Tag Archives: interview

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.

 

School Days Reminiscences of Marsha Ingrao

School Days, Reminiscences of Marsha Ingrao

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 Marsha Ingrao, author, blogger, teacher. Marsha and I hit it off as soon as we met, somewhere in the blogosphere. I think our shared backgrounds in and beliefs about education helped cement our friendship. I was delighted when Marsha contributed a guest post on readilearn about Writing in the lower primary classroom, a topic we are both passionate about, last year. I was also honoured when she entrusted me with reading a draft of her WIP Girls on Fire, which I’m looking forward to seeing in print one day.

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

Marsha Ingrao and her books

My career in education spanned twenty-five years, first as a classroom teacher, then as a math consultant for Migrant Education, and finally the County Office of Education in the area of history-social science.

Publications include various poems in anthologies, curriculum written as part of my consultant duties, and two published books, Images of America:  Woodlake by Arcadia Publishing and So You Think You Can Blog? by Lulu Press.

Fiction is still on my bucket list. Two manuscripts I have completed, but not published are:

  • Girls on Fire, a fiction novel about three women in their 50s and 60s who are looking for new love and a change in life.
  • Winning Jenny’s Smile, a middle school fiction about Jenny’s first months in a new school.

For the past seven years, I have sporadically kept three blogs, TC History Gal Productions about local history, Traveling and Blogging Near and Far, and Always Write about hobby blogging, writing and photography. I manage social media for several non-profits and am an active volunteer in Kiwanis. 

Welcome, Marsha.

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

I attended five schools in Indianapolis, Indiana through my junior year of high school, then moved with my mother and brother to Portland, Oregon to finish high school at Madison High. I attended one year of college at Portland State University and finally finished my education with a master’s degree and administrative credential over twenty years and two states later from Fresno Pacific University.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

Except for the short stint to finish my master’s degree my schooling was all public.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

Master’s Degree

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

My career choices, except for education, were as scattered as my education primarily based on how long it took me to finish my degree and my financial constraints in finishing. My mother taught school, and that was my eventual goal as well.

What is your earliest memory of school?

Kindergarten was my first experience at school. My grandmother and mother had already taught me most of the things they teach now in kindergarten, but we played in school and having such wonderful play setups and being with so many children was new to me.

What memories do you have of learning to read?

I remember Dr. Seuss and Dick and Jane. We did not learn phonetically at first that I remember, but somewhere along the line, someone introduced phonetics. By that time, I read voraciously.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

Marsha Ingrao on writing

Learning to write pained me. I couldn’t see well and probably was dyslexic with a graphic disability, so I didn’t learn to write in cursive, which was wildly important in those days, until I reached the fourth grade. I remember my third-grade teacher took my new fountain pen away because I couldn’t write. Grrr

My fifth-grade teacher praised my poetry and my father called me Hemist Earningway. I entered writing contests in magazines. Sadly, they responded that I was too young to show any promising talent. That squelched my professional writing career.

What do you remember about math classes?

I skipped half of second grade, so my mother prepared me over the summer by teaching me multiplication. When I started third grade, we had timed tests in subtraction. I was number one in music memory tests, but a failure at subtraction timed tests. My father was a design engineer and tried to teach me to use a slide rule when I started algebra in ninth grade. I did not do well in either algebra or learning from my father. Geometry was a bust, but I enjoyed and did well in math after the first two years of high school. I also got contact lenses.

What was your favourite subject?

Marsha Ingrao enjoyed learning about the States and other countries

I liked to research, not that I was thorough compared to the kinds of research students can do today. In fifth and sixth grades we did reports on states and countries. Those were my favorite assignments in grade school. I loved the mathematics of grammar and for some strange reason loved diagramming sentences in junior high school. English was my favorite subject. That’s when I joined the journalism club.

What did you like best about school?

Marsha Ingrao liked music and art classes best at school

I loved music and art classes and was thrilled to learn techniques to draw because seeing something and trying to recreate it on paper baffled my brain as much as using a slide rule. I adored reading but hated giving oral book reports.

What did you like least about school?

The bus ride to get there took forty-five minutes when we moved to the suburbs. It wasted time and eliminated after school commitments since my mother didn’t drive until I was in junior high or high school.

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

This is a great question, Norah. The biggest changes, I think, have been instigated by the Civil Rights movement and technology. The opportunities afforded by computers and the internet for research and to write without constraints of visual or mechanical handicaps are like carrying water during a hike in the desert. The emphasis on equity and collaboration rather than competition prepares students for a working environment. Students in our community receive Chromebooks and free internet they can use at home. When we attended school, public schools didn’t even furnish paper, pens, and pencils. Buying a fountain pen was a third-grade status symbol.

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

In spite of what the public say about schools, the graduating students I interview have so many opportunities to succeed and far exceed my expectations of what a graduate should be able to do. They have so many choices both in and out of school. Boys and girls can participate equally in sports, theatre, mock trials, history, math, reading, writing, and science competitions. There are academies set up for agriculture, science, math, or the arts where students can specialize if they choose. Our schools also add the requirement of community service.

How do you think schools could be improved?

Marsha Ingrao says how 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.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Marsha. It’s been wonderful to have you here. I learned so much I didn’t already know about you. I especially love that your father called you Hemist Earningway and hope that writing is an earning way for you. However, I am very disappointed in the response of magazines that had such a negative impact on your ambitions and potential.

Find out more about Marsha Ingrao on her blogs

TC History Gal Productions

Traveling and Blogging Near and Far

 Always Write

Connect with her on social media

FB Page

Twitter: @MarshaIngrao

Pinterest

Instagram

Purchase a copy of Images of America:  Woodlake by Arcadia Publishing

or receive a free copy of So You Think You Can Blog? by Lulu Press.

 

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

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

Ritu Bhathal

Joy Lennick

Darlene Foster

Susan Scott

Mabel Kwong

Sherri Matthews

Chelsea Owens

Pete Springer

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

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