Category Archives: Alternative / non-traditional education

How Schools Could Be Improved

How Schools Could Be Improved

In the recent School Days series which featured reminiscences of twenty-five authors and bloggers, each was asked for suggestions of improvements that could be made to schools.

In this post, I share those suggestions. If you wish to read more of the authors and bloggers’ works, please click on their names to follow the links. If you would like to read their reminiscences, follow this link.

This post concludes the series for now. I thank you all for joining in the conversation. I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion. There are still some who would like to share their reminiscences which I will post as they come in on a Sunday evening. For now, I’ll leave you with these wonderful suggestions of how school could be improved. (Note: I have arranged the bloggers in alphabetical order of first name.)

Anne Goodwin, 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.

Balroop Singh, How do you think schools could be improved?

First, recruitment of qualified teachers who feel inspired to take the responsibility of teaching the next generation is essential. Second, they have to be paid at par with others to attract intellect and talent to this profession. Number of students in a class needs to be reduced and value-based education with flexible curriculum could be helpful for those students who want to pursue higher studies.

Barbara Vitelli, How do you think schools could be improved?

I would like to see approaches that encourage resiliency and independence. I think kids need to learn how to better handle disappointments and adversity. Perhaps that’s something that we parents are responsible for, but I think teachers can also make a big impact on our children in this area.

Carol Taylor, How do you think schools could be improved?

Having lived here, Thailand for 8 years now…and watched my grandsons grow up through the Australian school system …My observations are that schools are too politically correct now…too qualification driven…I think children should be allowed to be children first and foremost…I think more attention should be paid to the fact that not everyone is academic and if they have other qualities like working with their hands it should be encouraged…

So should a community spirit which is high on the agenda here in Thailand…I was a late starter as regards qualifications and that door should always be open…By listening and advising in a non-doctorial way but a two way conversation… if a child struggles with reading let them read a book which is of interest to them and fosters questions.

Charli Mills, How do you think schools could be improved?

Most important, schools need to be safe. Early on, we need to give children the gifts of education and not the burdens. I think citizens should be involved in their public schools even if they don’t have children. How can we be part of the improvement? I don’t have the answers, but I’m willing to be a part of solutions. I support EveryTown for Gun Safety, and until we deal with the hardest cultural issues in our nation, it doesn’t matter if our schools achieve awards or graduate students who score well on tests.

Chelsea Owens, How do you think schools could be improved?

The issue I see as most harmful to the education system in America is that of encouraging everyone to attend college. Like, everyone. This needs to be changed so that people may test and train in technical fields if they wish, especially if they would succeed in that role instead of accrue a helpless amount of student loan debt. Entry level jobs have the requirement of a college degree now instead of a GED or high school diploma. We are simply adding more debt to an already-cynical generation.

In a similar fashion, the public schools are required to accommodate everyone -including those with special needs. This a sore subject and one that I benefit somewhat from, since two of my children receive special education help for behavioral issues. I hold no animosity for children with more severe needs and know that they benefit from being around their more functional peers. Yet I also see most of the school’s resources going toward trying to entertain them all day and I see teachers with increasing numbers of more challenging pupils. Teachers already have a difficult job. I’ve yet to think of an ideal solution and fear it may involve limiting access for those children with needs.

Christy Birmingham, How do you think schools could be improved?

By listening to students, no matter their age. Hear what students want to see change about your school and determine if it’s feasible. Also, make libraries a priority as they are where students go to do research and can encourage a love of literacy.

Lastly, engage with the local community rather than being independent of it as a school. By schools partnering with the communities they’re nestled within, students can enjoy a fuller educational experience. Also, schools can get ideas and support from the general community that can take the institutions further than they might otherwise go.

Darlene Foster, How do you think schools could be improved?

I do think teachers are often overworked. It is a demanding job and one in which you have to be on all the time. Many get burned out which is too bad as it is often the most dedicated that do. Perhaps hiring more assistants or having smaller classes would help. It is such an important job as these kids are our future.

Debby Gies, How do you think schools could be improved?

They could definitely use more government funding, more teachers, more after school programs, and more benefits for the children whose families can’t afford supplies and books for their kids, and for field trips.

D. Avery, How do you think schools could be improved?

Our schools don’t always seem to measure up, but what is the measure? Not everyone is measuring up to standardized tests, but if we really want to close achievement gaps, if we really want to leave no children behind then we need to reform much more than our schools.

While I think we should first focus on out of school factors, within school we have to do more than give lip service to Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. Which means schools need to not succumb to the testing culture; schools need to be less programmatic and prescriptive. Curricula should encourage empathy and build flexible and adaptive skills and strategies required for individuals to pursue their own interests and inclinations. Schools should be creative safe havens that sustain a sense of wonder and curiosity.

Geoff Le Pard, How do you think schools could be improved?

They can spend more time educating and less teaching. The tyranny of the curriculum is one of teaching’s greatest challenges. The notion that if you learn to a script and regurgitate that script and you will succeed is one of life’s top five fictions; no actor worth their salt merely delivers a script – they have to understand it, live it, get beneath and inside it. That is precisely the same with learning. Get beneath the surface, go round the back, take off the lid and see the workings and that way so much joy will be had and so many avenues will be opened. Good education acknowledges the world is round and that all we can ever do is proceed to the next horizon and see what’s there; bad teachers are education’s flat earthers.

Hugh Roberts, How do you think schools could be improved?

More needs to be done in educating children about diversity and the hate crimes we hear so much about nowadays. Nobody should feel afraid to go to school because they are bullied or just because they’re told they are different and don’t fit in. Children should be encouraged to read about different ways of lives and to speak out about bullying. As a child who was bullied at school, my life was made much worse because I was afraid to tell an adult what was happening. These were the days before social media where bullying and hate crimes have now taken up residence. Children, these days, have a lot more to put up with, but I think there are also more bullies these days than there were when I was at school.

Joy Lennick, How do you think schools could be improved?

It’s no secret there are a lot of problems in the world, generally – of course there always have been – but because of technology and the immediacy of news reaching eyes and ears, it is often exaggerated in our minds. Too much paper-work still seems to overload some teachers, and I wish there was more emphasis put on caring for each other. Not all parents are equipped for the job they undertook…(as my husband says: ‘You have to pass a test to drive a car, but any idiot can have a child…’ Religion should be discussed broadly, but taught and practiced in specific schools,  not mainstream, although children should be helped to accept and live and let live, when taught about caring.

JulesPaige, How do you think schools could be improved?

Public Schools need to prepare our children by starting language in the early grades and not waiting until older grades. Special language immersion classes were available in later years (of my children’s schools) for a select amount of students who were selected by a lottery. Public Schools also need to make sure basic math and estimation skills are taught without the assistance of calculators or iPads. Public schools also need to encourage acceptance of differences.

If you choose to send your child to a public school, then you need to accept the parameters set therein. Public Schools also need to keep religion out of the schools. And if vaccines are a requirement, there should be no exceptions. Just one unvaccinated child can bring disease to a whole school population.

Mabel Kwong, How do you think schools could be improved?

At times school can be a place where we feel we don’t belong. As Hugh Roberts said in his interview for this series, ‘Nobody should feel afraid to go to school because they are bullied or just because they’re told they are different and don’t fit in.’ There needs to be more focus on bringing awareness towards discrimination, racism and bullying. Having more open discussions in class about different cultures, sexualities, gender, mental illness and disabilities would foster a stronger sense of belonging in school and encourage us to embrace and respect differences early on.

Marsha Ingrao, How do you think schools could be improved?

These questions made me think about how much schools have improved. We complain that kids can’t write, and indeed, texting has changed the way kids think. Capitalizing the word I is not important to them but is to educators. Communicating quickly is something kids have taken to a new level. What they don’t know how to do is think beyond the immediate. Just because they can communicate doesn’t mean that they do it well. Schools need to challenge students to step back to imagine the bigger picture and consider the consequences of their actions. This is why teaching social studies and humanities is essential.

Miriam Hurdle, How do you think schools could be improved?

At elementary school, there is not enough time of the day to teach all the subject to prepare the students for Junior High or High school. Schools end at 2:30 p.m. for lower grade and 2:45 p.m. for upper grade. For lower grades, teachers teach reading and math in the morning. After lunch, they may teach social studies and physical education. There is no time to teach science. Since the State test at the end of the year doesn’t test science, the teachers give up on teaching that subject.

For upper grade, teachers teach reading and math in their homeroom. Some of them team teach social studies and science so the teacher could do the preparation and teach for more than one class. Students can benefit more learning if the school days are longer.

Pamela Wight, How do you think schools could be improved? 

I think schools should focus on the importance of empathy and compassion for all living beings, as well as the importance of learning a subject. Open up more lessons on diversity and how we each learn from each other. Additionally, we need more/better high school classes on ‘daily life’ activities like budgeting and nutrition.

Pauline King, How do you think schools could be improved? 

I’d love to see a return to a balanced education that includes academia and the arts and life skills.  I’d love to see each classroom be a living community where all kinds of kids learn to get along, learn to appreciate each other and learn that not everyone is good at everything.  But that everyone, even the least able, has a skill and a personality that offers much.  Where tolerance is taught and practised, and respect is modelled and expected.  A place where different cultures and different beliefs are seen as interesting and intriguing and when it’s all boiled down, people are people and we all feel the same way over the things that matter.

I’d like to see geography and social studies and all kinds of real arts and crafts come back to life in the classroom, I’d like to see kids singing and dancing and playing together in between learning the Three R’s.  I’d like to see the slow expansion of a planned curriculum that ensures a deepening understanding of the natural sciences — again attached to the developmental stages and understanding of the students.  Never bring hard facts too soon to young people — they kill childhood!

I’d like everyone to understand that we live in a world that is changing so quickly that it is highly likely the jobs their kids will do haven’t yet been invented.  The only way to ensure their children will succeed as adults is that they will have a healthily developed sense of themselves, their interests and their abilities and be able to think, to assess, to understand the needs of the world and to have the entrepreneurial spirit to meet them.  It’s less about passing exams and more about an ability to learn; less about gaining the skills for a job, more about gaining an ability to learn new skills.

Pete SpringerHow do you think schools could be improved?

Besides de-emphasizing state testing, schools have an increasingly challenging job of dealing with bullying.  Violence is prevalent in our culture, and schools have increasing numbers of violent students who are dealing with mental health issues. The school has to be a safe place for kids; a place that they can learn in a nonthreatening environment with role models who inspire them.  Teaching educators how to equip themselves with firearms is not the answer!  

Ritu Bhathal, 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! 

Robbie Cheadle, How do you think schools could be improved?

The most important thing in our government schools is to get good teachers. Teachers that aren’t masters in their subject will struggle to teach others, particularly, children that can’t learn in one specific way but need the information presented in another way. The children also need a safe learning environment, which often isn’t the case, and basic learning materials.

Sally Cronin, How do you think schools could be improved?

I feel that there is a one size fits all approach to education which does not take into account the individual child’s needs or abilities. In the UK in particular there has been a push in the last decade to get children into university, and the loss of technical colleges (now rebranded as universities) that I went to for those who want a more practical approach to their careers. Also I believe that there should be a push for more apprenticeships and that some children who want to follow that route should be allowed to leave school at 14 as long as they are going into an approved apprenticeship. I understand that is happening in Australia and I think it should also be introduced in the UK and Ireland and other countries.

Sherri Matthews, How do you think schools could be improved? 

Which leads me to…less focus on those dreaded OFSTED ratings (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) and more on the individual.  The expectation that all students should be good at all subjects is something I think needs to go. More emphasis on each student’s talents and strengths in smaller classrooms and rapport building between the teachers, student and parent is needed, fostering mutual respect. My youngest and middle boy finished their schooling years in England at a high OFSTED rated school, yet despite my frequent calls asking for support for my youngest, we got none.

Susan Scott, How do you think schools could be improved?

You’ll note that the last sentence ‘…says access to stories in their home languages’. This is a debate that rages on, and is relevant as we have 11 languages here in SA, including English and Afrikaans, of whom only about 8% have English & Afrikaans as home languages. Which means that when black children enter into school and are taught in English, they are already back footed. This apart from education still being for the most part barely up to scratch in spite of SA spending the most worldwide on education and yet having an abysmal record.

You ask how I think schools could be improved. Literacy begins long before schooling. Children could be encouraged to read firstly which allows for the imagination to come into play. Einstein, when asked by parents how they could help their children become clever like he was, he replied ‘Read them fairy stories, and read them more stories’.

Later on they can develop critical thinking skills. Chess would be a good subject to learn. Schools could encourage the art subjects more and I read that this is being encouraged around the world in order to develop both sides of the brain. Each side enhances the other.

There could be more time for the playground, away from the confines of the classroom. They could learn to tend to a vegetable patch. They could see Nature in action more, e.g. the worms in the soil, or the ants, birds, butterflies and bees going about their business.

It is as well that schools have rules and regulations of which parents and children are aware. From this basis they can break the rules, when they have the critical skills to do so.

Schools should provide safe and secure places of learning where children have no fear of being attacked and bullied by fellow classmates and/or teachers.

There could be skilled social workers or psychologists on hand to attend to any child or teenager who appears to be suffering from problems at home and with whom the child or teenager feels safe in revealing their problems.

Quality education for all requires the support of government, schools, civil society, NGOs, families, communities and funders.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I’m sure you’ll agree there are many words of wisdom and great suggestions included in these responses. Now, if only we could get those with the power to take note.

I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

School Days reminiscences of Pamela Wight

School Days, Reminiscences of Pamela Wight

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 Pamela Wight, author, blogger and creative writing teacher. It seems that Pamela and I have known each other forever. I enjoy reading her blog Roughwighting where she muses on life and amuses with her short stories. Although I enjoyed her romance novel The Right Wrong Man – a fun story that I couldn’t put down – I was delighted when she published her first picture book Birds of Paradise, so delighted that I interviewed her about it on readilearn. I am very excited to hear that she has a new picture book Molly Finds her Purr coming out next month.

Before we begin the interview, I’ll allow Pam to tell you a little of herself:

            Pamela Wight writes romantic suspense (The Right Wrong Man, Twin Desires) and is also the author of an illustrated children’s book, Birds of Paradise, a finalist in the International Book Awards, and the up-coming picture book Molly Finds Her Purr.  All of Wight’s page-turning novels are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble as paperbacks or e-books. Birds of Paradise (and Molly Finds Her Purr in September 2019) can be purchased on Amazon and Barnes & Noble as hardbacks.

            Pamela earned her MA in English from Drew University, continued with postgraduate work at UC Berkeley in publishing, and teaches creative writing classes in Boston and San Francisco. She lives in the Boston area with her “right man” and hikes the New England trails while concocting her third novel, As Lovely as a Lie. Wight speaks to book clubs and teaches creative writing classes in both locations. Many readers enjoy her “weekly blog on daily living” called Roughwighting. (www.roughwighting.net)

Pamela Wight and her books

Welcome, Pamela.

Let’s talk school. First, could you tell us where you attended school?

I attended elementary, middle, and high school in a small New Jersey town called Pitman. We only had about 400 students in the (non-private) high school. I couldn’t wait to leave Pitman and move on to bigger and better things. Now as an adult, I appreciate the wonderful aspects of small town living. 

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

I received my B.A. in English Lit from a small Pennsylvania college with excellent professor-to student-relationships. My professors gave me a paid internship when I was a senior to teach their small college Freshman English classes. With that experience, I got a full scholarship for graduate school near New York City, where I earned a Masters in English Literature.

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

I worked as an editor and writer for a small feminist newspaper. 

What is your earliest memory of school?

Kindergarten! I was so excited that the teacher had a corner full of costumes, where we could dress up and be anyone we wanted. I choose “Superwoman.”

What memories do you have of learning to read? 

I remember a stream of sunlight in my living room when I was young – before Kindergarten – and taking out the picture books on the bottom bookshelf and making up stories from the pictures. That’s when I first started to “read.”

What memories do you have of learning to write?

Pamela Wight learning to write

What I remember as a child is writing birthday and holiday cards to my family, many of them poems; this is how I first discovered my love of writing.

What do you remember about math classes?

How much I hated them. Math didn’t make sense to me; stories did.

What was your favourite subject? 

English.

What did you like best about school?

what Pamela Wight liked best about school

I loved going to my English and Drama (and even Latin) classes, because we were assigned stories and novels, and then discussed the characters and the setting and the plot in school: Fahrenheit 451 (where I began my love for Ray Bradbury’s writing), 1984 (dystopian!), Of Mice and Men (first book that made me sob), Invisible Man (awakened my social consciousness); Pride and Prejudice (romance with wit!). I woke up and grew up as I read these books.

What did you like least about school?

Biology and geometry. The worst? Dissecting frogs. I protested animal cruelty, but the teacher still made me do it.

How do you think schools have changed since your school days?

Pamela Wight and granddaughter

I think my kids (and now my grandkids) are given a wider variety of subjects to learn in each class, even elementary. One of my 6-year-old grandchildren has explained to me the metamorphosis of a butterfly; a 5-year-old grandson has showed me his yogic postures of down dog and plow that he learned in Kindergarten; and my granddaughter recited a speech by John Adams in 4th grade and played the role of John Lennon on “Biography Day” in 5th grade. When I was in school during those grades, we just “followed the lines” in every subject.  Also, special education has improved so much from my school time (when basically there was no “special” education) to my children’s time, to my grandchildren’s, where there’s now much more focus on helping those with different learning abilities.

What do you think schools (in general) do well? 

Open up a child’s intellect and curiosity about many subjects, and allow each child to thrive while learning.

Pamela Wight reading Birds of Paradise to children

How do you think schools could be improved?

I think schools should focus on the importance of empathy and compassion for all living beings, as well as the importance of learning a subject. Open up more lessons on diversity and how we each learn from each other. Additionally, we need more/better high school classes on ‘daily life’ activities like budgeting and nutrition.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Pamela. It’s been wonderful to have you here. I totally agree that we should focus more on the importance of empathy and compassion, and the ability to learn from each other.

Find out more about Pamela

Visit her blog: www.roughwighting.net

Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/12334429-pamela

Connect with her on social media

Facebook: http://facebook.com/roughwighting

Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/pamelawight

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pamelawight

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pam94920

Pamela Wight and her books

Purchase your own copy of

The Right Wrong Man

Twin Desires

Birds of Paradise

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King

JulesPaige

D. Avery

Christy Birmingham

Miriam Hurdle

Robbie Cheadle

Marsha Ingrao

Ritu Bhathal

Joy Lennick

Darlene Foster

Susan Scott

Barbara Vitelli

Sherri Matthews

Mabel Kwong

Chelsea Owens

Carol Taylor

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

Pete Springer

Yvette Prior

Colleen Chesebro

Thank you blog post

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

 

Apples for the teacher

Apples for the teacher

My entire life has been focused on education, both in school and out. As explained in my poem Education is, I don’t consider education and school to be synonymous. While some learning may take place in school, education encompasses much more than that. It occurs through living and is lifelong.

While my views have always challenged the traditional approach, I haven’t always found other like-minded educators in my personal circle. When I do meet others with a similar passion for children and learning, I feel exhilarated and renewed, excited by the prospect of what could be.

Recently, on Facebook, I viewed this video by Prince Ea, musician and motivational speaker.

The video led me to the Innovation Playlist and Ted Dintersmith. I knew I had found others of similar mind when I saw that the first video on the Playlist was Do Schools Kill Creativity by Sir Ken Robinson, which I shared last week (and previously here, here and elsewhere). What joy!

There is much to explore on the Innovation Playlist, and I have only just begun. If like me, you believe traditional schooling could do with some improvement and are heartened by good things that are going on in many places, I highly recommend you take a look.

So far, I have watched Ted Dintersmith’s movie Most Likely to Succeed and am currently listening to his book What School Could Be. His book is a fascinating expose of schools in the United States of America. In one school year, he visited schools in every State discovering innovative “teachers doing extraordinary things in ordinary settings, creating innovative classrooms where children learn deeply and joyously.” His findings are inspiring and reassuring that schools can do more than prepare children for tests, they can prepare children for life. It is a fascinating read. If you live in the US, you will find something about schools in your own State. If you live outside the US, you will find something to inspire you.

For a quick overview of Dintersmith’s book and findings, read this article published in Education Week last year What’s Actually Working in the Classroom?

This discussion between Ted Dintersmith and Prince EA provides an insight into their motivations for improving education.

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - poisoned apple

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a poisoned apple. Let’s explore dark myth. Deconstruct the original or invent something new. Negotiate the shadows, shed light, but go where the prompt leads you!

An apple is often used as a symbol for the teacher, and we talk about ‘an apple for the teacher’. Rather than write a fractured fairy tale, of which I am fond, I thought a poisoned apple was a perfect analogy for what happens when the focus of schooling is on test scores rather than children and learning. Let’s see what you think.

apples - which would you choose

It’s an institution

They arrived with bright eyes, open hearts and curious minds. As they entered, each was handed a shiny apple full of promises. They took their places and followed instructions. In unison, they bit off small portions of their apple and chewed to the beat of the enormous metronome suspended above. On cue, they swallowed but, with insufficient time before the required regurgitation, were unable to digest any components. Before they had finished, the taste was bland, swallowing difficult and regurgitation almost impossible. On exiting, their eyes were dull, their hearts closed, and their minds shrivelled, poisoned by false promises.

The antidote

They arrived with bright eyes, open hearts and curious minds. As they entered, each was handed a shiny apple full of promises. No instructions were given. Each was guided in making their own discoveries. Some investigated flavour, nutritional benefits, and created award-winning recipes. Some explored seed propagation, discovering ways of increasing productivity and limiting food scarcity. Some peeled the apple and inspected it layer by layer to determine its innermost secrets. Some cut it in half to reveal and release the stars within unlocking unlimited potential and the secrets of the universe. All were filled with wonder and learning.

«»

I conclude with a video in which Prince EA speaks to his teacher and explains to him why he is not a failure and why what happens in the classroom does not inspire learning. He includes one of my favourite quotes by Kahlil Gibran. What’s to not like?

Kahlil Gibran Children

 

Thank you teachers

To all the wonderful teachers in my community, I thank you for your hard work and dedication, and the positive difference you are making to the lives of so many children and their families. You make the world a better place.

Thank you blog post

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

School days reminiscences of Miriam Hurdle

School Days, Reminiscences of Miriam Hurdle

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.

Miriam Hurdle, poet

This week, I am pleased to introduce Miriam Hurdle, poet, blogger, flash fiction writer, photographer, ex-teacher and educator. She blogs at the Showers of Blessings and recently published a book of poems entitled Songs of Heartstrings: Poems of Gratitude and Beatitude.

I first met Miriam at the Carrot Ranch when she rode up and joined in the flash fiction challenges. Since then, we’ve met up in many different places around the blogosphere. Considering she’s been blogging even longer than I; I’m surprised we hadn’t met earlier. We share our thoughts on education and grandchildren, and in fact on anything to do with making our journeys through life the best we can. It is always a pleasure to converse with Miriam.

Before we begin the interview, I invite Miriam to tell you a little of herself:

Miriam Hurdle is a multi-genre writer. She writes poetry, flash fiction, short stories and memoir.

Music has rooted in her life. Being a soloist as a teenager led her to taking voice lessons and to have ongoing singing engagements. She continues to sing soprano in choral groups. Lyrics have a major influence in the natural flow of her melodic writing. She writes memoir in the form of poetry.

She took photos when the films were black and white. Photography is still her enjoyable hobby. Drawing and painting were fun activities as a child. She resumed drawing and watercolor painting several years ago. In her poetry collection, she includes photos and paintings to illustrate the poems.

She earned a Doctor of Education from the University of La Verne in California. After two years of rehabilitation counseling, fifteen years of public-school teaching and ten years in school district administration, she retired and enjoys life with her husband in southern California. She makes frequent visits to her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter in Oregon.

Welcome, Miriam.

Let’s talk school. First, could you tell us where you attended school?

Miriam Hurdle school photo

I went to school from elementary to college in Hong Kong.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

In Hong Kong, there are public schools, government subsidized schools, and private schools. I attended two elementary schools sponsored by organizations and they were tuition free schools. One was a Buddhist organization sponsored school, and we had to take a Buddhism class. I remember the nun chanting in class.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

After I graduated from the college in Hong Kong, I worked for five years, then came to the United States for my graduate studies. I got three master’s degrees – in Religious Education, Counseling, and Educational Administration and a Doctor in Education.

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

I love music since I was a kid. I sang solos in churches as a teenager. As a result, I took voice lessons and had more singing engagement. It would be my first choice to become a professional musician or teach music, but I could only afford to do music as an enjoyment, not a profession.

When I was in college, I volunteered in Far East Broadcasting Company in several programs. I did singing and recorded children’s stories. When I finished college, FEBC wanted to hire me full time, but the job didn’t pay too much.

Many girls chose to be teachers or nurses back in those days. I accepted a teaching job. I taught Chinese as a Second Language for three years in the Baptist University of Hong Kong. I was also a Director of Children’s Department for two years at Asian Outreach where I wrote four children’s books.

In the U.S. I worked as a Rehabilitation Counselor for two years, taught preschool for two years, taught elementary school for fifteen years, and worked as a school district administration for ten years.

What is your earliest memory of school?

My earliest memory was when I won the Abacus Competition in first grade. The second-grade teacher taught abacus. He came to our classroom to present me the award. Another wonderful memory was that my first-grade teacher Mrs. Leung said I was bright. The thought of being bright influenced my whole life.

When I studied counseling and child development, I learned that positive reinforcement encourages desirable behavior. In fact, it is also true with adults. Instead of pointing fingers or saying, “don’t do this, don’t do that,” we can praise and encourage desirable behavior or responses.

What memories do you have of learning to read?

We did a lot of memorization in reading. We had to recite the reading lessons in early elementary school. My dad helped with my homework and had me memorized the lessons every week. I learned everything in the current lesson before the teacher taught a new lesson. At the fourth grade, I read my dad’s newspapers. My dad and I traded sections to read. I read the horrible news describing the details of crime scenes, read adult fantasy, comic strips and the Sunday children’s section.

My favorite literature was Aesop’s Fables. I also remember learning English grammar such as the regular tenses as walk, walking, walked, walked; and the irregular tenses as go, going, went, gone.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

There was not a lot of creative writing in the lower grades in elementary school. We did a lot of copying the reading lessons. I guess by copying; we remember writing in a proper sentence structure. In upper grade, I learned how to write a story with an opening, the middle, the climax and the conclusion. I remember how I paced my writing and made sure the climax was at the three fourth of the paper. We had a subject in Letter Writing and learned to write different letters.

I learned to write both Chinese and English calligraphy. For Chinese, we wrote in vertical and right to left progression. For English, we wrote alphabet and spellings. I like calligraphy and I still write in calligraphy style in my handwriting. I bought a calligraphic set to address my daughter’s wedding invitations.

What do you remember about math classes?

We learned math the traditional way and learned the mental math. I did addition and subtraction well with an abacus. Doing multiplication and subtraction on the abacus is harder so I don’t remember how to do them. I won the Abacus Competition in the first grade.

What was your favorite subject?

Miriam Hurdle's favourite subject at school was reading

My favorite subject was reading. I didn’t have books other than textbooks at home. There were bookstands on the streets where I could rent books to read. I remember using my allowance to buy tickets to rent books to read. I love to read comic books also.

What did you like best about school?

I like to be with my friends. My best friend Shirley at the fourth grade was my teacher Mrs. Cheung’s daughter. Mrs. Cheung was also a music teacher for the upper grades. We had a singing contest. I entered the competition and got fourth place. Shirley got second place. Shirley played the piano. I went to her house on the weekends and listened to her play for hours.

I keep in touch with Shirley. When we traveled to London, she and her husband took us sightseeing for five days.

What did you like least about school?

I can’t think of anything I didn’t like. There were forty students in each class. We received two report cards a year; they showed our ranking among the class. I got second to ninth places from first to sixth grade. It broke my heart when I got the ninth place. I can’t remember what happened, but it wasn’t because of any subject.

How do you think schools have changed since your school days?

I think the elementary schools in Hong Kong still do a lot of memorization rather than creative learning. My sister and her husband sent their two children to Canadian system International School, and they eventually migrated to Canada. After they got the Canadian citizenship, because of my brother-in-law’s health issue, they went back to Hong Kong and keep the dual citizenship.

What do you think schools (in general) do well?

Since I left Hong Kong forty years ago, I can’t comment about the schools there anymore. But I taught in California thirty years ago, I can comment on the schools in California.

Class size–Kindergarten is 20 students, first to third grades is 25 or fewer students, and fourth to sixth grades is up to 35 students average.

Schools get special funding for English learners to get extra help to learn at their current English levels to catch up with the levels of their classes.

There is special funding to help students from the low-income family because statistic shows that these students have low academic levels.

Many families can afford to send their children to go to preschool. For low-income families, they can send their children to the Headstart program to prepare for the kindergarten.

There are breakfast and lunch served at schools. Low-income families receive free meals for their children. Other children have meals for reduced or full fees. Students can bring their lunches to school also.

How do you think schools could be improved?

At elementary school, there is not enough time of the day to teach all the subject to prepare the students for Junior High or High school. Schools end at 2:30 p.m. for lower grade and 2:45 p.m. for upper grade. For lower grades, teachers teach reading and math in the morning. After lunch, they may teach social studies and physical education. There is no time to teach science. Since the State test at the end of the year doesn’t test science, the teachers give up on teaching that subject.

For upper grade, teachers teach reading and math in their homeroom. Some of them team teach social studies and science so the teacher could do the preparation and teach for more than one class. Students can benefit more learning if the school days are longer.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Miriam. It’s been wonderful to have you here. I learned so much about you. I am impressed by your doctorate degree, curious about whether you learned English at school, fascinated by the thought of renting books and envious of your singing ability.

Find out more about Miriam Hurdle

Visit her website: https://theshowersofblessings.com

Or her Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Miriam-Hurdle/e/B07K2MCSVW?ref=dbs_p_ebk_r00_abau_000000

Connect with her on social media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mhurdle112

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/miriam.hurdle.1

Purchase Songs of Heartstrings from

Amazon Universal Link: http://smarturl.it/SongsofHeartstrings

Amazon UK Link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07K1S47W9 

Amazon.com Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K1S47W9 

 

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King

JulesPaige

D. Avery

Christy Birmingham

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

Coming soon:

Robbie Cheadle

Marsha Ingrao

Susan Scott

Mabel Kwong

Sherri Matthews

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

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

 

 

School Days Reminiscences of D. Avery

School Days, Reminiscences of D. Avery

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 D. Avery, poet, writer, blogger. I met D. when she rode up to the Carrot Ranch, dismounted and took a lead role around the campfire with her humorous tales and witty conversation. I also try not to miss her posts on ShiftnShake where she shares poetry, flash fiction and short stories sprinkled with philosophical pearls of wisdom and creates characters as like and unlike any you may chance to meet. Whatever the topic, there’s sure to be beauty in her words, wisdom in her ideas and smiles to lighten your day.

Books by D. Avery

I have read and enjoyed all three of D.’s books and was both honoured and delighted when she quoted me on the back cover of After Ever. This is what I wrote:

An interesting and eclectic collection of short stories and even shorter flash stories, this collection has something for everyone. Whether the situation be mundane or mystical, tragic or cheerful, D. Avery records events matter-of-factly, telling how it is or was, and leaves it to the reader to choose how to respond. After Ever is great for reading in bites or as an entire feast.

I thought I’d reviewed all three of D.’s books on Amazon, but all I could find was my review of For the Girls:

After receiving her own pre-Christmas un-gift of a cancer diagnosis, D. Avery unwrapped how the diagnosis affected her personal journey and view on life. Written from her own need and for others facing similar situations, D. Avery explores through poetry, the emotions that fluctuate in intensity from the moment of diagnosis until, hopefully, remission is declared. Anyone who has endured the pain of diagnosis or suffered alongside another who has, will find something with which to identify. None of us are ever free of the fear, but hope has a stronger pull. These poems are food for the soul.

Before we begin the interview, I’ll allow D. Avery to tell you a little of herself:

D. Avery, writer, fisherwoman

Born and raised in rural New England, D. Avery is never quite out of the woods, though she has been in other fields. She has been a veggie vendor, landscape gardener, and a teacher.

Cursed with a compulsion for wordplay and a growing addiction to writing, D. Avery blogs at Shiftnshake, where she pours flash fiction and shots of poetry for online sampling. D. Avery tweets ‪‪@daveryshiftn‪‪ and is a Rough Writer at Carrot Ranch. She is the author of two books of poems, Chicken Shift and For the Girls. Her latest release,  After Ever; Little Stories for Grown Children,  is a collection of flash and short fiction.

Welcome, D. Now let’s talk school. First of all, could you tell us where you attended school?

I attended public school, my first three years at a K-12 school in Skagway, Alaska, then third through sixth grade in a four room graded school in Vermont, before attending a 7-12 regional school that serves a number of small towns.

What is the highest level of education you achieved? What work or profession did you choose after school and was there anything in school that influenced this choice?

I experienced a year of small private liberal arts college in Ohio and that was enough of that. After a year off from school I completed a two-year program at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass Amherst, earning an Associate’s Degree in Science, Commercial Floriculture. This course of study had practical and immediate application for me, and served me well. I spent the off season from greenhouse work and landscape gardening subbing and volunteering in the elementary school and after a few years I decided to answer the call and get my teaching certificate. I got my Masters of Education at Antioch New England Graduate School and switched careers, becoming a fourth grade classroom teacher and more recently a sixth grade math teacher.

What is your earliest memory of school?

I have lots of early memories. I do think back on how cool it was to be in a small K-12 school that was the center of a small (and isolated) community. The entire school, K-12, took part in a Christmas pageant every year for the town to see. Likewise Field Day had everyone involved and the high school kids might be on the team of a kindergartner or would somehow be helping out.

What memories do you have of learning to read?

I was reading before attending school, something I picked up at home. We were read to, and there was plenty of print around. One day while looking through a comic I realized I knew the words. It was pretty exciting. I went through the stack of comics and numerous picture books. By second grade I had read all my brothers’ Hardy Boys books. And we had quite a stack of Classics Illustrated, classic novels condensed into comic book form; I started in on those at this time. When we moved back to VT I read every Vermont heroes and histories books on those dusty shelves of that old graded school. There was a collection of William O’Steele books too, historical fiction for kids, pioneers headed west. Of course there were the Little House books. Then they instituted the Dorothy Canfield Fisher program and our school library got built up with more modern young adult novels. I still enjoyed the historical fiction the most though.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

D. Avery was always confident as a writer

Norah, you might remember when I gave some detail about being taught to form my letters in school. It was kind of fun so here’s a LINK. But school did get better after that. My second grade teacher did a great job of integrating reading and writing. I became a writer the day that my writing was hanging in the hall and some of those high school kids were reading it and even complimented me for it. Throughout my school years some of my writing got some attention and publication. I had encouraging teachers and still remember the Poets in Schools program. I was always fairly confident as a writer, using it to baffle them with bullshit if I couldn’t dazzle them with brilliance.

What do you remember about math classes?

D. Avery: maths should be accessible and meaningful

I could neither baffle nor dazzle with math. Math was never taught very well, I realize now, and I did not like it. It was a lot of rote drill-and-kill work.

Fortunately, my great grandmother got me straightened out with times tables in one briefing so that helped.

I managed, barely, but never “got” math until a course at ANE Graduate School. Since then I have taken a number of courses. Now I truly enjoy math and have enjoyed demystifying the subject for students third through sixth grades.

I don’t remember ever having fun in math class, but my own math students have had fun. Math students need to see patterns and to make connections, to keep math accessible and meaningful.

I also realize that the best math practice I ever had, and what really built number sense, was not from school at any level but from my summer work as a teenager on a truck farm where there was no cash register or calculator. My mental math got quite good. Working there and earlier helping my dad out with different projects also built my math skills.

What was your favourite subject?

D. Avery: it's the people who make a subject more interesting and more accessible

I have always enjoyed history and social studies, and those were probably my favorite subjects in high school. But I also enjoyed Latin and English (reading and writing). I also was very fortunate to have had some remarkable people as my teachers. That’s what one remembers as much as anything; it’s the people who make a subject more interesting and accessible.

What did you like best about school? 

D. Avery, what did you like best about school

I liked learning. I found most of my subjects interesting. There were some excellent teachers and also an excellent library. School had books and magazines to be read, it was a place to pursue ideas and interests. It was a path to possibilities. And school was where my audience was, it’s where I performed and entertained. But I did manage to learn in spite of myself.

What did you like least about school?

I liked being with friends at school, but people are also what I liked least in school. Kids are always having to navigate the social waters and to find their own balance between conformity and individuality. It’s stressful. I was always grateful and glad to be home at the end of the day, where I could have quiet alone time in the woods.

I feel bad for the kids today who, because of their devices, are never able to be alone and to decompress. I feel bad for people who do not have the outside time and space. I know it was vital for my time in school to have good work and play experiences out of school and time to get re-centered. People now are never alone and never lonelier. I still require lots of alone time.

How do you think schools have changed since your school days?

School girl D. Avery coming in from skiing

With the pervasiveness of computers and social media parents have an extra responsibility, an extra worry now, and most don’t fully comprehend the depths of that. Technology has made teaching and learning more difficult; it has distanced people from nature, from each other, from generational wisdom- from their selves. “Knowledge” at our fingertips is not lasting; internet access in many ways erodes curiosity and problem solving skills, critical reading and thinking skills, and the stamina required for meaningful learning.

I know arguments could be made in defence of technology, but I rarely see a healthy balance. Gaming addictions, cyber-bullying, plagiarism and general distractions are some of the issues that impact teaching and learning nowadays. That maybe didn’t really speak about schools, but these phones are a huge change in our society and so our schools.

What do you think schools (in general) do well?

Schools have changed, but they are still staffed with people, most often good caring people who are educated in their subject area and also in pedagogy and in best practices based on research. Educators take into account how students best learn, and how to engage them in that enterprise.

More than ever before, schools look out for and provide services for a student’s mental health, their social/emotional wellbeing. A person with trauma or health issues is not the best learner, and schools are learning to take a more holistic approach to all students.

How do you think schools could be improved?

D. Avery "Schools should be creative safe havens"

Our schools don’t always seem to measure up, but what is the measure? Not everyone is measuring up to standardized tests, but if we really want to close achievement gaps, if we really want to leave no children behind then we need to reform much more than our schools.

While I think we should first focus on out of school factors, within school we have to do more than give lip service to Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. Which means schools need to not succumb to the testing culture; schools need to be less programmatic and prescriptive. Curricula should encourage empathy and build flexible and adaptive skills and strategies required for individuals to pursue their own interests and inclinations. Schools should be creative safe havens that sustain a sense of wonder and curiosity.

thank you for your participation

D., thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general. I would have liked to take your responses to the last three questions and make them all quotes. You express it all so perfectly.  It’s been a delight to have you here. I learned so much from and about you. I enjoyed learning about your own school days and totally agree with what you have to say about education in general.

 

Find out more about D. Avery

from her website ShiftnShake

Connect with her on social media

Twitter: @daveryshiftn

Purchase your own copy of her books from

Amazon

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King

JulesPaige

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

Coming soon:

Christy Birmingham

Miriam Hurdle

Susan Scott

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

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

School days, reminiscences of JulesPaige

School Days, Reminiscences of JulesPaige

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 JulesPaige, poet, flash fiction artist and creator of gems that sparkle on the page.

I met Jules at the Carrot Ranch where we both participate in flash fiction challenges set by Charli Mills each week. Jules is one of the most engaged and supportive participants. She always has something encouraging to say and is quick to offer helpful advice when a request is made.

We have wonderful conversations about education, parenting and grandparenting on her frequent visits here. I think we would have a lot of fun entertaining our grandchildren together, if only we lived closer.

Before we begin the interview, Jules will tell you a little of herself:

I use the nom-de-plume JulesPaige because words are like jewels on a page. I am a poet for over fifty years, writer of flash fiction, and crafty creative person. More than less retired and love learning, but on my own terms. I have included a shadow photo as I wish, at this time, to remain anonymous.

I’ve had poetry included in school and college literary magazines. Poetry has also been accepted in chapbooks, the local newspaper, and online zines and linked to both poetry and flash fiction prompt sites. Recently I earned two first places and an honorable mention in Flash fiction contests via Carrot Ranch. Some of my stories feature in The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol 1.

I am an active participant in several prompts for Flash Fiction and poetry:

Carrot Ranch

Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie

Pure Haiku

Thanks, Jules, and welcome. Let’s talk school.

 First, could you tell us where you attended school?

New York and New Jersey, USA.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

All public schools. The last being a two-year community college that I paid my own tuition for.

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

The profession I choose was Early Childhood Education Assistant. I did not want to go into business or be in the same classes of a sibling who chose the arts. I wanted to help children with their educational beginnings.

What is your earliest memory of school?

I remember being in a kindergarten class and wanting to play house, I didn’t get too many turns there. Then in first grade I ended up in the same room with the same teacher – who apparently didn’t like me. Since during the first days of class she allowed me to play in the housekeeping section that had not yet been restocked. I don’t have many memories of early school. I had a family tragedy and withdrew from getting attention which ended up getting me labeled as ‘slow’.

What memories do you have of learning to read and write?

I do not have all that many early memories of school. But since I was labeled ‘slow’, my stepmom made it a point to help me learn to read by reading to me every night. Perhaps in 5th grade I was in what was called an intermediate school. That was when I was around ten. That’s when I had a couple of English teachers who encouraged creative writing. At that time in the late 1960’s in that school, creativity was more of a focus than basics. So my math and grammar skills are lacking.

What did you like best and least about school?

I was always the new student at my schools. The odd one out and did not have many friends even in High School. No bonds were made in College. I liked my art classes. I did not like the negative or lack support of either my parents or most of my teachers. I only had a select few teachers that encouraged my creative avenues. While I attended the same High School for all four years 9-12, we moved mid-way through, which made seeing the friends I had difficult, and left no chance of participating in any after school programs.

How do you think schools have changed since your school days?

I am not entirely sure that public schools have changed for the better. While addressing bullying, special health needs and catering to highly intelligent prodigies… there still lacks a complete need to address all children with equal fairness. This is from the experience of raising my own children in the local public school system and having to invoke my ‘Parental Rights’ for my own children’s needs. The Parental rights to fair education is not something that the schools promote. I found out about them through another friend who was a teacher.

How do you think schools could be improved?

Public Schools need to prepare our children by starting language in the early grades and not waiting until older grades. Special language immersion classes were available in later years (of my children’s schools) for a select amount of students who were selected by a lottery. Public Schools also need to make sure basic math and estimation skills are taught without the assistance of calculators or iPads. Public schools also need to encourage acceptance of differences.

If you choose to send your child to a public school, then you need to accept the parameters set therein. Public Schools also need to keep religion out of the schools. And if vaccines are a requirement, there should be no exceptions. Just one unvaccinated child can bring disease to a whole school population.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Jules. It’s been wonderful to have you here. I am sorry that your school days were not the most pleasant for you, but I am happy to know that you have done what you can to ensure the school days for your own children and others were more positive. It is always encouraging to hear stories of negative cycles being broken.

Read more of Jules’ work on her blog Jules Pens Some Gems.

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King

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

Coming soon:

D. Avery

Christy Birmingham

Miriam Hurdle

Susan Scott

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pauline King reminiscences of school days

School Days, Reminiscences of Pauline King

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 Pauline King, The Contented Crafter. Pauline and I have been online friends for a long time. I can’t quite remember where we met, but I think it may have been through Geoff Le Pard.

Pauline and I clicked straight away as we have a lot in common and share many similar views about education. At one time, each of us even contemplated starting our own school.

I wish I’d known Pauline and had the opportunity of working alongside and learning from her while I was still working in the classroom. Although Pauline says that she has left that part (teaching) of her life behind, it doesn’t stop her sharing the value of her experience and words of wisdom when prompted. We shared so many in-depth conversations in response to posts, that I decided to give more space to her views in posts of their own. Follow these links to share in Pauline’s wisdom.

Which school? I found one!

Reflections on living a contented life, teaching and school

On children and parents —more from the Contented Crafter

Pauline King the Contented Crafter

Before we begin the interview, I’ll let Pauline tell you a little about herself.

I’ve had many incarnations as wife, mother, student, teacher, teacher trainer and mentor, curriculum writer and advisor, community hub developer, new worker trainer, and [whew!] life coach.  In between I painted, crafted, hand worked, gardened and generally tried to create beauty around me where ever I went.  Oh, I forgot to mention ‘world traveller’!

These days I’m [mostly] a very contented crafter and pursuer of serenity.  And of course, I live with Orlando, a now elderly Maine Coon cat of great distinction and forbearance and a most delightfully joyful pup who goes by the name of Sid-Arthur [yes, a play on Siddhartha for those of you who picked it up].  They feature prominently throughout this blog.

I’m retired now and happily spend my days doing whatever it pleases me to do.  Sometimes, in between my crafting projects, I still coach now and again, gratis, as a thank you for this blessed life I’ve been given.

Welcome, Pauline. Now let’s talk school.

 First, could you tell us where you attended school?

Porirua, then a village, now a city.  In the Wellington area.  NZ

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

State school

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

Originally nothing. I was pulled from school by my mother before I turned 15.  I later gained School Cert and UE via correspondence as a young adult and at the age of 33, I trained as a Waldorf teacher.

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

It seems I always wanted to be a teacher, but the circumstances of my life dictated otherwise.  In my 30s I was finally enabled to follow that dream through the initial support of friends  buoying up my low confidence and a series of fortuitous events that allowed me to enter the Waldorf training despite not having a state teacher training  which was then a requirement of any Waldorf trainee teacher.  (It was here I heard for the first time that I was seen as a graduate of the University of Life — a designation that delighted me.)  I believe that meeting kindness and being encouraged in my early school years ignited the wish to be a teacher.

What is your earliest memory of school?

The first day of school, I was 5 years old and terrified.  My mother pushed me into the room and shut the door on me and I was crying as the teacher came to get me.  But the thing that caught my eye was the book display.  You know those shelves that hold books with the full cover showing. There were so many books and they all looked so beautiful and enticing.  I stopped crying and the teacher let me stay there looking at the books.  I still remember the first book I looked at, ‘Orlando the Marmalade Cat’.  I don’t remember anything else, but it was clearly a very important moment in my life.  That teacher went on to become a champion of mine and I never forgot her many kindnesses and through her my love of reading flowered.

What memories do you have of learning to read and write?

I don’t remember learning to read. It came very easily.  Writing too.  At age 10 my essays were entered into inter-school competitions by the headmaster.  Later he asked me to not write fantasy, but to write about ‘what you know, your life’.  That was the end of my writing career.  🙂

What do you remember about math classes?

I have no recall of maths classes.

What was your favourite subject?

I loved all the humanities classes – reading, writing, history, geography, social studies.  I loved music too, until I was pulled from a combined class practising choral singing and told to stand at the front of the room and listen as I was singing off key.  That was the end of my musical career too.  I never sang in front of anyone except for my babies for many years.

What did you like best about school?

Pauline King the Contented Crafter tells what she liked best about school

For me in those first years, school was a safe place to be and I was fortunate to have in the early years women who took an interest in my welfare and some who even tried to help intervene in my home life. Their kindness made a huge impression on me and was probably partially responsible for the longing I felt to become a teacher.  They also had made me feel so safe that when the harsher teachers entered my world and humiliation and failure became the norm, I still liked school.  It was better than home, I guess.  I know I was, from a very young age, gathering information and evidence about what made a good teacher and what made a bad teacher.  It would all eventually come in handy when I parented and later became an actual teacher.

How do you think schools have changed since your school days?

My initial experience of state education is my own and the first two years of my children’s education.  (In the final six years of my working life I came up against the failures of the state system when I developed programmes for youth at risk in job training.)

When I had children, I looked for something else outside the state system for them but had the resistance of my husband to work through.  Later after my daughters both had bad experiences with teachers he agreed, and we transferred them to the local Steiner School.  There I watched my children bloom and blossom and there I too found my place. It’s a wonderful thing when you find your tribe and I had finally found mine.

What do you think schools (in general) do well?

I think in general schools provide an adequate education for students who have an academic leaning.  But, as you know Norah, I believe that true education is sadly lacking.  It seems to me the role of education is to awaken the mind, to develop the skill of learning, to prepare people for a life of learning and enough of an interest in the world to want to learn about it.

The reality is we spend all our lives learning, yet so many think they go to school to learn the skills needed to get a job.  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a young person (or even a parent) complain that reading a certain book will be of no use to them after school and science or maths adds nothing to the skill-set they need for getting a job.

It seems nobody talks to them about the joy of learning, of widening horizons, of deepening understanding or even of exercising their thinking capacities and developing their brains.  I’ve met many 15- and 16-years olds who can’t write their own addresses down.  They have no self-esteem, are angry and confused and turned off from society.  They don’t have the skills to hold down any kind of job because they also haven’t learnt about taking personal responsibility at school or at home.

How do you think schools could be improved?

Pauline King the Contented Crafter tells how schools could be improved

I’d love to see a return to a balanced education that includes academia and the arts and life skills.  I’d love to see each classroom be a living community where all kinds of kids learn to get along, learn to appreciate each other and learn that not everyone is good at everything.  But that everyone, even the least able, has a skill and a personality that offers much.  Where tolerance is taught and practised, and respect is modelled and expected.  A place where different cultures and different beliefs are seen as interesting and intriguing and when it’s all boiled down, people are people and we all feel the same way over the things that matter.

I’d like to see geography and social studies and all kinds of real arts and crafts come back to life in the classroom, I’d like to see kids singing and dancing and playing together in between learning the Three R’s.  I’d like to see the slow expansion of a planned curriculum that ensures a deepening understanding of the natural sciences — again attached to the developmental stages and understanding of the students.  Never bring hard facts too soon to young people — they kill childhood!

I’d like everyone to understand that we live in a world that is changing so quickly that it is highly likely the jobs their kids will do haven’t yet been invented.  The only way to ensure their children will succeed as adults is that they will have a healthily developed sense of themselves, their interests and their abilities and be able to think, to assess, to understand the needs of the world and to have the entrepreneurial spirit to meet them.  It’s less about passing exams and more about an ability to learn; less about gaining the skills for a job, more about gaining an ability to learn new skills.

Thank you for inviting me to join with your esteemed guests Norah, it is very kind of you.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Pauline. As always, it’s a pleasure to discuss education with you and, while it was great to hear of your early experiences and the influence of kind teachers, I am in total agreement with you about how schools could be improved. If only we could get those who make the decisions to listen to and enact your wisdom.

 

Find out more about Pauline King

on her website: The Contented Crafter

Connect with her on social media

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/paulinekingnz

Twitter: https://twitter.com/contentedP

Browse her gift shop to purchase your own special piece of Pauline’s art or craft.

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

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

Coming soon:

Jules Paige

D. Avery

Christy Birmingham

Miriam Hurdle

Susan Scott

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

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