Monthly Archives: October 2011

Family Disfunction and Teach-ability.

I have been reflecting lately on the task of the teacher and how it has changed in the last 40 years. The most dramatic change in that time has been the growing instability of the family. I recognise that the family has always been a volatile place but its volatility has increased markedly.

Let me put my reflection succinctly: unless the child is remarkable, children’s education is radically affected, in a negative manner, the greater the instability at home. If the home is a place of tension, anger, argument and uncertainty, the child’s ability to concentrate at school is adversely affected. There are some children who make a conscious decision to put home strife behind them and work hard at school. However, the vast majority of children do not have the maturity or emotional stamina to achieve that aim.

My challenge is simple ( some may say simplistic) yet profound. Adults in charge of children must seriously consider the atmosphere of the home if they wish their children to succeed at school. Adults are the adults. They have the responsibility, beyond their own desires and grievances, to ensure a harmonious well ordered house for the emotional, and I would add, spiritual, well being of the household.

In one place I was teaching, the staff spoke of “second generation disaffection with school”. To put it simply, disfuctional undereducated people were raising the next generation of disfunctional even more uneducated and unprepared children.

My plea: Those of us in charge of children have a huge responsibility for these young minds and souls. The way we structure and order our homes is important. Life has enough trauma with the unexpected events that life throws at us. The home should be a secure oasis: a place of refuge and comfort – not a battlefield.

With hindsight parents often remark how few years their children were at home and at school. These years seem to go so quickly. Parents and guardians do not have the luxury for petulant self obsession. Their responsibility is to the young minds and hearts in their care. The child’s future and future welfare depends on it.

Categories: Christianity, Education, Family, Teaching, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Running With Youth’s Naivety – a Poem on Sunday

Your sons and daughters will prophesy,  
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Acts 2: 17

Oh to run with the naivety of youth,

To jump, dive

and explore

with abandon.

Oh to embrace and experience


To touch and feel its pleasures and joys.

Oh to try, fail and try again.

Oh to be blind to the cliffs and canyons

of indelible experiences.

Oh to run …

The old head says,


Be careful,



The old head remembers the pain

of jumping, running and diving.

The sorrow of embracing.

The old head wishes

that once again,

he could run with the naivety

of youth.

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Snails: They Creep Up On You!

Snails: They Creep Up On You!

Snails! This morning I was planting some flowers. I had a tray of them sitting on the ground and while I was taking one plant out of its pot and putting it into the soil I noticed a snail slowly slithering up the side of the tray. I made a mental note to deal with it when I had an opportunity. However, I forgot about my house toting friend. A long while later I came back to the tray and noticed that he had made his way up the side of the tray to one of the flower pots and was having brunch -being about 10:30 am. I won’t mention what I did next in case I am reported to the RSPCS.

I continued planting (like the snail I am doing it slowly as my back is complaining) and I started reflecting. My lack of initial action is often the way we deal with problems and other issues in our lives. We think to ourselves the issue isn’t big and as I have other things to deal with I will leave it on the back burner until later, only to find that before we know it, it has become a large issue and impacts our lives in a considerable way. Depending on where our weaknesses are, it could be anything from white lies, to pornography or petty theft at work to gambling, procrastination(oops) to gossip. At this point you can insert what trips you up …

Experience tells us that dealing with our foibles early is the wisest path. It saves us from greater pain, embarrassment or struggles further on. Seeking forgiveness, actively putting behaviours or actions behind us, is the healthiest action. If we are not careful, initial foolishness can become an addiction or a pattern of behaviour that is hard to shift. What “snails” are creeping up in your life? Excuse me now I’m off to get some more snail bait.

Categories: Devotional, Faith, Life, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Hip Aches – a lamentation

Hip aches.
Shoulder twitches,
Fingers creak,
Eyes falter,
Back tender,
Arches sore.
Getting older is a pain
or numerous pains.
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come …
Categories: Life, Poem | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Saying Good Bye to the Class of 2011

I didn’t think it would be so hard. I have been a teacher for a long time and I’ve seen many students leave over the years. But this time it has been more difficult. I have been their home room teacher for over two and half years. When we first met we didn’t like each other but a year later I was asked/volunteered to be their Homeroom teacher and so the journey together started.

Now they are leaving. Secondary school has finished and the rest of life is beckoning. They are keen and yet nervous about exploring more of life. But there is still so much to learn, there are still so many warnings to give, issues to alert them about and skills to learn. Nevertheless they are going.

My wish for them is fulfilled lives. Happiness is transient and fleeting but fulfillment is an on going objective – something to strive for – a means of making life more than just mediocre.

The class has the personality and the ability to leave mediocrity in its wake. There are so many skills, abilities, qualities and traits that none of them need to be ordinary.

Most of all, and best of all, there is a strong understanding of the reality of a relationship with Christ and a place and purpose in the Kingdom of God. My most ardent prayer is that this won’t be squashed by the cynicism of the world. It is my prayer that this relationship and this sense of place and purpose that will sustain them in all the hopes, aspirations, trials and traumas of the years to come.

Lord bless them and keep them. Amen.

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Learning to Ride a Bike

Do you remember the first time you successfully rode a two wheeled bike? The exhilaration and sense of achievement was amazing. There was also a sense of mystery. How was this possible? What stopped you from falling over? I can still remember the first time I rode a bike. The time and place is etched in my mind. After falling one way and then the other and scratching knees and shins, I finally succeeded in navigating myself around the tree rather than going into it. From then on bike riding was a breeze.

Faith is like that. Not understanding who God is and wondering what it means to depend on Him seems so hard. The idea of trusting in the unseen and overcoming the doubts seems almost impossible. And yet, once you trust in Him and open yourself up to His love and guidance, you realise that He carries you and that no spiritual gymnastics are required.

Too often we treat “faith” like a mountain to climb rather than a lifestyle and relationship to trust in. We make it more difficult than it needs to be. Like many new bike riders trying to balance – we try too hard.

Paul says to the Ephesians: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God… Eph 2:8.  A gift is to be received. Take it and pull it close to yourself – and don’t try too hard because God does all the work. It is His gift. If you do take hold of it, it is like riding a bike. You’ll wonder why you ever thought it was so difficult.

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Separated From the Love of God

Early Medieval Stone Cross in Norway

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Romans 8:35

Have you ever contemplated the concept of being separated from the love of God? Now I know the true child of God cannot be separated from that love, but just think if it were possible. What would go though your mind? Horror? Fear? Despair? Probably all three and much more. Well, that would be true for me. The idea of being separated from God’s love defies my imagination. It horrifies me. It is too terrible to contemplate.

Why do I ask this awful question? Because when I look at the members of the body of Christ, including, sadly, my own heart at times, I don’t see the thankfulness, relief, joy and gratitude of people who truly understand what the love of God means. Maybe as an antidote we should reflect on what it means to be outside it; to imagine what being outside that sphere really means.

I believe such a genuine reflection would have at least two (possibly more) results. One result would be, our sometimes casual, complacent and neglectful relationship with God would be dealt a severe blow. Greater thankfulness, obedience, joy and probably, relief would be visible in our lives. We would live the Spirit filled life that redeemed people should be living – can be living. The second consequence would be a greater passion to see others saved. Understanding what it means to live outside God’s love, I believe, is a great motivator for our lifestyle, words and attitudes towards those who haven’t grasped the love of God through faith.

I know we can’t force people to believe, but living like people who know what they have been saved from should be obvious from every atom of our being. May our prayer be to live lives that comprehend the amazing and eternal love of God.

Categories: Bible, christian, Christianity, Church, Devotional, Faith, Jesus, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Changes I Have Seen In School

Having been involved in schools as, student, parent and teacher over 55 years there have been a huge number of changes in that time. I have listed some but I’d love to read what you would like to add to this list.

1. At Ocean Grove PS we started writing with nib pens dipped into an inkwell. The inkwell

Ocean Grove Primary School circa 1957

could also be used to colour tip the hair of the blond girl with long tresses sitting in front of you. I was given the highly esteemed position of “Ink Monitor”. We had to dilute the “Swan” ink towards the end of the year as the school ran out of money. Biros were introduced in grade 5. They were expensive and novel.

2. The cuts/the strap/ corporal punishment was present (and received) through all my student life. And no, I wasn’t scarred emotionally.

3. We loved smelling the pages that came from the spirit duplicator – each page just slightly fainter than the page before. Then came the photocopiers with grey photocopy paper on a continuous roll. Now we have fancy scanners and printers that rocket along – when the work. There were also ink printing machines which wrecked your clothes with their unwashable ink.

4. If I went home and was stupid enough to say that the teacher was angry with me, my dad would add to my pain. Now, woe betide any teacher who challenges the little darlings.

5. I started with a slate and chalk – now there are iPads. Technology and communication is probably the most dramatic of all the changes.

6. Nobody had heard of drugs when I went to school. In my later teens the drugs  of concern were alcohol and cigarettes.

7. Desks were not tables and chairs, they were solid (one piece) oak furniture – and if the lid dropped on your head you would be concussed for a week.

8. We had bottles of milk (1/3 of a pint) at the start of each day. If left in the sun too long it was awful. Also, being a “Milk Monitor”, (another esteemed position) who had to deliver milk to the classes and punch holes in the silver tops, we were able to get out of folk dancing and having to hold hands with girls.

9. Class sizes were huge. There must have been well over 40 students in some classes. Now 26 is considered a big class.

10. For most students family life was far more stable in days past. However, there was far less openness about abuse and family violence. As children we all knew of others who were frequently belted and everyone (including the teachers) kept quiet about it.

11. Marching into school with martial music was the fashion when I was a student. My dad, who had experienced  WW2, thought it was appalling.

12. My early school years were also in the days before central heating. I have vivid memories of the Headmaster taking a few year 6 boys out to chop the wood and sharing it amongst the classes. He even asked the boys to hold the block of wood while he split it with the axe. Today there would be all sorts of regulations about that activity.

Things that haven’t changed

The importance of inspirational teachers.


Rebellion  – petty (hair length/dress length/ chewing gum …)

Rebellion – major


What changes have you noticed?

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A Journey Continued

Quite a while ago I wrote about the spiritual journey my wife and I are taking through the

Sheep Grazing over the Catacombs in Rome near an Olive Tree

book “A Journey with Jesus” by Larry Warner. He uses the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius as the foundation of the book.

Over the last few weeks the devotions have concentrated on sin, not in a self deprecating manner, but sin as the component of our lives that separates us from God and His grace. Sin is not a popular word today. Society, including many Christians, has sanctified many behaviours that have previously been regarded as sin. This just doesn’t extend to homosexuality and abortion but also to greed and materialism. The reasons I mention this is that we are good at judging people on the basis of the sins we don’t commit and close our eyes to the ones we do.

What I have found refreshing in Warner’s exercises is that I have been given an opportunity to lay open all aspects of my life. What this has done is that it has reminded me of how comprehensive the salvation that Christ offers had to be. It needed to cover every aspect of my life – not just the ones I select. It also halts complacency and reminds me that there is still so far to go in my sanctification.

With that reminder comes the wonderful assurance that in Christ all my needs have been met and I can say with the psalmist, “Keep my safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.” Psalm 16:1

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Family Humming – a Poem

Oven cooking,
Kitchen busy,
Mixer whirring,
Aromas wafting.
Dining table buzzing,
Dice and tokens clattering
… with an exciting game.
Music filling in the background gaps.
Television off.
Cat owning the heating vent.
Coffee percolating,
Tea brewing.
Family humming.
I love Saturday night!
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