School Days Reminiscences of Anne Goodwin

School Days, Reminiscences of Anne Goodwin

Welcome to the School Days, Reminiscences series in which my champion bloggers and authors share reminiscences of their school days. It’s my small way of thanking them for their support and of letting you know about their services and publications.

This week, I am pleased to introduce Anne Goodwin, short story writer, novelist, reviewer and blogger … to list just a few of her many accomplishments.  Anne and I have been friends almost since the beginning of my blogging days and she has featured in my posts several times in the past, including here, here and here.

Anne was not the first person I met when I began blogging, but she is the earliest to still be with me on my journey. Interestingly, we met on Twitter where a discussion about singing (or not) led to a blog post and then countless conversations on her blog and mine for more than five years. She also supported me as co-judge for two years running in the Carrot Ranch Rodeo Flash Fiction Contests.

I had the pleasure of meeting Anne in London in 2014 when I was visiting family. We met at the British Library and, during the course of the day, Anne revealed a secret – she had secured a contract for her first novel Sugar and Snails. She was already a published and award-winning writer of short stories, but now she could add novelist to her achievements. I was thrilled to be one of the first to know and I told her that I was pleased to have known her before she became famous.

Since then Anne has published a second novel Underneath and is working towards publication of a third. Her most recent book Becoming Someone is a collection of her short stories. Some of the stories I had previously read, and just as many or more I hadn’t. I had been a fan of Anne’s stories since first encountering them and was thrilled to have a collection in one volume, perfect for savouring morsel by morsel. I was even more delighted with the acknowledgement in the front of the collection ‘For Norah Colvin and Charli Mills’. What’s to not like?

I could continue to ‘sing’ Anne’s praises, but perhaps we should move onto her interview. Before we do, I’ll let Anne tell you a little of herself:

Anne Goodwin’s debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman captive in his cellar, was published in May 2017. Her short story collection, Becoming Someone, on the theme of identity, was published in November 2018. A former clinical psychologist, Anne is also a book blogger with a special interest in fictional therapists.

Anne Goodwin and her books

Welcome, Anne.

Now let’s talk school. First of all, where did you go to school, and what was the highest level of education you received?

I attended Catholic (state) schools in a small town in the north of England from the age of 5 to almost 18. I then went to university where I gained a BSc in Mathematics and Psychology and a PhD in Psychology, then an MSc in Clinical Psychology which was also a license to practice.

What work or profession did you choose after school and was there anything in school that influenced this choice?

I suspect my career in Clinical Psychology was despite my schooling – or perhaps unconsciously I wanted to understand why it was so bizarre! (One of my short stories, “Kinky Norm”, which you can read for free, is based on a true story of the impact of repression on adolescent girls.)

What is your earliest memory of school?

It might not be my earliest memory, but I do recall a boy being caught by the teacher picking his nose. ‘Where do you put it?’ she asked, vis-à-vis the snot. ‘Nowhere,’ said the boy, which I thought an excellent answer. I couldn’t understand why she ridiculed him but, in those days, ridicule was the norm.

I also remember being so anxious that, if the teacher said an as in an apple, I heard it as Anne, and assumed some punishment was on its way. I suppose that was a product of the strictness of both school and home cultures, where it was deemed perfectly acceptable for an adult to hit a child. I think (memory being so fickle) I managed to avoid the worst of it by hypervigilance and obedience, which served me in good stead in a system that was less about genuine learning than doing as you were told.

What memories do you have of learning to read?

I couldn’t read on starting school, but quickly learnt, despite the classroom tension. I remember the primers (Janet and John) being ever so dull, but I didn’t mind too much as I soon moved on to better things.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

Learning to write was more frustrating, as described in a post on my blog. The teacher stood at the blackboard etching row upon row of noughts and crosses in coloured chalk. We sat at desks, copying the figures into our books with fat wax crayons. At home, colour meant drawing wherever the inspiration took me. When we progressed to proper letters, I couldn’t see why it was wrong to shape my ‘g’ and ‘a’ as they appeared in a printed book.

What do you remember about maths classes?

We didn’t embark on what I call mathematics (as opposed to arithmetic) until secondary school, with yummy simultaneous equations and those soon-to-be obsolete slide rules, of which I had two (and probably still have somewhere in the loft). Before that came the dreaded times tables, catechism with numbers, yet after hours of chanting (and a 1st class degree) I still can’t tell you what 7×8 makes, without stopping to work it out.

What did you like best about school?

School was a life sentence; I didn’t expect to enjoy it. But I always liked reading and writing, as long as we were free to choose the topic for ourselves. And Music and Movement, which was a radio programme that did what it says on the tin, and features in my debut novel, Sugar and Snails.

What else would you like to tell us about your school days?

I almost left school at sixteen, and stayed on for A’ levels (university entrance) only because the career officer’s recommendation that I work in a bank (being good at maths, albeit not at numbers) seemed even less inspiring. I’m so glad I did! Out of uniform and in classes of no more than a dozen (education post 16 being a new venture for my school), I blossomed, especially in English. (Why didn’t I study that at university? Maybe because I associated reading with leisure, although the texts we picked apart in class were anything but.)

Anne Goodwin's school days

Given my capacity for compliance, I’m lucky I made the transition to critical analysis. Suddenly (although we’d probably been sliding dangerously towards it since the age of eleven), I was expected to have an opinion, to examine texts from different points of view. (Although not in maths, which provided a counterbalance, a safe space where the right answer remained stable over time.)

All credit to Pauline Blair, the teacher who joined the school at the start of our A’ level years. I think she found it a culture shock, and we were equally bewildered by her. She was posh! She claimed to be a feminist which, in my ignorance, I thought meant feminine, given that she ticked me off for slouching and sitting with my legs wide apart. She took us to see the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, and sang (properly, the way I do now) on the long drive home. She’s the only teacher I’d like to meet again, to see what she made of us in that insular part of the world.

What are your thoughts about schools, then and now?

I think it’s great that so many kids these days enjoy school: despite repeated ministerial interference, teachers must be doing something right. It’s great that there’s no physical punishment but, with limited resources, more kids are excluded than in my day. It’s still impossible to tailor teaching to individual learning styles (I’d probably have struggled in a noisy aka lively classroom) and much more pressure (or maybe my school was atypical in being insufficiently clued up for the antediluvian equivalent of league tables) on exams.

How do you think school could be improved?

  1. Reinvest in SureStart (it was a UK New Labour thing for at-risk preschoolers) so that all kids have the skills they need for school.
  2. Scrap private schools’ charitable status and put the taxes raised into state education.
  3. Abolish all religious schools, and schools established to follow a particular fad.
  4. Provide every child with a light breakfast and a three-course vegan lunch (to avoid the expense of catering for different diets) for free. Kids can’t learn if they’re hungry, and we desperately need to give the adults of tomorrow the skills to pursue a healthy diet. (So cooking and gardening lessons too.)
  5. Halve class sizes, and give teachers more support, including optional counselling / short-term therapy for anyone working with kids.
  6. Foreign language and music classes from the early(ish) years and (although I hated it) compulsory exercise through a diversity of sports. (Why should these life-long benefits be restricted to those whose parents can cough up the dosh?)
  7. Prevent (religious) parents from withdrawing their children from certain lessons, such as sex and relationships, including same-sex couples.

Idealistic? Too expensive? Not if we care about the future society we build.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Anne. It’s been wonderful to have you here again. I enjoyed learning about your school days and agree with so many of your recommendations for improving education. Now, if only we could get some of those with the ‘power’ to listen to us.

Find out more about Anne Goodwin:

Website: annegoodwin.weebly.com

Blog: annegoodwin.weebly.com/annecdotal

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Anne-Goodwin/e/B0156O8PMO/

and her books:

Anne’s books: annegoodwin.weebly.com/about-my-books.html

YouTube: www.youtube.com/channel/UCLxWxjJlY4hxuP9bzah5F_g

Connect with her on social media:

Twitter: @Annecdotist

Books by Anne Goodwin

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Look for future interviews in this series to be posted on Sunday evenings AEST.

Coming soon:

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

D. Avery

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your comments. Please share your thoughts.

 

134 thoughts on “School Days, Reminiscences of Anne Goodwin

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  3. Susan Scott

    Thank you both so much. I really enjoyed this and your 7 point suggestions are wonderful, not too idealistic by any stretch. I like the idea of a vegan lunch for the pupils, less choice to stress about. Also, children could be educated about the value of plant based nutrition. Educated also as to how things grow, and to actually plant their own at school. Thank you Norah and Anne.

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  13. Charli Mills

    Norah and Anne, I’ve been looking forward to this one, knowing how you two met and watching and joining the discussions that have unfolded over the years. I interrupted reading this interview to go read Kinky Norm again (one of my favorite Anne Goodwin short stories for how the tables turn in the end) and somehow I feel that story illuminated the rest of the interview! Anne, your list of improvements are well-thought out. I particularly agree with #4 and used to work with creating such programs, including gardens at schools. I’m so glad you found critical thought to lead you from the compliance religious homes and schools manifest in children. Interesting about what you say that arithmetic was safe.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      Thanks, Charli. Kinky Norm will have to go in my next collection(!) — although isn’t that about identity too?
      No-o-o, arithmetic isn’t safe, too easy to get wrong, but the rest of mathematics is about following a logical process to solve a puzzle (until you get to the stage of creating your own puzzles, which I never did).

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    2. Norah Post author

      You’ve always been a good part of those discussions, too, Charli. I think we’ve all learned from each other. Our backgrounds are different and we come at topics from different perspectives but we are able to find a place where those ideas interlink and treat any ideas that fall outside (which are few) with respect. We can’t do much better than that. 🙂

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  14. Hugh's Views and News

    ‘Music and movement’ – that’s a memory bought back to me, Anne. Did you also watch school TV programmes when at school? I remember one called ‘Picture Box’ which always fascinated me. Being told to watch TV at school was something I always liked, although I seem to recall that it didn’t last long once I left junior school.
    Thank you for sharing your school memories with us.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      TV at school! That’s an interesting question to ask Anne, Hugh. She’s quite a bit younger than I, so may have watched TV at school. I don’t think they existed in my day. 🙂 Not at my school anyway.

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          1. Hugh's Views and News

            I probably should have linked to the video that showed the opening credits and the title of the subject for the day’s programme, Anne. Much shorter – about 30 seconds. I agree about the theme music being creepy. Back then, though, it never seemed to cross anyone’s mind that it was creepy.

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  15. Mabel Kwong

    So lovely to read about your time growing up and your love for writing, Anne. I like how you described learning to write with big fat crayons. It reminds me of my childhood in Australia where the teachers encouraged me to write with fat crayons but I wanted the skinny ones. I also like the suggestion on how schools can be improved, especially providing free breakfasts and eating a wider variety of diets. That would make recess and lunch time all the more interesting and maybe we’d all steer clear of junk food. Thank you Norah for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your thoughtful response, Mabel. Getting to write with skinny crayons is such a mark of progress. 🙂 I think it would be great if we could steer people away from junk food. It is interesting that Australia, so far as I know, has never had school dinners. Some schools offer breakfast, particularly in disadvantaged areas, but there is no requirement for them to do so.

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      1. Mabel Kwong

        I always found it easier to write with skinnier crayons, and I think that’s because I have small hands and fingers 🙂 Interesting indeed that Australia never had school dinners – and I guess that’s a UK term for lunch 🙂

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  16. Miriam Hurdle

    I love your suggestions for the improvement of education, Anne. Currently, in the US, we provide breakfast and lunch for the students. Nutrition is so important for the students to learn.
    When I was working, under special funding, we had class size reduction. There were 20 students in a class fro kindergarten to 3rd grade, but that program is gone. Now the classes are back to 25 for lower grades and 30 for the upper grade. The upper grades might exceed 30 sometimes during the year, but as long as the average is 30 within the school year, the school districts won’t be out of compliance.
    My school district (I retired) started implementing a bilingual program. Students are taught in English and a second language half and a half each day. There are only two kindergarten classes participate in that program.
    Thank you, Norah, for featuring Anne on your blog.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      Thanks, Miriam. Good to know of places implementing my ideas 😉
      In Spain too they provide a sit-down 3-cours lunch, although I’m not sure about breakfast.
      Re class sizes, even 20 is a lot of little ones to shepherd. Why are we so bound to doing things on the cheap?

      Liked by 2 people

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      1. Miriam Hurdle

        Yes, Anne. Your ideas are great. Our kindergarten has a teacher and an aide. There were a few years during my early teaching, I had parents volunteered full time. So I had 3 adults in the classroom. 🙂

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    2. Norah Post author

      Thank you for adding the US experience to the post, Miriam. Sometimes the programs can work for the students, like the ones you describe. Other times the big dollar signs get in the way and corners are cut. It’s sad when that happens because children are a precious resource on whom the future of humanity and the world depends. I’m pleased you enjoyed Anne’s post. What a lovely lot of perspectives we are hearing.

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  17. Jacqui Murray

    Hi Ann! There’s so much I agree with you, on education. I loved math, too. Luckily, I was too shy to find out many other girls didn’t. I even got A’s in calculus! I so wish we’d include a free breakfast before school starts. That would make a huge difference.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I love that you were too shy to find out that other girls didn’t like maths. Now that’s a recommendation. 🙂
      I don’t know how children can learn on an empty stomach. Breakfast is a great idea.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  18. Jennie

    This was a very interesting read, Norah. Anne’s strict schooling was survival to the compliant one. It would be most interesting to find out how the new feminist teacher fared, and if she made lasting impressions on others as well. Singing to the students in the car – wow! If schools followed Anne’s guidelines, educating the whole child would soar.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your comment, Jennie. I’m pleased you enjoyed learning about Anne’s education and her thoughts about how it could be. I like that you believe the ‘whole child would soar’ under her guidelines.
      Your questions about the feminist teacher have got me thinking. I wonder … Anne had a school reunion a few years ago. If she has another coming up, maybe she could ask for us. 🙂

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      1. Jennie

        Since every child is different, it makes sense to educate the whole child. In that way, ever child gets something meaningful. Yes, let’s ask Anne to check in on her teacher at the next reunion!! Please, Anne?

        Liked by 2 people

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        1. Norah Post author

          I wonder how easily you recognised each other. I’ve only been to a ten year reunion. It wasn’t that difficult then, and not long enough away to have shaken off the effects.

          Liked by 1 person

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          1. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

            I had to ask several people who they were, and even then I didn’t click with the names until the event was over! A list of names in advance would’ve helped me, but maybe that would make it too formal. For me, as an introvert, there was too much to take in, but did enjoy some of the reconnections.

            Liked by 1 person

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  19. Book Club Mom

    Hi Norah. It’s so interesting to learn about others and their experiences in school. Great to meet Anne. Schools and what they emphasize have changed over the years and it’s important to adapt to modern needs.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Barbara, Thanks for reading and commenting. It’s fascinating reading about the school experiences of others. I wish I’d thought of running this series earlier. Yes, schools have changed and they need to cater for modern needs. I hope they are doing that, but I’m not so sure all are.

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  20. TanGental

    Having spent a week in Anne’s company on a writing course I can confirm she is remarkable sane considering (a) her educational experiences as described above and (b) her northern roots (now I’m in trouble, methinks). I pretty much concur with all Anne’s ideas.I’d add that we were lucky enough to have our tertiary education state funded too and I would love to see that return, together with proper support for vocational as opposed to academic subjects. And how come Anne had long hair? Who knew?

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for supporting Anne here, Geoff. It must have been a wonderful writing course to have both of you on it. Seems Anne has nailed the changes that are needed in education. But I agree with you about state funded tertiary education too. I was one to benefit from that as well. ‘Back in the good old days’.
      Wasn’t it lovely of Anne to share her photos so we got a glimpse of her younger self, with long hair. 🙂

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    2. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      Thanks, Geoff, I hadn’t thought about tertiary education. Amazing now to recall there were no fees and I got a full grant for 4 years. So if we survived the education system to 18 we really were rewarded (a bit like going to heaven) and could use that time for learning about life as well as what got us through exams.
      Keeping quiet on the north … but it’s true my hairstyle hasn’t changed in 20 years but even I have had some variety re my appearance. And it was a lovely henna-orange-red for a few years.

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      1. Norah Post author

        We were the lucky ones with the no-fees tertiary education. The debt that the young ones carry for their university studies is enormous. It can take years to pay off. I did some research recently on what was required to be an astronaut. A masters degree in aeronautical engineering (or something similar) would cost approx A$40 000 a year. Talk about being exclusive.
        Henna-orange-red hair! Did you decide that being a redhead was just too much fun?! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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  21. thecontentedcrafter

    ‘What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” came to mind while reading this interview. And Anne is a strong woman! I read ‘Sugar and Snails’ late last year and absolutely loved it. I must prioritise her other book/s for reading too. Another great interview Norah, thank you.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m so pleased you enjoyed finding out more about Anne, Pauline. She is a strong woman and that strength, along with compassion and understanding of the human condition, shines through in her writing. I’m pleased you enjoyed ‘Sugar and Snails’, so I am sure you will enjoy her other books too.

      Liked by 1 person

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    2. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      Thanks, Pauline, and so glad you enjoyed Sugar and Snails. I’m afraid I can’t agree with the sentiment ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, however, as I know too much about how adversity makes us weaker (and some I know were damaged by my school).
      I don’t think of my schooling as being all that dreadful actually (!), more of its time and culture, and I was lucky in being able to squeeze into the mould. A more humane culture would’ve been nice, but it’s a long time ago.

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. Norah Post author

        I’m pleased you are one of the survivors, Anne. It saddens me when I hear of people being damaged by school. It’s like being damaged by families. These places should be refuges and safe for everyone. Sadly, they are not for many.

        Liked by 1 person

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  22. joylennick

    Anne Goodwin and I share similar ideas. Although she had a much better education, she is a free thinker and I agree with her ideas on schooling. Religious education should be separate and children taught to care for each other regardless of their religion, colour or creed.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for popping over to read and comment, Joy. Anne’s ideas certainly align with mine too, so we are all of one mind. If only those who control the systems agreed with us too.

      Liked by 1 person

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