Posted in Life

Diary of a distancer: Week 3

‘Distancer’ doesn’t appear to be a real word, but I’m using it anyway. If now, in these times of turmoil and disruption, isn’t the time to come up with new words I don’t know when is.

Are you staying in? How are you coping with it? I’m reading tweets and blogs and Facebook posts and am impressed by some people’s creativity and good humour. Of course, there’s lots of the opposite but I think it’s extra important to seek out the light in what could otherwise be considered dark times.

I laughed out loud when I saw this photo in response to the Australian government’s decision to limit haircuts to 30 minutes.

F30E38CA-C546-42E9-B47D-AD64889ECFB0_1_201_a
Not sure of the source. I saw this on Facebook.

Thankfully, the government quickly rescinded the decision!

I’m impressed by people like Dana Jay Bein, who can adapt song lyrics to fit a particular situation, like his adaptation of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody (sung by Adrian Grimes)

Or like Chris Mann, who’s done a number of adaptations, including My Corona

I was even more impressed to come across a Facebook group called The Kindness Pandemic (if you’re on Facebook, check it out. It has loads of stories of people being kind to each other).

I’ve spoken with my work colleagues much more in the last week than in the previous few months, even though their office is (usually) just down the corridor from mine; it seems extra important to stay connected. I have a daily check-in with my team every morning and on Thursday mornings the wider team have a virtual morning tea.

One of the highlights of my day, though, comes at 6pm, when I’ve ‘arrived home from work’. I hook up with my sister and my mother and we exercise together. We exercise along to the Healthy Tasmania’s Kitchen Sessions (they’re on Facebook). Each session is just ten minutes and the kinds of exercises they do are suitable for everyone. We then spend some time chatting about our day before heading off to have our respective dinners.

I’m enjoying working from home and I’m not sure I’ll want to go back into ‘work’ when this is over. We have our routine set pretty well now: we exercise each morning, we eat lunch together most days (something we haven’t done since we moved to Melbourne over six years ago), we’ve stopped watching the news, and we sit at the table to eat dinner (now that my computer is off it) and chat about the day we’ve had.

We might bump into each other through the day, but generally we’re so busy we only come out of our respective spaces for food and toilet breaks. The tenor of our days is quietly industrious and we’re both tapping into a range of skills so one day doesn’t feel like the next.

I know we’re amazingly fortunate. We both have secure jobs, no little kids at home to make working from home difficult as it is for some, and we each have a space at home in which to work. Our life is, in some ways, not much changed from before we started isolating ourselves physically from the world. We both exercise more now than we did before, we eat better and the house is much more organised than before. It feels like we’ve created a little oasis for ourselves. It’s calm and quiet and so far, that’s keeping the anxiety and stress at bay.

We’re reminded of the outside world through social media of course, there’s no getting away from it. And we continue to be horrified by some of the stories we hear … but we’re choosing to focus on the good and the kind. We know we’re blessed to be in a position to do so.

One of the stories that warmed my heart this week was of some children in the UK writing emails to residents in a local care home to let them know the kids were thinking about them. That’s sweet!

As I mentioned earlier, I’m impressed by people’s creativity. The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra obviously can’t get together to play, so they used technology to enable them to create music together. Enjoy!

How are you coping?

Posted in Learning, Life, Schools, Teaching

An inspiration

I was already a grandmother by the time I started teaching at university in 2000. Phil, who turned 20 earlier this week, and his brother Scott were my only grandchildren till Ronan arrived in the world eight years after Phil. Then Jordan and Hunter and Sakye – and then more and more and more!

As my list of grandchildren grew I started to think more and more about the student teachers I was teaching and I’d often say to them ‘You never know, one day you might be teaching one of my grandchildren – they’re scattered all over Australia – and that might mean me popping into your classroom to have a chat and see what the grandkids are up to’.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s come to pass. Some of my grandchildren have had the pleasure of being taught by some of the very special people I taught at university and it’s always lovely to wander into their classrooms and see them as teachers now, after seeing them as students. I don’t pretend to have any influence on who they are as teachers, but it’s lovely to see them nonetheless.

I’ve been teaching for over 20 years now. Being a teacher was something I never imagined I’d do. Debbie, my sister, had always wanted to be a teacher, but it hadn’t been on my list of career choices.

I no longer teach those preparing to be teachers in primary and high schools; rather I find myself running workshops for academic staff who are teaching university students studying for degrees in commerce and accounting and information systems and business analytics. While I know nothing about accounting and commerce and business analytics I do know something about teaching.

And, what’s more, after running six workshops in the last week I’ve been reminded that I love it. I love teaching. I love asking questions that generate thinking, I love putting ideas out there and seeing how others develop them, or consider them, or debate them, or draw insight from them.

Those who know me in person, know that I’m not a dynamic person in ordinary life, but I seem to get another sort of energy when I’m teaching and as I get older and therefore more comfortable and confident with my teaching persona I find I turn into a warm and funny and energised person who is enthusiastic and passionate and insightful.

Well, at least that’s what I’ve been told.

I’ve had a few positives in terms of my teaching and supporting teachers over the last twelve months. I (successfully) supported a team of academics in their application for a VC’s award for outstanding contributions to student learning, and on the back of that award the team was encouraged to apply for a national award.

We found out earlier in the week that we’d been successful at the national level and so, as part of a team, I now have an AAUT (Australian Award for University Teaching) citation for outstanding contributions to student learning under my belt. They only awarded 60 across the country this year, so I’m pretty chuffed with that.

Last year I was successful in applying to become a Senior Fellow of the (UK) Higher Education Academy. Being a Senior Fellow means I ‘demonstrate a thorough understanding of effective approaches to teaching and learning support as a key contribution to high quality student learning [and] impact and influence on other colleagues through, for example, responsibility for leading, managing or organising programmes, subjects and/or disciplinary areas’ (www.heaacademy.ac.uk).

It was a 6,000 word application supported by two referee statements (thanks Robyn and Sharon B) and required a lot of evidence to support my claims.

The awards are great – even though they require a lot of work and the collection of a lot of evidence from over my 20 years of teaching and are a great recognition of the work I’ve done.

But much (much) more meaningful than the awards and fellowship came in the form of a text message from one of my daughters-in-law last week.

It turns out that Jada, one of my granddaughters, is being taught this year by someone I taught at university. Here are the messages I received:

Met with Scott [teacher] for a parent-teacher meeting this evening. He may have lit up like a Christmas tree when Jada mentioned your name (we had to go through the “Do you know Grandma Sharon” *blank look* “my grandma Sharon Pittaway” dance before he twigged).

He said you were his all time favourite lecturer and that you allowed students to give their own perspective on things and that you never just read or regurgitated information from a textbook. He said this made you inspiring. He also asked for me to pass on his regards.

He ALSO said that Jada no longer needs to come to school as she is now an A+ student because she knows ‘Grandma Sharon’.

I’m glad he took the no school rule back-Jada would have run with that!
I made Scott out as being kind of excited, he was more yelling “oh my god” and “really??” He was flailing his arms around a little and slapping his thighs haha. Congratulations to you on making such an impact on people and allowing them to filter their enthusiasm for learning and growing through to the next generation. I’m especially grateful they are our kids!

He said the way I taught made me inspiring.

That’s worth more (much much more) than a VC’s award or a national citation or a senior fellowship.

That’s real!

Jada, reading … because teachers are amazing!