Sunday, 26 May 2019

Misfits Shine!




M is for Misfits Shine!



Have you ever felt like you didn’t fit in?
That no matter what you’ve done to try and be one of the popular kids, it hasn’t worked?
Have you ever felt like a freak or a weirdo?
Do you sit alone at lunch, or you hide in the library.
Do you walk around with your head down, hoping that no one will notice you or pick on you?

What if I told you… this is great?

Why? Because these people – the “outcasts” or “weirdos”, are the ones who are remembered and often go on to achieve great things in life that the other kids don’t.
Lady GaGa, Freddie Mercury, Billie Eilish what do they have in common – yes they all sing. But there is something about them that makes them stand out from others. Whether it is Lady GaGa’s clothes, Freddie Mercury’s unusual face with his overbite, to Billie Eilish’s ghoulish video where ink runs from her eyes. You could say they are all weird in some way.

So, where am I going with this?

Research tells us that suddenly seeing a weird person activates the release of a motivation chemical called Dopamine in our brain. If we have not seen someone like this before our brain identifies it as new information and it is stored in our long-term memory.   



I was born a freak, a weirdo, ‘a deformity’. You see one gene in my DNA decided to change itself, much like an orange becoming a lemon. This change made a dramatic effect. An orange and a lemon are both citrus fruit but they look different don’t they? This cellular change meant my skull and face didn’t develop properly.
Let me briefly  set the picture for you. My skull was too small; my eyes were too big - bulgy, like frogs; my cheekbones flat so basically non-existent, and my lower jaw stuck out like a bull bar. Even my own mother said I was ugly.
And at school I copped names - ‘Googly eyes’, ‘Frankenstein’, ‘Elephant Man’. I was physically hurt and rejected… Outside of school, wherever I went, I was stared out, pointed at, laughed at and made fun of.
In high school we had to old time dancing, and when the PE teacher would say, ‘Gentlemen, choose your partner,’ I would sit there staring at my not-so-secret crush willing him to come to me. I remembered this one occasion when he walked towards me and I was like, ‘Yes he’s going to choose me.’ My heart thumped with excitement. And you know what happened? He stopped at the girl beside me and asked her. My heart broke in that moment.
Now each time it was boy’s choice, I was last or second last, to be left on the chairs. I was covered in Impulse, so it couldn’t be BO, so it had to be my face. And as I progressed around the circle some of the boys would try not to touch me, like this.
I couldn’t fix my face. If I could have been a clown, I would have. At least they got to paint white make up on their face and act out to be laughed out. I got laughed at, and pointed at, for being myself.
Even after I had my face ripped apart by a surgeon and put back together with pieces of rib and hip bone, I still got picked on. 

Are you hearing me?

For my fellow outcasts, I’m going to leave you with something for each letter of the word WEIRDO:

Work hard (at being the best version of yourself you can be. Shower, wear deodorant, brush your hair, go to class, and do your schoolwork). 

Educate others and don’t be ashamed of yourself (If you have a disability explain it to others. For example, Billy Eilish was trolled for her tics, so she came out and told people she has Tourettes.) 

Ignore and block the haters (not everyone will like you, so don’t give them the time of day or your emotions) and don’t compare yourself to others. You are unique. A limited edition.

Reach out. You are worthy and you are valuable. And if you need help, ask someone to help you. A teacher, a parent, a doctor, a friend. If they don’t help you, ask someone else. 

Develop your gifts, talents, passions and interests. They will help you to find friends, have fun and put you in good stead for life after school. 

AND FINALLY…

Own your uniqueness. Be proud of yourself, your achievements, and the inner determination you have, to get up each day, to face the world. 




Find out more about Misfits Shine! at www.jennywoolsey.com

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Launch


L is for Launch


On Saturday 23 February, 2019, I launched and celebrated the two children's noels I had published in 2018. Daniel Barker: By Power or Blight, and, Amy and Phoenix.




It was a wonderful afternoon with approximately 40 guests attending. My guests were representative of the different areas of my life - family, old and new friends, from the three writing groups I am in, church, school, and two politicians who I have spent time talking to about my theme which is difference, diversity and diability and who always been supportive of my endeavours.

I facilitated the Moreton Bay Region Local Writer Meet and Greet beforehand and ran a workshop on writer goal setting for 2019, which was successful. At the conclusion of the meet and greet it was time to set up for the book launch.

I held my double launch in the Pine Rivers Art Gallery which is a beautiful setting with the paintings and other artworks. My previous two book launches were held in local parks. I wanted something different for this one, and the art gallery was perfect.

If you have a book nearly at completion, it is time to start planning the launch. There are many things you need to think about - it could be seen as a much smaller scale wedding or like a significant birthday party. So here are my top tips for a successful book launch


1. Decide on the date

If you are traditionally published you will be given a date that the book will be released. If you are independently published you will have an approximate date you think your book will be printed and ready to go. Even if you are traditionally published, you will most likely have to organise your own launch.

When making the date there are some things to think about:


  • What other activities are on at the same time? Will your friends and loved ones be able to come or are there a lot of other conflicting events on the same day?
  •  If you would like your book launch put in your local council’s newsletter you will probably need to get that date to them six months in advance.
  • If you need to book a venue, you will need to allow time to be able to negotiate this with them. They may not be able to do your first date. 
  •  Make the book launch at least a month away (many say three months is better) so you can advertise and promote your book.  

 

2.  Choose the venue


     Where do you want to hold your book launch? There is no prescribed place. Many people hold their launches in bookshops or libraries, but you do not have to. I have held my book launches in two different parks and the local art gallery. I’ve had other friends hold their launches at sports clubs and in community halls. Do what you want to do. 
 

Some things to think about before you book your venue:


  • The cost of the venue. If you are hiring a room in a library or a community hall, sports club venue etc.  you will need to pay.
  • The weather. If you are outside, what will you do if the weather is inclement?
  • Is the venue near public transport? You need to consider people who are unable to drive. All of my book launches have been near the train line.
  • What facilities does the venue have? If you are at a park, are there toilets? Also, if you are at the park, what do you do for hot water etc.? If you are at the park you will also have the added furniture - gazebo, tables and chairs.

3. Send out your invitations

If your venue has a limit of the number of people it can hold, you will need a guest list or a ticketed event. Invite people from all the different areas of your life. On Saturday I had family, and friends from my three writing groups, school, church, my childhood and my community. If you don’t have a limit, invite everyone who you think might be interested in attending. 

After saying this, if you invite a large number of people, expect a large number of apologies. People are crazy busy and some people will just not want to attend. I had 70 apologies, and 40 people attended, and others who did not RSVP. Keep positive when all of those ‘I’m sorry I can’t make it…’ start coming in. Look at the people who do come and enjoy your celebration with them. 

   

    4. Marketing

A book launch is really a part of your marketing plan. Put your book launch on all of your social media platforms. Add snippets from your planning process, glimpses of your book and what it is about, and if you are able, make a promo video. It is a great idea to contact your local newspaper and ask if they would be interested in doing a story on you. In some instances, you may need to write a press release to send to media.

5. Plan your day 

Like a wedding, you will need to have a To Do list, and a program for the day. Think about everything you will need depending on what you want to do in your book launch. Some people like to do a book reading, have art and craft activities, dress-ups for the children, prizes, pantomimes, or have puppets. Think about yourself, the book you are launching, and how you can make it unique in some way. Don’t try and replicate someone else’s but by all means take ideas from others you have seen and like.
 
The basics:


  • A banner
  • Flyers, business cards, bookmarks
  • Books (pre-sign to save time) and a pen
  • A float/credit card facility (organise a person to handle the money for you on the day so you are free to just sign the books and chat)
  • Decorations
  • A cake & knife, tablecloth
  • Food & drinks (plates, cups etc)
  • Your speech
  • Public liability insurance (check with venue)
  • You must have some type of speech. Your guests will be in awe of you. Many people would love to write a book but will never. You have! Make sure you explain a little about your book, or read some of it (if it is a picture book then read it all) so they know what it is about, and say anything else that you think would interest your guests. You can have someone interview you, or you can tell a story and then relate it to your book, act out a play… whatever you are comfortable doing. Write a list of who you would like to thank in case you forget someone. Even though writing is a solidary activity, there will be people who helped or supported you, encouraged you or have influenced you in your journey. And if you forget someone who is present, go to them and apologise (I did this on Saturday!) I also suggest that if you suffer from anxiety, practise your speech beforehand.

6. Post about it afterwards

You’ll be exhausted afterwards, but this is not the end. You need to post on social media photos from the event and tell your followers how they can support you – by purchasing your books, posting reviews and telling people about you. 



Then it’s time to get on with more writing!


 To find out more about my children's novels, go to my website at www.jennywoolsey.com

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Knots

 Image result for macrame knots

K is for Knots

When I was a girl and in Girl Guides, I learnt how to tie knots... the clove hitch, bowline, diagonal lashing and so on. The reef knot was my favourite as I loved the form of it. I remember also that if you didn't tie the reef knot correctly, you made the ugly granny knot which was much more difficult to undo.


 A collection of knots and hitches illustrations

As a teenager I loved doing macrame, which is tying knots to make decorative items. I learnt all the various types of knots and had a book of patterns. I spent hours with the twine attached to the ceiling fan or to a chair, working away. It was so much fun. And thirty-five years later some of my creations are still hanging up in my parent's house.

 Image result for macrame knotsImage result for macrame knots

So why am I talking about knots? Mainly because I wanted to do something different, and it's nice to reminisce about pleasant childhood memories. Secondly, as soon as I thought of the word knots, I remembered the Knots Prayer which I love.  I needed to write more than the Knots Prayer so I've been trawling the internet and have found a selection of poems that I really like. I hope you enjoy reading them too.



Dear God,

Please untie the knots that are in my mind, my heart, and my life.
Remove the have nots, the can nots, and the do nots that I have in my mind.
Erase the will nots, may nots, and might nots that find a home in my heart.
Release me from the could nots, would nots, and should nots that obstruct my life.
Most of all dear God, I ask that you remove from my mind, my heart, and my life all the 'am nots' that I have allowed to hold me back, especially the thought that I am not good enough.
Amen

 𝄌𝄌𝄌

Humanity is a knot
And humans are the strings
We are connected by our actions
Until we choose to disconnect
By plucking our own individual strings
And start unraveling ourselves from the knot
Once enough strings are removed
The knot is untied
As we've lost connection
Strings are now subject to the wind
And begin to wither without the knot
And without the strings
The knot is nothing
What brings the knot back
Is war
Fueled by famine
We tangle each other in terror
Where the strings must be maneuvered with precision
So we may form a knot

The shroud of strings blinds itself
As war wraps us in calamity
But after all the wars we've fought
Is this the connection we've got?
Humanity is a knot
by Andrew

  𝄌𝄌𝄌

knots

Sounds of knots
Hopeless thoughts
find me oh so lost 
The face of grace 
Can not replace 
What He has for all;
Fear Not....
Copyright © candis faulkner |

𝄌𝄌𝄌

Most of our wants
are unnecessary knots
that we tie ourselves with,
wantedly...
-Sarala S

𝄌𝄌𝄌
Image result for knots poem


 𝄌𝄌𝄌

 Image result for knots poem
  𝄌𝄌𝄌


By Anna M. Pratti_230d
If a string is in a knot,
Patience will untie it.
Patience can do many things—
Did you ever try it?
If it was sold at any shop
I should like to buy it.
But you and I must find our own—
No other can supply it.





 𝄌𝄌𝄌

 geometric-shapes-memories-lost-concentric-circles-fate-where

 𝄌𝄌𝄌

 a knotty tale©
Knott, a knot-knotter could not,
Knot knots as a knot-knotter ought,
For when Knott knotted knots,
The knots knotted Knott,
Making Knott a neat knot-knotter (not).

 𝄌𝄌𝄌
  
The Knot
The problem was how to begin with the end
and then it turned out there were two ends:

the end within the continuing
that, continuing, enveloped
the end. You passed yourself
coming and going, went through
one loop, then another,
what was behind drawn
through at a
slide until
it rose
before you, sprung.
Tangle like a bramble,
like a rose. Start,
start again against
the tight-
ening. A knife
could give up
on patience, but you
were born among
the dull and
kind, who wait
for Spring, and
lightening
and lightning.
   𝄌𝄌𝄌


Find out more about Jenny at
'Difference, Diversity, Disability'

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Just be You



J is for Just be You

I have been tossing around in my mind a variety of slogans or messages that I wish to stand for. I thought about 'It's Okay to be Different', 'Diversity is Great', 'Embrace Difference'... but none of these exactly explained my philosophy on life and my life experience which I share with people and write about in my books. Yesterday, on Boxing Day, I was discussing this with my sister-in-law while we were chatting about what we've been doing lately. When I got home two words popped into my head... Just be. I googled 'Just be' (as you do). The results suggested these two words were about being in the moment and mindfulness. Close, but not quite what I wanted. My mind remained on this path and I let it wander. It didn't take long for the three lettered word, YOU, to make its way to the fore. I typed 'Just be you' into google and a beautiful song called Just Be You by Anthem Lights feat. Sadie Robertson, appeared. I listened to the song and I knew this was my message.


So what is my message? What does Just be YOU mean?

In 10 points I would say to Just be you, you need to:

1) Peel off society's negative labels and find your true identity.
2) Accept yourself - your good and bad parts; your disability; your difference, your uniqueness.
3) Be brave enough to face the world as the real you.
4) Live in the present how life is now - not in the past, and not in the future.
5) Seek help to find your true identity, if you need to. Don't be afraid to get professional help.
6) Find others who are like you. I call these your tribe.
7) Be content with your disability or difference, and embrace it as a part of you. Remember it doesn't have to define you, it is just a part of you.
8) Maintain a positive outlook on life, even if it isn't how you would like it to be.
9) Look after yourself. Self-care is essential. Seek assistance from others if you need it.
10) Lead an inclusive life. Go out in the community and lead as ordinary of a life as you can.

I am currently editing my next book which will expand on these points further.

***
In 2018 a song was released that also exemplified my message. I wish this song had been around when I was a teenager and not accepting myself as me. Of course it is This Is Me from The Greatest Showman.




So to finish this post... This week we head towards 2019. It is the perfect time to reflect on the year and jot down the changes we would like to make, or how how we would like 2019 to look.

It is also the perfect time to Just be YOU.



To find out more about me go to


Sunday, 25 November 2018

Inclusive Education


I is for Inclusive Education

Something that I am passionate about is inclusive education, due to my youngest daughter having Down syndrome. These two words, 'inclusive education' though are often misused and there is a lot of confusion over what they actually mean. So, it is my intention with this blog post, to set things straight.

What is inclusive education?
 
1) First of all I am talking about students with disabilities being in mainstream schools. Being in a special school is not inclusive education.
2) Students are in the classroom with the other students,and for the same amount of time as the other students. They are provided with the supports they need to access the same activities that the other students do. Their school work is modified if necessary and if so, they are doing the same work as their peers but at their level. They do not have a teacher aide shadowing them. 

This is a succinct definition:

Inclusion is being physically present and fully participating in the same classroom as peers for the same proportion of time; socially belonging and immersed in the same curriculum
It requires the provision of necessary supports and adjustments so the student can learn, contribute and participate socially alongside one’s peers.
Students are under the same school and class rules, although it needs to be stressed that it may take more time and attention to teach some children these rules. 

Inclusive education is not:

* Special classes
* A full-time teacher aide
* Being isolated in the classroom
*  The student is working in parallel rather than the curriculum being modified
* Being included in class but not in the life of the school (playground, excursions, camps, extra-curricular)
* Being enrolled but not challenged to learn, participate and contribute



 Let's look at the following diagram:




Exclusion:  Students with disabilities are in separate schools.
Segregation: Students with disabilities are in a mainstream school but are kept in separate units away from the rest of the students.
Integration: Students with disabilities are in mainstream schools, in classrooms but are expected to do the same work as the other children even if they are not able to, they do not have any supports, and they may be excluded or separated from the other students for some activities.
Inclusion: What we want!



 Why do we want inclusion for children with disabilities?

        1) All children are learners and all children are unique. What is ‘normal’?
2) School is the gateway to society and inclusive communities start with inclusive neighbourhood schools that value diversity and respect the right of all students to be welcomed and to belong. 
3) Inclusion means going to school with siblings. It’s about having an ordinary life.
4) Regular schools offer a wide range of experiences.
5) Inclusion is a RIGHT:
* Article 24 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognises the right to an inclusive education as a human right of people with disability.
* In Australia, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Disability Standards for Education 2005 ensure equal access for people with a disability to education.
* The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers 1.5 & 1.6 give the instructions that teachers must differentiate teaching to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities. 

What research is there on inclusive education? 
 
The case for inclusive education over ‘special education’ models (special schools or education support units), is overwhelming. Over 40 years of research, and hundreds of studies have compared education outcomes for students with a disability in segregated special education settings to regular education environments. They have all ruled in favour of inclusive schools. The benefits continue into secondary education.
In Australia, Dr Bob Jackson has done a lot of research into the benefits of inclusive education for children with disabilities.




This diagram shows two pathways. The horizonal is the life of a child who goes to mainstream school and progresses on with a regular ordinary life. The diagonal line shows the direction life takes for many students who go through special education.

Research has also shown that inclusion leads to:
* Greater access to the general education curriculum
* More time ‘on task’ and a greater motivation to learn
* Greater progress academically, particularly with literacy skills
* Increased communication skills
* Improved social skills and behaviour
* More friendships
* A change in the school culture to a more inclusive one to the benefit of a great many students, not just those with a disability.


But what about the effects on non-disabled students and their learning?
 
* This is a common argument used by many to stop children with disabilities from being in the classroom. But this is a poor argument as the research has shown that inclusion is better for ALL students. Having disabled children in a school, develops more positive attitudes towards difference, better social skills and awareness, more caring friendships, less disruptive behaviour and more developed personal values and ethics. All students in the school learn the skills they need to live full lives as part of their communities, and to build the communities of the future. 
* Disabled peers do not take away from teacher instruction time and there is no detrimental effect on the achievement of the child’s peers. Many studies have shown a positive impact due to peer tutoring. The behaviour of the other students is unaffected, and differentiation of the curriculum leads to better teaching for the whole class and more effective classroom management strategies.  


It's about the mindset of educators

One of the excuses I received from a teacher not wanting my daughter in her class was, there would be too much preparation and she didn't have the time. This turned out to be false and later in the year, this particular teacher changed her mindset towards inclusion and actually embraced it. I like the following meme as it gives great examples of how teachers can look at the children with disabilities who are in their class. 



Advice for Parents

Parents who have children with significant disabilities and are wanting their child to have an inclusive education will more than likely face gatekeepers, barriers, low expectations and prejudices along the way. Even though it is a right, there are many in the education system who do not believe that children with disabilities should be in mainstream school. I have encountered some myself in my journey, and I've had to be an assertive advocate for my daughter. I've also had to maintain my vision for my daughter, and check in often with her teacher to ascertain whether we are still on track. Often schools can seem like secret societies. My advice is to be prepared that challenges will arise at some stage, and gather people around you who can support you.

My daughter is just about to finish her primary school experience and start her journey through high school. I have my vision for her firmly implanted in my mind and in the next little while will be imparting it to her new school. And of course it is the school where her brother and sister go to.  





Some great websites are:

http://allmeansall.org.au/

http://thegoodlife.cru.org.au/getting-started/#education 

http://www.startingwithjulius.org.au/

http://www.theinclusiveclass.com/

https://sipnweb.com/edinclusion-guide/

https://inclusiveschools.org/


For my readers living in Queensland, this is the link to Education Queensland's Inclusive Education page on their website:

***


For more articles on difference and diversity you can find me on Facebook at:
https://www.facebook.com/JennyWoolseyAuthor/