celebrating birthdays

You don’t get harmony when everyone sings the same note.

— Doug Floyd

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How you acknowledge someone’s birthday is highly individual. (image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Today is my birthday.

Not that I’m telling you because I want a flood of ‘Happy Birthday’ messages coming my way; rather, I am merely using the occasion to illustrate a point about celebrations.

Over the course of the last couple of hours I have received a mixed bag of ‘birthday tidings’: there have been lots of lovely messages via Facebook and SMS; my mother sent me a text; I just got off the phone with my grandmother; my son forgot until I reminded him; my daughter and husband handed me a card and said, “Happy Birthday”.

When I was growing up, we never made a massive deal about birthdays. They were  acknowledged and celebrated in a small way, but they were never forgotten. We would always have a ‘family party’ with cake and presents. We never did the big parties with loads of people — our family was not into that; I’m still not, I really don’t like them. In my entire life to this day, I recall only having one ‘party’ where loads of friends were invited. I also recall having a rather miserable and uncomfortable time. I would much rather have a small gathering of close friends and family for dinner.

I assumed this mode of operation was the same for everyone; but then I met my husband and discovered it isn’t.

It took at least five years, probably longer if I was to think about it, for my husband to remember my birthday. The idea of this was so far removed from my own experience it actually offended me for a long time. (And, if I’m honest, it still does a bit.)

The thing is, though, as lovely as they are, my husband’s family are a tad blasé about birthdays. They might ring each other on the day — if they think of it. Even then, the greeting seems slightly awkward, “Yeah, so, I’m just ringing to say Happy Birthday for today.” A gift, or even a card, is not a given. Some years they come, others they don’t. (This includes the grandchildren; a HUGE bone of contention on my part.)

Birthdays are not only about what you can GET, I know that, but something small from a close family member is important. Again, this may just be my upbringing and the influence of my father. Gifts aside though — forgetting that it’s a family member’s birthday is unforgiveable!

It has taken me a long time to reconcile my own ‘birthday beliefs’ with those of my husband. When my children were young, I fought tooth and nail to make sure their birthdays were celebrated — and that they appropriately acknowledged the birthdays of others. Not discounting a few hiccups (today!), I think we’ve done alright. I’ve come to accept a slightly less enthusiastic birthday greeting and acknowledgement; and my husband hasn’t forgotten my birthday for at least the last twelve years. It’s a happy medium.

I know a couple of people who rail against any sort of celebration on their own birthday. One person flatly refuses to go anywhere or see anyone until the day is over. Good on them, I say; birthdays are about the ‘birthday person’, not about other people’s enjoyment.

I also know people who go ‘all out’ to celebrate their birthdays with massive, themed celebrations. Again I say ‘good on them’; if that’s what floats your boat and makes you happy, why shouldn’t you do it?

I also know some people, like myself, who appreciate having their birthdays acknowledged with a quiet celebration (or a lovely message with a glittering array of emojis). To the people who want to make more of a fuss, although your intentions are well-meaning and we love you all the same …  I think I can put it out there and answer for all of us, ‘Please don’t go overboard … at all. We are happy with a message and a bit of cake.’

If we all liked the same thing, celebrated in the same way, the world could potentially be extremely raucous, or incredibly quiet. (Or we could all just send messages and eat cake.)

The mix of ways in which we celebrate is what makes the world sing in harmony.

That being said, don’t try to sing Happy Birthday to me, in harmony or out of tune. I hate it. It’s embarrassing standing there with a smile plastered on your face waiting for the song and the ‘hip hip hoorays’ to end.


What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing.

— Aristotle

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Is there only one way to learn? What exactly does ‘learn by doing’ mean these days, and to different ‘learners’? (image courtesy of ddpavumba at


An  ‘interesting’ conversation with my daughter yesterday made me reflect on Aristotle’s words of wisdom.
She asked me a question about simplifying ratios, in advance of an upcoming test in Maths. Thankfully, Maths is one of ‘my things’ and it won’t be until she hits Year 12 Calculus that I will have to concede defeat — but try telling her that I know anything worth knowing. She asks, but then proceeds to argue about the answer I’ve given her.
Anyway, after a bit of ‘to and fro’, she came out with this beauty:

You don’t get how I learn!

Stunned is the only polite way I can describe my reaction to this.

The steps she was taking, using a calculator, to solve a really simple problem scared me a little. This question required one step! She was taking at least three.

Her rationale was the teacher had shown them this way, and told them to use a calculator so they wouldn’t make mistakes. (I am not going to bang on about the current overuse of calculators in place of brains these days, or I will never finish writing this.)

My rationale was I could show her a quicker and more effective way, which was less likely to cause errors because it eliminated the possibility of punching in the wrong numbers in the first place. I could also explain to her how and why my ‘one step solution’ worked.

‘But, I don’t know how to do it that way,’ she said.

Try as I did, there was nothing I could do to convince her to attempt a few more questions ‘my way’, so she would know ‘how to do it that way’.

I stopped short at quoting Aristotle to her. We were beyond that. She made that abundantly clear by turning to a different page in her text-book.

Mums who are also teachers know nothing in their child’s eyes. I am coming to (grudgingly) accept this as fact.

What I also have to accept, though, is that maybe she does have a different style of learning. And if that style is not the most efficient in my opinion, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is wrong. She is still ‘learning by doing’ — just in a more roundabout way.

This example is not the first time we have talked about her ‘way of learning’ either. Apparently, she ‘learns’ by writing lots of notes. This is a good thing, because from what I’ve seen in the last 18 months since she started high school, this style of ‘learning’ has not changed in the last 30 years! That is, students are either given pages of pre-written text, or sat down in front of a ‘video’ and told to take notes; often without any guidance on what they should be looking for.

For me, if I write something down I am more likely to remember it; it’s a semi-effective way of learning, certainly more so than just passively listening, but not as much as actually ‘doing’ something. Mind you, not everything lends itself nicely to ‘doing’ in the classroom.

What I do resent, however, is when I see pages and pages of photocopied text glued into my child’s book. (Paper wastage not discounted here; this has been happening since both of my children were in Kindergarten!) These days, with my son in Year 6, I am also now seeing sections of this photocopied text highlighted, then rewritten on the following pages.

I have to ask why?

I also have to ask exactly how this constitutes effective learning.

I can only assume they are also ‘doing’ something else to add to this mindless text-rewriting, because my son has not yet, to my knowledge, failed a test. Neither has my daughter.

Much of the knowledge I have ‘learned’ over the years has been via rote memorisation or note-taking or reading and regurgitating. This was the standard teaching methodology when I was at school.

But, most of the skills I possess have come from ‘doing’ stuff repeatedly.

In the 30 or so years that have passed between my formal school days and that of my children, it appears, on the surface, little has changed when it comes to pedagogy and methodology.

Yes, there are more ‘hands-on’ activities, more group work, more getting up and moving around than there was when I was a student. But, there is still a lot of passive ‘learning’ — especially with the upsurge in digital technology and the BYOD programs operating in so many schools now (which is probably the biggest change in how our current crop of kids do actually ‘learn’.)

There’s a fine balance between the ‘active’ and the ‘passive’ when it comes to learning; it’s very difficult to get it right.

If you read what the media has to say about the current state of academic results in Australia, you may well jump to the conclusion that our youth are not learning anything at all; certainly not when we compare their results to other countries. But, is this actually the case?

So, I come back to whether my children are actually ‘learning’. They are certainly ‘doing’ things, and they are not failing tests or receiving below average grades.

My conclusion is this: only time will tell.

If they still know this stuff in 5, 10 or 20 years time — then I will know they did actually ‘learn’ it.





nicknames and shortened names

I’m done with nicknames. Actually, when I obtain my doctorate, I will not allow people to call me Shaq anymore, either.

— Shaquille O’Neal


I hate being called ‘Kel’. My name is Kellie and I really resent it being shortened. There are only three people who are allowed to call me Kel on a regular basis:

♦ my grandmother — because she just does, always has, and I’m ok with that; she means more to me than anyone else in my life

♦ my (acting) deputy — I don’t know why, but it just sounds right when it comes from her

♦ one of my colleagues — she has called me Kel from the first moment I met her. Never … never … has she called me Kellie. The funny thing is, she has also never realised this. Recently, someone told her I didn’t like being called Kel. She came to me, saying, ‘I don’t always call you Kel, do I?’ I had to break it to her that, yes, she always does. I told her it was okay, but she promised to change. Five minutes later, as I was walking out the door, she waved and said, ‘See you later, Kel.’ She’ll never change, and that’s fine. As with my deputy, it just sounds right coming from her.

If you are not one of these three privileged souls, you may be excused for the odd slip up, but I really would rather you didn’t continue. Thank you in advance.


Unfortunately, for a person such as myself who does not like, or indulge in, the shortening of people’s names — it is such a common practice in Australia.

There are three favoured ways of doing this in my country (and in some other English speaking countries):

♦ taking one syllable, often the first (but not always) from said person’s name: Peter – Pete; Alison – Al; Dianne – Di; Debbie – Deb; Ashlea – Ash; Janine – Neen; Elizabeth – Liz; Angela – Ang; Fiona – Fi; and so on forever

♦ adding ‘y’ (or variations) to the name or the shortened, one syllable version of the name (both first names and surnames): Peter – Petey (my father hated that, which meant we used it to stir him up); Wallace – Wally; Alison – Aly; Sandra – Sandy; Susan – Susy; Jones – Jonesy; Ferguson – Fergie; Smith – Smithy; and so on forever

♦ adding ‘o’ (or variations) to the name or the shortened, one syllable version of the name (first and surnames): John – Jonno; Robert or Robinson – Robbo; Richard(s) – Richo; and there are many more, but I just had a brain freeze.

Disliking the shortening of my own name, I also tend not to do it to other people. There is one exception though, and this occurs when the person has introduced themself to me by their shortened name; then I tend to use it.

However, people I have known for a long time and my own family members get called by their full name, even if everyone else uses a shortened version:

♦ A friend I have known since Year 4 gets called ‘Annie’ by everyone who knows her, including her own family. I always have, and always will, call her Anne Maree. (Except when I am using her nickname, which I won’t write here because she would kill me.)

♦ My daughter’s name is Ashlea, but most people outside of the family call her ‘Ash’. I hate this. She has never been introduced as ‘Ash’ but it’s one of those names people automatically shorten, whether they have permission or not. This was an oversight on my part when I came up with her name. However, she told me she doesn’t mind being called Ash, so I just have to suck it up.

As far as I’m concerned, however, the shortened version of people’s names are not nicknames. (They are lazy versions of the person’s name.) In my mind, nicknames have a meaning, not always pleasant, relevant to the person’s actions, personality or appearance.

A quote from Thomas Chandler Haliburton:

Nicknames stick to people, and the most ridiculous are the most adhesive.

This is so true!

Australians are particularly skilled in the art of the nickname. Google it, and you will get zillions of ideas.

Some nicknames are clever (and sometimes confusing), as in ‘Bluey’ for a redhead or ‘Stretch’ for a short person.

Some are blatantly obvious: ‘Red’ or ‘Carrot Top’ for a redhead; ‘Blondie’ for a blonde; ‘Shorty’ for a short person; ‘Cookie’ for a chef; and ‘Chalkie’ for a teacher (less relevant now as very few schools use chalkboards any more, sadly).

Some border on being rude and derogatory; woe betide if you are bald because you may get referred to as ‘Chromedome’ or, worse still, ‘Mudguard’ (shiny on top and full of crap underneath).

My grandmother, on my father’s side, was the master of the nickname. By my father’s description: one of my uncles was nicknamed ‘Bulldozer’ because of his sleeping habits; another uncle was ‘Two Hair’. The ‘two hair’ story is the best (as told to me by my father); going through puberty, one morning my uncle must have been inspecting his ‘pubic hair situation’ down below and called out, with great excitement, ‘Mum, mum, I have two hairs.’ The rest is history.

In her decline into dementia, my grandmother’s true feelings would come out much more often; I was witness to two such occasions (although my father assures me there were many more). One day, while serving lunch to the family, my grandmother was the recipient of a fair amount of hassling from my grandfather about the speed at which he was getting his food. My grandfather was deaf, but could lip-read, so after my grandmother placed his plate in front of him, she slipped behind his chair and said, loud enough for those closest to hear, ‘Shut your trap, pus-nuts.’ I was about 12 at the time and horrified! Dad assured me it was normal for her to call him this.

The second occasion was several years later when my grandmother was resident in a nursing home. There was a lady she didn’t particularly like and one day I watched my grandmother walk past her as she was complaining about something to one of the carers, ‘Your milk has obviously dried up, cranky-tits,’ she said in a voice louder than it should have been. Again, apparently this was not the first time she had used this ‘nickname’.

Myself, I am not totally opposed to using nicknames. My own children have them:

♦ My daughter is Fluff and has been since she was two (to the current day). Why? When she was little she would float around from person to person in a group, interested in what they were doing and wanting to engage them in conversation. She reminded me of a piece of kapok or one of those dandelion heads in a breeze, just moving innocently (and slightly annoyingly) from place to place.

♦ My son is Spud. Why? You wouldn’t know it to look at him now, but when he was a baby he was incredibly chunky. His legs and arms were quite short and he just looked dimply and potato-like. So Spud it was. It was several years later that I found out one of my grandfather’s brothers was also nicknamed Spud. Pure coincidence or a semi-conscious awareness? I have no idea.

These nicknames have stuck, but the three of us are the only people who use them. Far from being annoyed by the nicknames, both of the kids frequently use these names in various online ways, and when talking to or texting each other.

I have come to accept that name-shortening and nicknames are part of our life. It is not particularly nice when they are used in a derogatory way, or to cause someone hurt or grief; but sadly they are here to stay. It is also a bit of a pain when people insist on using them, even if you’d rather they didn’t; again, here to stay.

Finally though, because I have to stop somewhere (I could go on forever on this topic), a quote from Stephen Hawking — because it’s relevant, because I like it and because I think it sums up the (acceptable and clever) use of nicknames nicely:

I was never top of the class at school, but my classmates must have seen potential in me, because my nickname was ‘Einstein’.




The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute.

The man who does not ask, is a fool for life.

— Confucius

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Image courtesy of digitalart at


One of the things that irritates me beyond belief is when someone (always a family member like my husband) neglects to take me into consideration when they are doing or buying something for themselves, and in response to my (slightly annoyed) query they say:

“I didn’t know what you wanted.”

Yes, I know this sounds selfish and petty, but if I happen to be at the shops and feel like an ice cream or something else sweet I always, without fail purchase something for my husband and kids. Even if they aren’t going to be at home when I get there. I know what they like, and if it isn’t exactly what they want it will still be appreciated and consumed.

There are variations on this statement: I didn’t know you wanted one; I didn’t know what you’d like; I didn’t think you’d want one. But my response is the same:

“Why didn’t you ask me?”

At worst, you will have wasted your time asking because I don’t want whatever it is anyway. But, at least you will have asked and that act in itself scores brownie points.

As I said, this example may seem a rather petty one, but sometimes it is the small things, the small considerations, that count the most in life. (Then again, this has also happened once or twice on my birthday in long past years — unforgiveable and not forgotten.)

I am in (nearly) total agreement with Confucius. (I will expand on the ‘nearly’ bit later.)

It is so much better to ask a question than to not.

Too often, I have sat in a class (as a student), or in a workshop or meeting, wanting to ask a question about something I don’t quite understand. Inevitably I end up not asking because, for some stupid reason, I figure everyone else would know the answer and that I’m the only one who doesn’t.

Or, sometimes I fret so much about asking it that, by the time I build the courage to open my mouth, the moment has long passed and we’ve moved on to a completely different subject.

You may look and feel a bit silly at the time you ask the question, but in the long run if you don’t know something, and don’t find out, you are going to look and feel much, much sillier further down the track.

For this reason, I try to encourage my students, and my own children, to ask questions or, at the very least, to admit if they don’t understand something. It is one of the hardest things to do in a group situation — I have not yet mastered the skill myself — but it is, without a doubt, absolutely worth it.

Last year I worked with a colleague, team-teaching in her Mathematics class. This was the ‘bottom group’ and many of the children had low self-confidence when it came to their ability in the subject. I set myself a goal to boost their confidence as without the ‘I can do this’ feeling their results were not going to change.

As a group, we talked a lot about the benefits of admitting when you didn’t understand. My colleague and I also openly encouraged the asking of questions. Our mantra was ‘there is no such thing as a silly question’. We also pointed out that for every person who asked a question, there would be many more who also wanted to ask the same question, but didn’t feel confident enough to do so.

Before long we had a proactive group of students who were taking responsibility for their own learning by:

♦ being alert to when they didn’t understand

♦ indicating they needed help

♦ asking questions.

It was at this point they started to feel good about Maths and their results started to improve.

For us, these successful outcomes were amazing. But the pride we felt for these kids was even better!

So, asking questions is a really good thing.

We should encourage the asking of questions.

We should embrace asking and being asked questions … except in one situation (apologies to Confucius); this is the time question-askers need to be knocked on the head with a brick. Why? They make everyone else frustrated and, ultimately, keep us all from doing more worthwhile things — like going home at the end of a long day.

These are the people who don’t listen in meetings. It is obvious they don’t listen because at some point they will inevitably ask a question which has already been asked and answered, or ask a question about something that was just explicitly explained in terms an infant could understand.

These are not questions asked because of lack of understanding, they are asked owing to lack of listening. Worse still, sometimes I have a sneaking suspicion they are asked because the asker likes the sound of their own voice.

These questions do little more than paint the asker as a fool and a time waster.

My plea to everyone out there (including myself):

Ask questions, ask lots of questions …

… but only if you have been listening actively.






correct ways

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

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Image courtesy of bplanet at

I am a perfectionist. Add to this trait the fact I like things to be done a certain way, then I imagine (actually, I know) I am hard to work with in a team situation. I am also quite anal at home when it comes to little tasks, like how to stack and wash dishes; my husband, on the other hand, is rather laissez-faire about these things. Chalk and cheese — it makes life interesting.

If I look back at my school years, it is obvious I have always been like this. I hated group assignments. If given the opportunity, I would always elect to work on my own. This way, any mistakes were my own fault, my grade wouldn’t potentially be dragged down if someone else was slack, and nobody could ‘ride’ off my grade. And — I got to do things my way.

Hand-in-hand with this is the fact I don’t particularly care for being told how to do things. Especially by those close to me … like my mother. She is very similar to me in that she thinks things should be done a certain way. The problem is, our ‘ways’ are quite different. I tend to dig my heels in, and she often ends by telling me (and anyone else who is around) that I ‘only like doing things my way’. Which is true. But so does she. A happy compromise is yet to be met and probably never will be. We are too similar.

Over the years, experience has taught (forced) me to chill out a little with regards to being perfect and with ‘my ways’.

Team-teaching is huge in most primary schools at the moment. You can not escape it unless you work in a single teacher school. I will not go in to all of the issues with the way this concept is interpreted and performed; I’ll save that for another post. But I will say, while I have been part of some extremely dysfunctional teams at times, I have also been part of some amazing teams. The former has been a monumental struggle, resulting in me just doing my own thing, out of pure frustration, while pretending to ‘toe the team line’. The latter has been a true learning experience; pedagogy changes constantly and working with someone who excels at a particular teaching strategy is an opportunity that should not be missed. Functional teams also significantly reduce a teacher’s workload, which is a good thing as long as everyone receives an equal reduction and the students are still the ones to gain the most.

Dragon Boating has also played its part in reducing my need to be perfect and increasing my ability to feel like I am a functioning part of a team. As for right, wrong and only ways, while there are slight differences in style, if just one person in the boat does things ‘their own way’ then we aren’t moving anywhere fast. The same thing applies to all ‘team’ situations.

The other thing that struck me when I read Nietzsche’s quote was mathematics. At school we were only ever taught ONE way of solving algorithms and other mathematical problems. If we dared solve the problem a different way we were marked wrong, even if our end answer was correct. I coped with this quite well, the process was a good fit for me. Many years later, I undertook a 5-day professional learning course on mental computation. It was here that I learnt about multiple ways to solve different problems. I can not adequately describe how much I struggled with this at first but I loved it, so I persevered. The result was that my students who had previously struggled with the rigid ‘you have to do it this way’ method, ended up ‘getting it’ and achieving much improved results in Maths. One girl (who was known for mucking up during Maths in order to be sent out) even requested, on a regular basis, to stay in at lunch to continue to practise her Maths work.

So, while I still like certain things to be done in certain ways, these days I am much more open and flexible to new ways.

Sometimes it’s a struggle to ‘let go’, to ask for help or to take advice and constructive criticism on board . Not everything is necessarily going to work for me, or be useful, but being open to it is important.

I believe ‘the correct way’ does exist, but that it is fluid, flexible and relative to time and situation.

Most importantly, the ‘right way’ is the way that suits you.

education v health

Education is important, but big biceps are importanter.

— Anonymous

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Image courtesy of saphatthachat at


On Friday last week, I was waiting while my daughter worked through her session with our wonderful personal trainer. He was asking her about her back, about dragon boating and so on — the usual.

I suggested he ask her how many times she had completed the ‘at home’ program he had written up for her the previous week (knowing full well the answer was zero); but he was one step ahead of me, commenting that teenagers never did their programs at home.

As a dutiful mother, I proceeded to comment (i.e. make excuses) about the amount of homework she had and the fact it was taking up all her time (I didn’t mention the time management issues, or the frequent ‘discussions’ about procrastination).

This is when he came out with the following beauty: “What’s more importanter …”

At this point we both rudely interrupted with laughter — importanter!! (Yes, we know you always bag out your hometown for its bogan-ness and lack of education … but really, ‘importanter’?)

Luckily he continued, “No, it’s a real thing … what’s more importanter, education or big biceps?”

Instantly loving this, “I’m going to have to write about this on my blog, you know,” I said.

So, it turns out, after a little googling, this quote is a real thing. I have no idea who said it originally, but there are posters, t-shirts and memes everywhere with variations of the quote, the most common being the one at the top of this post.

I love the word importanter.

Firstly, it rolls off the tongue beautifully. I could say it all day: importanter, importanter, importanter. And, it sounds like it should be a word (unless you say it too many times in a row, then, as with any word on repeat, it just sounds weird and wrong).

But, more importanter is that it fits so well with the quote. Clearly, big biceps are more valuable than education in the speaker’s world, given that his (or her) grammar is so poor.

In all seriousness though, the quote got me thinking — if I had to choose between the two, and I could only make one choice, which one would I go for?

This is a harder choice than I initially anticipated.

As a teacher, and a passionate advocate for life-long learning, you would think ‘education’ would be my no-brainer choice. After all, who wants big biceps? Huge biceps just look wrong and, more importanter, they make it incredibly difficult to find shirts to fit.  (I only suspect this, not ever having had huge biceps. Batwings, yes, but they tend to fold up and tuck in nicely.)

However, if we take big biceps to be a representative of strength and fitness, then that changes everything.

I was never obsessed by the gym. I went to PT sessions twice a week, trained on the water 1-3 times a week, did a bit of boxing at home and went to the occasional MEGA class — but in no way was I in the class of those fitness freaks who exercise for 90 plus minutes, twice a day, every day.

But not being able to exercise (or participate in the sport I love) properly, or at all, for the last 4 months has really changed my perspective. It is awful. I feel like crap. My clothes don’t sit right. I have blobby bits on top of the original blobby bits. And, I hate the fact I can’t walk up the little hill from the carpark to the oncologist’s office without stopping several times and needing to sit and recuperate for 10 minutes when I finally make it. (Yes, I know there are other things at play here, but it all ties in with the ‘rapid decline in fitness’ picture I am trying to paint.)

My point is, a lack of fitness seriously affects my mindset and my sense of wellbeing, which in turn affects what I do each day and, I believe, the quality of my learning. I haven’t actually looked, but if I did a bit of an analysis on my writing while I was able to exercise, versus when I am not feeling good about myself (because I physically feel like a blobby marshmallow) I would be willing to bet the difference would be noticeable.

The other thing I have long advocated, as a teacher, is the power of exercise in affecting the quality of student work and the intensity of their output. One prime example (and I believe I have written about this before) came from a Year 6 class I had a few years ago. At the time, we had a 2-hour block in the morning which, according to our school plan, was supposed to be dedicated to literacy. At some point, I began to take my class out for P.E. for the first half hour of this block, defying our executive. I got ripped for this, but kept going because those kids got through twice as much quality work in 90 minutes than they did in 120 minutes. The power of exercise, and oxygen to the brain, is amazing.

So, education or big biceps?

Education is important, there is no doubt about that. But without big biceps the quality of education is going to suffer.

Conclusion: big biceps are more importanter.

beating ourselves up (as mums)

Worrying that you are crap is a waste of time. Worrying that you can’t do it is a waste of time. Worrying that you failed is a waste of time. No one cares. Just get on with it.

— Peter Capaldi (from a meme on Facebook)

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Image courtesy of Graphics Mouse at


As I was typing up the quote above, a thought occurred to me: for those of us who are serial ‘self beaters’, this quote is likely to make us apologise for wasting people’s time with our worrying.


I intensely dislike the part of my personality that is always telling me I’m not good enough.

This is the little voice telling me not to offer an opinion, put my name forward for a particular job, try something new, submit a piece of writing to a competition, share my picture book in front of my fellow students. The voice has a lot to answer for.

Worse, it also whispers conspiratorially, “You suck,” going on to say, “everyone else is so much better than you, who are you kidding?”

I work hard at shutting this voice up, at least on the surface. Internally, it wreaks havoc.

This is a huge topic, but I am going to try to focus on one thing only —

Mummy guilt.

If the link at the bottom of this page works for you, open it up and have a read.

If not, in a nutshell it talks about a mother beating herself up for ‘not being a good mum’. Her friend goes on to point out all the reasons why she is wrong.

This was an uplifting story.

Then, there were the comments, some of which were not so uplifting … particularly the ones posted by people who inferred they ‘knew they sucked as a mum’ — or words to that effect.

I’m sorry, but do you neglect to feed your children? Do you beat them senseless? Do you treat them as slaves? Do you ignore them all the time?

If any of these are true, then I am afraid you are justified in your assessment of your ‘mum skills’.

However, if you are ‘guilty’ of actions like:

♦ losing your cool on occasion (or more frequently)

♦ sitting them in front of a device so you can get half an hour of ‘me time’ or just get them to ‘shut up’

♦ constantly ‘nagging’ your teenager to do stuff (get up, homework, earphones out etc.)

♦ not putting on the ‘party to end all parties’ — every year

♦ confiscating everything they value in a desperate attempt to make them see reason (or pulling out the ‘you’re grounded — forever’ card)

♦ saying ‘No’ to completely unreasonable requests (or just because you’ve had enough)

♦ going off at them for doing or saying something that you do (and then going off again and pulling out the ‘I’m an adult, I make my own choices’ card because they have sniggered at you)

♦ anything you don’t do, even though every other parent does,

then, you are far from a ‘crap mum’.

You are a normal mum!

(And, just so I’m putting it out there — every single one of those eight examples above are from my own experience.)

There are a few places I could ‘go’ to play the blame game for this: the insane abundance of ‘parenting books’ (god, they suck); reality TV (or any TV shows featuring families, and particularly that infernal ‘Super Nanny’ woman); mother groups (which can be so supportive, yet so destructive at the same time); family (again, supportive but occasionally incredibly judgemental); and the parents of your child’s friends!

The latter one is the most problematic sometimes. Not because they go out their way to undermine you. Quite the opposite; they are going out of their way (most likely without even realising) to make sure you don’t think they suck as a mum.

At one point last year, I happened to mention on a group SMS that I was abstaining from allowing my daughter to attend a party because of some heinous misdemeanour on her part. Most people were supportive; one reaction made me see red: ‘Oh you poor thing. I’m so glad (name of angelic, butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth daughter) doesn’t behave like that.’

Get real!

That was crap — and we all knew it!

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We are all our own worst ‘judge and jury’ when it comes to being a mum. (Image courtesy of bluebay at


So, to my friend(s) who think they ‘suck as a mum’ — we all have many things we could do so much better … but ‘suck’ we do not!

And, no one cares anyway because most of us are too busy beating ourselves up to beat you up as well. There are not enough hours in the day for that.