Tag Archives: teaching

Weekend Coffee Share- 5th August, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share! Why don’t you pull up a chair and I’ll get you your choice of tea, coffee or water for the more adventurous.

How has your week been? I hope it’s gone well. If not, my thoughts are with you. Life seems to be more about ups and downs, than smooth sailing.

As you might recall, it was my birthday last Sunday and the family went out with my parents for dinner at the Central Coast Restaurant & Bar. Unfortunately, thanks to the big cough, I haven’t been able to do much since. I consider these celebrations “postponed”. They will happen.

chocolate eclairs

However, a friend and her daughters put on a tea party for me. Her 10 year old daughter made chocolate eclairs from scratch and arranged them on the plate in the shape of a butterfly and dragonfly. Not only was I very impressed, it also touched my heart. It was so unexpected. A real touch of human kindness, and I feel such gratitude.Rowena & Amelia

 

This week, it was Education Week in our schools and both the kids’ schools held an Open Day, where parents could visit. Due to my flu, Geoff stayed home and drove me up to our daughter’s school which is an hour’s drive away. Her school put on an Art Show as well as a musical concert. My daughter sang in the choir, but there were also performances by the Indigenous choir and didgeridoo group. We never had any Indigenous culture in the schools I went to growing up, and it’s so important.

DSC_6083.JPG

Visiting my daughter’s classroom these days, is very different to when she was at our local school and I was in and out of her classroom almost every afternoon. I did the publicity for the Parents & Citizens Association (P & C), helped with the class reading and knew many of the parents and most of the kids personally. Our daughter changed schools after being accepted into an Opportunity Class for gifted students. This was a blank slate. You’d expect that with changing schools. However, usually you live in the area and there are those interactions or ties to the local community. We’ve had none of that, and didn’t realize how important all of that was to me, until we’d left. You’d think as the parent, that it’s not my concern. That it’s my daughter who is at the school, not me. However, there have been those family emergencies. Not knowing anyone who could pick my daughter up if required. There wasn’t that network we fall back on as parents. Thankfully, we managed to connect to some extent through kids’ birthday parties and my daughter also catches the train to school with a few local kids and we’ve got to know their families in the same way we would at the local school.

So, I was really looking forward to Open day and having the chance to meet up with my daughter’s teacher, meet other parents and see my daughter’s work. I love seeing all the kid’s work on the wall and intrigued by some of their learning techniques. Being a class for gifted children, their teacher has some great ideas which get me thinking for my own writing and organization. I have also found that the school also knows how to communicate things with kids, and I’ve picked up a few good ideas on these open days before. So, it’s not just a day for me to meet, greet and have lunch with our daughter, it’s also a learning experience.

Wednesday night, we had Open Night at my son’s high school. This was quite understandibly quite different as the students don’t have a set classroom and move around the school. I did get to speak to some of my son’s teachers in a casual setting, which was great. I think it’s important that the school knows you’re an invested parent. That you care about your kid. This is harder to relay in high school when your physical presence is most definitely NOT REQUIRED by your teen. That reminds me, I’ve been meaning to get involved with the P & C since he started last year. I’m getting there…

Having the flu and a very nasty cough, I haven’t been out and about this week.

 

That hasn’t stopped me from travelling online. Indeed, I’ve spent the last few days in London. While I was sorting through some books at home, I dug up a book about London from the 1950s and there was a three page letter with a recommended itinerary in the front. I thought I’d get onto Google maps and try to retrace the writer’s footsteps. I believe the author was a male writing to a woman and that the letter may date back to the 1950s. I spent a week in London myself back in 1992. So, I’m also trying to retrace my own footsteps and feel am having better luck with the stranger. I don’t remember terribly much. Not because I was under the weather in any shade or form. It’s just that 25 years and alot of flotsam, jetsam and dead cows have passed under the bridge since then. So, stay tuned.

This had been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share.

xx Rowena

Leonardo Di Vinci

Last night, I wasn’t looking for personal inspiration. It was more a case of getting my son to do his history assignment on a medieval/Renaissance leader.If you’re a parent, I’m sure you’ll know all about this. If you’re not, you’ll remember your own parents railroading you unless you were some kind of glowing Marcia Brady.

If you’ve been following my blog at all, you’ll know I’m crazy about history and won’t be surprised that I had more than a passing interest in my son’s assignment and might have some useful resources.

No doubt, that’s why he chose to research Kublai Khan. I had  fantastic, illustrated books on Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo. So, they were too easy. We’ve even been to a superlatively inspirational exhibition in Sydney where they’d built interactive models of Da Vinci’s inventions and you could operate them yourself. Yet, Da Vinci was off his radar and I couldn’t help feeling like he’d plucked Kublai Khan out of a hat!

So, I made a brief but futile attempt to change his mind and retrieved my beautifully illustrated and well-researched book on Leonardo down from the shelf…Ritchie Calder’s: Leonardo & The Age of the Eye. A book, which despite my best intentions, I still haven’t read!

Of course, I know I should’ve read it myself and that it’s been sitting on my shelf for about 3 years making me look smart without actually taking it in…pretty stupid. Yet, aren’t most bookshelves also packed with good intentions????

Anyway, in a serendipitous moment, I opened the book at this paragraph, which really resonated with me:

“Leonardo was the observer with the naked eye and the naked ear. He also had, and never lost, his childlike curiosity which, however much we may specialize in the more-and-more-about-less-and-less, is the essential nature of science. His was not the structured life of the child who having revealed an aptitude for what is scholastically called “science” at some immature age is told that he should be a physicist, chemist or a biologist, and from then on  is academically escorted through the science stream, the science faculty, and the post-graduate course into the learned societies. He learned where he went and where the interests took him.” (pg 261).

While I’m not going to re-write the entire book (especially when I haven’t read it!!), I found this a few paragraphs down, which gives an insight into the breadth of Da Vinci’s “education” and training:

“His science began as a painter. He was lucky to be apprenticed to Verrocchio at a time when perspective had become a preoccupation with artists…among the master’s cronies the subject of perspective was not just a matter of working practice; it was a matter of winebibbing  debate, as well as quasi-mystical dissertations on spatiality. In a way it was putting them, the artists, on speaking terms with the intellectuals around the Medici Garden…

Probably the most powerful, formative influence on Leonardo was Toscanelli, physician, astronomer and natural philosopher. The tracker of the comet, the cartographer and mentor of Columbus kept open house for the likes of Leonardo, whom he encouraged in the systematic study of mathematics, and introduced to astronomy.” pg 261.

Thus, Da Vinci was nurtured in a very rich, yet broad and multi-disciplinary environment, and not simply pushed down one path to become the “performing genius” if you get my drift. While the benefits of a broad educational base bare obvious to some, there’s so much pressure to become that expert. That person who knows that topic in painstakingly intimate detail, even if that means losing site of the bigger picture entirely. Even if it means being unable to tie up your own shoe laces or bake a cake. Indeed, too many experts have travelled so far down their own drainpipe without networking with even slightly-divergent colleagues, and there has to be a price for that. Few of us would even dream of having Da Vinci’s genius. Yet, it was built on curiosity and a broad brush stroke, NOT knowing everything within a very narrow sphere too well.

By diversifying ourselves, we too could reap the benefits…especially as creatives.

I practice what I preach. While writing, photography and research are my mainstays, I also learn the violin and have been doing contemporary/ballet classes for the last six months, which have really intensified my vision.

Not that I’ve become Da Vinci, but at least I’m working on it!

xx Rowena

 

Sunflowers…Sowing the Seeds.

You wouldn’t believe how difficult it’s been for me to plant a few seeds.

That’s because these are no ordinary seeds.

These sunflower seeds were grown in Australian Quarantine from the seeds brought back from the MH17 crash site in the Ukraine.

You’ll no doubt recall MH17 was the Malaysian airlines flight, which was shot down over the Ukraine  on the 17 July, 2014.

Therefore, these seeds represent each precious individual whose life was tragically cut short through terrorism and war. More than that. They strangely represent hope. Hope that their legacy will gone on. A reminder that love conquers the grave and they won’t be forgotten. Faith that the goodness in people will triumph over the bad.

Personally, these seeds have come to have additional meaning about sowing goodness into our young people, especially the battlers, and helping them to grow up straight and tall on the inside.

Many of the Australians who died on board were teachers. Teaching isn’t just a job, it’s a vocation. It means having vision and seeing the sunflower blooming in each and every child…even before the seed has been planted. Ideally, that faith continues through the storms.That can be and usually is a very challenging, but also rewarding, thing.

The Maslin Family, who lost their three children in the crash, started a fundraiser in their memory for children with dyslexia. Their youngest son,Otis, had dyslexia and treatment is long term and expensive and so is diagnosis.

Putting all of these people together, the sunflowers for me came to mean giving kids who are struggling to read and learn that helping hand to do their best. Reading might always be difficult for them, but even if you can simply give someone the capacity to read, fill out forms and read the day to day stuff, it would change their world completely. It would set them free in ways those of us without dyslexia have never considered.

For some reason, this has become very important to me. It’s become my heart. Not because I’m a writer and I live, breath and devour words, but also because I know what it’s like to be on struggle street, not knowing if you’re ever going to get out.

Although quite different to dyslexia, I was born with hydrocephalus which went undiagnosed until I was 25. At that point, my neurological symptoms spiralled dangerously out of control. I couldn’t put my finger on my nose, was falling over a lot, forgetting the basics and getting the sequencing of basic tasks out of whack in a way that was almost funny if it wasn’t so disturbing. This increased pressure on my brain obviously wasn’t good.

Yet, I was lucky. I had surgery and had a shunt put in. Over time, most of my symptoms have eased and if it wasn’t for the auto-immune disease, I’d be back on my feet.

There is no surgery or quick fix to cure dyslexia and other learning difficulties. I guess that’s what I like about what the sunflowers represent. That you plant a small seed yet from that tiny thing,  big, bright happy sunflowers grow…yippee!!

DSC_4049.JPG

On Sunday, a year after receiving the sunflowers, we planted 12 seeds in a seed planter and we had a little ceremony out on the back lawn, using an upside down laundry basket as a table. We had our stunning red climbing rose in full bloom as a backdrop. Nothing symbolises love more than a red rose other than a human heart.

If you would like to read about the sunflower seeds, click here

I was too anxious to plant the seeds last year. Actually, this wasn’t anxiety but more of a reality check. That’s because I am a serial plant killer and our front yard is currently littered with dead bodies following my most recent splurge. I always vow to change but my track record speaks for itself.

DSC_4063.JPG

Mind you, sowing the seeds is only the beginning. Seeds don’t magically turn into sunflowers overnight. They require tender, loving care and that correct balance of wet and dry soil, sun and shade and exposure to the elements yet protection as well. My husband found the sunflower seeds inside the other day and said: “they’re meant to be sunflowers, not cave flowers”.

dsc_4083

Initially watering the seeds in the kitchen sink. Overdid it a bit.

So, now I’m watering them with the spray bottle morning and night and have covered them with a sheet of plastic creating a mini greenhouse and am leaving them out in the sun by day.

It’s only been four days so far. So, still too soon to see any shoots poking their heads through the soil but I’m doing my absolute best to help them along.

I hope you will join me on this journey.

BTW if you would like to find out more about the Mo, Evie & Otis Foundation or donate, please click here: Maslins Set Up Dyslexia Fund.

xx Rowena

Sydney Opera House…One More Sleep!

Tomorrow night,  our daughter will be performing at the Sydney Opera House at the Acacia Concert, a instrumental performance for NSW public schools.

I am so excited. She is so nervous. It’s such a big thing for anyone to perform at the Sydney Opera House, but what a mix of thrill and nervous torment for a kid.

Moreover, as much as you try to get it right. Be Perfect. I can tell you from personal experience, that violins are notoriously temperamental. Love to be difficult!! When you need to play one string, you play two and vice versa and getting those fingers in the exact spot can be tricky too. Just to make things even more difficult, the kids are performing without music. Yikes!

Fortunately, there’s safety in numbers. She’s playing with a few errors but she’s pretty much nailed it. Nailed the playing. Hopefully, the nerves won’t get to her. Must remind her to enjoy herself and have fun.

I’ll be meeting her for afternoon tea, so I can give her a pep talk then…along with taking her to Starbucks. She loves Starbucks and it’s a real novelty in Australia. I don’t think I’ve ever been. I prefer local cafes.

Anyway, on the eve of her big adventure, I thought I’d share this photo of her when she first took up the violin as a 5 year old. She was so cute!

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

Stay tuned. I can’t wait to see her perform and to get my photo of her standing on the Opera House steps. This is so incredibly exciting…yet all the organisation is quite overwhelming and we have such a detailed running sheet. Scary stuff.

On that note, I’d better get back to it.

Wish us all luck. She just needs to perform…the support crew will be madly paddling our feet behind the scenes, like a duck’s feet underwater. It feels like I’m juggling a dozen raw eggs and disaster can strike at any time. Not that I’m catastrophising. Turning a mole hill into a mountain. Definitely not!

Performing at the Sydney Opera House…that’s definitely the top of the mountain. At least, a Kosciusko of a mountain!

Not that I’m about to hit the panic button.

Oh no! The most important role of all for the support crew is to keep calm at all times. Smooth the waves.

Keep Calm and violin on!

Have you ever performed at an intimidating venue and how did it go? Or, have you been the support crew? I’d love to hear how it all went!

xx Rowena

T: Tagore’s Wisdom.

Dear Friend,

“It is hard to say in a few faltering words how I feel when voices greet me…from across the seas carrying to me the assurance that I have pleased many and have helped some and thus offering me the best reward of my life.[1]

I encourage you in your pursuit of wisdom. It is a lifelong quest which invigorates our path:

 “The small wisdom is like water in a glass:
clear, transparent, pure.
The great wisdom is like the water in the sea:
dark, mysterious, impenetrable.”
― Rabindranath Tagore

Shakespeare mentioned that you have been seeking wisdom on the nature of love and I wanted to share this with you:

Rabindranath-Tagore-Mrinalini-Devi-1883
Tagore and his wife Mrinalini Devi, 1883.

Unending Love

I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times…
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.

Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, its age-old pain,
Its ancient tale of being apart or together.
As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge,
Clad in the light of a pole-star piercing the darkness of time:
You become an image of what is remembered forever.

You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount.
At the heart of time, love of one for another.
We have played along side millions of lovers, shared in the same
Shy sweetness of meeting, the same distressful tears of farewell-
Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.

Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you
The love of all man’s days both past and forever:
Universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life.
The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours –
And the songs of every poet past and forever.

 

I must also thank you for reminding me of my own precious children when they were young. I don’t know where the time went. They grew up faster than bamboo. As much as we observe our children getting taller and know their feet have already outgrown their brand new shoes, their minds and spirits are growing just as fast and need to be equally nourished.

Tagore-mother and child

“Children are living beings – more living than grown-up people who have built shells of habit around themselves. Therefore it is absolutely necessary for their mental health and development that they should not have mere schools for their lessons, but a world whose guiding spirit is personal love.”

Rabindranath Tagore

 “Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for she was born in another time.”

― Rabindranath Tagore

By the way, this morning while I was walking along the beach, I met your exuberant little black dog, Lady. She’s seemingly found a hole in your fence and had taken herself off for a walk. Wagging her tail with such exuberance that I was reminded of my own precious dog:

Lady at Ocean Beach

Lady.

 Recovery -14

 Every day in the early morning this faithful dog

Sits quietly beside my chair

For as long as I do not acknowledge his presence

By the touch of my hand.

The moment he receives this small recognition,

Waves of happiness leap through his body.

In the inarticulate animal world

Only this creature

Has pierced through good and bad and seen4Complete man,

Has seen him for whom

Life may be joyfully given,

That object of a free outpouring of love

Whose consciousness points the way

To the realm of infinite consciousness.

When I see that dumb heart

Revealing its own humility

Through total self-surrender,

I feel unequal to worth

His simple perception has found in the nature of man.

The wistful anxiety in his mute gaze

Understands something he cannot explain:

It directs me to the true meaning of man in the universe.

Rabindranath Tagore

Tagore bird duck

By the way, might I congratulate you for taking the violin in up later in life. When I was an old man of 60, I took up painting for the first time. It is never too late to learn something new. Just remember that “you can not cross the sea simply by looking at the water.” That means you need to practice and I understand your violin and been idle on the shelf while you’ve been shut away in your writing cave. A writer starves when you shut down your horizons. Creativity needs to be fed.

Tagore bird

 

Meanwhile, I have been teaching the children here how to make paper boats but they’re intent on teaching me Minecraft. I wonder who will win out in the end…

Your friend,

Tagore.

 References

[1] Letter from Rabindranath Tagore to Bhagwan Singh Gyanee December 27, 1931, South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA)

A Reply from Lewis Carroll #atozchallenge

There I was eating my Weetbix with its usual smattering of Pooh Bear’s honey, when a letter arrived on a silver tray. I must be getting used to strange happenings because I didn’t batter an eyelid, when the postman was a fish!

Of course, I knew straight away that the letter could only be from Lewis Carroll.

With most of us being bears of little brain, especially first thing on a Monday morning, I should probably recap. Even I am starting to forget which question I asked what poet. I hope that all makes grammatical sense. As I said, it’s first thing on Monday morning. No further explanation required…just more caffeine!

I asked Lewis Carroll about whether children should be allowed to go on such dangerous adventures, especially all by themselves without a responsible adult. Even though Alice’s adventures in Wonderland all turned out to be a dream, surely even such dreams are dangerous in themselves and should be discouraged! I’m sure some would even argue that dreaming should be banned!

So, without any more of the ado for which I’m renowned, here is his letter:

Alice Tea Party

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for your fascinating letter. I’ve been asleep for such a long time and so much has happened all around me. It’s all so exciting!

Anyway, you asked me about whether it was safe for children to have adventure, even in their dreams.

Well, to find your answer, I did what I did right back in the beginning. I went and asked Alice and all of a sudden the answer popped straight into my head:

Doors are meant to be opened. Otherwise, why is there a key?

It made sense to me so I hope it also makes some kind of sense to you as well!

Naturally, I am looking forward to joining you and the family for a tea party at your earliest convenience.

By the way, you forgot to tell me that airplanes have been invented. I’ve been darting all over the world and having all sorts of adventures. The strangest thing happened though. They wouldn’t let me take my knife and fork on board. How are you supposed to go on an adventure without a knife and fork? They’ve been everywhere with me. That’s been another one of those conundrums.

Aside from my troubles with the knife and fork, it’s such a thrill to be alive!

Carpe diem. Seize the day! Paris, Rome, London, New York…next stop Sydney!

I dropped my watch in a cup of tea

And now time can’t catch up with me!

That’s the first spot of poetry I’ve written so far!

Cheerio!

Many thanks and fond regards,

Lewis Carroll.

I think I might go and drop my watch in a cup of tea as well. That sounds like such a jolly good idea!

Thank you so much for joining me on on this journey with Dead Poets. It’s definitely not the sort of journey which should be undertaken alone and I might be needing some help holding up m head. I’ve been learning so much. Gone on so many adventures re-reading their work , that my brain is growing exponentially and will soon burst through and start poking through my ears. Deary me, I hope it doesn’t start waving at everyone or I won’t get any work done.

So, the journey continues and tomorrow I’ll be back with D.

“No puppy dogs. That is NOT “D for dog!”

Best wishes and thanks or stopping by,

xx Rowena

 

 

Haiku…Roses Aren’t Blue.

As I mentioned in my previous post, last night we had Haiku & Mash for dinner….a little something to inspire our son with his latest school poetry writing assignment…Write A Haiku. As I explained, the rest of the family all made great fun of my first, embryonic efforts and I clearly struggled counting syllables. I’m much too laissez-faire. In other words: “She’ll be right, mate.”

Anyway, with all this playful mucking around with words, our son reworked the old “roses are red” theme, developing quite a philosophical interpretation.

Roses can’t be blue.

Violets come in all colours.

But then there is you.

Anyway, despite being his mother and naturally thrilled by his poetic efforts, I sensed something quite profound in these words…a deep celebration of the individual perhaps, even something incredible intangible which I still can’t really explain.

As you may appreciate, a blue rose does not exist in nature. I don’t know if he consciously knew that or not. However, scientists have been struggling to develop a blue rose. They might have got there by now but the last I heard, they were still working on it. So, basically if you’re wanting a blue rose, you need a can of spray paint. This means that no matter how hard a rose tries, pushes itself, prays or even how much it pays, it will never be naturally blue. It just isn’t possible.

Does that mean it’s not beautiful? Of course not! However, there is that line in the sand. That “You shall not pass”.

It’s the same with people.

To a certain extent, you are who you are. While you might be able to stretch the envelope, I’m no longer convinced that “making it happen” is always such a good thing. More than likely, you’ll just end up doing something or being someone you’re not. Rather, than being success, this really can only ever be a form of failure and could well explain why so many people are desperately unhappy. They’re completely estranged from themselves.

This is not to say that we’re set in stone or shouldn’t pursue our dreams. Just that having a good sense of direction and a bit of insight might be a good idea.

I’m not sure that violets can be all colours but he’s certainly suggested more flexibility, wider opportunities there.

However, it was his last line, which really captured my attention:”But then there’s you!”

I’m a bit concerned that this “you” could well be me. What is he saying? That I don’t fit into or belong to any category and am completely out there? Impossible to classify? An absolute individual?!! Me??? Dare I say, that he even thinks I might be “beyond the flow”?!!

Surely not?!!

Or, perhaps, I’m just being egocentric. Casting myself as the star and the centre of his universe?

After all, why should I assume that he’s writing about me? Isn’t that being a bit paranoid? He could very well be writing about himself!

No! Definitely not! That last line definitely had “my weird and wacky mother” written all over it.

DSC_9300

Mister & Mum.

You know, I’ve been expecting it. Now that our kids are almost teens, I know I’m on a steady downward spiral to becoming “an absolute idiot” where I know nothing! You should have seen my son’s eyes roll just because I wasn’t used to a laptop with a touch screen! Who does he think he is? Bill Gates? Steve Jobs? A little humility wouldn’t go astray. Not at all!

Since then, I’ve been thinking of starting a: “Parents Of Teens Mutual Admiration Society”. It’s sole mission would be to prop up and even salvage our shattered self-esteems. We can share cups of tea and whisper sweet nothings to each other and undo all that dreadful psychological trauma inflicted by our kids! I can’t wait!

You’re welcome to join me!

So, given my total perceived lack of brainpower, perhaps I should  just leave my poetic efforts  at this:

Roses are red.

violets are blue.

Some poems rhyme

but this one doesn’t.

By the way, the young poet has subsequently returned from school. He’s been thoroughly interviewed, investigated and even interrogated about the intended meaning of his Haiku.What it’s all about. After all, why leave it open to interpretation when I can ask the poet himself?!!

Well, you might as well hit me over the head with a baseball bat and put me out of my misery. All my interpretations were “incorrect”. He was just wanting to write something funny, playing around with words. As far as the identity of the “you” is concerned, I was partially “correct”. He was referring to “you” as in the reader, holding up a bit of a mirror to bounce back our own reflections. So, it was actually me thinking I was a one-off weirdo, not him!

However, just because he intended it to be funny, that doesn’t mean he didn’t stumble across a profound truth. What do you think? I’m sure there’s something hidden between those lines.

Or, perhaps it’s only me.

Anyway, we’ll be having a night off from Haiku and Mash tonight. He’s off to Scouts and will be of paddling or sailing on the high seas.

Perhaps, he’ll find some further inspiration out there!

xx Rowena