Monday, 11 April 2011

Celebrating the Champions in Our Schools

Say the name of your favorite teacher.

There is simple beauty in this exercise because it does not matter how old you are. If you’re in Year Six, you probably know the name of the teacher who has been the greatest influence on you to this point. You could be 90 years old and still gifted with a memory like a steel trap (I’m 44 and my wife says if get Alzheimer’s she won’t notice). Does the good teacher of your day… their name, their face come flooding back to you? Mum, Dad or Carer? I hope somebody comes to mind, that someone who has seen a spark and made a difference in your child’s journey. Does your own memory produce the picture of that great person for whom teaching was so much more than a job?

Sal Valentino is one of these people. He has been at Simonds College, in inner city Melbourne for over twenty years. He champions the cause for each student at his school to find and know their great possibility. How does he do this? In so many ways… but as Paul Kelly (a contemporary Australian bard) once wrote – let the part tell the whole.

The Simonds boys have just this week, come off some ‘My PB days’ (personal best). The program culminates with a testosterone fuelled moment - the boys get to seal a ‘Good Man Goal’, identify an action, a change they want to make and they write it on to a piece of wood. Then they are trained to muster their energy and with a ‘Mr. Miagi style karate chop’, they set their goal by smashing the piece of wood in two. Ask most teenage boys in school… “And now we want you to break something”, and it is OK… they will think it is Christmas!

But what about the young bloke who is a little tentative?

Here’s the Sal Valentino gold… one such young fella had missed breaking the wood on his first couple of goes… other boys are starting to watch and this is not helping. Intuitively Sal whisks the student to a spot where he can try away from the gaze of his peers. With Sal’s encouragement and imagination, the boy manages to break that piece of wood… he returns to the group with it now in two pieces. Another boy, who also had missed the first couple of times, comes straight up and congratulates his classmate. Sal notices and celebrates publically the compassion and empathy shown in this other boy’s expression of support.

This was a replete piece of education… it took five minutes. There must literally be tens of thousands of these stories over Sal’s career. But this was all in a day’s work for Sal Valentino.

He is a true champion.

So here’s an idea. Write a note of thanks to your champion teacher. Tell them why you think they are a champion… give them back a moment where they taught you something. If they are long gone thank them in your heart.

A letter headed out from this desk on the weekend to the great Chuck Thompson – my Year 7 homeroom teacher. He’s still plying his craft – I reckon an ‘out of the blue’ thank-you will give these champions a spur.

Who was or is your favourite teacher? Feel free to write your story in the space below.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Always Check Pockets

It's been almost two years in the planning now... (the mighty) Lisa, Robyn, Clare, Moy and Mahony are heading off to the UK, France and Italy this Friday night. Half the fun has been the planning and dreaming about the trip.

An unusual crew, we are, underneath the West Preston skies... the five women, off on this global adventure, are all still with the original person they married. We certainly don't take that for granted. I am in awe of those of you who are doing the job of being mum, dad or mentor on your own.

That said, there have been some moments of pure gold in this final week lead up. Robyn was doing her packing in what could best be described as a 'first draft'. Her un-better half 'Big Ray' noticed she was struggling with how to lighten her luggage. It was seriously overweight. Big Ray is your classic unrevised Aussie bloke. Big fella, big beard, chippie, bikie. He offered some abrupt advice to his wife in the form of a question.

"Do you need all of your cosmetics?"

Robyn had conveniently packed her toiletries into one smaller bag inside the case. On removal, the case was 4kg lighter.

Moy rang this morning... she is trying to find an easy way to teach her husband, Ken, how to do internet banking.

And then there is this blogger's household. Lisa is the star of this post and I am under strict instructions to emphasise this but... I do want to get in, in my defence, that I do, do the ironing (sporadically) and the bathrooms every Friday. However, I must confess that our one-year-old front loader is still something of a mystery to me. Therefore, Lisa has this morning, given some final instructions on how to operate our washing machine. I'm reminded of that old toothbrush ad... 'Rob is a dentist, so we can't show you his face on TV.' The Mighty Lisa is not a dentist... she simply has an aversion to her face being on camera but as you can see in this video, she was happy for her hands to be seen in this instructional piece. Granted, I am biased but I think she could be hand model - she would put George Costanza to shame. This video may also be of use to any bloke who is unfamiliar with the working of his laundry and is about to enter any period of temporary (even permanent) bachelor-hood ... enjoy too the unintentional bloopers at the end as I try to turn the phone camera off.

Just because it's called a 'smart phone', it doesn't necessarily follow that it has a smart owner.

So can we extract any deeper meaning out of this story? Let's have crack at it.

The next seven weeks are going to bring home a deep appreciation of all the wonderful things Lisa does that keep our busy household ticking over. I get it and see it now but suspect that we are going to see things so much more deeply.

The next seven weeks also provide an opportunity to have a go, on my own at a couple of things, parenting-wise with my own kids. Case in point, already this week, the young bloke has started making his own sandwiches. This could be a welcome, embedded routine by the end of May. I'll keep you posted and if my kids aren't happy, they know this blog has an open feedback space below. So if I am not up to scratch, I will probably cop it.

Feel free to leave your comments and stories below as well. What do you appreciate about your significant other? How is running the household if you are on your own? And by the way, if you are interested in following the journey of The Mighty Lisa and her four travelling companions... here is their travel blog.

Bill Jennings