for Christians to re-discover (or to discover for the first time) what their faith is really all about ... back to first principles, as it were.

Mark Driscoll is an excellent preacher - he really has a gift for public speaking. Listening to him for half an hour is usually inspiring. However, on Wed, we looked at whether Jesus is who he says he is, and I found myself really struggling. Like Alpha, he ultimately approached the subject using C. S. Lewis' argument that either Jesus was a liar, a lunatic or Lord.

I have no arguments with this. I believe that Jesus is the Lord. No questions. However, after losing Zoe, my stance is more one of believing in Jesus because I recognise that the alternatives aren't true, than believing out of a sense of joy in discovering the truth of Jesus. Like Peter, my heart says : "To whom else shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

That's not to say that I don't find joy in my faith, or in Christ, because I do, but just that I still find it hard to worship with joy, just that my heart is still mostly in the valley of the shadow of death.

I guess that's why I found Friday afternoon so incredible.

On Friday, I had one of my matrics come to chat to me about Evolution (which we're studying at the moment). She's really struggling to learn about something she believes she can't reconcile with her faith. For a long time, so did I. The more I've learnt about it though, the more I've been able to believe both. (Right now I know that members of my family are shuddering with horror. Sorry guys, but there it is.)

I spoke to her about how the Bible teaches the why of creation, not the how, and evolution teaches the mechanism (the how) and not the why. I spoke to her about what it means to be created in God's image, about how most scientists today are still Christians, about how nothing continues to exist (including all the Laws of Nature) without Christ's direct involvement, about how the theory of evo-devo (current evolutionary research and thought) shows that intermediaries were probably not necessary because the original DNA contained all the genes necessary for sudden change, about how God loves variety, about what the new heaven and earth will be like, about how modern studies of DNA archaeology and other sciences show that the Bible is true .... the more I spoke about how amazing God is and how I think he's brought us to today, the more joyful I became.

I couldn't help but walk away from that meeting full of joyful praise for the Creator who created such an incredible universe, with such incredible diversity on it, and all because he wanted to have a relationship with creatures made in his image. The fact that God chose US to be those creatures, that he put his spirit in US... the fact that God planned us before the Big Bang... the fact that God knows us personally and intimately, yet remains the master of everything in the universe.... Wow.

And the fact that he plans to do it all over again, just without the effect of sin... and that he invites us to be a part of that 2nd creation - to walk and talk and discover and share and learn and grow and work alongside him in that.... Wow.

What an awesome, amazing, incredible God we serve. My heart is filled to overflowing with joy just thinking about it.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

It was bound to happen

I did warn him beforehand that scooters and motorbikes are not a good idea. That you risk serious injury. When he insisted on buying on, much against my desires (although he did have good reason - with the petrol hikes, a scooter is MUCH cheaper to run; it's also much easier to get to work on time for him as he doesn't have to sit in the morning traffic).

But it was bound to happen.

An accident.

I'm just grateful that it wasn't serious.

He tried to stop to avoid an oncoming car, stopped too quickly, and came off his bike. He has shoulder & neck strain (I suspect a bit of whiplash), a rather nasty graze on his elbow and a few other miscellaneous cuts. Fortunately it was only 50m from the house, on his way home. I worry that had it been further away he would not have been able to get home as he could barely drive.

I doubt he'll be in any fit state to drive anywhere for a few days as he can barely lift his arm, but at least nothing seems broken.

But just yesterday morning he was talking to Janel about how when she gets older she can ride on the bike with him. I have only one thing to add: not bloody likely.

There is no way I'm going to allow her to get on one of those things. It's one thing if she's fully adult and decides to take the risk, but there is NO WAY ON GOD'S GREEN EARTH I will allow her on while she's a child. Last night has just confirmed that for me. Imagine that had happened with her on board??? And that was just a minor accident. I love my husband dearly, but if I have to, I will force both of them to make me a promise that she won't ride on a scooter or bike till she's 18, and even then I won't be happy about it.

Like mother like daughter....

When I was growing up we had a few lodgers - one of whom was injured in a bike accident on his way home one night (and was in hospital for at least 6 weeks), another of whom was killed not 20m from our house when he misjudged a corner, hit a tree and never woke up. Following those 2 bike "accidents", my mother made me promise I would never get on a bike. I've broken the promise to her, but only as an adult.

But Janel wants to get on the bike with her father. She keeps asking when she will be allowed to ride with him. She simply doesn't understand the risks or the danger. And if I have to, I will make her make the same promise I did as a child. I've already lost one child, I really don't want to lose another.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Posting live - very live

I haven't been quiet. Really I haven't. I've started lots of posts, but they're all sitting in draft format, either because they're waiting for me to upload a video/ photo to attach, or because I've been asked to wait a while before posting the content (genuinely). In the case of the latter, I didn't want to forget the moment in the rush of life, so I've blogged it, but just not posted it. Sorry. You will have to wait a while until I'm given the go-ahead to post it.

In other news, Google Maps has a street view photo of me in my rather unflattering post-preggy fat and gardening shorts, in my front garden. Joy. I remember when the Google car came past. I looked up, spotted it, and thought to myself, "Oh well, the world is going to get a good look up my shorts now." They didn't, fortunately, but I still look hideous. Go look me up on Google. If you don't know my address, I'm not giving it to you.

Not until Google decides to take another street view photo.

Which may be never.

Unless SA gets the Olympics...

... in 2020...

Oh alright... but don't say I didn't warn you.

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Go ahead. Laugh. I had a good giggle about this myself when I first saw it (last week some time - see how busy I am??? This is the first time I've had a chance to tell you all about it).

Monday, August 02, 2010

Labels: the good, the bad and the necessary

I both love and hate labels. I love them because I like to categorize things. I like to have boxes into which things fit - it makes my life more structured and ordered. However, by the same token, I hate labels because they are restrictive.

As a teacher, I come across kids who are labelled all the time - this one is a waste of space; that one is a lazy so-and-so; that child has Tourette's; this child is ADHD... And then there are the positive labels: this one is a genius, that one is such a hard worker/ achiever, this child is a hockey prodigy, that child is going to be head girl...

On the one hand, they are very handy labels, because they help me to know how to respond to a child - not necessarily in a bad way either. For the lazy one, I put him/ her under my nose and keep a close eye on work completed/ understood. For the ADHD child I try to ensure I don't lose my rag over the constant pen- or foot-tapping, while allowing that child to get up out of his/ her seat on a regular basis to cope with the stress of sitting still all the time. Etc, etc. Labels have their place. They are necessary, but their goodness or badness depends on the one who is making use of the label.

Labels can be dangerous. It's entirely possible that a particular child is bored in class, so winds up being mis-labelled, when actually it's the teacher's fault for not preparing the lesson adequately to meet that child's needs. By acting on the labels others have assigned, I risk limiting a particular child.

So I'm hesitant about them. From experience, they are often spot on, but I'm not sure whether that's a case of a self-fulfilling prophecy or not. I like to think that having labels in place really helps me to help them. Maybe talking to those kids would give data to the contrary though. Maybe I'm not as good at using labels in a positive way to help the kids as I'd like to believe.

Where am I going with this? Well, now it's personal...

Being a teacher myself, I have a good feel for the various labels used. I'm not a clinician and I would hate to make a diagnostic decision, but never the less, I have a practitioner's feel for the different disorders.

For a long time now, I've been wondering whether Janel is ADHD Inattentive. (ADD is no longer a term used - it's a sub-set of the ADHD spectrum disorder.) I know she's only 4, and I know that 4yr olds are hyperactive and inattentive and impulsive. There are times though when her behaviour is impossible to manage (without losing my temper) - and so much so that even her teachers have commented on it. We've tried behaviour management through play therapy. That has worked to a degree, but her behaviour is still not what I would expect of a 4yr old....

2 weeks ago we got her most recent report & she's made fantastic strides! We can testify to that at home as well. She's blossomed and matured in confidence and now is the most popular girl in her group. (That's her teacher's affirmation, not just my surmising of the situation!) (Wow - my little girl is popular!! There's another label, right there.) It finally seems that she is throwing off the label of 'Premature baby'. She finally seems to be catching up to her peers and reaching the age appropriate milestones (which are nothing other than yet more labels used to measure one child against another). (Yes, yes, okay, those milestones are just that - developmental milestones - but 99% of practitioners will link them to a specific age and if your child doesn't reach it by the linked age, then they will tell you there's something wrong with your child, instead of simply saying that your child is developing at a different pace.)

Despite the fantastic progress she's made cognitively, emotionally and physically, her underlying issues remain. This evening we went for an interview with her teacher to discuss her report. I thought I'd bite the bullet and ask her teacher for her opinion. "Do you think Janel is ADHD Inattentive?' I asked her. She paused, thought for a bit. I could see her weighing up her options. After a few seconds, she nodded. 'Yes, I think so, but I wouldn't say that if you weren't both teachers,' she responded.

I understand that. Telling someone outside of the education or psychiatry field who doesn't understand the disorder is likely to be terrified or heart-broken by it. I'm not. I can't speak for Graeme.

Of course, we're going to get a proper diagnosis at some point (sooner rather than later). Having a proper diagnosis is the first and most important step, because then we will know exactly where we stand and how to move forward.

The play therapist we went to has already identified that Janel is a low-stimulus child, which means she needs a greater stimulation from the environment around her to be able to concentrate. Thus, we've already got her sitting on a special stimulation cushion during ring time (which has helped a lot). She also recommended daily body brushing (as often as we can do it - but at least twice a day) - which we haven't been doing - in order to help her nervous system mature and normalise, possibly helping her to become a medium-stimulus child. Both of these things would seem to be in line with a child who has ADHD.

Having a proper diagnosis means that we won't have to lose our temper with her as often, because she isn't just being rebellious or acting out - we'll understand that she genuinely isn't ABLE to behave differently in a given situation. We can alter the way we relate to her - e.g. by understanding that she can't listen to us effectively if she's doing anything else, so forcing her to stop and look at us when we're giving her instructions. We can stop getting worked up about her inability to sit still while doing anything, and just allow her to (for example) play with a toy while eating her supper.

Probably most importantly though, we can help her to learn how to manage herself, so that she can grow up to be a successful teenager and successful adult. I guess that's what parenting is about in general, as each child has to learn to manage themselves properly, irrespective of their nature or biology.

I know that many parents would be scared - scared of what others think, scared of how it might reflect back on themselves, scared of what it means to have an ADHD kid, scared for the child and what s/he will have to face in life. I'm not scared of finding out that Janel is, or is not, ADHD. I'm scared of two things:

1) Finding out she's not ADHD and then having her put in a classroom environment that teaches her she's abnormal, and that then tries to force her into behaving as everyone else does (in a negative sense - there are, of course, benefits to be gained by conforming to certain social standards). She really struggles to sit still, for example, so I can forsee her getting into a LOT of trouble at school because she can't do this. If she's not ADHD, then will her teachers be willing to let her sit on her special cushion anyway? Will they be patient with her shortcomings, or will they label her as difficult because she struggles to stay on task?

2) Finding out she is ADHD and then having her put in a classroom environment that teaches her she's "different". Let's assume her teacher accepts it as a genuine diagnosis and doesn't secretly believe that ADHD is a fake disorder (which many teachers secretly do!), and let's assume that her teacher knows the strategies for dealing effectively with ADHD kids. There's still a long way to go between effective strategies and teaching my child that, even with ADHD, she's accepted, loved and capable as any other child in the class.

Because she is. Janel is a bright child, with a quick mind. She is capable of great things. She is also incredibly sensitive, and she really struggles with her ability to focus. If she can learn to overcome the latter, and learn to moderate the former, she'll go far in life. I just know it. It's my job as her mother to help her do just that.