xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Volunteering is good for you.

I have been  happily retired now for nearly eighteen years. However, in a previous life I was a teacher. For 28 years I was  a school principal. They were all very happy days.

Schools get government funding to help them operate effectively. However, really good schools thrive on strong parent and community support. A school needs enthusiastic volunteers to help create a place whose friendly atmosphere and positive outcomes pleases parents; a school children are happy and proud to attend and teachers enjoy working in.

When I started teaching in the late 1950s there were very few parents in or around schools. Just about all children walked or rode their bikes to school or were bused in from rural areas. The school newsletter was published once a term, if at all. Not all schools had secretaries. Principals in the late 1950s and early 1960s may or may not have typed out a note or newsletter to inform parents of P&C meetings, sports carnivals and the like.Sometimes children wrote their own notes to take home explaining of an upcoming event.

It is very different today. These days, one of the major tasks of a principal is to promote the school. Newsletters now generally come out weekly and are often delivered by e-mail or SMS. The school may also have a Webpage and a Facebook page to promote the school’s ethos, upcoming events and achievements.                                                                                        

Parents are now encouraged to volunteer their help at school sports, swimming carnivals, graduation dinners, school musicals, debates, public speaking, assemblies, assisting teachers with small group activities, final assemblies, excursions, camps, environmental programmes and so on. The proviso being that parents are given specific roles to perform, otherwise, some parents may embark on empire building activities that are counterproductive.
                                                                                                                                                                                      I became a Level 3 principal in 1975, by which time every school had a full or part time secretary. Over the years, from time to time, I would drop a couple of stories into the weekly newsletter telling parents that volunteering was good for them. Some of them believed me. In the early days of the school year I would often insert the following message (which I found in an old poetry book, written by ANON, my favourie poet), to emphasise the need for volunteer parents

THE DEATH OF SOMEONE ELSE: We were all saddened this week to learn of the death of one of our community’s most valuable members …Someone Else.                                                                                                                                                  Someone’s passing leaves a great void that will be difficult to fill. Else had been with us for many years.                                                                                                                                                   
For every one of those years, Someone Else did far more than the normal person’s share of the work. Whenever leadership was needed, Someone Else was asked for inspiration, as well as results. Someone Else would willingly work with any group needing assistance.         
Whenever there was a job to do, a group to coach, a meeting to attend, a hole to dig, a hall to clean, chairs to stack, cakes to make or raffle tickets to sell, one name was on everyone’s lips.  They would all say, “Someone Else will do it,”                                                                              
It was common knowledge that Someone Else was the hardest worker in our community.  If ever there was a financial need, everyone just assumed that Someone Else would make up the difference.                                                                                                                       
Someone Else was a wonderful person, sometimes appearing super-human; but a person can only do so much. If the truth be known, we all expected just too much of Someone Else.                                                                                                                                                   
 Now, Someone Else is gone. We wonder what we are going to do. Someone Else left us a wonderful example to follow, but who is going to follow it?                                                   
Who is going to do the things that Someone Else always did.                                                               Remember, from now on, we cannot rely on Someone Else to do the job.                                                                                                                                                                    Sadly, Someone Else is dead!                                                                                                                                                                            
Having put out the message that if we always have to rely on someone else to do things then not a lot will happen, I then tried to convince parents that by helping their children and the school, they would actually improve their own wellbeing. In fact, by asking them to help I was doing them a favour. Again, not everyone believed me.                                                                                                             

Yet, there is a great deal of research evidence showing that volunteering leads to better health and that volunteers  do receive physical and mental health benefits from their volunteer activities.                                                                                                                                             

Volunteering often leads to what is referred to as a “Helper’s high”. This high leads to increased trust in others as well as increased social participation. Those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability and lower rates of depression later in life, compared to those who do not volunteer.                                                                                                       

The research demonstrates that volunteering leads to better health; that volunteers receive physical and mental health benefits from their volunteer activities. Why should Someone Else enjoy all these benefits when you can, too?!                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
As usual, Sir Winston Churchill, had a neat expression for it, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.                                                                                                                                                   
The University of Sydney published a research paper in May 2017, stating that volunteering brings at least 7 benefits. 1. It opens the door to personal satisfaction. 2. It makes you feel happier. 3. It makes you feel healthier. 4. It gives you a ‘Helpers’ High’. 5. It gives you a sense of belonging. 6. You catch “feel-good’ emotions. 7. You can embrace your passions…to do what you enjoy and are good at.                                                                            

It does not have to be a REALLY BIG thing that you do for others.                                                                                                                                                   
I recall a research experiment I heard about when I was studying a course of Educational Psychology at the University of WA, way back in the late 1960s. Of course, after all these years, I cannot recall all of the details, but the gist of the research story I remember well.

A group of educational psychologists from a famous a Ivy League University in the United States focused on two university Fraternity Houses situated on the same campus and whose student residents were studying similar course.                                                                                                                         
At the commencement of the academic year, the researchers tested all of these Frat House students for anxiety, stress levels and feelings of self- worth. Fraternity Houses are like our Australian residential colleges, usually with two students sharing a room.                                                                                                                                               
At the end of the testing period, the researchers gave the students in one Fraternity House (A) a task to perform. The students in the other Fraternity House (B) were asked to just carry on as per usual.                                                                                                                                   

Eight months later, the researchers returned and again tested all students for stress, anxiety and self-esteem. The results were interesting. The House B students generally showed increased stress level as the university year had progressed. On the other hand, House A students, who had the special activity to perform, showed significantly reduced stress and anxiety levels and enhanced feeling of well-being and self-esteem.                                                                                                                                                              
What was the activity that these House A students were asked to perform that had so obviously improved their happiness and wellbeing? What was it that they did that made them all feel so good about themselves?                                                                                        

They were each asked to do their roommate’s laundry!                                                                                                                                                               
Yes, doing something, anything, for others can improve your health, happiness and well-being.                                                                                                                                                          
When next you send out a call for volunteers, let people know that, by inviting them to help out, you are doing them a favour.                                                                                                                     

Some of them may believe you. It will certainly do them good.      

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Hear the barrackers a'shouting!

A great storm of protest has erupted at the great storm of protest expressed by footy barrackers on an almost non-stop basis at any game of footy. This loud, verbal protesting is directed at the opposition players or at the umpires.

I am talking about Australian Rules football, of course. Soccer barracker are usually too busy singing or chanting throughout their matches and rugby barrackers and players still call the match referee "Sir."

In Aussie Rules it has recently suggested that booing is not politically correct. Some have even said that even yelling out is socially offensive. What is a barracker to do? So bad has it become that last weekend, Melbourne's Marvel Stadium employed an army of officials to patrol the seats on the lookout for any outbreak of excessive barracking. These official wore High Viz vests that had Behavioral Attitude Observer neatly printed on them.

The next day, many footy spectatators said they felt intimidated by these "Observers". In some cases they claimed that they were harrassed by them for indulging in what they felt was perfectly normal anti umpire, anti opponent jeering.

So bad was it, that the ex-Premier of Victoria, and current President of Hawthorn Football Club, Jeff Kennett, spoke out strongly that most of these observerts looked as if they had never been to a footy match and did not understand the "culture", if culture is what footy barracking may be called.
Poor old Jeff was thern roundly criticised for Racial Discrimination against people of middle eastern appearance. The President of the AFL said Jeff was way out of line for barracking for the barrackers.

Jeff apologised.

I always enjoyed going to the footy and barracking for my team, which was East Perth, The Mighty Royals. Jousting with opposition barrackers was part of the fun. Below is a modified extract from a memoir I wrote in 2005, entitled "LEON, A backward glance at boyhood". 

In my story I referred to myself as LEON. A boy named NOEL looking backwards. Geddit?              In the story below I changed LEON back to NOEL. As for my boyhood, this incident occurred at Perth Oval in 1965 when I was 27.

Over the years, I  enthusiastically barracked for East Perth as they enjoyed the good times and endured the hard times. Going to the football was almost a ritual. Apart from the excitement of the game, there was the thrill of joining in verbal combat with supporters from opposing sides. I always felt I was doing my bit to help the players on the field by getting the better of rival supporters off the field.

On one occasion in the mid 1960s, East Perth was playing Claremont and I was standing close to an attractive lady and her equally attractive daughter. Or maybe it was her younger sister?In an effort to impress, I began making what I fondly imagined were very witty comments about the opposing players, the umpire and various incidents on the field. I was pleased to notice that the women seemed impressed with my banter and smiled quite often at my remarks.

Half way through the first quarter a Claremont supporter positioned himself near me and began to loudly raise doubts about the ability and courage of the East Perth players. I quickly recognized that I was being challenged. Soon the Claremont man  and I were engaged in a verbal joust. I was a student of footy barracking behaviour. I quickly recognized that this gentleman was a "Responder.”  Responders are barrackers who usually wait for a comment to be made and then take the opportunity to make the same or similar comment...but this time ironically, and in support of their own side.

When I thought an East Perth player should have been paid a mark I would yell out,” Come on, umpire, he only has to hold it. He doesn’t have to hatch it!” Ah, yes! Rapier like wit.

A few minutes later, a Claremont player would hold on to the ball and be paid a mark, at which time Mr Responder would say, “Now, that WAS a mark”.

I would see a Claremont player get away with what looked like a throw and call out, “C'mon, Ump, yah big mug. It’s not basketball.”

Later, when an East Perth player was penalised for throwing, Mr Responder would gleefully retort in my direction, ”Now, that WAS throwing the ball!”

Just before half time I was incensed to see Phil Tierney, the champion East Perth forward, grabbed without the ball by the rugged Claremont ruckman, Allan Mycock. No free kick was given.

“What about holding on to Tierney?” I shouted at the umpire.

About a minutes later the situation was reversed and Mr Responder screamed out,” What about holding on to Mycock?” The two ladies burst out laughing. Mr Responder gasped in embarrassment at the realisation of what he had just yelled out. I took a deep drag on my cigarette, casually removed it from my lips, turned to Mr Responder and nonchalantly enquired, “Do you mind if I finish my cigarette first?”

Well, the two blonde ladies shrieked with laughter. I smiled the smug smile of the victor. Mr Responder did not return after half time and every time I caught the eyes of the two ladies they would burst out laughing all over again.

East Perth won that game. I walked back to Aberdeen Street wearing a winner’s grin, for I knew I had played a major role in the Royal’s great victory that day.

Ah, yes. Football barracking is truly part of our Aussie culture. Long may it remain so.