Day 31 – UBC – Did I Learn Anything?

Day 31 – UBC – Did I Learn Anything?

The last day of the July Challenge – and despite all efforts, I only managed to post twenty-three new articles on my Blog in July. Did I fail? Did I learn anything? Was it worth it?

Did I Learn Anything?

Whether I consider it a failure or not, I managed a lot more this time than the last time I accepted the Challenge. I might have only made it to Day 23, but I definitely learned a lot, so it was worth every word I typed; every late night I had; and every nightmare about the 31st July, looming menacingly above me, as I slept.

I can now write a shorter blog, find the image I need faster – especially with Pixabay.com, and get the green SEO lights from the Yoast Plugin, without too much effort. But I still need to work faster. If nothing else, at least I know where my shortfalls are, and hopefully how to fix them.

Write On!

When the next Ultimate Blog Challenge comes around, I hope I am more prepared than this time. Yes, I had a few drafts ready, but they weren’t easily tweaked to fit the day’s agenda.

For the next challenge I plan to have some short blogs drafted – based on general topics – not too specific. Oh, and I will have a long list of photos ready to cover any special day that might arise that month – how did I not see the Fourth of July coming!

If you made it to the finish line with all thirty-one blogs posted, you are amazing! If, like me, you were dragging the chain a bit – I know we’ll get there next time. Now, I’ll catch up on cleaning a neglected house, and wash the car.

As I bid my fellow-bloggers goodbye, I hope that we will meet again. I will continue to enjoy reading your blogs, and look forward to meeting you on a page somewhere, sometime soon.

RyanMcGuire / Pixabay

Thank you for reading my blog posts, and for taking the time to comment.

So until the next Ultimate Blog Challenge – that’s it for me.

Posted by Maureen in Travel, 2 comments
Day 23 – UBC – Can You Ever Have Too Many Photos?

Day 23 – UBC – Can You Ever Have Too Many Photos?

Is twenty-thousand photos, too many? No matter how many photos I have on my i-devices (I have over 20,000 photos), I often struggle to find the one photo I need for a Blog. But miraculously, today I found a solution. There is a website called Pixabay that has thousands of photos that can be used at no cost, and without the need to attribute the photographer who uploaded the photo. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to acknowledge the photographer, if I could figure out how to do it properly. It isn’t always easy. But now, with Pixabay at my fingertips, I should be able to find a photo or image to match any topic I’m writing about.

More Photos Than You Will Ever Need!

While looking for something on the Weekend Notes website, I stumbled across a comment a writer had made about using images in reviews. The writer had posted a few favourite websites featuring Copyright free photos, and asked other writers to suggest their favourites. Pixabay was one of the recommendations, and somehow the name stuck in my head, like a non-musical earworm. When I checked out the website, I couldn’t believe my luck. There are thousands of photos that can be freely used, even for commercial purposes!

A little bit of searching on the Pixabay site led me to a Pixabay Plugin for WordPress websites. I couldn’t install and activate the plugin fast enough. And I’m about to test it by uploading a photo to this section of my blog.

Ant

ROverhate / Pixabay

Wow! That couldn’t have been easier. Where was Pixabay when I wrote a blog about ants recently? This is exactly the image I was looking for.

What I love about using Pixabay images, is that the appropriate acknowledgement is built into the photo.

And with the plugin, there’s a neat button next to the ‘Add Media’ button on my WordPress website that takes me straight to the photos. I don’t have to download the photo into my Photo App, and then upload it to my website. Pixabay takes care of it with just one click.

Now, that’s smart!

So what is the one thing I can’t do without right now?

My new-found Photo friend, Pixabay.

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 4 comments
Day 22 – UBC – In the Shadow of Mount Warning

Day 22 – UBC – In the Shadow of Mount Warning

The only trouble with living close to an iconic landmark or attraction is that you rarely get up close and personal with it. How many attractions are in your area that you seldom, or have never visited? You know they are there but you keep saying “One day I’ll climb that mountain”, or “One day I’ll visit that castle”, but that ‘one-day’ slips further away until you start saying, “I’ll get there, some day”.  And that’s how it was for me, living in the shadow of Mount Warning, in the beautiful Northern Rivers area of New South Wales – my one-day just kept slipping by.

Then ‘one-day’ a friend mentioned a cafe she had been to, that I hadn’t. We consulted our diaries, decided on a day and time, and headed out of town.

Rainforest Cafe

We were in search of the Rainforest Cafe, nestled in the leafy surrounds of the base of Mount Warning, otherwise known as Wollumbin, which is the Aboriginal name for Mt Warning.

So we sat by the creek at the Rainforest Cafe, under the trees, and sipped our milkshake, and coffee, and ate amazing Middle Eastern cake. In the process, we managed to prove that there is no better place for a relaxing breakfast, lunch, morning or afternoon tea than the Rainforest Cafe at Wollumbin. And then, to offload the calories, we walked through the trees beside the creek, taking photos of nature at its best.

Okay – this isn’t the best photo I’ve ever taken, but I love the effects..

There is no shortage of colour, shapes and rays of sun to capture in photographic spleandour. You just need a full battery on your smart phone and you’ll have plenty of content to upload on whichever Social Media you subscribe to.

On the Steep and Narrow Road

When we left the cafe, a right-turn took us up the hill towards the majestic Mount Warning. The road was steep and narrow; there isn’t a lot of room for passing another car on that road. But luckily there wasn’t much traffic and my friend’s car made the climb seemingly effortlessly.  Although, when we reached a plateau’d car-park near the top, there was a slight ‘hot’ smell coming from the engine. Compact car – steep climb, what more could we expect?

Rise and Shine, Australia!

The Bundjalung People are the original custodians of the land surrounding, and beyond Mount Warning. For them, the mountain is a sacred site. With respect for the Bundjalung people, I would rather treat the site as sacred ground and not climb to the top of Mount Warning. Just to be able to see its beauty up close and personal from a lower point, is all I need.

Mount Warning is said to be the first place in Australia to witness the birth of every new day, as the sun peeps over the mountain, ready to warm the earth below.

While it boasts a New South Wales address, Mount Warning is still close enough to be a short trek for South East Queenslanders, and visitors to the Gold Coast. The uniqueness of its peak makes Mount Warning easily identifiable, from both sides of the border. Seeing Mount Warning from a plane, while taxiing into the Gold Coast Airport, is the warm welcome-home you look forward to, after travelling far and wide.

The only thing that says “Welcome Home” louder than Mount Warning, is the Tweed River, as you drive along Tweed Valley Way on your way into Murwillumbah. Only then do we appreciate the real beauty of where we live.

What! You don’t believe me?

Then come and see for yourself. Oh, and let me know when you’ll be heading into town and we’ll meet for a coffee, I know all the best places, and they are all in the shadow of Mount Warning.

See you in Murwillumbah!

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Travel, 4 comments

Day 21 – UBC – Does it Matter Where I Sit?

When I visit a friend or relative’s home for the first time, I usually ask “Does it matter where I sit?”. Everyone has their favourite chair, or seat in the house, and I am wary of plonking myself down on my host’s favourite chair. And one of the most common questions asked of writers is: Where do you write? Like the rest of us, writers probably have a chair or place that they prefer, while writing. I know I do.

Old Habits Are Hard To Break

We all have habits, right? Some good, some not-so-good. And some of us are more bound by habits and routines than others. My morning routine of ‘coffee first!’, is sacrosanct. Pity help anyone who stands between me and that first coffee of the day. Once I’m caffeinated – I’m fine, and the immediate vicinity is once again a safe place to be.


Part of my routine features the chair I sit in to write. My favourite chair in summer is by the door, leading out to the verandah.  The chair is comfortable and rocks just slightly, and with a breeze coming through the door, writing is easy.

My Outside Space

If I want to write early in the morning, this is my ‘go-to’ place. Of course, there’s another little habit that goes with that seat – when I sit out there, I have to have a coffee beside me.

Where Do You Write?

Inside? Outside?

On the Move

While travelling this great planet of ours, I’ve discovered a few places I like to claim as my writing-chair. Top of the list would have to be coffee shops and cafes.

Here are some of the places I’ve sat, with iPad and keyboard stragically placed, and churned out a blog – or two. Usually while sipping about eleven or eight coffees.

My Local

Re Cafe Nate: my neighbourhood coffee shop in Murwillumbah. It can get a bit busy here because the locals all know how good the coffee, food and service are, but it’s a great place to write; thanks Josh, Desley and Don.

West End Brisbane

Between The Bars: West End, Brisbane. This is my home-away-from-home coffee shop. Great coffee and great service; thanks Nick and Mal.

Seattle: WA

RedWing Cafe: Seattle, US. Tucked away in Rainier Beach, this is the best place for just hanging out and writing, on a cold winter’s day. The coffee, food and service are outstanding. And that’s all the encouragement I needed to sit and write. Thank you Anthony, Sue and the fantastic team who kept me fed and caffeinated while I wrote, early this year.

Berhampore (Wellington) NZ

Rinski Korsakov: Berhampore. What can I say? This was just the cutest place – with a table in the front window for people-watching, when inspiration waned. Luckily, there was no shortage of great coffee and carrot cake, when I frequented Rinski’s in September 2017.  Thanks Jet!

Where do Famous Authors Write?

J.K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, came up with the idea for the series while on a delayed train, but wrote in cafes in Scotland. Could it be the coffee that provides the inspiration?

If you have ever asked a writer – “Where do you write?”, what was their response? Do they favour cafes, or a park bench? Do they prefer a log cabin in the woods, or a bench on a busy street?

My guess is, writers have a favourite place when it comes to the serious business of writing. Inspiration, on the other hand, can happen anywhere.

Write On!

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Writing, 2 comments

Day 20 – UBC – Five Ways to get Rid of Ants!

It isn’t a picnic without ants, but having them take over your kitchen is a whole new ball game. The tiny ones find their way into places you didn’t even know you had. Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of ways to get rid of ants, so here’s a list of my top five suggestions.

How to Get Rid of ANTs

  1. Talcum Powder – this was one of the first things I tried. The theory is, if you leave a trail of talcum powder along the path ants take, they won’t step in it. I tried it. It worked. But it didn’t stop them completely. The ants outsmarted me by finding new paths into the same kitchen. WARNING! Don’t breathe in the fine powder, as it could be harmful.
  2. Ant-Rid – Yep! This worked – temporarily. I used Ant-Rid a very long time ago; long before ants built up an immunity to it.
  3. Borax – mixed with anything that is sweet. I used Maple Syrup, but you could use honey. I mixed the concoction into a sticky, gooey mess and then dripped it across the top of the cupboard, which is where the ants were making their pilgrimage. It worked – but it was SO messy. WARNING! Don’t use this method if you have young children or fur-babies. Apparently, Borax isn’t kid-friendly or pet-friendly. Actually, I think the jury is still out on whether it is good for anyone to be exposed to it. There are warnings about prolonged use – it can cause skin irritations; and even warnings about the risks of ingesting it (I can’t imagine why anyone would want to). But, I’ll let you decide that one, if you choose to try this method.
  4. Cornflour – that’s what we call it in Australia. I think it is called Cornstarch in the US – but don’t quote me on that. Whatever it is called, it works. I don’t know how it works, but it does. It is safe to use – after all, we cook with it – right? You just have to get used to the white trails around your kitchen. I’d rather a solid, static white trail any day, to the moving, black line of ants climbing the wall.
  5. Diatomaceous Earth – (DE) – Food Grade. This one definitely works – and is safe to use around the house. Not only is DE safe for pets, you could add some to their food to improve their overall health, as well. Oh, and it has health benefits for humans too. BUT – with any fine powdery substance, be careful not to breathe in the fine dust.

Call the Ant-Busters!

If you have a serious problem with the little crawlies that insist on lining up along your kitchen benches, you might need to seek professional assistance. Finding the nest will help.

Even though I have shared my list of five ways to get rid of ants, I would prefer using methods that deter them, rather than cause them any serious harm (or fatality!).

Deterrants:

Keep benches free of anything sticky and sweet that might attract ants; wipe benches with Pepperming Oil; keep food in sealed, airtight containers; wipe known ant-paths with Peppermint Oil.

Hopefully, with these proactive measures in place – I won’t have to use any of the more deadly strategies.

Well, that’s the plan, anyway.

Posted by Maureen in Travel, 2 comments

Day 19 – UBC – Oops! Will the Delete Key Fix That?

What is the best invention in the world? It has to be the Delete Key! How many times has that little button saved us from a potentially catastrophic consequence? It’s a wonder mine still works; I’m sure it is the most used key on my keyboard. But what about those other mistakes? You know, the ones we make in the real world, away from our i-Devices and laptops. Where is the Delete Key? And how do we fix things when the Delete Key just isn’t there?

Let’s face it, we all make mistakes. Wait, maybe I should rephrase that – most of us make mistakes. I have known one or two people who think they are the exceptions to that rule – but for the rest of us mere mortals, it happens. And in the real world, there is no delete key – once it happens, it’s out there for all to see.

Errorless Teaching – Really??

In my teaching career, I made mistakes. And when I did, I apologised to my students, and took whatever consequences we deemed necessary at the time. By being as vulnerable as they were, we all learned how to cope with mistakes, from both sides of it.

At the beginning of each term, my students and I would sit down and work out our Behaviour Plan. One of the problems we had one year, was having a few students who found it hard to filter out the words they shouldn’t use, before they spoke. The result was, ‘expletives’ would fly around the room – usually at the most inappropriate time. Well, was there ever an appropriate time?

Don’t Say It!

We drew up a list of words that could be used as alternatives. We also talked about the words that just wouldn’t be accepted, ever! And for everything else, there were consequences. The funny thing with kids is, if you ask them to set their own consequences, they’ll be a lot tougher than most adults would be. With a bit of tweaking, we managed to get an acceptable level of consequences. There was never any judgement if someone fell off the wagon – it just happened – the offender accepted the consequences, and we all moved on. Including the day it happened to me.

I had worn a pair of boots to school that day – it was winter and my feet needed extra warmth. All was going well until one of the students commented on how big my boots were. Without a second thought, I said “All the better to kick butts with”.

“Right, Miss”, was the quick reply, “that’s two minutes at recess!”.

“Damn!” I replied. “Uh – that’s another two minutes!”, he said. I could see where this was heading and had the good sense to stifle any further comment.

And Your Time Starts – Now!

You see, the plan we came up with at the beginning of term, was to ‘fine’ offenders two-minutes of their break time for every wrong word. I’d just racked up two fines, which totalled four precious minutes. Heck, the morning break was short enough, and I’d just lost a sizeable chunk of it. So, I spent the first four minutes of the break, sitting quietly in the classroom, reflecting on my choice of words. And trust me, the students were less lenient on the list of bad words than I would have been, but the die had been cast, and I was guilty, as charged. Just to make sure I spent the required time in deep, silent reflection – two students volunteered to be the time-keepers.

As a teacher, one of the keys to success is showing students that you are vulnerable and human, and just like them, capable of making mistakes. It’s how you react to your own mistakes that teaches kids how to deal with theirs. The students had ownership of the plan, and I accepted the same consequences for any wrong-doing. And believe me, the kids were tougher on me than I was on them. But it worked.

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. Benjamin Franklin

Trust me, this method works well for all those times when there is no Delete Key.

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Teaching, 2 comments

Day 18 – UBC – Hey! Wait a Minute Mr Postman!

On this day, 26 July 1775, the US Postal Service was established, and Americans have been waiting for the Postman, ever since. Or, have they? Does the term Mr Postman still exist? And how many people actually find mail in their mailbox these days?, – I’m speaking of the ‘snail-mail’ variety, of course.

I once lived in a house where the only thing I consistently found in my mailbox, was snails. If I went away for a few days, I would arrive home to some very ‘holey’ mail. If I wasn’t quick enough, an average letter could end up looking like a piece of Swiss Cheese. I was amazed at how much mail those critters could eat their way through, in a very short time. It certainly gave ‘snail-mail’ a whole new meaning.

But I Digress….

Back to the story of the humble postman. With Political Correctness in full force, we should be waiting for the ‘postperson’, not the postman. And the Beatles would have to change the words of their song from “Wait, oh yes, wait a minute, Mister Postman”, to, “Wait, oh yes, wait a minute, Postperson”. And pre-schoolers would be watching Postperson Pat, rather than their beloved Postman Pat.

From Snail-Mail to Email

The technology age has brought with it ‘electronic-mail’, or email, as we call it. Instead of walking to the mailbox, we simply go online and check our inbox – which is the digital version of the mailbox. And instead of a few snail-mail letters, our inboxes are now full. Back in the ‘old’ days, we would get a letter, write a response, post it, and then wait for the reply. A process that could take weeks. And I don’t remember the mail box being as crowded then, a s it is now; filled with thousands of emails.

These days, youngsters receive an email, use a two-thumb method to tap out a reply via their smart-phone, press send, and the recipient is reading the response within seconds. And if a response isn’t almost immediate, the sender is wondering what’s wrong.

I wonder how long it will be before Santa sends out an email address to replace his mailbox address at the North Pole?

Modern technology makes snail-mail look like something out of an ancient time – and it probably is – if you remember that the US postal service began on this day in 1775.

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 6 comments

Day 17 – UBC – Follow That Blog!

I don’t care that today is the twenty-third day of the Ultimate Blog Challenge (July) and I’m officially six days behind – I’m persevering, right to the end. The challenge for Day 17 is to make a list of blogs that I follow. So, rather than giving you a list of my favourites, I’m going to explain why you should follow that blog you’ve been reading.

We all have favourite authors – I know I have – but are we as loyal to bloggers? My favourite author is Bryce Courtenay, and before he sadly passed from his earthly existence a few years ago, he was publishing a book every year. I read almost every one of them. He was my favourite author because I had come to expect a certain style in his writing and I trusted that every book would hold my attention.

An E-Book Gathers No Dust

Before technology took such a formidable hold on our lives, bookshelves bulged at the seams with our favourite books. Most of us collected the works of a few authors, but we probably had a smattering of non-descript interest books as well. I know my shelves had their fair share of DIY projects;  recipe books; self-help books; and anything else that held my interest long enough to read about it.


Gradually, my bookshelves gave way to a Kindle e-Reader. Technology had opened up a world of reading. I could search the Internet for e-books (electronic books) and download them to my Kindle with just one click. But the best thing was, e-books cost a whole lot less than hard-copy books and I didn’t need a lot of shelves to hold them. E-books gather no dust!

There’s An App For That!

The Kindle eventually gave way to a Kindle App on my iPad and iPhone. My i-devices are just as portable as the Kindle, but much more versatile. I can choose any book from my e-book library, wherever I am; I always have at least one of my i-devices with me. Another advantage is, whichever device I am using, the reader automatically opens the book at the page I was up to on the other device. Alas, I now have a box full of redundant bookmarks that I have collected over the years. But, that’s a small price to pay for convenience.

Technology is marching on, and we now have Bloggers – and God Bless every one of them. We no longer have to search for and buy books on every subject from Arthropod to Zephyr. All we need to do is find a blogger whose expertise matches our interest, and Voila!, we have an endless supply of reading material.

Not only can we read about our favourite subject, we can interact with it. Bloggers usually provide a section somewhere on the page that allows you to ask questions and/or make comments.

And the best news is…

Bloggers usually have a wealth of information up their sleeve. Their blogs might provide an overview, or a sample of a much longer discourse on the subject. And they often write e-books. By reading their blogs, you can get a feel for their knowledge and expertise, and make an informed decision about buying their e-book. It’s kind of a try-before-you-buy offer.

So, rather than just read a blog that you like, FOLLOW the blog. That way, you’ll keep up with current information; get to know the writer’s style and level of expertise; and, buy their e-book with confidence, if they have written one. Perhaps the Comment Section on their blog site would be a good place to suggest an e-book, if they don’t already have one. An e-book would be everything you wanted to know about the subject, in one handy format, rather than wait for the daily/weekly/monthly instalment in blog form.

Follow That Blog!

All you have to do is search for blogs on your favourite subject, read a few, decide which one meets your needs, then Follow That Blog!

Simple!!!

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, Writing, 4 comments

Day 16 – UBC – Is There a Cure for Earworms?

Earworms! Yuk!! What is it about a song that can make it go in one ear, and not come out the other? Where does it get stuck, and why? And who thought up the name – Earworms!?

Those songs that get trapped inside your head and keep on playing, long after you’ve turned off the radio, are called Earworms.

Wikipedia describes earworms as:

An earworm, sometimes known as a brainworm, sticky music, stuck song syndrome, or Involuntary Musical Imagery (INMI) is a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person’s mind after it is no longer playing. … The word earworm is possibly a calque from the German Ohrwurm.

The problem is, most of the time I don’t even like the song. And it doesn’t have to start with actually hearing the song; it could be that someone mentions the name of a song, or says a word that triggers the mechanism in my brain that turns the mental-music on. Regardless of how it starts, trying to stop it is futile.

Who Let the Dogs Out?

Buzzfeed.com has named twenty-one songs that are guaranteed to get stuck in your head. Well, I hadn’t even heard of some of those songs, so I doubt they are going to get stuck between my ears. There is one, however, that is sure to be an earworm. Say the words “Who Let the Dogs Out?”?

Now try getting THAT song to stop playing in your head. Pretty tough, hey?

Researchers have put time and money into investigating how earworms get inside your head, and why they can be hard to eradicate, once they’re tucked up, nice and snug, between your ears. Apparently, over 90% of the population suffer from earworms. That means there is a lucky 1-9% of the population enjoying an earworm free existence (how do they do that?).

Stickability of a song is dependent on things like: popularity; melodic variation; and of course, the obvious – how much time you spend listening to music.

What’s in a Name?

According to Merriam-Webster, the name, Earworm, comes from the German word, Ohrwurm. That sounds feasible. And it seems that earworms are contagious. Apparently, if you wake up in the morning with an earworm in your head, and then go about your day giving voice to the song that is haunting you, you will pass the dreaded worm on to others. I wonder if, sometime in the future, there will be a vaccine to prevent earworms? It seems there is a vaccine for everything else – why not earworms?

So, what is the cure for earworms?

Dr Kelly Jakubowski (Durham University) has spent a lot of research hours trying to figure out the how and why of earworms.

According to Durham University, and based on Dr Jakubowski’s research, there are a few things you can do to eradicate earworms. The University suggests:

  • distraction – by thinking of another song: I can see the danger in this one. In my case, the replacement song will simply kick the original earworm out and elect itself as King Earworm. Durham University actually cites ‘God Save the Queen’ as a safe replacement. I have to admit, I haven’t tried this, but I think it has merit.
  • engaging with the song – sing along with it; listen to it; whatever it takes to get up-close-and-personal with the earworm that has taken up residence in your head. I’m not sure how this works, but who am I to question the research?
  • leaving it alone – not engaging with it – thinking of something else. My guess is the earworm will feel very lonely and go off in search of someone else’s head to live in – someone who might at least pay them some attention.

It seems that for most of us, earworms are inevitable, so I hope the information I have shared with you today makes them a little easier to live with.

Have an earworm-free day!, or, if you have to have them, may they be songs you love – or at least like!

What’s Your Earworm?

What songs get stuck in your head?

Are your earworms – songs that you like – or not?

How do you get rid of those annoying earworms that just won’t shut up!?

Share your thoughts in the Comments box below

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 2 comments

Day 15 – UBC – Distraction, and the Janitor’s Hammer

Could the ‘Gentle Art of Distraction’ save the janitor’s hammer from crashing down on the frail fence, or worse still, on me? There was only one way to find out.

Justin’s teacher called me during class-time to report that Justin (not his real name), had left the classroom. After checking the usual hiding spots, I found Justin, with a hammer poised menacingly in his right hand, within striking distance of the back fence. And he was angry!

A million thoughts flashed through my mind, as they usually did, when I was faced with a crisis like this. Working out the best solution was always tricky, but luckily, an example given by Tom Willis from the Institute for Applied Behavior Analysis, took precedence. I was lucky enough to attend the lecture Tom had given a few years earlier, and had never forgotten the example he gave about using distraction to diffuse situations.

“Oh my goodness! Who put that boat there?”.

Luckily, someone had parked a boat on the easement behind the fence, thus providing the perfect prop for testing my ‘art of distraction’ theory. Justin stood there, hammer poised in the striking position, and said, ‘What?”.

“How did that boat get there? Was there a flood and then the water went down, leaving the boat sitting there”, I asked? With the hammer still poised, Justin replied “No, it’s always been there”. I kept the momentum going with questions and comments, and noticed Justin’s grip on the hammer relaxing, just a little. The more questions I asked, the more relaxed he became. The arm holding the hammer slowly started moving down, towards the ground. I kept the banter going a little longer, just to be sure the anger was gone. When I felt the moment was right, I suggested that we go into my office and have a chat. We had played out the ‘chat-in-the-office’ routine often enough for Justin to know that it was a positive, not a negative, process.

Step Into My Office…

As we walked, I casually asked Justin what his plans were for the hammer in his hand, and he just as casually explained he was going to put it in the janitor’s shed. I agreed, and we handed the hammer over to a very grateful janitor.

There are a number of reasons this situation ended well:

  • Trust – Justin knew I would treat him fairly, even if disciplinary measures had to be taken
  • No Grudges – what happened yesterday, belonged in yesterday. Each day was a new day
  • It wasn’t personal – no matter what happened – I didn’t take it personally
  • All behaviour is communicative – my job was to find the reason for the behaviour – and try to fix it
  • Explanation mode – is best served in a calm state. I never asked the ‘why’ or ‘what went wrong’ questions until Justin was completely calm. The eye-of-the-storm is never a good time for discussion
  • There is always a better way – once I understood the ‘why’ I could teach a better way of handling situations, or make other adjustments that might reduce the risk of a repeat performance

Distraction Works …

I’m not saying that distraction worked every time, but it certainly worked most of the time. Years of experience, and lots of training, gave me the skills I needed to know when to use distraction, and when to stand back and let it all happen. It was something I couldn’t explain to new teachers; you just learn it as you go.

Over the thirty-plus years of my teaching career, I attended as many lectures as I could by Tom Willis or Gary LaVigna – founders of the Institute for Applied Behavior Analysis, based in Los Angeles. They came to Australia every two years, and I waited anxiously for their lectures and workshops. In 2004, I spent the equivalent of two-weeks, spaced over the year, taking the intensive training that LaVigna and Willis normally provide in a two-week intensive training situation in Los Angeles. I loved every minute of it! Behaviour management was a lot easier, and a lot more successful, from then on.

As a result of the training, I could usually find a quirky way to deal with complex issues. In fact, thinking outside the box became the key to fixing a lot of problems.

The story of Justin, and the janitor’s hammer, ended well…

… thanks to the gentle art of distraction.

I’m not saying I’m an expert in behaviour management, but I managed a lot of tricky situations over the long span of my career, that could have ended badly, but didn’t.

If you have any questions about using distraction, or about managing quirky behaviour in general, type them into the Comments section below. If I don’t have the answer, I’m sure I could steer you in the right direction to find it.

Posted by Maureen in Blogging, 5 comments
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