Creepy

What to do when your kids get spooky?

Culture has been a bit of a theme of late. The 31st of October does nothing to alter that.

Halloween is a tradition that might date all the way back to the Celts, but it is relatively new to New Zealand, courtesy of the the good ole U.S.A.
American television has made Halloween a thing which has caught on here, something that is growing in popularity year by year while some of the older traditions fade.
Something like Guy Fawkes was the go to in my day and while it is still celebrated, if that is the right word for commemorating the actions of the figure head for a band of terrorists, it is certainly not as popular as it used to be.

Regulation and political correctness and rules have sucked the life out of something as explosively fun as Guy Fawkes. Civil authorities still put on a show in many centers and good on them. For me, Guy Fawkes will always hold a special place as my birthday falls just a day or two before, meaning blowing things up in sparkly detonations takes on a dual importance.

All Hallows Eve doesn’t seem to hold the same inherent danger as igniting tubes full of phosphorous and gunpowder. Despite the lengths some families seem to go to in celebration of a 2000 year old bow to the spirits of the dead, said to return to earth on the 31st, no one seems to be worried enough to put a halt to things.
Now would be the time I could enter into a rant about the Americanisation of the western world in particular. How American culture, delivered to us through the television, is shaping and influencing us, particularly our youth culture.

I could, but I won’t.
Sometimes it is just fun. Instead I will share with you the fun my crew had with a bit of dress-up and some clever face-paint/makeup from their creative Mother.

 You have been warned!!

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Teachers Strike Back

Twenty four years, sixteen percent.

Just two of the numbers bandied about in relation to New Zealand’s primary school teachers negotiations. Over two decades since they last took such action, and a pay rise request based over two years.

So far, the demand for pay has not been met and there is a large gap back to what has been offered by the ministry. There is certainly room for movement and that is what mediation and negotiation is all about, an attempt to find some middle ground both parties can commune on. It is clear teachers feel undervalued and I am not in a position to question that. Personally, I value the teachers of my children based on the development of my kids. A teachers value to me, to my family, to my kids, is based solely on how well our kids are learning, how they are growing educationally and how they are developing as young people in our community. From a parents perspective, value has nothing to do with how much a teacher is getting paid.

I understand a well paid employee, in any vocation, is a generally happier one, although cash is not a panacea. That said, I guess it is important to find out about the other complaints from teachers and their union. If you have bothered to follow the media releases, read through the stances of both sides, then maybe you have been able to form a semi educated take on the arguments and counter responses. Or not, particularly if you scroll down to comments sections, getting caught up in the vitriol and heated debate.

The voice of teachers and those who support them have been the louder, more vociferous one. There seems to be a desperate need for our teachers to dispel what they feel are a bunch of urban myths out there, based around the time and effort they apply in and around their working day. Holiday time is a big one and an apparent short working day. Perceptions which I know to be false, but I can also see as being easily validated.

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For a time I served on a school board. I felt it was important to have some investment in what is a major part of my kid’s lives, namely their schooling. After all, good or bad, vast tracks of your school years stay with you for life. During monthly board meetings I saw passion, I saw frustration, I saw desire and will and elation and disappointment and I saw people, everyday normal people, trying to do their best as part of a massive and at times seemingly unwieldy system. I was lucky, as were my two oldest girls, to be attending a great little school, in a rural environment richly supported and a vital part of a caring and involved community. The same probably can’t be said for every community and every school.

Anecdotal at best, but I observed teachers starting their day well before the first of the school buses pulled up or children started to disgorge from a series of SUV’s, people-movers and crowded hatchbacks. Board meetings aside, part timers aside, teacher aides aside, these staff members worked a full day.

The working day for a teacher is not 9-3, as some might like to think. They are there longer, a normal, full, working day and so they should. They are paid to be. Yes, staff were in the classroom over the holiday periods, term breaks there for the benefit of the children not teachers…ever seen a child at the end of a long hard term, dragging their feet to and from school, a look of thunder on their face you as a parent do your best to tip-toe around? The teachers I witnessed prepped for the coming term. No, not necessarily full days and not throughout the whole two week break. But it was rare to see any teacher show up to class empty handed or leave at the end of their day without an arm load of files and a head full of ideas and issues.

Nothing new there really, for any one person in any one job. We all put effort in, we all struggle to leave it behind us when we leave the door and we all face that in our own way. I do have some frustrations about a few demands which have arisen around teacher requests. Namely, more time away from face to face contact, the desired preparation and planning time.

My kids, as an example I can readily turn to, are home by 3pm. They walk home, having left the school gate at around 2:30pm. The school grounds might not be completely empty of kids at that point, but damn close to it. No face to face time required there. That leaves a couple of hours a day too get things done. Ten hours over the course of the week, not to mention the brief time available each and every morning.

Sure, teachers are parents too. They have lives outside of the school gate and demands on their time from their personal lives, just like everyone else. Those ten or so hours might not and will not be available all the time. Particularly if a teacher is involved in any extra-curricular stuff kids are into. Coaching, music lessons, tutoring. But, if the voluntary feel good stuff is getting in the way, then it needs to be put aside. If the extras are affecting your ability to do the core roles of your profession as a teacher, then leave it up to the parents and others who have made themselves available.

Time management. Obviously something which bugs me. Teachers asking for less contact time when all I can think, as a parent, is how to get more. Greater time and contact between my children and the people charged with educating them. To mind, that whole argument is arse-about-face. A teacher should want more and more quality time in the classroom, involved directly with the learning of the children in question. Shouldn’t they? Isn’t that what they signed up for?

Which means better resourcing. Which means a lower ratio of teachers to kids, smaller classroom sizes, greater support and backup for those at the chalkboard (yes, showing my age…I know chalk has given way to the digital age). Does it really mean Special Education coordinators (SENCO) in each and every school?

I have moaned before about a lack of solution based rhetoric in society. We blame, point fingers, highlight and show concern. We don’t offer fixes. I don’t claim to have them, but another bug is language.

Crisis? Great way to attract people to the teaching profession. And after all, wouldn’t more teachers in the classroom be the ultimate fix? I think both parties agree on that, but how to make it happen? Perhaps instead of terminology which sounds panicked, we can voice alternatives. What incentives are there to get people into teaching? And not just remuneration. Could fees be subsidised? Could there be greater cross-crediting of prior qualifications? Are we working at targeting the right members of society to look at teacher training as a viable option? Parents, returning to the workforce, older members of our workforce looking for a change, a new direction? Maybe if you are 45 you can still be eligible for assistance in the form of allowances and loans, fees subsidies, structure it how you like, if there is an agreement to train and commit as a teacher for a set period of time. Free fees if you teach for a minimum of five years?

Get places like Auckland better resourced, so teachers can manage to live and work there. Not just Auckland, but any center facing housing pressure and shortages. Our rural and country schools too. If that means pay more, then so be it. If that means chipping in to cover accommodation expenses, then cool. Incentives for qualified and experienced staff to move to the regions in the most dire need, good idea. But we need to be wary of looking into things like performance based pay scales. How a system like that would be measured I am not sure and I can’t help but feel the risk good teachers would migrate to more affluent, better placed parts of our country, is too high, leaving the areas which need those sorts of people the most, suffering more than they are already.

The above may or may not work, may not make any sense at all. Potential solutions like those, or any other, will chew into existing budgets and that means more pressure on pay scales. It means a ministry, which clearly struggles to cope at any given time already, what with all the myriad of changes in thinking around education and behaviour, cultural awareness and sensitivity and the ever changing diversity of our broader society and its future needs, is going to have a whole bunch of new hurdles thrown in front of it, all of which need to be cleared.

Our education system needs to constantly evolve and grow. From governing bodies to teachers and support staff. That growth needs to be handled in a careful and thoughtful manner and it needs to be done with sensitivity and with an eye on a mid to long term future. Too often, in all sectors of business and industry, we hear words like crisis, shortage, lack of skill or training and development. We don’t have enough truck drivers, years ago it was plumbers and try getting a builder in a hurry, finding specialists in one field or another.

If shortages in teacher numbers and those willing to enter into training has already occurred, what does that say of our future? The future for our kids, trundling off back to school tomorrow morning? The current issues will be fixed, at least patched, one way or another. But, there will be a gap and that will reflect down the track. How do we prevent it from happening again? I don’t know. Maybe, twenty four years from now and sixteen percent later, we’ll find out.

 

 

 

 

 

Fizzy Rolls

Heard the expression “Clean up your own backyard before knocking on your neighbours door’?

It is far too beautiful a day to be sitting here feeling like a grumpy, cantankerous, holier than thou old man. But here I am regardless…

In the midst of one of those gem mornings only the Hokianga can produce, all sparkling water, glistening green leaves and bright skies, not to mention the much vaunted winter-less aspect of the North, I set about a chore or two. We are in a new place, closer to town, so there is a great deal to do still, even if the move was last weekend and we are well on top things, thanks to the contributions of all members of the immediate whanau. ‘What’s gonna work? Team work.’ Dead right Dora.

So there I am, in the yard, struggling to get the shroud right on the trampoline. Right at the point of thinking bugger it, let them bounce into oblivion, I look up to release an exasperated sigh. Coming down the street, catching my eye, is a young lady. Let’s say she is about twenty. What was so eye catching about this young wahine was the freshly washed, long flowing black hair, the light touch of makeup, sunnies and other accessories like hand bag and I like to think some subtle jewelry, but I could be over doing things at this point.

She was dressed to the nines as the saying goes, unusual enough in this town let alone before midday. And when I say nines, I mean she had a nice top on, smart casual, her jeans were clean and ironed and her jandals looked new. (I have no way of confirming the newness of her footwear but I am going to assume so for the sake of this yarn). There can be no doubt this was a good looking young lady who, for whatever reason, had made an effort. I wish her luck.

There was only one problem. Actually, about three of them I could see from the brief look I got. Fizzy rolls.

Pop. Soda. Call it what you will. I grew up knowing it as fizzy and thankfully, never really developed a taste for the stuff. If I want a frothy, bubbly liquid it had better contain alcohol and be called lager. That is how I got my belly…a beer one. I am not virtuous. Far from it. I have some shocking dietary habits. Some good ones too and in an ideal world, they would balance out. My problem, the only exercise I get on a regular basis happens at the pace of under fives. They are charging five paces to my one and try as might, that rate doesn’t get the heart beating too rapidly.

So, at least this girl was walking, getting in some exercise. Don’t get me started on the folk who fire up their car and hon off the couple of hundred metres to the shop and back again. But, walking or not, sadly, this pretty young wahine was fat. Gorgeous, Fat. Young, unhealthy. Somewhere up the road she probably passed the fella I see semi regularly, pie and coke in hand. Breakfast. He is young too and has a body, a metabolism or whatever it is, which allows him to get away with. But not for long bro!! trust me, I know.

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The message is out there, has been for a long time. We all know it, even in a part of the globe the rest of the world might have forgotten. Diabetes and heart disease and livers packing up, kidneys giving in. Cancers and many other ailments from things as seemingly innocuous as gut and bowel disorders,  to mental health and the list goes on. And sure, the counter argument around GST on fruit and produce, the comparatively low cost of fizzy drinks versus milk, the rhetoric around that debate has it’s place.

But, and a reasonably big butt at that (see what I did there?), what about about the element of self-responsibility? If the media outlets and the health agencies and the DHB’s and government and all the rest are getting the message out there, they are possibly failing to get it across. I know how easy it can be to form habits. there are still plenty of smokers out there, plenty of heavy drinkers…meth, pot and all the classes of drugs. But eating yourself to death? To an early grave? At what point does someone look up and go wow, I am struggling to get out of my chair and puffing by the time I make it o the fridge…

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Only one person can look after you and you know exactly who that person is. As I have said, I can’t speak from a place of superiority, but I can and do have the motivation to make sure nothing gets too out of hand. I have a wife and kids whom I love and who love me. I don’t want them struggling to remember my tangi because it happens when they are young.

Look down…see if there is any sign of your toes.

Or are the fizzy rolls getting in the way?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Hell

If you are starting to wonder whether allowing the kids to watch Deadpool is a good idea, read it as a sign the holiday period could welcomingly come to an end.

I think the plan for the next holidays is to produce and sell something. All that captive labour, already paid for. It isn’t cheap keeping children, so how about they earn a bit of that keep. They will be occupied, entertained and they might even learn something.

I say ‘keeping’ children for the purposes of this rant. If it wasn’t a rainy January, summer, day, then I might feel more inclined to say raise, nurture, grow and develop. As it stands, I am more than a little glad-and have been on several occasions throughout the holiday period- we live in a multi level house.

Upstairs is where three of them live. Where they are kept. I spend idle minutes wondering if there is a way I can keep them up there, I mean really up there, without a casual glance, from a neutral onlooker, revealing I have locked my kids in. I am, of course, aware of fire codes and regulation, thoughts of which must surely go through your wine addled holiday head, when you are busy contemplating  locking your kids in the upstairs rooms of an old wooden house.

I can still hear them. Loud and clear. There is a landing, at the top of the ricketiest spiral staircase I have ever encountered. Off said landing, the two bedrooms and a third room, which equates to little more than a glorified closet. Sound travels up there nearly as well as it travels down. I might sit down tonight, after a wine too many, grab the phone and load up Netflix, or whatever app/site/thingy it takes to track down an old school slasher movie. Tune in and wind up the volume. I’m thinking Friday the 13th. The first one. A classic. Nightmare On Elm Street even, one two Freddy’s after you. Wait…I know, Dawn of the Dead…introduce some Zombie flavour to proceedings.

Why this vindictive antagonism towards the kids you ask? No idea. Lies, I know.

I am not having a dig at them. Not apportioning any blame. Put simply, I am jealous.

I am jealous of their youth, the exuberance which comes with it. All that vigor, the wide-eyed adoration of a day which can be attacked, no thought given or spared on preparation, on planning. No concerns for consequences and no worries over how much it is going to cost. Whatever ‘it’ is.’Oh hang on…IT would be a good one!!

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The summer holidays are the days and weeks when memories are created. After all, you only ever recall the really good times and the really bad ones. So it is up to Mum and Dad to create them, those moments in the sun and surf never to be forgotten. The times when, in moments of reflection, years after your youth has passed you can sit back and go yep, that was a good day.

Rose tinted, isn’t that the way you want your kids to see their lives? Enough of the good memories, the great ones, a majority of good and great times, so predominant it clouds their vision, their minds eye. Helps them to forget anything which might have gone drastically wrong.

Of course, it is the job of Mums and Dads the world over to shield and deflect as many of the bad times as possible. Don’t we all want out children growing and being able to say their childhood was full of fun and laughter and no, I can’t really recall any dramas.

There will be. Drama and stress and accidents and major events far from favourable, all reflecting on those closed eye moments when your kids are adults and are taking a quiet moment for reflection. It can be tough not to dwell on the things making our adult lives hard going; the cost of groceries, the cost of rent/housing, the cost of fuel, the broken dryer, the dodgy ticking sound in the motor, that mole changing shape, hair loss, hair gain (think head and back).

All that and you haven’t stopped yet to consider all the things directly affecting how your kids are getting on. Results in the classroom, the dynamics of the playground, their social lives, developmental challenges, their inter-relations with you, with each other, with the wider family and community, their future education, their current one.  Their lives.

 After all, it is all about their lives, isn’t it? Just a question of how we as adults and parents, fit into all of that, being the biggest influence they will encounter while trying not to influence them too much.

So much easier to lock them in their rooms.

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