Thank you Mrs Miller – luv Sally age four ‘n’ haf – #Influencers


I have been tidying my archives and as I go through and read posts from three years ago I thought I would share specific series. I had only begun blogging in October 2013 and was finding my niche. I hope you enjoy these updated (I am three years older) posts about people who influenced me in my life.

Thank you Mrs. Miller – Luv Sally age four ‘n’ haf

I was 64 next month and whilst I am both young and heart and a rock chick (Status rules okay) – I am also in the process of taking stock before I embark on the next couple of books I have in mind.

Anyway, at the same time I am heavily into social media – Facebook for my friends who are spread throughout the world in different time zones and LinkedIn for professional and work and Twitter – well that is a bit like Alice in Wonderland!

It was Twitter that got me to thinking about inspiration.  There are many big hitters on there in the Leadership field – some of whom kindly follow me – somewhat out of curiosity I suspect – but there are many others who are selling courses and books on the art of leadership and they use their 140 characters to their full advantage #leadership #empowerment #10deadlysinsof  etc, etc.

I have had the honour of interviewing some extraordinary people on radio and on camera.  I have also attended conferences and seminars where leading speakers on world affairs, health and government have shared their vision and thoughts on these weighty subjects. However, when I was making a list of those that inspired and empowered me throughout my life, I was surprised at the people who actually stood out.

They were not the powerful, famous leaders in their field, but men and women just doing their jobs.

Of course there are family and friends who have supported me and inspired me on a daily basis including my husband David has been a wonderful motivating force for 37 years. But as a child I was certainly blessed by having my two older sisters, who being 10 and 11 years older than me – let me tag along and everything they did, I did too.  Well within reason!  But they taught me to be fearless and jump off diving boards,made me smocked dresses, swim in shark invested (well jelly fish) waters and told me bedtime stories. My sister Diana was still at home when I became a teenager and her presence made those years a lot of fun.  Here we are during my first year in school and none of us have changed a bit… honestly…..

Image

I have a short list of people that I would like to pay tribute to over the next few posts.  People who were in my life for short periods of time but whose impact has lasted a lifetime.

MRS MILLER.

In the September after I was four, I went to school. The Garrison Primary School in Old Portsmouth was a collection of old corrugated iron and wooden huts and had four classrooms to the best of my memory.  The head teacher was a Mrs Vine who later remarried and became Mrs Biscoe or Briscoe (come on it was 60 years ago!)  More about her later.

I was obviously in the infants class- along with about 15/20 others.  I wanted to go to school, as I mentioned my two sisters would read to me and I could already follow certain words and knew my letters.  Even now I can remember the feeling of anticipation as my mother walked me from our home to school that first morning in my new clothes and squeaky Clark’s sandals.

The desks were old and scratched with a blackened hole where the ink wells used to reside. Tiny chairs with hard seats were uncomfortable and led to twitchy bums and fidgeting.

Our teacher was standing by the blackboard. I can still see her.  Blonde, younger than my mother who was early 40’s, so about 32 I would think. She had slightly protruding teeth that gave her a lovely smile and she stood quietly as we all settled down.

When we were quiet, she introduced herself as Mrs. Miller and then she said the words that would change my short life as I knew it.

“Today, we are going to begin to learn how to read and write as these are the most important lessons for young children to learn”

I spent my first year at school with Mrs. Miller and I loved every minute. I can remember eagerly waiting for the next lesson and my hand was always the first up when she asked someone to read from our well worn books.  She patiently guided our reading skills and then as we used our ruled books to copy our small a’s and capital A’s and the rest of the alphabet.

I began to read at home and I joined the children’s public library and always had a book on the go.  My father was also a library member but his books were considerably racier than mine – Harold Robbins being one of his favourites – and I would help myself to his selection from about the age of 11. Always careful to take the book he had just read from the bottom of the stack he kept in his bedside cabinet. I probably read a great deal that was above my pay grade and certainly most was completely misunderstood!

Reading and then writing has been the greatest gift that I learned.  Mrs Miller was just doing her job, but she and the millions of teachers around the world who teach children to read and write are inspirational.

To illustrate how inspirational she was, I still remember her name and how she looked 60 years later and I still treasure the gift she gave me of literacy. Apart from being able to read any book that I wished, my career in industry, radio and television would not have been possible. Nor would I be able to pursue my love of writing books, poetry, short stories, my blog and keeping in touch with friends and family.  It also impacts our verbal communications and I certainly do love to talk!

This gift is precious and needs to be put into perspective.  It is estimated that globally over 800million people cannot read or write. Around 70 million children do not have access to primary education and over a million people in the UK struggle with reading and writing.  This impacts their everyday life in virtually every way.

MRS VINE.

Mrs Vine was also a character but I did not really have much contact with her until I returned after two years in Malta and joined moved from Interim class to her senior class. She was memorable because firstly she looked like Olive Oyl from Popeye and we called her that behind her back – and also because Friday afternoons despite her tough exterior she would dispense a packet of boiled sweets.

Also, even though she was a strict disciplinarian, she was very fair.  My father was posted to Cape Town and we were due to leave in the January 1963.  In the September prior to that when I arrived in Mrs. Vine’s class for just one term, she still made me Head Girl until Christmas as a reward for my hard work.  So thank you Mrs Vine too.  For showing me that recognition of achievements is one of the most motivational rewards you can give to someone.

My next inspirational person who gave me some life changing lessons involved a cart and a donkey!

 

The R’s of Life – Chapter Seven – Reading, Riting and Rithmatic = Reasoning


The R's of Life

When I was handed over at the tender age of four years old to Mrs Miller, the infant class teacher, I could already read to a basic level. With two older sisters, I was lucky enough to know my letters, and had already enjoyed a number of fairy tales and other illustrated children’s books.

In those days the aim of early education was to give you a solid grounding in the Three R’s which included Reading, Riting and Rithmatic. Obviously spelling was not part of the offering! I would say that based on my memories of the time, we spent the next two years, reaching the required standard in those three subjects, before moving onto basic geography, history and biology.

I also seem to remember, that there were not many children who by the end of primary school, had not reached a reasonable level across most subjects; enabling them to move onto secondary education. Nearly sixty years later, I find myself wondering at the numbers quoted for illiteracy in the UK and US indicating that education has not progressed as far as it should.

The Literacy Trust states that one person in six in the UK is living with poor literacy. That is a staggering 10 million people who are challenged in their daily lives to communicate. If a person cannot read or write, then it is not only the written words that are difficult to come by. Verbally too there is a much narrower vocabulary available to work with. http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/about

In an article in the Huffington Post in 2014 it was quoted that 14% of the nearly 324million US population, are not able to read or write. That is 45 million people. The article also claims that 19% of those leaving high school are unable to read! The headline news is that literacy rates have not changed in the US for ten years. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/06/illiteracy-rate_n_3880355.html

On a global scale the figures are even more daunting for reasons that I will look at shortly.

‘New literacy data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) indicate there are 758 million adults, 15 years and older, who still cannot read or write a simple sentence. Roughly two-thirds of them are female’

This statement does have encouraging news regarding the literacy rate for 15 to 24 years old, which is at 91% in many countries, due to improved teaching methods and compulsory education. However, in certain countries such as sub- Saharan Africa is just 65%.

For 24 – 65 years old the figures are not so optimistic, with below 30% literacy rate in countries such as Afghanistan. http://www.uis.unesco.org/literacy/Pages/literacy-data-release-2016.aspx

So what do these numbers mean in relation to surviving in a modern world?

As always when you talk about overwhelming figures, it is difficult to put the real impact for an individual person into perspective.

Let’s start with our own immediate environment. One way to demonstrate the disadvantage that it places someone who cannot read or write at, is to imagine you have just arrived in a foreign country; you do not know how to speak or read the language, nor do you understand the currency.

歡迎愛爾蘭 – 請開車路的左側,並按照指示前往都柏林市中心。有一個收費站,並請有確切的五錢歐元承壓。這是你佩戴安全帶的法律,如果你被發現有十幾年的強制性監禁。

My apologies to native Chinese speakers and hope fervently that I have not offended anyone!  But it does serve to demonstrate how miscommunication with literacy is very easy.

What I intended to say was!

Welcome to Ireland – please drive on the left hand side of the road and follow the directions to Dublin City Centre. There is a toll and please have five euro in exact money. It is the law that you wear a seat belt and if you are caught there is a mandatory prison sentence of ten years. (not true of course but if you cannot read and understand; it is this sort of consequence that is likely).

Obviously a little literary licence since the toll is actually cheaper than that!

Now take that a little bit further. You might have listened to a language course before you arrived on this excursion, and no doubt have memorised a few stock phrases. You might have a vocabulary of 100 – 150 words and be able ask directions, say please and thank you.

But I know from experience of living in three different countries, where I had to learn the language, that those responding, tend to talk very fast and use 900 more words than you have in your limited vocabulary!

Put yourself in this situation and imagine how you would feel. Frightened, frustrated, angry perhaps because people do not understand you when you are trying desperately to communicate with them.

You might find this article interesting from Reading Wise which talks about the link between illiteracy and crime.

Studies show a positive correlation between illiteracy / functional illiteracy and crime: half of UK prisoners have a reading age of an 11 year old or below, a figure that rises to 80% in the case of writing. Despite the Prison Service Order 4205, which makes statuary provision for learning and accreditation opportunity in the prison system, over 50% of prisoners do not possess the necessary skills for 96% of today’s jobs.

While one in two prisoners cites employment planning as being the most important aspect of their sentence plan, a measured two thirds leave prison without immediate prospect of paid employment. Within two years, two thirds of adult prisoners will have reoffended.

Also: In a recent survey carried out in 24 countries last October the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ‘found that England and Northern Ireland was ranked 22nd for literacy and 21st for numeracy’, surmising that ‘this low level of adult skills inevitably impacts on the success of the economy as a whole.’ Indeed, it has been estimated that over the course of an individual’s lifetime, the taxpayer can end up spending up to £64,000 supporting someone with poor literacy skills.

Read the whole article here.  http://readingwise.com/blog/impact/the-cost-of-illiteracy

How does this cause problems in society?

There is no way that I am going to label anyone who cannot read or write a criminal as most would rather lead a life under the radar. However, going back to how you might feel if you suddenly found yourself faced with only Chinese as a form of written or verbal communication. Just how frustrated and angry are you going to get?

How embarrassed are you going to feel that you cannot understand what is written in front of you and what is being said? Are you going to shout a little louder perhaps or get your own way by another means? Certainly that is an option taken by a small percentage of those who find themselves in that situation.

The majority however will do the opposite and will hide their lack of ability. They will develop work arounds, stick to their immediate environment, learn enough words and phrases to be able to shop and handle money. Adults with children will come to rely on them heavily when it comes to communication, and a very large majority will never ask for help.

In Britain today we have a thriving multicultural society which brings huge benefits as we live side by side. But it also has an impact on overall literacy levels.

Our education system has had to adapt and we have gone from teaching reading, writing and arithmetic to native English speakers, to first teaching English to over a million children who speak a different language at home.  Here is an excerpt from an article in the Daily Telegraph.

English is no longer the first language for the majority of pupils in more than one in nine schools, new figures have revealed. Last year the majority of children in 1,755 primary and secondary schools spoke another language at home following a sharp increase in the number of pupils with foreign born parents.

In more than 200 schools nine in ten pupils do not speak English as their mother tongue, with children speaking as many as 14 different languages. Across England, the number of pupils who have English as their second language has risen by a fifth to almost 1.1million in the past five years.  

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/10611050/Revealed-The-one-in-nine-schools-where-English-is-not-first-language.html

Whatever originating country, those who arrived as first generation immigrants have had the enormous task of adapting to a new country, customs and culture. Within that first generation there are still many who have never learned English. The rules are changing that will mean that any new applicants must learn the language, but that is a huge ask, especially if you are coming from a country where you were never taught to read and write in the first place.

It is very isolating, as I know from first- hand experience, and even after learning sufficient Spanish to get by in our time in Spain, you have no idea how grateful I am to be able to carry out my everyday tasks in English. And it is not just daily tasks that are easier. It is important to remember too, that even for those who do learn enough English to enjoy society to its fullest extent, there are other social differences that can isolate individuals within certain cultures.

Even if you can understand aspects of communication such as humour, it tends to be culturally related, as are different customs and the way we conduct relationships between men and women. Throw religion into the mix and you have another level of misunderstanding in the making.

What about the future of worldwide literacy?

One of the issues that I have with some of the figures that are used in the official sites for literacy is that they do not admit that overall literacy on a worldwide basis is going to be impossible to achieve in the next century if ever. This is particularly so in countries where there is no  adequate education system or where one group is excluded, such as females.

Also there are other economic and environmental factors to be taken into consideration. For many of the countries which have poor literacy rates, conflict or natural disasters such as famine and drought are ever present. The primary focus is on basic survival and there are certain countries where education will always take a back seat.

So what about Rithmatic!

Usually, even someone who cannot read and write, will understand the value of currency both in notes and coins. However, if you cannot do basic arithmetic you may not know the total amount that you have to spend. When you arrive at the store and browse the aisles you may well recognise the numbers in the pricing system but if you do not know how to add them up, you are going to struggle when you get to the checkout.

Running a household these days is expensive, but not only that, most bills these days are online. They expect you to pay by direct debit that you have to set up yourself. If you are unable to read how are you going to do that in the first place and then understand the bill and budget to pay for it?

I mentioned that many people who are living with functional illiteracy will develop work arounds.  One such option is to use the corner shop and cash, so that they can use one of the pay as you go systems for phone and utility bills. But that system will be phased out over the years as we develop newer technology, and it becomes too expensive for service companies to operate on that basis.

There are many more areas that are limiting for someone who cannot read and write or do basic arithmetic and the result is important.

Going back to the heading of this chapter which was Reading, Riting and Rithmatic = Reasoning… Another R of life.

I believe that one of the main causes of strive and conflict, including terrorism is a lack of communication. East and West has always been at odds and there is nothing new in history. The crusades were a violent and bitter conflict and that injustice has been kept alive through subsequent generations. In written history but also passed on orally.

If you cannot read and do not have access to books or modern technology then you become isolated from the world. You are then at the mercy of those who can communicate and are therefore in a position of influence and power. Without any other terms of reference, you will listen and follow the views of those who have the gift of communication, even when it is promoting hatred and violence.

This is also true of many of the religions of the world. The mystique of faith was much easier to keep alive in days when nearly all congregations were illiterate. Holy books were only read by an elite few. Millions who worshipped could only base their beliefs on the sermons of their preachers. Many who made it very clear that there is only one true path; then there is Hell and Damnation if you don’t obey.

On a daily basis, the rhetoric of our leaders and the relentless media that bombard us with inflammatory speeches and images; have cultivated a fear culture. It is one thing for us who can read other view points, to listen and to then  form our own pinions on the matter. But because of modern technology, our leader’s behaviour and attitudes as well as trashy and inflammatory headlines are beamed around the world.

That is the face we are presenting to people who have already been told that we are evil. They see the images and if they cannot read and write, they have no terms of reference to reason that this is not true for everyone within a culture. It just confirms all the dreadful things they have been told about us.

World peace is about as feasible as worldwide literacy and the end to poverty. We are making progress but it is going to take a global effort to get anywhere near the figures needed to reach mutual understanding and respect.

So that is the problems of illiteracy.. what are some of the solutions?

In an ideal world all of us would be able to read and write and be able to communicate. The numbers are more encouraging for the younger generation at 91% literacy in certain countries, but it is going to take more than a few more generations before that figure is matched globally, and in the 24-65 and older age brackets.

Like any situation where numbers are in the millions it is overwhelming. It is also very easy to feel that it is impossible to make a difference. However, I believe very firmly in the ability we all have to make a difference to one person, and for that to create a ripple effect that changes the lives of thousands.

You may also be wondering why I am including this as one of the factors in surviving in the modern world since clearly you can already read!

You have been gifted with the ability to read and many of you are also writers. Some of you are parents and grandparents and that is a great place to start. With your own children and grandchildren; encouraging a love of stories and books at a very early age. By the time they go to school, they should be excited about the prospect and the schools should be just as creative and exceptional to tap into that potential.

I was told by a teacher of an infant class once, that they preferred it if parents did not try to teach their children to read, as it was usually the wrong method. I am afraid that I disagree, as the earlier a child begins to use their imagination and learns the wonders of books the better.  A child’s brain is like a sponge and it seems to me a complete waste to let a child get to four or five before tapping into that potential.

Looking at the figures of young people leaving school, without the basic skills such as reading and writing; it would seem that getting them started as early as possible would be a great idea.

What about outside of our families?

If we want to create a safer world for our children and grandchildren in the future, and bring to an end this lack of reasoning in our communications with others, then we need to reach out and ensure that we, who have the gift of reading and writing pass that on.

There are a number of volunteer programmes worldwide that are literacy based and I am going to give you some of their links.

Time is precious and I am only too aware of that. But even if it is for one afternoon a week, if you read stories to children, work with adults with literacy difficulties, or help raise money to increase literacy; you will be doing a wonderful thing.

Even if only one person learns to read and write because of your efforts you will have made a difference…. Especially if they then go on to encourage others.

Will this cure world hunger and poverty, or achieve global literacy and world peace. I am afraid not. However, over time, it may well gift millions with the ability to read, write and reason and change their attitude towards their fellow man for the better.

If you would like to volunteer to help children and adults with literacy then here are some country specific links. I suggest that you search for organisations within your own countries who are usually very keen to find volunteers.

UK -http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/about/faqs/filter/literacy%20jobs%20and%20volunteering

USA – https://proliteracy.org/

Canada – http://www.worldlit.ca/get-involved/volunteer/

Ireland – https://www.nala.ie/support-us/volunteer-as-a-tutor

©sallycronin The R’s of Life.

Thank you for reading and of course your feedback is very welcome.

 

Thank you Mrs. Miller for teaching me to Write.


Yesterday our friend Hugh Roberts published a post in his series on how to become a successful blogger on recycling our posts from the early days to reach a wider and also different audience. It is something that I do every year for my health posts but I wrote a short series back in late 2013 that received only three or four views and I thought I would take Hugh’s advice and repost. Hugh’s post

THANK YOU MRS MILLER

One of the most common interview questions we get asked in interviews is about who has inspired us to write. I usually put down Wilbur Smith, Jean M. Auel and other authors who I read as a child and young adult and who fired up my imagination and drive to write.

I then got to thinking and realised that there are a few people who might not be world famous authors or leaders, but who were just doing their job, and how they both influenced and inspired me. I looked back to when I first picked up a pencil, and that would have been at home with my two elder sisters who read bedtime stories to me and taught me my letters; but there was another person in my life who taught me the writing skills that I have used my entire life.

sally wedding day 1980

MRS MILLER.

In the September after I was four, I went to school. The Garrison Primary School in Old Portsmouth was a collection of old corrugated iron and wooden huts and had four classrooms to the best of my memory. The head teacher was a Mrs Vine who later remarried and became Mrs Biscoe or Briscoe (come on it was 59 years ago!) More about her later.

I was obviously in the infants class- along with about 15/20 others. I wanted to go to school, as I mentioned my two sisters would read to me and I could already follow certain words and knew my letters. Even now I can remember the feeling of anticipation as my mother walked me from our home to school that first morning in my new clothes and squeaky Clark’s sandals.

The desks were old and scratched with a blackened hole where the ink wells used to reside. Tiny chairs with hard seats were uncomfortable and led to twitchy bums and fidgeting.

Our teacher was standing by the blackboard. I can still see her. Blonde, younger than my mother who was early 40’s, so about 32 I would think. She had slightly protruding teeth that gave her a lovely smile and she stood quietly as we all settled down.

When we were quiet, she introduced herself as Mrs. Miller and then she said the words that would change my short life as I knew it.

“Today, we are going to begin to learn how to read and write as these are the most important lessons for young children to learn”

I spent my first year at school with Mrs. Miller and I loved every minute. I can remember eagerly waiting for the next lesson and my hand was always the first up when she asked someone to read from our well worn books. She patiently guided our reading skills and then as we used our ruled books to copy our small a’s and capital A’s and the rest of the alphabet.

I began to read at home and I joined the children’s public library and always had a book on the go. My father was also a library member but his books were considerably racier than mine – Harold Robbins being one of his favourites – and I would help myself to his selection from about the age of 11. Always careful to take the book he had just read from the bottom of the stack he kept in his bedside cabinet. I probably read a great deal that was above my pay grade and certainly most was completely misunderstood!

Reading and then writing has been the greatest gift that I learned. Mrs Miller was just doing her job, but she and the millions of teachers around the world who teach children to read and write are inspirational.

To illustrate how inspirational she was, I still remember her name and how she looked nearly 60 years later and I still treasure the gift she gave me of literacy. Apart from being able to read any book that I wished, my career in industry, radio and television would not have been possible. Nor would I be able to pursue my love of writing books, poetry, short stories, my blog and keeping in touch with friends and family. It also impacts our verbal communications and I certainly do love to talk!

This gift is precious and needs to be put into perspective. It is estimated that globally over 800million people cannot read or write. Around 70 million children do not have access to primary education and over a million people in the UK struggle with reading and writing. This impacts their everyday life in virtually every way.

MRS VINE.

Mrs Vine was also a character but I did not really have much contact with her until I returned after two years in Malta and joined moved from Interim class to her senior class. She was memorable because firstly she looked like Olive Oil from Popeye and we called her that behind her back – and also because Friday afternoons despite her tough exterior she would dispense a packet of boiled sweets.

Also, even though she was a strict disciplinarian, she was very fair. My father was posted to Cape Town and we were due to leave in the January 1963. In the September prior to that when I arrived in Mrs. Vine’s class for just one term, she still made me Head Girl until Christmas as a reward for my hard work. So thank you Mrs Vine too. For showing me that recognition of achievements is one of the most motivational rewards you can give to someone.

Thanks for stopping by.. As always your feedback is valued and please feel free to share. Sally