Food for Thought 2018

I have my box.

It’s a comfy sort of box.

It’s a protect me from the storm sort of box.

It’s a cozy box even if it is a little cramped.

And it doesn’t have a view.

Okay, I hate my little box, but I stay there because outside is more than a little scary.

 

People are always saying, “Think out of the box”.

It wasn’t until last Tuesday I heard, “Forget the box. There is no box.”

Damn straight.

 

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I was lucky enough to attend Ads24 Food for Thought 2018 event. It wasn’t only brilliant and eye-opening, but it forced me to evaluate my life and whether safety and boredom are really an adequate substitute for danger and excitement. I realise that I may have got too big for my box.

 

Between Dawie Roodt, Chief Economist for the Efficient Group, Prof. Nick Binedell, and scenario planner, Clem Sunter, my (usually goldfishlike) attention was caught in a web.

 

My box blew to smithereens.

 

Things are changing, our world is moving back to a pure economics, supply and demand model.

 

That the way we’ve been doing things like giving away our power to banks and governments and career politicians is short sighted and short lived.

 

For the first time I saw Donald Trump, not as sign of the idiocy of the human race, but as global movement against career politics. A stand against bureaucracy. Maybe, he isn’t the right face, but he sure as hell is shaking things up.

 

It’s time to create your own job, not rely on someone else to find a box to fit you into.

It’s time for an Armageddon, a paradigm shift.

Either you reach our grab it and ride that wave with sheer adrenaline or you drown.

 

The right school for my child, or the right school for me?

Am I living through my kids?

I vowed I wouldn’t, that I’d support them in whatever interested them, or in what they showed talent for.

I’m not talking about trying to steer my sons toward fashionable clothing or my daughter towards pink.

Nor am I referring to the infinitely creepy mothers from the Toddlers in Tiaras nightmare unfolding on my TV.

I’m talking about the big decisions!

Like where to go to school.

My husband and I chose to send our children to the schools we went to. We knew them, we respected them and we value the education they gave us enough to try to give the same to our children.

Great, very virtuous of us. Also costs and arm and a leg and gave us new respect for our parents and what they went through on our behalf.

Thing is, despite the very slight genetic differences between them, and we’re talking microscopic here, our three children are vastly different individuals.

Our eldest, Small boy aged almost 10, loves his conservative, traditional, Eton-esque school. He thrives on the discipline, the routine, the history and the legacy of his father having the walked the same halls before him.

Also, he thinks it looks like Harry Potter’s School – go figure.

Our daughter, Small girl aged 6 is at the equivalent school for girls. She seems to be enjoying it, but she doesn’t seem to be making friends easily and I don’t want her fire extinguished.

Tharos karateShe loves the school, but she lives for her two karate lessons each week where she is one of two girls in the dojo.

I was an only child. I didn’t know boys existed, so it wasn’t a huge problem for me being surrounded by small girls. Now, I don’t know if it is right for her or what just was right for me?

Our second son, Small boy aged 7 loved the school, but he didn’t fit in. He couldn’t understand why he had to follow the routine. He was ruthlessly bullied and told what he couldn’t do properly and he lost all his happy, bubbly self-confidence.

We didn’t want to move him. We wanted him to be happy. We wanted him to grow up in the same school community.

We fought. We ranted. We railed.

We did everything we could and then we realised the problem wasn’t the school, or our son, but us.

We wanted. We wanted. We wanted.

Small boy aged 7 started a new school this year on the very opposite end of the spectrum.

Kairos School of Inquiry, in Parkview, Johannesburg only has 24 students ranging from Grade 0 to Grade 7.

It is co-ed, which a new and exciting experience for my boy.

He has individual attention and he can draw and draw and draw.

Yes, driving to three different schools twice a day is exhausting, tiring and consumes enormous amounts of petrol.

But…

And here it is… he is happy and thriving. His focus is better, his reading is better and above all I don’t have to medicate him to deal with anxiety. His confidence is growing daily.

The education follows the Independent Board of Education curriculum albeit taught in a slightly different way.

They learn about fractions by dividing pizza, addition and subtraction with freshly baked muffins, Afrikaans through cooking lessons in the language and music in Zulu.

Small boy aged 7 does not learn by being talked at. He learns by doing. Kairos is wonderful in the way the teachers bring the technique of learning through action.

Small boy aged 7 makes sense of the world through art and communicates his dreams, fears and happiness through vivid imaginations.

Kairos supports him, nurtures him and adjusts its curriculum to meet his needs.

Kairos means time measured by the soul. There is kronos, which refers to chronological time and kairos, which is time to ask, explore and discover.

My son is able to ask questions and have them respected, answered and is empowered to find the solutions himself.

From the boy who couldn’t look anyone in the eye, he arrives at school, shakes hand with his teacher, looks him in the eye and quite clearly and audibly says, “Good morning Marc.”

Yes, the children use the teachers’ first names. They are people and mentors, not authoritarian dictators. It is accepted that the children are as worthy of respect as their elders.

One of the themes my son has covered has been the morality tale. He came home after the Boy Who Cried Wolf and told me the moral he had got out of the story.

It wasn’t the one I had been taught, but it was no less relevant.

His moral was that you should always listen and take a person seriously, because although they may have lied before, they might be telling the truth now.

Each week he states how he is feeling, why, what he is proud of and what his intention is for the week. They take each other’s feelings extremely seriously and have formed an incredibly loyal group of friends of all ages and both genders.

The school believes in:

  • The encouragement of critical and self-reflective thinking and active questioning, not passive acceptance
  • The empowerment of young people to find their own answers
  • The mentoring of children through successive levels of thinking toward higher-order reasoning and emotional sensitivity
  • The importance of listening to others views in the search for personal truth
  • The power to stand up for your morals, ethics and belief in right and wrong
  • The respect for the ideas and opinions of those around you
  • The truth that one question may have many right answers

The head teacher, Marc Loon, has an incredible bond with the children in his care. He also is very active in the Mankind Project and the co-founder of Boys to Men in Johannesburg.

His group of teachers are extraordinary and have worked in all sorts of educational institutions including at Brockwood Park School in the United Kingdom.

As a parent, as a mother, it hasn’t been easy. My educational paradigm is on the other side of the scale.

I’m learning too. Like how to cook vegetarian food for a troop of hungry children – tough crowd!

Yes, it is different.

Yes, it can be scary to go in the face of tradition.

Yes, it is exciting watching my child come alive, seeing him happy and confident.

Yes, it is very rewarding.

Overall, it was the best choice for him and so, it was the best choice for us.

Would it work for your child?

I don’t know. Every child is different.

Through the whole process the most important hurdle I faced was that as adults we value differences, but we expect all children to be the same.

They aren’t.

They are different as you and I.

Celebrate it. That’s where genius comes from.

The Fox and the Big Wooden Spoon

Yawn. I am so bored of gossip mongering busybodies with nothing better to do than troll through my blog for what they think are inflammatory comments. (Just an aside, perhaps they could turn their attention to JuJu’s blog, with all the furore they’ve caused about mine, perhaps they could do something about the things he says.) Basically it proves my point that while some people are born with silver spoons in their mouths, others are born with long wooden spoons in their hands.

So they find a remark they can latch on to then they tell someone else, who tells someone else. None of whom have read the bloody thing. Regardless of which, it’s a blog not the bloody gospel. I suppose all the religious zealots are going place me on their hit list now. I could delete it, but I won’t because I’m a bloody minded bitch when I feel like it.

All this snide sharing has achieved is to make a very nice lady, who I have great respect for and who takes the trauma out of my being a working mother, extremely upset. For absolutely nothing, but the fact I mentioned somewhere in this litany that I need to save money and I thought that aftercare was an area in which I could cut down as one of my sons hardly spends any time there anyway. So it was poor value for money to pay the full amount for a term’s aftercare when the child spends most of his time at sport. Really, was it necessary to embroider and exaggerate that to meet your own ends?

I wonder if they’ll share the fact that Small boy aged 6 seems to have recovered his joie de vivre and seems to enjoying school like never before. He had another session with the shrink today and practised his BIG voice on me in the car. He’s beginning to say the words with some conviction. They played out bullying scenarios with puppets and he was told he has a fox inside him. He is very proud of his inner fox. Perhaps that is why the beagle likes to follow him around? It’s lovely that the psychologist reads Socrates, or of course he may have been paraphrasing Clem Sunter? Still, much rather a fox than a hedgehog.

Small boy aged 9 came back from an outing to the Lesedi Cultural Village, a place about which I have my white guilt reservations. He had a marvellous time, spat on a stone to speak to the ancestors and came home with a rather terrifying knobkerrie. He informed me quite proudly that he could bash a man’s head in with it. Small boys have a horrifying fascination for blood and gore. Apparently I just have to brush it off and it is not a sign of a potential serial killer or Charles Manson in my midst.

Had a meeting this morning with what we hoped was a potential investor for our Big Idea. I obviously couldn’t don the Jenni Button power suit again so soon, so I had to make do with killer heels, literally. I had some foresight and stowed a pair of flatties in the trunk, but as I alighted from the car when I finally got to work, my partner in crime took off with a sudden burst of speed leaving me standing forlorn with screaming arches.

It was very good meeting and I got a wonderful breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs out of it, sadly no money though. I suppose practice makes perfect, but it is still disheartening to pitch so passionately for so little gain. If you know of any media slash tech VC funds who want to invest a lot of money in a fabulous money making idea around the world send them my way. Please.

Drama on all fronts! I feel like the other infamous Charlie and have great empathy for Mr Sheen in his current predicament. Thank God half term is almost here, I need a break from all of this. Perhaps I should take up macrame? What is macramé anyway?

Image from: Fantastic Mr Fox

The high horse and the fall

Honestly, small children confuse the hell out of me. After all this to-ing and fro-ing and toy throwing they’ve gone and made friends. Really? Now? Like now would be a good time? How about last week? That would’ve been better.

It seems the headmistress’s little chat with all of them must have struck a chord, for which I will be eternally grateful. I honestly think that when children this young start bullying others it is symptomatic of a deeper problem. It still needs to be addressed and ensured it never reoccurs.

But do I feel like a righteous idiot right now?
Unequivocally, yes.

It is not a pleasant feeling. Not unlike the jolt from falling off a very very high horse. But there you go, I can always remount tomorrow.

Image from: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn

The Great School Ambush Part 2

The Great School Ambush is still on tomorrow. All my moaning and complaining has paid off and resolution is on the horison. The sense of relief is palpable, although of course I still have the meeting about the Problem to attend to.

The scary thing about this is that it wasn’t my husband’s off-hand comment about my blog that led to the headmaster reading it.

Ah ha. The plot thickens. A mystery is afoot.

I have the crazy urge to laugh hysterically.

The tsunami and the teacup

Image from ilove2cgw.blogspot.com

Oh my! Oh my! I have caused a tsunami in a teacup. Who knew I had it me? Stand back or you might get wet.

The Great School Ambush turns out to have nothing to do with the bullying of my son and how we are going to resolve the issue. Instead it turns out that my blog is a Problem.

If I were a different sort of person I might apologise to those I have offended and promise never to do it again. But, I’m not. I am the daughter of a journalist and I grew up succoured on the unassailable rights of freedom of expression, speech and the media. I suppose the apple never falls far from the tree and I have certainly lived up to this pat little adage.

The power of social media and networking is a multi-headed hydra allowing the general public (like me) a public forum in which to exercise Freedom of Expression. I doubt anyone when drafting the constitution imagined how far it would extend. I seriously doubt I am the only parent with a blog and I’d bet a good amount of cash that there are more than a few students with blogs, Twitter accounts and MySpace pages. I am the one to whom the powers-that-be have drawn their attention to.

And how did that come about? It’s interesting really. Unless you’re a friend on Facebook or I’ve personally given you the address it’s a bit like searching for a needle in haystack. There are about 400 of us on Facebook with same name. The blog is not associated with me except for appearing on my profile. So somebody had a very busy morning indeed. The true culprit turns out to be closer to home.

Husband to headmistress: “She’s sitting there all quiet now, but if you want to know what she really thinks you should read her blog!”

Gee, thanks.

The initial shock of being called to the principal’s office has abated somewhat. After all, I did think those days were past. Then again my headmistress wrote me a very politely worded letter of reference on my matriculation. I could never show it to anyone, because reading between the lines she said I tended towards outspoken opinions and blowing at windmills.

I wasn’t supposed to know that I have become a Problem, but on the school run this morning the father of the offspring ran into the Principal of the Prep school. The father thought it was hysterical and called me struggling to breathe in between great gales of laughter. Ha. Ha. Ha. Nonetheless, despite my dodgy spelling, the Principal in principle has no problem with the blog as such. I knew I liked him.

Nonetheless I don’t think the institution has really considered the implication of social networking and Twitter. In the past parents and scholars had few avenues open to them. The school’s marketing and PR department handled any media issues.

I must digress here to an example that happened when I was school. A newspaper published an article about teenage smoking and interviewed a number of schools throughout the country. Turns out they also interviewed our headmistress. She stated unequivocally that her girls did not smoke. We had a good chuckle over that having spent a few hours in detention for that very reason. Still the reputation of the school remained intact even if the journalist writing the story expressed his disbelief. If we’d had Twitter then…

These days it’s all very different. Companies, businesses, service providers and individuals have to live up to and exceed their service level promises rather than papering over the cracks. I think it is quite refreshing, although my priority would be providing a resolution to the bullying problem rather than getting all worked up over a blog. Even better resolve it and I’ll blog about how brilliant the intervention was and how happy I am that it is all sorted out. Just saying.

Just to recap the Freedom of Expression as per our constitution:

Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes:¬
• freedom of the press and other media
• freedom to receive or impart information or ideas
• freedom of artistic creativity
• academic freedom and freedom of scientific research

The right in subsection (1) does not extend to: ¬
• propaganda for war
• incitement of imminent violence
• advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm

I don’t think I’ve incited anyone to outright war. And I may be somewhat disparaging at times towards my beloved husband, but so much as to be accused of hate speech? Okay, he may disagree. But that is his right.

After some research I have discovered that although not a card-carrying member of the Fourth Estate I am protected by the same laws. The writer of an opinion piece whether published in a personal blog or paid for by a syndicated publication is protected. Funnily enough South Africa even has a Coalition for Freedom of Speech founded during the whole debacle here about press freedom and the infamous Information Bill. I never thought it would apply to me, but there you go.

I don’t think my experience is any different to that at any school, in fact I am sure they all face myriad challenges of far graver severity than mine. My mother’s dog walking friend has two boys in high school at a very well regarded public school who are both struggling with crippling drug addiction. Apparently, it’s nothing special, all the boys do it.

I suppose I should call my father before he finds out from my mother – now that is social networking for you. They have some sort of psychic parental link. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon, rather a very big wooden one. It’s genetic.

Oh well, I feel like Zapiro, slightly bemused that something so small could have caused such a huge reaction. I usually imagine my friends having a good giggle over my posts, but it seems I am now writing to a captivated audience. How very odd.

The Bullies and the day Karma came knocking

I got a call. One of Those with a capital T. The ones that make a parent panic. Turns out Small boy aged 6 is being bullied by a gang of four kids in his class. My gut reaction was to go to them and put the fear of God and me into them courtesy of The Mummy Voice. On reflection I realised this was Bad Idea and turned to Plan B aka Small boy aged 9.

Plan B:
Small boy aged 9 (Blue belt JKA karate), plus two friends (one Judo aficionado and one celebrity son) will make a trip down at break time to the Pre-Prep where they shall intimidate and force submission from the perpetrators.

Small boy aged 9 “Am I allowed to punch them? Sensei said we can use karate on bullies.”
Far be it from me to go against the almighty Sensei.
Me “OK, what are you going to say?”
Small boy aged 9 “I’m going to tell them that if they mess with my brother they mess with my class and my college buddy.”
The college buddy is an enormous hulk of a boy in Grade 7 whose job it is to protect the Small boys in Grade 3 from bullies.

As an only child I hated that my friends at school could call down these superhero like beings called – my older sister/brother. They were imbued with superior strength and idols of perfection in every way. Small boy aged 6 is awed and humbled by the way in which his brothers classmates have thronged together to offer him support. As I walked away from the pre-mission briefing with the college buddy and the gang of Small boys aged 9, one broke away from the group and walked up to me.

“Small boy aged 6’s Mom,” he said.
“Yup,” said I.
“Don’t worry. We’ve got his back.”

It was like watching little Navy Seals prepare for battle. Those little snot-nosed, name calling wanna-bes in Grade 1 better watch out – retribution is coming and it ain’t pretty.

By the time I rocked into the classroom to confront the teacher I was rocking the passive aggression.

“Right,” I say looming in the doorway above the 3 foot high munchkins, “Show me the boys.”

They were pointed out to me and I fixed them with a steely glare and informed them that Small boy aged 6’s brother and his friends were not impressed and on their way to handle the situation. It was brilliant to watch the little gleams of panic in their shifty little eyes.

Female that I am, name-calling is a chick way to fight. I imagine that their limited vocabularies are not going to stand up to those of kids three years older and if Small boy aged 6 did decide to go Ninja on them, they’d cry like little girls too.