How to solve Australia’s teacher shortage.

Australian schools face an unprecedented teacher shortage and myriad solutions have been proposed to find more teachers. None of them will work.

None of the proposed solutions will succeed unless one simple action is taken.

Primary and secondary schools are struggling to find teachers to deliver lessons to students throughout the country, and students are missing out on an education that was already truncated due to COIVD-19 lockdowns. Many schools cannot even find casual teachers let alone permanent teachers to deliver lessons. According to a recent article by Ruby Cornish from the ABC:

To date, teachers have taken more than 350,000 days of sick leave — up from 215,000 days during the same period in 2020, according to the education department. 

And in the words of NSW Teachers Federation President Angelo Gavrielatos:

We are losing teachers every single day. Every single day hundreds of classes are being interrupted.

Politicians have proposed myriad solutions:

Subsidised housing

Subsidised housing would allow teachers to live close to their school if it is in an affluent area. Yes, even teachers of rich kids are underpaid. Currently, teachers of schools in affluent areas must pay an enormous portion of their income to live close to school, or face a long commute to live somewhere affordable.

University students

2,600 final year education students have been given permission to work as casual teachers in NSW schools, despite not being formally qualified. Some of them are excellent, some are not. Teaching is one career in which years of experience make an enormous difference to performance. The scheme helps student teachers, who can start paying off their uni fees, but does it help the students?

Is this legal?

When student teachers do practicums (prac) they are not allowed to teach a class of students without a fully-qualified teacher being present for legal reasons. Has the law been changed?

Corporate staff

Non-qualified teachers have been accredited to teach. Accreditation is normally only given to fully-qualified teachers with legitimate degrees and only after they have submitted notarised qualifications, plus Working With Children Check and other documents, to the relevant authorities. Now, corporate staff are being accredited despite having no qualifications or experience. It doesn’t help students, and it dismisses the years of valuable experience of existing teachers.

FIFO Teachers

New South Wales proposed flying teachers from cities out to regional and remote areas where the shortage is felt most acutely. The government would cover the cost of flights, and pay the teachers for their work. The duration of the contract was not specified, but Gavrielatos quickly exposed numerous flaws in this opportunistic political announcement:

Well, where are they going to find the teachers from? What schools, from what cities? We have a shortage.

Also, where are these FIFO teachers currently living? They’re likely to be renting, and would have to pay dead rent while teaching in the remote location. They would expect accommodation to be provided to compensate for the dead rent, so the government would have to cover flights and accommodation. Also, casual teachers in urban areas are likely to be working already, because there’s a huge teacher shortage, so would give up work at existing schools to go bush – and they would expect to be paid a lot more than they earn at urban schools. This costs the government even more money.

Victoria is apparently offering Melbourne-based teachers up to $700 a day to teach in regional schools. The incentive applies to teachers relocating from metro areas, interstate, or overseas who work in a regional role for at least two weeks. Other financial incentives are also involved.

However, it doesn’t appear to cover accommodation.

What’s harder than finding teachers? Finding and affording rental properties in major cities. If teachers leave their current rental to take up this offer for say 1 term, they then have to find, and afford, a new rental back in the city.

Loophole?

There is a potential loophole in Victoria’s plan. A current teacher in a regional school could quit their job upon learning of this plan. They could then re-apply for exactly the same job and earn $700 a day instead of about 350 – 400 a day. If they’re prevented from doing this due to technicalities, they’re likely to be upset that they are earning less than casuals despite committing, sticking around and devoting themselves to the students despite all of the disruptions and challenges at their school. There’s a reason these schools are understaffed.

Where is the reward for staying committed to the profession and to regional students?

Retired teachers

Retired teachers have answered the call of desperate schools. If retired teachers are happy to go back into the classroom, that’s great. They would also be prime candidates for FIFO teaching. However, haven’t they already done enough? Haven’t they earned a rest?

Career change

Governments are also attempting to lure professionals from other careers into teaching. Prior learning credit would be given to professionals who would be accelerated through a teaching degree. They might come, but will they stay?

Free University

High achieving secondary students are also being lured to teaching. Governments are offering to pay some or all of the students’ university fees to entice them away from other professions. This will attract some students. However, it exposes one fundamental flaw of all of the aforementioned proposals: teacher retention.

Teachers are leaving the profession because of poor conditions. What are those conditions? They are far too many to list here. Bright students might be attracted to teaching with free university study, but will they stay if conditions are so bad? These students are bright enough to succeed in another career, and bright enough to know that.

All of these methods have been suggested because schools are so desperate for teachers and/or because a politician thinks it will help them win the next election.

What do all of these suggestions have in common?

They all cost money.

And therein lies the solution to the teacher shortage.

Pay teachers more.

Higher wages will bring teaching into line with other professions.

Higher wages will convince some teachers to stay in the profession. Poor conditions also need to be improved, but many teachers will put up with these conditions for lucrative salaries. Doctors, engineers, lawyers and architects don’t love every aspect of their jobs. Dentists even more so.

Australia is a capitalist society. Young people make career choice based on salary, and society makes assumptions about careers based on salaries. Low pay is one reason Australians don’t respect teaching or teachers, and this in turn causes some of the terrible conditions under which teachers work.

Teaching is a job. It is a vocation, a profession, a craft and a passion. It is also how teachers pay the rent and support their own families, and cover the costs of their daily lives. With the increased cost of living in Australia, the first step to attracting and retaining capable people to the profession is to pay teachers more.

Image: Element5Digital

Ralph The Rowdy Rooster. Chapter 1.

Chapter 1

Cock-a-doodle-doo!

Cock-a-doodle-doo!

Edie woke up. She rolled over and looked at the clock:

4am.

“Nooooo, why does Ralph have to wake up so early every day?” she sighed.

Edie rolled over and tried to get back to sleep, but it was impossible. She thought about having some breakfast, but it was too early. She thought about reading a book, but she was too tired. So, she tossed and turned and thought about how to stop Ralph The Rowdy Rooster from waking her up at 4am every morning.

While she was thinking about this, she heard a strange noise. She heard little pieces of plastic smashing together in the next room. Her little brother Yarrow was recreating a battle scene with his toy soldiers. He couldn’t sleep either.

Eventually Edie smelled coffee. Her parents were wide awake and they were making her breakfast. How come Ralph didn’t wake them up? It’s not fair, Edie thought.

She shuffled out of her room like a zombie. Yarrow shuffled out of his room like a zombie.

“Good morning,” said their parents.

“Good mor…” Edie started to say, but her greeting was swallowed by a big, long, heavy yawn.

Munch, munch, munch, she chewed through her cereal, still half asleep.

Munch, munch, munch, Yarrow chewed through his cereal, also half asleep. Edie looked at Yarrow and thought,

Do I look as bad as him?

Yes, she did.

That day at school, Edie couldn’t stay awake. She tried and tried, but she kept falling asleep. When she got home, she kept falling asleep while she was trying to make a birthday card for her friend Marcela. That’s it, she thought, I must find a way to stop Ralph from waking up so early. She walked over to the TV and turned off Yarrow’s cartoons.

“Hey, I was watching that,” he protested.

“Not anymore, we’re going to talk to Ralph.”

Yarrow followed her and did what he was told because he didn’t like waking up at 4am, and because he knew Edie could be very determined. Not bossy, just determined.

Edie and Yarrow entered Ralph’s enclosure. They scattered food scraps on the ground to get his attention.

“Ralph,” said Edie firmly, “you must stop waking up at 4am every day!”

Ralph looked up for a moment, then kept pecking at his food. Yarrow picked up a piece of apple and offered it to the rooster.

“We want to sleep for longer in the morning, can you wake up later please?” he asked.

Ralph finished eating the piece of apple, then looked at them both attentively.

“I fell asleep today when Mr Gresford was reading the book and I don’t know what happened at the end of the story,” Yarrow said sadly.

“And I fell asleep during Science,” said Edie, “so now I don’t understand photosy…phostyso…photisyonpasenthelis…oh, I don’t know what it is.”

Ralph looked at Yarrow, then at Edie.

“Ralph, see those hills over there…” and Ralph’s eyes followed Edie’s finger as she pointed to the hills beside the family’s property.

“…you must not wake up until the sun comes over the top of those trees, ok?”

Ralph kept looking at Edie. She was sure he understood what she was saying.

“Or, you can wake up when you smell the coffee,” said Yarrow, and Ralph pushed his little beak up into the air like he was trying to smell something.

Yarrow and Edie were certain Ralph was listening, and that he understood what they told him. They were quite happy. They walked out of Ralph’s enclosure, closed the gate and walked back into the house with big smiles on their faces.

“We’re going to get a good night’s sleep tonight,” Edie assured Yarrow.

Image: Arib Neko

Australian priests to teach Driver Education.

Priests and religious ministers will teach Australian children how to drive under the federal government’s proposed extension to the school chaplaincy program. Men of the cloth will take over driver education and a host of other programs directed at young people under a proposal to broaden the $61.4 million-a-year program in which chaplains replace qualified counsellors in Australian schools.

Conservative politicians have demanded religious ministers and priests teach Australian children how to drive, as well as instructing them on topics such as drugs and alcohol, personal relationships, literacy and numeracy, cyber safety, gender and sexuality…and even how to shave.

“Cynics will claim this is a weak excuse to funnel more taxpayers’ money to Christian churches,” explained Prime Minister Scott Morrison, himself a devout Pentecostal Christian.

“But that form of inner-city, left-wing, latte-sipping thinking is far from the truth. Priests and religious ministers are the best people to teach Australian children how to drive – even better than existing driving schools.”

All Australian children would be forced to attend a minimum number of hours under the tutelage of religious instructors in order to qualify for the driver’s test through which they secure their L Plates, then their P’s and full licence. They will also be required to attend church every Sunday, and to go to confession every time they fail to check their blindspot during lessons. Religious instructors will also prepare teenagers for the written component of the test.

“The curriculum will change,” revealed Morrison, “…and this is an exciting change. Students will learn skills such as:

Hillsong starts

Reverse praying

3 point turns honouring the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

How to drive during rain, floods, fire and brimstone, plagues, pestilence and the second coming.

The driver education program is one branch of the proposed scheme to help young students through the pandemic as they suffer mental health problems due to prolonged lockdown and online learning. Conservative politicians and commentators argue that the scheme, introduced by former prime minister Joh Howard, is so successful that it should be extended to other areas of life which impact upon primary and secondary students, especially those in government schools.

“God spoke to me,” claimed Morrison. ” “I am merely a vessel through which God runs this country, and he said we must replace qualified, educated, experienced professionals with priests and religious ministers in the following areas:

Personal and romantic relationships. Even though priests can’t date or marry.

Gender and Sexuality. Even though the Bible outlaws non-heteronormative identification.

Drugs and alcohol. Learn how to turn water into wine.

Literacy and Numeracy. Students can learn the three ‘Rs’ just from reading the Bible.

Creative Writing. Read the Bible.

Geography. How to part an ocean.

Science. Trace the human genome to a man, a woman and a serpent.

Cyber Safety. They’ll watch the show ‘God Friended Me’.

Critics, meanwhile, suggested the $61.4 million-a-year budget would be better spent coordinating a national vaccine rollout, which is the federal government’s responsibility, so that children can return to school and be released from lockdown.

Image: Orkun Azap

Australia’s gone to the dogs. Part 2.

Australia has gone to the dogs. The nation is one of the world’s major drivers of climate change and is decimating its native wildlife and ecology, and is thus becoming an international pariah. The current government controls its gullible population with marketing spin, and education levels continue to decline. A tiny fraction of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and natural disasters arrive one after the other. But all Australians seem to care about are their dogs. Dogs are everywhere – in parks, beaches and cafes, and even public transport and libraries. This country has gone to the dogs.

A dog is a child…

Owners of dogs (and other pets) were recently invited to sign a petition by online pet company PetCulture asking employees to grant their workers the same rights as parents.

Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper, as well as website Kidspot, ran articles about the petition, which calls for employees:

  1. To be granted sick leave to care for their pets.
  2. To be granted leave to welcome their new pet family members.
  3. To be able to have their pets stay with them whether they are glamping in a five-star resort.

The article is not an April Fool’s Day joke (although one pet owner featured in the article is a comedian). It is not merely another example of lazy, shallow, gutter journalism from a NewsCorp publication. It is an advertorial (a paid advertisement dressed up as an editorial) placed by the ‘new online pet store’ PetCulture. Regardless, it indicates an obsession with pets in a country that has gone to the dogs.

The petition lists three primary demands.

  1. Owners expect time off work, on full pay, to look after a sick pet, just as they would look after a sick child. Colleagues would have to cover for the pet owner and/or the business would suffer a loss of productivity and profit. In addition, employers are expected to support the notion that pets are equal to children.

Some parents love their pets as much as their children, and some children love their pets with equal devotion. But does a dog or cat need the same attention as a sick child? If so, why can a healthy dog or cat be left unsupervised for hours or a whole day, but a young child (or even a teenager) cannot be left for hours on end? Owners seem to be forgetting that even though a sick animal requires appropriate medical attention, their innate survival instincts will stop them from falling down steps, or from touching or eating something that could harm them. Children lack the same survival instincts.

  • Owners are demanding time off, on full pay, to welcome a new pet into the home. How long does this take? An ‘expert’ recommended two days be spent familiarising the animal to its new surroundings. Easy, bring the pet home on a Friday afternoon, use the weekend to welcome it and return to work on Monday. Even within a less structured work schedule, time can be made to welcome a pet without taking time off work.
  • Clearly the word ‘or’ is missing from between ‘glamping’ and ‘in’, because five-star resorts don’t offer glamping, no matter how fancy the tents. Nevertheless, pet owners are complaining that they are prohibited from taking their pets to the most luxurious and expensive accommodation options, at a time when many Australians can’t afford to take a holiday at all, let alone to a five-star resort, especially after the financial stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poor timing

PetCulture appears to have mistimed its advertising campaign. They are calling for greater access to luxury resorts just as JobKeeper and JobSeeker have been removed or reduced, and many Australians still don’t know when they’ll return to full-time, stable employment. PetCulture may be positioning itself as a high-end pet supply company, but the press release is still rather poorly-timed, especially since pet access to five-star resorts is one of the top three listed demands. This is a great example of clever marketing. It’s also a great example of a first-world problem, and a great example of a country gone soft.

PetCulture’s advertorial also claims that:

“…introducing a new animal member to a home is stressful, so it’s important to be supported…”

Really?

Fighting a bushfire is stressful. Fleeing domestic violence is stressful. Losing a job is stressful. Is introducing a pet to a house really that stressful?

Pet peeves

In recent years, pet owners have petitioned various levels of government to pressure landlords to allows tenants to bring their pets into rental properties, which has always been at the discretion of landlords.

Renters complained that owning a pet increased the difficulty of finding rental accommodation in an overcrowded and expensive rental market. A solution to this problem exists: don’t own a pet. Sit down, and do the calculations. Examine current and future earnings and expenses, and estimate the length of time that will be required to buy a property. Buy a property, then buy a pet.

Petitioning the government to change rental laws is symptomatic of a problem plaguing the nation: citizens expecting the government to bail them out of a problem of their own creation.

Housing crisis

Housing in Australia is becoming increasingly problematic. Rental properties remain scarce and overpriced, and home ownership is out of reach for many Aussies. Australia is estimated to have the world’s biggest gap between median salaries and median house prices, and many young Australians will never be able to buy a property.

Furthermore, social housing developments are insufficient and more Australians will be forced into homelessness or substandard accommodation – many of them older women. Meanwhile, the politicians who could introduce policies to alleviate many of these problems are too busy being photographed with cute dogs. The people who could vote out the current government are too easily persuaded by photos of politicians with dogs.

Strict ban imposed on Australian politicians.

Politicians cannot visit schools and children will no longer make excursions to federal or state parliament houses following revelations of appalling behaviour from politicians and their staffers.

The ban will take effect immediately and hinges on one key issue:

“Many politicians and their staff do not qualify for a Working With Children Check (WWCC)” explained a spokesperson for the Australian Society for the Protection of Children (ASPC).

“Our nation’s leaders have committed or defended acts that are illegal, immoral, depraved and reprehensible, and this disqualifies them from a WWCC. Without a WWCC, an adult is not allowed to interact with children in any official capacity.”

The spokesperson was adamant that not all politicians have behaved poorly, but that a blanket ban at the present time was the only way to protect the nation’s children.

“Remember, it is not just the politicians themselves who visit schools or community and youth organisations. They arrive with an entourage of minders, advisors, media attaches, staffers and interns, and it is their staffers who are sometimes the biggest problem, as news stories have demonstrated in recent weeks.”

Australian school children will not be allowed to visit Parliament House on official school excursions, denying them a trip that was something of a right of passage for Aussie kids. Parents are also advised that anyone under the age of 18 will be denied entry to the halls of power in Canberra and state capitals.

“Parliament House is crawling with creeps,” stated the ASPC, “It’s not even a safe place for adults.”

The decision follows the shocking discovery of disgraceful behaviour in parliamentary buildings and other locations, by the people entrusted to run the country.

A junior staffer revealed an alleged rape in a minister’s office in Canberra, and numerous women have reported sexual harassment by male staff members. The same women provided evidence that their claims were not taken seriously, or were ignored, in order to protect the politician, staffer or the political party.

Media outlets have also revealed instances of male staffers masturbating on a woman’s desk, filming the act and sharing the video with male colleagues, and of prostitutes being brought into parliament house.

The Attorney General, the highest law officer in the land, was caught fraternising with young female staffers in a public bar just minutes from Parliament House. Apart from committing adultery, the minister was also accused of placing himself in a compromising position which could threaten the security of the nation. He continues to be protected by his party, and by the prime minister.

In addition, the prime minister, and the federal minister for women refused to meet face to face with the thousands of protestors participating in marches throughout the country calling for greater rights and protection for women inside and outside of politics.

“All of these acts preclude a person from securing a WWCC, and cast them as terrible role models for the nation’s school children. This is why we have had to place a ban on interactions between politicians and children,” clarified the spokesperson.

“The ban will be lifted when politicians and their staffers start behaving like moral human beings”

Image: Aditya Joshi

Parliament House for 4 Year Olds.

Parliament House for 4 Year Olds is a delightful new TV series in which young children teach Australia’s federal politicians how to behave. The landmark series will be filmed inside Parliament House, Canberra, and follows the ground-breaking documentary Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds, which aired on the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) in 2017.

The successful ABC series followed a group of 4-year-old children during their visits to an aged-care facility. The interaction between residents and the children was proven to improve the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of the elderly participants, and it is hoped the series at Parliament House will improve the basic human decency of politicians.

“The 4-year-olds will teach politicians how to behave,” explained the show’s creators.

“The children will teach politicians and staffers in the nation’s capital basic principles such as morality, fairness, honesty, equality, justice, tolerance and sharing – the basic values that early childhood educators instil in young children every day, and the kind of behaviours that are often called ‘Australian Values’.”

The multi-part series will take politicians and their staffers through activities designed to remind them that boys and girls should be treated equally, that ‘sharing is caring’ and that if someone was using the toys first, it’s not acceptable to just steal those toys and never give them back. Politicians will also learn that it is normal to share the sand pit and swing set with someone who looks or sounds different to you, and that bullying is never ok.

“Boys are now learning that punching or slapping a girl, pulling her hair or pushing her off the monkey bars is not a form of flirting or affection, that it’s actually a form of bullying. In light of this, children will teach the nation’s leaders that if they’re being bullied, they should tell an adult, because the adult will try to help you and not just ignore you.”

Politicians from all parties have been invited to attend, and they will be taught that errant bodily fluids can make everyone sick and are just ‘yukky’.

“We are happy to include the nation’s leaders in our toilet training sessions, and to remind them of the true purpose of bathrooms.”

Children will instruct politicians and their staffers that telling the truth is always important, even when that is difficult, and that it can be harmful to spread nasty rumours about someone behind their back.

“We are also confident that the series will put an end to participants bringing prostitutes into the corridors of power, because a 4-year-old doesn’t even know what a prostitute is.”

Parliament House for 4 Year Olds will not be shown on the ABC, because the politicians participating in the series are the ones currently dismantling the national broadcaster. Instead, the series will be aired after shows such as MKR, I’m A Celebrity and MAFS, because a direct correlation has been found between viewing scripted reality TV shows and voting amoral politicians back into power.

For fans of reality TV shows, they will also have the chance to ‘vote’ the participants off the show at the next election. Furthermore, producers plan to extend the program to state parliaments, where politicians can learn how to avoid physical relationships with people who have been involved in widespread corruption, and that the number 3 million is not the same as the number 30 million.

Parliament House for 4 Year Olds will air at the beginning of next month, and will be available on catch up services.

Parliament House for 4 Year Olds; because 4-year-olds are perfect role models for politicians”

Image: Katrina Knapp

Gift for life.

Gift arrive today.

What gift arrives today? replied Gwen, who recognised Wilson’s number but not the content of the message from the jovial and effusive charity liaison.

Arrive Gift today, make you happy forever.

Eternal happiness was not the first grand claim Wilson had made, but the transactions between Gwen and the children’s charity usually flowed in the opposite direction. Appreciation letters were common, especially approaching Christmas, but never before a gift. Thabani’s letter had impressed Gwen and Dara immensely, for its linguistic competence and the cute drawing of a tropical palm tree, despite the children’s home lying in the heart of southern Zimbabwe’s arid region.

He’s clever, Gwen had told Wilson.

No, is not Clever, is Thabani, he’d replied.

“You should give Wilson some lessons in grammar, and tactful language,” quipped Dara light-heartedly. The grammar lessons did not eventuate, nor did the sponsorship the couple had initially requested. They’d been matched with 3-year-old Rose and had been quite content. But they soon discovered that Rose would not be receiving their benevolence. When they contacted Wilson, he informed them Rose had never existed. Maybe they were thinking of Primrose, or her identical sisters Prudence and Privilege.

Sensing their disappointment, and determined to find a child to benefit from the couple’s goodwill, Wilson had messaged soon after,

You want Charity?

Us, charity? This wasn’t making any sense. Gwen understood the difficulty of communicating in a second language, her students faced it every day, but now Wilson seemed to be offering them charity. What is happening?

To be honest, Wilson, we’ve almost lost hope, they’d confessed after hearing the news of Rose and failing to secure another sponsor child.

No, not lose Hope, Hope and Faith I see today with my very own eyes, this I am sure.

Gwen was buoyed by Wilson’s irrepressible optimism and his continued dedication in undeniably challenging circumstances, and she and Dara were determined to provide an impoverished child with a better life. But even after endless trials and tribulations with their charitable efforts, they still had no idea why they would now be the recipients of a gift.

“Maybe it’s a thank you for the water pump we funded, suggested Dara. “or the equipment for the sewing and carpentry workshops. Wilson did say the sewing machines were ‘great for Blessing’ though I’m sure he meant to say ‘a grateful blessing’.”

“Perhaps, but why send us a gift, and how can Wilson be sure it’ll arrive today? Nothing sent between here and Zimbabwe has ever arrived on time.”

Then the couple heard a noise. A noise that would change their lives forever, just as Wilson had promised.

Ding, dong!

Gwen opened the door. Standing in front of her was not a harried delivery driver demanding a signature. At their door stood a shy young African boy gazing up at her with big, brown eyes.

“Hello, how are you?” he whispered.

“My name is Gift Matebe.”

Image: Jess Bailey

Do you have grandchildren?

Do you have grandchildren?

Do you love your grandchildren?

Would you do anything for your grandchildren, and do you care about the world they will inherit?

Protect the planet which will provide your grandchildren with a long and healthy life.

Make your vote count.

If you live in a democratic country with open elections, the way you vote could determine the planet your grandchildren inherit.

If you are offered a genuine choice between candidates, vote according to which candidate will protect the planet. Many conservative parties claim they are better at managing the economy, but supporting old industries such as fossil fuels is bad economic policy. Renewable energy is the future, and countries which fail to embrace this will be left behind financially.

Remember, your grandchildren cannot vote until they are at least 18, so you are making a decision about the future of the planet on their behalf.

Where is your super?

Superannuation funds are all the same aren’t they? Not quite. Some funds invest in the fossil fuel industry, others don’t. More and more superannuation providers are divesting from fossil fuels and from other unsustainable business, and are offering what is known commonly as ‘ethical super’.

Do some research and find out if your current super fund invests in environmentally destructive businesses. If it does, find another super fund which does not. Destructive businesses cannot operate without financial support from companies such as super funds.

What about my savings?

You worked hard to earn and save your money, and it should work for you in retirement. Ethical super funds offer strong returns, which is why many people are switching.

Energy

Speaking of energy, what powers your home; solar, fossil fuels?

Could you install solar panels? Yes, they’re expensive, but they save money in the long run and they are a much cleaner form of energy. With efficient battery storage, they also work when the sun doesn’t shine. Even if you can’t install solar panels where you live, you can normally choose greener options through your energy provider.

What about water tanks?

If you have space in the garden, install a water tank to catch rain water for use in the garden and inside the house.

Grow your own food.

The water from the water tank can nourish your plants, and reduce your water bill.

Grow a few tomatoes and herbs, or create a large organic garden with enough fruit and vegetables for an entire meal. It’s fresh, it’s healthy and it’s free.

Locally grown food also protects the planet and the health of your grandchildren. It protects the soil and the entire ecosystem which is used to grow food. If the environment is damaged, growing food becomes more difficult. As a consequence, basic food stuffs will become more expensive.

How much do you want your grandkids to pay for food in the future?

Media consumption.

A cup of tea, toast and the morning paper. An age-old tradition, and one that’s easier to enjoy in retirement. The media you consume, including newspaper, radio, television and internet content, determines the way you think about the world.

Most tabloid and conservative newspapers report negatively on environmental issues, and many blatantly deny climate change because this bias appeals to their audience.

If you live in countries such as Australia, The UK and The USA, it’s hard to avoid NewsCorp media, owned by Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch has been described as a cancer on democracy due to the content of his media networks, which run blatant propaganda.

Do you let Rupert Murdoch tell you what to think?

Incidentally, most tabloid newspapers are written at a literacy level of a 9th-grade student. It’s a long time since you were in the 9th grade. Furthermore, a study by the The University of London’s Institute of Education found that people who read tabloid newspapers have smaller vocabularies than people who do not read newspapers

Presents

I want your presence, not your presents.

It’s a great Dad joke, but it’s also a worthy sentiment. Spending time with your grandkids is better than any random toy, and there are other ways to spoil the little ones in a sustainable way.

Consider buying ethical gifts for the next special celebration. Give the children an endangered animal to adopt through a wildlife organisation. Give them a tree or plant for the garden which grows as they grow. Make something for the kids, or even make it with them, instead of buying a random gift from a shop.

Spend money on experiences for your grandchildren. Pay for a healthy, fun holiday activity which gets the kids outdoors and active. The more time they spend in nature, the more likely they are to protect it.

How long before this gift ends up in landfill?

If you buy your children a plastic toy based on the latest fad, you can be sure that toy will be discarded as soon as the next fad arrives.

Kids have too much these days.

Very true. So don’t add to this clutter by buying disposable presents. Instead, choose a more sustainable gift.

Travel

Travel is one of the great advantages of retirement. Even if you’re still working, it’s a great way to get away from work and enjoy life. If you fly, offset your flight when you buy the ticket. Most airlines offer carbon offsets. Think also about the method of transport you use to reach your holiday destination, and find ways to make all of your holidays more environmentally sustainable.

A healthy, clean planet, with fresh air and clean water, with lush forests and abundant wildlife is better for your health as well. The longer you stay healthy, the longer you can enjoy quality time with your grandkids.

Image: Katrina Knapp, Baby qb

Here, take my child.

Parents in China tried to give me their children.

They approached me in supermarkets, on the street, in the park, and they thrust their young children into my arms.

I didn’t know these people. I didn’t know their children, and many of their children were mere babies. I didn’t ask to hold their child and I didn’t feel comfortable doing so.

Furthermore, the parents didn’t warn me or provide any explanation as to why they were handing their beloved offspring over to a random person. Well, they may have tried to explain but I didn’t speak more than a few words of Mandarin, and they didn’t speak any English.

The shock of being entrusted with someone else’s child left me dumbstruck, rooted to the spot. I just tried not to drop the poor thing. I also wondered why anyone would surrender their prized possession to a person they’d never met, in a country still operating under the remnants of the one child policy. Surely, in China of all places, a baby is a valuable commodity.

Despite this, the parents carried on unperturbed. They placed the child into my arms, smiled nervously and excitedly, then retreated. And retreated a little further, and further. Don’t go too far, I thought, I could easily run away with this baby.

Then I realised. Then I would discover why a bewildered Chinese baby was being cradled in my arms. A phone was produced and pointed at us and the parents would prance around in a frenzy, attempting to force a smile…out of the child or out of me? Probably both, I was as shocked as the child and my first reaction was certainly not to smile.

The parents would then snap away. Photo after photo while the baby became heavier and heavier in my arms. A conference would ensue, during which the parents would judge the quality of the photos.

Then, finally, one of the parents would approach. Great, I thought, now this bizarre experience is over. No, wait, the parent is not coming to take their child back, they’re just coming to straighten the clothes and fix their hair – or wipe the tears away – before retreating to take more photos.

Eventually, once the perfect photo had been taken, the child would be returned to its parents and they would walk away, many times without even a Xie Xie or a “Ni jiao shenme mingzi? (what is your name?).

It was a truly bizarre experience, which happened quite a few times. I can only explain it by pointing to the fact that I lived, and worked, on the outskirts or Chengyang, which is on the outskirts of Qingdao. Qingdao is quite a nice city, but Chengyang is not Qingdao. There’s nothing particularly bad about Chengyang, it’s just that it’s a fairly bland Chinese city, and one which sees very few foreigners. I was not a novelty, I was a freak show. Thus, when the Chinese saw a foreigner with blonde hair and blue eyes, they felt compelled to take my photo, which, in itself I din’t really mind. I just found it very odd to have my photo taken with their children.

There was another odd experience in Chengyang in which I had my photo taken.

I was heading to karaoke with some local friends, and we were in something of a hurry. We’d purchased some snacks and refreshments to smuggle into the KTV, and as we were leaving the supermarket, 3 young local women approached us and asked my friends if they could take a photo with me. Sure, as long as it doesn’t take long, we were hell bent on murdering some musical classics.

The photos were taken, the women appraised them and decided that they were acceptable. A conversation took place the whole time, entirely in Mandarin.

After the photo session concluded, I asked my friends why the young women were so determined to have their photo taken with me.

“They’re studying at university, and they wanted to show their lecturer.”

Why would they want to show a photo of me to their lecturer, I wondered, so I asked my friends,

“What are they studying?”

“English”

Don’t buy your child a smartphone.

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“I wish I could get my child off their phone,” bemoan so many modern-day parents.

“They’re addicted. They don’t play outside, it ruins their social life, they certainly don’t talk to me and it’s destroying their school grades.

I just wish there was a way to stop my child from being on their phone all the time.”

There is one way.

Don’t buy them a smartphone.

There is another way.

Don’t pay for their data.

But they need it for safety.

True, smartphones provide immediate communication which could keep some children safe in certain situations. However, if the rationale behind buying a child a phone is safety, then buy them a handset. Buy them a phone that only performs the functions of phone calls and SMS, because that is enough to keep a child safe if the bus doesn’t arrive, soccer training is cancelled or they can’t get a taxi after a party late at night. Granted, handsets do have games on them, but your child will soon tire of Tetris.

Interestingly, many parents are forgetting that they themselves grew up in an era without mobile phones, and the vast majority of them were never abducted, assaulted, abused or harmed while out of sight of their parents.

Unfortunately, many parents have succumbed to the subliminal scare campaigns which mobile phone providers use to boost sales. Phone companies and service providers understand this fear and do nothing to quell it, knowing full well that the fear boosts sales. This, despite the fact that research indicates that the majority of people who abuse children are known to the victim, and they inflict this abuse in situations for which a mobile phone would not have helped the child.

This may sound paranoid, but examine the advertising of smartphones. Most of the campaigns play on fear and fashion. We are yet to see a phone company sell a phone with the message;

“Watch your child fail exams, become socially maladjusted, play on social media and chat with creepy old men online.”

Don’t buy a child a phone that can connect to the internet.

The majority of problems begin when children use their phones to connect to the internet. This is where they are cyber-bullied, or do the bullying. This is where they waste hours scanning vacuous content on social media. This is where they access inappropriate content or meet inappropriate people, and this is where they become passive consumers of mass media.

Tell your child to buy their own smartphone.

If your child insists on owning a smartphone, tell them to pay for the phone and the data themselves.

But my child’s not old enough to get a job.

If your child is not old enough to get a job, maybe they’re not old enough to own a smartphone.

Many children might justify their demands for a smartphone with the safety rationale, but we know children well enough to surmise that their desire for a phone is prompted by peer pressure and status.

“Everyone else has one.” is a phrase many parents will hear thousands of times.

Don’t blame others for your child’s behaviour.

Don’t demand that Teachers protect your child from cyber bullying. Don’t blame the Teacher when your child’s grades, literacy and numeracy start to suffer because they are addicted to their phone and are neglecting their studies. Don’t blame the government for your child’s poor health, and don’t expect society to teach your child to socialise.

Don’t buy your child a smartphone.

Image: Ilan Dov