<![CDATA[<br /><br /><br />SIMPLY Spirited! - Life]]>Sun, 29 Nov 2015 21:36:01 +1000Weebly<![CDATA[An easy way to help your child express gratitude ]]>Sun, 29 Nov 2015 00:43:13 GMThttp://www.simplyspirited.com/life/an-easy-way-to-help-your-child-express-gratitudePicture
Research says that gratitude is the strength that is most predictive of wellbeing; being able to recognise the goodness in our lives.  The thing is that gratitude is a skill that we can teach our young children and one that needs to be continually practised. The really great news about gratitude is that it has benefits for both the person who shows their gratitude and the recipient of the gratitude who translates this as appreciation.

The end of the school year in Australia and New Zealand provides a perfect opportunity  to help your child develop a sense of gratitude. 
What is it about your child's teacher that you  have appreciated this year?  Give yourself some time to think this through. When that idea is firmly tucked away, (or written down and popped in a safe place) start the conversation with your child about their teacher's strengths. This may be discussed in one session or it may need to be followed up over a couple of days, depending on your child's age and willingness to engage in conversation. It may be a good dinner table conversation. Here's some questions that may help your discussions:

What does your teacher do that.....
makes you laugh?
​makes you feel welcome in your classroom?
encourages you to persist when you're finding learning tough? 
shows she loves teaching?
shows she is a life-long-learner?
makes learning interesting/fun?
shows she cares for her students? 
inspires your learning?
inspires your care for other students and teachers?

Obviously the depth of discussion will depend on the age of your child. For really young children perhaps just choose one question to discuss. The idea is to keep your child focussed on the teacher's strengths and qualities to develop their sense of gratitude. (It's easy for the conversation to move from the teacher to your child!)

The next step is to write a short thank you note to the teacher. Tell your child that it is important to do this after all the work the teacher has done to support their learning thoughout the year. Let your child choose some writing paper or a card that she thinks her teacher would like. For young children the message may be as simple as;

Dear Mrs Baker, 
I love the way you read stories to us everyday.
Thanks for being a funny teacher.
From Jennifer 

Helping your child write a simple thank you is a wonderful task; it's a way to practise letter writing skills, to refine handwriting/typing skills and to teach the value of gratitude. When your child hands over their letter/card, they will also experience the joy of giving something that has truly been theirs to give; their ideas and their skills. And importantly, writing a letter of appreciation is a life skill. If your child tires when writing, the note can be written in short periods of time over several days. 

At the same time, you too, could add a short note of gratitude. We know that parents are the primary educators of children but teachers do play a hugely significant part in our children's lives. This will be most appreciated by your child's teacher and provides an excellent model for your child. It also helps your child see that gratitude is a skill that continues to be practised throughout life. 

Receiving a personalised thanks is worth so much more than any other gift; it provides an acknowledgement of a job well done in a way that really boosts morale and encourages the recipient to continue to play to their strengths. Carefully worded, positive feedback is a most beautiful gift. I know many teachers who have kept all the personalised thank you notes they have received. Expressing gratitude is a wonderful way to promote good will and harmony across your child's school; a win-win for students, parents and staff.  

<![CDATA[Brother Love]]>Fri, 06 Nov 2015 11:34:15 GMThttp://www.simplyspirited.com/life/brother-lovePicture
I spent my childhood caught up in squabbles with my brothers. I fought for the front seat of the car, (and the biggest loser was the one who had to sit in the middle of the back seat, feet on either side of that annoying hump.) I fought with them over who should wash and who should dry the dishes. I fought about tv shows. I wanted Miss Marilyn and The Super Flying Fun Show. They chose Gigantor. We fought about bed times, what games to play and who spent the longest time in the bathroom.

It was all about one-upmanship. When we finally agreed on a board game we fought about who would get the car token. I remember telling them I had no Smarties left so that when they'd eaten theirs I would proudly present my unfinished pack and then gloat while slowly eating each individual Smartie underneath their noses. Squabbling with three brothers; the closer in age, the more fights, it seemed. 

In spite of all those fights I kept fronting up to play with them, especially in the early years. There was hide and seek, chasey, cowboys and indians and cops and robbers with cap guns. (I remember we used a stone to get those caps to smoke.) There was football and kick to kick, French cricket and swimming in the Clark pool, Monopoly,  trips to the milk bar to buy Sunnyboys and mixed lollies, trips to the park.

Then we had our own bikes, our own sports, our own friends, our own activities.  They were boys and I tired of backyard cricket and footy.

Time passes. Change is subtle and unobtrusive at first. We occasionally started to agree with one another.  Then in the next phase, we heard ourselves organising to go out together. Then before we knew it, I  was getting ready to meet girlfriends, delighted when they became engaged and married, and ecstatic about their treasured newborns.  

Here I was one day, squabbling over who ate the last of the cake and wishing for a little privacy. Now thousands of kilometres separate us. I wish we could change that. I wish we could all live in the same country, the same state. I wish I could see my brothers and their families more than once or twice a year. I'd love to know their friends as I do my own, to see my nieces and nephews enjoy their special occasions; the birthdays, first school days and graduations, but more importantly, the every day. 

I yearn for my brothers' company and their conversation. I learn from them. If I took the very best from my brothers I would be  an incredible example of business acumen, of intelligence, integrity, humour, sensitivity, generosity, compromise, trust and love. I would read with greater discernment, have incredible business acumen, move to new countries, travel with greater gusto, scuba dive, cook, change careers and chase promotions, I would be fitter, practise greater life balance and embrace life's opportunities. I'd have more fun. 

Spending time with my brothers is a treasured birthday gift, a delightful Christmas present. I will always remember the sibling times I have enjoyed in Melbourne, the Gold Coast, Thailand, Fiji, New Zealand, and Japan. Boarding a plane to visit one of my brothers is simply the greatest thrill.

Brothers bring a life long love like no other. They know me for all my faults and love me anyway. My brother can tell me I'm a procrastinator, ask for the bacon off my plate when I only offered  the toast, and forget to call  back.  But, he is really there for me; the rock for the toughest times, the friend, the prop when I am at my lowest, the company at the footy, at the party, at the restaurant, in a strange country. 

Thanks Mum and Dad; years of reminders of how to behave towards my brothers has resulted in a bond and a love so strong that I cannot ever imagine not being able to speak with them and to know they will always be there for me. In times of turmoil I don't want to tell them how much I hurt but they are there supporting and cheering each in their own unique ways. And their opinions count so very much.

I am incredibly proud of the wonderful men my brothers are. I am indebt to them for their constant love, their care, their generosity of spirit. My eyes water when I see them and when I leave them again, not too sure when the next time may be. Each hello and goodbye is another chance to reflect on the sacredness of brother love.

​I'm excited for the week ahead. One plane lands and a few days later, one will take off.  Happily, I will cherish brother time twice this week. 

​Childhood squabbles. Really? 

<![CDATA[Sharing life's gaps and silences]]>Sat, 17 Oct 2015 12:44:12 GMThttp://www.simplyspirited.com/life/sharing-lifes-gaps-and-silencesPicture
 Jessica Rowe's memoir, 'Is this my beautiful life?'  tells of the joy of youthful escapades, her climb to notorierty as an Australian journalist and television presenter, the pleasure of meeting the man she would one day marry, the birth of her precious children, and her meaningful work as a charity patron.  We could applaud Rowe's beautifully perfect life.

This story seems familiar and  comfortable because it is the stuff of delicious fairytales; the dream of humans the world over as we strive for a flawless and idyllic existence. It's the life that we see dancing across our television screens and splashed vividly through social media. It's about beautiful people with beautiful families living happy and successful lives in dream careers, in showcase homes, with all the trappings of material success. They have it all! And that's what we're told we deserve; nothing but the best.

But Rowe has dismissed the role of author of the happily-ever-after fairytale. She has instead, dared to share the gaps and silences; the true essence of life that we so rarely see. Rowe bravely shares the space between perfection and reality; the struggle of life as it really is; a distinct mix of pleasure and pain, sweet and sour, high and low, ebb and flow. There's pain and anguish, desperation, humiliation, anger, denial, fear and anxiety.  And through Rowe's honesty we see life as it is; messy and uncomfortable. We see the triumphs and the tears, the wins and the losses, the pleasure and the pain. 

Rowe's honesty allows us to see her raw, vulnerable and alone, mocked and humiliated, scared and desperate. It tells of the pain and anguish of mental illness. But it also sees her euphoric, elated, proud, resourceful, powerful and courageous. And in reading the words that explain the gaps and silences; the deepest of chasms, we see the chrysalis; the unravelling of the cocoon and the emergence of the butterfly; still damp and crumpled but ready to emerge brighter and more beautiful than yesterday. 

We may not be authors of the published memoir but everyday we share our story. How courageous is our sharing? How vulnerable and open can we be? Does our story help others realise they are not alone?

It is through our courage to reveal our true identities that we recognise that life is not truly lived through perfection, but in the realities of both joy and pain, tragedy and triumph, the mundane and the exquisite. The sharing of our innermost thoughts and feelings, challenges and successes allows greater understanding, empathy and compassion for others and for ourselves. And this sharing allows growth of self and of others.

​Let's applaud Rowe for the courage to share the trickling of rain, the crash of thunder, the devastation in the eye of the storm and the joy of the rainbow. Her example is the beginning of greater authenticity in a world that appears to revere perfection. 

Can you share the names of other authors and celebrities whose sharing is allowing us to recognise that life is messy? In particular, who else is providing examples of the challenge of living with mental illness? Actor, Gary McDonald and Footballer, Mitch Clark are two that come to mind. 

<![CDATA[Who made you smile today?]]>Sun, 23 Aug 2015 12:23:37 GMThttp://www.simplyspirited.com/life/who-made-you-smile-todayPicture
We had a small exercise book covered in brightly covered paper on display on the classroom bench. Every Friday we took the book from the display stand and read it at our class meeting. It was called The Smile Book. One student was nominated to read the entries. 

"These people made us smile.... 

Simon because he always makes our class laugh. 

 Jacqueline because she helped me when I couldn't understand Maths. 

Jerome because he stayed with me to wait for my Mum when I was sick.

Liam because he loaned me a pencil when mine broke.

Thomas because he invited me to play handball when I had nobody to play with."

The students loved writing the entries, sharing them with the class and hearing their own name read out. All students, teachers and parents who visited the classroom were encouraged to add an entry whenever anything happened that made them smile. In later years I took The Smile Book to the staffroom with similar positive results.

This was in the 1990's. Today it would be called a gratitude journal and the research would affirm this small class practice. Research says that gratitude is the strength that is most predictive of wellbeing. (See the article on this research here

Of course, there are other valuable ways to for students to record their observations these days! But why just do this at school? Why not not use dinner time tonight to ask family members, "Who made you smile today?" It's an easy conversation starter with a positive outcome and definitely a habit to be encouraged!

Who made you smile today?

<![CDATA[Why I love cold calling ]]>Sat, 22 Aug 2015 17:06:14 GMThttp://www.simplyspirited.com/life/why-i-love-cold-callingPictureHands down. The teacher is cold calling today!
Cold Calling; the dreaded call while you're cooking dinner telling you that you could win a trip to Fiji, suggesting that you really must sell your house while the market is hot or advising that there is a serious malfunction with your computer. No, this is cold calling classroom style....

This is a simple strategy from Doug Lemov in his book 'Teach Like a Champion' which I reviewed back in January. It involves asking students not to raise their hand in response to a question but to allow you, the teacher, to do the selecting instead. 

A facilitator of one of the courses I was participating in used cold calling and it was a sure-fire way to ensure I was fully engaged; definitely no gazing out the window or dinner planning for me in that course! 

And these are the reasons I love this strategy in the classroom....

1. The teacher has the opportunity to ask a specific question pitched at a student's instructional level and to work with the student to provide greater elaboration, if required.

2. The student can take the time to respond to the question without impatient arms waving in front of him/her as other students ready themselves to respond.

3. It ensures that discussion is spread and not dominated by those who think and respond the quickest.

4. It allows the teacher to scaffold students as required, ensuring no 'opt out'. (Read more about 'opt out')

5. It gives students the opportunity to listen and process the ideas of others. (Often instead of listening to others students are too busy formulating their next contribution.)

6. It provides a calmer discussion forum.

7. It helps to keep students actively engaged in the discussion as they don't know when they will be  asked to contribute to the discussion.

8. It teaches students the values of patience and delayed gratification and to show respect for the opinions of others.

When teachers implement this strategy by preparing questions in advance and then asking students to respond to the contributions of others with non-verbal gestures (to show agreement, to add an alternative opinion or to further enhance an argument) student learning becomes even more powerful.

Cold calling is not an everyday strategy but certainly has a regular place in class or group discussions. When a discussion is introduced I simply say, "Today I will be cold calling so you will not need to raise your hand. i will call on you when it is your turn to contribute."

Do you use cold calling with your class? Does this strategy appeal to you?

<![CDATA[In this class there's 'No Opt Out'!]]>Sat, 15 Aug 2015 18:20:43 GMThttp://www.simplyspirited.com/life/in-this-class-theres-no-opt-outPictureSome beautiful helpers in the staffroom
'No opt out' is a strategy in Doug Lemov's book, 'Teach Like a Champion,'. When I read Lemov's book, it was a strategy I was keen to test and one I quickly implemented in my visit to classrooms in the Philippines. 

In Grade 4, the teacher was keen to have students communicating more confidently in English so I set to work on this immediately. One of the first things the children were required to do was to respond to my greeting "How are you?" in English. When I spoke to  one student; Carlo, I was greeted with a blank stare.  I encouraged him to respond. However, he simply stared back at me. This wasn't in defiance but more a look that said, "Don't do this to me." And just as I was about to give him exactly what he wanted I changed my mind. 

I told him I would help him. I scaffolded his attempts. It took a few goes but eventually he and I said together in English, "I am fine, thank you." I affirmed him; telling him he should be proud of the way he persisted even though it was uncomfortable for him to speak in English. Over the coming days, I continued to scaffold Carlo as the oral tasks increased in complexity. Over time, he no longer gave me a back off look but rather a look that said, "Help me."

After a few weeks, the classroom teacher and I were discussing Carlo's progress. She commented on his improving English but also on his  growing confidence and willingness to 'have a go'. 

When I came home from shopping one afternoon Carlo eagerly asked me if he could borrow the new ball. That was a surprise. Even more surprising was the day he came voluntarily to the staffroom to help by colouring posters for classrooms. This meant spending his whole break speaking in English! I was sure to give Carlo affirmative feedback once again. 

Back in Australia, I have taken this learning on board. I recognise just how often students (and staff, too) attempt to back out of activities and tasks. I now let them know that opting out is not an option but their attempts to participate will be strongly supported and affirmed.  Students quickly learn that 'opting out' is simply not acceptable. 'Having a go' is what we value in this classroom. 

Click here to read other interesting teacher related articles on Facebook.

<![CDATA[Is it time for you to find a new bar stool?]]>Wed, 12 Aug 2015 19:56:02 GMThttp://www.simplyspirited.com/life/is-it-time-for-you-to-find-a-new-bar-stoolPicture
Do you remember Cheers, the U.S sitcom starring Ted Danson? It was an incredibly popular tv program that started in the 1980's and continued into the '90's.  Cheers was a bar that was frequented by a bunch of locals who sat on the same stools day in day out, sharing comfortable banter with barman Sam and the other patrons.  The bar was renowned for being the "one place in the world where everyone knows your name and they're glad you came." 

The theme song provoked a feeling of sentimentality and pleasure at sharing a drink with such great friends. However, I can't help but wonder at the idea of sitting in the same place day in day out with the same people. Just imagine what these folk were missing out on. They didn't realise that there were awesome bars not too far from Cheers; bars with amazing cocktails, decadent desserts, a two hour happy hour, fabulous bands, interesting patrons and colder, frothier beer. They could have discovered the wonders of these bars if only they had taken the opportunity to leave their bar stools and venture past the Cheers door.

And, so it is with life. We so often sit on the same bar stool day in, day out, talking with the same people, sipping the same drinks. Of course, the Cheers bar is a happy, friendly and comfortable venue and the risk is that the next bar may disappoint. It may be more expensive, more crowded and less friendly. But, what if it's not? What if it offers you uncompromising value? What if it provides you with the best night out? What if you meet Mr/Miss Right there? How will you ever know the possibilities the new venues may offer if you are still sitting on the stool at the Cheers bar?

Where is it that you have left your imprint on the bar stool? Still living in the house you have outgrown? Still visiting the same holiday destination when what you really want to do is travel to Russia? Still commuting to that boring but safe job? Still living in the body you desperately want to transform? Still eating at the same pizza place Friday nights when you'd love to try Turkish, Indian and tapas? Still running yourself into the ground when you really want a more simple, more peaceful lifestyle?

Is it time to step down from the familiar and comfortable bar stool? Is it time to aspire to a new bar stool somewhere less familiar, less comfortable? Cast your mind back... Can you remember the time you first sat on your bar stool? Yes, back then that stool, in that bar, was not quite the best fit. The seat was hard, the drinks tasted different and nobody knew your name. You were uncomfortable; not accepted, not familiar. Time passed and so did the discomfort and disorientation.   It was replaced with a deep satisfaction, signs of recognition and familiarity. Slowly but surely you grew very comfortable.

Sometimes we just have to be comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable; to step down from the safe place we've been sitting for so long and begin the search to find new joy, excitement and passion.  Where will you begin searching for your new barstool?


<![CDATA[A 'must read' for every teen, teacher and parent]]>Tue, 21 Jul 2015 04:19:56 GMThttp://www.simplyspirited.com/life/a-must-read-for-every-teen-teacher-and-parentPicture
'Risk' is a book that every teen, every parent, every teacher should read. A big statement? Yes! However, in my experience as a school administrator, time and again, naiveté sees our students jeopardising their safety while online. Unintentionally and unsuspectingly, students disclose information that reveals their identity and increases their vulnerability to online predators. Unintentionally, and again naively, parents support risky online behaviour by leaving their kids to independently explore the uncensored world of the internet.

'Risk', the debut novel of Australian author, Fleur Ferris was released by Random House this month. It's a chilling account of Sierra and Taylor, teens who navigate the world of online chat with dire consequences. The author's credible portrayal of Sierra, Taylor and their friends, allows the reader an emotional connection and the shared experience of their moral dilemma when Sierra ventures off to meet "Jacob Jones".  

While the central theme is risky online behaviour and its associated consequences, several other powerful themes emerge, worthy not only of the reader's immediate attention but of further discussion, making it an ideal class read. The author's realistic insight into the teen world coupled with her rich background as a police officer and a paramedic, allows the exploration not only of the darker side of the online world but the complicated realms of human relationships, emotion and the grieving response. 

As a strong advocate of the need for shared values, I envisage that 'Risk' could allow both class and family discussions on the values of honesty and integrity, quality relationships, communication, trust and personal dignity. It promotes family discussion about the need for online vigilance and open communication to ensure the immediate reporting of suspicious  behaviours.

'Risk' is a compelling and powerful story that saw my 'quick read' turn into a reading marathon. As I closed the book, I immediately reached for the phone to share reactions and responses with a fellow reader. Although, just recently purchased, my copy of 'Risk' is already doing the rounds of the family. 

Let me know what you think of 'Risk' 

You can follow Author Fleur Ferris on Facebook .

<![CDATA[Am I an onion?]]>Mon, 01 Jun 2015 12:11:50 GMThttp://www.simplyspirited.com/life/am-i-an-onionPicture
The onion's exterior shows a hard, dry, dull and somewhat dirty surface; cracking, peeling and brittle. Cutting back its exterior reveals a series of segments surrounding a central core. When sliced, it induces tears. When cooked, its aroma entices the nostrils and encourages the tastebuds to emerge from their slumber. The coarse exterior, now removed, reveals  a versatile ingredient central to a range of hearty, warm, nourishing meals.

Is my exterior hard, dry, brittle and somewhat dirty like the onion? What does my interior reveal about the real me?  Do I easily induce tears in myself or others? What is it that provokes my tears; of pain, of anger, of joy? What actions do I engage in that entice me to awake from my slumber and to embrace the life I have been given? Where do I show versatility? What values are central to my core? Where is it that I am the key ingredient, evoking warmth, passion and nourishment to myself and others? 

Is it time to cut the outer layer to reveal the segments that cling to your central core? Do you know what those segments really are? Who you are? What it is that you would like to change before your hard, dull and brittle exterior is cut to reveal your core; the real you?

<![CDATA[Let's Write!]]>Fri, 29 May 2015 23:01:34 GMThttp://www.simplyspirited.com/life/lets-writePicture
Life has been moving on; filled with activity, change, fear and excitement but for some reason, unknown to me, I haven't felt the urge to write; to share my inner thoughts. As I write simply as a way to share my ideas I haven't been overly concerned by my lapse. However, I am wondering what happens (or doesn't happen) to limit the motivation and desire to write. Why haven't I blogged?

Since my last post much has happened in life, that I have failed to document. I have long thought that by writing regularly I gain further inspiration to write. Often, it is only as I write that my ideas are revealed and my final publication can look so different to my initial concept. Perhaps, by not writing the urge for further writing has been eliminated?

I believe this is also true for our children. They need daily opportunities to write; to share their ideas in the written form so that they can inspire and generate further ideas. Teachers and parents who share their own writing, model writing and scaffold children as they write are to be affirmed for their efforts to help our children become competent, confident and inspired in their writing. 

It is when writing that children experiment with the written word as well as the structure of writing. A wonderful example from yesterday was the Year 1 child who wrote that he was 'challenged' by his Fun Run. With help, he spelt the word and then confidently read it out to his classmates. 

So, I wonder what further writing ideas this blog might inspire in me? Stay tuned!