Category Archives: Retirement

Plant the seeds of literacy

About this time last year, I shared my excitement when Jackie French was recognised for her “long and distinguished career as a beloved children’s author” as Senior Australian of the Year. At the time she was halfway through her two-year role as Australian’s Children’s Laureate with the task of promoting the importance and transformational power of reading, creativity and story in the lives of young Australians.

If-you-want-intelligent children

Later in the year, in a series of posts celebrating Australian picture books, I shared more of Jackie’s work.

jackie french's books

Now the roles of Children’s Laureate and Senior Australian of the Year have been passed to others. Jackie has obviously been asked what she is now going to do with all her “free” time. In her newsletter she says, “if one more person says ‘now you can relax’ if (sic) will bite them like a wombat, the snappish kind” because it means that work is finished, which it isn’t. I feel exactly the same way when people ask me about my retirement, though I fear Jackie and I work at a very different pace and the occupation of my time may seem like retirement in comparison to hers.

While an author may not have received the top recognition as Australian of the Year 2016, three advocates of children’s literature each became a Member of the Order of Australia:

Jackie French for significant service to literature as an author of children’s books, and as an advocate for improved youth literacy’.

Ann James for ‘significant service to children’s literature as an author and illustrator and through advocacy roles with literacy and professional bodies’.

Ann Haddon for significant services to children’s literature, as a fundraiser and supporter of Indigenous literacy, and to professional organisations’.

It is wonderful to see the recognition given to authors, and to the importance of reading.

lucy_goosey_cover_lowres

One of my favourite books, illustrated by Ann James is Lucy Goosey. It is a beautiful story, written by Margaret Wild, about the love between mother and child. I can’t read it all the way through without crying. But in a good way. It is very touching.

Ann talks about illustrating the story here:

I’m also pleased to say that I have an original Ann James, done for Bec at a literary festival many years ago, hanging on my wall.

Ann James

In her Senior Australian of the Year Valedictory Speech, Jackie French says,

“You never know what seeds you plant will grow; if they will keep growing; who will take them and tend them. But there is one thing I have learned in my 62 years: keep planting seeds.

Jackie French - keep planting seeds

 Never think: I am 62 and still have not achieved world peace, universal tolerance and justice, or even an Australia where every single child is given the chance to learn to read.

Change is never fast enough for any person of goodwill.

A rain drop is just a rain drop. But together we are a flood.  Together we have changed the world.

Jackie french - raindrops

She concludes her speech with these words:

“Let us give our children role models who do not, will not despair, no matter how long it takes to change the world. And let us never surrender, no matter how tired we are, or how long it takes. Because with these weapons we shape the future of our planet.”

I like her words of hope. She is a meliorist. But even more than that, she is an active meliorist. She puts her words into action. She may no longer carry the title of Children’s Laureate or Australian of the Year, but her advocacy doesn’t stop.

Thank you

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Life is like . . . a game of Snakes and Ladders

Well, maybe not the whole of life; that would be rather two dimensional; but certainly parts of life. I’m feeling a little that way at the moment about my website plans. No sooner do I seem to find a ladder to climb up, than I encounter a huge snake, and down I go again. At the moment I seem to be stuck in a three-steps-forward three-steps-back dance.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

I won’t say that everything one needs in life can be learned from playing Snakes and Ladders, but there are certainly some good lessons to learn from playing games. I mentioned some previously in Are you game? written in response to a flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch; and observed them recently when playing Snakes and Ladders with my five year old grandson:

dice

  • Getting along and taking turns
  • Acceptance – accept the roll and respond accordingly: don’t try to pretend it wasn’t a “proper” roll (e.g. dropped); or attempt to change the count by skipping or counting twice on a square
  • Resilience ­– stay strong and focused and don’t crumple with repeated setbacks: okay, so you’ve been swallowed by this same snake three times now; next time you just might overcome it
  • Persistence – keep going: you might roll a succession of small numbers but each moves you closer to the goal
  • Humour and fun – always look for the light side: it is just a game after all, it’s not the winning that matters, it’s how you play it. (On the board that we played, one of the ladders ended on the same square as a snake’s head! What could we do but laugh!)
© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

I guess those are lessons I need to apply to my website “game”: I have made some good progress preparing resources; I have had some work illustrated; and I approached a web designer for a quote. The ladders seemed to be lining up just right.

Then I landed on another snake!

In a comment on a previous post Anne Goodwin, who blogs at Annecdotal and is author of the soon-to-be-released Sugar and Snails, suggested that I be mindful of my Unique Selling Point (USP).

I think my USP is probably the same as what I consider my Point of Difference (POD): resources that are interactive. Unfortunately, judging by the quote I received, the POD snake has an extreme appetite.

In a post about his self publication journey Geoff Le Pard, author of Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle who blogs at TanGental, stated that he wanted to spend as little “real” money as possible. I know that I need to spend some to achieve my goals, and as a way justifying the expense to myself, if not to anyone else, I decided to consider it a “retirement jetski”.

My retirement jetski

My retirement jetski

However an initial quote indicates that the interactive component of resources could end up costing as much as a Bugatti or a Lamborghini!

Okay, I am exaggerating – a little.

But I think I’ve slid down the back of that long snake and need to do a little recalculation as recommended a short while ago Charli Mills. I will let you know how I go extricating myself from the loop.

Snakes and ladders – Opportunities for learning

In the meanwhile, here are some suggestions for parents to make the most of learning opportunities while playing Snakes and Ladders with their children over the long summer holidays. We don’t want the progress that children have made during the term to be swallowed up by those snakes as was suggested as a distinct possibility by Sarah Brentyn in her post Harry Potter or Sidewalk Chalk? on her blog Lemon Shark. While I provided some suggestions for preventing that slide in a previous post, these suggestions are specifically for

Making the most of “teachable moments” while playing snakes and ladders:

On each turn, ask children to:

  • identify the number rolled on the dice and move their tokens the corresponding number of squares, counting them out. Ensure they do not count the square they are on.
  • tell the number they land on.

Other opportunities for discussion:

  • Who is coming first? What number are they on? What number are you on? How many do you (they) need to catch up? Could you (they) catch up with the next throw? Why/Why not?
  • How many do you need to throw to land on a snake, on a ladder? Do you want to land on a snake or a ladder? Why or why not? If you land on a snake (or a ladder), will the number be higher or lower than where you are now?
  • What number do you not want to roll if you don’t want to land on a snake?
  • What number do you need to roll to land on a ladder?
  • How many do you need to win?

Ask the children what they notice about the way the numbers are arranged. How does it differ from a usual 100 board? ( On a Snakes and Ladders board, 100 is at the top and the numbers “snake” back and forth across the board. On a 100 counting board, 100 is at the bottom and each row of ten numbers goes from left to right.)

100 flowers outline

100 counting board © Norah Colvin

Ask the children why the numbers may be arranged differently (eg 100 has to be at the top so you can go up the ladders, numbers go back and forth so you can just keep going).

But most of all, just have fun!

Thank you

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Not the ‘R’ word!

the older you get

For the past few years people have often asked me when I will retire. Some people think I already have. Some think I am too young to be thinking about it (they are either very kind or very blind), and others think I should have done it long ago.

I have preferred to ignore the word ‘retire’ for the negative connotations I thought it embodied and the implication that I would have to admit to things like:

  • I’m getting old
  • I have nothing left to contribute
  • I am passed my use-by date and can’t keep up with modern trends and developments
  • I am ready for ‘God’s waiting room’. (I ‘m not even sure I’d be able to find the right room, and he’d probably keep me waiting for ever anyway!)

Even this morning I heard an ad on the radio that put together the concepts of retirement, having more time on one’s hands, retirement village and nursing home.  If that’s what retirement means, it’s not for me.

When I was fifty-ish and working part-time, I awoke one morning to the realisation that, if I was going to retire at sixty, I had only ten years of working life left. With that in mind I returned to full-time work in order to earn as much as I could so that I could save enough to support myself in retirement. (I think I should have had the epiphany many years earlier!)

When the ten years of teaching full-time as a year one teacher were done, I was still not ready to consider the ‘R’ word. However just at that time an opportunity to be involved in writing curriculum support materials was offered. A short break from the classroom to refresh and re-energise was a welcome idea and I accepted the position.

After eighteen months in the role I reverted to working part-time in order to devote more time to my own writing while establishing a website for peddling said writing. I didn’t consider it retirement, transition to retirement, or anything to do with retirement. For me, the working week was simply a combination of paid work and working for myself. It was not time off.

mystica_Coins_(Money)

Now another eighteen months has past and I am indeed counting down the ‘paid’ working days until ‘retirement’. In my head and heart I still don’t consider it retirement, perhaps a re-alignment of priorities, but others do. I am breaking ties with my long-term on-and-off employer for the fourth and last time. This time there will be no going back. Even though I may have said that on each of the three previous occasions I resigned and still went back; this time I am very doubtful of that occurring. This time it is ‘officially’ retirement, and I accept that if I have more time on my hands to do my own work, then that is a good thing!

It is the enthusiasm that others have for me and hearing them excitedly question, “What are you going to do?”  that has helped my change of heart and I am beginning to accept their use of the ‘R’ word. Denial would be another unwinnable battle. So what if I intend to spend the days of my retirement at the computer? Getting a website up and running might be just an expensive hobby, but not as expensive as others I could think of, like boating or flying! And definitely more fun for me.

The changing view of self as transitioning through working full-time, part-time, being semi-retired, or retired is not unique to me. While some embrace the change, eager to accept every opportunity that freedom from employer demands and schedules has to offer; others like me sidestep in, with a similar appreciation of the freedom from outside expectations but an ever-increasing expectation of self.

retiring with attitude

Last year “Retiring with Attitude”, written by one of my favourite bloggers Caroline Lodge and her colleague Eileen Carnell, was published. I found the title quite intriguing and thought it may apply to me, though I wasn’t sure to which attitude they were referring. However the subtitle “Approaching and Relishing your Retirement” gave a few clues and I knew I had to read it. Were they serious?

In the introduction the authors explain that retirement should be viewed as “a time of further exciting possibilities”. They set out their goals which include convincing readers that the “old” view of retirement (they say “previous”) is no longer applicable; that possibilities abound; that outdated views of ageism and sexism should be challenged; and that “Learning is the most powerful means to handle changes and transitions” that occur in the retirement phase of life.

Retiring with Attitude” is an easy and enjoyable read which I recommend to anyone approaching (from near or far) or already in retirement. The authors have drawn upon their own experiences and many years of research from which to explain options and make suggestions for every aspect of life. While “Chapter 11: This is Your Rainy Day: Relationships with Money” does discuss finances, the book raises many other issues including seeking and accepting support as well as ways to ensure you are not over-committed to fulfilling others needs and requests.

The authors emphasize that there is no one way for everyone to do retirement but that learning and good communication are the key. They say that retirement can be the time of one’s life and that

As an older person you can develop a new identity and redefine your life.

I think that’s the ‘R’ word for me: Redefine. I’ll get to do those things I always wanted to do but didn’t have time for when my focus was elsewhere.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.