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What’s the big deal about mocking someone’s accent?

Wow, so it turns out that your NQT year isn’t really compatible with blogging. However, it also turns out that spending all your time working isn’t really compatible with sanity either.

So in an attempt to regain my sanity, I’ve been trying to get back into blogging recently. Annoyingly though, I’ve found myself completely incapable of picking a subject – it seems there is nothing but teaching in my brain these days. Earlier today I finally decided on a topic, and on browsing the interweb for some opinions, discovered the following article on our attitude towards accents.  The author has said exactly what I wanted to say (and more), and it’s well worth a read if you’ve got the time. Determined not to be defeated though, I’ve added my two-penneth (is that the right phrase?) in the paragraph following this one – any excuse for a good rant. Sorry.

As someone with northern parents, who grew up in the Midlands (on a somewhat related side note – despite what northerners / southerners variously think, this means I am neither a northerner nor a southerner. The clue is in the name) and now lives in the south, it frustrates me no end to have my accent corrected wherever I go. Just because someone speaks differently to you doesn’t mean that they speak incorrectly. Giggling or commenting every time I say “class” or “task” or “grass” with a short ‘A’ strikes me as slightly offensive and closed-minded. I can’t help my accent – it’s a part of me, it reflects my history and I like the added sense of “home” that it gives me. The way we speak is just another form of diversity, and diversity is there to be embraced not scorned. It brings with it the ability to learn about the world outside your own sphere and to gain a more balanced outlook on life – surely that can only be a good thing? Life would be boring if everyone looked, spoke, dressed and acted the same. If you want the people around you to be a carbon copy of yourself, move to North Korea.

And besides, in my head, YOU’RE the one pronouncing it wrong 😉

so long as it's words

As a society, we’re getting better at not being dicks to each other. It’s a slow progression, but some hurdles have been royally leapt: women can vote, homosexual couples can adopt, and ethnic minorities legally have access to the same goods and services as everybody else. Of course, we still deal with individual douche-canoes mouthing off at people because of their sexuality, gender identity, race, ability, age, body shape or a million other things; institutionalised prejudice hasn’t been eradicated; and prejudice is still enacted on a micro-level, often not from a malicious footing, but as the product of a society still breaking free of intolerant belief systems (that blasted patriarchy!). I’ve painted a cheery picture there, haven’t I? … but in general, while things are by no stretch of the imagination fixed, in most ways they’re getting better, and we’re a lot sounder to each other than we used to…

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http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2013/aug/24/robyn-lawley-supermodel

Carrying on from mine and Charlotte’s previous blog post about body image, here is a lovely article from the Guardian about model Robyn Lawley… Her comments on variety in the fashion industry are particularly interesting – she’s basically summed up what both myself and Charlotte were trying to say perfectly in a couple of sentences, as follows:

Lawley finds the “real women have curves” brigade patronising and unhelpful. “People use me as a figurehead, and to me that misses the point and is blatantly offensive to thin women – my sister, for one. Curves don’t epitomise a woman. Saying, ‘Skinny is ugly’ should be no more acceptable than saying fat is. I find all this stuff a very controlling and effective way of making women obsess over their weight, instead of exploiting their more important attributes, such as intellect, strength and power.

The issue is not that models are too thin, she says: the problem is one of variety. “Look at fashion shows. We need a range of ages and ethnicities. There are just very thin, white, 16-year-old girls on the catwalk and that has to change.”

Don’t hate on people just because they’re not a perfect 10.  Variety is what makes the world interesting – embrace it.
I promise I’ll stop going on about it now.

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Daily Prompt: Far from Home

Daily Prompt: Far from Home

Tell us about the farthest you’ve ever traveled from home.
The farthest I’ve ever been from home [I’m going to go literal with this one. It’s too late at night after a long day to go all meta and talk about how distance isn’t always measured in geographical miles] is Australia. Or maybe New Zealand – I’m not sure which one is furthest away. In any case, I visited both on the same trip so I’ll talk about them as a ‘whole’.

It was great. Eight weeks of sunshine (and the occasional torrential downpour). I saw kangaroos, koalas, and bugs bigger than my foot. I shared a dorm with this weird girl who kept getting naked. I learnt to surf; visited glaciers and rainforests; climbed a mountain – I even went to Hobbiton. I travelled by horse, bike, train, jeep, mini-motorcycle, and only fell off two of them. I had a go at herding goats in the outback, and watched Shakespeare at the Sydney Opera House. And, possibly most impressively, I managed to end the trip on speaking terms with my travel companion – no easy feat when you’ve sat next to someone for the entirety of 20 hour bus ride only to then get lost trying to find your hostel.

And yet, predictably, my Dad’s first reaction when I got home after two months away was: “You had your nose pierced? Oh dear. Still, I suppose I should be glad it wasn’t a tattoo.”

Missed you too, Dad…

Priceless.

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New Primary Education Curriculum: Too much, too young?

I haven’t posted anything about education for a while, but what with the almost daily announcements about reforms coming from government, I thought it was about time I stepped back into the fray.

This article from the BBC, despite its slightly inflammatory title, presents an interesting comparison of Michael Gove’s new primary curriculum with those of Finland and Singapore, which have the most high-achieving education systems of any country.

The comparison can essentially be summed up as follows:

Prof Wrigley said: “The curriculum documents for Finland and Singapore make no demands for eight-year-olds to count in sevens and nines, or for the learning of long lists of spellings which exceed the range of children’s active vocabulary.”

In Singapore children do not begin science before they reach the age of England’s Year 4 children. By this time English children are expected to cover 20 densely-packed pages listing scientific knowledge. In Finland science starts at age seven, and until age 11 is taught within a child-friendly environmental and natural studies curriculum.

So when Michael Gove last week claimed that ‘the changes to the curriculum were necessary to keep pace with the achievement of pupils in other countries.’ and then ‘cited Hong Kong, Massachusetts, Singapore and Finland as “the world’s most successful school systems”‘ I think he was getting his research a bit mixed up. Yes, there may be seven year olds in some countries who can calculate complex fractions, but not in the countries he cites. Their education systems are successful whilst not piling too much academic pressure on very young children, and still encouraging thinking skills and creativity.

In my opinion, Gove’s whole plan to gear the curriculum towards more rote learning and a knowledge based curriculum is skewed. In a world of Google and Wikipedia, what use is rote learning? What we need is to teach our students skills that they can apply in the real world. And this doesn’t come about from our seven year olds trying to learn 20 pages of scientific knowledge.

Don’t even get me started on how this new curriculum will affect those children who aren’t necessarily the most academic.

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Daily Prompt: Your Life, the Book.

From a famous writer or celebrity, to a WordPress.com blogger or someone close to you — who would you like to be your biographer?

My friend Shev. We lived together for three years during university, and she knows me pretty well. But the main reason I’d like her to write my biography is because of the conversation below, which makes me laugh every time I read it… Whilst I can’t promise it would be the most exciting of biographies, it would certainly be accurate [don’t judge me!]. Failing that, I’d like Louis De Bernieres or Nick Hornby to write it. They have a great mix of absurdity, witticism, and character-led writing. 

This does feel like a slightly lazy blog post, but that’s because the answer came to me virtually instantaneously.

Over and out. 

Ruth: Too comfy… Can’t move…
 
Shev: This status summarises you better than anything I’ve ever seen. Also I think it should be the title of your second autobiography (after Where Are All the Teaspoons?)
 
Ruth: I really need to stop looking at comments whilst on the train.. I’m becoming the weird girl who laughs on the train…
 
Shev: Chapter 1-25 of Where Are All the Teaspoons? will consist mostly of tales regarding Ruth’s constant struggle to escape her duvet in order to start writing.
 
Shev: I love the idea of 25 chapters of just Ruth trying to get out of bed. The next 25 will just be Ruth trying to get someone to make her a cup of tea.
 
Ruth: I’d think of a witty come back… but it’s all true. “As i lay there wrapped in my duvet cocoon and too comfy to move, i thought to myself, ‘is there anything better in the world than a duvet?’ Then a new thought came to me, ‘A cup of tea AND a duvet, that’s what! Now… who can i text?’
 
Ruth: It would clearly be a best seller.
 
Shev: Coming soon: 2013’s most action-packed thriller.
 
Ruth: i’m still in bed typing this. just thought you should know.
 
Shev: I assume you are in bed 100% of the time unless I’m told otherwise.
 
Ruth: Lol. I love the thought of teaching from my bed…
 
Shev: May be perhaps a little inappropriate. But if someone is ever going to work out a way to do it, it will be you.
 
Ruth: Guys… Bad news… I’m going to have to GET OUT OF BED AND LEAVE THE FLAT in order to go buy food… THE HORROR!!!!!!!! hope i don’t get altitude sickness from standing up.
 
Shev: Let us know you survive the ordeal.

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Daily Prompt: Fandom

Are you a sports fan? Tell us about fandom. If you’re not, tell us why not.

This is an easy one for me. It’s a topic I’ve had many discussions with people about, and it’s something that I have a fairly strong view on.

The answer is no. I am not a sports fan, and ‘fandom’ is one of the reasons why.

I’ll admit, I don’t find sport particularly fascinating. A shame, as the rest of my family are big sport lovers – whether it’s watching Airbus UK vs Wrexham, the German Grand Prix, or the Ashes – and my lack of interest has meant a lot of family dinners spent staring out of windows over the years. There are some I enjoy more than others – I can just about watch F1 and Rugby without falling asleep, for example, but I can’t bear football or tennis (sorry all you Murray fans out there!).

And before you suggest it, it’s not down to a lack of understanding. With two sports-mad elder brothers, I have had the offside rule explained to me more times than I can remember. Admittedly, I’m a little shaky on my knowledge of tennis, but I could happily explain the LBW rule to you over a Pimms at Lords sometime.

I think part of it is the element of competition. I’m not naturally a very competitive person [unless it comes to Scrabble], and I really hate that someone has to lose after they’ve put in all that hard work. It makes me genuinely sad for them. I’d probably still be sad even if it was the EDL playing the BNP in the Questionable Politics World Cup. After all, they tried their best. And we’re always told as children that as long as we try our best, that’s ok. But it’s not ok, because even though they tried their best they’ve still lost, and they’re upset. How is that fair?

 football-image-300

It also baffles me how emotional people get about sport. I can sort of understand it at a National Level – I love any excuse to wave a flag, see my posts about Eurovision – but beyond that I just don’t get what the big deal is. This is a phenomena that particularly seems to occur in the word of football. From Match of the Day, to the 5 Live Football Phone-in, to post-game violence, it all just seems a bit of an over-reaction to what is, essentially, a game. Just like Chess. Or Badminton. Or Tiddlywinks. But do you see people stabbing each other over a bad result at tiddlywinks? No. It’s all about perspective.

People treat sport like a religion. In fact, I’ve come to wonder whether the absence of religion in what is increasingly a secular culture means that people have had to transfer that passion, that dogged loyalty, that hope, onto something else. And it has manifested itself in people coming home early from the pub so they don’t miss Match of the Day, or ranting about a questionable yellow card on national radio. In fact, if you think about it, going to a football/rugby/cricket match is a lot like going to Church. If the Stadium is the Church, then the chants are the hymns, the match programme is the service sheet, and the players are the idols, who you are wishing (read: praying) upon for a good result.

That last paragraph might have gone a bit far. But you get the idea. Sport is not life or death. It’s sport. Take a step back, sports fans, and realise that yes it’s compelling viewing (for some!) but that doesn’t mean you should name your child ‘Hotspur’ and spend your entire salary on going to watch Aston Villa play football in Dubai.

I’m anticipating a lot of people won’t agree with me on this one – my brothers for starters – so feel free to comment with your own views.I’d love to hear them!

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Daily Prompt: Singin’ in the Rain by michelle w. on June 15, 2013

Safe inside, toasty warm, while water pitter-patters on the roof… describe your perfect, rainy afternoon

My perfect rainy afternoon… Well, I’m British, so I’ve had a fair amount of chances to explore this concept – today being a case in point. And I’ve come to the conclusion that the best plans are normally the simplest.

You can’t really go wrong with drinking tea, watching old movies, and snuggling up on the sofa under a blanket with the cat – or a man, if there’s one around. But that’s an optional extra. Of course you need to be wearing your pyjamas, or at the very least your slippers, and be sitting within sight of a window. This should preferably be single-glazed so that you can hear the wind howling and the rain lashing against the glass. And the film should almost certainly be black and white, starring Audrey Hepburn, James Stewart or Clark Gable.

If I was being really fussy, I’d request a roaring log fire and a ramshackle country cottage as my location, complete with creaking floorboards, solid oak beams, and sheepskin rug. And possibly a game of Scrabble. But you can’t have everything. 

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Daily Prompt: You’ve Got the Power

I’m back! I haven’t written for a while, as I’ve been in the midst of final deadlines at uni. But today’s daily prompt really fascinated me.

If I could enact one single law, what would it be?

…If it was a wish I wouldn’t have a problem – get Michael Gove fired, win the lottery, own a pet unicorn, be able to fly – the possibilities are endless (as the advert goes)!

But a law is more complicated than that. It has repercussions outside of my life – potentially serious consequences for the entire nation – and that requires some consideration. On asking friends, I got various responses including ‘ban all additives so i don’t have to question what i’m eating’ or ‘more funding for the arts’, or ‘tourists should be made to walk at the same pace as locals’. These are all interesting ideas, and I’d certainly be on board with most of them. But, for me, if I’ve only got one law, I’d like it ideally to be something that benefits the majority of people.

My first thought was tolerance. A friend of mine recently sent me an example of some ridiculously ignorant [to the point of suspecting he wasn’t being serious] racism that he was subjected to during a bus journey to work**. And I’d love to be able to outlaw all forms of racism, along with sexism, ageism, homophobia, and religious intolerance. The ‘Live And Let Live’ Law. But this has it’s limitations. I mean, yes I want general tolerance, but how far-reaching would it be? I recently had a conversation with someone who was of the opinion that ‘bestiality is really no worse than killing an animal to eat it. It’s still hurting an animal for human benefit’. Whilst I agree with the logic, the sentiment makes me rather [very!] uncomfortable. And equally, some people think that murdering others is OK, and complete tolerance would mean allowing them to do so. Ultimately it seems inevitable that this attitude would end in anarchy, and that wouldn’t benefit anyone.

So my final thought is – I don’t want the power or the responsibility of coming up with a new law. NEXT.

**For those of you that are interested, it was as follows:

“I just had the funniest conversation with a drunk racist. I had to sit next to him since the bus was full. When I sat down he immediately said “don’t sit here!” and I asked why and he said “germs”.Me: “YOU have germs?”

Him: “No, you do!”

Me: “Oh, right…I don’t feel ill, so I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

Him: “You want a slap?! Get up!”

Me: “No, you cant tell where to sit; it’s a bus”.

Then nothing for a while.

Him: “You should wear a turban and be a Guru Nanak.”

I died.

Me: “I don’t imagine I would suit a turban, mate, but thanks for the suggestion.”

Other people sniggering.

Him: “Are you a suicide bomber?”

Me: “Nah, it’s my day off, see you later mate, love you forever.”

I got off the bus.”

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Daily Prompt: Never

I haven’t responded to one of these Daily Prompts before, but this one sparked my interest. However, I spent most of the afternoon (whilst I was meant to be paying attention to a lecture on adolescence) racking my brains trying to think of something that I would never post about. I’m naturally a very open and honest person – many of my friends would say too much so – and I’ve been known to get into trouble for this trait in the past.

Then I realised – although I’ll warn you it’s not particularly groundbreaking – that I would never post about my romantic relationships. As much as people have encouraged me to do it, and the temptation is there (blogs about dating are normally pretty popular) it could potentially cause a lot of problems.

As a teacher, I would potentially be risking my job if such a blog was to be found by my students.

As a daughter, I would hate to think I might embarrass my parents in any way by writing in detail about my private life on the internet – I respect them, and I feel I need to make decisions about my life which honour this respect, rather than failing to think about my actions and potentially making their lives difficult. After all, I know that for their part they wouldn’t intentionally want to embarrass me, even if they do frequently manage it accidentally…

But the main reason why I don’t want to post about these things is that there are some things in life that I think are better kept private. I may choose to share certain facts with very close friends (normally if I want a second opinion on something or extra ammo in an argument!), but part of what makes being in a relationship special is the private moments that you share with that other person. Whether this is sharing a joke, a duvet, or a holiday, there are some things that the whole world does not need to know about in detail. And what’s more, I would hate for the entirety of my own behaviour to be released to public scrutiny on the internet, so I choose to show my partners that same courtesy. We all say things without thinking, do things that we later regret and make decisions based on momentary poor judgement or inexperience, and I can’t help but think that immortalising such instances on the web would, if anything, only make these situations worse. There are some things that you don’t want to be reminded of forever-more!

(Also, to be honest, most of it wouldn’t be very interesting)

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Positive Religion

In relation to my earlier post “But…”, this article is a lovely example of religion proving that it can provide a positive, peaceful message for the world.

Islam isn’t just about terrorism, y’know.