Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Exchanges...

So, my busy week is still busy, but the past couple of days have seen an exchange of one busy activity for another.

Everything with the event I was project managing for Thursday fell in a heap over Monday and Tuesday when the other party we were working with didn't foresee a problem that cropped up and bit them in the arse. It changed our investment in the event and we decided to take a rain-check as it would be worth our while to outlay the cost for the change in event. Two months worth of preparation down the drain, but I guess it is all experience. It was very frustrating, especially as I spent all of Monday trying to manage the other party in rectifying the oversight on their part. The solution was unsatisfactory, so I pulled the pin. I suppose part of project manage is knowing when to let go.

However, one project was immediately replaced with another when I was asked to do an interview with ABC television in the lead up to the make-a-thon on the weekend. Luckily, I was given 24 hours notice so I was able to make sure I did my face and chose brand friendly clothing. The interview went well. It is very fortunate that I just don't suffer with nerves when it comes to presenting. More filming will be done on Friday at the make-a-thon itself, so the piece will likely air on Friday night. As it is Melbourne news, I'm expecting it will be local ABC only.

The presentation and Q&A I did with the Common Purpose delegates from RMIT also went really well, and in fact, we had a student inquire about volunteering opportunities here, which is great because we're always looking for professionals to volunteer in key areas.

So, busy is still busy, just a bit different from what I was expecting on Monday morning. The interview was fun, and the cancellation of the event on Thursday frees up my morning so I can get to the airport without stressing. It's all good!


Monday, November 27, 2017

Oh, this week!

Well, it's finally here. THE WEEK.

This week is the week I host a City of Melbourne Metro Access Officer, and a City of Melbourne Councilor.

It is also the week I go to Adelaide and present my latest paper.

AND

It's the week where I spend 72 hours at a make-a-thon with a team of people creating some awesome technologies to assist people with a vision impairment.

Oh, and did I mention it is the week I work as a mentor with a group of engineering students from RMIT as part of the global 'Common Purpose Program', aimed at building more accessible cities?

It's going to be a big week and the only thing giving me a bit of nerves is the paper presentation. Funny, hey?

I guess so much more hangs on that 20 minute presentation than on any of the other things I'm doing. I find I'm second guessing myself a lot on my argument. I'm haunted by the criticisms of my ex-supervisor. Is my contention strong enough. Do I have valid references. Will it be okay that I combine theories from different disciplines? Isn't that what new theories are about? I believe so, but can I convince 'the old guard'. I'm bringing together theories from psychology, education, and sociology to underpin my validation of Flash Fiction and the most appropriate form of expression for the experiences of third culture kids.

The thing is, I have this one quote I really want to start my presentation with and do you think I can find it? I can find many similar quotes, but this one is special, it really gets to the heart of the issues faced by third culture kids. I really need to find it!

I've gotten myself a JPass so I can access a larger database of journal articles, I'm hoping that will help. If only I could remember who wrote the quote. If only I could picture their name.

Argh!

I still have a couple of days.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Education Misconceptions...

On the train this morning I overheard a conversation between two men, it went something like this...

Man 1: Yeah, so my son needs a good score in Math for the course he wants to do at Uni. The thing is, math is the class he's struggling with. I'm going to have to get him a tutor.

Man 2: That's no good.

Man 1: Absolutely. I rang the school yesterday afternoon and am expecting them to call back this morning. I'm going to tell them that I'm not impressed considering I'm spending $27 000 a year on the kid's education.

Man 2: Good! I'd be pissed, too. You'd expect they'd get the kid up to speed.

...

There is a misconception out in the community that private schooling guarantees a better education, or more precisely a better outcome in terms of higher scores for getting into the best course of choice at University.

Education doesn't work like that.

Private schools market themselves on the scores of their students and their ranking on sites like the 'My School' site, but what they don't tell parents is that they often poach the highest achieving students from public schools to increase their scores, luring them with scholarship, They have waiting lists and pre-entry testing which allows them to cherry pick the highest scoring students even before their parents fork out tens of thousands of dollars every year for their child to be able to ride ponies as an elective choice, or swim in the school pool, or use the most up to date technology, or make important connections in society.

So, parents believe they can send their child to these schools and BECAUSE they pay exorbitant fees, the school will magically transform their child into an overachiever.

If the child doesn't have the aptitude, or more importantly the thirst for knowledge in all areas of their education, they are bound to do well in some subjects and not as well in others. As the old adage goes, 'Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid". Not everyone can climb the tree, not everyone will do well in math - no matter how much you pay.

Of course, the opposite is also true. Just because your child goes to a public school, and you only pay a couple of thousand a year, does not mean your child will not be able to become whatever it is they choose to be. If your child isn't doing well in a subject at school, it's not because you didn't pay enough money. Money does not buy ability, and even the very best teachers will struggle, and often falter, in their quest to coax an unable to unwilling student to excel at a subject.

That dad can bluster at the school as much as he wants today, but it is probably pointless. If his child really wants to get into that course, the child will have to put in the extra effort himself. By taking the stance that the school should be responsible for the child scoring enough sends the child the message that it is the school's fault he is not doing well. It teaches an abdication of responsibility. It might even cause the child to think they are stupid and there is no point putting extra effort into raising their own score.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Working with Children...

In the past couple of weeks I've had the benefit and pleasure of working with a few classes of children, doing information presentations. The first was with a group of three 5/6 classes and the second with a group of three 3/4 classes. It was great to be able to talk about what it is like to live with a disability, how compassion and consideration work, and of course, what it is like to have a dog guide.

The kids are full of questions and there are some really thought provoking questions in there like 'How do I help a blind person?' and 'When did you realise you were blind?'

Kids are so open and curious. They all loved coming up and petting Harlem after the talk and loved telling me about their dogs. There were a few who were a bit shy or afraid of dogs and it was good for them to be able to have a go at petting a calm dog. Harlem absolutely had a ball. His tail wagged so much I half expected it to fall off in the end.

Kids make a great audience, they laugh on cue which is always very satisfying! They are willing to have a go at answering questions even if they aren't sure if they are understanding the question. Sometimes their answers are surprising and very insightful, like when I described this scene...


The suggestions included the tallest person putting the shortest person on their shoulders, or cutting the fence so that it sloped down for the shortest person. These were very clever ideas, and they showed how the kids really understood the concept of everyone being treated the same taking into account their challenges.

Honestly, I could work with kids every day!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Giving...

Giving, it's not hard.

It doesn't have to be material giving.

I've been thinking that I need to give more.

I need to give more presence. I often find myself trying to do several things at once. Sometimes that soothes the restlessness in me. In the long run, though, it's a selfish habit. Giving something your full attention is a sign of respect for the thing or person who has your attention at that moment. It shows that this exercise, or this person is important. That they come first in that moment. It means you are more likely to remember what you've done and said, and with people, what the other people have said. I've read that listening should be hearing the other person, not preparing your next response. I'm guilty of spending the gaps between one thing I say, and the next thing I say, preparing my response instead of really listening to what is being said to me. I need to work on giving more presence.

Giving patience is another one. Patience and its cousin Understanding are often abandoned because of the lack of presence. I often find myself being impatient for the other person to get to the point. Often this is directly related to me having planned my response and just wanting to get to the place where I can give that response. The response isn't as important as the patience to listen and understand what is being said, both the verbal and the non-verbal.

Giving my best. I know I fall short of this one all the time. It is related to not being able to give patience. In my rush to get things done, I often skip the effort of giving my practice my best. I give 'good enough', I know I do, because it is easy, it takes less time, and less presence.

All of these things are related, and they are linked to selfishness. Putting my interests and my time ahead of other people's. This is my new habit goal: to give more presence, more patience, more understanding, more effort.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thank goodness!

Ah, the relief!

Yesterday's crisis has been resolved. Paypal made a mistake and charged me twice for something, and rectified the problem yesterday afternoon! Which is just as well because the high school bills started rolling in last night.

Luey came home and told us one of the music department administrators had told him we hadn't paid for his music tuition this year and that we couldn't pay next year's tuition until we had paid this year's tuition. Well, first of all, we have already submitted and been given a receipt for half of next year's payment - that was the money which was unexpectedly withdrawn from my account last month, putting me $500 in the red in my own budget. Secondly, we were pretty sure we'd paid the tuition. Finally, why on earth wasn't the administrator contacting us directly?

As it turned out an invoice did turn up in the mail yesterday afternoon, and that stated that of the $450 tuition fee we'd paid $425, so we actually only owed $25. Either the administrator didn't communicate this properly for a teenage boy to understand, or Luey just forgot to mention that it was only $25. Either way, we're paying it this morning.

The invoice also asked for a range of other amounts. A couple we're already on a plan for, so that's okay. A few more I'll cover tomorrow and they include this years electives for Luey and next years electives for both Luey and Bryn - music features highly so, of course, we don't want to default on paying those fees. That only leaves one amount, the biggest amount of $545 for 'essential items' for Luey for 2017. That I'll pay next week. We still haven't heard about 2018's essential items for both boys, or Bryn's camp. At this stage, though, we might have to tackle those in January, or on a plan. We still have Ari's fees, and Bryn and Luey's books to pay for before Christmas. Thank goodness Bryn doesn't need a uniform for high school because of the new free dress policy!

It's a great relief though that the financial crisis I was facing yesterday morning has been resolved, or I would have been in a right state this morning!

I really have to do better next year though. I'm going to set up a school account for the kids and set aside money (on top of the plans we will have) because I seriously don't want to be doing this again next year. Besides which, who knows if I'll even have a job next year.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Shame...

The shame is mine.

A month or so ago, I forgot about an upcoming payment and ended up $500 short. Since then, I've been playing catch up. This last week, I mistakenly paid the rent into a utility account. I was able to get it refunded, which would take a few days. This meant my account showed two different figures. One was the amount sitting in the account that was unavailable to me, the other was the amount that was available. For some reason, I thought the amount which was unavailable was in credit - this is not a mistake I usually make. Most of it, in fact, was in debit. So, I went ahead and borrowed from Peter to pay Paul on a few things I really did not need.

This morning I received a big shock when I looked at my bank account and found the money sitting in there as unavailable had been cleared and suddenly my available money was over $500 less than I was expecting. On top of this, I had the debit from the other account which I'd been 'borrowing' against the money I thought was credit in my main account.

So, now I'm over $600 short of what I was expecting to be.

My shame lies in two things. That my talent for personal book keeping has failed me for a month now, and that, once again, I've been living beyond my means.

There is no excuse for either. What's more, I have now proven the argument that the more you earn, the more you spend. I was so pleased with myself that I was able to save money towards things we needed, and now, I'm broke!

For the next week my budget is $22 a day. Which means Dave and Luey are going to have to tighten their belts as well. I need to get back in the black, and big time. Besides the fees which are looming large (thanks so much for the long notice schools - you'll want your money straight away but won't let us know what it is in time to budget for it properly), there is Christmas in just five weeks time.

Damn it. I was going to do so much better than this!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Anniversary...

Today is Dave and my anniversary.

We've been together for 21 years.
We've been living together for 20 years.
We've been married for 19 years.

Yeah, it all happened on the same date, which is convenient when it comes to remembering these things.

Or so you might think.

As it turns out, this morning I forgot, and I think it's safe to say Dave forgot as well. Is this what happens after 19-21 years? Do we just forget? I'm not fussed about it, we never did much in the way of celebrating our anniversary. For a few years there we would go out to dinner, but it was really not a big deal (okay, it was in as much as going out, by ourselves, with NO kids, and eating - sometimes - at a restaurant, with tableclothes, was kind of a big deal - just not in an anniversary kind of way).

I was going to organise a vow renewal for our 10th anniversary, but as it turned out, Ari was two and a half weeks old when that came around, so nothing got done. Next year will be our 20th, and I feel like we should do something, other than dinner out, for that anniversary. Two decades is kind of significant, if only because we somehow survived that long in a time when nearly half of all marriages don't. I don't know what to do, though.

Any ideas?

Monday, November 13, 2017

It's off to conference I go!

After a lot of to and fro, I'm headed off to the AAWP conference again. I didn't go last year. I was discouraged from going. That still riles me up. I expected, as part of my degree, I would be encouraged to present. Then again, I also expected I would be encouraged to write up my research for journals - to put myself out into the big, bad, world of peer review and have my writing critiqued. Furthermore, I expected I would be trained in teaching so that I could learn to head up a class, which would later serve to disseminate my research in a live setting and explain it to people who were still learning at a basic level.

I expected too much, it seems.

So, here I am, doing it on my own. I am forced to write journal articles with no guidance, support, or encouragement. I have to present at conferences that I have have to keep myself accountable for applying to present at, even though it will not go towards my attaining a degree. I still haven't managed to get myself in front of a class of budding academics, but I use every opportunity I have to educate people in the field I have found myself working in.

Without the framework, support, and encouragement of a supervisor or an institute, I am making this happen without any recognition other than my own. I would argue I'm doing it a lot tougher than people who participate in PhDs. I am having to be an independent researcher - an island in the academic ocean - without the scaffolding that is a PhD.

Mind you, it is exciting! Doing it on my own. Being self-motivated and self-directed. Standing on my own two feet and wobbling like a toddler taking their first steps. I don't expect it to be a smooth ride. I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop. When will I receive my first rejection for a paper submitted? So far I'm two for two on submitting and being accepted, but when will that 100% tally be challenged? Will it be with this next paper? Only time will tell.

I'll be tackling a subject not tackled to date. Then again, most anything about flash fiction in English has not been tackled to date. That is the great benefit of researching a largely unresearched topic written in English. There is plenty of research in Latin American and Chinese, but these are not readily accessible in English and so the existing research cannot be shared globally.

Now for the challenge at hand: I have to actually write this paper. It is one thing to have a proposal, and something quite different to write a paper. Fortunately, the paper itself isn't due until March. Only the presentation is due in just over two weeks, but a presentation cannot be made without research and preparation.

Two weeks, that's plenty of time, right? I mean I know what I'm talking about, I just have to communicate it clearly and concisely - get it all down in a twenty minute talk... That's doable... Hmmm, maybe this is where some guidance and support would have been good to have. Oh well, I just need to put my big girl pants on and do it on my own.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Success is the sweetest response to criticism!

Yesterday, I received word that the paper my colleague and I submitted in April this year has been published! If you are so inclined, you can read the paper here. I was super excited to see the company I was keeping as well. Some big names in my field within Australia!

My ex-supervisor was also published in the issue in a joint paper. I really hope she took note that I had submitted and been peered reviewed and accepted into the issue - she probably didn't. I really hope she had to admit to herself that I actually am a good researcher and a good writer - she probably didn't. I suspect she's run me down in the wake of my withdrawing from the degree. I suspect I have become one of the students she uses as a cautionary tale. One she says just didn't have what it takes. She often ran down other current and past candidates to me, so my suspicions are not paranoia. Being published in a prestigious paper among prestigious researchers negates any slurs she might have put out there.

It is difficult to withdraw from a PhD. It is difficult to write off all that time and all that research, especially when the cause is the supervisor and a department unwilling to take the situation seriously. The only recourse for an ex-PhD candidate is to continue to research independently, to submit and hope to be successfully peer reviewed. To break through the stigma of having 'given up'. There is always that concern that people will choose to believe you just didn't have what it takes - that the real reasons might be buried under gossip.

One day I might be able to push through the projected difficulty of ever getting back into a PhD - which was one of the reasons given me for not withdrawing. In the meantime, I just have to keep researching and keep submitting.

With this publication I can officially say I've had the best year in the past decade!

I've had a novel published.

I've gotten a great job doing something where I actually get to positively impact people's, particularly students, lives in real time.

I've been published in an academic journal.

At the beginning of 2017 these all seemed like pipe dreams, and I despaired of seeing any of these things come to fruition. Now, here I am, just nine months out from having withdrawn from the PhD and all the things I was told would be made so much more challenging without a PhD have just fallen into my lap.

Yay!

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Thank God It's Almost Friday...

It has been a cray-cray week!

I'm in the middle of putting together an event where a Councillor from the City of Melbourne will be visiting us (at the Seeing Eye Dogs Australia site, yay puppies!) for Disability Awareness Week. If you had told me a year ago I'd be a project manager, let alone managing a project with Melbourne Council to host a morning tea and tour with a Councillor (possibly the Lord Mayor), I'd have laughed in your face!

I have also been working with Vic Uni as well as a DLO from La Trobe Uni I'll be co-presenting with for the Disability Liaison Officer Professional Development day in Ballarat, about the two presentations I will be doing in two cities (Holy hell!) on the 7th of December.

I have been consulting with the Maker Team about the modifications to the dog guide harness and the production of a micro-GPS app - our next meet up in next Wednesday.

I've been preparing for a delegate of RMIT students to come to our site as part of the Common Purpose Programme, a global initiative to teach leadership skills and improve community experience. I am going to be a mentor in a project looking at improvements for people with disabilities - in our case vision impaired and blind people.

Meanwhile, we had our first volunteer session at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. This is another project I am managing where, in partnership with the hospital, we have a group of volunteers attending a Tuesday morning outpatient clinic and offering in the community supports to people experiencing vision loss. The session went well and I'm really looking forward to seeing it blossom over the next couple of months before Christmas. If it goes well, I want to expand it to another client on a Thursday afternoon.

And finally (because I can't remember anything else, though I know there is much more), I've started the second phase of my training to become a Problem Solving Therapist Specialist. Apparently, this programme is being rolled out across the organisation, and so there will be a team of specialists (currently 12, I think) who will support clients across the services in developing a methodical and pragmatic approach to problem solving.

These are the main things.

A colleague told me six months ago that I would become too busy to breathe in no time. It seemed to take forever - and not being busy is torture for someone with ADHD - I literally just want to crawl into bed so the time will pass without me consciously having to monitor it.

We had a meeting here at work yesterday morning which has set some very exciting development goals that I get to be central in effecting. More busy on the horizon and I couldn't be happier!




Teenagers and the failing parent...