The importance of a kind heart

A kind heart is the essential cause of happiness. Being kind to others is the nicest thing we can do for ourselves.  When we respect others and are considerate of their needs, opinions and wishes, hostility evaporates.  It takes two people to fight, and if we refuse to be one of them, there is no quarrel.

Thubten Chodron

As we welcome new students to the school this year it has been amazing to observe the older kids really demonstrating a ‘kind heart’.  The care and compassion they show to the new prep kids is nothing short of astounding.

Sometimes I think how can we bottle this innate compassion as these young people grow into adults.  How do we ensure the continuation of a ‘kind and open heart’?

Role modelling is what keeps coming up to me as the answer, we need to demonstrate and model the way we would like them to be.  Connecting with our own heart and being true to our natural state of being is what we must do.

So much of learning comes from what we see and practice not just from what we hear.  I really like the point that Thubten Chodron raises above about it taking two to fight but we have a choice as to whether we are one of them or not.

So let us all make wise choices of how we speak, think and act and model a kind heart, so that the kind heart of all of those around us has the opportunity to shine and thrive.

To give is a blessing

Generosity – giving anything without the expectation of a reward.

When we give something from the heart not only are we exercising kindness and compassion we are providing benefit to others.  It is this that is most important and what we should remember.

While we may not expect any reward while practising generosity, we most certainly often gain from the experience.  Whether it be the warm feeling in our heart to expressions of gratitude we quite often reap the benefits of giving.

Generosity relates not only to giving material things but also thoughts, actions and words.  To provide someone a complement or even the act of offering a smile are also acts of generosity.  While we may not have the physical means to offer great wealth we can always share what we have, smile or say nice things.

I remember a story my wife told me about a trip to Bali she once took.  As she was walking down the street a whole family were by the side of the road mum, dad and two kids.  The father was attending to the family’s only means of transport, a motorbike, that had obviously broken down.  As my wife walked past the family they all looked up and with bright, beaming, smiles said hello!  Such joyful enthusiasm and generosity to offer at a time of stress and frustration was truly a beautiful thing.

If we are honest with ourselves, it would be difficult to imagine ourselves responding in quite the same way if were in the same situation.  However it is important to know that it is possible and generosity can often be the antidote to many of our negative emotions.

Give it a try next time you are feeling low or disgruntled in any way, take the opportunity to practice generosity in any way you see fit.  Check in with what effect it has on you without expectation of a reward.

Don’t suffer in silence

I’ve had a few experiences lately and observed some others also that have highlighted the need to remind myself of the importance of questions.  Without questions our minds run through many possible stories and ideas based purely on assumptions and conjecture.  What can often happen is that we tie ourselves in knots resulting in fear, anxiety, frustration and sometimes anger.  When we ask questions, when we are curious, we are seeking information and facts that help us to understand. They provide us with the opportunity to allay our fears and concerns and not to make up stories in our heads.

Mark Twain reflected “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” Our minds are incredible at projecting the best, the worst or the in-between scenario when we let them loose.  With curiosity and vulnerability we can get the answers we seek simply by asking questions.  It takes courage to ask questions, to admit you do not know the answer or for fear of appearing stupid.  If we open ourselves to the vulnerability we are likely to feel more contented and at peace with the knowledge and understanding we seek rather than the anxiety and fear of the unknown or what our mind has made up.

So I encourage you to be curious, to ask questions, to seek the answers rather than to suffer in silence at the mercy of your own mind. We need to encourage this curiosity in our children so they too do not suffer in silence.

Teachers are amazing!

It has been a while since I stepped into the classroom but yesterday through numerous circumstances I found myself taking on the role of “Casual Relief Teacher”.

Through this experience I was struck not only by the wonder of teaching but of how incredible teachers are in their roles as educators of our children.

The energy, passion and dedication that is required to turn up each day to a sea of eager faces ready to learn is something to behold.  I have to admit that I only covered the class for a couple of hours but by the end of it I was completely sapped of energy this only served to demonstrate further what teachers must put in to their role each and every day.

Since working in education I have had numerous people say to me “Oh you work in a school, the amount of holidays must be great”.  I’m sure that prior to being in this position I may have been guilty of making such a comment to a teacher also.

The fact is that the regular holidays throughout the year are necessary for teachers to recharge their energy reserves so they can do it all again the next term.  This cycle can often mean that educators are plagued by “teachers curse” which means by the time they get to their holidays they fall in a heap and often suffer from sickness for the holiday period as they have been operating at such a high level to keep the enthusiasm and learning happening in the classroom throughout the term.

So I bow down to the teaching profession and all that embody it. You are truly unique, wondrous human beings who give so much of yourselves so that our children may learn and grow and become the adults we want them to be.  I applaud you and thank you for the amazing work that you do and feel humbled to have experienced what you navigate each and every day.

The power of compassion

I wanted to share with you a direct experience I had of the power of compassion.  This week we acknowledged Vesak – The birth, life and enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha, with our annual Buddha Day celebration.

I had experienced a particularly challenging morning as most parents do from time to time with trying to get children out the door to school.  I was consumed with self cherishing and that all too familiar “why me?” dialogue in my head to the point that it was all consuming.

I arrived at school much later than I had hoped and was really struggling to shake off the mornings experience, to the point where I wasn’t sure if I could participate.  But the show must go on…

As part of the celebration I was to lead those gathered in 108 recitations of the Buddha of Compassion’s mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”.  Part of my instruction to the group before me was to try to generate loving, compassionate thoughts and send them to others as we chanted the mantra.  Little did I know that this instruction was also for myself.

As I began to recite the mantra an overwhelming energetic shift came over me that I found hard to stay with.  As I fought back the waves of emotion and tears and continued to recite the mantra, I felt my emotions transform from grumpy and self cherishing to peaceful, buoyant and free.  An overwhelming relief as if a large black cloud had lifted leaving a warm fuzzy feeling.

I remember Jack Kornfield relaying a story of one of his students who wrote to him to say “Hey this loving-kindness stuff really works”.  I can say from direct experience this week I wholeheartedly agree.  Give it a try you won’t be disappointed.

How are we educating our boys

In a fast paced world with an increased trend in violence it is important to reflect on what are we doing that is contributing to the problems that are in the forefront of our minds.

AFL has always been a physical game and I remember as a schoolboy firmly being part of it. Whether it be in the school team or just playing kick to kick with other boys at lunchtime. The aim of the game was to physically out manoeuvre your opponents to get the ball using whatever means necessary. So where does this need to dominate physically come from, is it simply a primal caveman era inheritance or is it something that we modelled from a very young age?

Boys as young as 1 or 2 are taught to high-five rather than hug when greeting or saying goodbye. So barely our of nappies boys are being modelled direct physical contact without direct connection in a more aggressive, physical form.

At primary school kids are taught foundational skills that set them up to how they interact with the physical world. Development of fine and gross motor skills through physical education and movement programs. It is here at this foundational level that the fundamental approach to bodily interactions are developed and a framework setup for the future.

So the questions we should be asking ourselves are around what are we modelling to young boys? How do we educate them to deal with conflict? How do we develop their interaction skills both physically and socially?

Language plays such an important part, the messages that we send in terms of appropriateness of certain actions lays imprints to how boys see themselves and starts to shape the men they will become. We must also raise awareness and explain to boys what is happening in their bodies and provide them with outlets that allow for the physicality to be expressed but in a way that does not harm others. These discussions are not limited to boys but why is it that girls manage to navigate their physical changes without resorting to physical violence or aggression? What lessons can we learn for how we teach girls that can help inform us in our education of boys.

A growing boys need to express himself physically and to develop an awareness of his changing body. What is needed is more discussion, education and communication with boys as to what changes are occurring and how to become more aware of their actions and reactions. The neural pathways are so ripe and malleable at a young age and it is here that patterns are formed for dealing with situations in the future.

Are we educating the boys of today to be the type of men we want to see in the future?

Federal Budget 2016 neglects Creativity

With the proposal to introduce standardised assessment of reading, phonics and numeracy at Grade 1, linking teacher salary progression to demonstrated competency and achievement and provision of annual reports to parents that identify literacy and numeracy attainment against national standards focusses education on outcome based methodologies in a fairly narrow target area such as STEM subjects. This simply builds on creating an economically efficient and measurable education system, that will maybe create more economically efficient people – but will this enable future generations to think laterally and solve critical issues that are effecting us such as climate change, family violence, gender disparity, poverty and disadvantage?

This obsessive focus on purely outcome based achievement levels neglects and negates the development of creative thinking, the ability to connect through meaningful relationships using the creative arts and the development of people based skills including Emotional Intelligence, self and social awareness. It is vital that we balance our education system needs with emotional and humanistic subjects that teach the ability to develop healthy and positive relationships, to resolve conflict peacefully, self and social awareness.

Daylesford Dharma School is a regionally based primary school with a low socio-economic population and consequent low fee base the Gonski funding has certainly enabled us to provide better programs in all areas. The Federal Budget 2016 fails to match the final two years of funding and is likely to adversely affect our capacity to deliver the programs we currently have. On top of this the extra accountability, recording and reporting requirements that are likely to come out of the proposed conditions will only serve to put more pressure and the need for greater resources in administration which takes away from our core business of educating children in all facets of life not just literacy and numeracy.

Our communities need a generation of creative, innovative problem solvers that can really tackle the world with which we are leaving them. Not just inventing technological and medical breakthroughs, but who will break down emotional barriers and social fears, understand the consequences of their actions and be able to truly connect with one another with kindness and compassion.

The Safe Schools program is necessary

In a world where discrimination is rife and acts of violence ensue, it is so important to have programs like the Safe Schools program helping to break down barriers.  The Daylesford Dharma School has had Safe Schools run their program and it has been very well received. We need programs like Safe Schools to combat discrimination head on.

Diversity is what makes this country great and in order to combat discrimination we need programs that promote equality and educate on the similarities and differences we all have.  At the Daylesford Dharma School we teach the students the importance of accepting people for who they are no matter their race, culture, gender or background.

The Safe Schools Program delivered a well balance, age appropriate education session to our entire school from Prep through to Grade 6.  The students developed a greater understanding and awareness of different gender identities and were very receptive to the session.

We feel privileged to have had access to experts in this area to provide these informative and well balanced education sessions to our students.

We are proud to be a Safe School.

Parents have a critical role to play in their children’s education

By Joel Hines – Principal, Daylesford Dharma School

As students settle in for the school year it is important to outline expectations and boundaries and always follow through.  If things are clear for kids they respond and learn quite quickly.  We have to model the behaviours and attitudes we would like to see in our children and follow through with any boundaries we put in place.  How often do we hear our words reflected back to us by our kids (“Do I really sound like that?”)  As parents, teachers and role models we need to be mindful of how we speak, think and act in front of children as seeing how we deal with things is one of the key ways in which they learn.

Starting School

By Joel Hines – Principal, Daylesford Dharma School

Beginning school is a pivotal moment in a child’s life but is also a big step for parents. Here some simple tips to consider that may make the transition a little easier:

1. Spend some time talking to your child about the upcoming transition. Explain how things are going to be different at school to what they have been used to at kinder. There will be older kids and a different set of rules that they will have to get used to.
2. Rite of Passage – Consider doing something to mark the transition that is symbolic. It could be as simple as buying a new school bag or lunch box.
3. Establish routine early – a week or 2 prior to school starting it is a good idea to start implementing a routine similar to how it is going to be once they get to school. This maybe an earlier bedtime than has been happening through the holiday period, giving your child more responsibility in getting dressed and ready in the mornings.
4. Take care of yourself – For a parent, particularly for your first child, taking the step into school it can be an emotional time. It is important to recognise and honour how you are feeling, surround yourself with other parents who are experiencing the same thing or who have been through the process before.

This is a challenging but also exciting chapter in your family’s journey, don’t forget to take some photos!