The Annoying Mature Aged Student

It wasn’t so long ago that an 18 year old me sat in the back of the lecture theatre laughing at, mocking and becoming insanely irritated by the ‘mature age’ students in our course. Come on, you know the ones……..

I hated the way they would turn up to classes twenty minutes early so they wouldn’t miss out on the seats in the front row. What was it that they constantly scribbled down on their lecture pads? If the lecturer had of farted, I was sure they would’ve included that in their notes. I wanted to let them into our little secret….that no one else was competing for their seat, we were all quite happy to be at the back where we could avoid the disapproving glares of the lecturers as we caught up on what had happened at the pub on Saturday night. Some also avoided the front row as the alcohol from the Sunday Session was still steaming and escaping from every open pore. Bourbon anyone?

It didn’t matter which class you were in, there was sure to be an annoying mature age pest amongst a sea of irresponsible teenagers wearing Pearl Jam and Tool t-shirts. Why was is that while we were all watching the clock, counting down the seconds before we could escape,  ‘they’ had been saving the dumbest question known to mankind to ask  2 minutes before home time ? ‘ Shut up! Shut Up!!!! I would scream (in my head). We know you’re old, yeah you’ve been around for a while, but it doesn’t make you any more qualified than the rest of us. Who cares about how to do the assessment, It’s not due for another two years!! They were always so ‘over eager’ and organized and to be honest, absolute annoying pests! They would also enjoy boring the rest of the class with mundane, irrelevant stories about their families or children. What the hell does that have to do with your ability to teach science? SHUT UP, WE DON’T CARE!!!!!

I also thought they received undue ‘extra’ attention and privileges. Like eating lunch with the lecturers, and getting extensions for every assignment because clearly they couldn’t manage their time correctly. Not like us eighteen year old’s.

Well guess what, today I became my own nemesis, the annoying mature aged pest. For a while now I have been looking into finishing some postgraduate studies in Special Education with a focus on Autism Spectrum Disorder. Having worked with many wonderful children with A.S.D over the years, It has always been a passion of mine. I kept putting it off and making excuses but last week I decided to jump in head first. Today was the first day and even as I typed in my silly little question to the lecturer, I realized what I had become. The mature aged student who didn’t know how to post on the discussion board. Worse still was that after panicking about it, I worked out how to do it and then had to send another stupid email explaining that I had ‘jumped the gun’ (over eager, over anxious mature aged pest).

Sadly I now realise that ‘they’ were twenty minutes early because they needed that extra twenty minutes to study so that they wouldn’t have to do it while their children were awake.

They were writing down everything on their lecture pads because if they didn’t, there would be no way of remembering what the hell had just gone when their memories failed them at 11pm, or  when they re-entered the real world and went back to work after the lecture instead of just heading over to the uni bar for a drink.

The reason they bored everyone with stories of their children was because they were so proud, and were probably feeling guilty about leaving them in childcare while they attended uni, or that it made them feel closer if they talked about them at every opportunity.

They were asking about the assessments and extensions in week 1, because they knew their father was dying, or that  their son’s birthday was approaching and they wanted to get it finished early in case ‘life’ prevented them from completing the course on time. If they didn’t finish on time it meant their husbands would be working overtime for an extra 6 months to cover the costs of you not working.

They ate lunch with the lecturers because they were the same age and at least  both remembered being at uni before the internet had swept the globe, before you ‘typed’ your assignments and before Iphone’s were invented. They didn’t want to sit alone.

Thankfully It is an external course so I haven’t embarrassed my self in person….it is just my ‘online self’ that will be shamed.

In light of my new ‘annoying’ persona, I aim to keep my pathetic questions to an absolute minimum. Sorry to my 18 year old classmates, I hope you had fun at the pub last night…and I’m only jealous that I wasn’t there with you!

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Dear Auto-correct

To my dearest Auto Correct,

I’m just writing you this little letter to show my appreciation for all the fabulous work you do. I know I don’t often tell you, but you are a real star. Some days you are so efficient that I can get a whole text message finished while not even looking at the screen. Which I guess is why so many people can drive so beautifully while they are texting (or not?)

You have come in handy on numerous occasions (like when I’m waiting in the toilet for 20 minutes with my 2 year old while he decides if ‘his poo is finished’ or not, or when trying to reply to the silly person who thinks 6pm is a good time to communicate with a mum. Which  of course is the ‘very’ best time to call. I’m not busy at all during this time except for making dinner while breastfeeding, running baths, doing dishes and probably going back to check if the 2 year old’s poo has in fact ‘come out yet’.)

So, we both know that sometimes it doesn’t turn out the best, but that’s okay. I’m no fair weather friend. Like the time I messaged Christine to let her know we were in town, to which she replied ‘ I don’t know who the Arab men are, but It sounds like a good night’. Bless her for being so ‘up’ for a good night with unknown Arab men, but I was only inviting her to my brothers place for a drink. Also who could forget the time that I was sending a message of love and instead of professing my love to the recipient….you made me ‘loathe’ them instead. It’s okay. No damage done. I guess the message here is…don’t be so over eager to help out. Hang back a bit sometimes…see if it just comes naturally!

Anyway…keep up the great work! It doesn’t go unnoticed.

Lots of Loathe (oops… love)

See you again spoon. *soon.

Iphone Abuser *user

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If you have anything to do with teens then read on………………..

This past month I have had a disturbing re-introduction to Social Networking, in particular, Askfm. If you have Tweenage (9-14yrs) or teenage children and are thinking this post is about a new radio station, then read on.

As a past year 7 teacher, I used to pride myself on ‘being in touch‘ with my students and being able to relate to what was happening in their worlds. Being in my early twenties when I graduated, it was not that long before that I too had been an insecure teen trying to iron out my identity in the back row of  a Business Maths lesson (yeah I know…Business Maths, I was never going to be an accountant with that under my belt).

Well it seems the generation gap has reared its ugly head, because I have crossed over from being a  hip, happening twenty something, into a daggy, thirty something teacher trying to keep up with a generation who are fast slipping away from us.Times have changed and it is now not what we do see happening that we should be worried about…it is what we are not seeing  that is the cause for concern.

Askfm is a relatively new social networking site that operates in an anonymous Q & A format. Users sign up for an account and are then open to receiving questions from anonymous users. The questions and answers are then publicly published on the page for all to see. After a chat with my 16 year old sister in law, I thought I’d go and have a look at what the hype was about.

After browsing through several ‘open’ accounts I had to get off. I was left with a sick feeling in my stomach. I felt sad, I felt angry and I felt helpless. Page after page of comments intentionally posted by so called  ‘friends’ who in the safety of anonymity were able to strip away at the insecurities of their most vulnerable school mates. The questions would begin quite innocently, What is your favourite food? Do you prefer coffee or tea? Dogs or cats? and then dip to take a seedy undertone, with personal attacks on sexual status, weight and appearance. The insults, the attacks, the bullying is published publicly for the world to see. I wanted to find the children, shake them for being so silly and then hug them. Why would they sign up and subject themselves to this? What was it that kept them answering these humiliating questions? Why didn’t they block these users? The answer lies deep within their impressionable teen minds.  I once asked a group of my Year Seven’s why they stayed on Facebook or MSN if they had been picked on. One group told me ‘If we aren’t on there, it’s like we don’t exist’. This broke my heart.

Earlier this year British teen Joshua Unsworth took his own life after becoming the centre of a bullying campaign played out publicly on the social networking site.This is not a new phenomenon. Facebook is now in its seventh public year and has also been blamed for inciting violence, hatred and facilitating bullies.

But Is social networking to blame for these deaths or for the relentless bullying? Or would these events have occurred without a computer? There are some that will say that bullying has always been a large part of our society, it is after all as old as the hills. Take our friend Jesus for example…I’m sure many more would have attended the Crucifixion if Pontius Pilate had been able to take advantage of the ‘Create an event’ feature on Facebook. Some suggest it is only now being taken seriously because we have the published manuscripts as proof of what is being played out in our playgrounds. Surely we as a society should be taking accountability for the huge slip in moral education that is making it ‘okay’ for us to pick others to pieces, to hound others until they crack.

When faced with cyber bullying, Many parents ask ‘What can I do?’ Firstly you’ve got to find a window into their worlds. This window is now open for all of the world to see…the internet. Get online and sign yourself up for every social networking site you can find. Despite many  having security features where profiles can be private,  they are still kids, which means you can bet they didn’t listen to the constant warnings about concealing their personal details.  Many pages are still ‘open’. You’d be surprised at what you can find out, if not from your own child’s pages, then at least those of their friends. The predators are having a field day!

Secondly, try to stay at least one step behind them. Lets face it, we will never get ahead of them when it comes to technology. Lets at least try to stay within reach, not fall ten steps behind. It is a parents responsibility to find out what’s going on. Snoop away! You’ll be hated for a while, but you’re not trying to make a friend. You are trying to keep your children safe. You may just find that piece of information that saves their life.

Don’t become ‘that’ parent who didn’t know what was happening.

Here is the Link to the Daily Mail Article, a real eye opener.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2308395/Ask-fm-This-week-15-year-old-boy-killed-hounded-No-wonder-mothers-want-banned.html

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People watching part 1

I love people watching, it is one of my favourite past times. In the pre- child days I could do it for hours. These days I only get small windows of opportunity in which to sneak a peek, so I like to make the most of it. My favourite of all ‘people watching’ challenges, is to find the people having their ‘first date’ at a restaurant, it is like striking gold. I’m not sure what it is that attracts me to it. Maybe because I always see something so shocking that it validates my own normality or maybe I’m just a nosey bugger. My husband thinks it is definitely because I am a nosey bugger…so I will go with that. Anyway today while sitting at my favourite upper class coffee shop ( Donut King) I saw :

1. A man in his mid forties listening to music through an actual ‘Walkman’. No, not a Discman, I looked very carefully. It was definitely an old cassette playing Walkman, a relic of decades gone by. Firstly, what was he listening too? obviously not something from the top 30! More likely to be something from the era of ‘cassettes’. The last cassette I purchased was Madonna;The Immaculate Collection. Either this guy is an electronic genius who has been able to repair the tapes  after they’ve made the squeaky noise and gotten all tangled up or he has just discovered an old Christmas present that had been left hidden in the wardrobe. 

2. A Whole family walking through the shopping centre with their swimmers on. I realize that living in a coastal area that some would consider this normal, but it is winter and we were at least 10 km’s from the beach. Surely there is a suggested distance from the beach in which wearing swimmers as a replacement for clothing has to be frowned upon. My thoughts are….if you are more than one street away, put your pants on. 

3. Child playing in the indoor playground removing his nappy and inviting his new found friends to have a look. In fact he was so proud of his disappearing pants trick that he then threw it over the fence to share with the rest of the shoppers.

4. The Italian lady in her late thirties who shares a house with her mother three doors down from our house trudging through the shopping centre yelling at her boyfriend again. I would like to suggest that perhaps the fighting would stop if you moved into your own house …Just an idea? 

Oh and yes and I know that you saw us..

End of People watching Part One.

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….and I now really hate the name Cruz!

Today I had one of those very ‘cringe-worthy’ moments where you accidentally overhear another parent say something that you really wish you hadn’t. It was so revoltingly embarrassing that I had to do one of those loud ‘tuts and a head shake.

It went something like this:

Child who had been dragged around the shop for hours being ignored by self indulgent mother decided he would start playing up in the clothes store. It was nothing slap worthy, just boys stuff. She who ‘couldn’t take her eyes away from her iphone even to tell him off’ stops in the middle of the shop and declares at the top of her voice while sorting through more clothes with her back to him:

‘I can sense that you are frustrated Cruz but at the moment you need to control your behaviour. You are making it very difficult for mummy to finish what she is doing. If mummy can’t finish what she is doing then there will be a consequence. Do you want consequences Cruz? Right then you need to think about your behaviour right now and chill out’. 

Oh yeah….that worked! Are you serious lady? The child was not much older than 2…..frustrated? Consequences? What are you on about? I wouldn’t listen to you either if you talked rubbish like that all day! Judging by the way he continued putting dresses over his head so he couldn’t see her…I doubt he understood a thing she was saying either.

One thing that has always really annoyed me as a teacher and as a mum is hearing parents talking to their small children as though they are adults. They are not adults, they have been alive for a pathetic amount of time, I have owned underwear for longer than some of these kiddies have walked the earth. They are so new at ‘being human’ that there are still things that they see for the ‘first time’, every time they leave the house. Some do not even have all of their teeth yet let alone possess moral reasoning skills that probably won’t develop for another 20 years! or in some cases maybe 30.

Yes I am being very Judgemental, and my opinion on this will never change. I am so sick of ‘Text Book’ parents who feel the need to read every parenting book on the market, attend every possible group and join every possible committee known to man in order to feel successful as a parent.There is nothing wrong with a good old fashioned ‘shut the hell up’ or a simple ‘no ‘. The child will not be scarred for life and they will not go on to be lesser citizens because you told them not to do something. They understand ‘simple’ because at this age life is simple.They barely remember the cat’s name…they certainly won’t be holding this against you when they are 21.  It is generally this same group of people who are trying so hard to keep up with the Jones’ they miss the fun part of being a parent…and that is simply just spending time with your children. Listening to them, talking to them and making them feel special. Not having them as an accessory because it was the next thing to do and be ‘successful’ at. You can’t study to have children…it is on the job training.  Stop reading and go with your gut.

And in other news….I now really hate the name ‘Cruz’. I wonder if Cruz’s mum ever practised saying his silly name out loud in public before deciding it was a good choice!  Oh yes…I fancy myself as a Victoria Beckham…why don’t we call him Cruz and in two years we can conference him on his behaviour in the middle of the shops!

Apologies in advance for offending any Cruz lovers out there. 

Here’s to the red and another car up my bottom!

Today has been long…very long. My brain if compared to a food would right now would be comparable to an omelette and not a very tasty one,  and all I have done is look after children all day. It was one of those great days where you don’t leave the house. I get very excited about these types of days. I have enjoyed every minute of walking around in my dirty stay at home mother’s tights or ‘leggins’ as they call them here in Australia. You can buy two pairs for $15. The dirty black ones that after their 421st wash are now looking slightly greyish with a hint of a holey crutch starting to develop…and I don’t mean they were blessed by the local priest. I am still undecided on whether these should be allowed to be worn as ‘actual pants’ when not in your own home? Maybe just for pregnant people.

Anyway, I have never been so relieved to sit down, in the peace and quiet. I just poured my first glass of red, lowered myself lazily onto the couch….then sit on top of another pile of pointy, cold and sharp matchbox cars that have been hidden under the cushion by my son. It is a quick reminder………..that I have two boys!

Though It does make me wonder…..what do mums and dads with little girls sit on at night time?

Where is your Safe Place?

Nerves are high. Excitement and anticipation builds outside the classroom.  Familiar faces reunite after a long summer. Some have grown taller, some are missing teeth and there is always one new broken arm courtesy of uncle Pat’s unsuitable Christmas Present.  A friendly smile does much to ease the anxiety, most of it oozing from the parents desperately searching for a ‘Kindy Mum’ to chat with in the crowd. The children are usually much calmer, oblivious to what lies ahead. Mums and Dads milling around, re-adjusting bags on bag racks so they don’t have to stand alone like plonkers, checking lunch boxes for the tenth time. ‘Don’t forget to ask if you need to go to the toilet’, ‘Can you find your name on the door?’

The start of a new school year can be a very scary time. Full of unknowns for both the parent and the child. I remember back to one particular January as my thirty little people made their way into what would be their new home for the next year. All of my new little friends, a little bit quieter than they would later prove to be, a little nervous and a little lost. Like most years, there was one little person whose anxiety was running much higher than everybody else’s …or at least  looked like it was. His name was ‘Toby and he had Special Needs, well…his were diagnosed. I like to think that ‘All’ of my children have a Special Need, and it is my job to uncover exactly what it is, and how best to cater for it in the weeks that followed.

To help the children settle in and to calm their fears, I would always commence the first day of school by allowing them to choose from a range of activities, naturally they would gravitate towards the one that was closest to their ‘safe place’. It is always amazing to watch as the personalities unravel. Before even meeting the children, you can tell much about them from their chosen ‘place’. Some immediately dive in to the building blocks and cars , these would be the hands on learner’s. Some head for the colouring in or the computers, enjoying the quiet independence of the task. Other’s simply watch, observing the people around them. Toby chose the big box of musical instruments. It is from this very moment that the scene  was set for the rest of the year. Music would be his ‘safe place’ to turn when the going got tough. To this day I am still amazed by the affect that the loud, clanging tambourines had, so crucial in calming a mind that was exhausted from racing, exhausted from trying to make sense of the people around him.

Toby  would go on to have regular meltdown’s, not unusual for a child dealing with Asperger’s. They were loud and disruptive, but so too were the thoughts in his mind that were creating his panic. His instruments saved him that year. At times they were the only thing to keep him from running home and never coming back. I wonder what it was that was so peaceful, what did he see in that box? He would play the instruments with conviction and rhythm , and often he would stop to let others into his world….albeit by his rules. What did he make of the noise? Or what it simply just to block out the rest of us?.

I realized that we all had our instruments. Our box of tricks. Our safe place.  When we feel anxious we all run to our ‘safe place’. A place where we feel calm, a place where the rest of the world can melt away until we are just left with our own thoughts. Of course our places look and feel very different. For some it is behind the gate having a cigarette, for others it comes from the fridge or inside a book.

Me personally, I run. My safe place is in my mind and in the silence and solitude of a run. I’m not the best at it, I’m not the worst at it but I love to do it. I love the feeling of being untouchable for that hour (30 minutes if I’m feeling like a lazy pants). No one can call me, or ask anything of me. I run for me. It is during my runs that the world becomes calm. I can sort my thoughts and organize things, collate to do  lists and plan my next movements, all whilst wearing my sneakers and dodging dog poo!

For my son it is his cars. He loves to line up his cars. He could do this for hours on end and still want to do it some more. He has a method to his madness, and an uncanny ability at aged 2 to tell his BMW’S from his Bentley’s. (not our influence, we own a humble Holden)

For my husband it is the soccer pitch. Not so long ago was his career of choice, and being lucky enough to have experienced being paid to do what he loved for so many years…it is naturally still his place to run. He also gains great calm from being part of a team, or being around a group of men, for which I grateful. The rubbish that he talks when with the boy’s ensures that I am only subjected to sensible, non sport related content.

For some it is just to be ‘near’ people. To talk, to touch and to be loved.

But It does beg the question, do we only enjoy activities in which we excel? Would we still find these ‘places’ so calming if we were crap at them? Image