Education Mindset Social Commentary Wellbeing

What do we lose when everyone wins?

We won’t grow resilient kids if we only talk about resilience.

Kids need to experience struggle, setbacks and failure if they are going to develop the skillset and mindset to be resilient.

If a child only ever experiences success,

then we as adults have failed.

This is the topic of my latest #OffCampus segment for the Teachers Educational Review podcast.

Check it out here:

Education Social Commentary

We pay teachers waaaay too much!

This week I saw this tweet – an oldie but a goodie.

It linked to this article. 

I thought I’d put it into an Australian context.

cashTeachers’ hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work nine or ten months a year! And with the focus on getting the budget back into surplus, I thought it’s time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do — babysit!

Let’s be honest, parents can get that for less than minimum wage. But I guess they do have some kind of qualification, so we really can’t offer less than the minimum.

That’s right. Let’s give them AU$16.37 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be AU$65.48 a day (9-3 but I’ve taken an hour off for lunch, 15mins for recess and another 45mins for the odd free period they might get – let’s just call their working day 4hrs.)

So each parent should pay $65.48 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children (My 3yo’s daycare is about AU$90 per day… so pretty good value!).

Now how many students do they teach in a day…maybe 30? But I’m not counting those kids who just sit there and do what they’re told… seriously monkeys could do that… so let’s just say only about about 15 or so kids really need ‘looking after’.

So that’s AU$65.48 x 15(kids) = AU$982.20 a day. I’m sure we can work it out so the costs are spread evenly across parents.

Sounds like a lot, but don’t worry… these bludgers only work 40 weeks a year! I ain’t paying for them to go on their luxury yachting holidays I can tell you that!

And just to be on the safe side, we’ll knock off another week or two to cover public holidays and sick days…  sod it… I’m taking off another month!

So rounding it down to 36 weeks, these jokers are only working 180 days a year!

Let’s see if my primary school math teacher did anything right…

That’s AU$982.20 X 180= $176,796 per year. Erm… hang on… what’s happened here?

A classroom teacher of 8 years experience at the top of the scale earns around 90 grand.

AU$90,000/180 days =AU $500 per day ÷ 30 students = $16.67 (just over minimum wage) ÷ 4 (working) hours = AU$4.17 per hour per student (and that’s before tax!) — a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!)


Social Commentary

Are You Too Busy For a Thumbs Up?

This was originally written for my regular Generation Next Column. It has a handful of comments there that you might like to read.

My 5-year-old son attends swimming lessons each and every Sunday. It’s a busy pool with multiple classes going on at once.

During lessons parents sit around the pool and watch their offspring splash around, offering words of encouragement, the occasional ‘thumbs up’ and many smiles of pride.

You can picture it can’t you? It was pretty much the same as when we learnt to swim… way back when.

However if you’ve actually taken a child to swimming lessons recently you’d know that the picture I’ve painted is actually a fake.

In my experience, parents aren’t offering words of encouragement, thumbs up or even smiles. They’re staring at a screen reading banal Facebook updates, answering ‘important’ emails that simply couldn’t wait until Monday or just surfing mindlessly.

I wonder why?

Have we really convinced ourselves that we are that busy that we can’t devote 30mins of our attention to our kids? Heck even 15mins would be good!

How many of these parents have to lie when their kids ask them, “Did you see me?”

How many of these kids finish a lap to look for a thumbs up, only to find their parents’ thumbs otherwise engaged?

I know this might seem like a trivial matter, but I wonder if it’s just the tip of a much larger iceberg?

I’d be interested to hear what you think… am I worrying about nothing?

Ipad Parents

Social Commentary

The Crazy Things That Some Schools Do!

Is it April Fool’s day? Of course it isn’t. So why am I reading ridiculous headlines like this? helicopter parent

Melbourne schools ban playground games because of lack of resilience

The report stated that schools were banning Tiggy because kids would just give up when they were tagged, and quoted the Victorian Principals Association president Gabrielle Leigh as saying some schools had imposed bans on other games, such as skipping and swapping collector cards, over problems sharing.


Banning games because kids lack social skills or resilience?

That’s akin to banning Mathematics because kids can’t add up.

Or perhaps your child can’t spell properly? Just ring up the school to complain, and they’ll put a stop to those pesky English lessons too.

Is this really what we’ve come to?

The article claimed that, “Smaller families and over-protective parents are being blamed for a lack of resilience,” although blamed by whom it doesn’t say.

Whilst there may be something to the “over-protective” parents line, I find it incredible that schools would resort banning such things. I once heard of a school that banned the giving out of birthday invitations unless every child in the class received one – an argument if ever I’ve heard one for smaller class sizes!

Schools have to take the lead here, and draw a line in the sand, rather than perpetuating the issue by banning opportunities for kids to develop resilience.

You don’t build resilience by talking about it – I don’t care what any overpriced course tells you – you build it by working though issues. A struggle here, a bit of drama there and coming through it the other side.

I don’t know who said it to me, but they once described some parents as “Helicopter Gunship” parents. That is, they hover around blowing up anything and everything that might cause their child to struggle.

We’ve come to expect “Helicopter” parents, but we’re in danger when the “helicopter” mindset takes over schools as well.

If you were the person that gave me that analogy, let us know in the comments section so I can appropriately quote you in future!

This was originally written for my regular Generation Next column.

Education Social Commentary Youth

Hey kids – Stop talking like that!

Teen Speak

I bet there’s certain things kids say that grate on you. I bet there are slang terms that, quite simply, you don’t understand.

Every now and then you’ll come across a helpful list of the latest “kids speak” like this one. Go on, read it. It’s brilliant.

I’ll bet if you think back, there were words you used that your parents didn’t really get, and when they tried to use them, well… it was just wrong.

A couple of weeks back I stumbled across a very interesting article, again from the UK.

A school has decided to ban the use of certain slang words.  It’s worth noting they’re not talking about swear words, but words like:

“Innit” and the ever present “Like” are in the firing line as is starting sentences with “Basically” or ending them with “Yeah.”

Reaction has been varied. Some (mostly older folk) have applauded the move, whilst others have pointed to the naturally occurring changes in language over time.

Others have claimed that it could be considered racist, as some of the slang words under fire are most common in the vernacular of those from West Indian background.

It’s certainly an interesting debate, because I have my pet peevs too!

The seemingly new phenomenon of shortening words really grates on me.

Totally = totes, Obviously = obvs and for some reason – particularly Channel 10 – have been promoting “Double Eps” for over a year now… Is “Episode” really too long a word?

Yeah I know I know… Basically, I’m just being a grumpy old man. After all this is how the kids speak now innit yeah?

This was originally written for my regular Generation Next column.

Social Commentary Social Justice Youth

My Reaction to Naming & Shaming Young Offenders

In reaction to the Queensland Government’s move to name & shame young offenders as young as ten, I wrote this piece for the ABC.

Being seen to be tough on crime is Politics 101. It’s a guaranteed vote-winner. It creates good copy for the tabloids, and “naming and shaming” is the bread and butter of any self-respecting shock jock. It’s even better if you can blame your opponents for the apparent crime wave.

You can read the full article here.

You can also listen to a radio interview I gave on Melbourne’s SYN 90.7FM

Media Social Commentary Youth

Sex, Drugs, The Media & Our Kids

I originally write this for my regular Generation Next column

In the weeks since that Miley Cyrus performance at the VMAs, more fuel has been poured onto the fiery debate around the overtly sexual messages our kids are receiving thanks to the media.

Add this to the heady mix of alcohol, violence and drug use with the apparent rise of such related anti-social behaviour of our teenagers – once again commentators are calling on the media to pull its collective head in.

Just this Sunday, I was watching a movie with my five year-old son that featured, amongst other things:

• Every second character, including the two lead characters smoking.
• Every second character, including the two lead characters drinking alcohol.
• Drink spiking.
• A drunken bar room brawl that involved guns, knives and king hits.

The brawl only subsided when a stripper appeared on stage, dressed all in blue (the relevance of this will be apparent shortly) and began to sing,

Hey fellas
The time is right
Get ready
Tonight’s the night
Boys, what you’re hopin’ for will come true
Let me be good to you

You tough guys
You’re feelin’ all alone
You rough guys
The best o’ you sailors and bums
All o’ my chums

So dream on
And drink your beer
Get cosy
Your baby’s here
You won’t be misunderstood
Let me be good to you

Hey fellas
I’ll take off all my blues
Hey fellas
There’s nothin’ I won’t do
Just for you

So dream on
And drink your beer
Get cosy
Your baby’s here
Hey boys, I’m talkin’ to you
Your baby’y gonna come through
Let me be good to you

I reckon Miley herself would be pretty happy with those lyrics.

I know what you’re thinking…

“Haesler! What are you playing at letting your five year old boy watch an episode of Underbelly?”

But it wasn’t Underbelly.

It was Walt Disney’s 1986 animated classic, The Great Mouse DetectiveGreat Mouse Detective

Making $40 million – in the 80s – the film is widely acknowledged as being the saviour of Disney, after some less-than-stellar releases. It appears that even back then sex, violence, alcohol and drugs sold, and sold well.

Kids have always been subjected to these kind of messages, but I think we underestimate our youth – and the adults in their lives – when we believe whatever they see they’ll do.

Melinda Tankard-Reist wrote in her Fairfax column this week that the young girls she’d spoken to since the Miley performance were in no way influenced to act the same way. Some of the comments from the girls aged 12 and 13 were:

”She thinks it’s cool, she’ll attract more people, but she hasn’t.”
”She used to be inspirational, we used to look up to her, now she’s ruined herself.”
”The performance portrayed a negative image of women.”

I would guess that these girls have strong role models in their lives, be they male or female, parents or otherwise. And I think that’s the point.

Of course the proliferation of the media has meant kids are getting these messages more often, but we can’t underestimate the power of a good adult role model and their ability to dilute, deflect or redefine these messages so kids can watch The Great Mouse Detective without becoming drunken gun-slinging strip club regulars.

Education Social Commentary

The Great Australian Education Debate

My somewhat cynical, tongue-in-cheek, superficial (call it what you want) take on the education debate in Australia.

Blame Game_01(2)

Social Commentary Wellbeing Youth

Girls Get A’s, Then Get Surgery

This was originally published for my regular Generation Next column. 

I have a saying that my teaching colleagues will be able to appreciate.

Interesting kids have very interesting parents.

I spent the past two years resisting invitations from schools to give parent talks.

My reasoning was that whilst after 15+ years teaching, I can speak with some authority with regards to working with school students, I have only been a parent for the past five years, and I reckon parenting is the hardest job in the world!

However, this year I broke my duck and have enjoyed chatting with parents on a variety of subjects… but as yet I haven’t broached this one.

This weekend I read an article in which kids are rewarded for impressive academic performances with plastic surgery!

Apparently, according to a cosmetic nurse quoted in the article, ”Lips and cheek augmentation are very, very common with the girls prior to the formal and graduation.”

I honestly don’t know where to start with this. I mean what do you say to parents who think like this?

Here are three of my initial thoughts:

1. If your daughter has issues with her self esteem so serious that the only way to address them is with surgery, then what kind of parent makes her jump through academic hoops in order to get it?

2. If your daughter is only motivated to do well academically by the prospect of having needles inserted into her face, what messages have you been sending her about learning, identity and self worth?

3. Or perhaps I am so out of touch with what’s going on, that I really need to get with the program before my daughter graduates in which case I reckon I’ve got about 12 years to work this parenting thing out.

Parenting is hard. But some parents – and Society as a whole – make it harder than it needs to be.

Education Social Commentary Wellbeing

Is ADHD an “Aussie” thing?

On Sunday, I tweeted a link to this article by Marilyn Wedge about rates of ADHD in different countries.adhd

Distilling the essence of this article, I subsequently wrote this for my regular column in the Generation Next blog.

In the US, at least 9% of schoolchildren are on medication for ADHD.

In Australia it is estimated that 11% of children and adolescents fulfill the criteria for ADHD.

Yet in France the figure is just .5%. As in POINT five. Half a percent.

Why is this?

Well, first of all the way in which French psychiatrists view ADHD compared to their US and Australian counterparts is significantly different.

In the US, psychiatrists consider ADHD to be a biological disorder with biological causes. As such they treat it with medications such as Ritalin.

However, across the Atlantic, French psychiatrists see ADHD as a condition that has social and situational causes. They seek to ascertain what issues in their social setting are causing the child act the way they do.

Treatment then invariably involves counseling and psychotherapy – rather than prescribing drugs.

The French also use their own system for diagnosing conditions. They prefer not to use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as we do in Australia and the US.

You may well have read of the concern that the redesign of the DSM may well lead to more people being labeled with a condition, and as such provide a bigger target for the pharmaceutical companies.

I must make it clear. I am NOT a mental health professional, but as a parent of a boisterous 5 year old, and a teacher of 15 years, I have a vested interest in this debate.

There are many sides to this discussion, and I plan to explore them in more depth in coming blog posts. I encourage others to respond with their thoughts… especially professionals and parents of kids with ADHD.