May Discoveries

It’s been cold here where I’m living, and it’s been reminding me of my time living in Germany. Memories of crisp, blue skies but by the end of a 30 minute walk, your ears were burning, fingers frozen and a nose frozen solid that you would fear it snapping and falling off at any point.

It’s the time of the season where the wool socks are coming out, the hoodies are being dusted off and blankets are at the height of their popularity. It’s hopping in the car about to drive to work and discovering a thin layer of frost had made it’s home on my windshield. So on goes the heating at full blast for a few minutes, pull out the ice scraper to scrape away the ice.

So with the colder weather setting in, I’ve been discovering new things. I’ve jotted them below, because I wanted to share them with you. So join me on this month’s discovery?


Lake Seppings (Tjuirtgellong)

This 2.7km fresh water lake is known to be an excellent bird watching spot in the Great Southern area of Western Australia. The local Indigenous people, the Manang Noongar, call this are Tjuirtgellong (which means “The Place of the Long-Necked Turtle”).

I discovered this the other day when I needed to go for a walk and get out of the house after a rough week at work. On a beautiful day, it is a pleasant place to do a complete walk around (which took me about 45 minutes).

Bletchley Circle: San Francisco

I first discovered Bletchley Circle last year, and I was attracted to the strong female characters, the use of decrypting codes and determination. The title references the codebreakers trained at Bletchley Park, and who were instrumental in the WWII war efforts in the UK – and yes, there is tension between how accurate historical fiction should be – but the show has been an interesting perspective on

Bletchley Circle: San Francisco has been a spin off that has paid tribute to the original – it retains that determined, spirited, strong characters determined to solve mysteries and right injustices – but it has it’s own flavour which is makes it more than just a spin-off.

Kate Miller-Heidke’s “Zero Gravity”, Eurovision 2019

Eurovision – a week long of camp, glitter, over-the-top, political infused songs as countries compete to win a music competition – is something I quietly enjoy. Australia has had a long history of loving Eurovision, and in the past 3 years managed to be qualified to take part.

Eurovision has had a long history of political messages within their songs; not surprising as it started post-WW2 as a soft-political move to encourage unity within a fractured Europe. As someone who has been (a little bit) interested in politics, Eurovision is a fascinating machine for me. Even if you are not interested in the political side of Eurovision, and would rather watch it for the music (and that’s okay), there’s no hiding the fact that Eurovision can bring a bit of hope and unity through music.

This year’s entry – for Australia – is Kate Miller-Heidke, who has had classical Opera training, released several pop albums and was recently one of the creative force’s behind “Muriel’s Wedding; The Wedding”. Miller-Heidke wrote her entry around her experience of post-natal depression and the feeling of “weightlessness” following the birth of son, Ernie. You can see Kate Miller-Heidke’s performance of “Zero Gravity” in this year’s Eurovision Grand Final below.

“Story of My Life: How Narrative Creates Personality” by Julie Beck, The Atlantic.

I’ve been teaching my English students about narrative devices and themes. As such, the role of narrative has been in the back of my mind. As a writer, I tell stories and narratives are an important part of telling stories with a beginning, middle and end. Yet can we apply narrative to life stories when life doesn’t play in the three-act narrative structure we are all familiar with?

This month’s reading discovery was Julie Beck’s article in The Atlantic, on how narrative creates personality as well as the process of story construction. It’s a fascinating read, I’ll leave you with a snippet from the article:

So narrative seems like an incongruous framing method for life’s chaos, until you remember where stories came from in the first place. Ultimately, the only material we’ve ever had to make stories out of is our own imagination, and life itself.

Storytelling, then—fictional or nonfictional, realistic or embellished with dragons—is a way of making sense of the world around us.

Julie Beck, Story of My Life: How Narrative Creates Personality, published in The Atlantic, August 10, 2015.

What have you discovered this month? Let me know in the comments below.

Yours,

Sophia
xx

Reflections: Two Months into Teaching

Tomorrow will mark 35 days of my first (almost full time) teaching gig. To say it has been great is … well, it fails to really describe what it’s like.

I never understood exhaustion until I became a teacher. As a teacher, you’re constantly ‘switched on’; physically, mentally and emotionally. You’re fielding 1001 questions, whilst making sure kids don’t get hurt. Whilst providing extra support or challenges to those who need it. Oh, and problem solving all along the way. I’ve been so exhausted, my feet are dragging and my bones feel like concrete – but the minute I step into the classroom, that all disappears.

Being a teacher, especially a graduate teacher, it’s taught me not to take support networks for granted. Loved ones who rock up with food in their hands to a gathering or a catch up. Friends who just sit and listen to a barrage of nonsensical words of an issue (or two or three) that’s been worrying me. Partners who make you a cup of tea in the mornings. It’s the little things that make you feel not alone as you’re drowning in paperwork, lesson plans and marking.

Working with teenagers who are great one day and grumpy the next has taught me about the diversity and fluidity that are human beings. It’s taught me that rigidity and structure are great support, but it’s nothing without flexibility. It’s no use dragging kids (metaphorically) to get work done if we don’t care for them as well. I was sitting in a workshop and one of the key learnings i took was “allowing different pathways”. Sure we need a structure of a plan to achieve shared outcomes. Yet we all learn differently, and we all walk a different journey. Why not let there be different paths to achieve a shared outcome?

Self-bloody-care. I harp on about this but nothing reinforces the importance of self-care until a rough day in a crazy week as a teacher. You can’t look after and teach people if you’re not looking after yourself. As a friend put it, (paraphrasing here) “you won’t be on your A game if you’re tired from working late and not looking after yourself.”

One thing I’ve noticed is how the more I have to manage behavior, the less I can focus on teaching, and the more my confidence takes a hit and my anxiety/doubts starts to kick in. Am i actually doing the right thing? Are the kids actually learning? Am I liked? Yet like my friend and fellow teacher, Katie said: “We just need to be sure of ourselves. We do know what we are doing and we do it well!”

So, out of all this here’s the one thing I want to take away: Believe in yourself, have faith in your capabilities. You’re stronger, wiser than you know and it’s not being popular amoungst the kids but being there in the classroom everyday with the kids and guiding them.

I can do this.

Yours,

Sophia
xx

Oceans of self.

As I’ve been packing up my apartment preparing to move, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we create spaces, and importantly how can we be intentional with the spaces we create.

This doesn’t just apply to homes, but also classrooms, social places. We are affected by the environment we surround ourselves with, but as David Korins ponders in his TED talk, “…what would happen if the space revealed something about yourself that you didn’t even know?”

Pondering this further led me to the realisation what living and growing up in Australia has revealed about me. When I was living in Germany, I started to get a relentless itch because I was landlocked. I yearned for the salty sea breeze, sand in between my toes and the sun on my skin.

So what does an aversion to being landlocked and a yearning for the ocean and sea reveal about me?

For some, the ocean represents stability (as it has remained relatively unchanged for centuries). For others, it represents fertility, or where life came from. It can also represent a yearning for connectivity to nature.

As I’m sitting on the porch, taking a break from packing sipping my tea, my reflections lead me to this conclusion:

I need to take more mind and heed when I’m yearning for the ocean. For it is a reminder for me to reconnect. Reconnect and become one with nature, take greater heed of my emotions and of others.

But most importantly, it is a reminder to reconnect with myself.

Yours,
Sophia
xx

A new year, new opportunities.

A new year ushers in new opportunities and chances for us. Be it a new opportunity that arises from a new job, a new relationship or simply a new location.

We make New Years Resolutions as a reminder (or the hoped-for conviction) to do things differently, to change something or to better oneself. We see a new year as a new blank slate, or a new blank piece of paper to write our stories on.

We reflect on what has been, and we plan what is upcoming. We see what we have achieved, and we think about we can beat what we have achieved. It makes me ponder on whether the way we go about new beginnings, new opportunities is flawed. Why do we feel the need to always do better? Why do we see our achievements as just a ‘step’ to our end goal? Why are we always running towards the destination? Why aren’t we enjoying the journey?

In reflecting on 2018, I find myself drifting towards the slowing my life down so that I’m doing life at the pace that is right for myself and my partner. The pace where I am doing things that are most important for myself – things I’m passionate about.

Doing the things that I’m passionate about – writing, teaching, community, knitting, family and friends – has meant that I’m out of my comfort zone far more than I’d like to admit. Being comfortable and accepting that I can express my passion and that my passion does not need to be hidden behind societal expectations, has been … well, tough.

For someone who feels far too at home with to-do lists, logistical planning, and could easily spend a whole day in a stationary shop, being comfortable in a dynamic community setting has been a learning curve and a half. I’ve come to realize that I over-logistical plan as a response to my social anxiety. Over-planning never results in a good time, just a stilted awkwardness.

Growth requires vulnerability, it requires strength and it requires acceptance. In learning to be strong through vulnerability and openness, in learning to be a better storyteller and a better teacher, I’ve come to realize the biggest growth I can have is being present in the moment.

So for 2019, I want to live life with authenticity, in line with the values and things important in my life. That means being present in the moment with people, whether it be students, friends, colleagues or family.

It means that at times I need to tear up the well thought out to-do lists, and trusting the dynamic flow of life. It means confronting my anxiety on a daily basis and not letting rule my life.

It means doing one thing at a time, and not rushing to get things done. It means saying no to things I don’t want to do so that I can say ‘yes’ to the important things. It’s about noticing details on a daily basis and expressing the beauty in life.

Moreover, it is about slowing things down in life to focus on things that are important to me, especially since the new year is bringing a new job, new location and a new chapter in my life.

Yours,

Sophia
xx

Motivation and changing habits.

There are some things in my life that I want to do more often because of the positive impacts it has on me, but I find it hard to motivate myself to actually do it.

Take running as an example. I like running – once I get some great tunes going, I’m all set. I’ve got the gear, i just don’t have motivation.

I’ve never been a sporty person; I was the musical kid at school. Yet the days when dad and I would go cross-country training are some of my favourite memories and I actually enjoyed doing them.

I could go on with other examples, but what really is important is this: sometimes you need to put effort into it to do things that don’t come easy to you. Sometimes you actually need to just do it. Your body may be completely filled with nerves and you may feel ill at ease, most days you’re going to have to fight through that.

Something worth fighting for won’t come easily, but it is worth the effort you put into it and the motivation you get out of it.

Yours,

Sophia x

More love is neat.

“If you see something beautiful in someone, speak of it” – Ruthie Lindsey

Our instinct to notice the bad more than the good is strong. Our media is filled with negative news constantly. I mean, have you ever counted the ratio of positive to negative stories in our daily evening news? Whenever I watch the news, I do this and more often than not, it is overwhelmingly in the negative story’s favour.

With so many advertising telling us of a product we “need” to buy to “fix” a non-existential problem, is it not surprising that we are quick to see the flaws and be negative about it?

Recently, I have been thinking about this a fair bit. Spending 24 hours in a return plane flight gave me a lot of time to ponder and think when I recently travelled to Sweden.

Whilst waiting to board at Stockholm Arlanda airport, I stumbled across Hans Rosling’s book “Factfulness” he co-wrote with his son, Ola Rosling, and his daughter-in-law, Anna Rosling Rönnlund. In it, they explore why we as a society, tend to have a bleaker overview of the world, and why things are better than we think they are.

“I think this is because human beings have a strong dramatic instinct towards binary thinking, a basic urge to divide things into two distinct groups, with nothing but an empty gap in between. We love to dichotomize. Good versus bad. Heroes versus villains. My country versus the rest. Dividing the world into two distinct sides is simple and intuitive, and also dramatic because it implies conflict, and we do it without thinking, all the time.”

“The gap instinct makes us imagine division where there is just a smooth range, difference where there is convergence, and conflict where there is agreement.”

Maybe, like Rosling argues in his book, things are better in the world than we think but our negative instinct is too strong. We remember the negative more easily with the positive in our lives.

I used to not be a fan of the daily gratitude exercise that has become popular over the past year. But the more I’ve reflected on the human tendency on the negative instinct, the more I realise that daily gratitude isn’t a bad thing after all. It helps us to realise and teaches us to think more, about the positive events in our lives than the negative. There is enough happening in the world, so why focus on the negatives?

How on earth does this have anything to do with the original quote by Ruthie Lindsey at the beginning of the post? I’ve touched on this before in the blog, but I believe that more love in the world is neat. I’m a strong believer in community and supporting each other, so I’m going to start making an effort to celebrate by speaking about the beautiful things I notice in people.

Yours,

Sophia

xx

International Podcast Day

Yesterday was International Podcast Day today. I’ve always been a bit slow in appreciating podcasts, (and obviously slow in uploading this post) as I don’t have a natural tendency towards audiobooks or the spoken word. As a writer, I’ve always been partial to the written word.

Yet over the past year, I’ve been slowly listening to more and more podcasts. I started with economics, and several “German for beginners” (for teaching purposes), but over the past month I’ve asked for podcast recommendations (because you need variety right?) and my podcast selection has expanded.

The joy with podcasts is the transportable nature of little information. The learner in me is always keen to turn a podcast on and jump into that little world for either the 30 minutes or 60 minutes length of the podcast. I read on a Slate article and it described podcasts being a snippet, a pocket of happiness within the large world that is the internet.

So to belatedly celebrate International Podcast Day, here’s a list of podcasts I’ve been listening. Okay, it’s more like a mini-review because the journalist within me couldn’t help itself.

So here we go – 5 podcasts I think you should listen to:

From Our Correspondents (BBC)

From Our Correspondents is, to me, is a podcast version of SBS’ Insights and the ABC’s Four Corners. Differing from the typical journalistic structure of telling stories, each episode (whose length is around 30 minutes long) is made up of short 5 minute stories from various correspondents who delve into the stories behind the headlines using wit, insight and analysis. If you’re interested in wanting to know more about what is happening in the world, but wanting something different than the 24/7 news cycle, this podcast (or if you’re Australian, “Correspondents Report”) is the one for you.

Historical Figures

I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a history nerd. So a podcast telling the stories of historical figures is definitely on my list of podcasts that I listen to. The bio of the podcast describes the podcast as “Big lives. Little-known Facts.” and as “audio biographies”. The podcast does live up to this, however, the narration seems, at times, too scripted and wooden. Despite this, the podcast is well researched and worth a listen to learn more about historical figures.

Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

One of the things I love about reading novels is that through the format of the written form, we learn more about what makes us human – emotions, feelings, universal themes. What I love about Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast, is that it explores the different themes and nuances that make us human. You can listen to it chronologically or you can listen to in a “Choose your own adventure” style if you’re looking to explore a particular theme using the Harry Potter books. Do note that it is in the Religion & Spirituality category of podcasts because it does use methods within different faiths to explore texts and applies it to Harry Potter. If that doesn’t bother you (and it isn’t much of a deterrent for me), then exploring Harry Potter through this podcast may be for you.

The Money

I’m an economics teacher and do quite enjoy economics (duh!), so it’s no surprise that an economics-related podcast will make this list. The Money is produced by the ABC Radio National and explains neatly how the Australian economy and everything in it works, and vitally for any economics students, how this all connects to the global economy. It is a favourite podcast of mine because of the rehashing the same old dry economics theory, it looks at how the economy works using a real-world application. Just look at the recent podcasts – the drone technology economy, the rise of Comic-Con, fraud and the workings of the world. It’s definitely going to make an appearance in my economics teaching because of the real world application of economic understanding and I think you should add this to your podcast library.

The Dollop

The Dollop is a comedic take to history storytelling, and can be summed up like this: think American history, told by a comedian to a clueless comedian, and you’ve got a hilarious take on history. With each episode length at around 1.5 hours long, it seems too long at times, but it’s the chemistry between Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds makes listening to it for that length of time worth it.

These are my five podcasts I think you should be listening to. What podcasts have you been listening to recently? Let me know by leaving a comment below.