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Published: December 12th 2015
I woke up this morning and realise I am only a week away from leaving this awesome adventure. It feels like yesterday since I arrived, but forever since I have seen my family and friends on home soil in Australia. While many of the experiences I have had while have been here have been joyous, adventurous, risk-taking and character building, the final months and a bit have been some of the hardest I have faced. It dawned on me about mid November that my journey was approaching the finish line, but I never new that the last few weeks would be like a bolter in a horse race sprinting to the finish line. Before you even have a moment to think or blink, those days have suddenly disappeared. In that time I have faced a few terrifying emotional experiences.
Now 'terrifying' to some, may not be the adjective to use in this instance but emotionally, mentally, and even physically, it explains exactly how I am feeling. Firstly, I have five more days where I will be leaving a school I do not want to leave, a group of phys ed staff, who have become my friends, mentors and
supportive colleagues that I'm not sure I will be able to work out the door and say good bye without the waterworks burst out of the tear ducts. The staff who I feel I am just starting to get to know, fit in and in some cases, particularly the french speaking teachers, they are beginning to understand my accent. I have started filling in for social volleyball teams, going to hockey games, even doing the locked room tomorrow with a group of them which I am very much looking forward to experiencing. The hardest one of all is the students! I have usually been quite well received by students, mainly because of my relaxed, somewhat clown-like persona and ability to relate to them (in most cases anyway), but this has been somewhat different. I enter the school grounds, to smiles, to students rushing up to me and saying they 'googled' me and found out about this particular blog and an acting career that is so obsolete, and feels like something I did in a previous life; they are just fascinated to find out more, hear about your stories as well as have a laugh. While this makes me feel that
googling me is a little creepy it is nice they have excepted me throughout the year. They are also a pleasure to teach and nearly every group I have worked with has been fun and easy to educate and hopefully inspire. I am dealing with the embarrassing fact that students want my autograph for the moment, since they have seen my 'blink and you miss' acting career and my book. The book 'The Treeman's Curse: The Book of Clues' has already been a success for me and it hasn't even been released. Using my target audience I have read first chapters, asked for opinions on back covers and front covers and used their help to try and make this book the success I want and hope it to be. They have even given me gifts to show their appreciation, something I have only received from Volleyball teams after a the Melbourne Volleyball tournament or from my Year 4-5 class back in 2003. They have been fantastic. Staff at Fairview who I sent the first chapter to embraced it and were really positive, even read it to students in class and used it as a discussion point for a relevant topic:
Fantasy writing! I have been invited to writer's club, asked to come speak to students in the class that had so much enthusiasm, amazing questioning, and a hunger to write themselves that I can't wait to start writing the sequel and prequels that I have spent time planning during the publishing process. I walk down the hallways, and students, who I have not even met have come up to me and said, 'I love your first chapter'! The book may sell 10 copies, but apart from being a huge achievement for me to complete the whole process, it has had an impact on a group of young students, and that was my goal from the start.
The year 7 classes I have had in the first half and second half of this experience (end of 2014/15 and beginning of 2015/16 in the Canadian school year) were just good fun groups to teach. It's been a while since I can't wait to teach a class. These two classes had me at hello and you enjoy seeing the different characters, their enthusiasm, their keenness to learn, play, develop leadership skills, and do the best they just speaks volumes about
the school. From the group of 'naughty boys' to the over excited group of french students, they make the lesson entertaining and fun. That brings me to the year 8 boys where I am known as 'Mr P' and our different handshake greetings that even had the girls trying to up us with their own handshake (which I don't have the flexibility or the coordination to do and since it happened so quickly can't even explain it). Some of these students are just brilliant athletes, and seeing so many great athletes in Lacrosse, Basketball, Floor Hockey and soccer just blows my mind. And like the Grade 7's again, their are classes (since we mix up students in each module) and students that have you rushing down the stairs with enthusiasm just to help them become better, people, better athletes, even grow in confidence, and in some cases, give them experiences they just don't experience outside of school. The grade 9's are also a great bunch, but seem to lack the enthusiasm at times to find their true potential. Again, there are some wonderful students, who are super intelligent, great leaders and have great personalities and it has been very interesting
seeing them change from year 8 to year 9 and the social importance that has crept into their lives. I even have three year 5 girls who seem to enjoy my company on yard duty rather than playing in the snow that also entertain me. We even have our own little high five 'top gun like' greeting like the year 8 boys. They seem to however, want to do it about ten times before the move on and do it in slow motion as well!!!!! The last duty they introduced me to their friend pole, who is an old outdoor volleyball pole (yes it was an interesting conversation!!) and had me playing 4 corners, where you have to pick a square in a 4 square court and if the person who is looking away calls out the number square that you are in, you are out of the game. It is worth the 5.5km walk to school in anywhere from -6 to 3 degrees to get to school just to work with this great institution. For a year I have been teaching in a subject I have longed to teach in, and the reason why I became a teacher. The
hardest part of the day, is leaving and then doing the 5.5km walk back home. I had forgotten what that reason was back home, and this experience has helped me realise where I want to go in my future career.
Saying goodbye to the car was surprisingly hard as well. It wasn't the best car in the world, nor was it the most expensive and had far less entertaining experiences than what I had with my Green Ford Escort when I first started to drive. At the end of the day it was just a car, but saying goodbye meant that this was the start of the end of the journey towards home. It seemed for a while though that goodbye would not end in a sale at all and that I would be first to either leave it with a friend or take it to a dealer. I had originally planned to sell it to a friends son but he found something else which put me on the back foot a little. I then had to put it on Kijiji and auto trader and even though people were looking at it, no one was interested. The
last day I could drive legally was November 30th and I was starting to panic that I would have to pay a full years registration or not be able to let others test drive it. I even went to a dealer and when he told me they could only give me $500 for it, if the chair I was in was quick sand, my body would have disappeared into it with despair in an instant. I was shattered, and felt like something as simple as selling a car was the most difficult problem I had ever had to solve.
The money side of things I will speak about later in the blog, but through the book I was in desperate need of the cash. Not only that, I had to tie up my insurance on the car which was taking direct debits out of my Canadian bank account which I also needed to close down before I left. It shouldn't really cause emotional stress, but it did and just when all hope seemed to be lost, the text message that came out of the blue while talking to dad over viber Friday week ago, was about to
solve my problems. The car was just a great car to drive and apart from the experience on the way to Kelowna for the Aussie Rules football week end, it had done its job well. Selling it for $1150 felt like the car had been spat on and disrespected but I was the boxer stuck in the corner and the only way out was a knockout blow. I had to take what I could get and that was what I did. I do get to keep one cherished possession of the car, my number plate, which will take place in the pool room back home make no mistake!!!!
One of my last trips in the car was to Drumheller to take one last look at Horseshoe Canyon, a place that help inspire one of the chapters from my book and the popular tourist attraction: The Royal Tyrrell museum. This place I was told was pretty cool and when you consider it contains some of the worlds most richest treasures and one of the greatest sources of life many millions of years ago, you know why it had me in awe. Walking around and seeing the remains of
creatures that had roamed the earth millions of years ago just was amazing. Even seeing scientists predictions of how the earth was shaped, where land and water were then compared to now, the shape the body, hence the skeleton in which dinosaurs take when they die and why this occurred had your eyes glued to the description that associated each exhibit. It took a good 2 hours to walk through and to give it justice, you need a good two hours, but what amazed me was the fact they had found so many different dinosaur remains that they had found and were on display. As my mum, dad, and sis would tell you, I'm not usually one for museums or those kinds of things, but I really enjoyed this one and recommend it to anyone who happens to head out to that part of Alberta. One aspect that did have my skin crawl and my insides tense up at the sight of was the tarantula spider. Like my fellow exchangee, I am not a big fan of the eight legged creatures but this thing nearly made me feel light headed and nearly pass out. The thing was the size of
my hand and I tell you now, if I saw that on me I would freak the hell out!!!!!
Another reason why it has been hard of late is the fact that the Australian Volleyball Schools Cup has been and gone in the last week. Over the last 10 years, the Willunga High School Volleyball program has sadly been my life. Training 4 different teams over the course of the week, organising coaches, fundraising, accommodation, transportation, parent meetings, practice events, and so on has been my life for at least the last 7 years of that experience. It is what my whole school year is about and what I look forward to the most. This year, in Willunga's twentieth year, I was not a part of it. I had to wait for school updates, message updates, Facebook posts to see how my old team from last year fared as well as see the exciting progression of the year 8 teams through words, and numbers. I could not be there to say farewell to the open girls and see the end of their volleyball journey for some of them come to an end. I wasn't there for the
Under 17 Boys Div 3 teams who was coached by one of my previous players and see them break a 10 year hoodoo and achieve our first boys medal in 10 years. I didn't get to congratulate my great friends from Hallett Cove School in person on their achievement of winning their first ever gold medal through the brilliant Under 17 Girls Div 1. I didn't get to look proudly upon our school banner, that our art teacher at school mentors and guides our students to brilliantly design and create. I didn't get to sing the chants, ride the highs and the lows and share in the laughs and the fun adventures that you have with your team and the silly costumes, mascots and silly little stories that only you can share with your team and staff. I did not sleep well during this week, knowing I was missing the great experience of the biggest schools event in the Southern Hemisphere. And the fact that it is in Melbourne, usually means I get a small window of opportunity to catch up with three of my best mates I have known for more than 20 to 25 years. While proud from
afar of what the school achieved, and thankful for those who ran the program in my absence, a question has burned away at me throughout the year. Do I really want to run the program when I get back?
My book has been an amazing journey, and as you have read above, it has been so a great experience sharing it with the students at Fairview and getting their feedback. But with life comes risks and I was always told that in the business world you need to take risks. I was also told if you only give half-hearted efforts, you will never succeed. I have questioned myself many times about the money I have put into this book and whether it really is all worth it. The story above about the students at Fairview tells me it is, but my bank account is hemorrhaging blood and soon I may need a donor! While dealing with the emotional experience of the car and saying goodbye, I had to deal with the decision of marketing the book and whether or not I spend $4000 plus of money I don't really have to get social media dedicated to my
book up and running. I need to get my book out there as word of month depends on how good your product is. I hope it is good, and my students have only read the first chapter, not the other 40 that follow it. I have big plans to write up lesson plans for Year 6-9 so to compensate for a variety of learning abilities, create hopefully fun exercises and discussions about the book and develop students' English skills in the process. Combining higher order think activities as well will give students the skills to think more deeply about the issues that come from the book and relate them back to their own experiences. While this is alot of work, and trying to link it back to the curriculum, particularly the Australian Curriculum, my goal is to get my book into schools around the world and be used as a class novel.
It is not the first time I have chased a dream. I have made a feature film that had Teresa Palmer in it playing a bit part and made short films trying to get into an acting, writing and directing career, but the guidance, money,
connections and knowledge made this nearly impossible. This time I want to try and do it right! The problem is am I doing it right? I just received my second proof of the front cover, and my heart nearly sank when I saw my drawings as an idea for a front cover was pasted on the front. Not only did it look unprofessional, cheap and lazy, it felt like I was being played just so I could spend more money on getting my cover done properly. They want to sell my product for $16US ($4US as an E-book), which even I think is a bit steep and will impact sales straight away but if you saw the cover when looking at it on the shelf of a book store, you would probably laugh and chuck it on the ground. The publishing process has been a steep learning curve and again, one I did not expect would one so costly or put so much stress and strain on me, but something deep down inside tells me this is why I came to Canada, and that this is a journey that while produces short term pain, will give long term gain. Whether
that long term gain is financial, or inspires or entertains just one person in the world, then it is a success.
It probably comes across as I don't want to leave and to be honest a bit of me will remain here, waiting for me to come back and collect again one day in the future. I am looking forward to coming home and seeing the friends i've missed, the family I can't wait to embrace and the home that if I was Lord Voldemort I would make it as one of my seven horcrux's it means that much. To feel the sand between my toes that lies only 200m from my house, and to feel the beating sun on my skin once again rather than the chill of the winter in Canada is something I do long to experience once again. It is best to say that my emotions have been like a pinball being bashed around from one side to the other: Do I want to stay? Do I want to go? This has been my last two months, and I will be honest, I do have regrets about not going to a number of
places, and seeing more amazing sights. The Northern Lights is something I wished I had seen again but alas will not have the chance to see and driving the 'Going to the sun' road in Montana is another. Not being able to see the eastern side of Canada and Vancouver Island is another group of experiences I have sacrificed by pursuing the book, but the positive is that one day I can come back and experience these sights and others I have seen during this adventure. I have a reason for coming back! So while I say to Canada the hardest thing about saying hello, is saying goodbye, I say to Australia the hardest thing about saying goodbye, is that in a weeks time I do get to say hello once again.
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