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 delighted to introduce Ritu Bhathal, author, poet, blogger, teacher. Ritu and I follow a similar group of bloggers. We seem to pop up alongside each other, commenting on a number of blogs and writing flash fiction at the Carrot Ranch where Ritu’s contribution is often poetic. I think that we are both teachers, have a love of children and learning, and similar views about education draws us together. Ritu decided she wanted to be a teacher at an even younger age than I did. Teaching (and writing) was our destiny. If you haven’t yet met Ritu, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to do so now.
Before we begin the interview, I’ll allow Ritu to tell you a little of herself:
Ritu Bhathal was born in Birmingham in the mid-1970’s to migrant parents, hailing from Kenya but with Indian origin. This colourful background has been a constant source of inspiration to her.
From childhood, she always enjoyed reading. This love of books is mostly credited to her mother.
The joy of reading spurred her on to become creative in her own writing, from fiction to poetry.
Winning little writing competitions at school and locally gave her the encouragement to continue writing.
As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and teacher, she has drawn on inspiration from many avenues to create the poems that she writes.
A qualified teacher, having studied at Kingston University, she now deals with classes of children as a sideline to her writing!
Ritu also writes a blog, a mixture of life and creativity, thoughts and opinions, which was awarded first place in the Best Overall Blog Category at the 2017 Annual Bloggers Bash Awards.
Ritu is happily married, and living in Kent, with her Hubby Dearest, and two children, not forgetting the furbaby Sonu Singh.
Having published an anthology of poetry, Poetic RITUals, she is currently working on some short stories, and a novel, to be published in the near future.
Let’s talk school. First, could you tell us where you attended school?
I went to school in Solihull, Birmingham, in the UK.
Did you attend a government, private or independent school?
The school I attended from 3 all the way to 17 was an Independent private girls’ school.
What is the highest level of education you achieved?
I completed my B/Ed (Hons) English & Drama (3-7 years) degree at Kingston University in Surrey, UK.
What work or profession did you choose after school and was there anything in school that influenced this choice?
My degree shows what my intention was – to teach. I ended up in retail, a bank and then a marketing company, before finally getting to the job I always felt I was created to do. The reason I decided teaching was my vocation was because of the head girl at our school, Jo Duck, when I was 7. She came to our class to do work experience, and that was when it clicked that teaching was a job, something I could choose to do!
What is your earliest memory of school?
My earliest memory is the classroom where I first started school, in Miss Wilson’s class, as a 3-year-old. It was a huge room, filled with so many activities, books and toys, and a lot of love. I distinctly remember this beautiful wooden playhouse that was our home corner, and that we all had a bit of a ‘thing’ that something creepy lived behind it. Obviously, all that was behind it was a wall, but at 3, your imagination can play games! And the fact that I spoke no English when I started, apart from Hello! Apparently, I learned quickly, and within a week, my mum says my pidgin English would sail through the air at home, as my Punjabi faded away… And I haven’t stopped speaking it since! But never fear, I haven’t forgotten my mother tongue!
What memories do you have of learning to read?
I can always remember having school reading books to take home, and the series that always stays in my mind involved a griffin and some pirates! Books were always key in my life. My mother is also a keen reader and her passion rubbed off on me. My first set of books were the original Noddy series by Enid Blyton, which I was given at 4, after having my tonsils out. I still have them.
What memories do you have of learning to write?
I don’t know when I specifically learned to write, but the whole process involved lots of fine motor activities, and I know I had crayons and paper from a very young age. I was proud of being able to master my full name, Ratinder!
What do you remember about math classes?
Maths as a subject, is not my favourite. I used to say I can’t do maths, but that’s not very growth mindset, so to this day in my forties, I say “I cannot do maths, yet!” My biggest memory of maths, aside from the squared paper in the books was a male maths teacher joining our school, and not being able to cope with the chattering that happened in this fully female class!
What was your favourite subject?
English and Drama were my favourite subjects, for obvious reasons! Reading and writing was always a pleasure, never a chore, and acting, oh, I loved to create personas that were totally unlike the real me.
What did you like best about school?
Honestly, I can’t pinpoint one thing. I feel blessed that I had a really positive experience at my school, and I feel proud to say that I left with friends for life and a wholly rounded education.
What did you like least about school?
P.E.! I am not a physically motivated person, and though I didn’t mind games lessons, they were definitely not my favourite!
How do you think schools have changed since your school days?
There has been a huge change in education and schools since I attended. Being a part of the education system as a professional, I feel I can say that. A lot of standardised testing from a young age has put additional pressure on children, and I really think that this pressure is what ends up creating the angry teens we seem to have more of nowadays. Teachers try so hard to make school fun, but the tick boxes we have to adhere to, really strip the enjoyment for us as well as the children.
What do you think schools (in general) do well?
That is a really hard question because I don’t think there is a blanket answer. Some schools are better than others at giving children a rounded experience of life. Some are more concerned with tests and results.
How do you think schools could be improved?
I think this answer doesn’t lie with the schools, but with the government. They really need to learn from the Scandinavian Education system, where the emphasis is on learning through play for the first few years, and formal schooling that starts at 7, when a child is more ready to learn in a classroom environment. And scrap the SATS! I speak from experience here as I have seen both my children go through the SATS and the upset it caused them at 7 and 11. In Finland, where my brother is bringing his family up, my nephew is 4 and the age of children I teach. What he can do at that age, in more than one language, astounds me, from his general knowledge, motor skills, numeracy and literacy! UK – please take note!
Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and your professional perspective on education as it is now, Ritu. I’m not surprised to hear that English and Drama were your favourite subjects and I applaud your recommendation to the UK Education Department. We need our Australian Government to take note too.
Find out more about Ritu Bhathal
Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/56854412-ritu-bhathal
Or connect with her on social media:
Purchase your own copy of Poetic RITUals via this link
If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:
Look for future interviews in this series to be posted on Sunday evenings AEST.
with more to follow.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your comments. Please share your thoughts.