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SUBSTITUTE TEACHER

Posted on January 15 2020

It would be remiss of me to start without acknowledging the ground on which we launch this journal upon today.  Our Fitzroy store sits on the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. It has been home to more than 60,000 years of teaching and sharing. Indigenous knowledges have been passed down through their ability to listen, absorb and communicate to the point of a shared consciousness, though these practices were violently distorted by white settlement and colonialism. From this time forward, we would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people as owners of this land and pay our respects to their community’s teachers, leaders and elders, both past, present and emerging.
I spent my primary school days waiting for Jack Black. I imagined he would levitate himself down from the roof of the classroom in serious School of Rock style, playing air guitar slightly out of rhythm with the easy rock music, blasting out of a tinny Nokia flip phone.
The theatrics were realistically catered to a public school budget.
He represented a deviation from the norm, the opportunity to be taught things outside of the exhaustingly strict syllabus; he epitomised the ultimate substitute teacher.
 
Since this time, I’ve always thought of the substitute teacher as the fairy god-mother of careers. They’re given the opportunity to shake things up, be an alternative voice, a deviation from the norm, a fresh pair of eyes and a new light in the room.

 

Being vegan, I have become an encyclopaedia of substitutions for the diet I once had. Eggs for bananas, cheese for nutritional yeast, ice-cream for sorbet.  I have become a substitute teacher, if you will…and I would like to be yours, too.
 
Every Wednesday, I’ll pop up here with an offering that I hope provides an alternative perspective on vegan-ism and the spaces it exists in; ecofeminism, fashion, animal rights, environmental activism, community consciousness, beauty, health, respect, and dismantling the patriarchal hierarchy that demotes all other creatures great and small. For those who are vegan experts, I hope this journal appeals to the rebel in you. I hope it inspires you through reading what other people are thinking and developing and helps you feel at the forefront of the future. For those who are tittering on the verge of vegan-ism, I hope this journal gives you substitutions that make the lifestyle seem less depriving and more exciting. For others, I hope this journal raises your consciousness and you are able to absorb aspects of this kinder way of thinking into practices that work for you in this world.

 

In the season I write to you in, our major Australian cities are being dictated by an inescapable heat, trapped in by blankets of smoke. In the season I write to you in, we are fighting through the worst fire season on record. In the season I write to you in, we are worried about the survival of our native animals. In the season I write to you in, there is a chance we will not be able to enjoy another safe summer. In the season I write to you in, we are in a global climate emergency that is not being recognised by the people in power. In the season I write to you in, there is no room left for complacency. We must all take on responsibility. Therefore this should not simply be seen as a vegan journal, but rather a guide to being kinder.

 

Along with frequent offerings on what meat substitutes are really worthwhile, or what milk alternative goes best in pancakes, I want to inspire some bigger substitutions, too.  Here, we are hoping to swap out ‘in-denial’ for ‘educated', ‘anxious’ for ‘empowered’, ‘compromise’ for ‘luxury’, ‘disposable’ for ‘long-lasting’, ‘guilty’ out for ‘wearing your morals’. When you think you’ve been ‘kind’, swap it out the next day with ‘even kinder’.

 

Much like any good substitute teacher, I know my place. This is not a platform to preach and point; the classroom only works with a mutual respect and enough room around each other to grow. Here, we are sitting in the hope of a kinder tomorrow. With that intention, I will never offer to be nor expect you to be flawless in this pursuit. We must hold each other accountable, yet with great patience. I take comfort in recognising that one small step for a human, can be a giant step for other creatures of all kinds.
 
Be keen to engage with these weekly offering, spread these thoughts around and even teach us something back. The human race has a culture of suppressing difficult truths, and we now find ourselves in the era of unravelling and unlearning these values that are often at the expense of the other creatures that walk among us. The only way forward is together, and we hope you’ll join us. Tune in next Wednesday for our first official journal entry.

 

 SUBSTITUTION OF THE WEEK: swap out your actions that favour individualism, for actions that centre more around community.

 

The perfect bag for class, whether you are teaching it or taking it. Angela Roi’s ‘JANE SHOULDER BAG’ is named after the incomparable Jane Goodall, a woman who’s environmental conservationism and chimpanzee research and activism has taught us so much about the importance of teaching each other how to be better dwellers on this earth.
Angela Roi JANE

2 comments

  • Cori Nelson: January 16, 2020

    Thanks for sharing this with me, Caroline. Great post, Neena!

  • Caroline O'Brien: January 16, 2020

    Congratulations on a wonderful post Neena. I’ve just shared it with a friend of mine who is both vegan and a substitute teacher. I’m sure this will resonate strongly with her, as it did with me. Beautifully written. I will definitely look forward to your future journal entries.

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