Friday, November 25, 2011

Follow the money trail and you find ...

*Alliterative drabble for the letter D,  re-posted from the 2011 A-Z Blogging Challenge at jumpingaground.  (edited)

Hundreds of distinguished scientists drown us in detailed data describing the devastation that will dampen our spirits due to our voracious determination to drill for oil continuously and use all the dark coal completely 'till it disappears forever.

Those with vested interests delve deviously to detect a difference of opinion, then jeer delightedly and defame the dedicated scientists calling them dreary, deranged and deluded. They are determined to make a dramatic beat up and decide to discredit the danger. 

Oh dear; ruthless dealers, dumping on the deeply knowledgeable. 

Dangerously deluded politicians also choose to ignore our Earth’s degeneration.

Dollars dominate.

We need all the help we can get.

A Drabble is a story told in 100 words. No more, no less.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

The A-Z blogging challenge is coming!

The A-Z Blogging Challenge: is a fun month of blogging and blog hopping and comes with a huge amount of camaraderie and lashings of support from the amazing organisers.

The idea is that during April, you link up with a thousand or more other bloggers to post each day of the month (except Sundays) starting with A on the 1st and working through the alphabet to Z on the 30th.
It was so good that I'm diving in again in 2012 even though I was blogged out by the time I got to Z in 2011!

You can see some of the things people blogged about this year towards the end of this post, and whilst you don't need a theme, it works for me and provides a good structure. Last time,  I really wanted to blog about climate change. But it was too hard, too complex, and to be honest, too darn depressing. But the idea has been playing on my mind all year, niggling and asking for my attention.

Even though I don't want to spend months researching climate related issues and immersing myself in the facts and figures, if I'm going to live according to my core values it's something I'll choose do.

Core Values:
  • one of my vital core values is to connect with and spend time in the natural environment. I'd like future generations to have the opportunity to enjoy it as I do. 
  • another is to be part of a community, to connect with, and be part of something bigger than my own little space in the world. It'd be great to connect with others doing their bit to make a difference. 
  • a third core value is to do with education and personal developmentI like to extend myself. I enjoy being educated, informing, sharing and trying to explain concepts clearly
To live comfortably with myself, I'll embrace my values and move in a direction where I act on them, even though it may be difficult. I'll try to ignore my inner demons of "Nothing's going to change", "I'm setting myself up for disappointment because no-one's interested anyway" and "Who do you think you are? You're getting too big for your boots if you think you can make a difference".

ACT: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
To help me through, I'll apply the principles of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) and mindfulness meditation and make space for the feelings of anxiety and self-doubt, find room for my demons and breathe deeply into any discomfort. (Information on ACT here.)

Preparation is the key!
Rather than leaving the preparation to the last minute (silly me) like last year, when I blogged about Workplace Bullying (list of areas I covered here ), I've been thinking ahead, mulling over how to present the whole depressing schemozzle so it’s not a major turn off.
Pilfered from Burrowers, Books and Balderdash here.
But, first, I needed to drag myself out of the chasm of despair and fear that envelops me when I think about climate change and the destruction of our eco-systems. So I took some time off to relax, be inspired, blow away the cobwebs and re-energise. And it was fun!
Once upon a time, this was the seabed.
The track is at the top of a range of hills in Mutawintji National Park NSW
 After rain, the dry river bed becomes part of a river system
extending for many kilometres
Mutawintji National Park NSW.
North west NSW. 
Menindie Lakes
Click here to join the A-Z blogging challenge in 2012 with Arlee Bird and his great band of helpers.

It'd be great if you join me and the other participants who'll be blogging from A-Z in April. Not all the topics are heavy! Participants cover everything from gaming, film, books, writing, photography, paintinggardening, birds, grammar, haiku, travel, art, artists, anime, stamps, science, the solar system, old postcards, craft and everything in between. You'll meet witty, wise, poetic experienced bloggers as well as people who started blogging purely to join the fun of the challenge. It's simply amazing!

I'd like some encouraging company! I'd been feeling insignificant and scared when I allowed myself to think about climate change and environmental damage in the privacy of my head. It was only when I made veiled comments to others, including my doctor, that conversations opened up and I realised I'm not alone in with the continual sense of fear and doom. My doctor commented that he is treating more people for depression than ever before, and suspected that isolation and fear about the future may be part of the cause.

Click on the ENGAHC button at the top for more information about my theme. Please 'follow' if the topic is something you're interested in, or can contribute to. I'd like you to share your insights, stories and comments.

Do you have something you'd like to blog about?

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Great Barrier Reef - or to quote from 4 Corners "The Great Barrier Grief"

What are Australian politicians at local, state and federal levels allowing to be done to our beloved Great Barrier Reef?

How can they possibly look themselves in the face, look at their children and grandchildren, family and friends and tell them that they condone massive dredging in not just one, but up to 6 or more areas along the coast near this exquisite world heritage area?

Dredging for massive ports to allow huge tankers to transport coal seam gas for export - for sale to the highest international bidder.

Exporting our natural resources to countries which may have even less interest in environmental sustainability and clean renewable energy than we do. Countries which have fewer community members who are able to take a stand and object.  Countries where fewer people will understand the potential cost to Australians and anyone who has ever gazed in awe at the Great Barrier Reef and wondered at the beauty and amazing colours in the astoundingly diverse range of marine plants and animals who call it home.

I'm appalled at what's happening up in Queensland near the town of Gladstone. I knew the Great Barrier Reef was a World Heritage Area and assumed that that meant it would be afforded some protection from the voracious mining interests nearby. It appears not.

A disturbing documentary from our most reputable investigative reporters on 4 Corners explored what is happening and the extremely concerned response from UNESCO (United Nations' Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation which is responsible for protecting world heritage listed sites like the Great Barrier Reef).

4 Corners report here

Millions of cubic metres of sea floor (a mix of toxic sludge from land and waterways runoff including pesticides and contaminants from the recent floods) are being dredged inland of the Great Barrier Reef, and dumped close to the World Heritage Area to make way for massive new coal seam gas export facilities. The sludge is to be dumped within 1km of the world heritage site.  It has the so alarmed UNESCO that they're warning the Reef could lose its iconic world heritage status. If that happens the ripple effect to the tourism industry affecting jobs there could be huge.

The areas being dredged include sea grass and mangroves which are important fish breeding grounds, as well as being home to marine creatures including turtles and dugong.
The reef is already stressed. Being so close to major shipping will expose it to further risk of spills and groundings which happened recently during a storm, resulting in kilometres of damage to the fragile corals.

The fishing industry is concerned as stocks appear to be showing the effect of exposure to toxins in the water. Locally caught fish have bleeding lesions and 'exploding red eye'. With breeding grounds being dredged, the fishing industry will be sorely affected. Fish suppliers are concerned about the quality of the local fish, and some are refusing to sell local catches.

(This link was inserted 21 May 2012) and includes a brief update. A couple of days ago a tanker became sticken near the reef. A disaster was averted, but it's a taste of things to come.

November 9th 2012 update. Things aren't improving, in fact they appear to be getting worse. New post here with two petitions.

GetUp is an independent, not-for-profit community campaigning group who were concerned enough to create a petition calling on the Federal Environment Minister to "Immediately halt all dredging in the Gladstone Harbour and Great Barrier Reef and not to approve any major coastal developments until the UNESCO strategic assessment has been completed." GetUp will deliver the petition to UNESCO in Paris.
(The following is quoted from GetUp)      "As The Age recently put it- what's of primary concern is the "vast dredging program" associated with the construction of three coal seam gas plants located inside the reef's World Heritage area. "The Gladstone Ports Corporation (GPC) has approvals to dredge 46 million cubic metres from within the harbour boundaries, inside the World Heritage area, over the next 20 years...a volume equivalent to 27 Melbourne Cricket Grounds.   
Environment Minister Tony Burke has so far refused to stand up for the Reef, a priceless and fragile site of significance not just to Australia, but to the world. Imagine if the Pyramids were being bulldozed or the Grand Canyon mined -- the global community would be furious ... UNESCO are sending a special delegation in March to investigate what is happening - but that's too late to stop the damage happening now. 
Meanwhile, UNESCO are being lobbied hard by the insatiable coal seam gas industry. And although they failed to even tell UNESCO about the project, the state and federal governments would have us simply trust them to monitor and regulate this crazy project -- claiming it's possible to dredge up 46 million cubic metres of reef inside a world heritage site provided there's sufficient environmental oversight. If the Australian Government won't stand up for the Great Barrier Reef as it's ripped up for corporate profit, we will.
That's why we've created an urgent petition, as we prepare to launch this campaign on the global stage. 
The fragile and unique ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef is already under intense pressure due to earlier floods and a changing climate. We've witnessed a steep increase in the rates of death of endangered marine wildlife this year -- including dolphins, dugongs and turtles. The massive development for the coal seam gas industry may well prove too much for it to handle. 
Coal seam gas mining is now affecting our communities and environment, from the family farm to the deep blue sea, and once these areas are destroyed, no amount of money will ever bring them back. Sign the petition now, and if you're on Twitter and Facebook, be sure to share this emergency call to action with your friends. 
Thank you for using your voice now, The GetUp team
What do you think?


Sunday, November 6, 2011

How to fail an exam. Success (almost) guaranteed!

I love presenting workshops on exam technique to adults. It’s immensely satisfying to explain the "magic" that helps some students sail through exams with flying colours. These are techniques that my adult students can easily adopt to help them succeed.

Adults returning to study often share how, at school, after failing an exam dismally, they put a brave face on, pretended to be cool and not to care. But in the safety of our classes they often open up. Some still burn with the shame of failure and occasionally break down in tears reliving the humiliation of their school days and failing exams.

When students are fearful, they don’t learn or remember easily. They clamp up - not a good start when going into an exam.

There’s often be a collective wail of despair when exam time comes around: “But I don’t know how to study. I don’t know how to answer the questions. I hate exams. I can’t do it.” 

In an effort to break the ice and have a laugh, I ask in all seriousness if anyone knows how to fail an exam. The looks say it all – “Oh crap, she’s lost the plot entirely, what do we do now?”

But of course they know how to fail an exam! They’ve done it often enough to be very familiar with the skills required. And the logic goes, if they know how to fail an exam, they also know the basics of how to pass – start by doing the opposite.

By working from the negative, it proves to each of them that they already know how to study! This lighthearted technique gets them to think about the problem differently, opens them up to another way of looking at the issue.

They already know what to do! Now all that remains is to choose which of the (opposite) actions they can incorporate into their lives with as little pain as possible.

This following is a somewhat tongue in cheek list, but still relevant with so many students working towards final year exams.

So, in a spirit of caring and sharing, during what is a very stressful time for many students, parents, caregivers and teachers, I present for your amusement:

How to fail an Exam:

  • Attend as few classes as possible during the year 
  • Sit at the back of the classroom and draw dirty pictures  
  • Text friends during class 
  • Sigh, moan and daydream 
  • Disrupt the class as often as possible and get asked to leave 
  • Don’t study - in any way shape or form - ever 
  • Complain loud and often about how you’ll fail - negative self talk really helps
  • Party the night before
During the exam:
  • Don’t turn up 
  • Cheat 
  • Panic 
  • Don’t read the question/s 
  • Don’t answer the question/s 
  • Answer the question with what you want to talk about rather than what is asked 
  • In essays, when asked to present a rough outline, ignore the instruction
  • Write illegibly (deliberately)
  • In multiple-choice questions, tick all the options. Or none. Or scribble some out and circle others so the marker has no idea which is the answer you hope they'll notice

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but covers most of the tried and true methods my students had become expert at.

What else can you add?

Note: Most of my students went on to successfully pass their exams. There was no magic involved. They were interested in the courses, determined, enthusiastic and motivated to prove they could succeed.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Exams - failure is in the eye of the beholder

What are we doing to our young people going into the exam period?

Too many teachers and parents add pressure by ranting and raving about failure, implying that life isn’t worth living if you don’t pass the final secondary school, or university exams. Tragically, some students take this to heart and choose to end their lives. I can’t begin to express the sorrow and grief I experience every time I hear of a young life lost, particularly at exam time.

I wonder if they felt it was impossible for them to live up the expectations, hopes and dreams of those around them. If they were aware that they hadn't worked as relentlessly and hard as they could and had felt that taking their own life was better than facing the shame of failing an exam. I wonder if they had heard, (hopefully mistakenly) and taken to heart, that to fail an exam equates to being a failure as a human being.

Knowing the remote, but possibly tragic consequences of this extremely limited view of success; why is it that when a young person is coming up to the exams, teachers, parents and the news machines put more and more pressure on them?

From the in your face shouting and barrage of demeaning and demoralizing slurs on character, to outright predictions that “You’ll fail if you keep that up” the pressure is unwarranted and undermining on an often fragile self esteem.

I wonder if anyone involved really believes the students have no idea about the enormity of the perceived importance of the final exams. After all, it's been relentlessly hammered into them for years. "If you think this is hard, just wait till you do your *VCE" and "This is going to be the hardest year of your life".

I’ve chosen the words in the above paragraph carefully … Perceived importance.

Worst-case scenario: The student fails the exam.
Of course teachers may see this as a negative reflection on their teaching ability. The school may see it as a negative reflection on it and the teacher. Their ranking may go down, and they may not be seen as so prestigious. The parent may see it as a negative reflection on their parenting. The student might not get into the course they dreamed of. Their pride may have been dented, but the student never was, and never will be a worthless human because they failed an exam.

The student is NOT a failure; they have failed to answer the questions that were asked on that particular exam on that particular day. This is not a direct reflection on their worth as people. The world does not and will not end. It does not and never will make them bad people, undeserving of respect, tolerance, compassion. It does not mean they won’t go on to live lives that are rich, full and meaningful. It does not mean that they won’t go on to satisfying and successful further study in years to come. It is not a prediction about the rosiness of anyone’s future.

Exam results don't predict life achievements
Failing an exam could mean all sorts of things about the student’s stress levels, study habits, adverse outside influences – all sorts of things, but never is it, nor should it be used as a threat to predict a life that won’t be worth living.

As a teacher or parent, you should never make dire negative predictions about any student’s future – it’s cruelly undermining, often leads to loss of confidence and an inability to perform as well as possible. It rarely encourages a student to work harder and should never be used as a tactic – it’s heartless and vindictive, especially when accompanied with shouted, in your face putdowns.

In addition, no one has that fictitious crystal ball. We don't know. We can't predict the future. We're not seers, soothsayers or psychics. Many inspiring citizens have failed exams and gone on to be publicly revered. Please don't ignore their contribution in the push for impressive exam results.

As a long time teacher, counsellor and facilitator at tertiary institutions I’ve seen the result of undermining, toxic, vicious and cruel comments made by teachers and parents up to thirty and forty years after the event. Comments hissed under the breath, laced with venom, or shouted publicly, openly in front of a class.  Unfortunately many students take to heart and believe what powerful adults tell them. These comments stay with people, creating churning, nagging doubt and too often a profound sense of hopelessness.

Is that what we want for any young person taking their first steps into the adult world?

I’ve worked extensively with competent, yet academically insecure, nervous adults. Wonderful people, contributing generously to their communities, yet their underlying self esteem is in tatters as they’ve suffered at school with a powerful teacher who has glibly, possibly thoughtlessly or flippantly predicted that they won’t amount to anything. The teacher might not even remember, if they do, they might say: "I didn't mean anything by it, they were just words to get them studying harder."

Just words?
Words are powerful tools, used to inspire, encourage and support, but also to control, dominate or insult. "You're hopeless, you won't amount to anything" - what a cruel prediction, surely designed to erode confidence.

I've seen smart students with undiagnosed learning difficulties who, at school, had been publicly ridiculed, shamed, belittled and taunted for being unable to produce a single page of written work. As adults they are desperate to prove that they’re as good as those who can spell accurately and put sentences together easily.

These people are NOT failures. They contribute to the richness of our communities.

They are our families - they are sons and daughters, cousins, aunts and uncles, mums and dads, grandmas and grandpas.

The last exams of secondary school are part of life, one step. One small step in the path of many, many steps. The exams may be important, they may make it easier to gain immediate entry into university. But 'success' as a wholesome, interesting, intelligent, worthwhile human being does not and never will rest on achieving a high grade at the final exams in secondary school (or university for that matter).

What's been your experience with exam pressure?

The following link to has some excellent fact sheets on depression. Link here. Please seek help if you think you're depressed or need assistance with exam technique.  

If you know anyone who might benefit from this reminder about the place of exams as a predictor of life success, please post the link to FB or share in some way.



* VCE/HSC/SACE etc are the final exams at Australian secondary schools. They are scored and used as a basis for entry to many university and tertiary courses.
Graffiti art on the side of a building in Berlin. 2009.