John Catania

I was born with a disability called Spina Bifida and have used a wheelchair all my life. Disability has challenged my resolve; equally, it provides tremendous gifts and unique perspective on life. Working as a child educator, and uncle to five beautiful nieces and nephews under ten, I relate to children because of their own unique perspectives on life. Our connection is a significant aspect of my disability; I’m literally at their eye level and my stature in my chair must appear different, perhaps less authoritative. They approach me with smiles and enthusiastic energy; and I am mindful of displaying empathy, compassion and encouragement as they read stories. I love working with prep kids at my local state primary school. Kids ask questions, are curious, without malice or agenda; they have no preconceptions or prejudice.

John Catania

I’ll make a revealing personal admission. Exposing my fears around perceptions of my physical disability to my psychologist, he asked me what I felt about my body and its function. I said I felt like a child. He then asked me what I believe are the positive attributes of a child. Easily I rattled off a litany of beautiful, kind, optimistic qualities: children live in the moment; they’re curious, honest, full of wonder; they take risks, respond to people on face value; they have no concept of prejudice. My psychologist smiled and said some profound words: “what if I were to tell you that I spend my working days teaching adults how to be more like children; to reconnect with the positive attributes of a child”.

When a child asks me, purely from a place of curiosity, “why are your legs so small” or “why do you use a wheelchair”, I give them a simple answer: “my wheels are like your legs; they get me places”. Or, going into more detail, I ask what they know of the spinal cord and nerves; my nerves lower down my back were exposed at birth and can’t tell my brain to tell my legs to walk. Frankly, once they had their answer – honest, plain and direct – they couldn’t have cared less. “Oh, ok, hey did you know I had my birthday on the weekend? I’m six!” Our gorgeous billy lids teach us.  

Lizard Learning is part of a wider family – of teachers, educators, parents, family and friends – privileged to learn from our children. Children are at the centre of our values, which is why I’m proud to be involved with a grass roots, community organisation – indeed, a family – who support children’s education and nurture their wellbeing. As much as we model positive values, attitudes and behaviours, and instil in our children a sense of belonging in their world – helping their innate gifts to shine – we would do well to listen and learn from them; after all, they are their own little humans, who will grow into their own identity; we are merely players in the stage that children create for their own lives.


Remember, if you are feeling overwhelmed with planning, you’re spending too much time on school work and not enough at home with your family, your leisure time is non-existent…we give you all this free-time back by planning, preparing and creating teaching resources that have been developed by classroom teachers who have over 40 years’ experience teaching children in the classroom.

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