Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Teachers DO change lives

Recently, I was doing some classroom volunteering in a new school, and one of the teachers in the staff room said to me, 'just don't go into teaching thinking you'll change lives.' I didn't feel it was my place to argue with her, so I kept quiet.
Tonight I went to a maths workshop for parents of P1-P3's in Hugh's school, initially thinking, maths schmaths; how can I just 'get by' until he turns into an adult and uses a calculator like the rest of us?
Yet his teacher was so inspiring, she made me want to relearn maths all over again - which was some feat, considering I had to be dragged by the hair through quadratic equations the first time.
But how things are taught is almost as important as what is taught, and she had me enthused and believing that there's probably an innate poetry to maths, if I  can just find it. It was nearly all Brian Cox - Maths can be beautiful too.
And on my walk home, I thought how lucky my boy is to have a great teacher and I thought of how I loved some of my teachers in Islay High School. Yes, Mr. Warren, we were in awe of you and your casual, almost nonchalant, dispersing of Shakespeare, the way you sat on your desk with your floppy hair (and Converse basketball sneakers?); your effortless command of the class.
French and German from Miss Cuthbert, who was always up, positive and shiny with a new outfit each day (how was that even possible?). A poster of Schloss Neuschwanstein on the wall! Oh, the possibilities. She offered us a packet of Smarties to the first person who could spontaneously use the German word, 'doch!' in the correct context. No one ever won one it. Doch! That's me winning it now. It's only taken a few decades to sink in, but hey, it's better than Smarties.
Good teachers, man. Let them rule the world.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

And this is what I mean...

Only a few days after the referendum, and it looks like Britain is creeping towards a war with ISIS in Syria. Now 'we', in Scotland, will be joining in, by default.

The three things I had wanted most from the Yes vote were

1) No nuclear weapons and a movement towards being a pacifist country. The day Tony Blair bombed Iraq without a second UN resolution was the day I lost all faith. I wanted Scotland to have no part of this kind of war-mongering. When will they understand that modern wars are never won? Peace only follows dialogue, not bombs.

2) I wanted the NHS to be free from the threat of the new TTIP bill. No chance now. Most people haven't even heard of TTIP. Here's a short but important explanation.

3) Green, green, and more green. I want Scotland to invest in renewables and take the lead in Green policies. The least I can do now is join the Green party.

Anyway, it feels like 'business as usual' with a deep frustration that 'we' may be headed to war again, dropping bombs in the middle east, encouraging generations of radicals to join up and try to bomb us back.

Am I the only one who thinks this is near insanity?

Monday, September 08, 2014

Yes and No and thoughts of bitter-sweetness

When I told you of my journey from No to Yes, I wanted to add that I am still a Nervous, Hopeful Yes, and nowhere near being a Triumphal, Tribal Yes.

Already, I am feeling for the losers. If this is as close as the polls suggest, then somebody's going to walk off the pitch, feeling like they just lost the World Cup on a penalty shoot out; times a million, for the rest of their life.
An old  friend got in touch on Facebook and told me she'd be so sad at 'breaking up with England' that her family would move away from Scotland, 'eventually.' It's sad to think that either side can feel so bereft.
I know Yes-ers who would react with self-righteous mockery to that, but I can really imagine the No's will indeed feel such isolated, lonely frustration if Yes wins; ironically, just the feeling that led Yes to fight for independence in the first place.
Ah, well, life is a series of see-saws and roundabouts; snakes and ladders and whatever other clichés you wish to dig out. The best we can do is to keep true to wer'sels and civil to each other. Golly, it's hotting up.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Yes, then.

Yes, I have been coy; lurking without mentioning the big debate, the huge debate. Our wee country working itself into a frenzy. In a good way.
The reasons for my silence on the topic were many. I did not want to tell others what they should vote. I was unsure myself. I did not want to offend the English or England. (I love the BBC!) I did not want to get into spats and fights.
Two years ago, I started out as a  NO. I thought Scottish independence would be claustrophobic and parochial, like watching wall-to-wall Reporting Scotland (sorry Jackie Bird). I didn't want to 'divorce' England. I was afraid of making a mistake.
But the YES campaign have buoyed me, swept me along, made me feel like maybe I could go white-water rafting after all.
This is not about 'divorce.' It's about localising government and making it more accountable. It's about the Scots rejecting a UK economy where big business has started to rule everything and profit is the only measure of success. All-out capitalism is so uncaring.
We want a different kind of society that is more community-led. We don't want Trident or more eco-vandalism. We want renewables and thinking differently. Free education. We want to define ourselves. Even if we make mistakes, even if it costs us in the short term, even if you don't like Alex Salmond, we'll find a way in the long term. Our way.
If you are swithering, read this blog from the Guardian from George Monbiot. It's a belter.
"Independence, as more Scots are beginning to see, offers people an opportunity to rewrite the political rules. To create a written constitution, the very process of which is engaging and transformative. To build an economy of benefit to everyone. To promote cohesion, social justice, the defence of the living planet and an end to wars of choice."

People of Scotland, may the force be with us.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Actually not cooked sand

Years ago, I was a food critic for The List magazine and we were told to 'avoid clichés like the plague' (really). We had to shun common, dull words like 'tasty' and 'delicious.'

Yesterday, I was eating Ryvita crackers and Tess came in to have a bite. 'Mama?', she asked (for she has taken to calling me 'Mama', like a posh child); 'Are these crackers actually cooked sand?'
I loved that: she captured the texture in a nutshell. Oops, I'm mixing up the foodie metaphors, all over the shop.

Friday, July 25, 2014

'The Man' and why he should apologise to children more often

Parents everywhere, I'm sure you too have used The Man as leverage. Don't play on the escalators, or 'the man' will give you a row.  Say, 'Thank you,' to The Man. Sometimes The Lady but mostly, The Man.
Today, The Man got himself involved; dove right in, you could say, and managed to set off a classic parent-child Stress-Fest. Only later at home, when I got a minute's head space,  did I think, wait a minute....where is my true loyalty?
I was  returning, with Hugh and Tess, from a heat-soaked day at Troon beach. We were all stuffed on to a mobbed (Commonwealth-Games) platform at Central Station. The Man, a Games spectator from England, started making small talk with me, which was fine, until, he noticed, before I did, that wee Hugh had found a half empty can of some souped-up energy drink and was bringing his nose to the ring pull.
OI, OI, OI !  shouted The Man, in a tone, useful only for thugs snatching a pensioner's handbag. Poor Hugh nearly cacked himself, stunned to be yelled at, by a stranger.
'The man was only trying to stop you getting germs', I started in  soothing tones, hoping that the man would rush in with similar apology, but the man showed manly restraint. I even think Hugh muttered something, near tears,  about, 'only trying to sniff it.' (Forgive a 5 year old for showing our oldest evolutionary instinct in the relentless 'temptation' marketing from fizzy soft drinks).
Anyway, The Man just kept on with the small talk - something about driving his wife to Milngavie and getting lost - and I could see poor Hugh was not going to recover his composure and started to act out and pinch me. The man tried to make amends by carrying my awkward beach bags (wet towels, toy monkey, crusts of warm egg sandwich) on to the train, and by this stage, Hugh could hardly bear it.
His mother was running away with the berk who'd wronged him and shamed him. He started to really misbehave - arching his back like a toddler, hissing, scowling, with the odd suppressed punch to my arm. And still, I didn't get it. I was more concerned with politeness to The Man. Trying to make The Man feel better. Duh, he was just The  FRIGGIN Man, not my wee boy who needed someone, ideally me, to defend him.
So, here's what I will do differently, if I'm braver next time. I'm paraphrasing, but the proper version is something like this:
Man, oh Man.., I know you're trying to help, but my child didn't mean any harm, and he's hungry and spent after a happy day, and you scared the bejesus out of him, so if you could possibly find a wee apology for him, it would go a long way.
 Don't try and continue the chat with him regardless. When adults feel wrongly accused, they can't bear small talk from the perpetrator, as if nothing has happened!? Kids have an even keener and more desperate sense of justice. Throw him a bone. Say, 'Sorry I frightened you. I didn't mean to'. And, thanks, but there's no need to give them sweets. A toothy smile will do.
Now that harmony has been restored, and my journey home made less of an all-round discomfort, I'll tolerate your boring saga about losing your way and your wife on the way to Milngavie. Or was it Bearsden?