Monday, 29 December 2014

Why does my child pretend to hate school?

I mean, after all the fighting to get them through the door in the morning, they come out at night laughing and smiling! And they walk out with their friends, chattering away. And they don't look any different from the other kids meeting up with their parents at the gate, even though those other kids went in looking as happy as when they came out. What's going on?

Can we back-track a moment? Or maybe more than just the one moment, just to make sure we cover everything.

You fight to get your child into school but you don't know why? Come on! This is in the same league as slapping your mother up the side of the head and then wondering why she is in a mood with you. Or behaving like a rabid dog at the checkouts then complaining about the bad attitude of the staff.

You know, you just don't want to know. There is a difference.

Any child who does not want to do something will tell you why. There is likely to be A List:

The other children are mean!
The teachers are mean!
The food is nasty!
The teachers are nasty!
The children are really nasty!
They are all nasty!
They are all mean to me!
I want to be at home!!!

Yes, general statements that any child could make when they're having a rough day. Maybe you discount them because not all the teachers can be mean and you're pretty sure none of them are mean at all. They smile a lot when they see you and they don't seem to be drawing lots to teach your child (yet).

And the kids? All kids can be nasty and mean sometimes. Your own child is not an angel. It's all part of the great school experience, learning to get along with people who don't behave perfectly. It's a part of life, preparing children for the real world where there are also mean people and nasty behaviour.

No, there has to be something specific if your child doesn't like school, right? If only they would tell you what it is, you could fix it. Or tell the teachers and let them fix it.

Well, remember last Thursday at the school gate when your little one pointed at a snub-nosed boy with a cheeky grin and whispered, 'That's Tommy'? You nodded and got on with what you were doing, thinking what a cute kid Tommy was. Did you remember the conversation your child had with you in the car on the way to Jenny's house a few days before? Where they told you about how Tommy liked to wait behind the coat racks next to the playground door and jump out, roaring? Did you listen long enough to hear the roaring was followed by nipping and sometimes kicking?

Yes, I'm sure you did listen, it was just that by the time you'd got round the awful roundabout at the end of Jenny's road and then parked in her L-shaped drive, you'd forgotten all about Tommy. Kids do silly things, don't they, and Tommy is just playing a game. No doubt in a few weeks you'll be having him over for tea.

What about last week when Mrs Montrose told all the children to write about their holidays and your child decided to write about their grandparents' holidays instead because they went to see the white dancing horses in Europe whereas you only went to the little caravan site in Blackpool? Those dancing horses made such a good story! And then it was horrible because Mrs Montrose said your child hadn't listened and it was a good story but it wasn't the right story and there were tears - unfortunately not from Mrs Montrose.

You hear the Reasons Why every time your child tells you things. Or you figure out the reasons when you piece together clues from other parents, children or the teachers themselves. There is always a way to find out why your child doesn't want to go to school. You do not need to resurrect Poirot, you only need to ask the right questions and listen at the right times.

So why does your child pretend to hate school and then come out all happy and smiling and chatting to friends? Because your child actually does hate school and at the end of the day they are super-happy to be leaving the place and are chatting to friends because happiness and relief make you feel so exuberant you will chat to anyone, even people who leave you to face Tommy alone every day.

There is no pretence. The only pretence is in comforting ourselves that school is a preparation for life. It can be, you know. All the best bits are there, like learning to follow instructions and sit still for a long time and get on with absolute ticks who ought to be kept away from the general population.

As for putting up with bullies and pedants? Well, I guess that's some preparation too. I know it prepared me very well for a life lived differently, avoiding normal jobs and trying my utmost not to have to work for other people.

And as for Tommy? He'll probably go really far as he has figured out how to work the system and do just what he likes without ever being pulled up on it. Good for Tommy, eh? Bet he doesn't pretend to hate school.

©Amanda J Harrington 2014

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Thursday, 25 December 2014

A Carnival for Christmas

It was something of a surprise to me a few Christmases ago when my youngest son told me he was very excited because he had asked Santa for a carnival! He told me it was going in the back garden so that every time he opened the door, there it would be. I asked him if a carnival would be a bit difficult for Santa to bring on his sledge but I had forgotten about Santa being able to fit anything on that sledge, hadn't I?

As it was, Santa left my son a very nice letter, explaining about the snow he had on order, direct from the North Pole. So my son had a present of a big crane instead, to play with while the snow fell.

And, would you believe it, two days later the snow started to fall and it fell for days...

A Carnival for Christmas

I wanted a Carnival for Christmas
but Santa says he's very sorry
this year he made a special order
for lots of snow, direct from the North Pole!

That means he's given me an indoor present instead,
a great big crane!
to lift my other presents
while the snow is falling.

Santa says the snow will fall for days,
long enough for proper sledging.
I'm really looking forward to the snow!

I was looking forward to that carnival too
but I suppose Santa is right,
it would be too cold.

I'm glad I wrote about the carnival
'cos Santa would have been caught out
if he'd already ordered the snow.
I'm really glad he wrote back too.

I'm thinking of asking for more snow next year,
now I know he does that sort of thing.
Maybe an ice age for Christmas? And a mammoth? Just a little one.
And a pack of wolves to pull the sledge.

And maybe another carnival - a winter one this time.
I'll put it in the back garden
With the wolves.

©Amanda J Harrington 2014

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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Last Breaths

Her husband was angry,
she made friends easily,
calmly capable,
in the face of grief.

Her hours, days, weeks,
built around her sons,
her years on the farm,
in a village.

Farmer's wife,
keeper of boys,
holder of bonfire night
vintage extravaganzas.

A moment passed.
Holding her life,
like it didn't move.

Her husband was angry,
refusing the truth,
casting abroad
for cures.

Casting for anything and wondering,
who would hold their boys,
who would smile.

Her husband was angry,
the other half,
the one who wasn't waiting
in the warm,
kettle on,
bright eyes,
ready smile.

And it felt like years, the moments.
It felt like years, snapped away,
it felt like years, and then.

It was a time of its own keeping,
a pocket where parties invited everyone,
a giant tin of fireworks,
bought weeks in advance.

Food steaming in the open kitchen,
face at the door, framed by the light.

Her husband was angry,
marrying again soon after,
everyone thinking
he didn't care.

And every breath she took,
she saw them,
felt them,
knew them,
loved them.

©Amanda J Harrington 2014

This is a poem I wrote about someone I knew growing up. She was one of those people everyone knew, who organised events and did lots of different extra things with her life, as well as having a demanding family life and home to look after. Sometimes people pass through our lives who we don't know very well but feel we are better for having met. She was one of those.

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Saturday, 6 December 2014

How to make your child like reading.

Reading is good for you: we know this. Like a literary version of broccoli, reading is known to cause interest, engagement, increased brain activity, a tendency to imagine strange new landscapes and the ability to strike up conversations with complete strangers who instantly become new friends.

Yet so often people will say their child hates reading, they will do anything to avoid it and that parents have tried everything to make them like it.

I despair when people say to me their child won't read. Sometimes, you know, it is because children have a problem with reading, perhaps undiagnosed dyslexia or similar. Sometimes children cannot process the written word as well as the real world around them, so they move away from books. More often, their parents never showed them that books are gooooood.

It is that simple in the majority of cases. Books are good, people. Books are fun and they can be full of pictures and stuff. They can have rocket ships and fire engines and dragons eating small, angry princesses. They can be completely about real-life things, so that children who avoid dragons don't have to bother with them. You can read about tractors the whole time, if you like, or what children in other countries do every day that is amazingly different to what you do.

You can read about things which have no basis in what most people think of as the real world. The real world is open for debate! Let it be magic, let it be aliens masquerading as school children. Let it be whatever you want it to be and let it feel real for the time you are living in that book.

And again, all of this does not often happen by itself. If your small child wanders past on their way to the TV and sees you sitting, with your nose in a book, they will want to know what you are doing: small children always want to know what you are doing.

You don't have to grump 'reading' and then ignore them; neither do you have to explain in great detail that you are finding out which mad serial killer disemboweled the Griddle twins while they were camping in Lone Wolf Forest. You can just say you are reading a great book - would small child like to read one with you? (Choose a different book, though, eh?)

Or if you don't like reading either, then first, sit down and have a talk with yourself. You want small child to read, okay? You want them to have this amazing benefit in their lives, yes? So, pretend. Who cares if you like reading - you pretended to like small child's looped rendition of Wheels on the Bus every day for a week so you can pretend to like this beautiful picture book about frogs.

Together you will have the exquisite quality time which comes from having your child's soft head resting gently against you as you turn the pages. You will have that moment when they look up at you to watch your lips as you read a certain line. You will have time that never comes again.

If your child is already older, well, look to what interests them and take it from there but don't think because they are older that your example is any less important. Just be aware that reading the instructions on their new video game is also reading, as is reading the dialogue in the game. Reading is more than books, it is about exploration and knowledge and these come in many forms, right through life.

And, later, when small child is bigger child and bigger child becomes lumping great teenager, you will have a young person who is not afraid to pick up a book and knows that books are a part of life and can be part of their lives too. Your teen may still not be a raving fan of reading but by starting early you have given them the tools to use books to help themselves - and by books, I also mean ebooks, online articles, blogs, coding manuals, the whole shebang.

Those years later might also see you passing by your young person as they lie on the sofa, one arm and two legs at strange angles, their head on the armrest and their other hand clasping the latest book as they devour a new world and everything in it.

It's not about making anything happen. Think of it as leaving the door open to let in fresh, summer air. You didn't have to go out and gather the air and rush in before it blew away: all you had to do was open the door and let it happen naturally.

Reading is good, for you and for your children, but the only way to make the goodness work is to bring it right into your life and keep it there, in the heart of your family.

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Sunday, 23 November 2014

Daniel's school report

Daniel’s school report

Daniel's written work
Leaves a lot to be desired
In fact in ancient Egypt
It's a shoe-in he'd be hired.

His pictures of the olden days
Are highly innovative
It's sad that he still feels the need
To draw his natives naked.

He wants to be an astronaut
And tells me you agree
But will not do his maths and science
And constantly breaks free.

We are truly sick and tired
Of his jaunts across the grass
Will you please ensure he always knows
He needs a playground pass?

Daniel is a charming boy
We all think he is great
But if you got him up on time
He wouldn't be so late.

We want him to succeed, you see,
And think it would be better
If he could do as he is told
And learn his sums and letters.

We know what is best for him
And what is best for you,
So please remind your Daniel
To do as we tell him to.

He'll be glad we taught him how
To do only what he's taught
And follow all the rules
To be an astronaut.

He needs to walk when told to walk
Not hop like he's a flea.
Space wants nothing with naughty boys
Who do just what they please.

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Friday, 14 November 2014

Writing about people you know - make me a Heathcliff!

It's a standard question, isn't it? Do you write about people you know? Do you include real people in your stories?

The standard answer is to either fudge the issue and say you base your characters on people you know or to be fervent about it and say you always use people you know as inspiration.

But what about the people themselves?

Do they want to pick up your latest psychological thriller and recognise themselves in the errant wife, caught with her lover? Do they want to get halfway through the book before realising why the awfully unsympathetic main character seems so familiar to them?

Do they really want to know you noticed every single time they poked their ear in public? Or that their tendency to spit when they talk has become the main feature of your homage?

I think people like the idea of being included in books. If they are already fans of reading then they might imagine themselves portrayed as a modern Heathcliff, all brooding sex appeal and irresistible to the opposite sex. Unfortunately, unless they are already like Heathcliff then they are hardly going to be presented that way on the page.

It comes down to the self-image of people you include: are they honest about how they appear to others? Or are you picking up on features of their behaviour and personality which they have never been aware of, until now, until this very moment when they read it on your page?

The crux of the matter is that most people see it as a compliment to be included in a book or story, without considering whether their warts-and-all real self is likely to be complimented.

What they forget is that brooding, handsome, sexy Heathcliff was also the ardent lover who had Catherine's body uncovered from the cold ground, just so he could see her again. And beat his wife because she wasn't Cathy. And let his dogs sort out random visitors. And generally became someone everyone in his life avoided unless they really had to visit him.

Even the great heroes and anti-heroes of literature can be people who are real enough to be unlikeable, it's just you forget about this when you read about them because you are enjoying their story too much.

Like real people (and to me, Heathcliff is a real person), characters in stories have bad habits and full personalities. It can still be a compliment to be included in a book or story but don't be surprised if you find your other self doing something you think is just downright wrong.

After all, in stories we can do what we like and perhaps there is that about you which makes me think you would like to be written as an unrelenting busybody or as a life in tailspin. It's a compliment, honest, it is.

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Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Once upon a samples

Once upon a story…

So many tales and treasures come from fairy-tale worlds and the strange and wonderful creatures we meet there. Dragons and trolls, heroes and princesses, goblins and witches and many more characters to fill our stories with fun and adventure.

Once upon a story… uses the fairy-tale theme to bring creative writing and literacy alive for children. Familiar characters and situations help children think of their own unique stories, turning well-known ideas into new and vibrant life.

Fairy-tales are played with in Once upon a story…The princesses are not helpless, the dragons are not all hungry, sheep-eating villains, the witches might not turn people into toads and the trolls under bridges…well, I can’t make any promises there.

The exercises and activities in this book are funny and thoughtful. They help children explore their own imagination in the safe framework of fairy-tale lands. Children feel they know about this subject before they start, which gives them the confidence to take new steps and create their own worlds.

Each exercise is clearly laid out and explained, with lots of guidance and example answers. Children are not expected to simply know what they are doing – they are helped every step of the way. This book is suitable for keen writers and the more reluctant ones, with flexibility so that children do not feel overwhelmed.

There are lots of pictures throughout the book, for visual learners and just for fun. The exercises are built around the pictures and move from story-starters to a full story project by the end.

Once upon a story…is part of the Creative Writing for Kids series and follows on from Winter Tales. All the Creative Writing for Kids books can be used separately and they each have their own personality and different kinds of exercises.

Once upon a story... and Winter Tales have also been combined into an omnibus edition, as Creative Writing for Kids 3 & 4 so look out for that on my author pages!

Enjoy the free samples and for more details please visit

For details of other children's books and more free samples, visit

1.2: Once upon a time

We are going to use the favourite beginning of so many fairy-tales, Once upon a time.
Look at the story-starters below and choose one from each set. Then write a short story based around each choice.
Have a look at my example to get you started.
It was once a big city
Once around the village
Once a week, he fed his magic cat
There was once a boy
A golden palace upon a silver pond
Upon a broken tree
Came upon a little man
There, high upon the table top

Example: There was once a boy
There was once a boy who lived near the ruins of an old castle. One day, while he was walking his dog, he found a very old chest sticking up from the ground. He dug it up and tried to open it, but it was locked.
‘Try my key,’ said his dog, handing him an old brown key.
‘You never spoke before!’ the boy said, amazed.
‘I never needed to,’ the dog said and waited for the boy to open the chest.

2.1: Make me into a place

You are going to set the scene for a fairy-tale story. First, I want you to decide on what kind of setting or background you want for your story. This means you need to choose where your story will take place.
Look at the settings and choose one. You will need to describe this setting so make sure you choose one that you will enjoy writing about.
A misty mountain
A cold, wild beach
A hot, desert land
A place of forests and streams
A busy city
A grand castle
A snow-swept village
A floating cloud land
Deep, winding caves
An under-sea home

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Sunday, 9 November 2014

A Girl in the Nook

The shape of a girl,
Curved into the nook,
Tree-vines supple changes making,
A face, an arm raised under her chin,
A shoulder loose, relaxed,
Hair swept round above it.

Her back mellows out in a slim, young curve,
Becoming wood again as the image withers,
Rooted in bare soil where nothing grows.

A tree twisted in time making a face
That would have been the witch.
A face in the nook looks out,
Hand under her chin as she meets your gaze.

Move aside and the image shatters,
Only seen from one way.
Does she lose you too, when you move?
Or can she follow,
Seen again,
In other places.

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Sunday, 2 November 2014


I know I loved him then,

When life streamed ahead,

Ribbons in the wind,

And me behind

All tousled smile,


Somewhere I struggled,

A wing trapped in cedarwood,

Waiting for night,


Listening to the working

Of my last breath,

Holding onto day and


The minutes

Were hours.

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Thursday, 30 October 2014

Chasing the Puddings

You know when you have one of those visions of pudding? You don't want just a little biscuit or a bit of chocolate - you want a great big gooey pudding, laced with cocoa and brimming with sugar and probably surrounded by a semi-solid moat of ice cream or custard. Yes, that one.

The kind of vision I have in the evening, when it would be madness to eat even a spoonful of the imagined pudding. And yet, I can taste it, I can see it, I can smell the gentle waves of euphoria baking off it as it sits, smug and irresistible, in the middle of the bowl.

It makes me think back to when I was only 20 and astounded to find there was such a thing as a pudding club at a local cafe. You could go and simply eat puddings, one after the other, with like-minded people who saw the other courses as short pauses before the main event.

In the bad old days, I would have eaten that pudding. Imaginary or not, I would have hunted down the calories and had them in chocolate or a packet of biscuits. The time of day (or night) would not have mattered. And the intention would have been to eat something so bad for me that I could prove, once and for all, this very night, that I was a person worthy of nothing more than disgust.

The joy of the pudding, the need to consume this beautiful concoction, would very quickly turn to this familiar and friendly disgust. Before eating, it wouldn't have mattered about the after: serial piggers are serial dieters also, and the after is pushed aside. Worry about it later! You can always cut down tomorrow and make up for it.

Life is the same, you know. Sorry, but it is. We rarely get away with extra puddings; we eat and savour and devour until we cannot bear to even look at the spoon let alone the food And we justify this eloquent self-destruction with the idea we can make it up later.

It doesn't matter what I do today or did last night, it only matters what I do tomorrow. Even though the calories of tomorrow are fat-free and the actions of tomorrow are still un-made, they are the only ones that matter. Today's pudding, today's silly, self-indulgent cruelty or lapse, count for nothing when measured up against tomorrow's assumed glory.

I am not advocating abstinence, though. If you abstain, you desire and if you desire you give in, sooner or later. That pudding you avoid now will happen sometime and when it does, the fall will most likely involve extra cream. The action you indulge in today can save you from worse ones tomorrow.

Like many things, life is about keeping the balance. Knowing when to give in and Pudding It Up is vital because without the treats, we can't appreciate the rest of it. It's no good torturing yourself for what you did: behave that way and you spend the beloved tomorrow full of regret and appreciating nothing.

And all of this brought on by pudding? No, not exactly.

All of this brought on by remembering things I haven't done, in favour of what I expected to be. I have had puddings and then not made up for it, just the same as I have avoided puddings and then the piety of abstinence has faded away in the knowledge that I have missed my moment of opportunity.

Remember to appreciate yourself and every spoon of your pudding. That way, you won't consume life for the sake of it, just to feel like you have accomplished something.

Live now, add custard, or cream, or ice cream. Enjoy every spoon and regret nothing. Then tomorrow, the actual tomorrow where you get up and are a real and actual person, remember you enjoyed yourself and go about the rest of it with a smile.

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Monday, 27 October 2014

Creative Writing for Kids - new omnibus edition and free samples.

Creative Writing for Kids vol 3 & 4!

The second omnibus edition in the popular Creative Writing for Kids series.

This combined edition of Winter Tales and Once upon a story… brings together two very distinct creative writing books for children aged 7 and over.

Winter Tales uses the themes of Winter, holidays, seasonal fun and familiar but exciting ideas to help children think and write creatively. Once upon a story… uses magical and fantastical ideas and imagery to encourage children to create their own stories about lands full of wizards and witches, goblins and giants.

Images and illustrations are used throughout the book, for inspiration and enjoyment, as well as for visual learning activities.
There is lots of advice and guidance throughout the book and the exercises are flexible for students who need more help as well as those who want to jump right in and write their own stories and poems.

Both Winter Tales and Once upon a story… have been published separately, as part of the Creative Writing for Kids series. They follow on naturally from the first two volumes in this series but can be worked on without first completing the other volumes.

Available now on Amazon, will be available as paperback shortly.

Please enjoy the free samples below. I have included samples from both Once upon a story... and Winter Tales.

Free Sample

Giants and heroes

Giants and heroes have often starred together in the same stories, usually with the giants not doing too well by the end of the tale. As you can see from the story-starters, not all giants are horrible and not all heroes are brave and uncomplaining.

Look at the story-starters below and choose one from each set. Then write a short story based around each choice.

Gentle Giants

Rumble ran down the hill, as fast as he could
It was a long way up to the table
The cat was as big as a lion
Tina the tiny giant screamed

Gentle Heroes

Frankie didn’t want to fight
Pip handed the sword to the little dog
It was a lovely day for making friends
Callie gave the giant another sweet

Grumbling Heroes

Sir Greg watched as the giants cried
Smiling, Little Annie stepped on the giant’s thumb
It was the biggest sword Peter had ever seen
Kieran would climb as high as he could

Grumbling Giants

Humans made such a good dinner
It was time to chase the pigs
Humbold the Giant started to sing
Grim the Ginormous clapped his hands

Story-poem: Sun and rain

You are going to write a short story, starting with one of the sentences below. The story should be at least five lines long and with lots of description.

Rain, grey as sadness
The bright sun glows

When you have finished your story, try turning it into a poem. You can do this by chopping out extra words, like ‘and’ or ‘then’ and by shortening the sentences. Then rearrange your sentences into lines of a poem.

Here is a short example to help you. I have chosen The bright sun glows. I have kept my example shorter than yours should be.


The bright sun glows over the sky as I get out of the car and look at the still, calm sea. This is the perfect day to take the dogs for a walk at our new home. I’m so glad I live near the beach!


Bright sun glows over the sky
I look at the still, calm sea
A perfect day for a walk
At our new home
By the sea

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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Where life breathes

I often think of an article I once read about a published author who wrote 10,000 words a day. My first thought was that if I did that, I'd have no time to feed the cat or go to the shops or ferry around various children. My second thought was that I was not committed to writing because if I was really committed, I too would write thousands of words a day.

I feel differently now. It is good to be a 'lazy' writer, someone who remembers to feed the cat, who enjoys a trip to the shops, who is willing to drop everything and ferry offspring around. This is the stuff of life. I rather feel that writing thousands of words a day, every day, is more like going to the gym for long power sessions, instead of walking round the lake or diving in clear-water seas. Sometimes the experience is worth more than the perceived gain.

Then I think that anyone who can spare those hours for writing at least has a significant other to deal with life for them. They are not solely responsible for the cat-feeding etc. They will not harm anyone by staying, closeted away in a brain-fuelled fugue.

This could be where I come full circle and feel I am not committed enough again. It is not that I want someone else to do all these things for me - I like the cat, I like seeing the kids - but it would be good to be so utterly focused that writing great amounts, every day, is nearer the top of my list.

And then, and then, I look again and see life more clearly.

I write in short bursts because, these days, my concentration comes in short bursts. I rarely sit for hours, words streaming from me, because when I do I forget everything, dear readers, the cat is left to itself, as is the whole of life. If I live my work, I truly live it and thousands of words spill from me and nothing else matters. Then after, I pick up the pieces and see what I have missed.

I am no longer a power-house of the written word. I cannot go for hours in my muscle-building sessions. These days it has to be the walk by the lake or the dive into clear waters: anything else is bad for the rest of me.

And so I write my stories in the time it takes the washing machine to finish; I write the next chapter in my quiet hours, sitting in the car; I write the next book in all the gaps when other things have slipped away; I write my poems in the dark of night when sleep drops its guard.

I write in the places where life breathes and I breathe with it. All writing is an exhalation, after all, a letting out of thoughts and dreams taken in with new air.

When all this romance fails me, I write in the time it would have taken me to complain I am not writing, so that by the end of each day, some new thing has been created and I can go to sleep knowing only nightmares and dreams are waiting.

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Sunday, 13 April 2014

Don't Panic! Exam time is here again.

It's exam time and I'm getting calls from people who have suddenly realised it's 6 weeks until they or their kids have to take a really scary exam and they're still scoring low grades in their mocks and homework.

Oh dear. I'll be honest: I dread these calls. I've had experiences in the past when people have hoped I can help them but then cancelled lessons and wasted their precious time, still expecting a handful of lessons to act like a magic pill to help their child succeed in an exam they can't manage.

I don't mind trying to help people 'last minute' - I've even done some booster classes in the last week, and the last night, before exams. If students are willing it is amazing what you can achieve in a very short space of time. But it all falls apart if the expectation is that having lessons will solve the problem by itself.

This 6 week countdown is the last chance for some students to achieve their grade, especially those who have missed out on regular, quality teaching at school or haven't been able to study because of illness or other issues. This is the time when we can go back to basics and really work through the strange and unknown zones of Maths and English.

After this week, I start to feel a sense of panic emanating from all my GCSE and A Level students, the undercurrent of adrenaline which is inevitable once they realise what date it is and what they still have to remember, or even learn for the first time.

I think it's always important to remember that these exams do not define you for the rest of your life. They are useful, they can open doors, but they can be repeated or replaced by equivalent qualifications. They do not constitute the whole of your life's work to date, they merely show you can repeat the facts you were taught in the last couple of years.

Life is so much more than exams, even though this time of year feels like there is nothing but exams and never will anything seem as vital again.

Don't panic, unless it makes you work harder. Don't worry, unless it pushes you to put down your phone and pick up a book. Don't judge yourself too harshly and do remember this will pass, even if you don't!

And if all else fails, call me again in August and we'll beat that monster re-sit into the ground by the time it rolls around in November.

Unlike so many aspects of life, exams can be re-taken, you do get extra lives and your health points can be boosted without worlds being destroyed.

copyright Amanda J Harrington 2013

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Monday, 10 February 2014

Don't sweat the small stuff!

'You take it too much to heart.'

'Don't be so sensitive!'

'You need to forget about other people.'

'You're too thin-skinned!'

Does any of his sound familiar? Have you been bothered or upset by something and then been 'advised' to not take so much notice?

One of the issues I've found it hardest to put across is my apparently obsessive attitude to other people being snappy with me. I don't mean big arguments or even properly spiteful rebukes. I'm talking about the small stuff, the everyday sniping, the cat-calling, the tiny comments lodged in the heart of a conversation which jump out and become full-sized.

An hour's conversation can be ruined by one or two of these snide little comments or snarling asides. How does a conversation count as pleasant when the person you are talking to feels it's acceptable to slip in a shoddy reminder of what you did wrong? Why is it still seen as good social interaction when your confidante peppers all the nice stuff with remarks which are laughed off at the time and then examined after?

How many good situations have been poisoned in retrospect because I could see, in perfect, neon-lit clarity, the words thrown at me when I wasn't looking?

Is this how it is in normal society?

I don't want to sound as though I'm zeroing in on the bad stuff and ignoring the full and proper relationships which are the better part of my life. It's just that the good things tend to form together and become an indistinct mass, something kindly but with no distinguishing features. The bad stuff stays where it is, fixed in place until I need to pick it up and cut myself on it.

I know I'm also guilty of snarly comments and letting things slip which would have been better left in the cupboard. It's one of my faults so I feel a bit hypocritical bringing up how much it hurts me when other people do it.

I guess the difference is that I tend to angle the conversation around to discussing these awkward subjects, focusing on them in a way that might be better left alone. Want to avoid talking about your job-hunting? No deal, we're talking about it. Want to talk about nice, jolly shopping? Nope, we're going to talk about your finances and get them sorted out!

I have far less trouble if people do this with me, though. What I hate is having a quick, sharp spear thrown my way when I'm looking at something else then the other person carrying on as though nothing happened while I'm wondering about the pain.

Oh, I forgot a good one. This is one of those sayings that works its way onto internet memes and photo-shopped pictures of puppies with spilled dinners - Don't sweat the small stuff.

Yes, really, don't sweat the small stuff. Don't take notice when people attack you in a small way, or dig their verbal elbows in your ribs and expect you to laugh it off. Don't be upset when you are demeaned in little sentences rather than in a big, whole conversation. Don't cry when you are bullied in tiny, separate amounts rather than being beaten to the ground in one punch.

Don't sweat the small stuff, readers. Apparently save it for the big stuff, you know, the things that really hurt and upset you and make you wonder who your friends are. Sweat those instead.

copyright Amanda J Harrington 2013

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Friday, 7 February 2014


Flutters about the vacuum
Weaving between contortions
Of right and wrong
Being the wrong

Trying to tell the truth
Never enough conviction
To make it real
And escape judgement

To do
To feel
To be such a creature
As this
Who cannot
Even herself
From the ground

The right way
Not to make
Someone so angry
They stop loving you?

leans inward
gripping tight
to anything
that doesn't feel
too bad

copyright Amanda J Harrington 2013

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A story somewhere