Field of dreams

I liken our schools to a field of dreams. From the movie of the same name, we learnt that ‘if we build it, they will come’.

Apart from the school infrastructure that needs to be constructed and maintained, we also need to become more aware of the importance and necessary work we expect our professional teaching staff to undertake.

In bygone years students existed under a threat of sometimes severe retribution should they not pay attention or perform according to the strict instructions of their teachers.

Fortunately, that concept doesn’t exist in the same form today. However, discipline is still a problem and can cause our educators considerable concern, energy and time either in the classroom or out in the playground.

Teachers are required to strictly adhere to Education Department subject curriculum from which the students will be assessed. Comprehensive written assessments for each student are required progressively throughout the year, enabling parents to be fully aware of their child’s progress in each subject.

Apart from the teacher’s physical presence in the classroom, the preparation and documentation of lessons for students and individually challenged students, is an on-going daily requirement. Other areas in which our educators are involved, and often in their own time, include discussions with individual students concerning their curriculum plans, the preparation of students for school sporting teams, and academic and community representation.  

Teachers are often required to provide support to students when breakdowns occur in friendship groups, or at times when they wish to discuss general difficulties being experienced in their lives outside the classroom. Generally, in their own time, our educators attend staff meetings and parent/teacher interviews, subject selection nights and prepare work for sick or injured students to complete at home.

Our teachers need to maintain their own professional standards through study and course attendances. To say teachers get more holidays than the average worker, is grossly unfair. They are only paid for 25 hours work per week and spend many hours of their normal, private and holiday time doing unpaid school work.

In essence, teachers generally are a dedicated group. They become very aware of how each of their students see their own individual ‘field of dreams’ and are most conscious of their role in educating our young people to be productive future citizens.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Christmas in Australia

The concept of a white Christmas, snowmen and blazing fireplaces, is really quite foreign to Australians. Yet, in maintaining a tradition, Santa Claus and his helpers still swelter in heavy clobber and must come complete with boots, beard and padded midriff bulges.

The birth of a baby in a stable outside a little town called Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, is the real reason for Christmas. The peace surrounding the stable on that historic night is still felt by many throughout the world.

However, the message, “Peace on earth, good will to all people”, isn’t accepted universally. There are those around our world suffering in strife torn areas. There are the homeless, the hungry and the poor. Also, among us, are those whose greed for power and possessions, leave a trail of broken people in their wake.

Even though we might celebrate Christmas a little differently in this ‘lucky country’, we should find time to spare a thought for those less fortunate in other parts of the world.

Maybe we can share some of our own ‘peace and goodwill’ with Aussie battlers in our own towns and cities who are reaching out, just as the baby in the stable reached out on that first Christmas, seeking to be recognised and longing to be loved.

Let’s try and spread our greetings a little wider this year.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Some would see success as merely the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. However, many tend to see success as only attainable if we become rich or famous.

The ability to raise our social status by openly displaying our affluence is often seen in the luxury and opulence with which we surround ourselves. Successful people motivate and inspire others. For some, hard work and dedication usually over a lengthy period, enable them to be recognised as earning their success and associated benefits.

Bob Dylan said we are successful if we get up in the morning and go to bed at night and in between we do what we want to do. He was fortunate that doing what he wanted to do made him sufficient money to enjoy life in his own way.

To quote Ralph Emerson, an American poet and writer, when asked to define success, his response was: “To laugh often; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To appreciate beauty and find the best in others.”

He also suggested “We should leave the world a bit better, by knowing even one life has breathed easier because we have lived.” This, he said, “is to have succeeded.”

To me, Emerson’s suggestions seem a very effective gauge of success which, if we adopted, would enable us to help each other make a success of our lives.                                                                                          

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Spectator parents

It sometimes takes considerable planning and time management to ensure parents are present at their children’s various sporting events. It is usually obvious from our kid’s attitudes that they expect you, not only arrange their transport to and from their sporting venues, but that you are there to watch and encourage them.

While this process can take up a major chunk of your time, it is important parents watch with interest how their children perform. There is no doubt parents will need to be attentative, to be involved in the after-the-event discussions.

Our children’s involvement in sports is a healthy exercise for them and needs to be encouraged. How, we as parents, provide that encouragement can be vital to the effectiveness of their participation.

The more recent concept of giving each competitor a reward for their involvement, in my opinion, takes away the need for children to strive to perform at their best. This, consequently reduces the value of the reward for the victors.  Given the right encouragement, hopefully, those who fail to achieve an award will try to improve and thus gain more benefit, both mentally and physically from the exercise.

How we go about encouraging our children in improving their participation in the sport of their choice is of great importance. The first question we must ask ourselves is whether the choice of the particular sport was theirs or ours.

Sometimes, because we played a particular sport when we were younger, we assume our children will follow in our footsteps. This can often lead to outbursts of anger from the side lines if parents see in their children what they would deem as failed performances, based on their own adult standards.

This negative form of attack on our children is far from encouragement and could be said to cause the child considerable anxiety and mental stress. Positive suggestions and helpful encouraging advice will help our children aim to perform at their best while competing.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Polling day

His election day started badly because, upon arrival at the polling booth, he was unable to find a space in the car park area adjacent to the local hall.

He was heard to be muttering as he reversed out and had to park some 50 metres up the road. During his short walk back to the hall he was blaming the staff at the booth who he claimed must have taken up all the parking spots.

As he walked up the pathway to the front door he was offered How-to-Vote cards by the ever smiling voluntary party representatives. He snatched a card off each as they stepped out from under their candidate emblazoned colourful umbrellas and he stormed towards the entrance.

He found he had to join a short queue waiting to enter the voting area and this caused an outburst from him which enabled others in the queue to be well aware that ‘this whole show was a waste of time’ and that he ’would rather be out fishing’.

When it came his turn to proceed to the registration table, he barged forward and placed his two palms on the table surface. He then belched a concoction of last night’s beer and this morning’s bacon, eggs and after brecky fag.

Before the young male Poll Clerk had a chance to offer a greeting, the disgruntled voter blurted out a surname that sounded like ‘Johnson’ and then added, Michael John.

This was the Poll Clerk’s first election and although he had been trained on what he should ask, the sight (and smell) of the person in front of him took him off guard. He fumbled with his list and looked up JOHNSON, but failed to find a Michael John.

The man in front of him was obviously getting agitated so he courageously asked how to spell the name. The reply, J.O.H.N.S.T.O.N.E. was spat out, the letters coming in quick succession.

At last Michael John Johnstone was given a voting paper and as he marched off to the nearest vacant booth, he informed the Clerk and others around him that he was only doing this so he ‘wouldn’t be fined’.

He cast his vote and threw the How-to-Vote sheets on the floor. He made sure as many people as possible saw him place his folded voting paper in the box and then he stormed towards the exit still mumbling about the stupidity of the process and how ‘you couldn’t trust politicians anyway’.

Later that night as the votes were being counted, the Poll Clerks and the scrutineers wondered why a person would just put a large cross over the whole voting paper and render it informal. Perhaps, they thought, such a person did not deserve to live in a democratic country.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Forward thinking

We all tend to get excited prior to the start of each new year and think seriously about what New Year’s resolutions we will make. New Year comes and New Year goes and we often find our resolutions tend to fall by the wayside. Some just prove to be impractical, others get relegated to the too hard basket and occasionally we persist with one until it seems to lose its relevance.

Perhaps, rather than wait for the new year to come around, we might take the time to stop and have a stocktake of our life to date and consider what has occurred in our past and what might become part of our future.  The word ‘hindsight’ is always associated with any review we might do of our past.

Perhaps we might regret some things that we have done in the past and don’t really want to rake over these old coals. With hindsight we know we certainly would have acted differently or made entirely different decisions and often we kick ourselves for the errors of the past.

Mentally, we need to tell ourselves that in the past, when we acted in such a way, this was what we felt was right at the time. Nothing can now change that decision, irrespective of what current wisdom hindsight might uncover. So, let’s not dwell too long on the past.

By giving ourselves the chance to look at our past we also give ourselves the opportunity to learn from previous decisions we might have made, so we might react differently should a similar situation arise today.

So, what of the future? Are we brave enough to consider doing or achieving something that has only ever been a distant dream in our subconscious? Perhaps it has never even rated a mention in any of our New Year’s resolutions lists. There will always be numerous reasons that confront us as to why our dream can never become a reality. If we were to put aside the negative reaction and force ourselves to strive towards achieving our dream, it may give us a whole new purpose in our life.

It is my opinion our past and our future can be compared to the inside of our car. That’s the reason why our rear vision mirror is so small compared to what we can see through the windscreen.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Adopt a loner

A recent Australian Government survey found 83% of people over 60 would prefer to stay living in their own home as they get older. With just the right amount of extra support and care, staying in their own home can mean maintaining their independence for longer.

Many older Australians (aged 65 and over) have accumulated assets, such as their own homes and savings, which can be used to support their living into retirement. According to the latest Government figures, the number of people in this age group is predicted to increase from 3.8 million to 5.2 million by 2027.

All too often we hear where an older person living alone has been found to have died in their home days or even weeks before being discovered by a concerned neighbour. What a sad way to end one’s life.

Social experiments where young people visit nursing homes and mix with the residents have proven to be of immense value, not only to the elderly but also to the youngsters who gain from the wisdom and caring attention they receive. In addition, the children seem to enable the residents the opportunity to relive the fun and enjoyment of their youth. A definite win/win situation.

I am sure there are many country areas and suburban neighbourhoods where people are isolated and living alone and although, surrounded by families, they never actually get to know each other.

How wonderful it would be if we were to seek out a lonely person or couple living alone and befriend them. I know how busy we are in today’s modern world, but here is an opportunity to reach out to someone who may be lonely and rarely leaves their home or even gets visited by family and friends.

Here is a chance to show our gratitude for what our life has given us here in Australia. Enabling isolated people to still feel loved and wanted will brighten their days and give them a reason to look forward to living.

Adopting a struggling person in our neighbourhood could be the start of a whole new friendship with lasting benefits to both parties. It could also be a fine example to our younger family members of the importance we place on caring for each other.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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The story goes, how some years ago now, a Swedish industrialist was reading his morning paper over breakfast and to his amazement read his own obituary. Obviously, the newspaper had reported on the death of the wrong man.

The man read on, intent on finding out what would be said about him, assuming he was dead. The column heading read, “Dynamite king dies”. As he was reading the text underneath, he was surprised at the description of him as, ‘a merchant of death’. He was the rich inventor of dynamite and the manufacturer of weapons and explosives.

He was concerned at this description of himself as ‘a merchant of death’. From that point on he devoted his energy and money to works of peace and human betterment.

Today of course he is better known, not as ‘the merchant of death’, but as the founder of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was Alfred Nobel.

William Shakespeare said,The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones”. In Alfred Nobel’s case, he got prior warning of how he would be seen by future generations and he decided to do something positive about it.

Perhaps it might be an interesting exercise for all of us to examine how we’re living our life at the moment and consider how we might be seen by others after our death.

It’s never too late to change our ways. Particularly if it means offering help and support to those in our family and community, instead of concentrating on our own wellbeing and importance.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Safety and Health

It had taken some effort to crawl under the family caravan. It was hot and the dusty ground was hard on his back. Yet he managed to get into a suitable position where he could drill the two holes needed in the metal frame.

As he was about to commence his work, he realised he had forgotten to get his safety glasses from the shed. The thought of crawling back out from his cramped position was enough for him to say to himself; “Ah, she’ll be right, only two holes to drill and then I’m out of here”.

As the day wore on it became evident that he had something irritating in his eyes, so he tried the old eyebrow over eyelash and blow your nose trick, but that didn’t work. Neither did the eyedrops kept in the fridge for such an event offer any relief. Still the ‘she’ll be right’ attitude persisted, even into the next day.

It was only because it became hard to sleep that he realised he should do something about it. So, at midnight he arrived at the emergency entrance of the local hospital and joined the Saturday night queue, along with blood besmeared accident victims and others obviously ill and needing medical assistance.

Fortunately, the hospital was equipped with an optical consultation room and it was here he was informed he had pieces of steel in both eyes. The pain deadening drops were a relief, but then came the removal process, which had to be done by flipping the metal pieces out with a blunt needle.

Having survived this attack, he was next informed that because of the time he had taken to have the steel removed, rust had formed on his eyeballs. This required removal with a torch like battery operated shaft containing a small grinder. At the successful completion of this process, his eyes were thoroughly checked and he was informed he was very fortunate he had not done permanent damage to his eyesight.

And the moral of the story is that it is just as important to recognise safety and health issues at home as it is in the workplace.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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Our hectic days are full of mini-stresses, decision making, constant communications, traffic, work, family needs and even the expectations others have of us.

Australia is becoming more urbanised and the majority of us live in, or near, large cities. Unlike our early ancestors whose lives centred around living in natural environments, we have had to adapt to city life and the pressures and stresses associated with urban living.

We can’t all live in the country, but if we consider nature as a place of peace, calm and rest, then we might consider escaping our city living occasionally to refresh our minds and our spirits and breathe in pollution-free air.

A natural environment, such as watching ocean waves rolling into the shore, the flames in a fire or birds in the forest trees can give us a sense of awe, satisfaction and peace. By concentrating on the softness of nature we can reverse our negative feelings into positive ones.

Going for a walk in the bush or just looking up at the stars on a clear night won’t necessarily erase grief or physical pain but it will allow our brain to rest from its normal hectic lifestyle activity.  The peace and inner tranquillity we gain from our nature experiences can, in itself, reduce stress and even assist in any on-going healing process.

While we might be able to calm our thoughts with meditation and other religious practices, most religions throughout the world agree that nature is sacred. So, let’s try a drug-free environmental change to relieve some of our daily stress and anxiety pressures.

Not only will we feel better for the exercise, but it might also help us understand the value of maintaining a healthy environment, particularly during this period of climate change.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.

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