Dear School Children

[Bear with me. I’ve just visited Alvan’s blog and I began to leave a very long comment before I realised I could actually write it here. I hope it makes sense before I fall asleep on the keys.]

Alvan’s post talks about PSLE scores, or Primary School Leaving examination scores – I had to look the acronym up. While I know nothing about the systems in Singapore, school children everywhere are subjected to a nationwide scoring system which allegedly determines their further education or career opportunities. Australia is no different.

I understand why we need this and I understand why it’s useless.

They have to create a comparative measure – a measure that judges you against your peers and judges schools against schools. Hopefully, it makes the schools and their students work harder and be better. Maybe this works sometimes. Unfortunately too (and YAY!), everyone is different. Exams aren’t necessarily the best way to determines a person’s capabilities. Some people are better at showing than explaining. Some people are better at drawing than writing. Some people are better at dot-points than essays. We don’t fit neatly into a one-size-fits-all education system but this is what we’re offered.

During my time as a teacher, often my biggest challenge was to differentiate between those who didn’t understand and those who simply couldn’t express themselves. During university, a section of my psychology exam was multiple choice because a recent study had determined it was a better way to convey understanding. I hated it. The choices were so similar they only served to confuse me and it annoyed me that students who hadn’t bothered to study still had a 1/5 chance of getting it right.

Sometimes we receive our education before we’re really ready for it. My husband, for example, wished he’d paid more attention during metalwork class. He took that class twenty years ago – the thing is, he’s only interested in it now.

The further you travel through life the more pointless these systems feel. Unfortunately, when you’re in the them, living them – they feel like failure or success.

Recently, I read through a résumé and while I believed they were qualified for the job I wondered if they were actually nice. This thought was probably my mother’s fault who always said she wanted two things from her children, to be our best and be good people. Mum valued the latter more.

I was one of those kids who wore myself out being my better-best. This was mostly because I wanted to be as intelligent as my brother. He told me years later he wished he had my practicality and people skills. I went through university only to find work in a totally different field. My husband dropped out of university and took on vocational training to (economically at least) get a better job than me. This is fact, not failure.

Success would be better if it were measured in kindness but the is the system is more analytical. Numbers on paper. Crosses and ticks.

All you can do is be your best, work hard for what you want and be a good person.

You’ll be okay.

 

Extra Ordinary

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Find the ‘extra’…

I don’t own a single album of David Bowie, so the devastation I felt upon his passing seemed disproportional. A similar dichotomy happened only days later, with Alan Rickman.

Extraordinary strangers. People who I’ve glimpsed through the world’s eye with their extraordinary talents, while they undoubtedly continued with their ordinary lives, viewing themselves as unremarkable and simply creating, working and living.

I’m drawn to this humbleness. Not those who bask in their success but wonder at it, are confused by it and possibly curse the attention it brings.

I follow The Bloggess. I cannot claim to know her but she gives so much of herself on her blog and in her books that it is difficult to not feel connected. She wrote this post about David Bowie and Alan Rickman (among others) which I marvelled at not simply because I felt exactly the same but because she does not see herself among them. She is among them. She is extraordinary.

She’ll never read this.

Wil Wheaton and Anne Wheaton are extraordinary. They are good people and I would happily say I adore them. I feel delighted that they share their lives on social media because they make me laugh but they’ve dealt with enough nonsense for Wil (at one time or other) to post instructions on how to be respectful, and for Anne to quit twitter. Just before she quit, I sent her a direct message.

Twitter comment

She didn’t read it.

If she did, it didn’t make any difference – I didn’t expect it would. I am one of hundreds upon thousands of people waving my arms around her.

She’ll never read this either.

These are five people who have touched my life without their knowledge, be it by their humour or sensibilities or genius or grace, or they’ve simply shared a part of their life. There are many others. Writers, artists, creators, comedians – people I’ve found on Twitter or Instagram or WordPress or TED talks. Often not famous. There’s a part of me that believes if the world were smaller, we’d be friends. With some, I already am.

I am thankful for these connections – however large and worldly, or small and obscure.

Extraordinary strangers. Those who are likely think of themselves as quite ordinary but are remarkable. Not necessarily in a Bowie way, or a Rickman way, but in their own way.

And if you’re sitting there reading this thinking I’m not talking about you. Why not? Life is extraordinary . The mechanics of a purring cat. The brain. An opening flower.

Ordinary and extraordinary are not mutually exclusive.

The only thing that limits us is our perception.

Believing

Two days ago, I began a whole different post.

It was about failure and resolutions for a year we’ve now lost. Failed resolutions. I didn’t intend to fail, but then, I didn’t make any real effort to win so technically, failure was assured. Actually, that’s not even technical, that’s logical and I cannot (or should not) lament something I chose.

After Nano Poblemo, I said I would blog more. I haven’t, yet, and I’m not sure why I feel guilty about it. It’s crazy because I’m creating failures for myself.

So, it seems that this post too, is about failure.

It is.

And it isn’t.

Nano Poblano was a resolution. Not one timed with the New Year but one that came at the eleventh hour on the last day of October. I’d procrastinated. I’d thought about it for days previously before I finally committed to it. And then I did it – I blogged everyday for a month.

I won.

I set myself some resolutions for 2015. None of them were unreasonable or unrealistic but I didn’t take them on. I wondered how they were any different from my Nano Poblano challenge.

They weren’t different. Except, there was this little part of my brain that believed I could write a blog post everyday.

I believed.

This post was going to be about lots of things. Instead of resolutions, I’m going to focus on believing.

Happy New Year, my friends.

Whatever you do in 2016, be your best.

An Award! Yay!

Thanks to Fairweatherpaddler at Home Grown Heaven, I’ve  been nominated for THE VERSATILE BLOGGER AWARD!

*Releases party poppers*versatileblogger11

Before you read on though, go check out Home Grown Heaven. It’s delightful, insightful, inspiring and practical. Her family are living the good life, so it’s hard work!

Go on. I’ll wait.

Looking around the  blogs of other fellow nominees, I feel privileged to be among these awesome folk.  I’m personally a little bemused with the title ‘versatile’. I suddenly feel the need to construct this post from origami.

Okay. So to the rules…

  • Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  •  Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy.
  •  Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.
  • Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award.
  • Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

Now, I follow an extensive number of blogs, all of whom are worthy of a nomination.  To keep things simple, I’ll focus on new blogs I discovered during Nano Poblano (or NaBloPoMo). They not only wrote some amazing, honest, emotive, funny stuff, they also shared the love by visiting fellow Nano Poblano bloggers. And, they took to time to comment on my over-thought blog posts!

But. No strings attached. As awesome and as awards are, I know they can sometimes be a burden. Sometimes you don’t have time, sometimes you’ve been nominated for this award already (or something similar) . It doesn’t matter, the point is, if you don’t wish to participate. I don’t mind. Just know – in case you weren’t sure – I think you’re amazing.

I wish to nominate:

A Heart on the Matter
Behind the Willows
Breaking Moulds
EchoShadow
FlightScarlet
Judah First
Musings of an Eccentric Mind
Never Trust a Jellyfish
Part-Time Monster
Quixie’s Mind Palace
Sidereal Catalyst
Spoken Like a True Nut
Teleportingweena
The Tawny’s Blog
Vanessence

I seriously hope I haven’t left anyone off.

Seven things about me.

  1. My second toe is longer than my bigtoe, my third toe is the same length as my bigtoe. I’m a freak of nature.
  2. I have over 100 pictures hanging in my house, mostly saved from markets or junk yards. I haven’t counted them but I bought a packet of 100 hooks and ran out. Also, I’m fast running out of wall space.
  3. My birthday essentially starts with my first birthday card. Then I have my birthday. Then I’ll probably drag it out another week. Because, why not.
  4. Packing and organisation are my super powers. If you’re moving house, I’m your girl. If you need to fit a pile of stuff into the back of your car – move over.
  5. I suffer from this thing my family calls I-can-do-it-Kate Syndrome. If there’s something you can’t do (like taking a lid of a jar, for instance), I’ll be itching for a try.
  6. In my youth (in my youth! Crap, does that mean I’m no longer youthful!? Nooooooooo!) I could sit on my hair. People used to state, ‘Wow, your hair is really long’. It was profound.
  7. On that note, my favourite kind of humour is sarcasm.

 

 

Off the Back of NaBloPoMo

Or as we Tiny Peppers like to call it, Nano Poblano.

Or, as I’ve been calling it lately (today), NaNo Problemo.

So, Day 30. Here I am, I took you on. I won. The only day-fail coming off the back of an ice skating accident and taking my friend to Emergency. Friday the 13th and all. But I caught you up.

IN YOUR FACE, November. IN. YOUR. FACE.

*ahem*

So, where am I at? What will this mean? Has it changed my life?

Meh. Huh? Maybe.

Time will tell. Today, I feel I will blog more often, which honestly, is a stupid thing to say because blogging more often than I did before NoBloPoMo won’t exactly be a stretch. But, irrespective of whether I do or don’t – I know I can. I’ve blogged every day for a month. WOOT! Two years ago I didn’t think I’d ever do that, the very thought would have made me vomit.

Not literally. Obviously.

I’ve been forced to rein in my self editor (who’s normally brutal). And I’ve been posting with mistakes. I been posting without twenty-million re-reads. Without relying on my husband’s proof-reading.

Congratulations to those who took on NaBloPoMo and/or Nano Poblano and won. And congratulation to those who gave NaBloPoMo and/or Nano Poblano a go. There are no losers. You’re all amazing.

And I wish to thank you. All those people who’ve found me here during my thirty day blogging frenzy with special thanks to those who’ve taken the time to leave a comment. I have found new friends here.

And thank you, Ra. You have no idea how much awesome you make.

Memory

It’s Day 25 of Nano Poblano (Ra’s version of NaBloPoMo) and I’ve drawn a blank. Fortunately Ra kindly left a prompt page for such occasions. Although they are list-prompts, I aimed to find one that inspired a non-list post.

“Things I have memorised”

I did drama at school and frequently joined school productions. I always felt safer playing someone else.

My school at one time, participated in a local drama competition. It was a big thing, and boy, did we rehearse. We rehearsed so much that one day, when one of the cast members was off sick, our drama teacher asked if anyone else could say the lines. We all raised our hands. We all knew the entire script. We recited it in unison, our teacher’s mouth dropped open before she said, ‘alright then!’

I wonder sometimes, if I’d still remember. If someone read me a line, I would remember the next?

I still remember some poetry. I gave up drama for more ‘sensible’ career choices but decided to memorise a few poems. The most impressive, was this one:

From Ulysses
Alfred Lord Tennyson
…Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

This is an excerpt, but I learnt the whole poem off by heart. Poetry played a huge part in my life at the time I decided to commit this to memory. The film, Dead Poets’ Society aided this – the main character reciting these very lines.

*Sigh*

O Captain! My Captain.

Also from my poetry days, and possibly from my badly rhymed poetry days, I became very adept with rhyme. If I had to rhyme ‘board’ for a poem, I could run through the alphabet (including nonsensical words) until I found something that might work. Aord, board, cord, dord, eord, ford, gord, hoard, iord, jord, kord, lord…

I studied piano as a child. It could not be said I was good, but I was diligent. Being as slow at reading sheet music as I was with the written word, I survived by memorising it. I called it hand-memory. Through dogged repetition, I remembered where my hands had to be to play the relevant notes. Of course, any mistakes would break the memory, I’d lose my place in the music and I’d panic beyond recovery. I still remember many of them, but I don’t practise much these day and my hands forget.

I’d describe the study of language here in Australia as lazy. My school experience isn’t perhaps the best example, but without commitment, the best you’ll come away with is the ability to count to ten in French, Japanese and German with ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ and ‘my name is …’ thrown into the equation. I still remember most of this.

What have you memorised?


nanopoblano2015darkDay 25 of Nano Poblano! That is, Ra’s version of NaBloPoMo.

We’re posting everyday in the month of November!

When I say ‘we’ I mean these awesome folk.

Sticks and Stones

I was always good at Playing the Game.

That’s what my mother called it. The art of moving among people, saying what needed to be said without being angry or offensive. I internalised emotions. I diffused situations with humour. I remained silent if necessary.

I recognised this at an early age.  I noticed some classmates lacked it. My own brother lacked it. Although he was older than me, there were times I came to his defence. Ever the diplomat, me.

One of my favourite of Aesop ‘s fables was The Oak and the Reeds. It’s not as well known as some of them, but it resonated with me. The tale of the old tree than grew with the reeds beside the river. The tree was proud of its strength and size but a great gust of wind tore up the oak from the ground.

The tree wept.

“I don’t understand it. How can something as frail and slender as a reed escape the anger of the wind, while a strong tree has been torn up by its roots?”

The reeds explain the moral of the story.

“Sometimes in  order to survive, it is better to give way.”

And this is how I played the game. I stuck to my opinions when they truly mattered and let everything else go. I decided who I respected and who I didn’t – and as to the latter – if I didn’t respect you, why would I about care what you said or thought?

I was so lucky to believe this. To believe this so strongly I left school without enemies and a small group of friends who stood with me.

Though, we are never unbroken.

My insecurities lie in my capabilities. My ability to write, for one. I suffer from anxiety and have developed a habit of surpressing how I feel. Sometimes, I surpress too much.

As an adult looking back, those who ‘broke’ me were adults and/or people I respected.

But.

But the beauty of being an adult is when looking back you realise we are all victims of our lives. We all (mostly) do not intend to sabotage the lives of others but do what we think is best at the time. Then to compound this there are personalities and how two people can take the same experience and interpret it a very different way.

Of course, bullies do intend to sabotage lives, they’ll probably never realise how much. They’ll probably never realise how broken they are themselves.

I was bullied at school but I was always lucky to be a reed.


So, I’ve just come from Ra, and she wrote this. It’s a whole heap of awesome, but this clip triggered these memories.


nanopoblano2015darkDay 24 of Nano Poblano! That is, Ra’s version of NaBloPoMo.

We’re posting everyday in the month of November!

When I say ‘we’ I mean these awesome folk.