Up the Down Staircase

Book cover

Over a late lunch decided to begin re-reading “Up The Down Staircase” by Bel Kaufman. This time as an ebook. I loved it as a teenager … and again as a new (or nearly new) teacher. 

I’m expecting to love it once more … but have only got as far as the end of the introduction, which is brilliant! Such an accurate reflection of the state of education from someone who has observed it over a whole lifetime. 

Bel Kaufman was 101 when she wrote this intro in 2012. (She died at 103 in 2014). Her story of how she came to write the book and her astute observations and reflections are wonderful. 

Both a sharp criticism of all that is wrong in education and a celebration of those marvellous men and women, the inspired and inspiring teachers who truly make a difference.

I’d recommend this as mandatory reading for everyone who, like me, is passionate about teaching and learning and what our education systems should be doing for our young. :)


Play Time

Yep … play time … two words. Though I guess it was playtime too  … :) Thoroughly enjoyed Faith Healer, written by Irish playwright Brian Friel back in 1979 during The Troubles.

MTC put on a fantastic production, directed by Judy Davis. A minimalist stage with only a few props allowed the audience to focus on the poetry and emotional power of the script – a fascinating woven tapestry of four independent but linked monologues.

Strong performances from all three actors beautifully delivered the humour and deep tragedy of the story. Colin Friels as the troubled, yet charismatic faith healer, Alison Whyte as his devoted wife/mistress and Paul Blackwell as his long-suffering manager … all were excellent and often nuanced performances..

The whole play was a wonderful and at times very moving illustration of how we create our own realities. And how, as Fred Allen one said:

A human being is nothing but a story with skin around it


Less or Fewer


Ok … so even my best friends will tell you I’m a bit of a grammar pedant. :)

But I’m sure I’m not alone in wincing every time I see the horrible muddle people make when using “less” or “fewer”.

Examples? An an article headline this morning … Less People Want to be Nurses. Or a notice in every lift (elevator) of a large building: If travelling two floors or less please use the stairs if you are able to do so.

And that big building? The campus of a national University! Ouch!!!

[Rant mode ON]

Come on folks … surely it’s not an impossible task to get this one right? For something that is … well … “en masse”, for want of a better word, use LESS. But if you could possibly … perhaps even conceivably count ’em … use FEWER!


That hill has less forest
… and fewer trees.
A beach has less sand
… fewer grains of sand.
Less fruit in the bowl
… fewer pieces of fruit
Less water in the lake
… fewer drops of rain.
We travel less distance
… and fewer kilometers
See less of a crowd
… and fewer people.

MORE practice = LESS confusion + FEWER mistakes! :)

[Rant mode OFF]

I feel better now. ;)


Things My Mother Said …

my-motherStill travelling memory road – like the topics for my last two posts.

This time, I’m remembering the things my mother used to say. I think many of them are pretty classic ‘mum’ sayings actually! I wonder how many on the list other people can tick off as well …

Here they are – in alphabetical order, for want of a better way to arrange them:

  • As long as you live under this roof, you’ll do as I say.
  • Because I SAID so!
  • Did you brush your teeth?
  • Do as I say, not as I do.
  • Don’t EVER let me see you do that again!
  • Don’t speak with your mouth full!
  • Don’t you use that tone with me!
  • Elbows OFF the table!
  • Mum and MeFinish your dinner, or you won’t get any pudding.
  • Hmmph … yes, get out of bed NOW. If you could stay out last night, you can get up this morning.
  • How many times do I have to tell you …
  • I don’t care WHO started it!
  • I’ll give you till I count to three …
  • If I catch you doing that one more time …
  • I’m not going to ask you again!
  • It’s way past your bedtime!
  • Leave your sister alone!
  • Look at me when I’m talking to you.
  • Stop that crying! Or I’ll give you something to cry about!
  • This is for your own good.
  • Turn that noise down!
  • When I was your age …
  • Wipe that smile off your face!
  • You’ll eat what you’re given and like it!
  • You’re older – you should know better.

And the final one … this became a family classic. :) As we got older, we used to tease mum by getting in first and saying it to her!

“Be good. Be careful crossing the road. Have you got a clean hanky? And don’t forget to say thank you!”


Only yesterday …

Life passing in an hourglassI was sitting on a tram on my way home the other day and idly looking out of the window.

We pulled up to a very crowded stop where I saw all the hopeful faces of people waiting to board. And the thought suddenly crossed my mind … “Wow …. they’re all younger than I am!”

A young woman climbed aboard, dressed to the nines for a night out. Surely it was only yesterday I was as young as she is now, full of fun and hope on my way to a party. Some fashions haven’t changed all that much. Mini skirts and wedge heels are back in!

There’s a serious-looking Uni student, laden with books, presumably on her way home. Only yesterday I was at Uni too. Of course I didn’t have a smartphone in those days. But I recognise myself in her worried look. I guess there must be an assignment due.

I also find myself smiling when I see a wee girl in school uniform, juggling her heavy bag and moving down the tram to find a seat to hold because she’s too short to reach the overhead bar. I remember that very well! Hmm … though lots may have changed, my stature hasn’t. I’m still too short to reach!

And surely it was only yesterday when, at family gatherings, I saw all the ‘oldies’ sitting around the edges of the room, watching with smiles on their faces as we young ones mingled, danced and exuded energy. Now I’m one of those oldies myself.

Only yesterday, it seems, I could leap out of bed without a single muscle twinging or complaining. And only yesterday, I could see my reflection in a mirror without any if those wrinkle-shadows cast by an overhead light.

Only yesterday – just a heartbeat ago – I was much younger.

To forget is the secret of eternal youth. One grows old only through memory. There’s much too little forgetting.

(Erich Marie Remarque)

Perhaps Remarque was right and I need to do more forgetting! :)