I almost miss the The days I would find snails sliding up my son’s bedoom wall.
Ah those were the days.
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One of the greatest blessings in my life, is having a brother who is totally unlike me. I realised that today when I was thinking about my passion for helping children love reading.
My brother was not academic. In fact he hated school. He could not get out of there quick enough. It has always saddened me that the system so often fails people like my brother. I mean, I knew he was perfectly intelligent. He just wasn’t academic. I remember a note he wrote once as a teenager. Out of perhaps ten words, he had misspelled all but two of them:
“car” and “engine”.
This had really taught me something. The things that mattered to him, he could spell fine. He had pretty much been born knowing how to drive. He had passed his driver’s test within weeks of his seventeenth birthday (unlike me). He worked as a tyre fitter for years. He would talk to me about tyres for hours. What I don’t know about wheel-balancing, is not worth knowing. He had found his niche. A niche in which he has done extremely well. Perhaps controversially I would tell my classes about him. I would explain that he too had struggled at school but was doing very well now. I would also state that some things were still hard for him and that I was pretty sure he wished he had tried a bit harder at school.
However I had always known he could spell “car” and “engine”.That was his passion. That was what he loved. That was how he could have been kept in school. That was how he could have been reached. If a teacher had sat and read a car guide with him, I am pretty sure words like lamborghini ( I can’t spell it myself, I just had to look it up.) would have presented him no issues whatsoever.
I know it works. I found my son’s passion and I went with that. In my case his passion for many years, was animals.
We watched so many documentaries by David Attenborough, I feel I could qualify as a zoologist myself. To my former husband’s credit, he had supported this. We actually had the thrilling experience of seeing David Attenborough give a talk. As he (my son) had grown up, he had shown an inclination towards becoming a vet and had gone out rescuing animals. There is a wonderful photo of him working with a vet, who was doing surgery on a wedge-tailed eagle. He is at university now. His interests have changed but he refuses to pass on any of the many animal books from those early days. I know that early love of animals will always be part of him.
Anything I have done right as a teacher(and believe me I screwed up all the time) is because of those early lessons which my brother taught me.
My own son was an extremely active toddler yet one day he had stood transfixed by a single ant, for what had seemed like hours. I sometimes feel very sad that so many young men become so disillusioned with school. Somewhere in their heart God has planted a seed. It is up to us to nurture it.
Yesterday while watching a crime documentary, (I have always had an interest in crime and what makes criminals tick.) I had suddenly realised I had a clarity of vision, which I had never had before. The pure narcissistic rage which had culminated in this particular, terrible event, was suddenly visible to me. It was like I had dramatically obtained some kind of super power. Move over Spider-Man!
Upon reflection I too have experienced the fangs of a spider sinking into me, in more ways than one.
This insight was actually the last thing I had initially wanted. Part of me would still love to go back to the rose-coloured world I thought I knew, but that place no longer exists for me.
Recognising the need a couple of years ago, I had also obtained a legal qualification. It has been money and time well-spent. ( I would throroughly recommend this to anyone trying to extricate themselves from a toxic entanglement.) This has also helped empower me. The threats had no longer intimidated me in the same way. It had been useful all round too, as I had dealt with the multitude of flying monkeys sent my way. Perhaps most importantly of all, I have felt able to truly recognise through this experience, the great love which has always sheltered me.
Watching this particular crime documentary, shockingly I had found, I had felt like a seasoned detective.
I didn’t like it much. Where were my rose-coloured glasses? Where had the world I had once lived in disappeared to? Gone forever…
This blessing we have all been given, may have come at great personal cost but there is eventually ( or so I believe, ) a silver lining to this particularly dark storm cloud.
You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by falling over.
Through dealing with toxic people I have learned that seeking peace is ironically often a fight. Watching Bobby Kennedy give his speech I recognised he was actually engaged in a battle. The weapons were truth, humility and courage. My ways of presenting my truth are generally unconventional. Now my youngsters are older I am gradually learning from them more and more of my mistakes. My sense of humour for example is probably not always funny. (Sorry family no spiders don’t only bite you if you are up to mischief. Also I note here I am the only one who has been bitten by a spider and unfortunately there had been no mischief involved. )
As a bit of an aside, I have a beef with a certain fast food chain who decided to give away these motion-sensing toys one year. This had helped make one Christmas Eve particularly challenging. Santa had had to make two trips. The first one had been to remove the sensors, designed to catch him in the act.
When I was taught to teach we were encouraged not to give answers. This is very much part of my make up. I just present questions and try to speak my truth. People who have all the answers get up my nose more than just about anybody. If I ever slip into doing this I apologise. What I do best is to make mistakes. As I tell my youngsters I may get lost all the time but I have been lost more places than most people have ever been. I remember being taught in teacher training how viewing a page full of mistakes from a student can be much more informative than examining a page full of right answers.
History is littered with pages of our past mistakes. Perhaps it is time to examine them closely, understand our thinking and at least try not to continue making the same ones.
…a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.
Where are the great speeches we all need right now? Where are the courageous men and women needed to shine a light, though what I believe is a deeply troubled time. I can only appeal in my tiny blog for people to wake up and see what is happening. I travelled through Europe not long after the Berlin Wall had been brought down.
It was a time of hope – A hope which is now gradually being extinguished.
I used to listen to the stories of courage of the people who had desperately sought to escape East Berlin. When the wall had first been erected, people had been prepared to die, desperately throwing themselves over it. I have seen the remnants of that wall, rich with graffiti.
Bobby Kennedy says it so much better than I do.
Here he comforts African Americans in Indianopolis, as he informs them that Martin Luther King has been killed.