Archive for the ‘Prioritizing’ Category

Just last week, a friend sent me this magnificent stop-motion animation created by Charlotte Arene which, using the imagery of a bedroom, depicts the changing moods of the ocean as it shifts from evening dusk, through a fierce and angry night and finally becomes calm as dawn claims the day.

Captivating…..  Mesmerizing…..  Beautiful…..

It is not just that the sleeping woman bears an uncanny resemblance to someone I know and love which captivates me, but the deeper meaning that I see and feel each time I view this animation.

This young woman is at the mercy of the ocean as she slithers up and down the bed.  Life has a cycle.  The ocean has a cycle.  Man and nature are entwined.  Indeed we are all one with nature – dependent on the environment as it determines our lives, our survival and our ability to shift through the moods that shroud our days.

Some life decisions are made for us.  Events and situations that present themselves dictate the path we follow.  As I’ve written before …..

Life is so unpredictable, full of twists and turns we can never anticipate. Challenges crop up and hit us seemingly out of left field.  Unexpected and unplanned events, circumstances and situations can so quickly take over.  Value judgements can be upturned in an instant.  Days that quickly run into weeks and months take us in a different direction.  When it happens though, it’s easy to decide what is important. It’s easy to decide where attention must be focused.

Other life decisions however, are made consciously.

At the end of a passionate blog post I published late last year – Literacy, libraries and school reading culture – I was forthright in stating that I had recently resigned my position as a Teacher Librarian.  My decision has brought to a close a significant chapter of my life – one that I have thoroughly enjoyed and savoured.

For the moment, I am ‘between jobs’ as I take a break and search for another role in which I can meaningfully contribute to our collective drive to ensure that school libraries remain in the forefront of education.  The value and importance of reading is something I have continually espoused here on my blog NovaNews for nearly ten years!  As oft stated, I passionately believe that

Reading is the cornerstone of all education!

With a wealth of experience, I know I have much to offer others.  The many literary programs, events and ideas I have initiated and staged over the years in a number of different schools speak for themselves.  The advice I have shared with work colleagues to nurture and encourage a school wide reading culture have been well received.

As I wander through this ‘between jobs’ stage of life, I welcome the opportunity to assist others in devising ways to cement the role of the school library as a central location in the school, exploring ways to engage reluctant readers or those coming to English as a second language, developing ideas to encourage others to appreciate the power and importance of reading or advising on how best to develop and expand a positive school reading culture.

Available for either a once off consultation or for a short-term contract, I can be contacted at any of my cyberspace nooks – to chat about how we could work together to achieve your goals to devise and develop a program for your school.

Twitter:      @novanews19
Email:         bev.novak@gmail.com
LinkedIn:    Bev Novak

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I’m exhausted!  Totally pooped!!

I’ve just finished cleaning out my pantry to make sure I’ve gotten rid of every last one of those wretched teabags!!

I had no idea!  Did you?

Teabags, one by one, could be poisoning us, filling our bodies with nanoparticles of plastic.

A Canadian research team out of Montreal’s McGill University found plastic teabags release billions of microplastics and nanoplastics when dipped into a mug of hot water, posing an unknown risk to human health.”

The disturbing discovery which could put you off your tea (Yahoo News, 30th September 2019)

Like most of you, I had no idea that polypropylene, a material which is helpful in ensuring teabags hold their shape, is used in about 96% of teabags produced worldwide.

Researches conducting this study on pyramid shaped silken teabags anticipated discovering that hundreds, perhaps thousands of plastic particles would be released into a cup of water.  The findings of their study, which involved dunking the teabags into a cup of water for 5 minutes at a time, then analyzing the dried water through a powerful microscope, shocked researchers:

Researchers found the teabags released about 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nanoplastics into the hot water after sitting in the liquid for just a few minutes.”

The disturbing discovery which could put you off your tea (Yahoo News, 30th September 2019)

While there is no conclusive evidence that these particles are harmful to people’s health, the prospect of ingesting – over a week – the same amount of plastic as a credit card is pretty scary.

We’ve just made the shift to tea leaves – reminiscent of the many pots of Robur tea that my mother brewed throughout my childhood!

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It has been a while …..  I’m not sure I know how to write any more.  I’m not even sure I know what to write.

I feel like I have been living in a vacuum – tucked far away from my usual life, floating somewhere in the universe.

Life is so unpredictable, full of twists and turns we can never anticipate.  Challenges crop up and hit us seemingly out of left field.  Unexpected and unplanned events, circumstances and situations can so quickly take over.  Value judgements can be upturned in an instant.  Days that quickly run into weeks and months take us in a different direction.  When it happens though, it’s easy to decide what is important.  It’s easy to decide where attention must be focused.

I hadn’t planned to have more than a year and a half away from my weekly blogging here on NovaNews and BevsBookBlog but it happened.

I’m back now though.

I hope I will be able to find the spark to reignite my love of learning, my thirst for knowledge, my desire to walk with others on the path of discovery.

My desk is weighed down with much to read.  My virtual desk is even heavier!  Getting back into it is made that little more enticing by knowing that many of you have continued to peek at my blogposts during my absence.

Thanks for your loyalty.  I truly appreciate it.

As they say:


I hope to be up and running again real soon.

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There are so many inspirational people in the world.  TED and TEDx talks are replete with them.

This TEDx was published less than a month ago.  In it we hear Roei Sadan talk about his latest challenge and along the way he shares advice which is not only meaningful but is very moving.

You may have heard of Roei Sadan previously.  He received world wide media coverage as he completed his solo journey cycling around the world.  It took him five years to complete.  In that time he traversed 66,000 kilometers, 42 countries and six continents. An amazing feat.

Six months ago Roei embarked on his next challenge – climbing The Himalayas.  But he slipped and fell over 500 meters.  Roei was very badly wounded, injured in every body part, including his head.

Roei set himself a goal to present at this February 16, 2016 TEDx to share what he calls ‘The Dreamer Toolbox”.  They are four simple tools he used daily when climbing mountains and still uses today.

  1. The Mountain Always Looks Bigger From A Distance
  2. Be Grateful For Challenges
  3. Not Every Dream Needs To Be Fulfilled
  4. Put Your Ego Aside

Take the time to listen to this man sharing his advice.  What he has to share applies to each and everyone of us and provides such valuable lessons for the students in our schools.

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I just read a great article about the impact that technology is reaping on teachers in the Term 1 Edition of TechnologyEd – a great quarterly publication by EducationHQ.

Nodding my head in agreement at virtually everything that was written, I found myself reflecting on my own career – the then and now.

It may come as a surprise to younger teachers to know that the base line in the education sector hasn’t really changed all that much.  Being stressed and overwhelmed by the enormity of the job has always been a part of a career in education. Nothing, really, has ever changed.

Back then, in my early days of teaching, there was always

  • more to be done than could be humanely completed in a day
  • heaps to learn which invariably had to be done ‘on the job’
  • a never ending stream of correction and lesson preparation
  • constant communication demands to have responses ready for
    • students
    • parents
    • work colleagues
    • Heads of Department
    • School Admin

Nothing has changed.  We are still working at an impossible pace.   The same demands as then loom large on a daily basis.

Today though, technology has layered itself across everything we do.  For those not born with a mouse or a device in their hands, we’ve had to become familiar with technology whilst simultaneously using it and figuring out how to incorporate it into our teaching repertoire.   As I see it, there are two major aspects of technology that we need to get a handle on: technology as an adjunct to teaching and learning and technology as an adjunct to communication.

And from whichever way we look at it, technology ratchets up the stress level by more than just a few notches.  Many claim that stress levels today are higher than they were.  Back then the catch word was ‘teacher burnout’.  Today the new jargon is “technostress”.

So what is technostress?

stress or psychosomatic illness caused by working with computer technology on a daily basis (Wikipedia)

a feeling of anxiety or mental pressure from overexposure or involvement with (computer) technology (Dictionary.com)

It’s real and its constant.

There probably are few of us who can’t identify with ‘technostress’.  Knowing how to deal with it can be baffling because it is multi-layered.  Unfortunately there isn’t just one ‘fix’ to make it go away.  Some obvious suggestions spring to mind though:

  1. Designated ‘time out’: Set aside a regular time slot in the day or the week to not use technology.
  2. Self discipline: Make decisions and stick to them!
  3. Establish routines: Create on and off times for using technology.
  4. Set priorities: Weigh up the importance of daily routines and prioritize them.
  5. Restrict response: Set limits on the amount of time spent using technology.
  6. Create quiet time: Find time in a day to just ‘be’.
  7. Separate work and home: Work at work and relax at home.
  8. Do one thing at a time: Be offline when you read, listen to music, cook, eat or play with your child.
  9. Switch your smartphone off: Let replies go to message bank. Turn off the alarm for incoming call.
  10. Technology Sabbath: Yes! One day off a week!  Check out the gains to be had in this Sabbath Manifesto:
Sabbath Manifesto

Sabbath Manifesto

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How would you respond if you were asked the simple question:

What is the most important thing you have learned?

Stop for a second if you like and consider the answer …..

For me, as I’ve said so often on this blog, it has been the process of learning, of constantly expanding my horizons and developing deeper understandings about subjects I never thought were within my grasp.  It is this which has brought me untold joy.

My learning journey over the last four years is something I never expected to happen.   Perhaps, in part, it is this unexpected discovery that has brought me such considerable joy.   But I know, deep down, that it is more than this.  Often, I am overwhelmed by the realization that I am, as I get older, still able to learn, still able to develop new skills and still open to new ways of being.   The feelings of joy and exhilaration that this learning has brought and continues to bring to me is, in short, fantastic!

Being able to share my learning journey along with my joy of learning with others either by blogging or by sharing face-to-face, is a side benefit that brings me a deep sense of satisfaction.

So when I heard Bill Clinton’s response to this simple question which has just been released on a ‘Big Think’ video, I knew I had struck gold!

How much more simply can it be said?

I think the most important thing that I have learned is that there’s more to learn …. that we should all be hungry for a lifetime ….  your brain is a gift … we’re most likely to form new neural networks later in life by learning something new.”

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Yesterday afternoon, while enjoying some relaxing moments with my family, the conversation turned to photography.

While one son passionately talked about his joy of capturing the beauty of nature on his camera lens, the other son stated his new conviction to stop using his super-duper SLR camera to capture the moment and instead just live it!  Stopping to take photos, photos which he said he invariably never looked at again, just wrecked the experience and joy of being, he added.  So, he said, for now he’s done with photography!

The conversation was unexpected but, as it happened, it dovetailed perfectly into thoughts I’ve been mulling over this last week.   The notion of ‘being present in the moment’ or ‘living an experience now’ surfaced in both a newspaper article I read earlier in the week and a TED video which I caught up on just a few days ago.

A very well written article by Bernard Toutounji: Too may smartphone photos, too few memories.  (The Age, October 22, 2013) questions the motive behind our incessant obsession with using smartphones to film experiences had.

The problem with our photographic obsession ….. is that we have become less interested in “living” the moment and more interested in “capturing” it.

Toutounji quotes some mind-boggling stats at the start of his article:

In 2014 it is estimated that 1.5 billion smartphone cameras will take nearly 1 trillion photos – that’s hundreds of thousands of photos every minute (3000 in the time it took to read this sentence).

Three hundred million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day, capturing every poignant, funny, strange, exotic and dull moment, from our latest meal, to the TV show we are watching, to the Ikea furniture we just assembled. Every two minutes mankind collectively takes as many photos as the whole of humanity took in the 1800s.”

Unwittingly, my son’s words, echoed the theme of Toutounji’s article.   Creating memories in our hearts and minds of events experienced and lived are far more powerful than those recorded on our smartphones and cameras.

And what’s with our obsession to constantly share what we are doing, seeing and experiencing with the world?   Status updates are a weird phenomenon.  And why do we constantly feel a need to ‘check in’?  Sharing on social media has certainly reached epic proportions.   Just think about the hours wasted scrolling through the Facebook profiles of friends to ‘catch up’.  Heavens to Betsy – what happened to sitting around chatting face-to-face?!

With all these thoughts fresh in my mind, I was blown away to listen to the erudite Abha Dawesar passionately sharing her thoughts of Life in the “digital now”  Speaking from the heart, Dawesar makes us consider where our digital world is taking us.   Noting that the Internet has shrunk space as well as time, she refers to the “digital now” where there is

….. no distinction left between the past, the present and the future and the here or there.  We are left with this moment, everywhere, this moment that I’ll call the digital now ….

Dawesar echoes Toutounji’s words when she says that

….. the current moment is increasingly unmemorable”

Take just a few minutes to have a listen:

So where do all these thoughts leave me?

The social fabric of our lives has shifted.   Our world is no longer as it used to be.  The temptation to capture moments of our lives and share them via social media is so easy.  While such sharing is not something that gives me a buzz, I have to admit that I regularly flick through my newsfeed to catch up on the latest.   I’ve learned to skip over chunks of the feed though, pause at that which piques my interest and focus on that which is of deeper interest.   I’ve been surprised at the power of social media to get to know people I really don’t know very well.   It’s odd though, isn’t it?   “Knowing” people or “getting to know” people used to be something achieved by face-to-face contact.   That’s certainly changed.  There are many people I have gotten to know quite intimately on Facebook by passively interacting with them on social media.   And by passive, all I’m doing is reading their status updates.   I’m not commenting, I’m not interacting.  I’m just simply sitting at my desk reading their posts and their interactions with others to get a ‘picture’ of who they are, how they think and behave.   It’s odd – no?   Very odd.  Somehow it feels out of kilter.

But coming back to the theme of this post ….. yes ….. I’m passionately aware of the need to enjoy the moment for what it is.  As my husband, my best friend and mentor says: Carpe Diem!  This video clip with Robyn Williams in the “Dead Poet’s Society” movie has become legendary in our family.

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