Sunday, June 4, 2017

Učiti: To teach, to learn, to study.

My TEDxZagreb video was published a few days ago, and the caption reads as follows:
How important is to learn kids to tell stories ? Can we improve their lives with great informations by storytelling ? From the expirienced teacher who is exploring the possibilities of storytelling.

The mistakes in the caption did not pass unnoticed. Especially the "aberration" my friend texted about. "LEARN KIDS? LEARN KIDS???"

Being an English teacher myself, I have a lot of friends who are teachers and on the fanatical side of demanding correct use of the language. Even my hairs stood on end upon reading, I admit.  And I am studying Croatian, so I should not be surprised by the negative transfer. I hear this all the time when Croatians speak English. Even good English!

You Croatian, there is but one word for teaching, learning and studying: UČITI. Admittedly, there are some prefix complications that stretch this word to a dozen, but I want to make a point here. So let's stick to "učiti" for this reflection:

To teach has to always be an act of learning. For one, due to the evident necessity of staying tuned to the needs of the learner. But more importantly because teaching is learning as well! Teaching should never be a one way action.

And may I clarify that teaching and learning and even studying, are not limited to teachers and students? While there is life, there must be growth, and the more deliberate that growth is, the more chances of happiness and living a life of fulfilment we have.

Teaching should be an interaction. Each learner brings a unique response to the teaching, which becomes the teacher's learning in turn. Because what we teach should be a provocation for the learner to display their own singular combination of character strengths, curiosity, interpretation. Their voice.

Staying open to the learning dimension of the teaching situation is crucial to stay present. It prevents us from falling into the trap of teaching by heart. Like we have nothing to learn from the process. That's one of the most pervasive forms of disengagement in today's schools and homes, in my humble opinion.

Stay open. Stay alert. Keep the vibe. The magic happens when to teach, to learn and to study all roll into one.

Defeating the purpose

When I do the dishes, I am always more careful when handling my beloved pieces of Moonshine Pottery. Thanks to dear friends, I have collected a few along the years, and although they are items of everyday use, I do handle them carefully. They've gone from Australia, to China, to Buenos Aires and then Zagreb. Generally, I wash the dishes and leave them to dry. However, my Moonshine pottery pieces, I dry and put away on the spot.

Today I took a beautiful blue enamel bowl in my hands to dry it and I almost dropped it. It got me thinking how sometimes, it is that extra bit of care, precisely, that can ruin something that we are especially fond of. With pottery as with kids.

We love our children so much, have such high hopes for them, that sometimes we ruin them with that extra bit of attention. The same overdoing that can crash the bowl, can fuck up children, plain and simple.*

If we try to save our kids from mistakes, pain, discomfort and failure, we are basically preventing them from growing. There is no character growth without pain, so love with your whole heart but care in a wise manner.

It is not about immediate pain or pleasure. It is always about the bigger picture. Just saying!


* It doesn't ruin them completely, thank God. I will say again and repeat forever: as long as it comes from a place of healthy love, you cannot miss the mark by much. Remember that healthy love often means "tough love".

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


How easy it is to forget lessons we have already learnt!

A while back, I wrote about transition. To me that post is evidence that I had a deep understanding of what exists in between as is and to be.

Transition sweetly focuses on the overlap that exists between the present situation and what we think of as the next. Transition sounds like we are going through the process mindfully, deliberately.

My own words, written some time in 2015, during the long stretch of time it took me to make the move to Croatia permanent, which I did about a year ago with very happy results.

Six or seven months back, I deliberately went into a transition period. A shift in my career. A big leap of faith, hard (and out-of-the-comfort-zone) work and double doses of anxiety.

I must confess that at times between then and now, I have often forgotten that during the transition itself, there is more faith that there are results.

Today I feel I'm back on track, and I feel like transmuting judgement to acceptance and giving myself a light pat on the shoulder.

We'll see about tomorrow :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The morning-after, del día después, dan poslje: Same shit, different languages.

It's got the same  name in every language. The one you need the morning after. I will not even get into the details of why or who I am buying this pill for.

I get to the pharmacy and immediately learn that being almost 42 does not prevent you from feeling quite self conscious when asking for the morning-after pill. Even the detachment of saying it in Croatian (using impecable accusative case, mind you!) doesn't help. Let alone at the judgmental stare that the chemist offers me. She says they don't have it. I ask if I can order it. She says I should try another pharmacy. It is raining and quite cold for October. This woman, I know it in my bones, is refusing to sell me the pill.

My awesome wing-woman almost gets me killed by jaywalking to cross to another ljekarna. But we get there in one piece, and I ask for the pill again. I am told that I can buy it, but I need to answer a few questions  in a form first.  More than 10, including my year of birth. Only one is related to health issues such as allergies.

When the form is done, and handed in, I am asked for my name and surname, and that of my gynecologist. I lie not. The pill is 190 kuna. 25.5 euro.

In Zagreb, a qualified intern works 10.5 hours to make this amount. A mid-range meal for two is 190 kuna. Three bottles of good wine in the market. The monthly pass for the tram when you're a student. With 190 kuna, you can treat 5 people to McDonald's and get some change.

So I got to thinking about what I've always thought to be the average woman in need of this "emergency contraceptive", as the box describes it in Croatian. Hitna kontracepcija. My guess is that in average she is young and really wants to avoid both a pregnancy and an abortion. Her condom may have broken. She may have had unprotected sex. She could have been raped. She may be regretting a sexual encounter. She wants and needs that pill, and all she gets is judgement, obstacles and a freaking high price tag.

I cannot think of a more fucked-up way of designing a system in order to to tell someone "I told you so", while waving a nagging finger at them, rejoicing that you have not helped avoid what I can only think of as disaster.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Q is for Questions

Questions such as "what was I thinking when I committed to 26 blog posts during the month of April?"

I am really busy with other questions at the moment. Like...

- What strategies can I come up with that will be easy to implement by parents and teachers (all adults, in fact) to help develop their kids' character strengths?
- Has anyone ever classified folktales according to character strengths they portray or teach?
- What three collaborative creation activities am I going to do with the Grade 8 class I was invited to teach next Wednesday?

Just a few examples.

And then the question everybody is asking me these days: after your conference in the US in July...are you going back to Buenos Aires or to Zagreb?

I am ever so glad that at a given point in the past decade I became comfortable with replying "I don't know". The complete answer to all of these, now that I have been studying Growth Mindset and such marvels, is "I don't know YET!"

Friday, April 22, 2016

P is for Pana Wakke

Founding a start-up and then making it work, and later grow is a constant learning experience. What you want to do professionally and who you are as an individual blend completely. For good and for bad.

Eventually, you realise that the company has become a living organism, and as such, it morphs and adapts. Hopefully, it will never lose its essence. And ideally, I will manage to pour into Pana Wakke my best traits, and in avoiding to pass on my worst, both the company and myself will become better.

Our name, Pana Wakke, is inspired in the words Sister Brother in Quechua, an aboriginal language from South America.

In its most literal interpretation, Pana Wakke describes our corporate structure, as my brother Marko and his wife Belén are co-founders and business partners. Pana Wakke would not exist without them.

When we join forces with storytellers, project leaders, sales reps and such, we aim to build life-long relationships, and for that, we source people who want to know about the soul of what we do before the practical aspects. And they become part of the family as well.

In a more subtle way, though, our name describes our mission. We believe in the "brotherhood of man". Brazenly.

We hope that we are making a contribution to make the world a bit kinder, a bit more inclusive and a bit more humane. As I wrote in an abstract not long ago: "It is to be hoped that as they recognize its  invaluable benefits, schools and parents will engage more in storytelling and reclaim the essence of human relationships."

I never meant to start my own company. As so many of the crucial things that happen in life, it was a series of seemingly random events that led to it. And thus, the amount of people and forces of nature I am grateful to today is colossal.

There is no doubt I am a lucky girl. Thanks. Thanks. Thanks.

Monday, April 18, 2016

O is for OMG!

OMG! What is this in my hotel room? How do I read the instructions?
OMG! Who thought of this snack?

OMG! The sense of fashion!
OMG! Perplexity inspiring design

OMG! The signs

OMG! Powerful magnets

OMG! Really? 

 OMG! Let's celebrate spring!