Category Archives: Education

The lollipop man

Following on from Sita Brahmachari’s book about the lollipop man the other day, I was interested to find this link to an article about another road crossings helper; one who has been banned* from high-fiving the children he helps to cross.

I’m of an age where I’ve not really been in a position to enjoy the services of a lollipop person. Except, in the last few years in Stockport, when I devised a new regular route for my daily walks, I remember coming up against all the traffic one afternoon, and wondering how I was going to get across.

That was until I spied a high visibility coat further along and realised I had arrived just as the local lollipop man was warming up for his afternoon shift. I stalked up to him, looked hopeful, and was immediately ushered across. I repeated this on many occasions.

Anyway, this article I mentioned. It had a photo of a lollipop man standing in front of a dilapidated red brick wall. I found it interesting, as that wall made me think of the one on the road I mentioned above. I thought that it’s funny how all brick walls look the same.

Lollipop man

And then I read the article. It was my brick wall. Possibly my lollipop man too, but I can’t claim to recognise him.

I clearly know my brick wall.

*The ban has now been lifted.

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Somewhere, through the rainbow

In the line of work, Daughter was listening in on a conference kind of event, on the other side of the world. I asked what it was about, and it seems it’s for another way of finding heavenly bodies up there in space.

For some inexplicable reason she wanted to explain in more detail. Maybe I appeared to have one of my ‘slightly intellectual’ moments.

So first she briefly mentioned what she normally does when hunting, which I knew about. Then she asked how far I’d got reading the book that the Resident IT Consultant bought for us, which is all about this kind of thing. I admitted to only a couple of chapters.

This was when Daughter mentioned spectrums and maybe even rainbows? And do you know what? It sounded awfully familiar, even to me. I had read it. In that book. It comes at the beginning, and my recent reading in the dentist’s waiting room had been on this very topic.

So I said that rainbows and the Doppler effect sounded pretty familiar, and I did ‘know’ about it.

Maybe I’m not as hopeless as I thought?

29 years on, nearly there

Saturday morning desk

Woke too early yesterday, but saw the light – literally – from the dining room, so breakfasted while watching Son writing his thesis. Not all of it, obviously, but some of the bit of it that hadn’t got written the day before. Deadline is looming.

Over my yoghurt I was asked what I did on 23rd April 2000. I couldn’t remember, but said I’d not been invited to Shakespeare’s party, and suggested I might have been looking forward to Harry Potter no. 4. You need perspective.

Was also asked if I had a copy of Barry Forshaw’s Nordic Noir, but as I was trying to work out where I had hidden it, Son realised he’d already borrowed it and had left it at the office, which was not at all useful…

We talked about Marcel Berlins, and his fondness for the Famous Five, and about someone else I’d not even heard of. I’m flexible that way; don’t need to know what I am talking about.

I could recall when I first heard of Henning Mankell, and Son knew when the first translation into English appeared (surprisingly recently). I also knew roughly how ancient Maj Sjöwall must be and that Per Wahlöö had been older.

At some point Son was showing off his chapter pages, and Daughter admired the look until she found out it was in Word. Seems scientists don’t believe in Word.

Despite not wanting to upset Son’s proofreader with this tardiness, we all eventually took to the very snowy roads and went for brunch. There are times when I feel studded tyres would be quite welcome. This was one such time.

And despite it being intended as a [rare] weekend off, there was more thesis-ing between brunch and birthday cake and a Burns supper. Laziness must skip a generation every now and then.

The power of words

Here we go again.

A parent (note, not her child) was upset by Mary Hoffman’s use of the word Paki in a book suggested by the child’s school. The parent complained to the school, and now the book – Deadly Letter – has been removed.

If only it were that easy to remove racist bullying, or worse, from schools, or even from life.

Whereas I’m really pleased that the school took notice of what the parent had to say, there are times when the ‘customer’ isn’t always right. The word was in the book to teach the reader something. The book was presumably in the school, and being suggested as a suitable read, for the same reason. It’s a book by one of the most decent authors I know, and published by Barrington Stoke, who are not exactly slapdash or careless in their publishing.

Mary Hoffman, Deadly Letter

One parent, interviewed by the Mirror, said ‘I think kids of ten or 11 need to be taught racism but young kids should be protected.’ Apart from the – hopefully unintended – suggestion that older children need to be taught racism, I am amazed at the belief that younger ones need protecting. Not that they don’t need protecting, but that they somehow are slipping happily through life with no experience of racism, or bullying and name-calling.

They know. They probably also know the swear words these parents wouldn’t tell a six-year-old off for using (because they don’t know any better…). And that is why, not having been told off earlier, they go on to much more sophisticated bad behaviour when they are older. You can tell them off, but if the teaching of what’s right and what isn’t, doesn’t start in time, what hope do we have?

But at least this parent got a couple of lovely photos of herself in the paper, while Mary Hoffman was forced to re-direct time and energy she had planned to use on other things, to defend herself to the press, for a book published years ago, with all the best intentions. And as she says, she has had to deal with racism herself, as her husband and children are not white.

It’s time for schools to learn to stand up to parents, once in a while.

Slaves for the Isabella

For entering a series by reading book five, I did quite well, I thought. In a way, time travel is time travel, and you can guess at things. At the same time, there were facts I didn’t know or understand, like why Joe wants to see Lucy so much.

Author Julia Edwards offered me the fifth and newest instalment of her educational, historical series The Scar Gatherer to read. If I understand it correctly, we have Joe, who travels in time with the aid of a St Christopher pendant. It – sometimes – takes him to somewhere in the past, and then he leaves it there, so that Lucy can call him back, in case he is returned to his own time. Until the last time, when he really does leave.

The thing about Joe’s time travels is that he meets the same people every time. They are different in the past and they are living in different pasts, but Lucy is Lucy and her parents are her parents. They don’t remember Joe, but he remembers them. The other characters are also recurring characters, but they play different roles each time. Except that Tobias is always a really unpleasant older boy.

This time the pendant takes Joe to Bristol during the slave trade era in the early 1790s, after the abolishment of slavery. The fact that Britain agreed not to trade in slaves, meant only that they didn’t trade new slaves. Lucy’s family are wealthy [this time] and depend on slaves and sugar plantations. Joe pops ‘ back home’ once or twice, and has the opportunity of learning more historical facts, which he then takes with him as he sees Lucy again.

Primarily, this is a way for middle grade readers to have fun as they learn about history. I learned a few new things myself, and that’s really the point about time travel.

I’m guessing that Joe travels in chronological order, as he’s been further into the past before, and I imagine he will meet Lucy again in a less distant past next time.

Maths in 30 Seconds

To begin with I was unsure of how Anne Rooney’s Maths in 30 Seconds would work. If really that quick, it would barely be a sheet of paper, let alone a book. But it turned out to be a book containing a series of 30 second sessions in maths.

There are 30 second books on lots of different school subjects, and [at least the maths one] they are aimed at upper junior school age children. I suppose to tempt them into being more interested in a subject, and to quickly help them with some points they might have struggled with.

As my very own maths expert said, it would actually be very useful for parents. Many of us want to help our children, but aren’t sure how, or we feel we don’t know enough. And I’ve found it really interesting.

I learned a few things. Unless I already knew them but had forgotten. Or the fact that I did maths in another language, so feel a little challenged on occasion.

For instance, I had no idea that… Hmm. Maybe I’d better not admit to this, in case my maths expert disowns me. And there’s the … too. I didn’t know that that’s what it was.

Rock, paper, scissors is something I’ve never really grasped. This book also features chocolate biscuits and what the likelihood of me picking one up might be. And how to split a pizza.

Anne Rooney and Putri Febriana, Maths in 30 Seconds

I was all set to hand this book to someone the right age, in case they’d find it useful. But now I’m thinking maybe I want it myself.

Lots of fun and helpful illustrations by Putri Febriana.

They’re all women!

They all seemed to be women. Or perhaps I merely happened to choose Book Week Scotland events that featured women. I picked what interested me, and what was nearby enough to be doable, and at times convenient to me.

Four events, though, and a total of nine women speaking at them. Only the last one, about gender violence, had a subject that determined who was likely to be taking part.

The audiences were slightly different. For Mary Queen of Scots there were three men. The gender violence had one man in the audience for part of it, one man to operate Skype (!) and one man who seemed to be working in the room where we sat. Several men for both Lin Anderson and the autism discussion, while still being in a minority.

Three events were during daytime, but that doesn’t explain the lack of men, when the women were mostly well past 70.

Do they read less, or are they not interested in events? Or do they go to the ones with men talking? (I’d have been happy to see Chris Brookmyre, but he didn’t come this way, or James Oswald, but he was sold out.)

Anyway, whatever the answer to that is, over on Swedish Bookwitch we have women today. My interview with Maria Turtschaninoff is live, and it’s mostly – just about entirely, actually – about women. And it’s in Swedish. Sorry about that. (Translation will follow.)