Category Archives: Writing

School Days Reminiscences of Carol Taylor

School Days, Reminiscences of Carol Taylor

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 Carol Taylor who blogs at CarolCooks2 and writes about food, health, cooking, the environment and life in general, but especially in Thailand. I enjoy her positive outlook and the honesty with which she writes. I first met Carol at Sally Cronin’s where she contributes a regular column about food and cooking. She has taken a great interest in the school days reminiscences shared by others and was happy to join in the conversation sharing her own.

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

Enjoying life in The Land of Smiles I am having so much fun researching, finding new, authentic recipes both Thai and International to share with you. New recipes gleaned from those who I have met on my travels or are just passing through and stopped for a while. I hope you enjoy them.

I love shopping at the local markets, finding fresh, natural ingredients, new strange fruits and vegetables I have never seen or cooked with. I am generally the only European person and attract much attention and I love to try what I am offered and when I smile and say Aroy or Saab as it is here in the north I am met with much smiling.

Some of my recipes may not be in line with traditional ingredients and methods of cooking but are recipes I know and have come to love and maybe if you dare to try you will too. You will always get more than just a recipe from me as I love to research and find out what other properties the ingredients I use contain to improve our health and wellbeing.

The environment is also something I am passionate about …Plastic, Recycling and effects of Global Warming are all high on my agenda now…I am appalled at man’s waste and how they are destroying our beautiful natural world…But also how successive governments around the world are not doing enough to address this problem.

introducing Carol Taylor

Welcome, Carol.

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

Carol Taylor in class photo

My school days…I am dredging deep now as that was many, many years ago…I started at Potter Street Infants and Juniors and then progressed to the local Comprehensive which it became just as I started. Brays Grove, Harlow, Essex, England.

I then progressed to Tottenham Technical College before starting work…

What is your earliest memory of school?

I can’t remember much about my early school years …I was happy I don’t have any bad memories I remember my mother still tells that tale as how when I first started school I stated I was now old enough to walk on my own…She got the bigger girls in the street to watch me..we didn’t live far it was maybe a five minute walk but I never let my mother take me I was always an independent miss or minx…ha-ha

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

Carol Taylor explains her love of reading

I think I was born being able to read and write I never remember struggling and my handwriting was always neat and tidy I tried to emulate my father who wrote beautifully. The local library was my home and I always took out the maximum books and I was back again the next Saturday for more…Like many of us I read under the bedclothes and from memory early presents for me were always books…I loved the famous five and my Rupert Bear annuals…That was until I received my first set of encyclopaedias…and also a set of reference books on Botany …

What was your favourite subject?

Carol Taylor enjoys playing piano

My father thought girls just got married and had children my mother always said very nice dear when I showed her my A+ marks…I was a good student…Particularly in Biology, History and Geography because I could write and add illustrations…Domestic Science and needlework I have always loved and music I mean we should all have music in our lives and I love to play the piano which was my first instrument. My nana’s every day after school as she had a lovely piano…and practise I did…until she passed away and her piano was given to the nurse who looked after her…I have never quite forgiven that action…

What do you remember about math classes?

You have probably noticed I didn’t mention Maths, Physics or P.E….Apart from the swimming I hated the rest and avoided where possible…Or tried to sit at the back of class unnoticed…

What other memories do you have of school?

Languages I studied 3…Latin, German and French… all at my senior school which I think is too late to start…Language is learnt far easier when the child is younger I can only speak for here( Thailand) but English is taught from when the child first starts school so much easier to pick up…

I was never the most popular or unpopular I was just there. I had a few friends rather than everyone…

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

From senior school I progressed to Tottenham Technical College to do Hair dressing and Beauty culture …I enjoyed my two years there. I learnt a lot about culture as I was meeting people from different backgrounds…I had led a sheltered life until then… I have always had a streak in me which didn’t want to conform to the norm so college allowed me to do that…I was a competition model my hair has been all colours and wacky styles which meant when my children wanted to dye their hair green I was overjoyed not the reaction kids like …ha-ha..

I finished my two years with a distinction and came out raring to go…First Year improver…Hmmm…Not for this girl… I joined an Engineering company and did their stats for them…I left school and college still not knowing what I really wanted to do…

I then had my first daughter and worked part time at our local Hospital…I was there for a few years mostly enjoyable and a learning curve …I was still an avid reader but apart from a diary never wrote much…That came much later in my life…

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

Carol Taylor's thirst for learning and inquisitive mind

I have always had a thirst for learning and an inquisitive mind and when I saw an advert for a Banking position I applied…Although maths was not my strong point in Senior school I can add up in my head all that early learning in Infants and Juniors paid off I still remember all of that…I passed the entrance exams…That really was the start of learning as while at the bank I took evening classes and passed A-level law and The London Institute of Banking and Mortgage Practise exams with distinction which is my highest level of education…

My dear friend Jilly was my mentor she was a nursing sister…and she encouraged my thirst for knowledge telling my children and me that when I was studying I was unavailable…anything they wanted they asked before or after and it worked after a few days…

After 15 years in banking I then started work for the government until I retired…Another learning curve …That was when my real distrust of politicians started…

After retiring to Phuket and by chance joining a writing group…All my thanks go to them, they encouraged me …In my friend Dianne’s words…’ Oh my Buddha what have we released?” My writing journey began in earnest as did my cooking as much is not available here so some was borne out of necessity and the rest out of my growing awareness of what is in our food.

How do you think schools could be improved?

Carol Taylor's suggestions for improving schools

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.

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

Carol Taylor on what schools do well

From my research into climate change I have been heartened by the fact that many schools now are encouraging children to learn about the environment and showing them how to grow food…I think that is good way forward …

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Carol. It’s been wonderful to have you here. I love your attitude to learning and agree that it should be life-long. I also agree that ‘children should be allowed to be children first and foremost’ and to ‘let them read a book which is of interest to them and fosters questions.’ I am heartened by your observation that ‘many schools are now encouraging children to learn about the environment’.

Find out more about Carol Taylor

on her blog: https://carolcooks2.com/

and connect with her on social media

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/TheRealCarolT

Face bookhttps://www.facebook.com/carol.taylor.1422

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/caroltaylor56/pins/

Carol is a contributor to the Phuket Island Writers Anthology:

https://www.amazon.com/Phuket-Island-Writers-Anthology-Stories-ebook/dp/B00RU5IYNS

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

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

Pamela Wight

Pete Springer

Yvette Prior

Colleen Chesebro

Thank you blog post

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

 

Move it like a rock star flash fiction

Move it like a rock star

Charli Mill's flash fiction challenge - rock star

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rock star. You can feature a central character or write about the feeling like a rock star. Go where the prompt leads!

One of my favourite TED talks is Ken Robinson’s Do Schools Kill Creativity? If you haven’t watched it yet, I recommend it as a very entertaining 20 minutes. I find it both heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time.

In the video, Ken suggests that all kids have tremendous talents, and we squander them, pretty ruthlessly.” He quotes Pablo Picasso as saying that every child is an artist. Remaining one into adulthood is the problem.

Robinson then goes on to talk about having lived at Snitterfield just outside Stratford, which is where Shakespeare’s father was born.”

He asks, Are you struck by a new thought? I was. You don’t think of Shakespeare having a father, do you? Do you? Because you don’t think of Shakespeare being a child, do you? Shakespeare being seven? I never thought of it. I mean, he was seven at some point. He was in somebody’s English class, wasn’t he?”

Now that’s an interesting thought. I wonder if your English teachers remember you from their classes. Could they have made any of the comments that Robinson suggests may have been made about the young William Shakespeare, including:

“Must try harder.”

or at bedtime, being sent to bed by his dad,

“Go to bed, now!”

“And put the pencil down!”

“Stop speaking like that.”

“It’s confusing everybody.”

It’s quite a thought. Perhaps as writers, we should reveal our school reports that are relevant to our writing careers. How well did our teachers predict our futures?

But we’re not discussing writers in this post. We’re discussing rock stars. I guess most rock stars started out in someone’s classroom too. And that made me think of this inspirational video by Clint Pulver, professional drummer and motivational speaker, who discusses one moment and one teacher who changed his life.

We all hope for a Mr Jensen in our lives to help us realise our full potential.

Movin’ It

Miss Prim turned from the board just in time to see Max land a punch on Michael.

“Ma-ax!”

“He bumped me.”

Miss Prim sighed. “What were you doing, Michael?”

“Noth—”

“He was rocking the desk again.”

“How many times—”

Without direction, Michael removed himself to sit in the corner. Before long, his feet were twitching, his elbows were pumping and his whole body was squirming.

“Michael!”

Everyone looked.

“Sorry, Miss,” Michael muttered.

But he couldn’t keep still.

Years later, when he was a rock star, Miss Prim said, “I knew he’d make something of himself one day.”

«»

I chose the name Michael for my character for three rock stars, only one of whom is still living (the oldest) but all of whom had the moves.

Mick Jagger

Michael Hutchence

Michael Jackson

Thank you blog post

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

School Days, Reminiscences of Chelsea Owens

School Days, Reminiscences of Chelsea Owens

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 Chelsea Owens. I first met Chelsea when she pulled up at the Carrot Ranch and joined in the flash fiction challenges. I enjoy her wry wit and sense of humour, some of which you’ll experience in her responses to my interview questions. It was also evident in her four creative and original entries in the Carrot Ranch Rodeo fractured fairy tale contest last year. Since I love fractured fairy tales and it was the contest that I judged, the connection was inevitable.

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

I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in the year never-you-mind. My mother felt strongly about living outside of the state, so we lived for a brief time in Ridgecrest, CA. She really ought to have considered a more scenic area to successfully convince my homebody father of out-of-Utah merits, because the remainder of my life (and theirs) has been back in Utah.

I generally grew up around the Salt Lake City metro area and still live there. Erm, here. I now have 4.5 children of my own, all boys. In the time between eating while doing dishes and sleeping while taking children to the bathroom, I run errands and pretend I’m on top of the laundry. Okay, okay: I also write. I maintain two blogs: A personal one and one on motherhood.

I started the former blog in order to have an outlet for my repressed creativity. The latter is to build an audience and connections for the book I will publish Someday.

Although I began blogging rather ignorant of writers, The World, and my own talents and abilities; I have since found a much more welcoming audience than I’ve experienced at any other time in my life. The blogging community is wonderful, and I so appreciate all the wonderful people I’ve met through writing online.

Chelsea Owens School Days Reminiscences

Welcome, Chelsea.

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

Whilst living in California, I spent preschool and half of Kindergarten near our hometown of Ridgecrest. The remaining schools have been in Utah.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

I remember attending preschool at a woman’s house, but all of my education since has been at public schools.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

This is a top-secret answer, since I like for people to assume I’m a decorated graduate of the highest degree. In truth, I locked in enough credits to earn my Associate of Arts degree about a year after birthing my second son.

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

My work and professions were assorted; their primary function was support of my education. My first job was a secretary for a chiropractor. I also did quality control, data entry, chemicals cataloging, phone surveying, and (most recently) content writing. Since becoming a mother, I have not worked outside the home. I have done some freelance work and help maintain our online dice store.

What is your earliest memory of school?

I remember walking into my second preschool building and what that looked like inside. It’s a shadowy memory of women at tables and shape cards on the tabletop. The building itself was a very small, house-shaped structure on a patch of lawn. Just before moving away from the area, we drove past and my mother told me it had been sold to another business. We told it, “Goodbye.”

What memories do you have of learning to read?

Chelsea Owens School Days Reminiscences 

My mother tells me that I taught myself to read at age four, yet I recall watching billboards out of the car windows and not being able to decipher them. To me, it was much like trying to read Cyrillic or Arabic. I’ve never had a problem with reading or comprehension besides that, although I have mispronounced a few words because of not hearing them aloud.

What memories do you have of learning to write? 

Unlike other interviewees in this series, I do not remember learning to write. I remember writing cursive. My older sister learned in third grade so, naturally, I had to learn as well. My poor relatives had to get through letters of my seven-year-old efforts, proudly bearing a footnote, “written in cursive.” I also did that to them with my trying to write left-handed. I think I only made my parents suffer through letters written with my toes, though.

What do you remember about math classes? 

I love math! I would marry it. I’m not fond of statistics or calculus. I also have an early memory of needing to stay in at recess in fourth grade in order to grasp long division. Really, I would only marry algebra.

What was your favourite subject?

Chelsea Owens School Days Reminiscences

In elementary years I enjoyed recess and P.E. Our school had climbing ropes and I got to monkey up one during our class’ talent program in first grade. Although I did eventually earn The Presidential Fitness Award in ninth grade and then did Track and Field in high school, I resented being graded for my physical activity in 5th-8th grades.

Chelsea Owens School Days Reminiscences

I also liked physics, art, English, algebra, and choir.

What did you like best about school? 

My favorite parts of school were when the teachers introduced variety. I liked new challenges and being able to show off academically.

What did you like least about school?

I had a difficult time making friends in school, even up until high school (age 15). I did not have any friends and was generally ostracized by my peers.

I also have never liked pointless schoolwork, known as busywork.

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

My children currently attend a charter school and those did not exist in my childhood. They have a lot more technology in their classrooms like Smart Boards, iPads, and laptops for taking tests on. Their school is attentive to behavioral issues and bullying. My boys have been able to progress a bit more in terms of academics as well, testing to move up a grade in their math classes.

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

I think the schools around here do a good job at addressing bullying and at answering parental concerns. Some have language immersion programs or opportunities for advanced subjects.

How do you think schools could be improved?

Chelsea Owens School Days Reminiscences

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.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Chelsea. It’s refreshing to hear from someone who enjoyed, and excelled at, both maths and PE. It’s been a pleasure to have you visit and get to know a little more about you.

Find out more about Chelsea Owens on her blogs

Chelsea Ann Owens

I Didn’t Want to Be a Mother

Connect with her on social media

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

Twitter:
@chelseaowrites
@momtherealist

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

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

Carol Taylor

Pamela Wight

Pete Springer

Yvette Prior

Thank you blog post

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

 

School Days Reminiscences of Mabel Kwong

School Days, Reminiscences of Mabel Kwong

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 Mabel Kwong, non-fiction writer and blogger. I enjoy reading Mabel’s eponymous blog where she shares her thoughts about life and attitudes in Australia. It is enlightening, and also saddening at times, to read her perspectives. It seems that racism is still alive and a little too well in Australia.

I have great admiration for Mabel and admire her honesty. I think all Australians, and others, would benefit from reading her blog. Perhaps then we’d come to know and understand each other a little better and in turn, be more accepting and respectful.

At the beginning of 2018, I was honoured when Mabel accepted my invitation to write a post for readilearn about her experience of Chinese New Year celebrations. She wrote this lovely post The significance of the Chinese New Year — a guest post by Mabel Kwong. Mabel also generously permitted me to present her information as an ebook Let’s read about Chinese New Year which is available to read free on readilearn.

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

Mabel Kwong is a non-fiction writer in Melbourne, Australia. Mabel was born in Australia and has spent time living in Singapore and Malaysia. With a keen eye on observing everyday details, she writes about multiculturalism, cultural differences and the writing process. She blogs at MabelKwong.com and shares various perspectives on these topics, encouraging all of us to learn from one other.

In 2017, Mabel published ‘How I Found The Confidence To Chase My Passion’ in the self-help book Lady by the River: A collection of personal stories about persevering through challenging times. Her works on current affairs, lifestyle tips and audience reception have also been published in magazines, online editorials and academic journals. She is currently working on her first book about being Asian Australian and finding the inspiration to pursue one’s passion.

Outside of writing, Mabel is a photographer and enjoys going to gigs, walking, playing video games and watching YouTube.

Purchase Lady by the River here

Welcome, Mabel.

Now let’s talk school. First, please tell us where you went to school.

Growing up as a third culture kid, I moved around a lot and attended schools in different countries. I went to kindergarten in Australia. Then I did primary school in Malaysia and later in Singapore. Most of my high school education was done in Singapore, and the last year was completed in Melbourne. I attended university in Melbourne.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

My education was a mix of government and private schooling.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

A postgraduate degree.

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

When I was in high school, I was intent on pursuing a career in the media, aspiring to be a journalist or a writer smithing non-fiction narratives. At university I was keen on developing my written skills and took writing classes in my Bachelor of Arts. I was also very good at maths and ended up majoring in that alongside cultural studies as part of my degree.

What is your earliest memory of school?

I remember my kindergarten days quite vividly. I was about five and went to kindergarten in a quiet eastern suburb in Victoria where the demographic was predominantly white. My classmates were mostly of western background. They came up to me during recess and laughed at my razor straight bangs and avoided sitting with me during lunch.

I also remember back then my kindergarten had a set uniform code. Girls had the choice of dressing up in a green and yellow checkered dress that hit just at the knee or a blouse with long pants. My parents dressed me in the latter most of the time even when it was 30’C because they thought the dress was not modest enough.

What memories do you have of learning to read?

Mabel Kwong school days reminiscences

Reading time was something I looked forward to in school. In kindergarten, reading time meant reading aloud. Each time it came to my turn to read, my stuttering voice stumbled over the words. Every time I got stuck at a word my heartbeat raced and my face felt flush. It was a mortifying feeling when the other kids giggled but my teacher was always patient, letting me finish reading aloud at my own pace.

Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl were some of my favourite authors growing up. My parents were encouraging of my reading habit and bought me plenty of books by these authors. As a teenager, I got into reading young adult fiction books based off TV series, including Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Charmed, Sabrina The Teenage Witch and also Archie Comics. Later on in high school, I started reading more non-fiction. My high school classes in Singapore made us read articles from the Reader’s Digest magazine each week. I was always the first to finish reading the required articles in class and went on to read more articles in the magazine.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

Mabel Kwong school days reminiscences

When I was eight, every day after primary school in Malaysia I’d write fictional stories about fire-breathing dragons. The words flowed effortlessly. In high school in Singapore I continued this writing streak, and was chuffed when my English teacher read aloud my essays in class as examples of how essays should be written. Later at university in Australia I struggled to write poetry in creative writing classes and my tutors commented my attempts at journalistic news writing were ‘a good start’. Life at university did make me question my ability to be what it takes to be a writer.

What do you remember about math classes?

A love-hate relationship would be how I’d describe me and maths. All throughout school and university, I was good at maths. Studying maths is emphasised a lot in South-East Asian school curriculum and getting less than a B grade meant attending maths remedial classes. While I aced high school maths and aced calculus/fluid dynamics within my Applied Mathematics major at university, I lacked the passion for maths. When I sat down to revise for maths at university, my mind wandered to my cultural studies and journalism classes, planning that next story I wanted to write in my head. That said, from a young age my teachers instilled in me that maths (and science) is important – such as important for calculations, predicting weather patterns and drawing up code to build phone apps.

What was your favourite subject?

English. I’ve always wanted to be a writer and all things grammar and vocabulary appealed to me.

What did you like best about school?

Mabel Kwong school days reminiscences

Excursions. Camping trips where my class got to zip down a zip line, outings to the beach to pick up litter and afternoons at old folks’ home were some fond memories of school excursions. Just as there’s much to learn inside the classroom, there’s much more to learn outside.

What did you like least about school?

School is a place where there are rules to adhere to whether you like it or not. I wasn’t a huge fan of wearing compulsory school uniforms where skirts had to be a certain length and in Singapore schools, long hair had to be tied up (in some South-East Asian schools, girls’ hair couldn’t go past their ears). Also my Singapore high school divided the cohort into academic streams – the Express stream learnt at a faster pace and took more advanced subjects while the Normal stream took more technical subjects. Moreover, not everyone got to do the subjects they wanted to do; I wanted to do geography but by luck of the draw I was put into history class.

There’s also not forgetting that my Singapore high school classes started at 7.30am each day. P.E. classes required us to run 2.5km within a certain time or get a low grade. As a night owl and someone who isn’t all that athletic, I don’t miss either of these.

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

These days there are many options on getting an education especially higher education in Australia. Online and distance learning at our own pace off-campus can be convenient if we work full time. Notably, primary and secondary school fees are in the thousands each year per student and tertiary student loans are on the rise in Australia. While education may be more accessible, it might not be more affordable.

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

Patient and encouraging teachers make learning much more enjoyable.

How do you think schools could be improved?

Mabel Kwong on how 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.

 

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Mabel. It’s been wonderful to have you here. I think your suggestions for improving schools are lessons we could all apply throughout life. When we feel like we belong we are more likely to respect and accept others.

Find out more about Mabel Kwong

on her blog: MabelKwong.com

or connect with her on social media

Facebook: @TheMabelKwong

Twitter: @TheMabelKwong

Instagram: @TheMabelKwong1

LinkedIn: @TheMabelKwong

Purchase Lady by the River here

Purchase your own copy of Lady By The River here on 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

D. Avery

Christy Birmingham

Miriam Hurdle

Robbie Cheadle

Marsha Ingrao

Ritu Bhathal

Joy Lennick

Darlene Foster

Susan Scott

Barbara Vitelli

Sherri Matthews

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

Chelsea Owens

Carol Taylor

Pamela Wight

Pete Springer

 

Thank you blog post

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

 

School Days, Reminiscences of Sherri Matthews

School Days, Reminiscences of Sherri Matthews

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 Sherri Matthews, memoir writer, essayist, short story writer and blogger. It seems Sherri and I have been friends forever. We love to hang out (online) at each other’s places as time permits and are always understanding when life gets in the way. We know we will pick up where we left off.  Sherri’s Summerhouse is always open to visitors and she has been one of the most active in raising awareness of SMAG (Society of Mutual Appreciation and Gratitude) and I love that, after four years since its inception, she still refers to it in her comments.

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

Sherri once worked in the medical and legal fields. When she got laid off, she praised the heavens for the chance, at last, to write her book. Six years later, her memoir, Stranger In A White Dress, is in final edits. Blogging at her Summerhouse along the way, Sherri also writes from her life as a Brit mum raising her children in California and as advocate for her youngest, diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at 18. Sherri also shares snippets of life with her dear old jailbird dad. Today, Sherri lives in England with her hubby, Aspie, two black cats and a grumpy Bunny Nutkins. She walks, takes photos and finds joy creating a garden full of bees and butterflies with her dad’s words, ‘Keep smiling, Kid’, ringing in her ears. Especially when the robin sings.

Sherri Matthews reminiscences of school days

Welcome, Sherri.

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

England, first in Surrey, then at ten moved to Suffolk.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

Government.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

I left high school at 16 with enough ‘O’ Level qualifications to get a semi-decent first job. Buying a car was my priority, thanks to living miles from town. And yes, even turning down the opportunity to go on to University, fully funded by the Government (I know, I know…kick me, someone, please…). But at 19 and wanting better prospects, I returned to full time education and was accepted for a full time, year-long course, at my local college, attaining an RSA (Royal Society of Arts) Diploma as a Personal Assistant with business and legal studies.

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

Sherri Matthews reminiscences of school days

At first thought, nothing at school influenced me, finding rather than choosing my job as a Postal Officer, which I enjoyed. Had my own till and everything. I was always drawn to both the medical and legal profession, but it was my diploma that influenced my eventual chosen profession of paralegal when I moved to California. But now you ask, Norah, I always secretly flirted with the idea of becoming a ‘real’ writer…you know, in that far off distant realm of pipe dreams. This, thanks to Mrs Anderson’s English Literature class so on reflection, school held more influence for me than I realised…

What is your earliest memory of school?

Feeling homesick and counting the seconds to the last bell and the school bus ride home. And calling my teacher ‘Mummy’ by mistake, going bright red when she smiled and gently corrected me. She had white, fluffy hair I recall, strangely and rather amusingly reminding me of Rupert Bear.

What memories do you have of learning to read?

Oh, I loved to read! I had a lot of Ladybird early reader Janet and John books at home and was able to read by the time I started primary school. I adored all of Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five books, especially Five Go To Treasure Island, a wonderful ripping adventure. I loved the tomboy Georgina. I had the A A Milne paperback book set of Winnie The Pooh and felt very grown up reading Now We Are Six when I was…well…six. Most of my reading, I recall, was in bed waiting for my dad to come home from work.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

My earliest memories are of scribbling illegible ‘notes’ in the margin of my reading books and getting told off by Mum. At school, I practised letters in a lined exercise book, graduating to daily ‘Morning News’ about the night before, mine usually describing eating baked beans on toast and watching Jackanory. Later, we learnt how to write italics with ink filled fountain pens, beautiful flowing cursive I would not recognise as my own today. Being a leftie, I always ended up with ink smudges on my hand and arm.

What do you remember about math classes?

Sherri Matthews reminiscences of school days

Not liking it, except when my maths teacher turned up in old tweeds, a projector and slides of his safaris in Africa. No wonder I didn’t learn much. Yet mental arithmetic I’ve used in several jobs, so I must have learned something. But algebra and the like? Forget it. The best maths lesson that actually helped me in life came from the headmistress of my village primary school in Suffolk. At the end of each day, our class stood up reciting by rote until we knew by heart the entire Times Table. We grumbled, but it’s ingrained to this day.

What was your favourite subject?

Creative writing, biology, music, athletics and gymnastics. And country dancing, because we girls got to hold hands with the boys.

 What did you like best about school?

Sherri Matthews reminiscences of school days

The last bell. I jest…or do I? In primary school, I loved being Milk Monitor, when every child was given a third of a pint of milk in a bottle for mid-morning break. I got to poke the straw in the foil cap and hand them out. I loved quiet reading and writing time and holiday times like Christmas when we got to make homemade gifts. By high school, I loved meeting my friends, having fun being silly. I met my then best friend playing flute in the school orchestra. And drama was fun, though I scraped my shin falling off the stage once and still have the scar.

What did you like least about school?

I enjoyed my Food and Nutrition class, but each week I had to write an in-depth essay and bring all the ingredients to school. I then had to travel home with my cooked dishes. Not easy, since I travelled 20 miles each way by two buses, and often with no spare seat on the public bus. By the time I got home, I was sick to my stomach of the smell of my food, but my Mum and brother couldn’t wait for ‘tea’. I also didn’t like the girl gang headed up by a really mean girl nicknamed, Noddy.

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

Because my children were raised and educated mostly in California, I am more familiar with the system as it was then, though students here seem now to have the same more relaxed relationship with their teachers as there, from what I have observed. The teachers in my day were much stricter. I got my knuckles rapped with a wooden ruler once and it hurt. No more of that, thank goodness. I think there’s more interaction today in class, fostering more interest from the students instead of the boredom of rote learning of my day.

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

I was struck by the way my children’s elementary classes in California fostered a climate of being kind and thoughtful to others, of being awarded for not just academic progress, but for good citizenship. I was fully hands-on as a volunteer, but I never saw my parents at school, except for sport’s day. Nobody noticed when I cried at school, but today I think there is more awareness generally for struggling children, though there is still a great need for improvement. My youngest slipped through the cracks and wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome until eighteen.

How do you think schools could be improved?

Sherri Matthews - how 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.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Sherri. It’s been a pleasure to have you here. I enjoyed reading about your own school experiences and agree with your suggestions for improving schools through smaller classes and better relationships. It is disappointing to know that your own daughter was one of those who ‘slipped through the cracks’.

Catch up with Sherri Matthews on her blog

A View from My Summerhouse

Or connect with her on social media

Facebook Author Page: A View from My Summerhouse

Twitter: @WriterSherri

LinkedIn: Sherri Matthews

Blurb for Sherri Matthew’s soon-to-be-published memoir Stranger in a White Dress

‘We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned,
so as to have the life that is waiting for us.’
~E. M. Forster~

Set against the backdrop of the late 1970s, the story of a chance meeting one summer’s night between two eighteen year olds unfolds: Sherri, an English girl living in rural Suffolk, and Jonathan (Jon), an American G. I. from California newly posted to a USAF base nearby.

They fall in love fast, but Sherri, delighted to show off her homeland to this “new boy”,  soon discovers that although growing up thousands of miles apart, they share dark similarities, which quickly threaten to unravel their relationship.

Their mothers divorced from alcoholic fathers, both were raised by abusive step-fathers.  Jon’s increasing drug use and resulting paranoia clash with Sherri’s insecurities as hopes of “fixing” him and of the stable family life she dreams of slip away.

Los Angeles and lust; obsession and rage; passion and the power of love: theirs is a love affair defined by break-ups and make-ups, and then a shattering revelation explodes into this already volatile mix, altering the course of both their lives profoundly and forever.

A tale of darkest tragedy, yet dotted with moments of hilarity and at times the utterly absurd, this is a story of two young people who refuse to give up, believing their love will overcome all.

Not until decades after their chance meeting, and during a return trip to Los Angeles in 2013, does Sherri discover that Jon’s last wish has been granted.

It’s then that she knows the time has come to tell her story.

♦♦♦

Other publications by Sherri Matthews

Sherri Matthews - writing

You can find a list of where Sherri has been published in magazines and online here.

Her writing also appears in these anthologies:

The Congress of Rough Writers: Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1

Lady By The River: Stories of Perseverance

Slices of Life: An Anthology of Selected Non-Fiction Short Stories

Heart Whispers: A Poetry Anthology

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

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

Coming soon:

Mabel Kwong

Chelsea Owens

Pete Springer

Carol Taylor

Thank you blog post

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

School Days Reminiscences of Barbara Vitelli

School Days, Reminiscences of Barbara Vitelli

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 Book Club Mom Barbara Vitelli, fellow book lover, librarian, blogger and fiction writer. We’ve been following each other’s blogs for a few years now. I enjoy reading Barbara’s book reviews and have read the occasional book as a result of Barbara’s recommendation. In fact, I’m currently listening to The Other Wes Moore One Name Two Fates, a memoir and New York Times Bestseller that Barbara reviewed. What a fascinating story with a strong theme of ‘that could have been me’ and how circumstances influence life’s outcomes. What makes the audiobook even more special is that Wes reads it. A great recommendation, Barbara. Thank you.

Barbara also dabbles in fiction of her own. I’ve been enjoying her serialised story A Man and His Phone, the most recent episode of which can be read here. If you haven’t already met Barbara, I suggest you pop over to her blog and say, ‘Hello’.

Before we begin the interview, I’ve invited Barbara to tell you a little of herself:

Barbara Vitelli is a mom of four children and works part-time as a Reference Librarian at her local library. She also runs a blog called Book Club Mom, home to book reviews, indie author profiles, bookish talk and some occasional original fiction. Before settling into semi-rural suburban life in Pennsylvania, she lived in New Jersey, upstate New York, Washington, D.C. and Virginia. Maybe someday she will publish a novel, but in the meantime she’s happy to work her way through the many great books already out there.

School Days Reminiscences of Barbara Vitelli

Welcome, Barbara.

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

I attended elementary school, junior high and high school in Madison, New Jersey, college in upstate New York and business school in Washington, D.C., all in the United States.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

I attended all public schools through high school.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

After college, I earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration and my major was Finance and Investments.

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

My first job out of college was as a secretary for an air conditioning and refrigeration trade association outside of Washington, D.C. My only goal at that time was to get a full-time job with benefits. I was thinking about graduate school, but I needed time to decide. After a year, I switched jobs and worked for a Sheraton Hotel chain in the Washington, D.C. area. I worked there for 5 years while I attended graduate school at night.

What is your earliest memory of school?

I attended Kindergarten in the same school as my next older brother and one day at recess, the school bully pushed me into a muddy puddle. I had to point out the bully to one of the teachers and the offender was promptly sent to the principal. The bully was a boy in my brother’s class and we worried that he’d take it out on my brother. Nothing happened, though!

What memories do you have of learning to read?

School Days Reminiscences of Barbara Vitelli

We all started to learn to read in Kindergarten, although I mostly pretended to know, “reading” books that my mother and father had read to me so much I had them memorized. My favorite book was A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You by Joan Walsh Anglund.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

I remember using big fat red pencils and paper with wide rules and dotted lines in the middle. I liked learning how to print and write cursive. I still like writing cursive!

What do you remember about math classes?

School Days Reminiscences of Barbara Vitelli

I remember learning my times tables in third grade and when I got into fourth grade, learning long division. In high school, I loved Algebra because I liked solving problems where everything worked out on both sides. I wasn’t a big fan of Geometry, but I got through it. I took no math in college, but I had to take Calculus in graduate school – that was a struggle!

What was your favourite subject?

I didn’t have a favorite subject in the lower grades, but my favorite subject in high school was French (despite my love for Algebra). I even thought about majoring in French in college (I also considered Music and Peace Studies), but in the end I majored in English because I like to read. Now, besides reading, my favorite thing to think about is marketing. If I could do business school over again, I would pick that as my major. Finance and Investments was the hot major at the time (think Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen in Wall Street) so I just went with the flow. 

What did you like best about school?

School Days Reminiscences of Barbara Vitelli

 As a young girl, I liked the beginning of the school year when all our supplies were new. In junior high and high school, I liked that but I also liked the social side of school where I played sports, was a class officer and was in a lot of clubs. I was a little less active in college and focused more on a smaller group of friends and activities.

What did you like least about school?  

I generally liked school so I can’t say I disliked anything in particular. But I loved summer vacations because my family and I spent them at the Jersey shore. I had another group of good friends there and I was always excited to finish the year and see them. I was also sorry to see the summer end.

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

School Days Reminiscences of Barbara Vitelli

Without question, the biggest change has been technology. Kids now do a great deal of schoolwork on a screen, rather than writing it on paper. In many ways, technology helps kids do their work quickly and efficiently, but I think they miss out on the thinking part that happens when you write things out by hand. I think this is especially true for working out math problems and writing.

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

On the flip side of my technology comment, I think our schools have done a great job keeping up with technology and making changes to their curriculums to reflect this. These skills, particularly knowing how to use computer programs and do research on the Internet (besides using Google), are required skills in college and the workforce.

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.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Barbara. It’s been wonderful to have you here. I’m sorry you got pushed over into the mud when you were in kindergarten, and can just imagine how concerned you were that your brother might also be bullied. I love that you didn’t mind school but that summer holidays were your favourite! Like you, I also loved my new supplies at the beginning of the year. There is nothing quite like the smell of new books.

To find out more about Barbara Vitelli visit her blog

Book Club Mom: bvitelli2002.wordpress.com

or connect with her on social media

Twitter: @BookClubMom
Facebook: @BookClubMom

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

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

Coming soon:

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.

 

writing historical fiction

In search of history

When we introduce young children to history, we usually begin with the history of their own families and then extend the circle outward through space and time to other families, other localities and other times.

It was for this purpose that I wrote the Family Traditions and Celebrations history unit for readilearn.

As children love to hear stories about themselves and their families, there’s no better way to introduce them to history. Sadly, some of us miss the opportunity of learning our family’s history until it’s too late.

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge Keweenaw microhistory

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using your choice of microhistory from Keweenaw National Historic Park. Be historical, funny, or flagrantly fictional. Choose a character, time, place, or event. Be as creative as you want in telling the story.

So, our task was to use one of the histories from the Keweenaw National Historic Park website as the basis for a story to be shared in a public reading at Fort Wilkins on 25 July. I’ve interpreted the task to be one of filling the historical gaps with fiction.

The history I chose as the beginning of my story is that of Mary Metesh Plutt, an immigrant from Yugoslavia. Mary had eight children before the age of 38, seven of whom lived until adulthood. The second youngest was Agnes who married at age 20, had one child, and died at age 24. Agnes and her husband did not live in the Keweenaw. They lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. When Agnes died, her husband returned her to the Keweenaw to be buried. No further details of the husband or the child were supplied.

My story attempts to fill in a little of that gap, taking up the story of Agnes’s daughter Nette towards the end of her own life. It was assisted by the information and photographs supplied by the Houghton County Historical Society about the Traprock Valley Schoolhouse. Although this isn’t the schoolhouse that Agnes would have attended, it is of the same era in which she would have attended school.

I hope you like my story.

In Search of History

Sorting through her father’s papers, Nette discovered secrets never revealed in life. “Mum” wasn’t mum. Her birth mother died when she was two. Although obviously named Antonette Mary after her maternal grandparents, their stories had never been told. Now, she needed to know. In the old schoolhouse, she traced her mother’s name—Agnes—so long ago carved into the wooden desktop. She’d felt no connection at the cemetery, nor reading the family’s Census record. But when the school bell rang, she shivered as the spirits of children past, her mother, aunts and uncles, joined her for Keweenaw history lessons.

Thank you blog post

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