Pay it forward – 6 weeks on

Suffolk Scribblings

Pay it forward

When I wrote my original Pay It Forward post, I had little idea of the reaction it would cause. It was largely written as a statement of intent for myself. Why should I, as a self-published author, expect people to buy my work when I didn’t buy books from other self-published authors myself? I decided to change my behaviour, with the aim of purchasing and reading the work of those I had met since beginning this journey and promoting those books I’d enjoyed.

At the same time, I wondered how many other self-published authors bought work from their peers.  The final paragraph – where do you come in – was written in the hope that one or two of my fellow authors would be converted to the cause of paying it forward. It was added mostly as an afterthought. My think was that maybe my thoughts would influence one or two others to join…

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The Life Coach Less Travelled

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The Life Coach Less Travelled

Susanna

I think I can remember a time when I was happy, before my sister was born. My clearest memory of her is when I was five, going on six.

My saliva was dribbling onto the skin which tickled my lip gently, just at the moment I breathed in fiercely, then sandwiched a chunk of forearm flesh between my teeth, gripping hard, counting one, two, three. I howled protractedly before deciding to lie down and writhe on the rug, rewarded by the sound of the legs of kitchen chairs scraping the parquet and startled, questioning voices already approaching.

Lucia, who had been chattering incoherently, insouciantly and clumsily building bright colourful towers and knocking them down to build higher or more interesting ones, jumped at the noise. Instantly she amplified it with her own shocked and frightened wailing, her huge, brown eyes like rain-washed, precious stones.

My parents flung through the…

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5 More 5 Star Reviews for ‘The Life Coach Less Travelled’

The Life Coach Less Travelled

A very big thank you to these readers who have posted reviews on my Amazon pages. Read more of what they had to say by clicking the links under the comments:

 

“Couldn’t put this book down!”

http://www.amazon.com/review/RJ7XVFOMEKRQB/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1494270927&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=283155&store=books

 

“Absolutely loved this!”

http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R3AQMPGTI7MKZR/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00I7542Y0&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=266239&store=books

 

 “A gripping, dark page turner”

http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R2EV9T65J7ZGHF/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00I7542Y0&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=266239&store=books

 

“Excellent read. Couldn’t put it down”

http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R3OU3WF6XH2DXF/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00I7542Y0&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=266239&store=books

 

“I enjoyed this book and recommend it”

http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/RM94TZG4RYU9B/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1494270927&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=266239&store=books

faces at stripfeest

At an annual comic books festival in Brussels, Belgium, it could be said, judging by their total immersion captured by this amazing photographer, that some of these readers, browsers and artists were in a state of ‘Flow’. The wooden man’s face is a witty, charming touch.

belgianstreets

“People are strange when you’re a stranger
Faces look ugly when you’re alone
Women seem wicked when you’re unwanted”

– The Doors

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6 of the Most Beautiful Writings from and for Gaza

Arabic Literature (in English)

Mahmoud Darwish once wrote, of Gaza, “We are unfair to her when we search for her poems.” We are certainly unfair when we scrabble anywhere for poems, searching for aesthetic pleasure in others’ suffering. But here, poetry seems to have welled up from the need to speak, to create, to defy silence: 

Zuabi speaking at an Edinburgh cultural summit. Zuabi speaking at an Edinburgh cultural summit.

Most of the Arabic writing about Gaza that came out of the last month was first-person reportage on events. But some of it mixed together with other elements to create otherworldly or impassioned prose.

The piece that most stunned me in the last month was not by a Gazan, but by Jerusalem-based playwright Amir Nizar Zuabi. His The underground ghetto city of Gaza ran in Haaretz on August 4. Zuabi has said elsewhere that he would prefer people to see “dreamlike poetry in his work rather than political…

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How Good is Your Country?

 

gci_index

 

How Good is your country in the eyes of the world?

I want to live in a ‘Good’ country? Do you? While Ireland tops the list, fortunately Britain makes the top ten with a creditable 7th place on Simon Anholt’s ‘Good Country Index’. Here’s the Ted talk with his amusing and fascinating explanation of how and why he compiled it.

https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_anholt_which_country_does_the_most_good_for_the_world#

The full index:  http://www.goodcountry.org/category/prosperity-equality

For me, once I understood more of the criteria, this was a timely and encouraging development. The concept of the goodness of a country, measured in terms of not how it treats its own people, but how it is perceived by the rest of the world, provides a benchmark of progress in an era of globalisation. As Anholt points out, the speed and quantity of information that now reaches us from all around the world can be overwhelming and contribute to a feeling of helplessness in the face of the challenges it presents us with. These are the emotions I have struggled with this week, in trying to make sense of the Israeli actions in Gaza, in the devastating losses of life in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine and elsewhere, and the responses of a world, that can seem to be going crazy, to the events.

With his Good Country Index, Anholt poses a solution; in changing our attitudes to other countries, by becoming more ‘telescopic and outward-looking rather’ than ‘microscopic’ and ‘inward-looking’ in our view of the world, he suggests we can find more creative and effective ways, by cooperation and mutual contribution, of dealing with our problems.

Why should we?

Countries, like people, like to be seen as good. The pay-off, Anholt says, is that countries with good reputations enjoy better economies as foreigners trust them more, want to visit and buy from them. He points out that apart from New Zealand, the ‘top ten’ countries are the wealthier Western European countries, although he says he is heartened by Kenya making the top twenty.  It is not about being a ‘Rich’ country or even a ‘Happy’ one; the measure is not in the moral sense of ‘good’; it is good in the sense of unselfish, how much a country cares and contributes to the rest of the world.

Good country quotes:

“This is my country, that is your country; these are the conceptions of narrow souls – to the liberal minded the whole world is a family.” ~ Virchand Gandhi

“To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.”  ~ Edmund Burke,  Reflections on the Revolution in France

“In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.” ~ Confucius

“The evil that men do lives after them, The good is oft interred with their bones.”  ~ William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

How can we use the Good Country Index to make things better for everyone?

Ask yourself these questions about your own country then apply them to your politicians and leaders, recommends Anholt:

“Is that the sort of country I want to come from?”

“Am I proud to come from this country? Can I hold my head up in the world?”

“Do I want my Government doing what it’s doing in my name?

As Mahatma Gandhi said,

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

And Nelson Mandela, whose birthday is celebrated today:

“There is still too much discord, hatred, division, conflict and violence in our world here at the beginning of the 21st century. A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of. … It is so easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build. …” 

Happy International Mandela Day!

 

Education, Entitlement and Expectations

Image source: http://viewfromtheedge.progress.com/2013/11/isvs-innovate/

Levelling The Playing Field

 

Bottom Line: It’s Not Fair, Is It?

“Souls, after all, are equal in the sight of God and thus deserving of what these days is called a level playing field. ”

~ Playwright Alan Bennett in his sermon on private education at Kings College Chapel, Cambridge on 1st June. ( http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n12/alan-bennett/fair-play)

It goes without saying that the players in any sport do not enter the field with equal physical attributes, agility, skill, motivation, intelligence etc. What is strived for in fair competition is that the conditions under which they perform are made as equal as possible.

Entitlement

“It is remarkable how many positions of wealth, influence, celebrity and power in our society are held by individuals who were privately educated,” said the Education secretary, Michael Gove, in May last year. Remarkable indeed, when only 7% of students are privately educated, and a recent study shows that state school pupils do better at university than independent school candidates who have achieved the same A-level grades.

How willing would a Government be, or its supporters, too many of which have been the beneficiaries of private education, to begin to dismantle its foundations?  At least the Finnish Government had the courage to reform its failing system forty years ago, creating one of the most successful educational systems in the world today. Finland strives to make the playing field as level as it can, in its 100% funding of schools and its investment in the best teaching provision for all, with students of mixed-ability being taught together and no option for buying privileged schooling for ones children, which breeds a sense of entitlement through wealth and fosters social inequalities, as in Britain.

Expectations

Why are  ‘poor’  white children in our society falling behind the rest?  The reasons are complex, involving attitudes, values and expectations, as well as teaching provision. Expectations are a key influence in attainment; it follows therefore that more needs to be learned about the expectations of these ‘under-achievers’, their parents and their teachers. Provincial attitudes, presumptions and prejudices need to be challenged. Blame culture is not helpful; dismissing low achievement in white working-class children as the result of poverty or poor parenting is too simplistic and a convenient way for schools to ‘pass the buck’. What needs to be unpicked are the reasons why fewer ‘poorer’ white students stay in education after 16, or aspire to go to university than all other groups.

Equality

Learning is not linear, yet our schools are forced to keep measuring achievement  in a linear way, which is also not the Finnish approach. How worthwhile is it to measure us all against the same set of criteria?

The picture below sums up the ‘all inside the box’/ ‘one size fits all’/ ‘cookie-cutter kids’ approach to education, for me. Enough said! Excuse me while I step off my soap box( before I start on Role-Models!).

sats

 

3 Clues As To Why Finnish Schools Are Tops

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

~ Mark Twain

Image Source: Smithsonian mag. ‘Why are Finland’s Schools Successful?’

3 Reasons why teachers in Finland are more successful than those in many countries, including the USA and UK.

1. They are trusted to do whatever it takes to help students learn.

2. They are valued for their professional expertise, knowledge and skills (on a par with doctors and lawyers).

3. Schools are publicly funded, run by educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians.
Spot The Differences!

Let’s start with the UK.  The Education news headlines have had me spitting bumblebees this week, with talk of poor white schoolchildren, who have been falling behind every other group, needing longer school days, and the head of Ofsted’s thoughts on fining ‘bad parents’  i.e. those who do not read to their children at night or make them do homework. My passion for education remains although I now concentrate on writing, and the Finnish Educational system seems to be a model closest to my own ideal.

http://www.businessinsider.com/finland-education-school-2011-12?op=1

So, Finnish teachers do not have to contend with an increasingly interfering government, directed by politicians for political purposes (rather than expert educators). They are expected to have reached a high level of education and training for which they are valued, rather than replaced by low-paid assistants to save cash, and supported to deliver a curriculum suited to the needs of their students. Expectations to me are key factors in attainment, and the subject for another post. In Finland it seems that expectations are equally high for both teachers and students, an area I would appeal to our Education policy makers and educators to pay very careful attention to, before any more risible tough-talk about slapping on more of the same for underachievers or taking money from the poorest of their parents. (Oh, that’ll teach ’em..right?!!)

Gives new meaning to ‘taking the Michael’.

Having said that, I’m with Mark Twain on this one. Whilst we all want to provide the best foundation for our children in life, top schools and highest academic results do not necessarily equal success in life, however you define it. That seems to me, more often than not, to occur ‘outside the box’.