Monday, 23 August 2010

Feeling 'New Learning'

Do you ever feel new learning? Good new learning can take us to a place that is so transformative, that we feel that new insight impacting deep within.

Your blogger felt that ‘new-ness’ around a campfire at the recent Time & Space expedition for Simonds College. Over the years, I’ve been on many of these camps and they are all great experiences. Dads or mentors being there intentionally as their boys get to be their leaders on a journey.

There is a point in time on the first night of the camp when the traditional older generation authority is officially reversed. We say, “OK, the boys are now in charge.” In the earlier sessions at the school, the ground-rules are outlined… the boys are our leaders on the expedition and when we say, “Start”, the dads can’t give any advice from that moment unless they are asked! It is always a source of amusement, in theory, prior to the rule coming in to force. Let me tell you, I have had some very focused chats over the years with some frustrated dads who wanted to break the ground-rules and give their young leaders, not just one piece of advice but every single piece of advice that had been boiling up in them over the journey!

It is tough for most dads to step back. Dads are often the boundary setters. They can see the danger ahead for their kids but, just imagine how much more perplexing this program condition is when it is completely foreign to your cultural traditions. This is where I felt the new learning with the questions that Michael and Tam put to me. Michael (whose name has been anglicised) and Tam were both born in Vietnam. Both, as young men, made their journeys to Australia from a country ravaged by war and poverty. So, when the official handing over of decision making was given to the boys, Tam and Michael followed me around that fire and were intent on understanding more!

“Bill, this is very interesting to us” says Michael, “In our culture, the father is a person of high authority.” Tam nods in agreement. They explain that if a boy wants to get a message to his father, he usually does it via the intermediary of his mother.

Tam explains, “We worry that they will go down the wrong path… so we say things like, ‘no girlfriend’, ‘no boyfriend’ to our children until they finish university.” Michael agrees.

I am feeling the new learning. I am seeing the need to clarify, come from Michael and Tam. I am seeing also, these two men bringing some new insights to themselves.

“This could be important for us. These rules for the camp could teach us something.”

The next morning, Michael sidles up and tells me that, in their two-man tent as they went off to sleep, his son shared with him that he has a girlfriend.

There is a bit more of this tale to be told in next week’s post but for now, let me tell you that at this point in the story, Michael is beaming. He let the new learning in.

Thanks for taking the Time & Space to read this.

Bill Jennings

Monday, 16 August 2010

Smart Parenting

There are little pieces of parenting 'gold' surrounding us, all the time, I reckon.

We often hear that licenses and accreditation's are issued for nearly every task that we take on in society with the exception of being a mum or a dad. There is no official guide book, so capturing a good idea when you see one is important. Yesterday, I was catching up with Ted just briefly. Ted does the design work for things like my recent e-book and he was kindly doing a couple of revisions for an upcoming Dads and Daughters night.

I have always admired the way that Ted is 'dad' to his two boys. There are the headline moments he has crafted - a while back he created an adventure with his oldest son, who is in senior primary school now. They drove from Melbourne to Ted's home town of Perth. Ted's son was the navigator and helped with the planning - those sorts of journeys forge in the memory for nothing short of a lifetime. I recommend to all parents, planning and creating big memories for your kids.

The little things matter too and yesterday, I saw one such moment that could be useful to you if you have kids that enjoy a bit (or more than a bit) of time on a PS3, PS2, X-Box, Wii or any other game platform your kids have. We've finished that bit of work out in Ted's office in the back yard and we walk back through the house... Sunday morning, and his youngest is up, in his pyjamas and asks if he can have a go at a game on the Play Station 3.

What Ted does next is simple yet really, really smart.

"Sure, you can go on it" says Ted, "I am starting your time now."

And with that, Ted walks over to the oven, sets an hour on the timer.

Simple. Clever. Most ovens now have a timer that beeps. Ted's son knew the ground rules... he asked if he could play on the console. He knew how much time he had.

If there was an instruction manual for parenting, I'd hope that Ted's idea is in there in the 'electronic games' section.

What ideas do you have? What smart parenting have you witnessed your friends carrying out - even really simple things? Feel free to write your comments and ideas in the section below.

Thanks for taking the Time & Space to read this.

Bill Jennings

P.S. Ted's website is

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Andrea - a fantastic coach

This blogger is the linesman for the Moreland City Soccer Club Under 14B's. It is not a bad way to see the game and it lets my son get on with things at his end of the ground (as he is the Goalkeeper) whilst I keep an eye on the 'off-sides' for our forwards at the other end. I get a good insight into how the opposition teams operate for one half of the game when I run along their side of the ground.

We played Gisborne last Sunday. The temperature was forecast to be only 12 Celsius in Melbourne. Subtract another three degrees for Gisborne. It is about a 30-45 minute drive outside of northern Melbourne. We had a rain shower bordering on hail during the game. For the second week in a row, the official referee didn't turn up, so Andrea, the Gisborne coach asked one of our dads to take on the task. She and some of the parents on the sidelines had a good laugh during the first half as at the height of the rain squall, Nick, our dad who volunteered, officiated with his wife's dainty red umbrella in one hand and the whistle in the other.

And they weren't the only laughs that happened out there. There was banter between the Gisborne kids and the coach. I distinctly recall a wonderful warm exchange between one player on the wing and his coach, Andrea. He was joking and smiling and just purely enjoying himself out there in the freezing cold conditions. These kids were having fun.

So at this stage of the story you'd be perfectly entitled to comment, "Yep, that's all nice Bill but they're kids having fun playing sport on the weekend. What's so special about that?"

Ah well, there is the small matter that they lost the game 10-Nil.

Have a look at the ladder for this competition. You will see that after last weekend, Gisborne have a goal difference of 'negative 81'.

I chanced a conversation between Andrea and one of her defenders who was having his turn on the sidelines. He was watching the play with her and spoke about where a couple of the other kids needed to be in the back line and where he should stand when he goes back on. Andrea came back with a couple of ideas. What stood out was the extraordinary mutual respect. The way the young player spoke to his coach and felt comfortable airing his analysis, was outstanding. Andrea's obvious calm manner and the serious way she listened to her player got me thinking that these sorts of interactions don't just happen by accident.

Later on back at home, my interest is piqued, so I have a look at their website. Gisborne has a mission statement which says that the club is on about 'providing a quality learning environment for young people.' They want to 'promote community values and provide a healthy and nurturing environment.'

The number of times the ball hits the 'back of the net' is really only one of many types of goals that can be achieved when your ultimate aim is to help and teach kids to be the best person they can be.

On that score, I reckon Gisborne are kicking a lot of goals thanks to good people like Andrea, a fantastic coach.

Thanks for taking the Time and Space to read this.

Bill Jennings