Monthly Archives: February 2015

Teaching “Those” Students

I just spent some of the best 17 1/2 minutes of my life watching a TED Talk  called “The Toxic Culture of Education”by Joshua Katz, a High School teacher of Mathematics. During the view, I thought Joshua’s blood pressure was about to need medical attention and with that came an energised appetite for “THOSE Students”.

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Filed under non-cognitive skills, relationships, standardised tests, standardised tests values Joshua Katz, values

Eli, Eli Lema Sabachthani

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(Image: Staples, 2015)

Up until now I reserved this website for more educational based writings but the events of recent times involving two of my fellow countrymen, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran have led me to put my thoughts down in a post.

Both these men are known to nearly every breathing Australian. Known as the “Ringleaders of the Bali 9” and currently smelling the incense of death as they have been sentenced to execution by firing squad. These two men allegedly tried to smuggle eight kilograms of heroin into Indonesia. They were found guilty…accepted.

But through the media we hear of their transformation as human beings and the transforming effects they have had on other human beings especially those sharing the stench of prison surrounds.

Tonight as I read a Tweet posted by a friend, where he sits in prayer, in a vigil organised for them and my hearts cries out “Eli, Eli lema sabachthani” just as Jesus apparently cried out when he was on the cross. This means “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me”.

My God, where are you to show me that these men are worthy of salvation. How much more worthy can a person be? I hear the limp reasons for supporting their execution. That they put other people’s lives at risk. How many of us have never put another person’s life at risk simply by speeding along a freeway; or not regularly checking the rubber on our vehicles’ tyres. No comparison I hear you say, I beg to differ! I was young and stupid once too but disguised as mature, responsible and job holding. Now I see the error of my ways but when I was younger I just smelt the fresh air in the open window and music to singalong with as I drove along the road. Not heroine, correct but still a deadly weapon was my car. How many truck drivers take drugs to keep to a deadline. Yes, workers trying to feed their family but still a deadly weapon when they fall asleep at the wheel of a truck. How many foreman have allowed their construction workers to work in unsafe work environments without harnesses or head gear. Not heroine but still a deadly weapon. And the list goes on. Do we accept execution for these people?

The argument continues that if my “child” died from one of these overdoses would I feel differently about them. My answer is no. My “child” made that decision just as others in my community choose to take alcohol in excess and put their own life and put others’ lives at risk.

I’m not contemplating that these men should be freed and perhaps, maybe through some mystical presence Joko Widodo may inhale this thought. Perhaps these men’s purpose for existence in life was to be caught and be imprisoned so that they could do what others have failed to do. To save; to show compassion and dignity to other inmates; to transform the lives of so many; and to challenge our laws for the rights of the ruah of the human being. Would I have been writing a post about people in a prison if they hadn’t transformed my own life and the answer is quite clearly no. These men, like so many “misfits in a perfect society” have served their fellow man in ways many of us can’t imagine let alone achieve. And I ask, if someone like Jesus came across these men what would he say to them? I have no doubt that they’d be embraced with the most outreached arms and a forgiving heart. The thought of even possibly hearing that they have been executed makes my heart stop. I pray every day as I don’t want to cry out “Eli, Eli lema sabachthani” if that time comes.

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Inspirational Learners

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You know, being born in a country like Australia gave me the opportunity to learn using a language that is so familiar to me. It wasn’t always like this for me having started Primary School with no English language skills. I still managed to “find my way around” the school and its many environments. But what is it like for an adult, who comes to a new country and has no English understanding. This past week has seen two people I know start English classes. My amazing brother in law is the first and the other is my neighbour, a family man who lives in my street and has come to Australia, with his young family, as a recognised refugee.These are two men, who have left their families, a life they are familiar with and the security of their first language to come to a country which has its own distinct colourful culture and language.

Speaking to both these gentlemen, after only two English classes, and you can see why I admire these “Inspirational Learners”. They are going back to basics in language: counting; recognising days of the week; learning alphabet letters and so on. These are both capable men who had careers in their own countries. Men who supported extended families and they are now “starting from scratch”. What makes them inspirational is the smile that they use to tell me about their day at “school”. They laugh at their accent when reading their new found knowledge; they proudly repeat newly formed words; and they use it in context.

Every time I hear a word come from their mouth, which clearly is newly learnt, it makes me take a deep breath and recognise that lifelong learning is not always a progression from a particular point along some continuum of learning but that it may take you back to an initial stage of learning and requires you to “start again”.

Upon seeing their blackline masters for the letters of the alphabet; looking at their neatly formed handwriting and seeing the grade “Good” written on the bottom of the page makes these two men “inspirational”. They pull out one stencil after another from their bag with so much pride and self encouragement. Each paper they show me is a step closer to their “new life”.

I write this post as a Masters Student at university but the respect and admiration I have for these two men, as learners who are going back to basics  within the new country they now reside in, is exponential!

Finally, I saw my neighbour tonight, after Day 2 at English Classes. He greeted me at the door with his brand new T’shirt with an oversized Australian flag on it.He said it is now his favourite shirt…..makes me so emotional and proud! This is a man who came from a country where his home was bombed, his son shot in the eye and trying to raise a teenage daughter who is completely dependant for physical and cognitive support.

I may not have the “academic” definition of inspirational leaners but I sure as cookies reckon these two men define it perfectly!

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Filed under English as a Second Language Migrants Inspirational Learners, ESL