Why there’s hope for your “reluctant student”

Why there’s hope for your “reluctant student”

If you’re doing daily battle with a reluctant student, today’s guest writer will be like a breath of fresh air for you. It’s a personal story about how Elizabeth Noske, self- confessed reluctant student, scraped her way through to become a lifelong learner. The impressive list of letters after Elizabeth’s name is a bit of a giveaway as to how her story turns out. But rest assured, it began much as many of our own children appear to be approaching their studies… without any enthusiasm whatsoever. Incidentally, if you’ve ever been tempted to ship your reluctant student off to boarding school (me!), it’s probably not the solution…

By Elizabeth Noske, Dip. T., B. Ed., M. Ed., M. NL.

“Elizabeth is an excellent athlete, but I don’t expect her to pass her Intermediate Certificate.” This was my Year 10 end of year report. And it wasn’t too far off the mark.

Boarding school and the reluctant student

I was at boarding school that year as my family transitioned from a sheep farm in country Victoria to Adelaide in South Australia.

Every night after the evening meal, the borders were required to sit around tables and do our homework under the strict supervision of an unsmiling and vigilant prefect. But somehow, I managed to spend most of the evening study period staring at the wall in front of me. Or watching those around me who were diligently applying themselves to their homework.

It’s no wonder I wasn’t expected to pass….

The following year was not much better. I was back in the family fold, but still managed to avoid academic work (like the dirty four-letter word I believed it to be). Both at school and at home.

Although my plan was to go on to Teachers’ College, my motivation to knuckle down was slow to kick in.

Elizabeth Noske

Author Elizabeth Noske: from reluctant student to academic success. Image: Supplied.

No enthusiasm for Teachers’ College

I was the youngest of four daughters and none of my older siblings had finished high school, so there was no family pressure to succeed or excel. So, I became a reluctant student and basically did no work.

I did have the decency to panic somewhat as the end of year exams approached. I spent the last four weeks of my high school career desperately trying to make up for years of lost time. And once again, I managed to scrape through… by the ‘skin of my teeth’ as the saying goes.

So off to Teachers’ College I went. If you think this is when I started to apply myself, you would be wrong. I was constantly asking for extensions to due dates, piggy-backing on friends’ efforts and dodging work whenever I could.

Those were the days when you had to borrow reference books from the library to research an essay. Of course, there was never any left by the time I found my weary way to the library.

Usually, I ended up skulking by the return shute the night before the essay was due. To catch the books that the more diligent students were returning, of course.

I would scoop them up and “pull an all-nighter”. Then I’d wearily pass in my hand-written effort the following day – unless I had previously and successfully begged for an extension.

Once again, I graduated – and once again, I really don’t know how. And to tell you the truth, I didn’t really care.

Reluctant student - is there any way to encourage their motivation

A break for parenting, followed by a miracle

My few years of teaching were followed by the haze of parenting. Three children in three and half years. Most days I didn’t know if I was coming or going.

But eventually I realized that if I wanted to return to teaching, I would need to update my qualifications. So, despite three small children and a part-time job, I returned to part-time study.

For no particular reason that I can put my finger on, everything had changed. I found myself interested in my studies, keen to do well, always on time (if not a little early) with assignments and proud of my results – which were not half bad, in case you are wondering.

If you pushed me for what might have been different, I would say that for the first time I was able to choose what I studied and there was choice and flexibility to follow my interests.

Following my interests at last

A few years later it became apparent that a Bachelor of Education was now required of practising teachers, so back to the part-time study I went. My marks were high, my results consistent and no-one had to coerce me into getting the job done.

I won’t bore you with the details, but in the decades that followed I gained a Graduate Diploma in Special Education, a Master of Education degree and an Executive Master of NeuroLeadership. I was still studying in my mid-sixties.

A much younger person (also a teacher) challenged me one day and declared that she didn’t want any more letters after her name. I remember being both shocked and dismayed. “It’s not about the letters, it’s about the learning!” I protested.

Often, I would sit at home on a Saturday night, having passed up on social invitations, to sit at my desk with my books, articles and a glass of red wine. Not wishing to be anywhere else in the world.

Enjoying my studies and work

From reluctant student to lifelong learner

The transition from disinclined student to gaining high distinctions at master degree level was a very slow one and one I have not deeply analysed. I sometime wonder what my high school teachers (all of whom had significantly lower qualifications than I have ended up with) would think of me now! But there are a few important factors that stick in my mind.

No pressure

My parents didn’t put me under any pressure, ever. They just consistently supported and encouraged me to continue. They didn’t try to lead or direct me, they just quietly followed the direction I chose.

Well-balanced life

I had a well-balanced and rounded life as a teenager. I played sport, went out with friends, was active in the church youth group and worked in a variety of part-time jobs.

Nothing to push-back against

There was no social media, no computer games and no addictions; at least in my immediate surroundings. I don’t recall any periods of stress or anxiety, apart from mild nervousness around assessment times. So, I had absolutely no reason to ‘push back’ – there was nothing to push back against.

Similar friends

My best friend was on exactly the same trajectory, and we did everything together. If she was more studious than I, it was so slight that I certainly didn’t notice it.

What of my own three children?

You may be wondering, what of my own children? The eldest was student of the year throughout junior and middle high school and graduated with good marks, but did not go on to university. Instead, he set up his own business, which continues to be strong and successful.

My second child was the Caltex All-Rounder recipient in Year 12 and went on to university, but then became what I refer to as a ‘global gypsy’ for the next few decades. Only recently did she do a teaching certification and is now a science teacher in an international school.

There's hope for your reluctant student

My youngest was a sloppy student in the early years (perhaps he received the most maternal genes). He was in middle school, showing me something he had written, when I challenged him as the author, declaring that it was not in his hand-writing. He protested that indeed it was.

“THAT is NOT your handwriting,” I stated vehemently.

“It is now,” he replied. I was gob-smacked. Overnight (literally) he had decided to leave his virtually illegible scrawl in the past and write clearly and neatly.

Deja vu?? He went on to university and works as a computer systems engineer.

A good education is a journey

What can we make of me and my little family? Mostly, I think, that a good education is a journey, not necessarily a destination. For some it is a linear process, but not for all.

Where would I place each of us on the life satisfaction and happiness continuum? If there is a trend, it is probably not what you might be thinking.

The one that took the most direct route has earned the most income along the way – but is far from the happiest and most content.

Obviously there are many other factors involved, but early and even consistent academic success is not necessarily the key to happiness. Or even successful life outcomes.

So, enjoy your own journey and encourage your reluctant student to enjoy theirs, wherever it might take them.

+ + +

Guest writer: Elizabeth Noske

Elizabeth Noske is a lifelong learner and educator. She has had a variety of school-based roles ranging from primary and secondary classroom teaching, special education advisor and head of department, school counsellor, deputy and principal. Elizabeth has held school leadership positions in Australia, Indonesia, Germany and China. She has been a highly successful parenting coach for over fifteen years.
Her underlying passion is brain-based teaching and learning and brain-compatible parenting. Elizabeth’s qualifications include a Bachelor of Education, Master of Education (Special Education) and an Executive Master of NeuroLeadership.

Her first book, Mindfull Parent: Parenting with the Brain in Mind is an International #1 best-seller. It’s an exploration of the childhood brain; what is happening in young brains, where the development is taking place, and why they behave as they do. But most importantly, what this means for parents raising their cfacehildren in a fast-paced and unpredictable world. The book includes a toolbox of brain-compatible strategies for parents who value their connection, communication and relationship with their child and are looking for an approach that works with, instead of against the brain.

As a parent of three and grandparent of four, Elizabeth really does understand the daily challenges of raising a family and is passionate about sharing her knowledge, insights, and wisdom with as many parents as possible.

Feature image by Tim Gouw; Girl at computer by Kelly Sikkema; working in cafe by Bonnie Kittle; girl in classroom by javier trueba

Plant-based eating is good for teen gut health

Plant-based eating is good for teen gut health

It’s virtually impossible to read anything online these days without stumbling over the words microbiome and gut health. But rather being ‘just another wellness trend’, good gut health is believed to improve everything from mental health issues like anxiety and depression; to general immunity; to getting a good night’s sleep.

The thing is, it’s not about popping a pill and thinking you’re good to go. Gut health is made up of a myriad of good health choices that you make every day. One of the main ones is ensuring you’re eating enough plants. Foods like legumes, vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts are all a critical factor in ensuring good gut health. We asked leading nutritionist and dietitian Millie Padula, who’s also an ambassador for Inside Out Nutritious Goods, to talk us through why a plant-based diet is key.

By Millie Padula, nutritionist and dietitian

What exactly is plant-based eating?

A plant-based diet is exactly that; a diet that is based around the consumption of plant foods. Despite being used interchangeably with the term vegan, the two are actually different. Vegan eating patterns exclude the consumption of animal products in their entirety, where-as plant-based dietary patterns may include animal products in small amounts.

When we typically think of plant foods, it’s fruits and vegetables that spring to mind. However, lentils, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole-grains and derivatives of these such as Inside Out’s Oat & Almond Milk are all also part of the plant family and make up a large portion of a plant-centric diet.

Plant-based eating and teen gut health

Vegan styles of eating appear to be very ‘on-trend’ for young people. Vegan diets are flaunted over social media as being the gold standard for health. However, the main thing to remember when you are talking to your children about different dietary patterns is that the best diet is the one that is enjoyable, sustainable and focuses more on food inclusion that food restriction.

As a dietitian, I steer away from putting ‘labels’ on eating patterns (especially for young individuals). I believe you should too. Always encourage the consumption of plant-foods (because they are incredibly nutritious), but be mindful of not demonising other foods in the process. Doing so can create poor relationships with food and disordered eating patterns, especially in young tweens and teens.

The link between plant-based eating and gut health

Plant-based diets are scientifically proven to be one of the most beneficial when it comes to our health and wellbeing. This is because plant-foods contain a wealth of nutrients that support brain, heart, muscles, nervous system and most profoundly, our gut!

The one compound that all plant foods have in common is their fibre content. You may recognise fibre as the nutrient that keeps you going to the toilet regularly, but it’s so much more than that.

Fibre isn’t absorbed and digested like other nutrients. Most nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine, but fibre passes through the small intestine essentially unchanged. It enters the large intestine where it’s fermented by all of the healthy gut bugs that reside there.

After fermentation, the fibre in food keeps making its way down the digestive tract where it is later excreted via a bowel motion. Prebiotic fibre is a special type of fibre found in garlic, onions, leeks, artichokes, oats, wheat-based products, cashews, pistachio nuts, chickpeas, lentils, nectarines, peaches and dried fruit. These foods work to feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut, also known as the probiotics.

Peaches are excellent for teen gut healthPeaches are excellent for teen gut health

Prebiotics for the win

The greater number of probiotics we have in our gut, the greater the health outcomes. I recommend Inside Out’s Unsweetened Oat Milk as it contains prebiotic fibre and is a great addition to a nutritious diet. It’s an excellent non-dairy alternative, particularly if your kids have gut issues that are impacted by eating dairy.

When fibre is fermented it generates what we call a ‘short-chain-fatty-acid’. This is a compound known to have positive effects on inflammation levels, disease risk, immunity and our ability to absorb nutrients from food. In other words, if we don’t fill our gut with the right types of food, it will greatly impact our blood nutrient levels. In turn this affects our energy levels, sleep quality, skin, bone and muscle strength, mood and mental health. 

Additionally, eating a healthy balanced diet full of plant foods helps to improve concentration at school. It also boosts sports performance, study outcomes, memory and motivation, too. 

Teen gut health key to mood

These are great angles when you talk to your child about teen gut health and eating more plants. Don’t focus on weight, focus on physiological and psychological benefits.

It’s also important to recognise that 70% of your immune cells and 95% of your serotonin (one of our happy hormones) live in the gut. So nourishing your gut health with plant foods helps strengthen your immune system and improves mood.

Happy teen

Lastly, you don’t need to rely on any supplements or so-called ‘gut-healing’ powders and potions. Thankfully, your child can get everything they need to support and optimise teen gut health through a variety of plant foods. Be careful who you take information from online. Always seek dietary advice from a dietitian or nutritionist and medical advice from a doctor.

Take home tips for you and your family

  • Fill your diet with a variety of plant foods. The more variety, the greater variety of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
  • Aim to fill 50-75% of your plate at most meals with plant-based foods.
  • Plant-based meat alternatives, AKA ‘fake-meats’ tend to be high in saturated fat, salt and/or sugar. Keep these to a minimum where you can.
  • If you are trying to incorporate more plants in your diet, start by substituting a portion of the meat in your favourite meals with a plant-based alternative. For example, try half lentils and half minced meat in your next meatballs dinner or sausage rolls lunch.
  • Keep in mind that a little bloating after eating prebiotic fibre or high fibre meals is normal. This is the fermentation process doing its thing and is actually really healthy. If the bloating is painful and persistent, please seek professional guidance.

Feature image by Jiroe; smoothies by Brenda Godinez; peaches by Kelly Neil; happy teen by Chermiti Mohamed 

Saving us from perimenopause, one Hot Flush at a time

Saving us from perimenopause, one Hot Flush at a time

Nobody ever signs up for perimenopause, and yet, here we are. Is it not enough that we’ve already been through puberty, pregnancy, childbirth and Year 9? Is. it. not. enough? Apparently, it isn’t. Just when you start to relax a little, our bodies throw this ghastly thing called perimenopause at us. Luckily there are women out there like Kim Berry and Kayte Murphy – aka Mrs Woog – the friends behind podcast The Hot Flush.

By Mrs Woog

It was not my finest moment. Armed with my six-week-old baby I approached a brand-new mother at the hospital. She was beaming with happiness, gazing at her day-old offspring all wrapped up in that iconic pink and blue hospital blanket in a Perspex bassinet on wheels.

Speaking as someone driven by sleep deprivation with a nasty case of mastitis as I was, I leaned in and hissed: “This is the worst thing ever. No one tells you what it is really like!”

She looked at me with horror as I took my leave.

Fast forward 16 years and again, I tell women of my age: “This is the worst thing ever. No one tells you what it is really like!”

Mrs Woog and Kim Berry - discussing perimenopause like it's everybody's business

Because it is not enough that pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood change your body forever, the female form must endure another round in the ring. This time it is menopause. More specifically, the period of time leading up to menopause – which can last for TEN years – perimenopause.

In 2015, I was approached by a start-up hosting company to gauge my interest in starting a podcast. Having spent a decade being a prominent lady writer of the internet and not one to be shy from offering an opinion, I was up for the new medium.

Cirque Du Soleil moves

It was also around this time that I had was noticing a few changes in myself. My monthly cycle had become completely un-cooperative. My mood swings were so spectacular in speed, scale and agility I could have successfully auditioned for Cirque Du Soleil. The sound of my partner chewing his food would leave me twitching in the corner with rage. And my ability to sleep was no longer guaranteed.

None of this was ideal. What was happening to me?

I started reaching out to friends to see if they too were feeling like their body was fighting them or if it was just me. One of those mates, Sydney writer and editor Kim Berry, was very sympathetic. In fact, we complained so often and so loudly to each other we knew it wasn’t just us. If we didn’t know what was going on, then how many other women were out there with similar experiences thinking they were losing their mind?

And so, The Hot Flush: The Premier Podcast for the Perimenopausal was born.

A place to be heard

To call ourselves “premier” might sound presumptuous, but when we started five years ago (we officially rebranded to The Hot Flush in 2017), it was the only show that was specifically aimed at 40–60-year-old women who, like us, were sad sacks of sweat, surfing an unfamiliar wave of crashing and rising hormones and who needed a place to be heard.

We bought a basic recording device, poured ourselves a gin and tonic and pressed record. We didn’t understand production values or marketing plans, we still don’t, but we did – and do – understand women. We know what it feels like when your body seems intent on destroying you one murderous mood, one hot flush, one lost libido, one sleepless night at a time.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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The Hot Flush. The little place in the podcast world that was not aspirational, not sexy and in many ways was not particularly coherent, but we kept turning up each week to discuss what on earth was going on with us.  

We started to gain a small and loyal following. My prominent writer lady of the internet profile and word-of-mouth helped spread the news that there were these two loud, sweaty, sweary Aussie chicks to whom no topic was off limits. And they came, stayed and have downloaded the podcast more than 325,000 times.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Perimenopause is so much more than a list of medical conditions. Combined with what is going on physically, mentally and emotionally, most women are also dealing with family, parenting, marriage/relationships and career.

Ain’t that the truth: Puberty vs Perimenopause: Let’s get ready to rumble


Connection is key

Perimenopausal women are the sandwich generation – raising children on one side and caring for aging parents on the other. We also fall into the peak age bracket for divorce.

There are, of course, wonderful things about being in your 40s and beyond, but the obstacle course some women have to navigate before they can bask in those golden rays can be an ultra-endurance event.

What Kim and I were determined to do was not sugar coat it. To lay it bare, and then laugh, cry, rage and inform others about what was going on.

Mrs Woog and Kim Berry - The Hot Flush

Our private Facebook group has swelled to more than 5,500 members from all over the world. We encourage conversations saying: “There are no stupid questions.” Members – our Hotties – now organise meet-ups with each other, a godsend for those in remote or rural areas or for those with few family or friends nearby.

What is wonderful for us is level of comfort many of our listeners felt when sharing their own stories and asking questions that would have never seen the light of day. From relationship or parenting advice, to shared medical experiences and what has helped with any of the myriad medical wildcards peri has thrown at you this week, to life events and mental health concerns.

We have come to realise that we are providing a much-needed platform for women to know they are not alone and that they are heard. Oh, and to just keep plucking!

Listen to The Hot Flush here.

All images Instagram/@woogsworld – used with permission

When to have the first period talk with your tween

When to have the first period talk with your tween

If your tween has started being grumpy for no apparent reason, answering back, or crying and doing a lot of extra sleeping, it’s a sign that her hormones have really kicked in and she’s in the early stages of puberty. Yep, it’s time to sit her down for her first period talk so you can let her know what she can expect.

By Elizabeth Chapman, Australian distributor of Lunette and co-founder of the Sustainable Period Project

Generally, the sooner you have the period talk, the better. Periods can start anytime between eight-16 years old, with the average age being 12 or 13. If you haven’t had a conversation about periods with your tween yet, then you need to. Otherwise she will hear about it in the playground and you’ll have no control over what she’s told.

One mum’s experience: What it’s like when your daughter gets her first period

Early signs

The first signs of periods can come long before a change in mood arrives. Early signs include an increase in body odour (particularly underarms) and pimple break-outs or tiny spots on her face. Small breast buds develop and pubic and underarm hair starts growing. 

She will notice the changes in her body, so one way you can start to introduce the idea of periods is by emphasising proper body hygiene. Encourage her to shower daily, focusing on her face, underarms and vulva.

You may also notice a light discharge on your tween’s underwear (clear or white). This usually occurs around ovulation and your tween’s body may start cycling for three to 12 months before her first actual ‘blood discharge’ period. This is all normal.

Casually point out the discharge to your girl and mention that it’s a sign of her body getting ready to have periods. Mood changes, headaches and tummy cramps (PMS) may accompany this cycling, so encourage your tween to take note of any patterns as her body gears up for the next stage of her life. It might be helpful to buy her a book about periods and puberty, so she can have it on hand to refer to whenever she feels ready.

For her library: 6 good books about starting your period

The first period talk needs to happen sooner than you think

Pads, tampons and cups

An easy way to introduce sanitary items to the first period chat is to leave a box of tampons, period undies, or a pad or your menstrual cup out and let the questions come.

Make sure you cover all the options when talking to your tween about sanitary products and allow them to own their period by choosing the products they want to use.

Modern cloth pads and period underwear are brilliant for younger tweens and offer sustainable options that will save a fortune in the long term. Menstrual cups are suitable for teens who are more confident with their period and can take a few cycles to master.

First period kit

Make a ‘First Period Survival Kit’ together. This is essential!

You’ll need one for home and one for the school bag. A pencil case or small make-up bag will do the trick and should include; a spare pair of underwear, a pad (disposable or cloth) or a pair of period underwear. Talk about how to use the products and go through what your daughter would do if she got their first period at school or a friend’s place or while you were at work or away.

More about kits here: What’s in our first period kit and some thoughts about starting

Remember to talk to your tween about periods in a factual and positive environment, as this will build confidence and normalise her attitude towards menstruating and her changing body. Just keep it light and matter-of-fact. You can add lots of little conversations into everyday situations to build on the ‘period talk’ and remind her that getting her first period is just a part of life.

Are you looking forward to having the first period talk?

Images by Annie Spratt

A Tween's Guide to Puberty Online Program

Michelle Mitchell’s course really takes the awkward out of The Talk.

Non-screen activities are critical for kids’ development

Non-screen activities are critical for kids’ development

We’re all looking for ways to engage the kids in non-screen activities, especially right now when screens often feel like the only option. There has to be a reason why we’re fighting with the kids about screens all. the. time, right? Georgina Manning, Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Director of Wellbeing For Kids tells us why it’s so important that we keep finding them other things to do.

by Georgina Manning

Busy parents often find the work–life balance difficult to master, with the urge to plug in and tune out ever tempting. Under the current climate, this has only amplified – particularly for mums with teens. Among the endless list of responsibilities, we’re already juggling, COVID-19 has successfully doubled the load. Sometimes, technology seems like the only option we have to keep our kids entertained.

Non-screen time for kids like reading and board games

With remote learning now in full swing, Australians’ internet consumption and screen time is at an all-time high. In fact, it’s increased more than 70% since February 2020. While remote learning can be tricky to navigate, encouraging your child to engage in non-screen activities in their free time will not only improve their skills, it can also bring your family closer.


Try some of these ideas: 100 fun, quirky, important ways to bond with your teen


 

Which is why non-screen activities like Pictionary and Scrabble have announced a new rule change. All players must now put their smartphones into the empty game box lid at the start of every game. The new rule aims to eliminate any distractions – and potential cheating! – promising a fun night in with your family.

Taking the time for tech-free activities is one of the best things we can do for our children. Playing freely allows the mind a moment to stop and rest and to nourish the brain and body.  Non-screen gameplay also has a huge range of cognitive and emotional benefits.

Educational development

Regular non-screen activities has a powerful impact on cognitive skills and memory. It also helps open the lines of communication, creating lasting positive family memories.

Games like Scrabble can also help with a child’s vocabulary.  Pictionary will help improve fine motor skills while stimulating creativity and self-expression. Board games keep the entire family entertained with some (healthy!) competition and help children keep their brain active, building on their problem-solving and communication skills. 

Non-screen time for kids like reading and music


Plenty more non-screen activities here: 100+ engaging, non-cringe things for teens to do at home


 

Emotional intelligence

Setting time aside for non-screen activities – and ultimately, face-to-face communication – is important for relationship building and fostering interpersonal skills for all ages.

New circumstances, particularly the one we’re in currently, can bring up feelings of worry. A shared task is a great opportunity to open up conversations with our kids. During these conversations, we are able to validate the kids’ concerns and emotions. Often, just listening is enough to put them at ease while learning the importance of communication for years to come.

Time for mindfulness

Disconnecting from tech when playing board games will help drive mindfulness and wellbeing. It brings people together to enjoy the present moment with our loved ones.


It’s so important: Why mindfulness for kids is more than just a buzzword


 

Often we find ourselves caught up in the online world, losing touch with the physical world and those around us. This is no different for children. It’s important they understand and distinguish between the two realities and remain mindful to ease any anxiety.

Now more than ever before, it is critical we find ways to connect. We need to set positive examples for our children to follow. Devices can’t always be off the cards, but we need to take regular breaks from screens. Use this time to connect together and be fully engaged in appreciating each other’s company.

And, of course, let’s have lots of fun introducing routines our kids can continue to enjoy.              

Georgina Manning is a registered Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Director of Wellbeing for Kids. As a national wellbeing speaker with over two decades of experience working in schools supporting children and parents through seminars and professional development days, Georgina prides herself on reaching effective social and emotional outcomes for both parents and children. Continuing her passion for children’s wellbeing, Georgina created the ‘Peaceful Kids’ and ‘Peaceful Parents’ Mindfulness and Positive Psychology programs, holding training across many states in Australia. For more information on Mattel’s new rule, you can visit Scrabble or Pictionary on Facebook.

Feature image by Suzy Hazelwood; screen time by Julie M Cameron; records by Sofia Garza 

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