Tag Archives: school days

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 Susan Scott

School Days, Reminiscences of Susan Scott

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

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

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

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

BA Clin. Psych. Hons

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

I enjoy walking and hiking, reading and writing.

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

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

Books by Susan Scott

Welcome, Susan.

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

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

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

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

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

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

What is your earliest memory of school?

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

What memories do you have of learning to read?

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

What memories do you have of learning to write?

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

What do you remember about math classes?

School days, reminiscences of Susan Scott

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

What was your favourite subject?

School days, reminiscences of Susan Scott

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

What did you like best about school?

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

What did you like least about school?

School days, reminiscences of Susan Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you think schools could be improved?

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

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

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

School days, reminiscences of Susan Scott

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

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

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

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

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

thank you for your participation

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

Find out more about Susan Scott

on her blog: Garden of Eden Blog

Connect with her on social media

Facebook: Susan Scott – Author

Twitter: Susan Scott

 

Purchase your own copy of Susan’s books:

Books by Susan Scott

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

 Aging & Becoming ~ A Reflective Enquiry

 

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King

JulesPaige

D. Avery

Christy Birmingham

Miriam Hurdle

Robbie Cheadle

Marsha Ingrao

Ritu Bhathal

Joy Lennick

Darlene Foster

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

Coming soon:

Barbara Vitelli

Sherri Matthews

Mabel Kwong

Chelsea Owens

Pete Springer

Carol Taylor

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

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

 

School Days Reminiscences of Darlene Foster

School Days, Reminiscences of Darlene Foster

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 Darlene Foster, world traveller and writer of travel adventure books for children and adventurers of all ages. Darlene joined in the conversations about school days from the beginning and was keen to share her own reminiscences with you.

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

Growing up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, Darlene Foster dreamt of writing, travelling the world, and meeting interesting people. She also believed in making her dreams come true. It’s no surprise she’s now the award-winning author of Amanda Travels, a children’s adventure series featuring a spunky twelve-year-old who loves to travel to unique places.  Readers of all ages enjoy following Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another. When not travelling herself, Darlene divides her time between the west coast of Canada and the Costa Blanca, Spain with her husband and entertaining dog, Dot.

Darlene Foster and her books

Welcome, Darlene.

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

Until grade 4, I attended a small rural school in the Canadian prairies, Hilda, Alberta, in which one teacher taught two grades. Then we moved to another rural community, Irvine, Alberta, where I attended a much larger school with separate grades including high school for the rest of my school days.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

These were government schools, which we call public schools in Canada.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

I left school in Grade 11 so did not graduate with my classmates. I did however complete high school via correspondence. I took many college courses over the years and when I turned fifty, I graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Diploma in Teaching English as a Second Language, via distant learning. I also acquired a number of Certificates in Human Resource Management and Job Search Facilitation. I believe in lifelong learning and will continue taking courses for the rest of my life.

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

I worked in retail management, recruitment, employment counselling and as an ESL Teacher, all as a result of courses I have taken. I have also taken many writing courses over the years, including university-level courses, which have been very beneficial to me now as a writer.

Darlene Fosters's earliest memory of school

What is your earliest memory of school? 

I remember the first day I walked into the classroom. I thought I was in heaven, all those books and so much to learn. I was like a sponge, thirsty for knowledge. I loved school from before I even started and could easily have been a professional student. Even now when I walk into a classroom for an author presentation, I get that same feeling of awe.

What memories do you have of learning to read?

I could read a bit before I started school. I recall my dad reading the comics, which we called the funny papers, in the weekly newspaper with me. That may have been how I started to read. I loved the Dick and Jane readers at school and being able to read a story on my own was so exciting.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

I recall that being able to print was great but when I learned cursive writing, I was delighted. My writing was very neat and tidy for the first couple of years and I even won prizes for it. Then I started to write stories of my own and my writing couldn’t keep up with my thoughts and ideas. It soon became very messy, but I just had to get it all down on paper. It is totally unreadable now. Thank heaven for computers.

What do you remember about math classes?

Math classes were OK but not my favourite. I always had to work harder on math but still got good marks. I do recall enjoying algebra though, while everyone else hated it. Proof that I am a letters person, not a numbers person.

What was your favourite subject? 

It was a tie between English Literature, Social Studies and Drama.

what Darlene Foster liked best about school

What did you like best about school?

Learning new things and the teachers. My grade three teacher, in particular, was amazing. She taught us about other countries by getting us involved. When we learned about Mexico she gave us Spanish names, cooked Mexican food for us and brought in colourful serapes and sombreros for us to wear. She instilled in me the desire to travel and see the world. She also encouraged me to write my stories down. I will be forever grateful to her.

I was an odd child and actually enjoyed taking tests. When we moved, the school season had already started by two months and I had started grade 5 at the old school. I was so excited about going to what I considered a much more modern school. It was a day the class was taking a provincial pre-packaged test and there wasn’t a package for me. I was devastated that I couldn’t take the test and actually cried. The other students thought I was crazy as they would have happily given up doing the test.

Darlene Foster reminiscences of school days

What did you like least about school? 

Physical Training. I was never good at sports and was always the last to be picked for a team. I came up with all kinds of excuses not to participate and was often sick on P.T. day. And those awful bloomers we had to wear! One wise teacher gave me the job of being the scorekeeper, which I enjoyed.

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

Since it has been a long time since I went to school, they have obviously changed, a lot. They have changed since my own kids went to school. The biggest change is the use of technology of course. I love those whiteboards that act as a computer screen. They are like magic. There is much more positive reinforcement and focus on diversity and individuality today. I like the fact that school is less formal and more relaxed. We couldn’t even wear pants (trousers) to school and had to wear skirts even on -40C days. Now they even have pyjama days!

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

As a writer, I often visit schools to do readings and I am very impressed with schools today. The students are so eager to learn and proud of their accomplishments. There seems to be an emphasis on reading and creative activities which is so good to see. Children respond to learning if it is fun and there is no reason for it not to be. Personally, I would love to be a student in today’s schools.

Darlene Foster reminiscences of school days

How do you think schools could be improved?

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

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Darlene. It’s a pleasure to have you here. I especially love that you are excited about learning and particularly being a life-long learner. I enjoyed reading your positive views about schools today.

Find out more about Darlene Foster

On her website: http://www.darlenefoster.ca/

On her blog: https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/

Or her Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Darlene-Foster/e/B003XGQPHA/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3156908.Darlene_Foster

Connect with Darlene on social media

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

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/supermegawoman

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/darlene6490/

Books by Darlene Foster

Purchase your own copies of Darlene’s books from Amazon.

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King

JulesPaige

D. Avery

Christy Birmingham

Miriam Hurdle

Robbie Cheadle

Marsha Ingrao

Ritu Bhathal

Joy Lennick

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

Coming soon:

Susan Scott

Barbara Vitelli

Sherri Matthews

Mabel Kwong

Chelsea Owens

Pete Springer

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

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

 

 

School Days, Reminiscences of Joy Lennick

School Days, Reminiscences of Joy Lennick

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 Joy Lennick, author and poet. Joy joined in the conversations from the outset, sharing snippets from her war-time schooldays. Intrigued to learn more, I invited Joy to join in with a post dedicated to her own reminiscences and she accepted. I’m certain you’ll find them as interesting as I do.

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

From a young age, I was never happier than when reading or writing (and perhaps dancing!). I was evacuated with my two brothers to live on a mountain (Hare) in Wales, being half Welsh on my mother’s side, and grew to love Wales. My education was completed in Pitman’s College, London, from the last year of the war. At fifteen, I became a shorthand-typist, and worked for an agency in the East and West ends of London, which I really enjoyed.

After marriage just before the age of 21, and living in London for a few years, the Suez Crisis debacle flared up and petrol was so short and the atmosphere so “war-like,” we set sail for Canada, where we lived and worked for eighteen, unforgettable, months.

Returning to the UK due to home-sickness…in 1960 I had my first son, followed by No.2 in 1962 and No.3 in 1968. I contracted but beat cancer, so was very lucky. We then ran a green-grocery/grocery store for several years. After its sale, and the children went to school, I returned to work in the city as secretary to the two editors of Kaye & Ward, an old established publishing company in the city. (My dream job!)

The next chapter saw us buying a small hotel in Bournemouth as we both enjoyed cooking and people. We turned a dark, mean place into a thriving business, I lost a stone (yippee) and gained a few muscles, and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole business, even though it was hard work.  Tastes were changing and the hotel was old. We needed more cash than we had to make it more comfortable, so – with regret, sold it and returned to Essex to live. And that is when I learned about “Serendipity,” and became a writer, quite by chance.

A letter from Kogan Page Ltd of London “commissioned” me (?!) to write a book for them, subject to approval of the first two chapters. I couldn’t wait! “Running Your Own Small Hotel” was approved. I had been recommended by one of the editors I’d worked for who had read some of my poetry and an article I’d had published. The book did well and went to reprint. There was even an exciting “Authors’ party,” and I updated two of their books and wrote a second called “Jobs in Baking and Confectionery,” which also sold well.

In between working for my local junior school, part-time, I then ran a modest, while successful poetry club, and wrote a few poems and articles, which were published. I also received a few rejection letters…par for the course!

Fast forward too many years, and we retired to Spain, I joined The Torrevieja Writing group and won the first Torrevieja International Short Story competition with a Time Traveller tale called “Worth its Salt,” then was a writing judge for two years.

Next came a memoir: “My Gentle War” which went to No.1 in Kindle’s Social History and Memoir category. A true sea adventure story: “Hurricane Halsey” followed, then my only novel “The Catalyst,” covering one of the terrorist bombings of a train in London in 2005, but with fictitious characters. I also wrote several stories which were included in WordPlay’s anthologies – later called Writers’ Ink (our off-shoot Ezine is called INK SPOT). Then came “Where Angels and Devils Tread,” a collection of short stories written with author friend Jean Wilson; and a modest collection of jokes and humorous poems written with my husband, Eric: “The Moon is Wearing a Tutu.” I also edited husband’s book “A Life Worth Living,” and updated “From the Prairies to Paschendeale,” for a friend. I am at present working on a book about the “Dombrowski family.”

I took a Creative Writing class for the U3A for several years and am in the “Chair” for Writers’ Ink here in Spain.

Joy Lennick and her books

Welcome, Joy.

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

Where did you go to school?

1937: Dagenham Infants school

1939: Twynrodyn Junior School

1941: Hunters Hall school

1943: Eastbrook senior school, Long Eaton senior school, Derbyshire

1944: Neath senior school

1944: Pitman’s College, London.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

All Government schools, except Pitman’s College, London, which was private.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

Highest level: Pitman’s where I received various certificates for hand-writing/typing/shorthand and commerce.

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

I started as a shorthand-typist, became assistant secretary and then secretary. Also assisted husband in running a greengrocery/grocery shop and became a hotelier.  I was then a Dinner Lady/School assistant and did voluntary work with the elderly before writing professionally.

What is your earliest memory of school?

My earliest memory at Infants school was writing my name in sand on a shallow tray and playing the triangle and the tambourine in the school band.

What memories do you have of learning to read?

I was immediately fascinated by the letters and words on a page and took to reading straight away. I read anything and everything: ingredients on cereal boxes, comics, etc., and was always lucky enough to be given books for my birthdays. I joined the library in MerthyrTydfil and devoured books from age seven — Hans Christian Anderson and the frightening Bros. Grimm, et al.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

As for writing, my father was a keen letter-writer (positive views on many subjects to the local newspaper) and wrote beautiful Calligraphy which I greatly admired and wanted to emulate. He kept stamps and made a few admirable displays with delicate work around each stamp. I was proud to be told I had a “good hand!” and of my hand-writing certificate. Shorthand later made it a bit scruffier…

What do you remember about math classes?

I had a problem with maths. Adding, subtracting, decimals and fractions was coped with OK but  if I was thrown a maths ‘puzzler’ I’d freeze…I coped fine when we had our shop, and did the accounts when we ran the hotel as it was comparatively straight-forward, but I much preferred English.

What was your favourite subject?

Most definitely English, and because of the very nature of war — between the years 1939,when it  began and 1945 when it ended, there were, periodically, huge disruptions in my schooling,  especially when the siren sounded. At such times, we were read to and had to ‘Read quietly!’ by ourselves, which I found a joy. I also loved composing stories and enjoyed spelling. I even wrote a silly play which was acted on the stage. Poetry also pleased my young ears. I was particularly fond of Hiawatha because of the delightful rhythm. I couldn’t take to Shakespeare when young but loved it later when, at the ripe age of 66 I finally took and passed the English Literature exam – much to the amusement of my younger peers…

Joy Lennick at age 4

What did you like best about school?

I made friends quite easily, despite being shy and was a chatter-box, in spite of the annoying habit of blushing if a boy spoke to me. In fact, I blushed a lot as I was often unsure of myself, but always enjoyed having friends at school. There was so much to learn, and I have always been a curious person. I was lucky in that I was never bullied and got on with most children, and was also fortunate with  the teachers, except for my maths teacher at Pitman’s who had no patience with my many questions…Miss Jones, my English and Games teacher at Pitman’s was my favourite.

What did you like least about school?

To be fair, the mores of the times were dictated by the state of the whole world, as very little was as ‘normal’ as in peace time. Some children were killed or injured and lost loved ones and air raids disrupted many classes, especially in London, Coventry, Norwich and many other towns. We children went back-wards and forwards to home and Wales several times in between the bombing for long weekends and holidays. And when I attended Eastbrook senior school in Dagenham, the bombing increased and the whole school was evacuated to Long Eaton in Derbyshire. It must have been a nightmare for the teachers to keep to a curriculum!

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

There is no comparison between my schooldays and those of my three sons. Only one was bullied because he was more studious and wouldn’t join an unruly gang. Fortunately, the headmaster sorted it out. All three received a fair and satisfactory education. I have no grand- children to comment on present conditions but do have friends who were teachers. They both complained about the increased paper-work, which – apparently – is an ongoing problem for teachers today.

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

From my ten years working as a Dinner Lady and reading/poetry assistant in a junior school, I’d say that, over-all, today’s children are in pretty safe hands, education-wise. The technological strides forward are amazing, and I’m personally pleased to see more musical appreciation and tuition being introduced in some schools

How do you think schools could be improved?

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

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Joy. How disruptive your schooling was as a result of the war. You seem to have overcome any obstacles that it may have created. It’s been a pleasure to have you here and get to know you and learn about your school days and your achievements.

Find out more about Joy Lennick

Website: https://joylennick.wordpress.com/

Contact her at joylennick@gmail.com

Or connect with her on social media

Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Writers’ Ink

also a member of Authors/Bloggers Rainbow Support Club on Facebook

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

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

Darlene Foster

Susan Scott

Barbara Vitelli

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.

 

 

School Days Reminiscences of Ritu Bhathal

School Days, Reminiscences of Ritu Bhathal

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

This week, I am delighted to introduce Ritu Bhathal, author, poet, blogger, teacher. Ritu and I follow a similar group of bloggers. We seem to pop up alongside each other, commenting on a number of blogs and writing flash fiction at the Carrot Ranch where Ritu’s contribution is often poetic. I think that we are both teachers, have a love of children and learning, and similar views about education draws us together. Ritu decided she wanted to be a teacher at an even younger age than I did. Teaching (and writing) was our destiny. If you haven’t yet met Ritu, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to do so now.

Ritu Bhathal and her book of poetry

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

Ritu Bhathal was born in Birmingham in the mid-1970’s to migrant parents, hailing from Kenya but with Indian origin. This colourful background has been a constant source of inspiration to her.
From childhood, she always enjoyed reading. This love of books is mostly credited to her mother.
The joy of reading spurred her on to become creative in her own writing, from fiction to poetry.
Winning little writing competitions at school and locally gave her the encouragement to continue writing.
As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and teacher, she has drawn on inspiration from many avenues to create the poems that she writes.
A qualified teacher, having studied at Kingston University, she now deals with classes of children as a sideline to her writing!
Ritu also writes a blog, a mixture of life and creativity, thoughts and opinions, which was awarded first place in the Best Overall Blog Category at the 2017 Annual Bloggers Bash Awards.
Ritu is happily married, and living in Kent, with her Hubby Dearest, and two children, not forgetting the furbaby Sonu Singh.
Having published an anthology of poetry, Poetic RITUals, she is currently working on some short stories, and a novel, to be published in the near future.

Welcome, Ritu.

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

I went to school in Solihull, Birmingham, in the UK.

Ritu Bhathal's first school

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

The school I attended from 3 all the way to 17 was an Independent private girls’ school.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

I completed my B/Ed (Hons) English & Drama (3-7 years) degree at Kingston University in Surrey, UK.

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

Ritu Bhathal decides to be a teacher

My degree shows what my intention was – to teach. I ended up in retail, a bank and then a marketing company, before finally getting to the job I always felt I was created to do. The reason I decided teaching was my vocation was because of the head girl at our school, Jo Duck, when I was 7. She came to our class to do work experience, and that was when it clicked that teaching was a job, something I could choose to do!

What is your earliest memory of school?

Ritu Bhathal discusses starting school

My earliest memory is the classroom where I first started school, in Miss Wilson’s class, as a 3-year-old. It was a huge room, filled with so many activities, books and toys, and a lot of love. I distinctly remember this beautiful wooden playhouse that was our home corner, and that we all had a bit of a ‘thing’ that something creepy lived behind it. Obviously, all that was behind it was a wall, but at 3, your imagination can play games! And the fact that I spoke no English when I started, apart from Hello! Apparently, I learned quickly, and within a week, my mum says my pidgin English would sail through the air at home, as my Punjabi faded away… And I haven’t stopped speaking it since! But never fear, I haven’t forgotten my mother tongue!

What memories do you have of learning to read? 

I can always remember having school reading books to take home, and the series that always stays in my mind involved a griffin and some pirates! Books were always key in my life. My mother is also a keen reader and her passion rubbed off on me. My first set of books were the original Noddy series by Enid Blyton, which I was given at 4, after having my tonsils out. I still have them.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

I don’t know when I specifically learned to write, but the whole process involved lots of fine motor activities, and I know I had crayons and paper from a very young age. I was proud of being able to master my full name, Ratinder!

What do you remember about math classes?

Maths as a subject, is not my favourite. I used to say I can’t do maths, but that’s not very growth mindset, so to this day in my forties, I say “I cannot do maths, yet!” My biggest memory of maths, aside from the squared paper in the books was a male maths teacher joining our school, and not being able to cope with the chattering that happened in this fully female class!

What was your favourite subject?

English and Drama were my favourite subjects, for obvious reasons! Reading and writing was always a pleasure, never a chore, and acting, oh, I loved to create personas that were totally unlike the real me.

What did you like best about school?

Ritu Bhathal discusses her well-rounded education

Honestly, I can’t pinpoint one thing. I feel blessed that I had a really positive experience at my school, and I feel proud to say that I left with friends for life and a wholly rounded education.

What did you like least about school?

P.E.! I am not a physically motivated person, and though I didn’t mind games lessons, they were definitely not my favourite!

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

Ritu Bhathal discusses schooling

There has been a huge change in education and schools since I attended. Being a part of the education system as a professional, I feel I can say that. A lot of standardised testing from a young age has put additional pressure on children, and I really think that this pressure is what ends up creating the angry teens we seem to have more of nowadays. Teachers try so hard to make school fun, but the tick boxes we have to adhere to, really strip the enjoyment for us as well as the children.

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

That is a really hard question because I don’t think there is a blanket answer. Some schools are better than others at giving children a rounded experience of life. Some are more concerned with tests and results.

How do you think schools could be improved?

I think this answer doesn’t lie with the schools, but with the government. They really need to learn from the Scandinavian Education system, where the emphasis is on learning through play for the first few years, and formal schooling that starts at 7, when a child is more ready to learn in a classroom environment. And scrap the SATS! I speak from experience here as I have seen both my children go through the SATS and the upset it caused them at 7 and 11. In Finland, where my brother is bringing his family up, my nephew is 4 and the age of children I teach. What he can do at that age, in more than one language, astounds me, from his general knowledge, motor skills, numeracy and literacy! UK – please take note!

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and your professional perspective on education as it is now, Ritu. I’m not surprised to hear that English and Drama were your favourite subjects and I applaud your recommendation to the UK Education Department. We need our Australian Government to take note too.

Find out more about Ritu Bhathal

Website: http://www.butismileanyway.com

Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/56854412-ritu-bhathal

Or connect with her on social media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RituBhathal
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ritubhathalwrites/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/butismileanyway/
Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/bhathalpadhaal/
Mix: https://mix.com/butismileanyway
Tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/ritusmiles

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ritu-bhathal-48941648/
Bloglovin: https://www.bloglovin.com/@ritubhathalpadhaal

 

Poetic Rituals by Ritu Bhathal

Purchase your own copy of Poetic RITUals via this link

myBook.to/PoeticRITUals

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

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

Joy Lennick

Darlene Foster

Susan Scott

Mabel Kwong

Sherri Matthews

Chelsea Owens

Pete Springer

Colleen Chesebro

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.

 

 

 

School Days Reminiscences of Robbie Cheadle

School Days, Reminiscences of Robbie Cheadle

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 Robbie Cheadle, author, poet and blogger. I’m not sure when or where I first met Robbie, but I know was captivated by her delightfully unique Sir Chocolate series of picture books which she illustrates with amazing fondant figurines. I was also intrigued to know that these books were jointly written with her and her son Michael, starting from when he was ten years old. There are now six books in the Sir Chocolate series and, since then, Robbie has published a memoir of her mother’s war-time childhood, co-written a book of poems, and had others of her poems and short stories featured in anthologies.

Robbie Cheadle and her books

Before we begin the interview, I asked Robbie to tell you a little of herself:

Robbie, short for Roberta, is an author with six published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with her son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about her mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with her mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of Robbie’s children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications. 

Robbie has recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential her children’s books from her adult writing, these will be published under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. Robbie has two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre. These short stories are published under Robbie Cheadle.

Robbie has also recently published a poetry collection, Open a new door, together with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Welcome, Robbie.

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

I went to fourteen different schools as we moved around a lot. My first school was Craighall Convent in Johannesburg. The school I learned the most at was a bilingual school in George in the Western Cape. I was only there for six weeks but I learned the basics of Afrikaans (second language in South Africa) which I had missed out on before.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

I attended a mixture of schools. I attended a couple of private schools when I was in primary school including two convents. I went to public schools when we lived in George for the first time and when we lived in Cape Town. I attended a public high school in Johannesburg.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

I have a degree and an honours degree in Accounting as well as my board examinations to become a chartered accountant. I was keen to do an economics degree a few years ago when I wrote my publications on direct foreign investment into Africa but I couldn’t find anything suitable. I reverted to self-study and analysis instead and this research is in my publications.

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

Immediately after school I went to a secretarial college for a year where I learned typing, shorthand and the other skills of a professional secretary. I then worked for a few years and saved money which I used to pay for some of my university education. I attended a correspondence university and worked shifts in a video shop to earn money while I did my first degree. I applied for, and was accepted, for an internship at KPMG in Johannesburg when I finished my degree. KPMG paid for my studies for my honours degree and I studied part time in the evenings and during public holidays and weekends. It was hard but I managed to do it and I passed all my examinations first time around, even my honours degree where I had to pass all nine examinations in one sitting.

What is your earliest memory of school?

Robbie Cheadle as a school girl in the news

I remember having my photograph taken for the national newspaper on the first day of school. My friend’s father was a photographer for the newspaper and he used me as his “First day of school” photograph that year.

I also remember being left out when the girls (aged 7 years old) when to mass and practiced for their first Holy Communion. I recall being sad that I didn’t have a long white dress and candle. I only took my Holy Communion when I was 12 years old and we were living in George.

What memories do you have of learning to read?

I remember being fascinated with books and reading. I can recall sounding out the words by myself and the triumph of reading Little Bear all by myself. Once I got the hang of reading, I just went from strength to strength. I got books for every birthday and Christmas and belonged to the library. When I was 9 years old and we lived in Cape Town, I used to cycle to the library twice a week and take out 7 books at a time to read (4 library cards were mine and 3 were my sister, Cath’s, but she let me use them.)

What memories do you have of learning to write?

I remember writing my name in my books and I always inverted by b’s, d’s and p’s. I had a bit of remedial help and this was corrected when I was 8 years old. My old books still have the inscription Roderta Eaton.

What do you remember about math classes?

I have very little memory of maths class other than I was able to do reasonably well without much effort which left me lots of time to read. I remember my high school maths teacher writing a remark on my report that said: “Generally speaking, Robbie is generally speaking.” I have always remembered that comment. I had one teacher that told my mom that I had layers like an onion which you needed to peel back to find the real me. My mother was also told by a teacher that I practiced “silent insubordination.”

Robbie Cheadle discusses what she liked best about school

What was your favourite subject?

I enjoyed English firstly and then History. Accounting and Maths were both relatively easy for me and I hated Afrikaans with a passion. My second ever Afrikaans teacher embarrassed me in front of the whole class and I would never bother with learning this language after that.

What did you like best about school?

I have two lovely memories of school, one, was creating a play with my friends to perform for the class when I was 8 years old. I loved organizing the cast and teaching them their roles. I have always enjoyed project management and organizing. The other memory I cherish was being chosen to be Mary in the Nativity Play when I was 12-years old. I was simply thrilled.

What did you like least about school?

I can’t think of anything I really didn’t like about school; it just was something I did every day for 12 years. I have always been a loner and would always chose books over people. We moved a lot, so I learned not to get too close to other children, it was easier to uproot myself that way. I am still quite good at accepting change and I don’t retain long-term physical friendships. I prefer my virtual friends who are constant and always there.

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

Unfortunately, the quality of the public education in South Africa for underprivileged children has not improved much since 1994. Lots of children start learning English late in their school career (at the age of 10 or 11 years old) and it is difficult for them to cope with being taught in English.

There is still a huge shortage of school basics in many rural schools and children are still being taught under trees and in classes with few desks and chairs and even fewer learning materials. There are often no proper toilets for the children to use.

I belong to charities which donate books and stationery to underprivileged schools. A lot is done to help by the private business sector and individuals.

My sons both attend private schools and the college my older son attends is exemplary in its out-reach programme. It supports a disadvantaged college in a rural area and has a programme to train teachers from disadvantaged backgrounds. It also has a programme to help disadvantaged children with potential to achieve at school. This is run in the afternoons and the teaching staff freely give of the own time and skills. It is a sad that the public education is poor because our world is evolving into one where higher-level skills are becoming vital to get and retain jobs. English and maths skills are essential.

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

I can only answer this question from the point of view of my own sons. Both of their schools have outcomes-based education programmes and this works so well. Their curriculums are marvelous and I often find myself thinking how much I would have enjoyed their schooling when I was a girl. My older son’s school has programmes to give accelerated learning opportunities to boys who find learning easier and support programmes for boys that find some areas of learning more difficult. They just do such wonderful things, read fantastic books and have marvelous learning opportunities. Of course, as with all things in life, you have to grasp opportunities or else they pass you by.

How do you think schools could be improved?

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

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Robbie. It was interesting to hear the comparisons between your own schooling and that of your son’s current schooling. I was interested to hear your response to learning Afrikaans and was surprised at how late English was taught. The photographs of you from the newspaper are very cute and to be treasured.

Find out more about Robbie Cheadle on her blogs

Bake and Write

Robbie’s inspiration

And her Goodreads author page:

 

Connect with her on social media

Facebook @SirChocolateBooks

Roberta Writes

Twitter @bakeandwrite

@robertaeaton17

Robbie’s books can be purchased from

Amazon

Or

TSL Publications

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

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

Coming soon:

Marsha Ingrao

Ritu Bhathal

Joy Lennick

Susan Scott

Mabel Kwong

Sherri Matthews

Chelsea Owens

Pete Springer

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

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