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.

 

Define a Waste of Time

I’d love to know what you think constitutes as a waste of time.

I have this niggling worry everyday as I find myself spending more and more time caught up on the internet. I’m on social media, or I’m Wiki-hopping from one interesting link to the next. Or I’m taking too many photos of the cat so I can ostensibly capture an instant on Instagram.

I’m not necessarily saying these things are a waste of time, but I can’t claim they’re not either.

I’m not even a big social media addict. Twitter and Instagram and WordPress are my big distractions. I rarely check Facebook, and except for Instagram, I don’t have any of these as phone apps. If I duck out from work to get lunch, I’m not among the people in the queue who browse their phones.

I found myself going to my laptop this morning to look up something simple and became so distracted by the alerts and reminders and emails that I completely forgot my original purpose. Time ticked on. By the time I closed my laptop and thought about changing out of my pyjamas, I realised I’d intended to check the weather forecast.

Completely revealing my age, as a child my aunt and uncle had a Commodore 64. Which at the time, was A-MAZ-ZING. My brother and I played on this thing for hours and hours. Children don’t feel quite the same level of guilt as adults but as much then as now, it’s not that I don’t enjoy my computer time – only that I think it could be better spent with something I enjoy as much, if not more. But it’s easy, isn’t it? You get caught up and before you know it you’ve been browsing your Twitter feed for an hour.

How do you waste time? How do you willingly spend time but regret it later?


nanopoblano1

Tiny Peppers, blogging every day in November – you can find them here!

 

 


I just spent five minutes trying to find an appropriate meme for this post.

I stopped myself.

No meme for you, more time for me.

Did I make the right choice?

The Last Straw

You know how, sometimes, when you have a drink with a straw in it, and you’re not paying attention.

You go to take a sip, and the straw has floated up in the glass, so you poke yourself in the face with it.

Or your straw has a mind of its own and your mouth is tracking after it and this goes on for longer than it probably ought to.

And you don’t look up from your glass because you know your partner is staring at you with an amused look on their face.

This sums up my day.

nanopoblano1Team Tiny Peppers can be found here!

This sums up my day.

 

 

 

Classical Note

I love music, but I’m not particularly musical.

I can play the piano but I’m somewhat restricted by my repertoire. I have zero gift for improvisation and I’m unable to play sheet music at first sight unless the tempo is glaciale (yes, I made that up) – and even then, I can make no promises. My preferred audience is my cat, but unfortunately he hates me playing and will either meow at me, make a point of leaving the room, adjust his sleep position to ensure he’s on his ears or jump up onto the keys/hands/lap/anything-that-might-make-me-stop. My personal favourite is when he plonks himself on the low notes and just stares at me.

I’m also pitch imperfect which, on a positive note, allows me to play my old and un-tuneable piano. Miraculously, my husband who’s has perfect pitch has not yet divorced me.

I love music though and I rarely do anything at home without a soundtrack.

Although musically inept, I’m ridiculously pedantic about certain musical etiquettes. This IS entirely MY problem but I wish to enlighten anyone willing to listen so we can share the same, inane first-world-problem. And then we can be frustrated together – yay!

Rhythmic displacement – otherwise known as clapping on the wrong beat. Its disjointed effect and its seamless correction is shown in the clip below by the skillz of Harry Connick Jr.

Also, I have an issue with applause.

I promise, I’m not anti-clapping per se.  How can clapping even be wrong?

Well, since I asked myself on your behalf – it can be wrong at classical music concerts.  I struggle when people clap between musical movements. Which is, essentially, before a piece has finished.

The last concert I attended accentuated this issue – The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs by Henryk Górecki.

If you are unfamiliar with this work, it is as it sounds – profoundly slow, expressive and mournful – the words taken from the walls of a Gestapo prison. The first time I heard it in my teens, it froze me in my tracks. It is exquisitely beautiful and emotive.

The silence is part of it. More than any other piece, it deserves the silence.

*Awkward silence*

So, any thing small but musically significant frustrate you? I will not accept answers which include folk who are, allegedly, musicians.

Meanwhile, I’ll be on a musical bridge getting over it.

Ancestry Obsession

Sometimes, I toy with the notion that I would have been a great detective. You know, had the opportunity knocked. Had Sherlock Holmes needed a Wally instead of a Watson. Had Poirot been the sort to hire a sidekick. Had both those characters been real outside of my mind.

I love a mystery. I love a story. I love the stories of objects.

This bring me to the Bible of Jesse Wallis. I’ve mentioned before that I have a collection of old Bibles and prayer books. Not because I’m especially religious but because they are so tactile and so treasured. I think of the hands they have touched as they were passed through the generations.

Of course, I bought it at a market and although it’s not in the best condition, it’s dated 1847. Pleasingly, when I got it home I found it was full treasures – two receipts from a saddlers dating 1895, a bookmark and a love token probably dating from around 1915.

 

IMG_20160514_111619IMG_20160514_111311 IMG_20160514_111943 IMG_20160514_112027

The inscription on the inside cover tells me it was gifted to Jesse by a clergyman. The back of the book lists the date of his marriage and the births of his children.

How can I not ask more questions? How do I contain my curiosity when I possess enough information to know more?

[Insert timelapse of my computer-based research frenzy]

Like many colonial Australians, Jesse was a convict. More unusually, he could read and write. His records say he was 5’3” and was born in Berkshire. At the age of fifteen he was found guilty of arson and received fifteen years transportation. His convict record was exemplary – his report card is blank – instead Jesse states he’s innocent of his crime. He received his ticket of leave within five years (like parole) and was pardoned in ten.

Curiosity feeds curiosity.

What of his family? What happened to them after he was transported? The detail of his records allowed me to trace his family back to England and the 1841 UK Census. A search on his father revealed he too was convicted with his son and received transportation for life! I traced his mother to the 1851 Census and she listed herself as a pauper and a widower. I could not trace his brother.

The receipts contained with the Bible pertain to Jesse’s daughter, so the Bible remained within the direct family for at least two generations.

This is what happens. Whenever I have an object that peeks into another life – I must explore it. What happened? How long did they live? Often I struggle to stop.

Once, such research allowed me to reunite a photo album with its family. I once found a book belonging to a friend’s great grandfather. I observe the movement of objects. I recognise the history objects contain and I protect them until there’s (hopefully) another person who values that too.

This is weird, right?

Forty Reasons to be Cheerful

 

  1. Love
  2. Friends
  3. Family
  4. Books
  5. Music
  6. Freedom
  7. Contentment
  8. Snow
  9. Sunshine
  10. Leaves
  11. Kindness
  12. Cuteness
  13. Art
  14. Creativity
  15. Writing
  16. Smiles
  17. Laughter
  18. Pillows
  19. Silly Socks
  20. Respect
  21. Writing with your favourite pen
  22. Experience
  23. Sharing
  24. Discovery
  25. Pets
  26. Colour
  27. Eccentricity
  28. Giving
  29. Letters
  30. Sonder
  31. Connections
  32. Compassion
  33. Lighthouses
  34. Rivers
  35. Moonlight
  36. Sanctuary
  37. Hugs
  38. Wood-fires
  39. Cosy
  40. Gratitude

Post inspired by Graeme Koehne, and his fanfare, ‘Forty Reasons to be Cheerful’.

NB: There are more than forty reasons.

A Little Love

I feel the need to write a Valentine’s Day post. Not sure why, because I pretty much believe Valentine’s Day is commercially exploited to make people believe love is proven by a trinket.

For an optimist, I can be such a cynic.

For a collector, I can be such a hypocrite.

A recap of my thoughts on Valentine’s Day can be found here – Can’t Buy Me Love and Socks and Underpants.

 

My absolute favourite things my husband has given me often reflect how well he knows me. One year for my birthday, he gave me this card:

Celebrate

On the inside it says,

‘Celebrate like someone forgot to lock the gate’

Underneath that, he wrote:

‘Some may say the gate has been unlocked for some time.’

 

Happy Love Day.