Let it stay-the gun

Image generated by Shwetangna Chakrabarty on Canva.com

At the tip of a gun

Is the story of many

The bullet that is nested in its womb

Does not want to see the day

Let it stay.

For once delivered it will never return

Never bring back all that it snatches

Lives, memories, trust, innocence, love, peace, sanity, soul, family

When you have so much to say and yet you cannot say

Let it stay.

For there will be no order for it to stay.

There will be no one to put a stop

As it brings our world to a stop

I stop and wonder, is this why I go on

To see the bullet rip into the gone

Let it stay.

The bullet speaks to me, begs me

Don’t build any more schools as guns will not go away

Kill it all before it kills a child, the school or the gun, kill it

The bullet wants to be buried and returned to ashes

Before it buries more

Let it stay.

For the pain will stay and this pain will rise

Rise and revenge will call a gun again

The bullet told us so, kill or it will kill you

When will it stop, never as it waits in the womb of a gun

To be released, to be lodged, to be validated for this reason or that

Let it stay.

It will rise again, kill again, and laugh at us

Who take it with open arms, die for it, kill for it

We created it to protect us, from what?

Our children, our brothers, our sisters

Yes, we did, and we made our enemies the day we got the gun

Let it stay.

Give it another day and it will take us all

For it was born to destroy and it will take us all

For no time machine or words of sympathy

Can bring back the gone, the young and the lost

They die and we kill another one

Let it stay.

The memory of the hurt and pain don’t forget

For it shall raise the gun again

And spare none, this time it will be you yes you and your child.

How do you feel? Keep a gun to protect yourself and kill someone?

But the bullet is for your child, the blood is of your child

What did you save and what did you kill? Think and

Let it stay.

The feeling that this is enough, let it stay.

The crushing sadness of loss, let it stay.

The blood on the hands, let it stay.

The memories of the day, let it stay.

I have a lot to say but I will let it stay.

Let it stay-the gun.

What Slowing Down Might Teach Us

Image: Iroquois Chiefs from the Six Nations Reserve reading Wampum belts in Brantford, Ontario

Poquaûhock sounds better than “clam.” Translated “horse fish,” this was the word used by the Narragansett people, an Algonquian American Indian tribe from Rhode Island, to refer to the “quahog,” an edible clam with a very hard shell.  The Atlantic Ocean-dwelling native is of much greater historical importance than an addition to a chowder. The shells of the quahog were initially invaluable in the creation of tools, for storytelling and for recording important historical events and treaties. Beads of the polished quahog shell were crafted and strung in strands, belts, or sashes called wampum.  And wampum belts sometimes were symbolic of ongoing treaties.  So treasured, First Nations’ wampum became Massachusetts’ first legal currency.  The species name mercenaria is even related to the Latin word for commerce. 

Yet, with such rich history there is even more to marvel. Inside the marine bivalve mollusk is a soft-bodied invertebrate. One that can live upwards of 500 years! Besides living in intertidal zones and the adaptability this may showcase, the mollusks behavior is one we might stand a chance to learn from. There is a sort of simplicity, a slowing down of time that anthropomorphically must result, as they spend their entire lives in an immobile and isolated state. Yet, the clam is capable of burrowing down or even migrating small distances if in danger.  Otherwise, they remain steadfast. Possibly for centuries!

This is not about becoming more like mollusks. Rather, a glimpse into what behaviors we might begin to bolster, in order to have longer but also improved lives. Moreover, lives where we do not simply exist, but relate as individuals, communities, and to all other life forms.  Connected, balanced, and in life’s flow, symbiotically moving with purpose and defined by shared values.  Slowing down may just be the secret ingredient. Daniel Christian Wahl, author of Designing Regenerative Cultures attests to how we have much to gain when we envision time differently, “A new cultural narrative is emerging, capable of birthing and informing a truly regenerative human culture.” Underlying is a notion of what may very well be our greatest currency, time. The pandemic assisted us in understanding this. Time to pause. Time to reflect. Time to spend time with family. To take more walks. An opportunity to realize what matters most. The frenetic mornings, claustrophobic offices, occupied minutes and hours in traffic and meetings better served as memos. A dawning realization, akin to the sunrise, of primordial potence.

Find More Than Humanity When We Slow Down

National Geographic explorer Paul Salopek, is retracing the journey of some of our human ancestors’ migration beyond Africa. Called, Out of Eden, Salopek is In his tenth year along the 24,000-mile odyssey. Humble Salopek repeatedly seems to pen the phrase, “I am walking across the world.” Said in passing much like one might say, “I’m going to stop by the store.” In the  tenth year of ambling, Salopek is currently in a Tibetan autonomous county in Sichuan Province. In a recent story Salopek shared how this fictional dreamland of Shangri-La was inspired by James Hilton’s 1930s novel Lost Horizon. “Hilton wrote breathlessly of the Shangri-La lamasery… It was a redoubt of ‘utter freedom from worldly cares’ where time paused and people lived for 250 years.”

Half the life of the quahog!

Though there is no univocal definition or description of Slow Journalism, an ambition of speed is absent.  So too are oversimplification and stereotyping.  Walking is the preferred mode of transport, in effect forcing one to slow down and observe carefully. One of the catchphrases of Out of Eden is, “Slow down, find humanity.” I am certain from reading the philosophical Salopek’s writings, what is learned goes beyond the limits of just finding humanity. Possible because time is re-imagined.

A Look to the Trees

German Nobel Prize novelist and poet Hermann Heese is remembered for his body of work centered on an individual’s search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality. In Heese’s ​​1920 “Collection of Fragments,” one passage especially stands out, attesting to the power of time. 

“When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts… Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all…

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”

A New Currency of Connectedness and Time 

That we might take the time to root ourselves, like the trees. Trusting and patient. Wise, listening, and connected. 

In my third year living in a Southeast Asian city of upwards of 15 million inhabitants, concrete prevails more than the trees. Yet, I have repeatedly retreated to lone trees, as forests are seldom to be found. And I have received confirmation. A message of hope, remembrance that I am fortunate to have a life of choice. Conscious and unhindered, I am both imbued and revitalized by responsibility. Embracing uncertainty and ambiguity, while synchronously returning to a less complex story of unity. 

One where we are reminded of a new currency, connectedness and time.  Where quahogs and trees are more than mere metaphors of life and longevity. A purposeful and promising path forward.  May the summer help us all reimagine time.

####################

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

There’s a fine line between reading picture books aloud to children and children being able/wanting to read by themselves. Even if their interest level is high, sentence structure can be difficult to master. Here are chapter books and graphic novels to help encourage reading.

Super Detectives! (Simon and Chester Book #1)

Graphic novels can help beginning readers to master a whole book. The Simon and Chester books by Cale Atkinson are fun stories, divided into chapters, about a boy and his ghost best friend. Together they solve mysteries in Super Detectives!. They have adventures in Super Sleepover! Together they learn to rely on each other to get them out of difficult situations like ‘how to behave at a sleepover’ or finding a lost dog’s home. Through humorous adventures, without violence, and in graphic novel format, these books will encourage beginning readers to master a whole book in no time. ISBN 978-0-7352-6742-8 ISBN 978-0-7352-6744-2, Tundra Books

Hermit Hill

Another graphic novel but for somewhat older readers and with a delicious added twist of mystery and supernatural… is the Sueño Bay Adventures series by Mike Deas and Nancy Deas. The fabulous art sweeps the chapters along with exciting characters that have new adventures in each title. In Hermit Hill they meet Hivers, tiny Moon Creatures who play a role in the health of the forest. Can Sleeves overcome the ancient curve that surrounds them? ISBN 978-1-4598-3149-0, Orca Book Publishers

Esme's Birthday Conga Line

Esme’s Birthday Conga Line by Lourdes Heuer and Marissa Valdez is a chapter book that really encourages emerging readers. Esme’s grandparents did not plan much for her birthday. But Esme sets out to organize her own party complete with cake, a piñata and music as she invites all occupants of her apartment building, including the grumpy caretaker.  ISBN 978-0-7352-6940-8, Tundra Books

Some readers struggle because of learning difficulties. The following novel about a dyslexic child was reviewed by Beatrix, age 10:

The U-nique Lou Fox by Jodi Carmichael is a book about a girl named Louisa, who dreams of being the youngest Broadway playwright in history, as well as the youngest Cirque du Soleil gymnast. But for now, she’s in fifth grade, with two best friends (Lexie and Nakessa), ADHD and dyslexia, and a teacher, Mrs Snyder, who seems to hate her. Then Lou’s mom delivers some bombshell news: Lou is going to be a big sister—to twins! Will she ever get to spend time with her mom after the babies are born? This book is amazing. I could really feel what Lou was feeling. I am in fifth grade, so I could relate to a lot that she goes through, and I couldn’t put it down until the end. I recommend it!  ISBN 978-1772782585, Pajama Press

Word After Word After Word

Not long ago prolific author Patricia MacLachlan passed away. We all know her book Sarah, Plain and Tall. But I looked up some of her latest, perhaps lesser known books and fell in love with Word After Word After Word. Designed as an easy-read novel for kids beginning to tackle chapter books, this one is also a wonderful story to read aloud to a class. Written in a poetic style, with lots of poems written “by kids”, the book celebrates a visiting author who teaches poetry to the children. Undoubtedly, MacLachlan wrote the story based on true classroom experiences. A great book to follow up by writing free verse poems with students. ISBN 978-0-06-027971-4, Harper Collins

The Poet's Dog

And finally another title by Patricia MacLachlan, slightly older but still readily available and one that young readers will love: The Poet’s Dog. In this poetic chapter book two children wander in a snow storm. A large, lovable dog comes to their rescue and takes them to his deserted home. Having been raised by a poet, surrounded by books, it comes as no surprise that this dog can talk and the children can understand him. The new friends bond, keep each other from being lonely until they are found. And, as suitable in such a lovely fairy tale story, there is a happy ending. ISBN 978-0-06-229264-3, Harper Collins 

Margriet Ruurs is the author of many books for children. She conducts author workshops at international schools around the world. Book her through her website: www.margrietruurs.com

What is your single story?

Image created by Shwetangna Chakrabarty on canva.com

Recently I was showing my senior students Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk The Danger of a Single Story. This led to an interesting discussion on ‘Single Stories’. As per Adichie, a single story is a one-sided perspective of something or someone. Single stories have the power to create false interpretations of the actual story. She coins the term Nkali to describe the power that creates false one-sided interpretations. For example, single stories about India narrate spicy food and dirty cities; Americans are plagued with gun violence; South Americans are suffering from never-ending substance abuse; African countries are underdeveloped and unhygienic. These single stories develop as we keep believing the same narratives without uncovering the whole context of the narrative. Also, single stories are fed to us by powerful lobbies or political rhetoric that are purposefully constructed to hide the whole story.

Going back to the original discussion with my students, I decided to do a critical reflection about single stories. I invited students to think about their single stories with the following two questions:

  • What is your single story?
  • How/why is it created?

Interestingly it was not easy to answer these two questions, hence I decided to give them a task in groups to identify a current issue that they know from a single perspective only and to look for a counter perspective of the same issue. For example, illegal immigrants, jobs being taken by foreigners, ivy league universities, the world wars etc. This strategy stirred up a lot of conversations and helped students to identify some of their single stories:

  • Thin is beautiful
  • Top universities better jobs
  • Ukraine is unjustified but Iraq is justified
  • China is a communist country
  • Diet to lose weight
  • Japanese are suicidal
  • French people are snobs
  • Women are weak
  • Showing skin is asking for it
  • Men should not cry

These are some of the examples my students came up with. This made me think, do I have a single story, yes, I do. My single story is-iPhones are the best! It struck me hard as I always believed that iPhones are the best phones, I have never bothered to look or research other phones in the market. I have created a single story that even makes me get into the debate of android vs IOS with my close friends and family! This is an insignificant example. The bigger danger of single stories is far more disturbing as it harbours inequality and prejudice. These stories generalize and marginalize people and justify a culture of dominance, discrimination and indifference.

Single stories can be challenged by recognising the purpose and the people behind propagating these one-sided stories. Another of avoiding single stories is to develop nuanced thinking-accepting multiple perspectives. Critical thinking isn’t enough, it must be complemented with nuanced thinking. This will help widen our perspectives and embrace conflicting points of view.

I leave you with a simple exercise, next time you meet a person from a different culture, religion, language or ethnicity, try not to assume or generalize their persona. Take the leap of faith and challenge dogmas that have penetrated your psyche. Single stories have the power to distort your mind, spirit and even soul, crush them before they crush you. Introspect today and answer my question ‘What is your single-story?’

Career Day Magic

So just before the April holiday our Middle School division hosted their annual Career Day for students, and it was inspiring to see so many professionals sharing their life passions and purpose with our kids. I overheard one student say, “I didn’t know that job even existed”, and another one said, “Wow, everyone sure loves their job in our community”, which may not be completely true, but at the heart of it, it really was the exact message that we are trying to send…love your work!

It reminded me of that old saying, “Love your job and you’ll never work a day in your life!”, and honestly I believe that there is a lot of truth to that, and just before the event began I had the opportunity to talk to several of the presenters about the key message that they were eager to share with the students. I was thrilled that the enduring takeaway message for students, from all of the presenters that I spoke to, revolved around the imperative of finding meaning and purpose in your chosen field, and the importance of following your passions once you find them. There was no talk about how much money they made, or how much power they had, or how influential they have become, it was singularly focused on the idea of making a difference in the world, and becoming a positive influence in the lives of others, all while staying true to who you are. Wow!

The best part of that day for me was that I had a chance to speak to dozens of students about the inspiring and meaningful career of international education, one that we are familiar with. It was heartwarming to see so many young people interested in the idea of education, and when I asked why they decided to attend my season, the overwhelming response revolved around the opportunity that teachers have to positively impact another person’s life. Each one of them spoke beautifully about how a teacher in their lives had empowered them and changed them for the better, and how that experience had inspired them to do the same…double wow! 

I gave the kids in my session the hard sell of course, connected to the meaning and purpose that educators bring to work with them every single day, and the opportunity that educators have to not only change a single person’s life, on a daily basis, but the opportunity that they have to indeed change the world…how many careers can promise that! After the sessions were over there was a palpable buzz in the hallways as students started talking about which career resonated most powerfully with them, and then, just as I was leaving to head back down to my office I heard two 8th grade students chatting. One said, “I’ll probably find a career in some profession that doesn’t even exist yet”, and her friend said, “Well, make sure you at least find meaning and purpose in it!”… nice 🙂 

Anyway, it truly was a magical day, and not only was it profound to have those professionals share their experience with our students, it was also incredible to partner face to face with our community again, finally, in a meaningful way on campus. The best schools leverage their parent community to inspire, just like our Middle School did on that day, and it was even more special that (completely unscripted) their collective message aligned so perfectly and so beautifully to our stance as a school. Meaning really is the new money, and seeing so many of our students inspired by that message made me smile from ear to ear. I’m so excited to see how these young changemakers inspire our world when they enter the world of work. Our future is in good hands that’s for sure! Have a wonderful week ahead and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

Life is about making an impact, not making an income

– Kevin Kruse

Related Articles…

The Why of Work

Finding Meaning at Work

Defining Your Purpose

Meaning is the New Money

Meaning and Purpose

Recommended TED Talks – 

What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work?

Is There More to Being Happy?

Flow – The Secret to Happiness

How To Stop Languishing

How To Live Passionately

Inspiring Videos – 

Kindness 101 – Determination 

Runaway Cat

Kindness 101 – Inclusion

A Message That Still Rings True

So it was 10 years ago this month that a very close friend of mine, and a fantastic Middle School teacher with me at the time, died very unexpectedly and very quickly from an aggressive form of throat cancer. One day it was a sore throat and a difficult time swallowing, which we thought nothing of at the time (too much celebrating and spicy food perhaps), but then quite unbelievably, within a few short months he was gone. It seems strange to me that it has been a decade since he passed away, particularly since I think about him all the time, with his photo on my bookshelf in my office, but over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about him more than usual. 

I feel incredibly grateful that before he died I was able to sit with him on a few occasions to talk about love, death, regret, and about all of the things that he was grateful for in his life. We also talked about the deep sadness that he felt for having his life cut short so randomly and so unexpectedly. He had a message that he wanted, and needed, to pass on to me before he died, and once he did he wanted me to share it with others…so I did then, and I have tried to intentionally spread it around ever since.

The enduring sentiments, the life lessons, and the immediate call to action that came out of those honest and heartbreaking conversations with Jason positively changed my life forever, and made me a better father, friend, husband and leader. I actually shared much of his wisdom in the only TED talk that I have ever done, titled Living a Life Well Lived, and for the sake of memory and inspiration I decided to re-watch it this past weekend to see if I am still living up to the promise that I made to him during his final days. After watching it again, it struck me that the life lessons and wisdom that he shared with me ten years ago still ring true, and in fact, I think they are more important to me now than they were back in 2012, particularly thinking about our traumatic experience with Covid over the past couple of years. 

The things that he implored me to take to heart were simple, yet deeply profound, and at the time they shook me wide awake. They were a perspective and attitude check for sure, and a much needed “look in the mirror” moment for me that has shaped a significant portion of my life. Anyway, the things that he spoke about included the following…

  • Embracing your regrets, and using them to inspire you to do better.
  • Telling the people that you love that you love them..all the time!
  • Regularly thanking the people in your life who have made you smile, made you better, or  impacted your life in a positive way.
  • Checking your attitude. If there is something in your life that you want to change, change it. If you can’t, then change your attitude.
  • Intentionally paying attention to the person that you are for others, each and every day, and with every human interaction that you have.
  • Paying attention to the beauty of our world, and the little daily gifts that it offers up to each of us. Beauty is all around us, all the time.
  • Putting yourself first and keeping balance in your life.
  • Finding gratitude, and using that gratitude to drive your approach to living.

After watching the video again it struck me that because of what’s been happening over the last couple of years with the pandemic, and the sense of isolation and the disruption to community and relationships that we’ve all had to navigate, it’s the right time to share Jason’s message again. The truth of the matter is that we are only given today, and it’s up to all of us how we choose to spend it. We can use today to inspire, spread joy, lift each other up, and find gratitude, or we can show up in a way that deflates others, or even more sadly, we can allow the days to speed by invisibly, missing out on opportunities to connect and to truly live our best lives. 

The pandemic has shown us how incredibly important relationships are, and how necessary it is to leverage our community to inspire. It has also shown us how easy it is to get comfortable in isolation, and how easy it is to use digital and online connection as our communication default. Well, as the sun begins to shine and as we stare down the end of the school year, let’s use these lessons to finish strong, and to end what was another difficult year in a positive and uplifting way. Jason may be gone but his message certainly lives on in me, and I hope it can spread a little into your lives as well, as we rapidly approach the summer. Have a wonderful week ahead and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

Self-Care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.

-Eleanor Brown

Related Articles – 

Work-Life Balance

Embracing Regret

Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life

The Ripple Effects of a Thank You 

The Benefits of Gratitude 

Inspiring Videos – 

40,000 Daffodils

10 Things that Made us Smile

TEDx Shanghai – Living a Life Well Lived

Embracing Regret – Daniel Pink

On the Road – Dear Mom

Big Ideas

Once a week in their Culture and Communication classes, our students in Grades 2 to 5 read a chapter of The Odyssey – the Ancient Greek tale of hero Odysseus and his men trying to get home after the Trojan War. 

The story itself is very entertaining but the students are also asked to use the story to think about some very big ideas. Every lesson we record the wisdom of our students and I thought I would share some of that wisdom with you:

On Beauty 

  • ‘Different people think different things are beautiful so that means beauty is an opinion and we can’t judge it.’

On Happiness

  • ‘How do you even know you are happy if you are not sad sometimes?’

On Rules

  • ‘It is hard to write rules for every little thing and it is sometimes hard to say what is right and what is wrong. It would be easier if there was only one rule – care about others.’

On Forgiveness

  • ‘It is silly to punish someone who already knows they did something wrong and have learned not to do it again.’

On Reasoning With Others

  • ‘It is better to help people understand what you are saying than to just tell them that they are wrong.’

In thinking about these really big ideas, students practice critical and creative thinking techniques and develop a belief that everyone’s thinking has value – including their own. These techniques can be applied to any problem or any subject and their ability to apply these techniques is strengthened by their belief that their ideas are valuable. All cultures have big stories like The Odyssey that students can read and think about big ideas. The more big stories they read the better!

https://www.philosophy-foundation.org/the-if-odyssey

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Nonfiction picture books can be a great teaching tool when talking about the environment. These new titles can be used with students of all ages to discuss science as well as art and writing.
One Well: The Story of Water on Earth

One Well, written by Rochelle Strauss, illustrated by Rosemary Woods. This impressive nonfiction picture book about the environment should be in every classroom, in every child’s hands. Water, the book explains, is one of the most important, and precious, commodities on earth. As in the book in the same series, If The World Were A Village by David Smith, this book says ‘if all water on earth’ was one well, this is how much we have and this is what we need to use it for. It explains in admirable child-friendly terms how water allows life on our planet. Did you know that you drink the equivalent of a backyard pool full in your life time? And that one cloud can weigh more than a blue whale? The book can be an eye opener to any water user and encourages much needed, water-friendly habits. ISBN 978-1-55337-954-6 Kids Can Press

A Tree Is a Home

A Tree is a Home by Pamela Hickman, with art by Zafouko Yamamoto is an in-depth look at the shelter offered by one tree. Like the house next to it, it offers a home throughout the seasons. The text and close-up art take us from the roots, where a chipmunk lives, to the highest branches and show us each animal throughout a year. A good a book to pair with Jeannie Baker’s Window – a look through the window of one house over many years. ISBN 978-1-5253-0236-7, Kids Can Press

My Book of Butterflies

My Book of Butterflies, by Geraldo Valério is a large picturebook that can be a child’s first guide book. In A Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle eluded to the life cycle of butterflies in a fictional manner. This information book picks up the theme by showing fabulously painted butterflies and elaborating on their life cycle. From tiny yellow eggs to a wide variety of weird looking caterpillars to brilliant butterflies from a round the world, this book will encourage children to take a closer look at these amazing insects. Geraldo Valério also created My Book of Birds. ISBN 978-1-77306-335-5, Groundwood Books

This is the Boat That Ben Built

This is The Boat That Ben Built by Jen Lynn Bailey, with illustrations by Maggie Zeng, is a very Canadian story of a northern river ecosystem. Beaver, bear, loon, goose – all gather momentum as Ben floats down the river and spots more wildlife. The text uses repetition as ‘moose strolls by bear taking a swim by the goose that glides by the loon that floats by the beaver in the river that carries the boat that Ben built’. Fun to read over and over with young students and create your own story based on animals your students may spot in their own surroundings. Nonfiction information on each animal is supplied in back pages. ISBN 978-1-77278-242-4, Pajama Press.

Before We Stood Tall: From Small Seed to Mighty Tree

Before We Stood Tall by Jessica Kulekjian, illustrated by Madeline Kloepper, is written in the voice of the trees themselves. From the time they are seeds floating on a breeze, they dream of standing tall in a kingdom of trees. But trees can’t do it alone – they need the soil, the insects, the wind and much more to allow them to grow tall and become a forest. A lovely story to look at the interconnectedness of nature. ISBN 978-1-5253-0324-1, Kids Can Press

Orca Rescue!: The True Story of an Orphaned Orca Named Springer

Orca Rescue! The True Story of an Orphaned Orca Named Springer, written by Donna Sandstrom, illustrated by Sarah Burwash. This is a great book for all ages: the true story of an orca spotted close to Seattle, WA where no other pods where around. Through a set of circumstances, the author become involved in this young orphan’s life by helping to figure out why she was there and where her family was. The story tells in fascinating detail how marine biologists work, how pods are tracks, and how scientists are able to find out information. With 144 pages this book is divided into chapters and lends itself as a great read for all ages. ISBN 978-1-5253-0117-9, Kids Can Press

No More Plastic

No More Plastic by Alma Fullerton is the touching story of a young girl who witnesses a dead whale on the beach near her home. The whale died from eating so much plastic that he starved. It opens Isley’s eyes to a gigantic problem. She tries to convince others to no longer use plastic bags, containers or water bottles. But they soon forget. Isley doesn’t forget the whale and the impact plastic has on the ocean. She gathers so much plastic that she can build a sculpture the size of a whale. Thén her village realized the size of the problem. Together they work towards a solution: passing laws that ban plastics and making a difference. This is a story that can inspire readers to take action, no matter how small. It shows that we can all make a difference. ISBN 978-1-77278-113-7, Pajama Press

Margriet Ruurs has written many books about nature, including Wild Babies, Amazing Animals and The Boy Who Painted Nature, the story of wildlife painter Robert Bateman.

www.margrietruurs.com

Mother’s Day not Mothers’ Day!

All the Best Mother's Day Gift Ideas 2022 | The Strategist
Image credit: New York Magazine

The world celebrated Mother’s Day today to honour motherhood. I saw posts and messages like-“to all mothers out there”, ” for all aunts, sisters and grandmothers”, and ” for the wonderful women who are our mothers”…And the greatest irony-it is celebrated only once a year! Why not once a month, once a week or every day? I know this is a debated topic, some believe that we get a day to make our mums feel special and others believe it undermines the value of being a mother as they are only celebrated once a year.

Another question-why don’t we celebrate Father’s Day with equal diligence? Do we love mums more than dads? This can’t be right! So, what is the reason we get so worked up to celebrate Mother’s Day? I personally think Mother’s Day is a great business strategy. Anything sells if it is packaged with emotions that tug your heartstrings and compel you to take immediate action. Many companies have done good business selling merchandise for Mother’s Day, others have increased engagement on social media due to the flurry of posts that suddenly appear to remember mothers.

Apart from good business what else does this day bring to light? It brings to light the irony behind this type of celebration, that it creates more discord and discontent than true celebration. It is funny how this day creates sibling rivalry as they compete to impress their mums. It is sad how this day reminds and pains women who cannot be mums or have lost their child/ren. It is obnoxious how children wish their mums on social media yet forget to call or visit. It is confusing for those who genuinely love their mums and do not want to be public about their feelings. It is giddy for mums who know that this will only last a day. It is worst for mothers whose children have disowned them. So, what is the benefit of commemorating only a day to honour and celebrate motherhood?

The idea should be to educate our younger generation to strengthen the bond of respect and love towards one’s mum instead of making it a public mimicry of giddy emotions and caricature of the very essence of motherhood. Teaching ourselves about the special bond with parents, mother and father, and how to celebrate them every day. Learning to be better parents every day would be an attempt to truly celebrate or honour motherhood.

Also, celebrating and honouring a mother would be meaningful if we give equal due to a woman who is a mother and does not have to be anything else. A mother does not have to be juggling life and work; a mother does not have to choose between her child and financial stability; a mother does not have to give birth if she doesn’t want to. The day a mother has these privileges and choices she will truly feel celebrated and honoured.

Interestingly, people forget that “Mother’s” in Mother’s Day is a singular possessive, for each family to honour its own mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world. So what have you done today to actually celebrate Mother’s Day not Mothers’ Day?

International Teachers-A Rare Breed in China

Image created by Shwetangna Chakrabarty on canva.com

With Covid resurging in China, a new challenge has snowballed towards international schools in China-Teacher Retention. International teachers are leaving the countries due to two main reasons-the uncertainty of seeing their family members/crossing borders, and the uncertainty of the dynamic Covid situation. The recent lockdown in Shanghai and Beijing has been the last straw to an already existing condition of mental exhaustion from isolation.

It is to be noted that all the expat teachers working in China would absolutely like to continue working here due to the many perks we enjoy in this wonderful country-safety and security, competitive salaries, quality of life, and access to superior technology and infrastructures. Hence this is a rather tough decision that many teachers have to take whilst they would like to continue living and working in China.

How will this change the international education landscape in China? This will impact small schools that might have to close operations. The well-established schools will have to adopt innovative ways to survive this shortage of international teachers as recruiting from abroad is still not possible. This will impact the quality of the international curriculum being delivered in the schools. It will also bring less economy to the country as many expat families will and are already deciding to pull out their children from schools to send them back to their home countries. This will disrupt the ideal teacher to student ratio in international schools in China. Quality of teaching will be compromised as schools are forced to recruit teachers who do not have the experience of teaching internationally. Globally this will mean there will be more unemployed teachers looking for jobs in the next two years as they are leaving China in spite of not having secured a job. This means salaries are unlikely to be reviewed by school boards as they have many takers for the same position.

International schools in China need to implement measures to survive this exodus of qualified, experienced international teachers. They need to retain existing staff by offering perks or retention benefits; they need to reduce their subject offerings to focus on quality over quantity; they need to invest in upskilling of newly recruited teachers who are replacing the experienced ones; schools need to be transparent with stakeholders to get support and buy-in of unfavourable decisions; they need to create support groups for existing teachers to seek social-emotional support during times of extreme crisis.

International teachers have become a rare breed in China – schools are struggling to fill up the void left by the mass exodus of teachers this year. For those staying back, this means wearing multiple hats for the next few years as they will have to take on more responsibilities. This will lead to burnout that could lead to more teachers leaving next year and the year after and the year after, making us a rare breed in China.