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I went to visit my hairdresser last week.  Having just relocated to a new and bigger salon, he is in the market for new staff.

“Not easy” he told me.  “It’s not easy to find good, willing, staff nowadays”.

I guess it is the sixth sense radar I’ve developed from working with teenagers in school settings that made me zero in on his words.  But when I asked “What do you mean?”  I really didn’t expect his lengthy reply in which he  assessed the nature of today’s youth:  their lack of interest in earning an honest day’s pay, their conviction that they ‘know it all’ and their sense of entitlement.

The bottom line was that my hairdresser was finding it very hard to employ someone who was sincerely interested in working in the salon and committed to learning how to not just work with him and other salon employees, but to be interested in working with clients.

It was a tough conversation in which I found myself reflecting on the many young people who have walked through the doors of our schools.  One that found me reflecting on not just this issue, but the larger issue of society and its future.

I can’t help wondering whether or not we  – schools today – are at fault in our preparation of today’s youth.  Is it the schooling these young workers’ are leaving our schools with or is it societal changes at large?

Makes for interesting thoughts – no?

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Last week I posted a piece written more than 2000 years ago about Seneca’s words of wisdom: the importance of living each day to its fullest.

Like many of you I imagine, I’d never heard of Seneca.

So when a dear friend, who read my post last week, sent me a link to a recent post about ‘Anxiety’ in which Seneca was also featured, I was kind of startled to think that so much wisdom could be found in pages written so long ago.

Seneca’s words in this piece clearly reflect  the anguish felt when anxiety grips our core and turns our lives upside down.  His advice is wise and timely.

Thank you Anna for sharing this with me.  By re-posting this piece found on Brain Pickings, I hope others will find comfort in Seneca’s words.

There are more things … likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality……

In his thirteenth letter, titled “On groundless fears,” Seneca writes:

There are more things … likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.

With an eye to the self-defeating and wearying human habit of bracing ourselves for imaginary disaster, Seneca counsels his young friend:

What I advise you to do is, not to be unhappy before the crisis comes; since it may be that the dangers before which you paled as if they were threatening you, will never come upon you; they certainly have not yet come.

Accordingly, some things torment us more than they ought; some torment us before they ought; and some torment us when they ought not to torment us at all. We are in the habit of exaggerating, or imagining, or anticipating, sorrow……

Life comes with no guarantees.  We just never know what’s around the corner; the challenges we may have to face; the difficult decisions that need to be made.

But one thing I have learned for sure, is the importance of living each day to its fullest.

Yes – Carpe Diem!

Just the other day, my husband shared the words of Lucius Annaeus Seneca with me.  A philosopher, who lived from c. 4 BC – AD 65, seems to have hit the nail on the head when he wrote this piece:

Continue to act thus, my dear Lucilius – set yourself free for your own sake; gather and save your time, which till lately has been forced from you, or filched away, or has merely slipped from your hands. Make yourself believe the truth of my words, – that certain moments are torn from us, that some are gently removed, and that others glide beyond our reach. The most disgraceful kind of loss, however, is that due to carelessness. Furthermore, if you will pay close heed to the problem, you will find that the largest portion of our life passes while we are doing ill, a goodly share while we are doing nothing, and the whole while we are doing that which is not to the purpose. What man can you show me who places any value on his time, who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily? For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed. Whatever years be behind us are in death’s hands. Therefore, Lucilius, do as you write me that you are doing: hold every hour in your grasp. Lay hold of to-day’s task, and you will not need to depend so much upon to-morrow’s. While we are postponing, life speeds by. Nothing, Lucilius, is ours, except time. We were entrusted by nature with the ownership of this single thing, so fleeting and slippery that anyone who will can oust us from possession. What fools these mortals be! They allow the cheapest and most useless things, which can easily be replaced, to be charged in the reckoning, after they have acquired them; but they never regard themselves as in debt when they have received some of that precious commodity, – time! And yet time is the one loan which even a grateful recipient cannot repay.”

Such a poignant and brilliant statement that quite simply tells us all to seize the day.  And if you haven’t seen Robyn William’s presentation of this concept, take just three minutes to see it.

 

Seize the day boys.  Make your lives extraordinary.

So much is written about encouraging STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) subjects  in our schools today.

As I looked through at an article listing 11 top Israeli innovations for treating wounds I was in wonder at the ‘can do’ attitude to develop solutions for seemingly simple problems. From an adhesive bandage which has a breakable capsule that releases a multi-compound therapeutic substance onto the sterile pad to a pressure bandage which features a unique built-in pressure bar to stop bleeding, the developments listed here are quite mind blowing!

Perhaps motivation for students in our schools could be as simple as exposing them to high tech solutions to everyday problems such as these that have been developed or are in trial testing or patent pending stages of development in overseas countries.

The power of one may well inspire the power of many!

An adage long shared within my family is

You are what you eat!”

So reading how academic performance is higher in those students who regularly eat fruit and vegies comes as no surprise to me!

An article by Henrietta Cook in last Sunday’s Age: Eating vegetables linked to higher NAPLAN scores ….. highlights a family who are growing up with a real sense of the value of eating well.  Both at home, where their mother regularly serves up healthy vegetable based meals, and at school where the children have gained an insight into the importance of food by participating in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program run in their primary school – Auburn South Primary  – eating ‘healthy’ is a given and, says their mother, her children’s school performance is well above average.

Although I’ve not been able to locate the research paper referred to in this article (unfortunately details are not documented), an online search turns up an abstract of an article to be published on September 1 by Appetite: Associations between selected dietary behaviours and academic achievement: A study of Australian school aged children.

Based on results of this study:

Greater consumption of vegetables with the evening meal (7 nights/week) was associated with higher test scores in the domains of spelling and writing (p=<0.01), with the greatest effect observed for spelling with a mean score difference of 86 ± 26.5 NAPLAN points between the highest and lowest levels of consumption (95% CI: 34.0-138.1; p=<0.01). Increased consumption of sugar sweetened beverages was associated with significantly lower test scores in reading, writing, grammar/punctuation and numeracy (<0.01).

It is concluded that:

The findings of this study demonstrate dietary behaviours are associated with higher academic achievement.”

This short abstract is enough to convince me that there is merit to the notion that good nutrition based around the increased regular consumption of fruit and vegetables by children is a very worthy research topic.

Meantime, the notion of putting a bowl of fruit – regularly replenished – onto the circulation desk in our library is more than a fleeting thought.

I wonder if …..

I seriously blinked in disbelief when I read this headline in a recent EducationHQ Australia publication!

But ….. much to my shock ….. the article confirmed the stats were real!

More than 1000 Prep students aged four and five – 1028 in fact – had been suspended in Queensland in 2016 – a statistic that is almost double the 572 recorded three years earlier in 2013.  The reasons for suspension included “physical and verbal misconduct and persistent disruption.”

Attempting to explain such incredible statistics, Kevin Bates, the Queensland Teachers’ Union president suggested several reasons:

  • prep education level was only introduced in Queensland in 2008
  • young students are ill-prepared for school
  • questionable opportunities for socialization before they come to school
  • the inadequate impact of daycare and home environments

Fortunately though, I discovered as I continued my read of the article, this figure represents only 1.1% of prep students!

The great majority of state school students from prep to year 12 behave appropriately every day, are actively engaged in learning and have positive relationships with their fellow students and teachers” said a Queensland Department spokeswoman.

So ….. how misleading a headline can be when facts are stated out of context!  A great example of sensationalism and a perfect example of how a person – me – can be hooked into reading an article just based on its headline!

I found myself pondering the reason I was so easily hooked by the headline and concluded that it tapped into my own belief that kids today just don’t behave as they did in the past.  And if I needed any proof of that, I found it just last weekend, prior to reading this article, when my husband and I visited a newly opened cafe just around the corner from us.

Packed full of people, it was super noisy, so noisy we could hardly hear each other talk.  The concrete floor and massive bare walls were surely to blame I commented.   Yes, possibly, but this wasn’t the first cafe we’d been in which was fitted out in the current super modern minimalist trend, none of which were as noisy as this one.

Then we looked around and saw it!  There were kids, lots of them, far more than the usual number of young children we’d ever seen in other cafes at which we’ve enjoyed morning coffee.  And it wasn’t that the numbers were greater, it was how they were behaving which struck us.  Screaming, yelling, running around as if there was no one else in the cafe was the norm for these young ones.  It was only after I found myself wincing at the high pitched squeals emanating from more than a couple of tables, that I looked up and started assessing what I was seeing.

The cafe seated around 50-60 people.  Parents with children, who were kept busy by the cafe supplied crayons and stencils, were in abundance.  In between colouring in their pictures, kids were doing what they most often do – zooming around open spaces, checking on their baby brother or sister in their prams, arguing with each other, running over to waiters and then waiting impatiently for their pictures to be pinned up on the wall.  It felt like I was in a school playground rather than a cafe!

Clearly this was an atypical cafe!   Yet, why did it attract such a large number of young families?  Then it clicked, the cafe was right next door to the local primary school.   It wouldn’t surprise us if the cafe owners had marketed themselves to the school next door.

If yes, they clearly achieved their aim!  If no, they clearly have a problem!!  Either this four week old cafe will survive on a niche clientel or, sadly, they will close sooner than they anticipate.

The underlying reality of our Sunday morning coffee though was as clear as anything.  Societal expectations of how children should or should not behave in public have shifted dramatically since I was young and most certainly since my children were the same age.

Am I looking through the ‘mature’ age lens?  Or could it be as the Queensland Teachers’ Union president suggested ‘young children are ill prepared’ or are constantly exposed to ‘questionable opportunities for socialization’?

I’m left wondering whether young children today are naughtier than previous generations or whether their parents simply don’t know how to discipline their children.

Or … dare I suggest … could it be that somehow we failed to model good parenting skills to our children so that they in turn would know how best to parent their children?

Or … am I totally off track here trying to lay blame when in fact societal expectations have shifted, that the ‘me’ first mentality prevails and what we witnessed in our local cafe is today’s ‘acceptable’ public behaviour?!

Hmmm….  It seems I have many more questions than answers here!

Just a few days ago, a fascinating report was filed by Matt Connellan on SBS about a young Israeli student, Sarit Sternberg, who has made a significant scientific discovery – finding a virus that can kill anthrax.

Not bad for a 16 year old student!

Enrolled in the Alpha program for gifted high school students in Israel,  Sarit is currently visiting Australia and is talking about her discovery.

Have a listen to the SBS report aired last week and share the video with students to inspire them to greater heights.

As mentioned by Sarit, it is her generation who are more easily able to think outside the box and is perhaps a lesson for us as educators to steer students in such directions.

Inspirational!