Hey, World, Leave Our Kids Alone

Wifey and I are pretty open with our kids.
There is not much we keep from them, no subject we consider taboo and no questions we are not prepared to answer.

Of course we moderate the things our kids have access to; what they view on television and the internet, what they hear when listening to music or podcasts or anything of the like and, as old school as it might sound, what they read.
There are themes and theories and ideologies and images and thoughts espoused through a myriad of media platforms, all of which are readily accessible on a multitude of devices, many of which can be housed in your pocket and held in your hand.

We have good kids, children still in every sense of the word despite the wide scope of information they have at their fingertips. As a reasonably cohesive unit, the messages from Wifey and I have been fairly consistent over the years, our delivery relatively level and our availability assured.
Yes, I could spend a bit more time involved with their homework, delve deeper into their interests or passions.
Yes, we could be stricter on some things and show greater leniency on others.
Generally, we have a fluid household, plenty of noise and activity always under at least an element of control. To quote Madness and their hit Our House ‘there’s always something happening and it’s usually quite loud’.

Like I said, good kids. No real dramas or concerns, outside of the myriad of things you might expect from a growing family with working parents.
When things go wrong, we are there for them. Open and honest and available. Wifey and I don’t have an explanation for everything and nor can we always find a solution. However, with a little reasoning, there isn’t much which can’t be worked through.

Every now and then, the big things come along.
Those moments you cannot be prepared for. Those times which catch you by surprise, no matter how organised and aware you might think you are.
You can’t have your finger on every pulse.
But, and what a big pause it is, there are some things  as a aparent it is almost impossible to explain, to find reasoning in. Because, simply, you don’t have the answers.

How do you explain pure, unfettered evil?
How can you help a child understand the hate fueled ideology which drives a person to perpetrate such horror on a community, on a people?
You can’t.
Especially when you don’t understand yourself.

Tears have been shed in this house and will continue to be for some time I feel.
Good. We are crying as a nation and as a people. Tears for those who lost their lives, their families and friends and tears for all they knelt and prayed for in the place they went for solace, reflection and the place they went for hope and love and all the rest.
Number One cried today, the enormity of it all finally striking at here heart.
The pain was there on Number Two’s face when she first asked what was going on Friday evening. There isn’t a full level of comprehension for her and for that small mercy, I am grateful.
E-Bomb and the Wee Man are too young to comprehend anything beyond the vibe emanating from their parents. They get it. Something is wrong.
Something is very very wrong.

I have struggled to keep the language of hate out of my own words.
My voice has crackled at times, close to breaking, when I speak of these events. It is hard, particularly when you have to look a thirteen year old girl in the eye and see the realisation dawning in her that this world we live in, the one we all share, can house people capable of being despicably wicked, people capable of visiting hideous acts of cruelty on others. Innocent others.

I am glad they got this bastard alive. I realise it is what he wanted; his platform, his moment of infamous immortality. I hope he gives us the answers, even though we all know they will be the deluded ramblings of a crazed mind, little more than a jujmbled rehashing of the various messages of hate brought to us over generations of evil thinkers and doers.
But I need to hear it, as awful and insidious as it might be. Because I don’t know what to tell our kids.
I don’t know HOW to tell our kids.

We don’t shelter our four children.
There is no cotton wool enveloping them, they do not view the world through the shimmering haze of a bubble.
The temptation is to put the walls up, bring down the shutters, erect the barricades.
We won’t. There will be open and honest discourse as long as there are questions.
Our kids will be watched, a eye kept on them in the same way I hope all parents are watching over their children at the moment.
Kids see and feel, sometime more they we do.
Kids hurt.

All I can ask of my Wife and myself is that we do the best we can to raise well rounded children, ones we can send off into the world as well prepared as we could make them. Happy and healthy and open and honest and caring and loving and genuine young people, armed with open minds, good hearts and a smile.
We want them to see the good, in everything they do and see and all the people they meet. We want them able to cope, to have them ready for the big bad world.
Because yes, some of that world around us is bad. So mind-numbingly bad. And that bad world is no longer surrounding us, it has visited us, come to our shores and bought an extreme example of its evil with it.
Let our kids be together. Let them play, let them sit and chat and let them mingle and let them laugh and cry and do whatever it is they feel they need to cope.
Youth are doers and they will want to be active and vibrant over this issue.
As such, we will visit the Whangarei Islamic Center on Friday and we, as a family, will watch over our local Muslim community as they bend in prayer. We will bring nothing more than a smile, carry nothing other than hugs and strong shoulders, ready to be leaned on.
Will we see you there?

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In the meantime, to the tune of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall…Hey, World, Leave Our Kids Alone!

 

Tears of Islam

Should that headline read tears for Islam?

According to my wife it should. She sat in her favourite chair, our slumbering youngest nestled against her despite the persistent heat of a summer which refuses to give in, and wept.

As far as is known, as I sit and write, forty nine people are confirmed dead.

Forty nine men, women and children, literally on their knees in prayer, gunned down.

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I don’t need to describe the horrors and nor do I need to decry them.
Done, by all the media outlets and all the commentators and all those with the tech and the wherewithal.
I am certainly not going to apportion blame.
I could point the finger at social media, which allows the like minded to agitate and to ridicule and to deride. Worse still, social media allows these people to congregate.
We could question gun laws, asking why there isn’t a register of weapons for every person issued a firearms license.
We could look to our police and our security agencies, our intelligence services and border control and government and policy, ask a collective why?
You can’t police the nutters. You can’t legislate for the insane.

You can blame the people pulling the trigger.

An extremist is insane.
Be they Christian or Buddhist or Catholic or Muslim.
Be as far right or left of the political divide as you wish.
Just not too far.
Be as devout and as pious and as proud of your chosen religion as you feel you must.
Where religion and politics intersect, be fervent and aware and earnest and also be open and appraising and smart. Stand your ground, by all means. All the while, let those around you stand theirs too.
There is plenty ground to go around.

I have been away from the keyboard for quite some time.
A new house, a new job, kids starting a new year in new schools in a new town. We have been busy, hectic at times and it pains me to acknowledge, it takes something like this to fire my emotional output.
Too often the word ‘tragedy’ is bandied about but now we have one, yet again in the city of Christchurch. So much that place has suffered and so often there are setbacks to recovery.
But, 15/3/2019 contained no force of nature, no random act of seismic power. People did this and they did it to each other.
I just don’t get it.

Video footage taken and posted by  the perpetrator, as if his actions and those of his mates were somehow significant, as if they had some point, some depth we all needed to become aware of. Bad enough and all as he defiantly gives the impression he is proud of his actions.
And in so doing, he drives the final nail into the coffin which contained the innocence of this nation. The perceived innocence at least.

The New Zealand Wars, Tiriti o Waitangi, Think Big, Nuclear Free. Big issues, big standpoints with different results or none at all.
In regards to our nations stance on the nuclear issue, we watched a ship blown up and sunk in one of our harbours, at the cost of a life. State sponsored terrorism.
Now the argument, and the terrifying response, seems to be over immigration. Delivered to us, it would seem, at the hands of an immigrant.
How is Australian Immigration gonna like getting this one back?

Because our Prime Minister is right. Jacinda Ardern is correct in telling us that this man, immigrant or not, is not one of us. He does not belong.
If his colleagues are Kiwi born and raised, then they too no longer belong.
They are not New Zealanders.
Not true, died in the wool (merino) New Zealander’s. They are white trash filthy scum and white trash scum should be stateless.

I know New Zealand is not the land of milk and honey.
No, wait…it is!
We are Godzone, we are small and far away and exotic and beautiful and clean and green and we are friendly and accommodating and yes, we are innocent.
We are non-threatening and we are courageous and we are forthright and earnest, trying our best in every endeavour and we do get so much of it right.
We smile because, generally, we are fed and housed and educated and yes, we are loved.
Kiwis don’t fear you because we don’t threaten you.

Number One’s math teacher is Palestinian. English is not his first language and I think he knows some of the kids find it hard to understand him at times.
But kids don’t want to send him back from where he came. Kids want a day off to wave banners and moan about the environment.After all, aren’t numbers a language in themselves? A language I can’t understand either.
Think. How is his night? Does he spend his night in fear? Does he worry, as he bends in prayer, that all he will be delivered was a bullet to the back of his skull?

Palestinian mathematics teachers are welcome in this town, on this island, in this country.
Bangladeshi cricketers are welcome and Pakistani grocers and Afghani accountants Uzbek truck drivers and who ever from where ever.
Extremists from Australia or Christchurch or Matamata or Culverden or wherever, aren’t.

But this isn’t really about race or creed or colour.
15/3/2019 Christchurch was about ego. It was about exclusion and loss and a sense of entitlement, a misguided notion of where the wrongs of the world are and how best to put them right.
This was about kitten stranglers, about kids who used to pull the legs off spiders just to watch the poor creature, and the poor gathered boys and girls, squirm.

This was not about Islam.

This was not about New Zealand.

I watched rugby tonight. My kids watched TV. We ate as a family. We remained ‘we’ even as my wife’s tears were justified and I battle to contain my anger.

Tears for Islam
Tears for Christchurch
Tears for New Zealand
Yes, tears for the people and families directly involved. Tears for the police and emergency services and all those who will now be involved mopping it all up, no doubt for years to come.

Tears for humanity.
Just when will we get that right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Redneck Dad

The following content may offend some readers.

Be warned. I sit down on a sunny morning, surrounded by a slumbering household, as nothing more than master of this keyboard. An over-weight, balding, arthritic, white, middle class (I suppose) male. And somehow, I am supposed to be apologetic for that.

Because I am white, older and was born and bred in the South Island, I am racist, sexist, misogynistic, ultra conservative with a big red streak emblazoned across the back of my neck.
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I am the victim.
The victim of pigeon-holing. I have been labelled, my persona apparently so on display, the role I play in society can be summed up at a glance.

We all judge and are all judgmental. I get that. I do it too.
Everyone does and there doesn’t have to be any harm in doing so. If nothing else, it is a protective mechanism, one designed so we find ourselves in the company of like-minded people. An attempt, on the most part subconsciously, to group ourselves among our peers and avoid those with whom we may have some form of conflict. Sure, it is contrived, constructed, part of societal ‘norms’ we are conditioned to accept and rarely, if ever, question.

It means, because I hail from the south of this split nation and therefore my accent is different, I must be racist. It means, because I am of a certain age and skin colour, I must be conservative and materialistic.
It is assumed I am educated, have a job, am not divorced. It is assumed I drink Speights, when the reality is I have been steadily working my way through anything and everything crafty with a medal on it. I still like a cold Speights after a hard days work but given my middle aged spread, quality over quantity is a notion driven by health, as well as budget.
I am supposed to drive a hulking, modern, bright and shiny 4WD I don’t need, while the wife bops around in something eco-friendly, European. We might even have a boat or a bach or a combination of the two. Maybe even stocks and bonds, whatever that means, a rental property or two. Mum and Dad investors.
Our kids go to good schools and always have shoes on their feet and jackets to ward off the rain. They do, I was there when we purchased some of that stuff, but you try getting them to wear their protective layers when they are needed.
Basics, our budget is capable of that at least, even while we are not driving flash cars or taking island holidays.

Essentially, as my hair turns a distinguished shade of peppery gray (ok, what is left of it), because I can read and write, because I can spell and count, because I know how to communicate in full sentences using the English language, as my generation and the ones before recognise it, I must be a National Party voter. Or something like that.
One of my big regrets in life to date, is my inability to fluently speak another language or two, be it Te Reo or one of the romance languages. (If you can’t look sexy, why not sound it?).
No great dramas then. No real stresses. If I all I have to worry about is the my inability to babble away in another language, then there can’t be too much going wrong. Right?
Because, good people, their isn’t. Not really.

 Of course, this process works just as well in reverse. All Maori can sing. All Maori have rhythm and can dance. (I can play the drums, meaning I know and have rhythm, as white as I am, but man you don’t wanna see me dancing!)
Generalisations like this make our little clusters of society struggle to mingle. Instead of celebrating differences, we look to segregate and marginalize and the fault is as much with the so called minority, as often as not. I witnessed it with international students attending Otago University. There was a reticence to socialise outside of the small cultural circle these groups bought with them. If they did, it was with other students from foreign cultures.
New cultures can be daunting. Language barriers can seem insurmountable. Establishing yourself in a new and foreign environment, even if it is just the neighborhood across town, a new town, or on in a whole other island, is no easy thing and of course trying to be a part of an already settled group structure, the new kid on the block, is a daunting task.

We have moved around enough over the last few years to note it is the new kids on the block who have the least issue with the new and the untried.
They don’t see colour like we do, don’t hear a foreign tongue like we do.
Kids aren’t blind and deaf to differences, but they are far more accepting, less concerned about the difference and far more interested in common ground. Play, sport, the classroom are all great levelers and children find their fit in no time.
There is always the loner, the one who doesn’t fit, who stands out via their desperate attempt to do exactly the opposite.
Don’t worry about them until the the teen years and in this country, don’t worry too much. Our loner, social misfits don’t have access to automatic weapons.

Adults find it harder to meet and greet for some reason. Caught up too much, maybe, in the preconceived and the contrived.
Workplaces provide an avenue to find new faces but mostly, it is done through your children, around the school and the community which comes from that. You meet parents, teachers and principals and bus drivers and neighbours.
All these new people might see you as this or that or the next thing. They judge you.
Just as you are sizing them up at the same time. First impressions and all the stigma which comes with them.

Yes, I am Caucasian and I come from ‘regional’ New Zealand.
Yes, I have a level of tertiary education and I have full time employment.
Yes, we own two cars and yes, every now and then we can head out for lunch.
Am I a conservative capitalist? No.
I am a left of center idealist, one who would go a lot further left if I wasn’t cynical enough to realise it probably wouldn’t work.
Am I racist, bigoted, aggressively or even just assertively hardcore in particular view or assertion? No. I am too busy for any deep thought, any particular take on any given issue. Four kids remember. Have I ever mentioned that?!
Am I ignorant or worse, abusive of other beliefs of cultures. No.
Just no.

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Confederate flags and muscle cars and sexist ideology aside, Dukes of Hazard was a cool show. I love pick-up trucks (utes) as much as the next man and will stamp my foot to country music if you’re going to play it.
That school community, those neighbours, will most likely see my wife and me as we are. First and foremost we are parents. Hard working, dedicated family folk.
Just like the ones sitting across from us at any given table, no matter where we came from and how we got there.

 

 

 

The Cost of Education

Doesn’t sound right does it?

Teaching our kids, the next generation. Training them, giving them the tools they need not to just exist, to cope, but to grow and develop. More.
Yes, teach the children of the nation to be readers and writers, to support healthy minds and bodies and help them explore and inquire. Yes, up-skill them so a brave new world is not a daunting place, foreign and frightening.
Don’t hinder any or all of the above just because paying for a modern education is beyond the reach of many.

We all know you get nothing for free. The user pays.
Rightly or not, that is how it works in our ‘free market’ society. Yet there are some core tenants to the way New Zealand is set up and run, the bill for which is not supposed to be appearing in the mailboxes of everyday you and me.
All the stuff we need in our day to day modern existence, is taken care of. Apparently. Departments within Ministries, run by committees and overseen by appointed officials, answering to our elected ones. From the office junior, to the intern, to the lifer in middle management and the manicured mouthpiece put in front of the cameras if, low and behold, things should ever go wrong.

These are the mechanisms which bring electricity into our houses, bringing light and warmth. Systems are in place to ensure we have water flowing from our taps. Clean, potable water. Infrastructure like road networks, public transport, footpaths and street-lighting and sewage and refuse collection and disposal and recycling and and and…
It is a huge list, and much of the above is the responsibility of local authorities, let alone at regional and national levels. Just wait until you get to central government and start thinking about mammoth sectors like public healthcare. Like education.
Even in a small country like New Zealand, running these three islands, keeping pace with the needs and demands of an ever growing, ever aging population, is no simple task and every step of the way has to be paid for.

I get it.
We pay.
One way or another, our contribution is made, to the coffers of councils and government. Taxes, levies, duties. No matter the label, our income is siphoned off so the things we expect, demand and want, are there for us when we need, want and demand them.
Education is no different.

A big part of the last couple of weeks has been gearing up One and Two for their coming school year. A stand out in that process has been the expense!
Hundreds of dollars on uniforms alone, still more hundreds spent on stationery, a huge part of which are tech requirements like Chromebooks.
I get that wider society is in the midst of a technological revolution, that the way we communicate and the way we work is changing, so it stands to reason the way we learn must change and adapt also.
But, and it is a big, expensive but…at who’s expense?

We are not poor, however, we are by no means well off. Like many working families in New Zealand, we somehow manage to make one end get close to the other, week to week.
That is the thing though, it is a day to day, week to week, pay cheque to pay cheque process, one which leaves little or no room for error, nor is there room for contingencies. You know, rainy days, saving. That sort of thing.
Yes, our kids will go to school, well fed and clothed after a warm and cosy night in beds housed in a leak free home. They will be carrying with them all the bits and pieces ‘required’ of them.
Single items of clothing with three figure price tags and the tech bells and whistles. Then yes, we will fork out for the extras, which somehow never seem to be in a school’s operational budget or fall outside ministry funding umbrellas.

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Because there will be fees.
Because there will be ‘voluntary’ donations.
Buses will have to be paid for, so kids can get to swimming pools and museums and field trips and sporting and cultural events of all sorts and natures.
School camps will take place and there will be this and that required, to make it the sort of experience the one it should be, the one you remember with heavy rose tinting.
It is all valuable, in terms of what our kids get from it, what is given them in return for the dollar value it all comes at.

We will make the effort to ensure our kids want for nothing as far as their schooling and education goes.
It will be an effort. A costly one but something we will do because we feel we must and because we can.
What of those who can’t?
What about the families who have nothing to sacrifice, budgets stretched so thin a ‘fee’ or ‘donation’ is so far beyond them, it is a stress they don’t need, an extra bill they cannot meet.
It is their kids who suffer.
They suffer in the classroom and on the playground. Kids can be cruel and these kids, their families, will not be invisible because they don’t have a chrome book, because their woolen jumper is several generations old, straight off a second-hand rack. Exactly the opposite in fact.c They will stand out like the proverbial dogs bollocks.
Their pride will be hurting too. Sure, there are families out their who simply do not give a shit and they are lost causes, a s will their kids most likely be. However, there are many more, stuck in a cycle of poverty, wanting and willing to the best they can, just simply unable to.

I know funding is weighted, the decile system in place to balance out the differences.
We could debate the effectiveness of such a system all of one of these hot summer days. Doing so won’t put a Chromebook into the hands of our kids. It won’t put food in their bellies or shoes on their feet or jackets on their backs.
So, if you and I are the user, or even if we are not, we are paying.
What are we getting for our money? What are our kids getting?
What was so wrong with blackboards?

Cringe Factor

Have I fully of come of age? Because now, I am ‘That guy’. 

We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day with some of Claire’s family, down in the big smoke of Auckland.
Twenty five or so loosely affiliated kin, together for a laugh and a smile and to share a feed. Stressful for those at the helm, a good time for guests. For me, a headache waiting to happen, even if I managed to survive better than I thought I was going to to.

The hosts have a couple of sons. Great young me, one in his late teens and the other, early twenties. Friendly, open and engaging young people who are a pleasure to be around.
Hanging around with them, as much as you can between long sessions on their phones or in front of monitors, showed up a few things for me.
Firstly, it isn’t hard to work just where I stand physically these days. I am no Adonis, no shining light of what it means to be at peak physical fitness or health.
Wifey and I are working on it. Not some bullshit New Years resolution, not some fad diet or gym membership as good as money flushed down the toilet. A real and genuine desire, over a planned term, to make change, changes which are already happening.
The sad truth is though, I will never again be even on par with a 21 year old, when it comes to energy and vitality. Those days are gone and thankfully, I can accept that.

Other things stand out. I am not into the same cultural stuff; music, movies, I still read…you know, from pages full of the printed word.
The big standout was humour.
I am not going to be so harsh as to suggest younger generations don’t seem to have one, a sense of humour that is, but as far as I could see, it wasn’t readily prevalent.
There was the standard good natured bantering and put downs, over pool tables or dart boards or the obligatory outdoor/backyard games. You know the type, fun for the whole family and all that. It was OK to have a dig, to ridicule or embarrass or try and make a fool of someone. But a one liner?
No. Straight over their heads or seen as a deliberate attempt to offend someone. As for a drop of innuendo? Met with groans of derision.
Sure, a bit of sexual innuendo is a bit lowbrow. Not scrapping the barrel quite like toilet humour might be, but a sarcastic take on what someone else has said is hardly the epitome of comedy.

I tend to get my comedy fixes from the likes of Frankie Boyle, Jimmy Carr, Bill Burr and guys of that ilk. These are people who like to push a few boundaries, tell it like it is and have no compulsion about stepping all over people’s sensibilities.
I have heard Jimmy Carr say offense cannot be given, only taken. While I appreciate the reasoning behind such a statement, I get that deliberately trying to provoke a reaction is treading on dangerous territory. The whole ‘too soon’ argument for example, as guys like the aforementioned are quite topical with their material.
Timing and delivery are the key with humour apparently. If you are going to drop an off the cuff one-liner, you need to be as quick witted as you are alert and aware. It takes a level of intellect, even if your humour is cheap and crude.
Gauging your audience is key too I would assume. Everyone reacts differently and if you get a group offside, you are never going to get them back. A mob mentality and all that.

It seems a group of young men, aged somewhere between late teens and early twenties, are probably not my target audience. I am not saying I in anyway offended any one and in no way did I try to.
Yet the ‘audience’ plays it’s part too. The more these guys groaned, rolled their eyes or made derisive sounds and comments, the more I was inspired. While they got more laughs among themselves from put-downs, snide comments and cheap shots, shaming each other, I happily carried on dropping a line here and there, many of which I was becoming fairly certain were not going to go down well.
Which meant, they went down really well.

Does it sound strange that it felt good to be ‘that guy’?
That I was able to find the line others were not prepared to cross, so I could leap gleefully over it?
I guess I ran the risk of coming across like a jerk but the reality is, as far as those around me of a similar age bracket to me, I was only saying what most people were thinking.
At least, they were thinking it after I said it.

Future generations are getting taller. Younger people are developing physically, more so than those of my age did. Conversely, many of them are not using that physicality, preferring back lit screens and monitors.
What entertains those who came after me is changing too. Their levels of tolerance are different. At an age when they should be testing boundaries, threatening my sensibilities, it is instead them doing the cringing.
Is that the way it is supposed to be?
I don’t think so.

The next generation are the ones who are supposed to shock, to test the norms and boundaries and to change the parameters. They are the ones who are supposed to challenge current standards and seek to establish new settings.
Each generation should stand up to the things they feel are oppressive, should fight the good fight and all that. Our kids should break the rules we set, as we broke the ones set for us.
Is it the fault of political correctness? Have following generations become too sensitive, too aware of offending the sensibilities of others, one minority or another, one marginal group or another?

 Or maybe I should just stick to dad jokes.

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Bad Apples. Bad Man.

Grace Millane. Saddened? Hell yes. Sickened? You know it. Shocked? Unfortunately, no. 

I haven’t been on a date in a long time. Possibly because, as a forty something, hirsute, chubby, balding man with an empty wallet, I am far from desirable.
More likely my lack of recent dating experience is due to my long-term, happy marriage and the four kids produced. Wifey and I are lucky to see a movie on the couch together, uninterrupted, without one or the other of us falling asleep!

It stands to reason I therefore have little I can say about dating apps. Are they safe? No idea, I have never used one and am unlikely to at any time in the foreseeable future. Would I want my girls on one, using an app to source dates? Again, I have no authority from which to answer that question but I will anyway…
No.
I do not want my girls, young woman as they would be at that point, using something as anonymous as a dating app. While I understand that such apps are used as a convenience, rather than being a means purely for the desperate and needy to seek some sort of succour, the lack of real knowledge about who you are hooking up with is worrying to say the least. What on this earth is so wrong with face to face? Let’s get out and about again people.
Should users of such apps, particularly female, cease dating that way? Probably not. For every creep out there there will be dozens, hundreds, thousands of genuine, upstanding, ‘normal’ people.

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We have heard a lot about the hideous killing of Grace Millane. There can be no argument, two nations waited on tenterhooks while the police conducted their investigations and search.
Of course, as a country, we were appalled. It is sad to say though, in this day and age, it is no surprise.
How long has it been since a tourist was killed here? Not one engaged in some adventure tourism, choosing to put life and limb at risk leaping off a bridge or surfing a raging river. The Swedish couple immediately springs to mind, David Tamihere and all that confusion…

So it was coming. Law of averages and all that. We might think we live in paradise and we do, but eventually, we will fail to dodge the bullet. The reality is, this fair nation has it’s fair share of nutters. And when a nutter targets a nice, clean cut, educated, white middle-class young person, the world looks up and takes notice.
Too cynical? Maybe. I can’t help but think if the victim had been a toothless, over weight Maori diabetic with an alcohol problem, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Yesterday’s news.
A jaded old world view makes you think a bit like that, but it isn’t the point.

Get to it then, the point, if indeed you have one?
Thing is, I am not sure I do. The death of Grace and the inevitable opinions and attitudes which have been thrown up (it only takes a moment or two after a body washes up), merely raise a bunch more questions. What’s more, I do not believe I am the person best placed to respond to them.
Because I do get defensive. I do get my back up, as a man, when the finger is pointed.
I know it isn’t pointed at me. Not directly at least. I know it is more about language than accusation. There is no one out there, of either gender, claiming I, as an individual, have done any wrong, committed any crime.
Guilty by association? To an extent, yes. I am a man after all.

Articles by the likes of Cecile Meier do grate.
www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/well-good/motivate-me/109320099/grace-millane-women-cannot-live-in-fear

She begins by asserting the idea that we, women in particular, cannot live in fear.
Great, I should hope not. Everyone has to go on with their everyday lives, as if nothing has happened and nothing is going to happen.
Where danger is perceived, exhibit caution and care, be aware, alert and vigilant.
Don’t be scared, paranoid or tentative. Boldly go where women have gone before. Long shall they continue to.

Cecile Meier then goes on to say that men, though she does make the point that it isn’t all men, have to think of how they can do their bit. How they…yes, all men…are part of the problem if they don’t act against a mate at the bar touching up a woman.
Thing is ‘good men’ as they are referred to in the article, don’t have mates who grope ladies randomly in pubs and bars and nightclubs.
Good men don’t yell sexist slurs, don’t sexually harass in the workplace or anywhere and no, good men don’t stand by and allow any of it to happen, even if the chances of getting punched in the face heighten exponentially by stepping up.
Yes, I have laughed at rape jokes. The women sitting around me at the time have laughed along to. After all, man and woman alike purchased tickets to whatever event might have being taking place. You know, a comic for example.
Jokes like that are delivered by comedians working the shock factor, looking to explore limits and test boundaries. Told right, a joke can be about anything. That is the key to humour.
Jimmy Carr, one of my favourite comedians, is a prime example. He has stated that offense is taken, not given and I have to agree. In his way, in the way of comedy, expressing such topics in the form of humour is discourse, of a kind and the more of that, the better.
Does joking about that sort of thing ‘normalise’ the behaviour? Normalise rape?

No.
Because there is nothing normal about rape. Normal people, men, good men, don’t rape and nothing about my behaviour is going to stop a rapist from doing what he does, driven by whatever warped shit going on in his head inspiring him to do so.
Yes there is porn culture, thanks to the internet. Yes there is a throw back against the feminist movement, a backlash, small, isolated but unfortunately, relevant. Yes there is cultural clash, the globalization of nations meaning there is unavoidable difference, there is misunderstanding, there is expectation.
However, me being a good person, the one that I am already, the example I set for my children, will not stop any perpetrator of any bad deeds.
Do I, as a man, sound defensive? Possibly and many a reader (there aren’t many) may chose to interpret it that way. Or, is it more a case of reality. There is a limited sphere one individual can operate in and despite the realm of such good men’s spheres interacting, coercing, co-existing, there is little I or a collective we can do, unless we catch the bastard in the act.

Yes, some men violently attack women. Scummy, low-brow, socially retarded men.
Anecdotally, as someone who was once a young male, I can say the people most likely to suffer physical violence, are men. Males between the ages of say fifteen, through to their mid twenties. That is what I saw anyway and to be fair, not a great deal of it. What did happen and I suspect it is still a truth to this day, was fueled by alcohol.
Cecile Meier can bandy about vague stats, claiming one in two Kiwi women have been physically and psychologically abused by their partners.
I call bullshit.
If I am wrong, put the numbers up to prove it.

And this guy…www.stuff.co.nz/timaru-herald/opinion/109363511/guys-we-need-to-talk-and-we-need-to-listen
Good points, many of them. However, men are not the only ones with locker rooms. Can’t we be different, can’t we ‘take the piss’. Isn’t that very much the Kiwi way?
Maybe the locker room joker is a rapist. Maybe he is making a misplaced attempt to fit in. Maybe he is divided by generational shifts, failing to move and change with times. Maybe he is a creepy jerk. Maybe, just maybe, repeating a line or a joke after a highly competitive squash doubles match or whatever, doesn’t make him a murdering rapist.
Both genders dig at each other. Jest and jibe and rib and whatever other sweet and endearing term you would like to place on the good ole NZ way of giving each other shit.

Things in New Zealand aren’t as paradisaical as many on these shores would like to think, but I am reckoning they are not as bad as is being alluded to. Society would have long since fallen apart if every second woman here was getting the bash.
And men, even these so called ‘good men’, are the only ones actively engaged in physical and mental abuse?
I have been punched, slapped, kicked, bitten and scratched, all the while screamed filth is yelled in my face.
I’ve punched this and battered that when a woman has frazzled me to my wits end. I am no angel. Burn my stuff, slice it to pieces with scissors or any other melodramatic cliched female response to drama…it’s my fault and I should not defend that. Threat and counter threat.

Women, go ahead and reclaim the night and all the rest of it. Best of luck to you. I wholeheartedly support the sentiment.
Sentiment won’t keep you save on the streets at night. The same way me waving a placard or lighting a candle, nodding sagely and wisely to the ‘opinion’ of a Cecile Meier, wiping a tear away as I listen to the speeches from women of influence and power, like Jacinda Ardern, isn’t going to stop the next bashing in the home, the next bit of sexual harassment in the workplace and beyond.
The next rape.

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Ladies, I don’t want you to worry your pretty little heads, but ask yourself this one simple thing…who, as in what gender, has the greatest influence during the raising of our children?
Answer…you. Yes, you. Women. All the good and the bad of you.
Women dominate in our homes. They dominate in our preschools and kindergartens and play centers. They rule in the classroom at schools, right through all the education afforded to our children.
Part of another, wider debate for sure, but there needs to be a stronger, far more present, male influence in our schooling, in the raising of our tamariki. The good men.

We raise our children. You, me, my wife, the dude behind the counter at the local store, the teachers and coaches and the big brothers and sisters, uncles and aunties and neighbours and the surf life saving club and the volunteer this and the assistant that and whomever touches their lives.
As the Blues Bothers said: You, Me, Them, Everybody…

At the top of that list…
Women.
Our Mothers.
Our teachers.

Bad apples.
One of them fell from a tree, probably not too far and took out Grace Millane.
He’ll get his, such is fate. Don’t let the likes of him get yours and especially, don’t let the likes of yours be the likes of Grace Millane. Not that there is bugger all, as parents, you can necessarily do about it. Not, as men, either. There is as much inherent risk swiping right, as there is batting your eyelids across the bar, no matter your gender.
Let’s, as men, the good ones, stand by our women and help them make better people of all of us. And while we are at it, let’s not be afraid, yes afraid, to defend ourselves as the good people we are. Not just good men, but good people.
Because, let us not forget, good men are just like the majority of everyone the world over.

Good people.

 

 

 

Glaze

How much do you care?

A broad question I know. And if I am perfectly honest, I don’t have any interest in your response, if indeed you bother to. Which, undoubtedly, you won’t, whoever ‘you’ are.

The thing is, now that the internet or World Wide Web or whatever it is actually called, is well and truly established, so much so the web has become an integral and in many cases vital part of people’s lives, everyone and anyone with a keyboard or a phone or a ‘device’ has been afforded a voice.

For a long time I resisted. Not because I was concerned or worried, suckered by one conspiracy theory or another, but more because the internet simply didn’t have a strong, direct, influence on my life.
As a parent, particularly a stay at home one, and living in rural and relatively remote environment, the internet and all it has to offer has quickly become a far more prominent part of my life. But there is very little of that ‘vice’ I care about.

I like YouTube, because of the instant access it gives me to new music and comedy. I like a tune and I like a laugh. So right there, I am entertained. I like search engines. I love that I can have the answer to any and every query, right there and then and I love how easy it is to delve deep into a topic, find all sides of an argument and even join in if you so chose. So right there and then, I am informed.
What I don’t have time for is all the vitriol, all the hate, all the ignorance, ironic in itself given the wealth of information and expert opinion out there and readily available at your fingertips, and not to mention all the bad spelling. For all the wealth of information and entertainment out there, there is an equal measure of ignorance, stupidity and plain old dumbness.
All avoidable, simply stay away from comment sections. Unless you want a derisive laugh now and then.

It only takes a few minutes, less, logged onto your PC or phone or tablet or device of choice, to see all the dross permeating the internet. You need a strong and reliable personal filter not to be caught up, or worse, put off, by all the drivel clogging up your data.
Not advertising. People hosting sites and blogs and all the rest, need to be able to pay for it or are in it for financial reward in the first place. Good luck to them and it is entirely up to you what you click on.
By drivel I am really referring to poorly informed opinion. The world has always been full of it – there are many who would freely claim I am indeed ‘full of it’. People will always have their say and full credit to them for being bold enough to do so. A keyboard and a potentially unlimited audience, just makes doing so all the easier. But there are many who would have their say regardless of the advent of the internet. These are the folk who carry their own soapbox with them wherever they go, on the off chance one isn’t readily available.
You know the type; the finger waggers and pointers, the head shakers, deaf to other opinions and standpoints, ears only capable of selective hearing. It is difficult to fault the passion of people like this, but it is hard to get on-board with the pig-headed stubbornness.

And then there is the abject dross. We are supposed to care, are we, about someone’s change in diet? About their exercise routine? About their weight loss or muscle gain? Do we have to feign interest in their crafts and hobbies, their holiday’s or travels?
No, we don’t have to fake interest, because this is the internet and therefore everything and anything is as avoidable as it is accessible.

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What I do here is no different. I do not claim any ability to garner the interest of the big bad world, any more than anyone else. In fact, if you looked at the number of followers/readers I have been able to draw in, during my few short months sharing my rambled thoughts, you would see I hold an exclusivity on mass disinterest.
My blogging is of no particular relevance to anyone but me, maybe my wife and then an decreasing order of interested parties, counting through family and friends, then vague associations and those who chose to click ‘follow’ for their own purposes and agenda.

I am not here, banging away with abject futility, to inform, to engage, to enrage, to entertain or to debate the issues, big and small. At best I am offering some observations, things anyone and everyone is welcome to share in, or not, as they see fit. Cherry-picking what, when and where you delve into the world of blogging and bloggers, is the real joy of it.
For my part, if I can offer nothing more than a few moments respite from the madness of the wider world, then job done. It would be disingenuous of me to suggest I don’t care if people like what I do here, but that said, it makes little difference to me if people do or don’t. Just don’t come here looking for too much inspiration, information or facts and stats. Lower your expectations.
All I can do is hope I am not boring, but more importantly, back myself to not be dumb, stupid, ignorant, rude or offensive (although I have no control if someone chooses to be offended). If I can put a smile on your face great and better still, if I can teach or inspire, absolutely brilliant.

So, while it is too easy to glaze over at all the humdrum, the sameness and repetitiveness and anger, hype, agenda driven rants or even the measured, well articulated but plain old boring stuff, go ahead and dive right in.
Delve into the wacky and the wonderful and the outright weird. Have fun with the bloggers world.
You never know, you may learn something.

 

 

Culture Shock

New Zealand is a great big little country. 

I am too young to really feel like I was ever a part of a cultural identity.
The imagery was still there, when I was a young lad. Black singlets and stubby shorts and floppy hats and keys left in the ignition and long hot summers and obedient border collies rounding up fluffy white sheep.

Iconic characters like Fred Dagg played up to the image New Zealanders had of by-gone days, people like Colin Meads were the real deal. A time when life was apparently better, easier, more wholesome and safer, less complicated. Probably, maybe, life really was all of those things. Certainly sounds like it, when you talk to the oldies who grew up in prior generations.
Even in my time, memory banks are full of long sandy beaches, tall grasses browned off, home to the chirp of crickets and grasshoppers. Rose tinted glasses or not, I don’t recall there being any real drama or concern, certainly not on a global scale and not really at a national level.
Of course, I was young,  so I wasn’t aware of the ‘big’ issues. By the time walls were being demolished in Germany, I was becoming old enough to appreciate and understand what was going on a bit more and that, coupled with the advent of the internet and truly international media awareness, gave not just me, but every Kiwi who cared to, a greater global awareness.

For good and bad, Kiwis were suddenly aware of the world around us and, with just as many pro’s and con’s, the world knew we were here too. If anyone bothered to look.
Tourism was not something I was aware of years ago, despite being raised on the fringes of one of New Zealand’s tourist hot-spots. As a teen, the Southern Lakes District, namely Queenstown and Wanaka, were the party capitals for us Dunedinites, when it came to New Years celebrations and summer fun. A few hours drive and you were into it.
At the time I never looked up and took too much note of the diverse groups and couples and loners moving through that part of the world. I wasn’t blind to it, but the relevance of it meant little. I drank in the sun with my mates, cooled off in the alpine fed lakes and when we had sobered up and as the sunburn settled, we drove back to our lives in Dunedin.

Look up now and it is easy to see things have moved on, beyond backpacking Europeans and bus loads of Far East Asians. Our towns and cities are full of the sounds, sights and aromas of people and their cultures, from all over the globe. No complaints from this guy, no fear that a potential job has been taken away from me, that the price I have to pay for a house has been adversely affected. I like a bit of spice, colour and variety in my diet, so bring it on I say.

I like some cultural variety too. I like the thought my kids can go to school and share the classroom and playground with a genuine mix of all the ethnicities the world has to offer. The food and the music and the fables and legends and traits and habits and all the rest, from foreign lands, virtually all of which have far longer and deeper histories than ours.
But, when does cultural appreciation reach saturation?

You gotta have it. Awareness of the differences of folk and the things which motivate those differences, is a good thing and cool, especially for our kids to be getting at school and not just from their peers. Cultural activity and participation and awareness is an important part of any curriculum.
The same has to be said of New Zealand’s unique cultural position. Our geographical position on the globe gives us a Pacific identity, encompassing much of Island culture. Not to mention, though obviously I am now making special mention, of our Maori culture.

I say ‘our’ because Maori culture is specific and unique to New Zealand. More or less. Therefore, even for no other reason, we should be celebrating that, nurturing and enhancing and supporting and doing all things necessary to keep Maori culture alive and well and right at the forefront of our lives.
It is good to see local schools here getting heavily involved in Kapa Haka. So involved in fact, my kids are sick of it.

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They now dread going to school and I can’t actually recall a time they came home and told me about the academic work they had been involved in for the day. I get that, with a festival coming up, things can get a little competitive and of course each school, their pupils and staff, want to put their best foot forward.
Shouldn’t something like Kapa Haka be fun? A celebration? My older girls loved it at first, have always been into it no matter what school they have attended. But now, the fun has been burned out of them. That’s right, they have reached Kapa Haka burnout.

Such is the ill feeling towards the song and dance routines, I feel there is a greater chance the performance, come festival day, is going to be flat and uninspired. Three full days a week have been committed to the learning of combined lyrics and actions, over the curse of a number of weeks. Now there is talk of attending the regional’s as well, meaning there is little end in sight.
Meaning too, there is little academic learning taking place.

Sure, this is the final term of the year. The better part of a child’s lessons should well and truly have taken place. Now is the time for polishing and refining, maybe revisiting some areas and tackling the weak points. For a pupil like Number One, this is her final year before going on to high school, surely a time to be looking to take that next step, researching how to go about doing so, in order for the transition to be as smooth and complete and uncomplicated as possible.

I’m from down south. Even between islands there can be quite the cultural divide, but not a division so strong I can’t embrace the beauty and joy of a skilled, practiced and well honed Kapa Haka. But, I want to see that joy expressed on the kids faces, not a pained, tortured tiredness. I can’t help feeling it might be worth sacrificing a bit of sloppiness, a missed poi twirl here, a fudged line there, for the sake of enjoyment.
Embracing cultural awareness, participating in it, should be about joy and fun and laughter and a celebration of new and old, a coming together in mutual appreciation.

Something our kids should revel in, should enjoy.
Not dread.

Dad Dilemma

I sometimes wish my girls were butt ugly bush pigs.

Summer is pretty much upon us. The days have lengthened, thanks to daylight saving. The sun is getting higher in the sky, warming the world around us and drying out, mostly, the the damp Northland soil beneath our feet.
All of this is impossible not to notice, given the myriad of bugs and critters seem to have taken note too, busily crawling out of their winter hideaways by ever increasing numbers.
Great, isn’t it? Not really a question, because yes, it is awesome to wake to a bright sunny day, clear skies and birdsong. The promise of a stunning day ahead is alluring. My only issue, my equally stunning children.

Now of course I will say my daughters are stunners. I have to, but in my case, it happens to be true. While there might not be too many modelling agencies banging down the door, there is no doubt the three girls are lookers-it is at this point I very diplomatically point out how much our kids take after their mother-and I am not blind to their looks, as much as I am growing ever more aware how much I would like to be.
It is said ignorance is bliss and, at times, I am inclined to agree. As the season changes and the choice of wardrobe with it, I have to think, being ignorant would indeed be blissful. Perhaps, to the next extreme, being blind would solve the problem too.
What problem, you ask?
A good question and one I can only hope I am able to answer as subtly as possible, as diplomatically as possible, as innocently as possible.

My eldest has not long turned thirteen. She is a babe. Not skinny, not fat, developing into a beautiful, intelligent, inquisitive and vibrant young lady. Developing physically too.
Yes, a young lady in so many ways. And to be frank, it petrifies me.
As a man I am blase to a great deal of the changes taking place with my eldest daughters. Maybe it is due to a bunch of old fashioned hang-ups, but probably more because my kids have an engaging and involved mother.
Her presence and willingness to offer input and sage advice takes the pressure off me, of that there is no doubt. Even though I am the appointed full-time parent, I feel there may well be a bullet somewhere there I managed to dodge. I’m grateful for it, for being excluded from something I would fumble my way through at best, entirely fuck up in all likely hood.

I am of  course referring to the ‘talk’. And when it comes to girls, not just the one about birds, bees and bad boys. Both boys and girls change and grow and develop as the hormones kick in. As a bloke, I can only comment on what it was like for me and might be like for another bloke. And let me tell you, from the little, inadequate and quaint knowledge I have, the whole teenage developmental years seem a lot less troublesome for young bucks.

Not to belittle what it is each and every teenager goes through, no matter their gender. So much is happening, in such a relatively short period of time, it is a wonder anyone involved, even on the fringes like parents, manage to survive. At least, I am on the fringes, right where I choose to be, right where I belong and right where I have been positioned.
I am kept informed, I am updated. As far as I need to be and more than I want to be.

Development aside, growth and changes and all of that, I do not know quite know where it is I am supposed to make my stand.
How much flesh is too much? That is the question, a burning one, sun smart awareness aside, I am not sure how to answer and am even more sure there is no definitive response.
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Some seasonal shopping was done, in preparation for our coming long hot summer on the beaches of Northland (fingers crossed) and damn, my girls look good!
How good are they supposed to look? How good are they allowed to look? How good can I tolerate them looking? Far less than their Mother it would seem. I am no prude and I realize the wisest course of action is to let my girls establish their own taste and style and sense of fashion, or whatever it is they are attempting to do. My girls are not victims of, or slaves to, fashion, yet they do have their own thing going on and have certain expectations, based on what is considered cool or not.
I don’t. As it is, I restrict myself to saying the word cool, because throwing out hip or neat or funky, or I don’t bloody know, is only going to make me sound like the out of date, old school, fuddy-duddy I guess I have rapidly become. Latest trends aside, Numbers One and Two want to look the part, who am I to stand in the way of that?

I am their father. That’s who!  Wait…Father…capital letters!! And yes, multiple exclamation marks required, until the point is well and truly made and completely understood.
But the dilemma, the Catch 22 for a Father, for a man as I see it, is in the very act of making the point. What say my eldest daughter, just turned thirteen, all gorgeousness and stunningness, gets caught up in the ‘beach body’ thing? What say she takes a cooling dip in the ocean, then lays back on a towel to dry off, clad in a bikini some fashionista came up with after a trip to Rio?
If Dad starts commenting about too much of this on display, too much of that catching the eye, he is instantly treading on dangerous territory. Think thin ice, think minefields. Straight off he runs the risk of surfing the gamut of teenage emotive responses. Something you want to avoid anywhere, let alone a chilled day at the beach.
Right there and then I have acknowledged the attractiveness of my child. I am not going to use words like hot, sexy, babe etc…wait…damn it! But that is what has happened, I, as parent, as man, as human, as Father, have noticed how attractive a child of mine is.

And it freaks me the fuck out!!!!!

Yes, again with the exclamation marks. I simply cannot emphasis this crisis enough. I am a dirty old creep if I notice, but I only notice because I am a parent and wish to moderate what I am seeing.
Okay, perhaps that is a little extreme. As a parent, a Father, I have ever right and all responsibility, to tell a child what they are are wearing is inappropriate…too little and light for the temperature, not waterproof enough for the level of precipitation.
Too damn revealing.
I am all for my kids being individuals. For finding and setting limits for themselves. In the same breath, they need, as we all do, guidance and advice and to be surrounded by people who care, because they have their best interests at heart. In the case of parents, their own interests too. I don’t want to be known as the P.P…Prude Parent. My ideals are not old fashioned, my sensibilities are not extreme and not set in concrete.
But I do not want to be guilty of going to the other extreme, being too liberal, too understanding and too giving. Boundaries and all that, if not strictly adhered to, are at the very least acknowledged and respected.

So where are we, at the end of this? No where further advanced, it would seem. Wear something practical for swimming, for tanning, if that is what you must do. Wear what you feel good in and what you feel you look good in. Do it all without incurring the wrath of your father, because you have made him too aware, to sensitive, to uncomfortable.
But, it isn’t about me and my hang ups.

Feel good and look good while you’re doing it.
Maybe I’ll just have to look the other way.

 

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.