Sunday, 10 October 2010


Once again, a gut feeling articulated. Not so much what I wish I'd been able to say, with my own attitudes. The stereotype of some skanky woman who puts herself first at the wrong time is, like all stereotypes, very loosely based in truth, if at all. And yet my own discomfort is based on a worst-case-scenario that is extremely unlikely. I have been assuming I know best, when in truth, as a woman whose never been pregnant, I know nothing.
The bottom line about abortion is this. Do you trust women to make their own moral judgments? If you are anti-abortion, then no. You do not. You have an absolute moral position that you don't trust anyone to question, and therefore you think that abortion should be illegal. But the second you start making exceptions for rape or incest, you are indicating that your moral position is not absolute. That moral judgment is involved. And that right there is where I start to get angry and frustrated, because unless you have an absolute position that all human life (arguably, all life period, but that isn't the argument I'm engaging with right now) are equally valuable (in which case, no exceptions for the death penalty, and I expect you to agonize over women who die trying to abort, and I also expect you to work your ass off making this a more just world in which women don't have to choose abortions, but this is also not the argument I'm engaging right now), then there is no ground whatsoever for saying that there should be laws or limitations on abortion other than that you do not trust women. I am completely serious about this.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

That's how I'd define feminism

Here’s how I define feminism. It’s the belief that nobody should be denied dignity, respect or opportunities – personal or professional, in public or at home, as a citizen or in relationships – solely because of their gender. If you believe this, and you don’t like seeing people disrespected or disempowered because of their gender, you’re a feminist. That’s it. That’s the only rule. The only qualifier.
Thank you Mel Campbell


Sunday, 22 August 2010


This, delivered via Bluemilk (you are such a star):

7. Motherhood involves sacrifice, how do you reconcile that with being a feminist?

Everything involves sacrifice. I don’t buy into the notion that anyone can have it all in any context. Being in a relationship involves sacrifice, being a child or a sibling or a friend involves sacrifice, just being a person involves sacrifice at some point.

For a long time now I've been waiting for the want of motherhood, suspecting that I will never get clucky until I am a mother, and that if I don't want to be elderly and childless then I'll just have to get on with it, current reluctance be damned (romantic, no?).
But a large part of my hesitation is selfish - what will I be forced to give up for this? Will I resent myself for it? And what if it sucks, or I suck at it? What if its harder than I ever imagined? (And I have a good imagination for melancholy.)
Then I read this and realised I forgot to think about the road so far; it hasn't been perfect*, and I have given up many things and been OK, often happy. I've also forgotten to look at what's between the parents and their children, rather than just at their trials and challenges.

*Forget for a moment the privilege I live in and how perfect that is in the greater scale of things.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Chain and balls

It's been ages (again) since I posted here. From my analytics, no one visits my site unless they're looking for a craft something-or-other, so I'm going to care a little less about the high-brow-ness of my thoughts, but I am going to use this for what it was intended - putting my thoughts away so I can move on. Here goes.

At work we've been doing emotional intelligence analysis for some of the staff. I've found that although I'm great at being aware of my feelings, and the feelings of others, I'm not too great at managing my own emotions. Turns out EI includes management of your and others' feelings. Hmph.
So, here's what I've noticed.

Yesterday we competed against another school for sport and their supervising teacher was a grad, straight out of uni, loud, enthusiastic, quick with the mouth; in short, he had vitality. And that's when I realised my own vitality is missing.

In my first year out of uni I expected to suck at teaching; I expected mistakes, stuff-ups, faux pas, rushed preparations, last-minute efforts, messy lessons and grumpy parents. I was loopy as all get out, thrilled to have my own group. I clearly recall looking at the class in my first week and seeing "What the hell?" faces amongst them, just because I was so off-the-graph-happy. It was awesome. I know our discussions went off on tangents a lot, and there was a lot of time lost to 'chats', but on the whole, it was a good year. In fact, my best so far. We were happy, enthusiastic, generous, with a commitment to being proud of our work, looking after our people and being a community.

Last year, this happened in a similar way, but a student from my first group passed away over the holidays and a grey wash was laid over my first term. It rattled me and I started talking less and started watching when I worried and when I didn't. A few people noticed. I got better over the year, but my non-work time at home became a noted effort in creating a work/life balance, so much so that it actually wasn't working - I was thinking about work while I wasn't doing it. Fail. I started to list my oversights and failures and ignoring my successes.

This year I have a really different group. In these last few weeks I've noticed my headspace is crowded with the feeling of failure and commotion. About a third of the class talk when they shouldn't, and I have one student with ADD (and possibly ODD and ASD) who influences the behaviour of others in that my tolerance for his problems sometimes leads them to think that they can get away with such behaviour too. His constant interruptions, and the ripple effect they have with other talkative types, means I spend a lot of time in behaviour management mode. These kids are quite immature compared to the rest of the class. They display behaviours like unaccountability, arrogance, evasion, lying, back-chat, sooking and generally acting like they're a year younger than they should be. (Or, they have an over-blown sense of entitlement - I way-too-casually call it "Little Prince syndrome". Eeer, yes, they're all boys.) (For the record, I have a discipline system that is working: after one warning, most of them pull their heads in, but they all get one warning every block, which is concerning. And sometimes 7 people talk at once, which is hard to respond to when one of them has a legitimate contribution.)

I notice too, that frustration happens when people are surprised - this thing wasn't expected, it interrupted them, and they're annoyed. Any one of these kids will interrupt a short instructional talk (I keep them quick on purpose) with a random, completely unrelated question or thought and its really hard to not immediately think What the crap, child? What is your head doing? Half the time, its an attention seeking comment: "Look how cute I am! I'm asking a dopey question and its cute and funny!" Why do I expect it isn't going to happen? Because, at this age, it shouldn't. I've been teaching long enough to know that they should be able to manage their mouths by 10-11 years old, unless they have an undiagnosed impulse management disorder.

It's also very hard to drop grumpiness, and hard to not feel it when you know they know what the expectations are*. With 4-7 kids who need to hear the disappointment in your voice, or believe your threats, the others don't deserve the same grump, and this has been tricky to manage and taxing. I think this has happened because the feelings (the care and concern) I have for the misbehaviour is what I think about when I manage the behaviour, and those things don't have to happen at the same time. I don't want to go too much into my classroom management strategies, or be specific with anecdotes of behaviours, but this is my end point at the moment: I have reigned in my enthusiasm and happiness because this portion of the class gets too excited too quickly, and its getting me down. I didn't spot that this would be a consequence of such a group and didn't prepare to redirect my enthusiasm for teaching into other opportunities.

So this is what I'm going to try for: I'm going to be happy and optimistic, like I used to be, and let the misbehaviour be managed with the system I have in place, but not think or feel anything about it when its happening. Those who are good can enjoy the warmth of my good mood, those who aren't can feel the wrath at recess or lunch.

Why haven't I done this before? Because I'm still inexperienced, or I am at least with this sort of problem. I also don't wear much of a mask in the classroom so my emotions are bare. (In fact, the students get my best - I often don't chat much in the staffroom because I'm beat from all the talking during student conferences and teaching.) A few of my students, including my ADD student, are also random with their empathy and work ethic, so my hope and emotional investment in them (particularly the way I negotiate my ADD kid's friendships and work habits) is often crapped on or ignored, which feels a little abusive but I don't yet know how much they can help it. (He's also a very young character, so may not get how he affects other people around him. That's not to say that I look to him to validate what I do - I'm really looking for signs of progress and self-efficacy and they are small and rare.)

What's amazing is that this is all classroom management - it's the weather of our room. If it isn't right then people don't learn at their best. They're distracted, or threatened, or depressed, or negative and they can think with a clear head about what's in front of them. I'm not going to get their best if I don't figure this out. And it comes before effective assessment, for both planning and learning, or lesson planning, or task planning, because it affects things like student groupings, seating, being able to working independently and student autonomy.

So, I'm going to do my best to figure myself out first, so I can think straight, and protect my well being. I'm going to try to put aside the things I can't change: the cyclical testing and how it can reveal nothing or maybe something; the perpetual interruptions to our weekly programs and losing any sense of constancy; the units or lessons I just cannot fit into the time I have; the kids who may not care; the parents who may not care; the homework that I prepare so carefully but it lost/forgotten/wrecked; the rudeness, spite, defiance or immaturity I experience each day**. I'm going to try to get back to being happy to be at school;
  • being grateful that I do have sweet, funny, committed, generous people in my room;
  • remembering why I was told by people how glad they were that I was going to be a teacher;
  • get back on top of my pragmatism and confidence;
  • stop trying to be so freaking perfect.
  • Dumber people than me have taught - heck, they taught me! - and students turn out OK;
  • My students do learn & improve;
  • My students are happy;
  • I am not the only thing that influences their success, even in this period of time;
  • Their behaviour is not all about me;
  • I may not be as good as some of my colleagues, but I'm not that bad either;
  • I still have my job, I still have kids who make me gifts and visit me from previous years, and it must mean something.

* Seriously, we have talks about what respect looks like, what would be exemplary behaviour for a Year 6 student, and what reasonable expectations are. Can this be achieved in our room? (Yes! they say.) Are my consequences unreasonable - have you had difference consequences in the past that you'd prefer? (No, these are fair! they reply.) What attitudes and behaviours will we commit ourselves to? (These ones, they're ideal! they profess.) ugh.
** Previously, I knew about these things, and might have been annoyed, but they didn't get me down. Now they're part of the raft that I growl about. Ironically, I will spend this weekend writing reports, the bulk of this dedicated to page-long comments for parents, many of whom will most likely not read them due to either ESL problems or only caring about the scores. Of which there are 33 per student. Way too many for one teacher. Tra-laa!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Things I wish I'd said

So there is a lot to be discussed in relation to the ’sexual revolution’ and women: the slut/stud dichotomy, ’slut shaming’, the right to say ‘no’ – at *any* point, and have *that* be fully respected and deferred to, as well as yes, a respect for women FULL STOP, not JUST a respect for their desires and wishes when it happens to coincide with a particular male wish that she get on her knees and enjoy it. I don’t wish to be put in the same camp as Sam here – I’m no crusader for the ‘Good women bake cookies and keep their knees TOGETHER’ camp: I want a respect for women who like it vanilla and a respect for women who like it kinked to the hilt, respect for women enough to know that they all might like it in all kinds of ways/not at all depending on time/context/various considerations, respect for women enough to know that sexual desires and sex acts *do not define them as a type of person*, respect for women monogamous and poly, single and into casual sex, I want respect for women in the sex industry, and for women who don’t like sex at all at all ever, who consider themselves asexual and I want respect for gay/bi/trans* women, I want respect for rights to choose to *be* sexual at any given time and to choose *not* to be sexual/sexualised at any given time.

From this excellent person who actually does blog when she feels like I rant.
I just yell at my living room and feel hopeless.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Cows with guns

In the print version of this article the Herald-Sun used a heading that called rural women cows. It didn't actually use the phrase 'they are cows' but it did refer to them being in "pastures too green" or something similar. I wish to God I could recall the exact phrase, but I, and many of my colleagues, were incensed, so I know it was bad, and so should they.

There were 3879 participants, which includes both rural and metro women, so let's estimate that about 1900 or so were rural citizens. Shall we ponder, for a moment, how small a sample that group is... Let's be generous and say only 20% of Victorians live in rural areas (that's, with generosity, 800,000.) then half of that being females and then maybe half again being the age group they're talking about... 200,000 women? vs less than 4000 sampled? Good survey.

But anyway, back to the HS. Do they have Andrew Bolt do their headings too?