A story about Jill

There are some students (and classes) that you can not wait to get rid of. You do everything in your power to never teach them again…. And then you get them for three years in a row.

Then there are other students who mean something to you and you have a soft spot for. I had the biggest soft spot for a student called Jill. I became a year advisor and she was one of my little munchkins, I never actually taught her.

My first memory of Jill was when school had just started for the year. She was wearing a uniform that the school gave her, but her hem was not sewn up and embarrassingly long. I had to work out a way to get it sewn up. I never thought that would be part of my job description. Couldn’t she just get it done at home? I had to teach all day so there was no way I could do it myself. I used safety clips to temporarily pin it up and eventually convinced an extremely kind SASS staff member to sew it for me. Jill was happy.

She used to chat to me all the time in the playground, before she realised it was not cool to talk to teachers. “I’m moving in a few weeks. I’m going to have to change schools. They have found a unit for us.” Us was her family, her mum and younger siblings. They, I assumed, was a government department, or maybe a charity organisation. “That’s great, but we will miss you,” I replied. 

She kept coming to school every day. She never moved. She was friendly and smart. She won an award at presentation day. After some initial teething problems, she made lots of friends.

She was rarely in school uniform though. The school had provided uniforms, but Jill would not always go home to the same place every night and they would get misplaced. There was a very strict uniform policy and enforcing it was by far my least favourite thing as a year advisor. If a student was out of uniform they got a uniform pass, that is, if they had a note from a parent, otherwise they had to pick up litter.

Jill would refuse to pick up litter, once I forced her to do it during roll call time when there was no other students in the playground. It was horrible. She would never have a note from home. We made a deal, she would come to me in the morning and I would write her a uniform pass, no questions asked. She came almost every day, that is until she stopped caring.

Jill had many problems at school. I had no training to be a year advisor, apart from one day of professional development that taught be almost nothing. I did not know what to do with her. Most of her problems got dealt with by the higher powers in the school. I just tried to be a friendly face that she could talk to.

She would often complain she was hungry. The school did give lunch money in emergencies but it was a pain to organise. Sometimes I didn’t have the time, because I had a million other things to do, I just gave her my own money. I would then feel guilty because I knew this was absolutely not allowed under any circumstances.

I wanted more than anything to see Jill finish Year 12 and to congratulate her at the ceremony. I thought education could change her life. She only made it until the beginning of Year 10. She told me she was pregnant. She got kicked out of home. She stopped coming to school.

She returned one day, not to go to class, but to organise a place for her at some sort of alternative learning centre. She was too young to drop out of school. She appeared stoned. “I had a chicken pie for breakfast,”she told me. “It was so good, my baby loved it.” She pulled up her top and asked me if I could notice her bump. I stared awkwardly. I could not notice anything. I had never seen a pregnant bump before. I wasn’t even confident she was pregnant.

Since that day I have not seen Jill again. I never found out if she was really pregnant. I never heard if she had a baby. I don’t know what happened to her. I just hope she is OK.

Obviously Jill is not her real name.

Flower Sustayable Me

Something Is Fishy

Years ago my friend and I were getting fish and chips. We were on the South Coast, NSW, Australia. I remember her telling me she was going to buy and eat blackfish because it was locally caught and a sustainable option. “Good for you”, I thought. I bought the blackfish too and since then I have had it every time I go to that takeaway place.

Fishing Sustayable Me
We have to buy fish because we don’t seem to ever catch any.

As for the rest of the seafood I eat, I have been really slack lately. I know overfishing is a huge problem. I teach my students that. I know conserving fish species is really important to help protect marine ecosystems. I am awesome at drawing food webs and I teach my students to consider the impact of a changing one species population number on the rest of the food web.

Unfortunately I have let convenience and price determine what seafood I buy. I have pushed seafood sustainability to the back of my mind. I want my canned tuna and I want it now! But that is going to change. I need to change it.

Well over 30% of global fish populations are overfished. Some fishing practices are really dodgy too, like the ones that involve bycatch (this means other marine animals may be caught, apart from just the species intended to be fished.) There are 17 different ocean fishing zones around the world. Every single one of them is over exploited. 13 of them are becoming or are already depleted. There are certain types of fish that everyone seems intent on only eating – tuna, salmon, shark and prawns. We don’t actually intend to eat shark but when we buy fish and chips it is normally what is served up.  

Australia’s fishing industry is actually pretty good. It’s regulation and management makes it one of the best in the world. Awesome, go Australia! But 70% of the seafood we buy is imported, mostly from Asia. I know I currently buy all of my seafood at the supermarket (shame!). If you look at the signs on the chilled fish at the counter it tells you where the fish came from. Some of it is from Australia but a lot of it comes from Vietnam, China etc. I bet it would really difficult to find a frozen, processed or canned seafood product in the supermarket that contains seafood from Australia.

Do you think this sounds bad too? Are you wondering what we can do? Well I am no expert and I am not going to tell you what to do, but I will tell you what I am personally going to do.

I am going to stop eating seafood.

Just kidding. I’m not going to stop because when I eat seafood it makes me think that I’m healthy and I don’t feel as bad for eating a block of chocolate. Go Omega 3!

I know I should stop eating seafood because the reality is that seafood is not a sustainable food option at all, but I am going to take baby steps. Here are some things I am prepared to do as of now:

  • If I buy a can of tuna I’m going to look for skipjack tuna because it is a less exploited species. I am going to avoid yellow fin tuna. I’m going to look for pole and line caught tuna and something that says FAD free on the can. (FAD = fish aggregating device).
  • I’m going to try to eat more local seafood and less important seafood. For me this means looking for Australian seafood.
  • If I’m getting fish and chips, or eating at a restaurant, I’m going to choose more sustainable choices. I hear whiting, silver perch, sardines, flathead and barramundi are good options. If the seafood isn’t labelled I am going to ask what is it and where it came from. I am going to avoid eating flake (shark).
  • I am going to use the Australian Sustainable Seafood Guide app to help me make better choices.

I know I am just one individual (one little fish in the big ocean), but if we all start making more informed decisions when buying seafood we can send a message. To the supermarkets, to the restaurants, to the wholesalers etc. Also, I am a role model and I can educate Bub. Bub is going to be Prime Minister and change the world. Overfishing will be the first problem she solves. No pressure Bub.

Sustainable Tuna Sustayable Me
Look what I already had in my pantry. I am totally rocking this!