Category Archives: Retirement

School days, reminiscences of Susan Scott

School Days, Reminiscences of Susan Scott

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 Susan Scott, author and blogger. Susan and I have been following each other’s blogs for quite some years now. Susan’s posts are often philosophical and intrigue me with new ideas to contemplate. She thinks deeply and writes about a range of subjects from as big as our place in the universe to the smaller like her garden in South Africa. Her outlook is always optimistic with a wish for peace in the world. I like the way she concludes her posts with the words, “May the force be with you” or similar that reflects her desire to find the good in every situation.

As I usually do, before we began the interview, I invited Susan to tell you a little of herself.

Born in Port Elizabeth, lived in various parts of the country and abroad. Married, two adult sons, one a musician, the other an animator. Author of two books, ‘In Praise of Lilith, Eve & the Serpent in the Garden of Eden & Other Stories‘ (a collection of psychological essays); and 2nd book co-authored with Dr. Susan E Schwartz Jungian analyst in Phoenix Arizona “Aging & Becoming ~ A Reflective Enquiry‘. We express our own thoughts on the process of aging in letters to each other.

BA Clin. Psych. Hons

At the moment I’m living between two worlds. We are relocating from Johannesburg to Plettenberg Bay on the south-west Cape. It’s a big move, packing up personal belongings so that a corporate rental can take over in a week’s time.

I enjoy walking and hiking, reading and writing.

My blog, which is intermittent, is usually of a psychological nature. I’m an ongoing student of my own inner world and of that around me – living between two worlds as I said earlier!

Garden of Eden Blog. https://www.gardenofedenblog.com

Books by Susan Scott

Welcome, Susan.

Let’s talk school. First, could you tell us where you attended school and if they were government, private or independent schools?

I attended a variety of schools in South Africa and Zimbabwe, some private some public (government schools). Some girls-only schools, a few co-ed – boys! – in high school. Which took my attention off the lessons to be learned. The fingers on both hands are insufficient for the number of schools I attended.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

BA (HONS) Clinical Psychology, as a mature student, in my late 20’s and early 30’s. 

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

I was in banking for many years – different branches around the country here in South Africa, and a stint in London. For several years after that I worked for an American computer company that had set up a training course exclusively for black students pro bono to learn computer skills. My job was to guide the students for placement in the industry which meant meeting with the captains of industry to secure employment for them. Apartheid was entrenched in those days though businesses were keen to show otherwise. My job was to place the graduated student in a suitable environment.

What is your earliest memory of school?

It’s not a happy memory –  that of being around 8 years old at a school in Harare (Zimbabwe. Then it was Salisbury, Rhodesia). The girls circled around me and called me all sorts of unmentionable names on account of my very dark skin. It’s strange that this is the one that stands out and that I don’t recall from any earlier …

What memories do you have of learning to read?

It helps to have siblings who occasionally fill in the gaps. My older brother was visiting recently, and he said that I was a very early reader happily ensconced in e.g. Enid Blyton preferring nose in books instead of my nose outside playing. Which of course I did do, in the sun, hence an olive skin that darkened easily.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

If I dredge my memory bank, I recall teachers admonishing us to hold the pencil correctly. Write upright, hold the pencil straight between the thumb and forefinger, other end to point over your shoulder close to your neck. Thumb, forefinger and middle finger on the pencil. Cross the t’s dot the i’s. Write neatly.

What do you remember about math classes?

School days, reminiscences of Susan Scott

In a way I loved maths, the order and logic of it all. I could see the bigger picture, arriving at a correct conclusion, rather than the details as to how the answer was arrived. This was not especially pleasing to any maths teacher, nor my father who was a mathematical whizz. The times table was drilled into us until we could say them backwards as were theorems. To this day I calculate the cost of goods as I unload the shopping trolley and am pretty accurate most of the time!

What was your favourite subject?

School days, reminiscences of Susan Scott

My favourite subject was probably English and the set works including the poetry of the greats. Writing essays (in a very neat cursive handwriting) gave me a measure of pleasure for the opportunity of expression as I saw it.

What did you like best about school?

I came into a little bit more of my own in my last years of high school, a co-ed. I finally gave up my very bad stuttering around age 16 which made my life a lot easier as I could hold a conversation and be part of life instead of apart from it. And of course, boys! Bunking school became an art with a few of my subversive girlfriends. My mid-teen years were possibly those that formed me into a closet anarchist (in the best sense of the word).

What did you like least about school?

School days, reminiscences of Susan Scott

My earlier years in school were always difficult because of my stuttering. I felt I was deliberately picked out to answer a question in front of class or read from a passage, which was practically impossible for me to do. And if I didn’t answer, being put in a corner with my back to the class. Some say that their school years were among the happiest of their lives – perhaps because of my perception and experience I always find that response somewhat suspect. (Though my younger son loved high school and I know others of my sons’ peers who feel likewise. My husband loved his school years). I can’t say I hated school or the many schools I attended. The one I attended here in Johannesburg for 18 months were good. I made a lasting friend from then, even though for many years we lived in different parts of the world until her death two years ago.

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

Similar dynamics from my schooldays probably still reign in contemporary schools among classmates, those of e.g. bullying, scapegoating and meanness. There was no violence in my days among pupils such as we see or hear of today where pupils carry weapons to school and knock off a fellow pupil or teacher. We were ‘pupils’ at school; here in SA we are ‘learners’. Classes are usually larger in government schools, certainly for the majority and there are not enough classrooms. It is not uncommon to hear of 50 pupils sharing 3 or 4 to a desk. There is high teacher absentee-ism in many government schools and badly trained teachers to boot. Children seem to have more rights than their teachers or the stated school philosophy. Parents sadly leave it all up to the school to instil good behavior, not realizing that their role as parent and early educator is the most fundamental one.

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

There are many examples of government schools providing an excellent education for their pupils even those from extremely impoverished backgrounds. I guess it takes a stern yet caring approach from those in authority, from the headmaster down. Schools that do well encourage learning from the beginning, as do parents of course who can set a good example by early reading to their children.

There are many NGO’s who do their best to improve literacy in schools. Illiteracy, despite matriculating, is still very prevalent.

This next, Norah, is recent and interesting but I couldn’t find the URL for it. Please shorten as you see fit. (Norah’s note: I didn’t shorten it as I enjoyed it and hope you will too. I also found these links to further information here and here.)

Nal’ibali, the national reading-for-enjoyment campaign scooped a big international award for their hard work of encouraging good reading habits in South Africa.

 Aarhus, Denmark – Nal’ibali, the national reading-for-enjoyment campaign aimed at sparking children’s potential through reading and storytelling, has been awarded The Joy of Reading Prize by the Systematic Joy of Reading at Dook 1 in Aarhus, Denmark. The award was presented by the president of the International Library Association, IFLA, Glòria Pérez-Salmerón from Spain on Saturday, 1 June.

Twenty-eight projects from around the world were nominated, focussing on initiatives that disseminate the joy and ability to read, and thus engage in the fight against illiteracy. Jade Jacobsohn, Nal’ibali’s Managing Director, received the award on behalf of her dedicated team in South Africa.

“I would like to dedicate this award to the 17000 literacy activists in South Africa – we call them FUNda Leaders – everyday ordinary people who have signed up with Nal’ibali to create opportunities for children in their lives to fall in love with books.”

“I’d also like to dedicate this award to my fierce and fabulous team of fellow Nal’ibalians who are immersed on a daily basis in the hardships of social inequality and poverty, as they fight to give children the best chance they can get of rising out of it. The ability to read with understanding” lauded Jacobsohn.  

She concluded with the formidable words of Nelson Mandela, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. The foundation of education is literacy.’ 

The international jury applauded Nal’ibali for its long-term impact and influence on local communities in South Africa and for parents in particular, who have become role models for their children’s reading habits. They complimented Nal’ibali’s framework that creates a nurturing environment, as well as generating the assortment of multilingual reading materials, so that children from all age groups, can learn to love reading in the many mother tongues spoken in South Africa. 

This international recognition award comes with a prize of $10 000 which will go towards stocking up Nal’ibali’s newly launched mobile libraries for Story Power in Motion, ensuring both children and adults have access to great stories in their home languages.

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.

School days, reminiscences of Susan Scott

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 for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Susan. It’s been wonderful to have you here. I especially enjoyed reading about Nal’ibali, the national reading-for-enjoyment campaign. While I agree with the improvements you suggest for education, I am disappointed to hear that your schools days were not so enjoyable and that you were bullied in school. The situation that you describe existing in many schools is also something that none of us anywhere can be proud of when education should be universal.

Find out more about Susan Scott

on her blog: Garden of Eden Blog

Connect with her on social media

Facebook: Susan Scott – Author

Twitter: Susan Scott

 

Purchase your own copy of Susan’s books:

Books by Susan Scott

In Praise of Lilith, Eve & the Serpent in the Garden of Eden & Other Stories

 Aging & Becoming ~ A Reflective Enquiry

 

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

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

Coming soon:

Barbara Vitelli

Sherri Matthews

Mabel Kwong

Chelsea Owens

Pete Springer

Carol Taylor

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

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

 

interview-with-jacqui-halpin-author-of-wheres-lucky

Interview with Jacqui Halpin author of Where’s Lucky? – readilearn

This week it is my great pleasure to welcome author Jacqui Halpin back to the blog. In this interview, Jacqui talks with us about her recently published picture book Where’s Lucky, the story of an orphaned joey and his road to recovery and release.

We previously met Jacqui in 2018 when she discussed her first picture book Parmesan, the Reluctant Racehorse. As we talked with Jacqui in that interview about her writing process, today we focus our discussion on her new book Where’s Lucky?

About Jacqui

Jacqui Halpin’s passion for children’s literature started when reading bedtime stories to her children. They outgrew their childhood books, but Jacqui never did. Jacqui writes picture books, junior fiction and middle-grade fiction. Her short stories appear in anthologies by Stringybark Publishing, Creative Kids Tales, and The School Magazine.

Her first picture book, Parmesan, the Reluctant Racehorse, illustrated by John Phillips, was published by Little Pink Dog Books in October 2017.

Where’s Lucky?, illustrated by Sandra Severgnini and published in April 2019, is her second picture book with Little Pink Dog Books.

While writing and editing, Jacqui loves to sip tea from fine china and eat copious amounts of chocolate. She also has a love of bookshops and should never be allowed to enter the children’s book section with a credit card in her possession.

About Lucky

Lucky, the orphaned swamp wallaby, has a knack for getting into mischief at the wildlife rescue shelter where he lives.

Continue reading: Interview with Jacqui Halpin author of Where’s Lucky? – readilearn

Plant the seeds of literacy

About this time last year, I shared my excitement when Jackie French was recognised for her “long and distinguished career as a beloved children’s author” as Senior Australian of the Year. At the time she was halfway through her two-year role as Australian’s Children’s Laureate with the task of promoting the importance and transformational power of reading, creativity and story in the lives of young Australians.

If-you-want-intelligent children

Later in the year, in a series of posts celebrating Australian picture books, I shared more of Jackie’s work.

jackie french's books

Now the roles of Children’s Laureate and Senior Australian of the Year have been passed to others. Jackie has obviously been asked what she is now going to do with all her “free” time. In her newsletter she says, “if one more person says ‘now you can relax’ if (sic) will bite them like a wombat, the snappish kind” because it means that work is finished, which it isn’t. I feel exactly the same way when people ask me about my retirement, though I fear Jackie and I work at a very different pace and the occupation of my time may seem like retirement in comparison to hers.

While an author may not have received the top recognition as Australian of the Year 2016, three advocates of children’s literature each became a Member of the Order of Australia:

Jackie French for significant service to literature as an author of children’s books, and as an advocate for improved youth literacy’.

Ann James for ‘significant service to children’s literature as an author and illustrator and through advocacy roles with literacy and professional bodies’.

Ann Haddon for significant services to children’s literature, as a fundraiser and supporter of Indigenous literacy, and to professional organisations’.

It is wonderful to see the recognition given to authors, and to the importance of reading.

lucy_goosey_cover_lowres

One of my favourite books, illustrated by Ann James is Lucy Goosey. It is a beautiful story, written by Margaret Wild, about the love between mother and child. I can’t read it all the way through without crying. But in a good way. It is very touching.

Ann talks about illustrating the story here:

I’m also pleased to say that I have an original Ann James, done for Bec at a literary festival many years ago, hanging on my wall.

Ann James

In her Senior Australian of the Year Valedictory Speech, Jackie French says,

“You never know what seeds you plant will grow; if they will keep growing; who will take them and tend them. But there is one thing I have learned in my 62 years: keep planting seeds.

Jackie French - keep planting seeds

 Never think: I am 62 and still have not achieved world peace, universal tolerance and justice, or even an Australia where every single child is given the chance to learn to read.

Change is never fast enough for any person of goodwill.

A rain drop is just a rain drop. But together we are a flood.  Together we have changed the world.

Jackie french - raindrops

She concludes her speech with these words:

“Let us give our children role models who do not, will not despair, no matter how long it takes to change the world. And let us never surrender, no matter how tired we are, or how long it takes. Because with these weapons we shape the future of our planet.”

I like her words of hope. She is a meliorist. But even more than that, she is an active meliorist. She puts her words into action. She may no longer carry the title of Children’s Laureate or Australian of the Year, but her advocacy doesn’t stop.

Thank you

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

Life is like . . . a game of Snakes and Ladders

Well, maybe not the whole of life; that would be rather two dimensional; but certainly parts of life. I’m feeling a little that way at the moment about my website plans. No sooner do I seem to find a ladder to climb up, than I encounter a huge snake, and down I go again. At the moment I seem to be stuck in a three-steps-forward three-steps-back dance.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

I won’t say that everything one needs in life can be learned from playing Snakes and Ladders, but there are certainly some good lessons to learn from playing games. I mentioned some previously in Are you game? written in response to a flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch; and observed them recently when playing Snakes and Ladders with my five year old grandson:

dice

  • Getting along and taking turns
  • Acceptance – accept the roll and respond accordingly: don’t try to pretend it wasn’t a “proper” roll (e.g. dropped); or attempt to change the count by skipping or counting twice on a square
  • Resilience ­– stay strong and focused and don’t crumple with repeated setbacks: okay, so you’ve been swallowed by this same snake three times now; next time you just might overcome it
  • Persistence – keep going: you might roll a succession of small numbers but each moves you closer to the goal
  • Humour and fun – always look for the light side: it is just a game after all, it’s not the winning that matters, it’s how you play it. (On the board that we played, one of the ladders ended on the same square as a snake’s head! What could we do but laugh!)
© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

I guess those are lessons I need to apply to my website “game”: I have made some good progress preparing resources; I have had some work illustrated; and I approached a web designer for a quote. The ladders seemed to be lining up just right.

Then I landed on another snake!

In a comment on a previous post Anne Goodwin, who blogs at Annecdotal and is author of the soon-to-be-released Sugar and Snails, suggested that I be mindful of my Unique Selling Point (USP).

I think my USP is probably the same as what I consider my Point of Difference (POD): resources that are interactive. Unfortunately, judging by the quote I received, the POD snake has an extreme appetite.

In a post about his self publication journey Geoff Le Pard, author of Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle who blogs at TanGental, stated that he wanted to spend as little “real” money as possible. I know that I need to spend some to achieve my goals, and as a way justifying the expense to myself, if not to anyone else, I decided to consider it a “retirement jetski”.

My retirement jetski

My retirement jetski

However an initial quote indicates that the interactive component of resources could end up costing as much as a Bugatti or a Lamborghini!

Okay, I am exaggerating – a little.

But I think I’ve slid down the back of that long snake and need to do a little recalculation as recommended a short while ago Charli Mills. I will let you know how I go extricating myself from the loop.

Snakes and ladders – Opportunities for learning

In the meanwhile, here are some suggestions for parents to make the most of learning opportunities while playing Snakes and Ladders with their children over the long summer holidays. We don’t want the progress that children have made during the term to be swallowed up by those snakes as was suggested as a distinct possibility by Sarah Brentyn in her post Harry Potter or Sidewalk Chalk? on her blog Lemon Shark. While I provided some suggestions for preventing that slide in a previous post, these suggestions are specifically for

Making the most of “teachable moments” while playing snakes and ladders:

On each turn, ask children to:

  • identify the number rolled on the dice and move their tokens the corresponding number of squares, counting them out. Ensure they do not count the square they are on.
  • tell the number they land on.

Other opportunities for discussion:

  • Who is coming first? What number are they on? What number are you on? How many do you (they) need to catch up? Could you (they) catch up with the next throw? Why/Why not?
  • How many do you need to throw to land on a snake, on a ladder? Do you want to land on a snake or a ladder? Why or why not? If you land on a snake (or a ladder), will the number be higher or lower than where you are now?
  • What number do you not want to roll if you don’t want to land on a snake?
  • What number do you need to roll to land on a ladder?
  • How many do you need to win?

Ask the children what they notice about the way the numbers are arranged. How does it differ from a usual 100 board? ( On a Snakes and Ladders board, 100 is at the top and the numbers “snake” back and forth across the board. On a 100 counting board, 100 is at the bottom and each row of ten numbers goes from left to right.)

100 flowers outline

100 counting board © Norah Colvin

Ask the children why the numbers may be arranged differently (eg 100 has to be at the top so you can go up the ladders, numbers go back and forth so you can just keep going).

But most of all, just have fun!

Thank you

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

 

Not the ‘R’ word!

the older you get

For the past few years people have often asked me when I will retire. Some people think I already have. Some think I am too young to be thinking about it (they are either very kind or very blind), and others think I should have done it long ago.

I have preferred to ignore the word ‘retire’ for the negative connotations I thought it embodied and the implication that I would have to admit to things like:

  • I’m getting old
  • I have nothing left to contribute
  • I am passed my use-by date and can’t keep up with modern trends and developments
  • I am ready for ‘God’s waiting room’. (I ‘m not even sure I’d be able to find the right room, and he’d probably keep me waiting for ever anyway!)

Even this morning I heard an ad on the radio that put together the concepts of retirement, having more time on one’s hands, retirement village and nursing home.  If that’s what retirement means, it’s not for me.

When I was fifty-ish and working part-time, I awoke one morning to the realisation that, if I was going to retire at sixty, I had only ten years of working life left. With that in mind I returned to full-time work in order to earn as much as I could so that I could save enough to support myself in retirement. (I think I should have had the epiphany many years earlier!)

When the ten years of teaching full-time as a year one teacher were done, I was still not ready to consider the ‘R’ word. However just at that time an opportunity to be involved in writing curriculum support materials was offered. A short break from the classroom to refresh and re-energise was a welcome idea and I accepted the position.

After eighteen months in the role I reverted to working part-time in order to devote more time to my own writing while establishing a website for peddling said writing. I didn’t consider it retirement, transition to retirement, or anything to do with retirement. For me, the working week was simply a combination of paid work and working for myself. It was not time off.

mystica_Coins_(Money)

Now another eighteen months has past and I am indeed counting down the ‘paid’ working days until ‘retirement’. In my head and heart I still don’t consider it retirement, perhaps a re-alignment of priorities, but others do. I am breaking ties with my long-term on-and-off employer for the fourth and last time. This time there will be no going back. Even though I may have said that on each of the three previous occasions I resigned and still went back; this time I am very doubtful of that occurring. This time it is ‘officially’ retirement, and I accept that if I have more time on my hands to do my own work, then that is a good thing!

It is the enthusiasm that others have for me and hearing them excitedly question, “What are you going to do?”  that has helped my change of heart and I am beginning to accept their use of the ‘R’ word. Denial would be another unwinnable battle. So what if I intend to spend the days of my retirement at the computer? Getting a website up and running might be just an expensive hobby, but not as expensive as others I could think of, like boating or flying! And definitely more fun for me.

The changing view of self as transitioning through working full-time, part-time, being semi-retired, or retired is not unique to me. While some embrace the change, eager to accept every opportunity that freedom from employer demands and schedules has to offer; others like me sidestep in, with a similar appreciation of the freedom from outside expectations but an ever-increasing expectation of self.

retiring with attitude

Last year “Retiring with Attitude”, written by one of my favourite bloggers Caroline Lodge and her colleague Eileen Carnell, was published. I found the title quite intriguing and thought it may apply to me, though I wasn’t sure to which attitude they were referring. However the subtitle “Approaching and Relishing your Retirement” gave a few clues and I knew I had to read it. Were they serious?

In the introduction the authors explain that retirement should be viewed as “a time of further exciting possibilities”. They set out their goals which include convincing readers that the “old” view of retirement (they say “previous”) is no longer applicable; that possibilities abound; that outdated views of ageism and sexism should be challenged; and that “Learning is the most powerful means to handle changes and transitions” that occur in the retirement phase of life.

Retiring with Attitude” is an easy and enjoyable read which I recommend to anyone approaching (from near or far) or already in retirement. The authors have drawn upon their own experiences and many years of research from which to explain options and make suggestions for every aspect of life. While “Chapter 11: This is Your Rainy Day: Relationships with Money” does discuss finances, the book raises many other issues including seeking and accepting support as well as ways to ensure you are not over-committed to fulfilling others needs and requests.

The authors emphasize that there is no one way for everyone to do retirement but that learning and good communication are the key. They say that retirement can be the time of one’s life and that

As an older person you can develop a new identity and redefine your life.

I think that’s the ‘R’ word for me: Redefine. I’ll get to do those things I always wanted to do but didn’t have time for when my focus was elsewhere.

Thank you

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