Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Worst Four Letter Word: Rape

I know that I don't often discuss social issues here and most of what we write is either informational, self-reflective or light hearted.  Today as I was watching television there was new evidence released regarding the handling of the rape investigation of a star college athelte.  The news regarding the lack of care and concern for the alleged victim in the case relative to how the case was investigated both by the school and by the police was rather appalling to listen to.

I was thinking to myself, "why is this such a common story?"  I also wondered about all those unreported rapes.  The social stigma that falls on the victims of rape is often so great that victims are fearful of coming forward.  There are not too many other crimes that I can think of where the victim is not always the sympathetic figure.  I know that proof of rape crimes is part of what makes the crime so difficult to punish.  So how do we change it?  To me the answer may not be "easy" but it's obvious;  through education. 

Where should that education begin?  It needs to start in the home and it needs to start with fathers talking to their sons.  As parents are often tasked with talking to their children about sex, when they have any discussion about sex part and parcel of that discussion should be a talk about respect for women and the importance of respecting your female partner.  I think fathers best foster that idea by the way they treat their spouse in the home.  A husband who is respectful of his wife in the home will have a much greater chance of having sons who will be respectful of their partners.  The old cliche "actions speak louder than words" is true.  Words, and to speak to someone is also an action though and as much as I believe a father should instill respect for women in his sons through his actions I think dads today should take the time to talk to their sons about rape and what a despicable crime it is as well. 

There is another place education about rape needs to happen and that's in school once students are of school age to take part in sex education courses.  I know that my school had a sex education course when I was in middle school but I do not honestly remember if rape was ever discussed.  Not every child is going to have a father who is a good role model or a father who is even there.  That's not to say that mothers can not talk to their sons about rape and violence against women, I'm just guessing the message resonates a bit more when it comes from the same sex.  The fact that not every student is going to have a parent who teaches respect for women makes it vital that schools take on that role as educators. 

I also think that sex education should be required three times.  In middle school.  In high school and if you attend college, in college as well.  I'm not saying that it needs to be a semester long requirement in high school or college, but perhaps a required week long refresher type course would not be such a bad idea.  Sex education is going to also resonate differently with middle school kids, high school kids and college students.  A more mature understanding happens with the more mature we are when we have those discussions.   Sometimes I wonder why the only time I had a sex education course was when I was in middle school.  Sure it's the time when boys are first getting interested in girls, but even I knew I was not ready for sex at that age.  I think the course at that age was a good idea, but I think in high school they should require it again.   For freshman in college when many men will be living away from the home and their parental influences for the first time and when students will be exposed to more frequent interactions with alcohol would be another smart time to have required sex education.  I'm not sure how many if any schools do that. 

I also believe that having any brave rape victims and even convicted rapists who are remorseful and wish to rehabilitate coming into schools during the high school and collegiate sex education courses to discuss rape and all it's social and criminal implications could be a real wake up call for some.  Schools already do it with drunk drivers when advising students of the dangers of alcohol.  I KNOW it would be viewed as controversial.  It would take a strong administration, especially in a public school.   Private schools and certainly colleges would have a little more leeway in creating such an educational agenda.  I know the raw emotion of those testimonials would agitate parents, but if it educates, and resonates and spares a rape victim... well, I think it's worth risking the controversy.

Obviously we're not going to stop the rapes that are commited by most of your serial rapists who have a deviant nature.  So many rapes though, have been and continue to be date rapes, commited by boyfriends against a date or a girl friend.  They do not likely derive out of a desire to commit the crime or the desire to disrespect.  They derive out of a sexual urge and a lack of understanding or appreciation for the nature of the crime. 

This type of continuous education that I propose might also help once it comes time to investigate these cases.  The prosecutor, the lead investigator and most of the college board that I talked about in the opening of this discussion were all men.  Men who obviously did not take an allegation of rape seriously enough, because they did not respect the ramifications of the crime enough on the victim.  I think it is imperative to do everything we can to help our young people appreciate the seriousness of the rape crime.  When those young men become adults and are in the position to investigate or prosecute these crimes they just might be more invested in finding justice for the victim then all the political and social implications of rape. 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Term One over

As I work in the Education industry my life is governed by the school calendar. Term one is over and now it’s the school holidays. I get a holiday for two weeks which was not a moment too soon as I need a break from kids. I enjoy working with children but I have my limits as well. There are days where I resent their behaviour but I try to remember I was exactly the same at their age.
I mostly do day trips and hang out at home during holidays. So far, I went hiking (spent two hours terribly lost), shopping, watched The Lego Movie, went to a teaching conference, saw the new exhibits at the Queensland Museum and washed my family’s cars. I hope to watch some more movies next week, particularly the new Spider Man 2, Captain America 2, Sherman and Mr Peabody and Divergent.

I also hope to explore more of Queensland as I have still not seen it all. I don’t have any money to travel far so I plan to see lesser known museums, go out with my friends and go to any cultural event happening in the city.
Recent hiking trip White Rock Conservation Estate 

I am still looking for a teaching job. So far I have an interview this Wednesday for a teaching position. It would be nice if I got it. There aren’t many jobs being advertised because it is the school holidays. I’ve been job hunting since last year and I think most of the positions are for early childhood teachers. I am not qualified to teach early childhood (ages 3-5) because I didn’t specialise in it. If I don’t get the new job, I’ll go ahead with further study to be an early childhood teacher. I try to keep in mind that it’s normal to have a lot of rejections before success. 

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Jon Bear Journal: Exercise

My Journal entry this month is kind of an update on where I am regarding a long standing goal I set here two years ago, which was to lose 50 pounds.  Exercise is something I've discussed on the blog before because it's something I think about quite a bit.  It becomes an increasing challenge for me as I get older.  There are simple answers to getting more exercise but how to make exercise enjoyable is not as simple as it once was.  When I was younger I had more time in my day for exercise, I had more energy and I had more friends who had time to share in an activity.  Those three facts made exercise something I didn't even have to think about, it was just something I did.

While I am not a superb athlete I am athletic enough to do fairly well in most sports.  As a child, a teen and a young adult I played lots of American football, baseball, basketball, hockey and tennis among other sports.  Having a twin brother gave me the opportunity to always have someone around who I could play sports with even if my friends' families were on vacation or friends were not allowed to go out.

The thing that made exercise most fun to me was the diversity of games I could play and the fact that I could do a lot outside.  I am not an indoor exerciser and I've never been a gym rat.  I tend to find indoor exercise boring.  A lot of people try to convince me that because exercise is important you have to get a gym membership.  I see the reasoning in their argument because of how much access there is to gyms and the relatively low cost of memberships these days.  I've tried that method though and I still am someone who finds it difficult to exercise alone on my own time.  As a result I rarely find the motivation to get out to the gym when I've had a membership.

Walking and/or Running/Jogging is something I do enjoy and when I've found success in losing weight during the battles I've had with my weight for the last decade or so it's always been when I've gotten into a good walking or running routine.  Recently I've been doing pretty well with regards to losing weight and I'm half way to my goal of losing 50 pounds which I set here a couple of years ago.  I owe a lot of that to eating more sensibly and becoming reinvigorated behind a walking regime.  I want to sustain my success though.

It has not been easy to walk regularly because of the cold, particularly this Winter in the North East United States.  I live in Upstate New York where the good portion of the last 5 months has seen temperatures either near or below freezing.  As an outside exerciser that hasn't made it easy, but I toughed it out.  While I think I can likely sustain my walking regime during the warmer weather, my biggest challenges are bringing more diversity into my exercising so I do not become bored and complacent about walking and planning ahead to next Winter in the hopes that I can figure out an indoor alternative I'll enjoy. 

My best friend and his family moved away to Texas and many of the close friends I had over the last decade have moved away from the North East as well.  That in part has made exercising tougher for me.  I do have a few friends in the area still and I have friends from work, but my social network isn't as great as it was when I was a college student.  The time I spend with my friends from work has mostly been either bowling (which usually involves fast food and drinking) or going out drinking.  My work place does try to focus on wellness and as such I might be able to discover different fun activities through our well at work program.  Other stores in our company's chain of stores have teams that are involved in sports that I might find fun.  So I think that might be my best option heading into the Spring and Summer.

I've been observing a lot of people who are older than me lately and seeing the difficulties they have getting around.  I want to optimize my health as I keep getting older so that some of the aches and pains that come with age are alleviated by keeping off weight and keeping consistently active.  As someone who does not like to exercise alone the other important thing for me to do is going to be finding a network of people to share the fun things that will help get me and keep me in shape.

Right now I'm at a tipping point for myself.  There have been a few times where I've reached my current weight just to put the weight back on.  I'm ready to keep moving in the right direction this time and I think that's possible.  I've talked about some of the ways to achieve my goals before but I've yet to do them.  I'm hoping I'll be able to update this journal entry with the story of a sports league that I'm part of and continued success in my weight loss.  While my successes have been slower than I would have liked, having our blog is helping to keep me accountable for my weight loss goals.  It would have been easy to not have achieved it the first year or the second year and to have just given up.  I haven't given up.  I see myself now as on the verge of a breakthrough. 

Hopefully the struggles I've had will help others who struggle just the same relate, and hopefully the breakthrough I seek will help inspire others who continue to struggle.  Slow improvements are still improvements and when stagnation happens it doesn't need to be the point you turn back it, find the courage to push forward. 

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne- Review by Carlyn


I found this book for a dollar in a charity shop so I decided to give it a whirl. I had watched the movie adaption featuring Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan and wanted to read the original book. Around the World in Eighty Days is a fictional story about Phileas Fogg who makes a bet that he can go around the world in eighty days.  The book was published in 1874 so this was a time when there no planes and cars so he travels by steam boat, trains and other vehicles of that time period. I think the book gives an interesting insight to the technology available in the day and the attitude of some of the people living in that time. I found it amusing, how some characters remarked on the speed of the trains and boats which we would now consider a snail’s pace.


Phileas Fogg travels the world with his trusty servant Passepartout and Mrs Aouda, a woman he rescues along the way. He becomes famous and people take bets on whether he will succeed. He is also perused by a detective for a crime he didn’t commit. Mr Fogg and company travel to many different countries along the way such as  India, Japan, China, America and Egypt. He has bet his entire fortune so it is essential he wins. Others try to persuade Fogg that is not possible to travel in eighty days because there could be unexpected delays. For example, a train could derail or a boat could come late but Mr Fogg insists that he can travel in eighty days.

Along the way, Phileas does not take one moment to marvel at the things he sees. His companions gaze in wonder at the beautiful landscapes while he plays cards or consults his travel guide. In the book, he is noted for his lack of curiosity and his dignified manner. Fogg never loses his cool during his travels ; it’s all the other characters who have sleepless nights worrying over delays. I think he doesn’t have much of a personality so thankfully the secondary characters make up for it.

I enjoyed reading the journey around the world and thought the pace was good. I thought Jules Verne did a good job in keeping the fast pace which illustrated the urgency of the race. I kept on imagining the changes of the countries that the characters visited from the 18th century to today. I also admired how Fogg found other means of transport when he missed the usual connection of trains and boats.

I have since read that people have been inspired by the book and actually made the trip around the world using the same means as in the book. One notable person was Nellie Bly (1864- 1922), a journalist who made it around the world in seventy two days and even met Jules Verne.
Nellie Bly and might I add, what a looker! I mean most photos from the olden days have dour looking people. Source

As a teacher, I think Around the World in eighty days would be an excellent thematic unit. My students would learn geography,history, culture, science, English and mathematics.

Lesson ideas

1. Research the countries in the book.
2. Plot the journey onto a map and create a modern route.
3. Learn how various transports work
4. Compare the currency rates
And many more.

I’ve since watched the 1956 and 2004 movies of Around the World in eighty days. I recommend them to the people who read the book and the others that haven’t. I think both capture the spirit of the book. The 1956 movie is a bit more faithful to the novel and I feel that David Niven did a great job portraying the dignified Mr Fog while Steve Coogan of the 2004 movie made him a bit more human. My favourite is the 2004 one because I find it funnier and Jackie Chan is in the movie. I think he was wonderful as Passepartout. There are other movies but those are what I have watched so far. I like to watch every adaption and compare them.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Goodbye to old job

I will be leaving my tutoring job at the end of the month. I have been working for a tutoring company for two years.  I was there when the branch first opened. The staff and I were all new to the job and the other tutors and I were all hired in one group interview.  We were all university students who worked as tutors part time. I saw them leave one by one as they graduated from school and went on their desired professions. I never knew that I would be last of the original staff to leave. Some people quit earlier to focus more on their studies.

I really like the staff. We never had any issues with each other at all. We also try to have regular get togethers so we can talk about work and unwind. We all didn’t agree with management at times and we always had amusing stories to relate about our classes.

I will miss my students. The tutoring company works as a school and I have a class of students. I have watched the children grow and master new skills. When I look at them I remember how little they were and when I first met them. For instance, when I look at Lena* I think of the day she first came to class. We had a class game outside and she fell over. I felt really bad about it as it was her first day and we didn’t have any bandaids. She was crying and all we could offer was tissue paper. It was her injury that prompted management to get a first aid kit. They had forgotten all about it before.

Another student that I will miss is Penny* who use to worry so much about not being able to add two digit numbers. Now that girl can convert fractions with ease so she’s come so far. She was quiet as a mouse when I met her and she is still quiet. I think she’s happy and just a quiet kid.

The children all know that I am going. I told them that they would get a new tutor at the start of the new term. I explained how the tutor will run things differently and not to expect things to be the same. I have been training the new tutor to take over. I have showed him my methods and explained why I do things but I have made clear to him that he can run the classroom the way he likes. I know from experience that when teaching, you have to do what you are comfortable with and that the same methods sometimes don’t work for you.

So far, I have asked him to teach one on one and do some of the marking. I think the new tutor will do fine. He’s a bit unsure of how things go and that makes the children take advantage of him. However, I think when he gains some confidence, he’ll be fine. Children always like to say, “But our teacher always lets us…..” to any new person.

I am currently buying little presents for the children for the end of the term. I always like to give them a gift at the end of each term to thank them for their hard work. Usually I buy everyone the same thing or give them a list of options to choose from but this time most of the children have opted for me to surprise them. So I’m searching for interesting things that they might like. 

The children like little toys and novelty stationery items. One boy asked for an I Pad and I was like “in your dreams, mate” because as if I’m going to buy an I Pad. He had a look of hope in his eyes and I suspect that although I said no to an I Pad, he thinks I’m going to surprise him with one. I’ll have to tell him again this week that it’s not happening. 

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Scholastic Royal diaries series: Mary, Queen of Scots- Queen without a country by Kathryn Lasky - Review by Carlyn

The Scholastic Royal Diaries series is a book series that I absolutely love. It is a fictional diaries of real princesses and noble ladies from the history. Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587) became a queen of Scotland when she was a week old. Her father King James V passed away and she was his only child. Mary was betrothed at four to Francis, the son King Henry 2. The diary begins when Mary is eleven where she is living in the French court.
Mary and her future husband Francis source

I feel that the book doesn’t have a strong story arc because of its diary format. It’s more about Mary’s everyday life.  Mary spends her days being educated on the classics, as well as hawking, hunting and riding. She also plays with the French princesses and her fiancĂ© Francis. Mary is not the only Scot in France; she has four Scottish ladies in waiting all named Mary. The Four Marys were from noble families chosen from a young age to serve Queen Mary.
Mary and her ladies in waiting in the tv show Reign. Source 

Kathryn Lasky depicts Mary as a mature child, who fully understands her role as queen. Mary is counselled on matters of state by her mother, who advises her on what to say, how to say it and what she should do through her letters to Mary. Mary is fully aware of the importance to treating politics seriously because she wants her counsellors to recognise her authority despite her young age.  I admired Mary’s leadership skills and her wanting to be a good leader. Whenever she was scared or nervous, her sense of duty made her rise to the occasion.
Thirteen year old Mary source

There are other notable people mentioned in the book such as Nostradamus and Catherine de Medici. Nostradamus was a seer who predicted many things that some people still take seriously today. In the book, Mary is annoyed by Catherine de Medici, the Queen of France. Catherine de Medici is depicted as ugly and cranky person. Mary resents Catherine for her sour attitude but feels that guilty about her unkind thoughts. She spends most of the book thinking about how she can treat the queen better.

There is one part of the book which may be inappropriate for younger readers. There’s a lecherous old man with grabby hands. The girls put a stop to it though and I guess it can encourage young people to have courage and speak up about molesters. Overall, I enjoyed reading about Mary, Queen of Scots. She had an interesting life; she grows up to become queen of two countries, marries twice, gets imprisoned and ..... well it doesn't end well for her. ...

As always I like to mention the other adaptions about Mary, Queen of Scots. I like experiencing different media and their take on subjects so that’s why I always like to mention them. There’s a new tv series which is loosely based on Mary called Reign. I heard that it’s scandalously entertaining and one of the actresses likens it to historical fan fiction.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

My favourite quote: Fortune favours the brave

I decided that I would do something different for my diary entry instead of moping about teaching. My new job is going fine thanks. I think I’ve settled in and now I feel more comfortable. The children no longer see me as a visitor and treat me with more respect and affection.

My favourite quote is ‘Fortune favours the brave’ which I think means good luck or opportunities come to those that are brave enough to seek it. I heard that it is a motto derived from Latin and there are many variations of it such who dares wins and God helps those that helps themselves.
I seriously considered getting it tattooed to my arm. 

Sometimes I can be stuck in my ways and being spontaneous or making quick decisions can give me some anxiety. I like to be able to think things through and debate on my options. However, there are times when I have to make quick decisions. I spend endless moments thinking whether I should follow my head or heart. I also make snap decisions which I end up changing at the last moment which can sometimes be annoying to others.

I think I’m getting better at making decisions. I prefer to try an experience than be left wondering what it would be like. The majority of my decisions have been good and the ones that have been bad were not unfixable. Whenever I’m indecisive or scared I like to think of my favourite quote so that I think more positively.