May 12 2020

Love in the time of Corona: Long Distance Relationship edition

It’s May 2020. COVID19 has been spreading around the world, infection millions and killing over 285K people, as of today. The impacts on everyday life have been swift and in some cases severe – social distancing, panic buying, many services and retailers shut down, students learning from home, and people who are still able to work often doing so from their dining room tables rather than their offices. It’s a crazy, and very scary, time to be alive.

There have been a lot of articles published about the impact of lockdowns and social movement restrictions on families and relationships. Some people are relishing the additional time at home to learn new skills, to explore creative outlets that they don’t normally have time to do, to reconnect with their families, and to binge on Netflix. There has been much concern, too, about the impact of this shutdown on relationships that may not be faring so well. Rises in domestic violence cases. Stresses erupting around struggles with helping reluctant students get through their assigned school work. The general toll on relationships that may rely on time apart when that time is now in diminishing supply. And I get all that. I find myself grateful that I’m not going through this pandemic crisis still married to my ex – life was stressful enough for both of us when we were together, without adding 24/7 contact into the mix. I’m dealing with this with my 17 and 20 year old daughters in the house, and we get on really well,  but yet there are still moments where we are getting on each other’s nerves. I can’t imagine being trapped in the house with younger kids, trying to navigate all the tensions and frustrations that are associated with that.

For me, though, this pandemic is bringing about a different kind of stress. My partner lives on the other side of the country. We are used to not seeing each other for long stretches. He has his work, and I have mine. We try and schedule trips to see each other every few months, depending on school holidays and family commitments. And we communicate really well across the miles. So I thought, at the beginning, that we’d be ok. We’re experts at communicating virtually, we’d tell ourselves and others. Plus, we’re both nerdy, geeky introverts, more comfortable in our own spaces than in large crowds or social situations. This is our bag. We’ve got this.

And yes, that’s partly true. We still talk every day, multiple times a day, via phone or text or messenger. We still have our long-distance date nights, sharing movies or shows or books together, and then chatting as we curl up in bed, before saying goodnight and drifting off to sleep together. We’re still feeling as connected as we ever have, and enjoying our time at home alone together. But there’s something very different about all this.

I last saw Jacob in February. I headed to Perth for a long weekend, almost a week, in fact, and we saw Amanda Palmer perform her wonderful show, There will be no intermission (complete with intermission). We saw Neil Gaiman talk about his writing life, and answer questions from the audience, and read some of our favourites of his short stories and poems. We both cried at the sheer joy of these experiences. We ate delicious food. We watched some great TV. We went to work – him in his office, me in the library on campus, and we met up for lunch. We held hands. We laughed a lot. We smiled a lot. And then I came home.

Coming home, or saying goodbye to him at the airport after he leaves from a visit, is always the hardest thing. It’s the marker of the start of the longest point between then, and when we’ll get to see each other again. That February night, I thought we’d be seeing each other again in a few months. At the very latest, June when I’d be back for his birthday and Supernova, our now annual tradition, but probably there’d be at least one more trip in before then too.

But then COVID started gaining traction. States started to impose restrictions on international travel. Then borders were closed to interstate travel. Within states, even, there were restrictions placed on regional travel and all other travel that was deemed non-essential, and 14 day isolation periods required after any such travel. And, given all the travel restrictions, airlines are cancelling flights and running only skeleton services, so even if I wanted to head to Perth and could wear the 28 days in quarantine that a trip there and back would land me, I’d struggle to find a flight over.

Let me give you some context. We are in different time zones – Sydney, where I live, is 2 hours ahead of Perth, and it’s a 5 hour flight to get there. It’s also an almost 4,000km 41 hour drive away, so even if I was able to get across state lines it’s just not doable. And now, even despite the slight easing of some restrictions around social movements, we don’t know when things will get back to normal for us. We don’t know when we’ll be able to fly to see each other without worrying about having to be quarantined. We don’t know when flights will be available. There’s just so much we don’t know.

I recognise that we aren’t alone in all of this. So many people have had their lives impacted, and in the grand scheme of things, we’re doing ok. We are physically healthy. We are safe with our respective families. We have jobs, and can pay the bills, and buy the mince and toilet paper that are now starting to appear on the shelves again. And we can continue, like we always have, talking on the phone, sending each other texts throughout the day, chatting whenever possible, and being so grateful that we are lucky enough to have someone with whom communication is so easy. But others having it worse doesn’t mean that our current difficulties aren’t valid or real, because I’ve gotta say I’m hurting like crazy.

It’s not all bad though. The rapid increase of online meetings through platforms like Zoom, and social catchups and virtual game sessions that people are now putting into place, has made us realise that we hadn’t actually utilised the technology available to full effect. Facetime calls used to be a once-a-week or so occurrence, for a special date night, but the rest of the time we’d just audiocall. Now, I’m getting to see his beautiful face far more often – we’ll video chat over messenger in the morning as I’m having coffee and he’s about to head off for a run. We’ll video call during the day, and compare our work schedules, commiserate at how much we hate all the zoom and teams and skype meetings that are now so much a part of our everyday, before blowing each other a kiss and hanging up to dial into another one. We’ll cook dinner together in our respective kitchens, wandering in and out of view as we gather and prep things, and then curl up on the couch together to eat. We’ll video before bed to chat about whatever we’ve just watched, or how our kids are doing, or he’ll read to me. We’re seeing each other, albeit virtually, far more than we did before.

Yes, it’s great that we get to stay so connected. I can’t imagine doing this without the easy access to technology that we have now. But in someways, that’s just serving to heighten for me how far apart we are. When he presses his fingers to his lips, I’m reminded at how long it’s been since I’ve felt those fingers entwined with mine. When I see his eyes crinkle up when he laughs, I’m reminded how long it’s been since I heard that chuckle in person, and felt his whole body shake when he does so – he laughs with his whole body, so enthusiastically and passionately, and I miss that like crazy. And when we hang up on the last call of the day, I’m reminded that the pillow next to me is woefully empty. I’m always happy to hear from him, and to talk to him, but I’m also always desperately sad when that’s over.

I know that this will all change, sooner or later. I don’t know what that’s going to look like. I don’t know whether we as a society will go back to what we had before, or whether all the changes we are seeing around us with bring about some kind of new normal. And I don’t know how long it’ll be before I can fly again. But I know that I’m very glad I’m going through this pandemic with a strong, supportive partner. I’m so grateful that, despite the distance that separates us now, I can feel his presence in my life, even during those times where I increasingly feel his absence keenly. And I’m so lucky have the constant reassurance that even when I’m feeling alone, when the tears flow and I can’t stop the overwhelming feelings of loss, fear and anxiety, I’m NEVER lonely. So that’s something, right? It’s something I don’t ever take for granted.

I know, this is a long, personal blog post. And I know that my target audience for this blog is mainly just me – the few other people who actually do read it are here for book reviews. So I doubt many of you have made it through all of this. But that’s ok, I didn’t really write it for you. I wrote it for me, so that at some point in a few years when I’m doing a tidy-up of my blog I’ll stumble across it, read through this snapshot of life in 2020, and marvel at how long ago that feels, how strange a time it was, and how good it is to be on the other side of it. And I wrote it for Jacob, who mused the other night that, whilst there were plenty of articles about how couples were coping with lockdown, and the impact it was having on relationships, that there were none about relationships like ours. So here it is.

I love you, my Jacob. I can’t wait to see you face again – on my phone screen will be wonderful. In person will be so much better.

xoxo

Tamara

 

 

November 26 2019

The ticking of a clock: on timing.

Monday night soundscape.

Thunder. Rain falling. Ticking, ticking clocks.

I love the sound of a clock ticking. The mechanisms of an analogue clock fascinate me, as does the way they each have their own distinct sound.

The black one was a Kmart buy years ago, and used to live in a reading nook in the corner of my library. The hands stopped moving the day I packed it up to bring it home, along with so many of my personal pieces that were no longer required in the space I loved, but it still gives out a low gentle beat occasionally, marking a time that hasn’t moved on in over three years.

The green one I found in a little shop one day, and I’m not gonna lie, I kind of built my entire bedroom colour scheme around it. It marks each second, reliably keeping time with a deep regular thud.

And the silver and cream beauty was sitting in a box of freebies on the front fence of a home I pass by every day on my way to work. It’s a frantic little thing, 3 ticks a second, trying to fit as much into a minute as it can.

Time. It’s a funny thing, huh? Staying with us long after it’s gone, and yet wasted as we rush through it, trying so desperately to fit so much in. #clockwork #time #tickingclocks

I posted this on Instagram and Facebook last night. It had been a weird sort of day, after a long, wonderful, emotional and exhausting weekend. About half an hour later, I got a phone call from my partner and best friend, who had decided he just needed to read me some poetry by Neil before I went to sleep. Timing, huh? I couldn’t talk to him – didn’t even really know what to say about how I was feeling. But he just knew. He knew not to ask me too many questions, and he knew just what I needed. Sometimes it’s just all about the timing. And he’s got the best.

September 30 2018

Tamara dances: on burlesque, body positivity, and embracing anxiety.

If you follow me in instagram or facebook, you’ve probably seen my #adventuresinburlesque over the past few months. I’ve been posting about my “firsts” – first fan class, first glove reveal etc etc – but in truth, this journey started years and years ago. Indulge me, if you will, as I tell the epic adventures of Tamara, the Dance Mum who Finally Took to the Stage.* Warning: this is a long post. Lots of words, few pictures. Sorry/not sorry. I’ll be adding some photos to a future post as they become available, but for now this is just my post-performance-day brain dump.
(* Title a work in progress)

I didn’t dance when I was a child. I was a baton twirler for years, and loved it so much, but the more lyrical parts of that art form always seemed to ellude me. I always felt too much – more Fantasia dancing hippo than graceful dancer. I look back at pictures of myself now, in my leotards and ultra-stylish hats and boots , and am so sad for that little girl, who couldn’t see past her body to recognise what a talent she had. I was a good baton twirler. No, I was great. And I think part of what I loved about it was that it gave me permission to move. To express myself through something physical. As I hit my mid teens I stopped twirling, in no small part because I was starting to feel more and more uncomfortable in lycra, and less and less comfortable in this body that carries me through the world.

I left school, went off to uni, became a mother soon after, and quickly my life became about other people. My husband, my children, my step-children, my students, my colleagues – I prioritised other people’s needs over my own because it just made sense to me. They were important. I was not. So the idea of moving, of dancing? Well, it wasn’t even on the radar, let alone something I wanted to do but didn’t have the time or inclination to prioritise. So I went through decades of my adult life feeling blah about my body, and disinclined to do anything that drew attention to it, both from others and for myself. I did karate for a few years in my early 30’s, and loved the feeling of strength that it allowed me to recognise in my body, but hated every week putting on that white outfit. It drew attention to everything I thought was wrong with my body, and I couldn’t wait to take it off after each class.

A few years later I started going to the gym with some friends, mostly so I could do a Combat class- all the things I loved about karate, but in the dark, to music, and I could wear leggings and an oversized shirt. Winning. What I didn’t expect was how much I’d enjoy learning the choreography, and soon I found myself loving Sh’Bam classes more than Combat. If you’ve not done Sh’Bam, imagine Zumba with a whole bunch of different dance styles thrown in. It was amazing, I loved it, and I still miss it, but some personal circumstances soured it for me and meant that even now I can’t really think about going back to it.

There was one Sh’Bam track that I loved the most, and (I’m sure this is no great revelation here) it was a burlesque one. I loved the way it felt, to be given permission to move my body, to appreciate the way my hips moved, the way my body felt when I just embraced it. At the beginning of last year, I saw a facebook post about body positive burlesque classes in the Mountains, and mentioned it to Jacob, who encouraged me to go along, and after much anxiety and deep breathing in the car park, I did. For one class. And then never went back again. Not because I didn’t enjoy it – I did. I loved every second of it. But it felt a little too much. So I used every excuse possible to not go back. It was on Saturday, and I had to take Tayla to dancing. It was too far away. I had housework to do. The list when on, and before I knew it almost 18 months had passed from that first class. I knew that I missed it, and wanted to go back, but whilst I’ve been getting better in recent years, it’s still hard to prioritise myself in my life, you know?

A few months ago, though, Porcelain, the lovely lady who runs Stone Cold Fox Dance Collective, posted about new classes that were happening this term in Springwood on a Tuesday night. 2 of my main excuses dealt with. So, in a fit of tax-return-fueled inspiration, I decided to book myself in to both the burlesque and fan classes for the whole term, fully paid for so that I couldn’t change my mind and back out. Thank goodness I did, because without wanting to oversell it I think it’s been one of the most profoundly impactful things I’ve done for myself. Truly.

I started off just attending the classes, fully thinking that the optional performances would be something that I -might- go along to watch, but would definitely not perform in. Nope. No way. The classes themselves have been my little oasis in each week. Even on days when I’ve been tired from work, or stressed from whatever has been happening in my life, I’ve still dragged myself there – mostly willingly, although there was one night a few weeks ago where I needed some gentle persuasion to drag my sorry arse off the couch. (Thanks Jacob, for not saying “I told you so” when you were well within your rights to do so!) As the term progressed, though, I started to think that maybe I would perform. Possibly. We’ll see.

So, the great costume hunt began, but I fully believed that I’d back out before the performance arrived. In truth, last weekend I almost bailed, and had a fairly major meltdown over it. But thanks to some wise counsel and even more sympathetic listening from my partner, I got through that. I stressed out on Friday about my hair and makeup, but just organised something rather than stressing about it too much. And we arrived at show day.

I was feeling really anxious as the morning started. When I dropped Tayla at dancing for her ballet rehearsal, she hugged me and wished me good luck, telling me that she knew I’d be amazing, and I headed out to the car where I sat and cried for a bit. But then I headed to the hairdressers. I went home and packed. I visited my son’s girlfriend who did my makeup. And I went to the theatre, as ready as I could be. Feeling moderately anxious, but not prohibitively so.

We had a run through of my group routines, and we had tech rehearsal. I had a glass of champagne, and waited for the nerves to kick in. Because, as I’ve blogged about before, I do anxiety really well. I recognise the signs, those stomach-churning hand-trembling horrors that usually grip me relentlessly just before I take to the stage to speak. And I waited. But apart from a little nausea early on, there was nothing. Truth be told, now I think about it, the nausea could be attributed to the fact that all I’d only consumed champagne and hummus all day.

What strikes me the most, as I look back on last night, is how comfortable the whole experience felt. I loved doing my fan routine, and was sad that it was over so quickly. I had a slight costume issue in my Gatsby routine which meant that I couldn’t quite get my glove off – at least not by stepping on it, anyway, because my newly completed fringed skirt was far too tight to allow me to bend over properly! Normally, I’d obsess about that 6 counts and forget about everything that went right. But nope – it was just a blip on an otherwise super-fun routine, which I’m pretty proud to say I rocked.

More than being comfortable on stage, though, I was comfortable in my skin. I put on my black outfit for the fan routine, looked in the mirror, and smiled. I really liked what I saw, bumps and curves and all. I felt similarly confident in my Gatsby routine. And I’ve gotta tell you, I loved how that felt. It’s not something I’ve ever really experienced fully – an occasional “yeah, I look good” moment, but to feel that to the extent that I could walk on stage, shake and shimmy all the parts of me that I usually agree need desperately to be changed, and take of half my carefully prepared costume and toss it deliberately and carelessly aside? Never before have I felt that freedom.

I think a large part of it was being in the dressing room surrounded by so many amazing performers – some of them pros, some of them first timers like me, but such a diversely wonderful group of souls, and they made my heart happy. So many different body shapes, and such beauty in each and every one of them, and I didn’t feel out of place in that at all. It felt good, and it’s such a credit to the culture that Porcelain Rose has created in the Stone Cold Fox Collective. I’m so incredibly grateful for her support and encouragement, and so proud to be a part of her world. I know that I’ve still got a lot to learn as a burlesque performer, and I’m ok with that – this journey that I’ve just started on is going to be an enduring one, and I’m so glad to have found this wonderful community. In fact, I’ve already started thinking about future costumes (TARDIS corset, anyone?) and was disappointed to discover that I’m not going to be able to do the next showcase performance in the mountains. Sad face.

Thank you, if perchance you stumble across this, lovely Literary Ladies. Whether you knew it or not last night, you were a part of an incredibly powerful moment for me, and I’m so glad to have shared it with you. And thank you to Porcelain. Amidst this brain dump, I can’t really find the words, but there are a lot of them, and they add up to an incredible gift. You’re a gem. Thank you, thank you, thank you. xoxo

So, that’s the story so far of my Adventures In Burlesque. This isn’t the whole story – just a prologue and opening chapter or two. But you know when you start a book and can just tell from the first few pages that it’s going to be a good one? Yeah, that’s what I’m dealing with here. I’m excited to see where it goes.

If you’re in the Blue Mountains area, and have been thinking about doing something for yourself, I’d highly recommend checking out Porcelain‘s classes. They run in Katoomba and Springwood, and will be starting up in Emu Plains next term too. You won’t be sad, and I’d love to dance with you!

Happy dancing,

Tamara

October 20 2017

< Insert resilience here >

Resilience is not my natural state of being. In fact, I’ve always considered it to be my antonym. There are people in the world who can deal with adversity with good grace, and who persevere through trials and tribulations. I haven’t ever really counted myself amongst their number.

I’m realising more and more, though, that perhaps that’s not quite true. I’ve endured much – in my life, in my career, in the cesspool that is my own twisted thoughts. And I’m still surviving. I told a student once, when she was struggling with some serious issues in her life, that she wasn’t the best judge of her own ability to handle things around her, and that maybe she should take cues from the people who know her best. So I’m doing that today.

I found out yesterday I didn’t get the position I interviewed for earlier in the week. I was a mess yesterday. What I heard coming through loud and clear from the panel convener was “you’re not good enough” “you were good on paper, but lousy in person” “you’re not good enough” “you did a terrible job at addressing the questions, what on earth were you thinking?” “you’re not good enough” “you’re not good enough” “you’re not good enough” … sensing a theme?

As I’m thinking back on it now, though, that’s not what she said at all. That’s what I wanted to hear. What she really said was that she was disappointed I didn’t hit the mark on a couple of the questions, because my application and references were amazing. That she thought I could be amazing in a TL position, or even in a leadership role like Head Teacher Teaching and Learning, because my passion for what I do shines through. That I just need to work on interview skills so that I do myself justice in that highly stressful situation. That I’m good enough, but that the other guy sold himself a bit better this time. That’s all. And her individual item feedback? Totally made sense. Totally stuff I can fix for next time. Totally doable. But it still hurts.

I cried a lot yesterday – especially when one of my favourite ratbags asked me when I was going to be back in the library as I was the best librarian ever. I cried a lot last night. I’ll probably cry more today. Because I really wanted this position. A friend reassured me yesterday that something will come along – “those weren’t your people”. And I argued with her, because they WERE my people. I’d have been amazing at the school, and we could have done some great stuff together. But if working in education for 15 years has taught me something, it’s that there are so many amazing schools out there. This one wasn’t my only hope. The next one might not be either. But there’s one out there. And if nothing else, this is helping develop those resilience skills I so undervalue in myself.

So, I’m continuing to try and maintain a stranglehold on my anxiety, and not let it get in the way of me doing a great application for the next position, and doing a better interview next time round. Maybe that’s my resilience. I face difficult shit. I cry. I carry the scars around. I continue on to the next challenge, and the next one. And I don’t let them make me hard, because that’s not the kind of person I want to be. When I say “I’ve got this”, it’s not because I believe I’m all over everything I’m going to face, but because the thought of giving up is not an option. It matters. I matter. And I am enough, no matter what I tell myself when I’m firmly entrenched in the pit of despair. I’ve got this.

October 17 2016

Who me? No, I’m just a worm!

Just a worm

Just a worm

Over the past 18 months, I’ve spoken at a few conferences. Last year, I was approached to do the keynote address at the University of Queensland Cyberschool Seminar. The organisers had heard the amazing Megan Townes speak about social media at a different conference, and she wasn’t able to do theirs, but recommended they contact me to see if I’d be interested. Just over a month ago, I delivered the keynote address at WATL’s annual conference, after being asked to fill in because their original speaker had to cancel. I’ve always made excuses for these …  along the lines of “oh, I wasn’t their first choice, they only asked me because they couldn’t find anyone better” … you know, imposter syndrome. And it’s been easy to get away with that, in my own head at least. Because I’m just a worm, right? A passionate worm, admittedly, and one who loves to share the story of her library and her ventures in social media, but a worm nonetheless.

Today, though, I lost the whole “oh, they couldn’t get anyone else” excuse. Because today, I spoke at the NSW Public Schools Libraries for Future Learners (#L4FL16) conference, and this was one I had to submit an EOI for.

Why was this a big deal? Because I hate speaking in public. Not like I hate Vegemite (which is in Amanda Palmer proportions, in case you’re wondering), but detest it with every fiber of my being. In the lead up to having to present something, I get stomach pains and nausea, so much so that at 6am before my keynote in Dubbo, I was seriously contemplating whether I needed to go to hospital because I decided this couldn’t JUST be nerves, I had to be getting really sick. When I’m actually presenting, it rarely gets better. My legs shake. My voice wavers, my face flushes, and I get increasingly tense as the time goes on. The slightest mis-step in my presentation throws me, and I mentally abuse myself for the rest of the session, and those three seconds are my takeaway – not the many comments of praise from participants afterwards. I remember the missed paragraph, the poorly described slide, the stumble over the statistics.

I could easily have not submitted the EOI for #L4FL16, and just gone along as a participant. There were some fantastic sessions on offer – many of which I couldn’t attend as I was running my own. But I’ve always said, to my students, and to my daughters, that it’s ok to do the scary thing. Whenever my students complain about having to do a speech task, I empathise with them, and tell them about my own experiences. Whenever my daughters start stressing out about needing to deliver a presentation at school, I remind them that I know exactly how they feel, and that I’ve survived every single speech I’ve had to deliver. And whenever I start to think that I need to go to hospital because I must be being consumed by some vicious new alien superbug, I remind myself that this is just your anxiety, Rodgers, and it’s not going to kill you, just keep breathing!

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Will Kostakis, fellow WATL keynote and allround great guy.

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Ngaire Booth, WATL friend find.

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Presenting at WATL, featuring the coolest skirt ever.

 

So, today was a big deal for me. I presented, through nerves of jello. I got some great feedback – not only from the people who I knew in the room, but from strangers who weren’t compelled to say nice things to me, but who came out of their way to find me during our post-conference drinks, and chat with me about my presentation. Their thoughtful and inspired reactions made me realise that I do, in fact, do a great job – through my stress and my nerves, my passion for our library story comes through. I’m incredibly proud of that. I’m really grateful to the wonderful people who’ve given me the opportunity to share my story, and to those who have taken my story and ideas on board. There’s nothing quite like hearing from someone later on who has sat through one of your presentations, who lets you know how they’ve applied some of the stuff you have talked about. Or when someone gets inspired by something small in your presentation, and it turns into a fantastic collaboration of ideas.

Mostly, though, above all of that, I’m immensely thankful for my wonderful friends and family, who can tell when I’m about to do something scary, and who love and support me through all of that stress. To the people who mentor me, and who remind me that I’ll be fine. To the ones who listen to me hypothesise about what could go wrong, and dwell on how crappy I’m going to feel, and who just gently love me through all that. I’m reminded, at times like this, that I -have- anxiety, I -deal with- anxiety. It’s not who I am, it’s just a little part of me that is NOT going to win, or stop me from doing what I’m passionate about. It’s getting easier to come to terms with that, and to accept that yes, I am just a worm, but that doesn’t mean I’m insignificant. I’ve got awesome stories to share, and those stories matter.

 

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Deb Hogg, longtime edufriend

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Townesy – my rockstar.

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Marianne Grasso – uni colleague, online sympathiser, and IRL friend

August 8 2016

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life …

My life has changed dramatically in the past few years.  I’m 75% of the way through my Masters in Education, Teacher Librarianship. I’m 2.5 years into working in the coolest school library known to humankind. I’m negotiating shared custody of my wonderful children, and getting to know myself a bit better. And I am, in many ways, a very different person to the one who started this blog, way back in June 2011. Today, as I’ve been exporting my blog posts from my uni sanctioned blogsite to this one, I’ve been scrolling back through some old posts, and recognising a common theme. I’m constantly apologising for not posting more regularly, or trying to give myself permission to embrace the fact that “done is better than perfect.” It’s an ongoing struggle for me, and one that I think I’m resigning myself to the fact that I will never fully conquer.

I’ve been feeling a bit blah about uni at the moment. This semester’s subjects, and my final 2, are both quite challenging – one academically, the other in terms of time commitments. I had been struggling with the fact that I have just been passing my subjects, and trying to be ok with it, when a wise woman and dear mentor sent me a message telling me that I was HD’ing life, and to give myself a break. It’s good advice, and probably something I would say to those in my position, because, you know, us welfare types are way better at the giving of the good advice than the applying it to ourselves. So, thanks Kay, you’re a rockstar, and I’m glad to have you in my corner.

I’m hoping to be blogging a bit more here, but I’m not making any promises, apart from to myself … it’s ok to just post some interesting links, Tamara. It’s ok to just share a paragraph and a picture. And, go back and see if that app posting thing still works, because that rocked, and it’ll help you be able to post on the go. So, maybe this isn’t really a new dawn/day/life, but I’ll still lay claim to Michael Buble’s other line … “I’m feeling good.” I love my job. I love my school. I love my family, my friends, and my life. And I’m learning to love myself a bit more too. That’s really something to feel good about, right?

So, if you’re reading this, say hi, and tell me, what are you feeling good about today?

 

xoxo

Tamara

July 16 2014

Welcome to the inside …

Hi there! Welcome to my Thinkspace blog, set up to support my study of the Masters of Education (Teacher Librarianship).

I’m a High School English teacher thrust (very willingly!) into the world of teacher librarianship this year. I was completely unprepared for the steepness of the learning curve, and caught off guard by how quickly I would be infected by this wonderful new career path. I work at a wonderful public school in Western Sydney. I have a husband who has put up with me for almost 20 years now, a 20 year old military history nut son, a 14 year old fangirl and book nerd, and an 11 year old dancer who has just discovered her first literary crush. I’m so proud. I also have a 1 year old grand daughter, an obsession with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer, an unhealthy disrespect for my own sleep needs, and a somewhat related coffee addiction. Oh, and I like books. A lot.

I blog somewhat sporadically about my work at www.tamararodgers.edublogs.org, and tweet about a whole bunch of things, some of them even educational!! @tamararodgers74. I’m a Regional Coordinator for the Global Education Project in my spare time, and am passionate about a whole raft of things educational … social media, engagement, literacy, community involvement, welfare, ICT, and books. Did I mention I like the books? I did? Ok.

So, that’s my late night intro to me. I’m assuming if you are reading this you are either (a) studying with me, or (b) assessing me, so (a) commiserations to you, I’m sure we’ll get through it, and (b) you are looking quite lovely tonight. Hi. 🙂

December 15 2012

On leaving school.

My reflections on leaving school. It is the moment that society expects all students look forward to, right? And it’s the moment that kids routinely talk about as their goal, their desire … “I can’t wait till school is finished.” “I can’t wait to get out of this place.” How often, though, do we hear people talk about how they didn’t realise how good it was at school until they left?

I had to sign one student out yesterday, and another came to tell me he’s leaving too, will be visiting me with his paperwork on Monday. I’m thrilled for them – they are both heading into apprenticeships that they are really interested in. Neither of them are particularly keen students, highly motivated academic types … They’ve both had their fair share of issues throughout the years. The first is in my yr10 boys class – a group of fantastic, entertaining, enthusiastic and highly engaging young men, who just don’t happen to be entertained or engaged much by schoolwork. It’s been a struggle to build connections with them, but I have persevered, and tried different things, because I believe these kids are the ones who really need good, connected and relevant teaching more so than all the so-called “good kids”. He has always struck me as the kind of kid who has amazing potential, but he was more comfortable being a clown. He’s grown so much this year, really taking on board a lot of what people have invested in him, and whilst I was thrilled he’s got the job he wants, part of me mourns the loss of him in my class. Part of me would love to see where he could be if he started to believe in his own mind, and really committed to seeing how he could go at school. Not that I think his apprenticeship isn’t of extraordinary value, you know … It’s just bittersweet. I would have loved to see him sink his teeth into some of the texts we’d have looked at next year. But kudos to him.

The other one has me crying, and I don’t know how I’m going to cope when I sign his leavers form on Monday. He is in my year group, and I don’t know how many times people have come to me tearing their hair out in frustration. He has such an engaging personality, and I’ve worried about him so much, but this year, again, he’s really grown into the leader I saw in him the very first time I met him. For the first time since he’s been at our school, he attended presentation night this week, not only to receive an academic award for first place in a course, but to help with a presentation from one of our community partners. The look of pride on his face was hard to miss. He has been wanting this job for a while now, and has been working towards it all year, and I’m glad it came after this week, so he’s leaving on a high note, with a sense of achievement, and the culmination of an increasingly positive experience of school this year. I’m beyond proud of him, and was busting with excitement when he told me he had his job, but I can’t imagine my year group without him. He has just stepped up so much this year, and has been a joy to work with, both at school and on our camp. I’m not wearing mascara to school on Monday.

These reflections on leaving school have prompted me to think about my own experiences this year. My own feelings about this place I spend so much of my life, and which consumes so much more of my time when I’m not there! It’s difficult sometimes, what we do as teachers. The politics. The bureaucracy. The stress. The pressure. But all of that is worth it, if we can be a part of these kinds of “leaving school” experiences for our most disenfranchised, our most at-risk. I’m more proud of that than any Band 6. I love my job.

December 9 2012

I can see it …

Can you see it? The end, I mean. The end of what has been, for me, one of the most difficult terms of my teaching career. For many reasons, I’m struggling right now. Some personal, some professional, but really all of these reasons are impacting the way I feel about my job.

I love teaching. LOVE it. It is really what defines me, more than almost anything else in my life. And I always said that when I stopped loving it, it would probably be time to think about doing something else. For most of this term, though, I’ve been feeling sick about going to work. I’ve spent more time on the verge of tears (if not actually IN tears) than I have feeling positive and happy about what I’m doing. So, is it time to move on? Is it time to pull the plug, and say enough is enough?

I’ve asked myself that question more than a few times – and my husband has raised it too! It has kept me up at nights, and I think the thought of pulling the plug has made me feel even more nauseous. So I’ve been reevaluating my roles. My role as teacher at my school. My other roles – year advisor, school promotions officer, technology team member, 2IC of my faculty, and others that are not so easy to define but still take up a significant amount of time. My role as a role model, and a colleague, and a friend, and a wife and mother. And I’ve been a bit blown away.

Sometimes you are so much in the middle of something, that you can’t really see the significance of it. There are so many metaphors about that – can’t see the forest for the trees, etc etc – and they sound cliched for a reason. I’ve been trying to stand back from this and taken in the bigger picture, to try and learn something from what I’m going through right now, rather than just trying to ride it out. And I think I’m starting to get my head around it.

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So much of what has been stressing me has been out of my control. Actions of other people, mostly … Their thoughts and opinions about me, and about what I do. Their judgements about my roles. Their perception that I’m not good enough, skilled enough, worthy enough. If I was one of my students, I’d offer them some wonderful advice right now. I’d tell them that if these negatives were coming from someone they admire and respect, it might be worth listening to, but if they aren’t, then they’re not. I’d tell them that people who try and bring other people down are often doing so because they feel badly about themselves, and they are trying to attack what is bright, and beautiful, and successful around them. I’d tell them that they are amazing, and they are so much more than their fears and uncertainties. I’d tell them that these challenges are what test you so that you can figure out what is really important. I’d tell them all this and more. So why can’t I tell it to myself?

Luckily, it doesn’t matter that I wasn’t able to tell myself all those things. After holding my hand, and lending me a thoughtful ear, or comforting shoulder, I’ve heard all these wonderful pieces of advice and more from the wonderful people around me. I’m starting to listen to them … After all, they are the people I respect, both personally and professionally, and their opinions matter to me. My principal. My head teacher. My wonderful colleagues and friends from my own faculty, as well as others. My husband, and my very wise kids. These people rock – the best PLN a girl could ask for!

So what does all that mean for me? I love teaching. Have I mentioned that already? If so, it’s worth mentioning again. And I love what I’m involved in at my school at the moment. There are so many things that I’m working on, both in my classroom and out of it, and I believe passionately in the value and importance every one of them. I think it’s really time, though, that I started evaluating what I can realistically do myself, and get my head around the whole “it’s ok to say no” thing. I also need to get a handle on what is my job, and what isn’t … Delegation is NOT the enemy, apparently!! (Not sure if I actually believe that one yet, but we are working on the “fake it ’til you make it” philosophy on this one!) And I’m definitely working on letting go of the bitterness over being treated unfairly. Sometimes people won’t like me. Sometimes they will say things that are unkind and untrue. I can’t control that, but I CAN control my reactions to it. I’m not going to let my involvement in things that I love, and believe in, be impacted by that. What I do matters. As teachers, what WE do matters. I believe in it, and I believe in my ability to do it well, to make a difference, and to impact the lives of others. I can see it now … still a little hazy, still hurting, but slowly healing. They may not read this post, but there are some wonderful people who are responsible for helping me through the past few weeks, and you should know who you are. Thankyou!!

So I can see it. The holidays. The importance of taking care of me tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. The value of making the most of what I have, and where I am. And the fact that I do enough, feel enough, AM ENOUGH, no matter what anyone else thinks about me. I hope you know that about you too!!

August 19 2012

Testing app posting!

So, today I have a pile of stuff to do. I have marking, planning, housework, washing, and shopping to get through. What am I doing instead, you ask? (or you would ask if anyone was reading this??) I’m app shopping. I just downloaded iview – Doctor Who on my phone? Yes please!!! – and after a post on yammer from a colleague, thought I’d check out the edublogs app. That’s what I’m posting from, just to check it out!!