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School days reminiscences of Miriam Hurdle

School Days, Reminiscences of Miriam Hurdle

Welcome to the School Days, Reminiscences series in which my champion bloggers and authors share reminiscences of their school days. It’s my small way of thanking them for their support and of letting you know about their services and publications.

Miriam Hurdle, poet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome, Miriam.

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

Miriam Hurdle school photo

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

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

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

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your earliest memory of school?

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

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

What memories do you have of learning to read?

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

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

What memories do you have of learning to write?

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

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

What do you remember about math classes?

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

What was your favorite subject?

Miriam Hurdle's favourite subject at school was reading

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

What did you like best about school?

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

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

What did you like least about school?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you think schools could be improved?

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

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

thank you for your participation

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

Find out more about Miriam Hurdle

Visit her website: https://theshowersofblessings.com

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

Connect with her on social media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mhurdle112

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

Purchase Songs of Heartstrings from

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

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

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


If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King


D. Avery

Christy Birmingham

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

Coming soon:

Robbie Cheadle

Marsha Ingrao

Susan Scott

Mabel Kwong

Sherri Matthews

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

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



Introducing author and poet – June Perkins – Readilearn

This week on the readilearn blog I am talking to June Perkins about her wonderful collection of poems for children Magic Fish Dreaming. With the beautiful illustrations by Helene Magisson, this collection is a delight for the ears, the eyes, and the spirit. Read about June’s inspiration for the poems, and use them as inspiration for poems of your own, or use them to inspire poetry writing in your students.

Read June’s story at readilearn: Introducing author and poet – June Perkins – Readilearn

Assessing the impact of blogging on writing goals

cyberscooty, a basketball about to enter a basketball hoop https://openclipart.org/detail/205569/basketball

cyberscooty, a basketball about to enter a basketball hoop https://openclipart.org/detail/205569/basketball

I love writing. Always have. I usually confess that I am a better writer than a speaker.

I like the time that I can take to choose a word or phrase and combine them to mean just what I intend.

I like the opportunity to check a word’s appropriateness before using it. Often when speaking I leave my sentence hanging embarrassingly in mid-air while I grope around in the murkiness of my mind for the “correct” word.  Why can my fingertips find the right word, without any thought, and the tongue cannot?

And of course there are all the opportunities that writing provides for self-expression, creativity and sharing ideas with a wider audience.

I started out writing stories, poems and songs, as most children, do and tried my hand at short stories, children’s stories and poetry as I got older. As I became more involved with my career in education, and in raising my children, I had (or made) less time for those creative pursuits.

There are many reasons I loved being a teacher and one of those was the opportunity it provided for me to be creative: creative and innovative in the way I worked with children to encourage their learning; and creative in writing resources to assist my teaching and the children’s learning.

I was fortunate in having a variety of opportunities to write materials for educational publishers at different times during my career, and I am currently writing documents to support curriculum implementation for my state educational authority. But I really wanted to be in control of my own writing.

At the back of my mind there was always the thought of sharing my teaching and learning resources with a wider audience. (Just a little bit further back, or maybe even close to equal footing, is the thought of publishing children’s stories, short stories, and maybe even a novel . . . one day.) I had had no success with submitting unsolicited manuscripts before and couldn’t think what publisher might be interested in the variety of educational resources I had made, many specifically for use on a computer.

So a couple of years ago I decided that a website of my own was the ideal platform for sharing my resources.  Getting that website up and running is my primary goal. However, observers could be mistaken in thinking that writing a blog is my primary goal. The path to establishing a website has taken a side-track via blogging.

venkatrao, A butterfly flying with a dotted path over a hill background https://openclipart.org/detail/69967/1278212857

venkatrao, A butterfly flying with a dotted path over a hill background https://openclipart.org/detail/69967/1278212857

Blogging, Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media were recommended me to right from the beginning as a way of targeting and establishing an audience. At the time I was familiar with none of these and set off learning how to become involved. It has been an exciting journey. I have learned lots and made many wonderful online friends.

However I am not sure how far it has moved me towards achieving my website goal. In fact, I think very little progress has been made.

  • I have not found and established my “target” audience and am really none the wiser about doing that.
  • The time that I am spending writing, reading and commenting on blogs is time that I am not spending on preparing materials for my website.
  • I need to be more proactive in finding illustrators for my work.
  • When I discovered the Teachers Pay Teachers site and established my Teachers Pay Teachers Store I had thought this may be an alternative avenue for sharing my work. But I haven’t been as successful there as I would like either. This may be telling me something about my website goal. What is it telling me? Should I listen?

So my dilemma comes down to these questions”

To blog or not to blog?

How to blog?

How much time for blogging?

The answer to the first one is easy:

Yes! I very much enjoy writing my post and receiving the almost immediate feedback from the wonderful community of writers I engage with.

Yes! I love reading and commenting on others’ blogs and joining in the discussions that ensue. We are a S.M.A.G. group: Society of Mutual Appreciation and Gratitude. What’s to not like?

The second two questions are a little more difficult.

The focus of my blog is education, but my audience consists of writers. Educators have shown little interest in developing a relationship with me online. I haven’t been able to figure that one out, but I have a few hazy ideas, none of which I think I want to address at this stage. If I change the way I blog I would quite likely fall out with the community I have become part of; and there is no guarantee I would pick up a teacher audience. So I’ll have to keep mulling this one over for a while.

The third question is the one I have been “researching” for close on five months. As time is limited and I need to devote more time to achieving my primary goal, it is important that time spent on blogging activities is worthwhile.

I decided to find out who is keen to engage with me and who isn’t.

I began keeping a record of the number of comments I made on others’ blogs, and of those they made on mine.  It wasn’t always as I expected, and highlighted some interesting trends; the main one of which I have noted above:

Writers have a wonderful sense of community.

The record helped me ensure that, if someone visited and commented on my blog, I would visit and comment on theirs, maintaining a balance as much as possible.

This key explains how to interpret the information on the tables below.

Table legend

I have removed names from the tables to respect privacy. (I don’t really expect you to look too hard at the tables. You have better things to do. But they do look pretty!)

November 9 2014 – Jan 24 2015



Jan 25 2015 – March 26 2015



I have not included all blogs I “follow”, or even all the ones I have ever commented on. Only the ones on which there has been some consistency in connecting.

I have also not included the comments of those who follow and comment on my posts but do not have a blog of their own on which I could reciprocate.

I generally post twice a week.

Others post more often.

Sometimes the number of comments I make on their posts in relation to their comments on mine is affected by the greater number of times they post. If someone chooses to post more often than twice a week, I will not necessarily read all their posts, regardless of how much I enjoy reading them, as there are other ways I must use my time, including a reading greater variety of writer’s work, and getting more done on my own. I’m sure they have enough other readers to not miss me!

Sometimes when a blogger posts less frequently than I do, their comments on my posts may tip the scales in my favour. I can’t do much about that either, but I do try to catch up when next they post.

I have found that it can take a few weeks of commenting on a blog I like to get a return visit and comment on my blog. Frequently I don’t even get a response to a comment I’ve made on theirs. I guess that’s how it goes. Some bloggers blog to develop community. Others blog to broadcast. I just need to decide how best to use my time.

If you have walked with me to the end of this post, thank you. It is rather longer than I intended. I had intended to respond to Anne Goodwin’s invitation to join in a writing process blog hop , Sherri Matthews’ invitation to join a workspace blog hop, and Sarah Brentyn’s questions for writers, as well as explain my writing goals to Sacha Black, thank Julie stock for her Sisterhood of the World bloggers award and draw on Paula Reed Nancarrow’s wonderful survey about Twitter #hashtag days and blogging. But they will have to wait. We all have others things to do.

Contributing partly to my procrastination with responding to these wonderful invitations, which I do very much appreciate, is that I have already nominated the majority of bloggers I follow, or if I haven’t someone else has. And the remaining ones don’t wish to be nominated. What is a girl to do? I’d appreciate your suggestions.

Thank you

Thank you for reading.

I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts and advice, especially about how to increase time. If anyone knows a good time alchemist, I’d love to meet her!

Water wise

My first thought when reading this week’s flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch: in 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about water, was of the street on which I had hoped to open an alternative to school twenty years ago. I thought I could write about the property which, located on the corner of Water and Love Streets, seemed ideal. I thought I could write about the vision of our group “The Centre of Learning Opportunities” with its focus on the children’s program “Kids First” and how our centre would cater for children and families. I thought I could write about how we would implement our motto “Create the possibilities” which I have also adopted for my blog. But just like the centre itself, it didn’t eventuate.

Instead I thought a little deeper, considering how water is the substance of life, how fortunate we are in developed countries to be able to turn on a tap and access clean water whenever we want. According to the UN almost 8 million people do not have access to clean water and more than 2 million do not have adequate sanitation. Millions of people die each year from diseases related to water. The projections of water availability and access are quite alarming.

I thought about the use and misuse that is made of water in our rivers and streams and of a local issue that was reported quite recently.

I decided to write a poem about the journey of a river, from its beginnings high up in the mountains down to the sea; how it starts out crystal clear but picks up toxins as it wends it was down. You can probably guess that my next thought was of education; of how children begin full of wonderment and creativity but, as they are subjected to years of schooling, collect toxic thoughts and attitudes.

That may seem a bit harsh I know, and I have written a poem before comparing what I consider Education is to what I think schooling is.


However I thought I’d try to write a poem as an allegory of the schooling process; likening the way we are polluting our waterways to the way we are polluting and muddying the minds of our children. I’m not very happy with my first (fifth!) attempt, but I have met the word requirement and Charli’s ‘deadline’ is fast approaching.

Let me know what you think.



It started way up

In the highest of hills     

So crystal-clear pure

With a life to fulfill


It babbled through forests

And danced in the streams

Marveling  at wonders

Before never seen


It passed through the valleys

Irrigated the farms

Taking the runoff

And doing no harm


Down past the villages

Watered them too

Acquiring their discards

Now murky like stew


Passing by factories

Spewing out waste

Picked up their burden

And left without haste


Weaving its brown trail

Way down to the sea

From its mouth vomited out

A poisonous mix

Deceiving all living things

Expecting a gift

However I don’t want to leave you on a negative note. I’d rather acknowledge that there are many wonderful things happening in schools around the world. There must be, or we couldn’t be making the advancements we do.


I have shared many great things with you before like some of these great articles on edutopia.org. Just last week I shared information about a prize for innovation in inclusive curricula being awarded for a program, Big Questions teaching philosophy to children. Listen to any TED talk to be amazed at advancements and innovations.

I value your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of the article or my flash ‘poetic’ fiction piece.