Come Join Me Over Here!

Hi there!

I'm glad you've come to read my blog, but unfortunately I don't live here any more!

Feel free to trawl through my archives or look up my posts on Scoliosis which will always be at home here, but when you're ready please come and join me at my new home:


See you there!

Catherine Ann x

Friday, 31 May 2013

Six of the Best... My Favourite Quote.

Hey guys! I'm really sad that Blog Every Day In May is over, because even though I didn't take part, I've been enjoying posts by Bambi and Crow, as well as the brains behind the operation, the lovely Jenni. Check out their blogs if you'd like to catch up with what it's all about! Bambi and Crow are both really good friends of mine and talented writers, while Jenni's blog is a huge inspiration for me. I even emailed her to thank her for her tips when I was starting out, and she was really nice!

So I've decided to pick six of my favourite topics and write about them in June, to keep the magic alive just a little bit longer. You'll find them interspersed with my posts for the next little while. I don’t know why I chose the number six, it just had a ring to it.

MY FAVOURITE QUOTE...

 This one’s from day 5. Crow over at Dear Saul decided on a quote from Yeats:

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”


To me, this is like when you give someone a piece of your writing to read.

Bambi at Everything and Anything to Love chose lots, including my favourite from Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking Trilogy which she introduced me to:

“It's not how we fall, it’s how we get back up again.”

This is short and sweet and simple and provided the basis for a drama piece I worked on recently. Everyone falls and nobody is perfect, but it’s the way we try that’s important. Our attitude.

So now, on to mine. I don’t know if it's my favourite quote, but it’s certainly the most romantic thing I’ve read and I wanted to share it with you all.

“P DARLING STOP YOUR ADORING V”

Seemingly nonsensical, this is a telegram sent by a woman called Verily Bruce during the Second World War. Her sweetheart rang from the Ministry of Information while she was at work with the First Aid Nursing Yoemanry. They both knew that their work meant they could be separated further at any time. They had a very short conversation. He asked her ring size. She said she didn’t know... were they going to be married? He said that he’d like to be. Tomorrow. She nipped out and got herself sized: her size was "P". She sent him the above telegram, went AWOL on a bus up to London, and they were married the next day.

There’s just something about that simple story, that simple phrase which doesn’t seem to mean anything much to us, but probably made someone’s life. I suppose back then was a time when you just got on with it.

And that’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever read. Yet. 

In case you're interested, I found this information in a book I've been reading for my history coursework, which is about the changing role in society of women during World War II. The book is called "Millions Like Us" by Virginia Nicholson. It's factual, but tells fascinating stories and I've really enjoyed reading it! 

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Ten Things Catherine Ann Loves.

This is an entry for a competition Bambi's holding over at "Everything and Anything to Love" but I'm posting it here so you guys can read it, too! If you think you can write one better--I know you can--then why not go over and enter? Or if art and photography's more your thing, go over to my competition tab! 

Wow. Things I love. This isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Things that make me happy, things that I like, I could type with my eyes closed. I know there are lots of different types of love, but still, I think using the word is a serious business sometimes. I’m going to be writing about stuff I really love, those things that make me feel whole somehow, or pull at me somewhere inside. Here goes.

Family. This is an obvious one. As I grow older, I begin to realise what a wonderful family I’m part of. Families come in all different shapes and sizes. Some work and some don’t. My family has helped me grow and learn and have always supported me no matter what. They have taught me to expect the best from myself, and it’s because of them that I expect the same from those around me. I love them more than I can say and, though I may complain, I’m eternally grateful that I’m allowed to be a part of this close, loving and very special group.

Hugs. I am a very affectionate person. I always respond to people by giving them a hug, or putting my arm around them, or some gesture of affection when I think it’s needed. It’s how I was brought up. In my house, hugs were always plentiful. I wish it were the same for everyone. A hug is everything you need to say without a single word. It can congratulate, encourage, sympathise, cheer up, heal... Holding on to someone you love can change their world. I get quite uncomfortable when I find out someone doesn’t like physical contact (what do I do? I always touch people on the arm when I talk to them... what if they burst into flame?), but mostly I pity them, because they're missing out on a very special part of life.

Music. It can bring back so many memories and have so many different meanings and associations for different people. Sharing music with someone is like saying “Do you know what I mean?” And when they like it, or it means something to them, it’s like “I understand.” I love music and am always out to find something new or different, so when I share it with people it’s usually because I trust them and want them to know me better.

Books. Books are, like music, a way of realising that someone, somewhere, has gone through the same things as you. Sometimes, reading a book, I’ll realise that I’m not the only one with this opinion, that passion, this concern, that fear. It makes me feel like it’s OK to be who I am and I’m not alone in the world. Moreover, books can take you out of yourself for a little while. They can give you something extra to experience until you’re ready to deal with what’s going on in real life. They too are a bridge to friendship. When you press a book into someone’s hands, you are telling them everything and nothing. Everyone has a different glimpse of the world inside a book, but at the same time all of its readers are connected by the experience.

Knowing people. I love to get to know people. Not just because I’m nosy, though that is part of it. I love to know the ins and outs of everyone’s personality, and it’s a great feeling when that’s reciprocated and someone understands mine. I don’t have a huge group of friends, but the ones I have I get very close to. I love for them to share things with me so I know just how the world makes them feel, and what to do to make them happy.

Education. Not the education system. Don’t get me started on the education system. But I live to learn. I can’t wait to gather all that undiscovered knowledge. I love understanding how things work, what happened in the past, why it happened, how it’s shaping the future... I adore history probably most of all. And then there are languages, learning to make beautiful stories not just in my mother tongue. I don’t think I’ll stop drinking in information until the day I die. I’ve asked questions since I could talk, and I’m blessed that those around me have either known the answers, or gone to the trouble of finding them out.

Faith. My religious denomination is nothing to do with anything, but I think faith is ever so important. Believing in things, no matter what they are, is the best way to make sense of it all. We all find ourselves wondering what the “point” is sometimes, and I think the only way we can get through some things is to realise that there is more to life than what’s on the surface. Having faith in oneself and other people, other things, whether real or questioned, is important to me because it either helps us find the answers or encourages us to look for them.

Effort. I’m the sort of person who puts my all into everything. It’s what I love about myself and I never feel happier than when I see the same in others. You can tell by the face of a student, a doctor or nurse, and artist—anyone who ever did anything—whether they care passionately about what they do, about being the best. It’s not about beating everyone else; it’s about creating something you’re proud of. When I’ve done that, I feel like I’ve shown everyone what being me really is.

Cooking. We all know I enjoy food, perhaps more than I should, but it’s cooking I have a real and proper love for. I’m always making something for my parents, brothers or friends. I know I complain, but I love having three big boys at home to feed when they’re there. Not to sound sexist, but I think it’s kind of a female instinct to want those people you care about to be well fed and looked after. Imagine back when we were cave men and women. I am not tough. I’d be rubbish at fending off wild animals, or protecting my family from danger. But I would be able to cook for them. It’s something I can give.


Myself and my friends. That’s right, everyone, I love myself. Don’t think badly of me for saying it. It wasn’t always the case, but now I’ve come to realise that it’s important to love yourself and that everyone deserves to feel that way. Who helped me to get here? My friends. I’ve had good ones and not so good ones, but right now my friends are pretty wonderful. They don't hesitate to tell me that they’re proud of me or that they love me. I’m always astonished at the efforts they’ll go to just to make me smile. They’ve helped me to love myself and of course I love each and every one of them, too. Thank you all. 

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Food, Glorious Food... Raspberry Tart!

And it’s back! Food is here again! In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a huge fan of just about everything edible, so I’m back with some summer recipes!
This first recipe is for raspberry tart. I made it up the other day to use up some frozen raspberries I had in the freezer. They’re just as good as fresh, and cheaper too! Just leave them in the fridge overnight to defrost.

Before we start, I’d just like to tell you to remain calm. There’s one element to this that appears quite complicated: crème patissiere (AKA confectioner’s cream). It’s kind of like a cream/custard used in pastries and is absolutely delicious, but can be a bit of a challenge. It’s actually a lot easier than people make it look as long as you have faith! I’ll try and explain it in a simple, soothing manner.

First things first... the pastry. This is simple enough, a sweet short crust, baked blind.

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED...
250g (10 oz) Plain Flour
50g (2 oz) Icing Sugar
150g (6 oz) Butter (or equivalent, I like Stork margarine but you can use any spread/butter you wish)
1 tbsp Water

...AND HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:
1) Sieve the flour and icing sugar together in a large mixing bowl.
2) Add the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingers repeatedly until it is all mixed together. The mix should look something halfway between breadcrumbs and sand.
3) Add in the water, just the tablespoon to start but more if needed, and use a butter knife to stir it until it begins to form a dough. Hands can be used if necessary... I’m not judging.
4) Roll out the dough on a floured surface (I always use a glass chopping board) and then fit it into a pyrex/enamel pie/tart dish, like the one I’ve got. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect, it’s going to be covered up.
5) Prick the base of the pastry with a fork in a few places which will stop it from rising. Then bake it in the oven at 200 degrees for about 25-35 minutes.



While that’s going on, you can get started on the crème patissiere.

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED...
300 ml Milk
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
3 Egg Yolks (save the whites for meringues!)
50g Sugar
2 tbsps Cornflour
2 tbsps Flour
(Optionally, you can add a tablespoon of brandy with the vanilla, but I’ve never tried it and as this is a TEEN blog, I’m not endorsing it… just sayin’)

AND HERE’S WHAT YOU DO...
1) Ensure you are using a thick-bottomed saucepan like I have in the picture. This isn’t a “zero is not a size” campaign, it will just prevent the mix from overheating. Put the milk, vanilla and brandy (IF YOU ARE OVER THE AGE OF EIGHTEEN AND HAVE MADE THE INDEPENDENT DECISION TO DRINK ALCOHOL) into the saucepan and heat until it just begins to boil.
2) In a medium bowl, mix the yolks, flour, cornflour and sugar together thoroughly. Then pour on the milk and stir. Do not pour the mix into the milk... you don’t even want to know what happens... just don’t do it. Promise?
3) Once mixed, pour into the saucepan and return to a medium heat. Keep stirring constantly and don’t leave it alone for a second. Not even if the house is on fire.
4) If it looks lumpy, don’t panic, just keep stirring. Gradually a thick kind of custard will form, looking a bit like this...



Now all you need is to add the raspberries.

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED...
Raspberries. That’s it. I didn’t think this format through.

AND HERE’S WHAT YOU DO...
1) Pour the crème patissiere into the pastry case. You remembered to take it out of the oven, right?
2) Sprinkle on the raspberries.

3) It should set almost right away, if not leave a few minutes. Enjoy!




Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Friends and Foes... Bullying Long Term

In the words of the principal from Mean Girls...


Not that I even really noticed much of it go by. I mean, literally today I learned the name of someone in my year... and I never did memorise the timetable. But for all that, boy am I exhausted! Besides, I’ve been in holiday mode since Easter, so the last six weeks have dragged... partly because I’ve got so much planned with familyand friends. I won’t list it all now, but if anything decidedly out of the ordinary happens, I'll let you guys know!

I also have a few challenges for the holidays, not least studying! I’m aiming to get 5 As and 2 Bs in my Leaving Cert, and while I know deep down that I’m capable of it, it will be no mean feat! Then there’s exercise (as in, actually doing some) and the baking business I’ll talk to you about later on. If it all gets too much, I can write to unwind as I always have!

Anyway, now on to my actual post. I’m a bit like the classic Irish builder, the one who really has a lot of work to be getting on with but keeps saying “C’mere till I tell ya...”
So, I’ve talked about bullying lately. And believe me, once you make that decision that you’re not going to be bullied any more, things get infinitely better. Not right away, but they do. If someone says they used to be bullied, we are always pleased for them that they've come out of it and aren’t being bothered any more.
However I’ve found that bullying can have some pretty serious long-term effects on one’s life.

First of all, the classic assumption most victims have is that it’s their fault. for that reason, when someone comes out of bullying, they might still feel they’re forever doing things wrong. Maybe they were bullied about their looks, so they think they’ll never be beautiful. Maybe they were left out, so maybe they feel like nobody will want to talk to them. Let me tell you guys, everyone has their own opinion and should be given a chance to form it. If you don’t put on that gorgeous smile, or strike up that conversation about what you’re interested in, nobody will be able to get to know you. And if they don’t get to know you... how can they get to like you, or even love you? Remember that bullies are the exception, not the rule. Their opinions a) don't matter, and b) are rarely the common view.

Something else I've found is that when one is bullied, one is constantly on the lookout. If those two, seven, twenty-three people were bullies, surely the whole world is nothing but a big scary bully? I’ve thought it before myself. That person won’t be nice to me. I won’t talk to them. You know what? They might be Lord Voldemort personified. But if they are, you can just walk away! It’s likely, though, that they’re the salt of the earth. I’m telling you, and I know that even I wouldn’t have believed me a few years ago, but please try to listen (er, read). There are some genuinely nice people out there. They are closer than you think. You just need to open your eyes.

Here's a song from a girl I've seen live, she's absolutely amazing. Her name is Olivia Burke and she decided to write a song about bullying, which I think shows that something good can always come out of what seems to be hopelessly negative. Her song's called Stronger Than Words.

I’ll tell you who are some lovely people, the kids from a secondary school in Offaly who’ve given me a batch of photos for the competition! There are some really amazing ones in there and I’m very very jealous! I’ve put in a new competition tab above, go check them out! Comment what you think! Don’t forget to email your piece to catherineann.mk@gmail.com. Or if you know me in person, just throw it at me. I won’t mind. 

Monday, 27 May 2013

Friends and Foes... Which One Am I?

I’m sitting in my third exam of the day—French—and I can’t concentrate so rather than re-reading for the zillionth time or revising for the next three exams tomorrow (I suspect zombie teachers are involved), I’ve decided to draft my next post.

After tomorrow I just have an awards night to go to (not the Oscars, but I’ll be pretending it is), and then I am officially on holiday. I’ll be upping to a post every other day as a result... lucky you! I’ve also received the first entries for my art competition (top right) so they’ll be going up soon. By the by, people, I live here. I know when the holidays start and how ridiculously long they are... get entering!

Anyway, today I want to talk about how we treat our friends. I’ve spoken about what makes a goodfriend, and I’ve also looked at what it means to be bullied. Something I really worry about is this: what if I’m being a bully? Not intentionally, of course, but do I sometimes hurt people’s feelings? Do I speak without thinking? I know it’s been done to me in the past, but the beauty of a good friend is that you can say your piece, and they’ll respond with “Really? I do? You do? I am sorry. I’ll try not to do it again.” And they’ll mean it.

I think it all comes down to being a little more conscientious. That’s my favourite word. I’ve been waiting to use it. I think if we all just too a moment to look around us, gauge reactions and think about how we’d feel in someone else’s place, there’d be a lot less unnecessary anguish in the world.
Do you have a friend whose face lights up when they see you? I know I do. Does your face do the same? I hope mine does. When I find that someone’s pleased to see me—or is at least doing a fine job of pretending—all my insecurities kind of vanish. They want to talk to me! OK, so step one... Look happy to see people. Easy peasy.

Now, I don’t want to compare friendship to marriage as it might alarm my own friends somewhat, but I recall a hilarious joke John Bishop made. He was talking about all the lovely times he and his wife had together, all the Christmases, the birthdays... “But after ten years. The way they bleedin’ breathe.”
It’s true, isn’t it? We all get annoyed from time to time. Rest assured the feeling will be mutual...



...but the real danger is when we take our friends for granted and forget to tell them how awesome they are. 
Friends, if you’re reading this, I love you.

There’s always this one guy or girl, isn’t there, who gets “slagged off” from time to time. They don’t mind. It’s a joke. They can take it. Maybe so, but make sure they’re not just putting on a brave face. If it does hurt their feelings, they might be too afraid to tell you. Who wants to be a spoilsport?

For example, my friends have learned exactly what it’s OK to joke about and what it isn’t (and I flatter myself I’ve learned the same about them). It’s hilarious, for instance, to talk about how dull my life is. Because it’s dull. And I’m cool with that. But it’s not OK to comment on my weight. And they know that, so they don’t. Unless of course it’s to say something nice. There are times when you tell the truth to friends, and times you don’t. Take a conversation between Wolf and I a while back.

Me: How’s my hair?
Wolf: Do you have a hair band?
Me: No.
Wolf: Yeah, it's lovely.

See what I mean? So a little more thinking about our words and actions please. That goes for me as well!


By the way, I’m kind of sad Blog Every Day In May is coming to an end, even though I haven’t been taking part. I’ll miss Bambi and Crow’s posts. I’m thinking about picking my favourite few ideas and doing them in June, just for fun. Watch this space! 

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Friends and Foes... Tolerance.

“I’ ve got a couple more years on you, babe, that’s all.
I’ve had more chances to fly and more places to fall.
Now you’re heading somewhere,
But I’ve been to somewhere,
And found it was nowhere at all,
And I’ve picked up a couple more years on you, baby, that’s all.”

I am not a very tolerant person. It’s one of my many flaws. I like everything to be done my way, and it irritates me when people don’t live their lives exactly the way I think they should. In fact, when studying my history course and reading about Mussolini, I was startled to find myself thinking that perhaps he had a point.

I know that this is a serious problem and I’m trying to keep it under control. I know my way’s rarely the best way, yet I can’t help getting frustrated when I don’t see eye to eye with people. I don’t let it show there and then most of the time, which is why many of you who know me don’t realise how intolerant I am. Just wait until you know me a little better and we’re sitting together in front of Come Dine With Me or The Apprentice, or reading a teenage magazine. That’s when I really come into my own.

When I see people wasting opportunities, getting into unnecessary bother, hurting those around them... I seem to conveniently forget all the utterly stupid things I’ve done and get really irritated with them. I forget the times I’ve not followed advice and get annoyed when they don’t. I forget that not three years ago I was the girl who never get involved, and wonder why people aren’t getting involved. I suppose I mean well: I don’t want people to make the same mistakes I have. Now that I’ve started—just started—to grow up, I want others to be developing too.

Especially in your teenage years, everyone is growing up at different rates. I talk to lots of people my age who take the “adult” side of the conversation: They pick the topic, ask the questions, take an interest in my life, and I’m quite happy to be childish and unimaginative by giving short, probably unsatisfactory answers. Then there are people I talk to who act the same way I did when I was fourteen, almost three years ago, and I wonder if they’re ever going to grow up. It’s a time when everyone’s developing fast but everyone starts and stops in different places. It’s sporadic and confusing and for someone like me, frustrating.

I suppose people like me—and you, if you’re reading this and sympathise with my worryingly autocratic views—need to remember that eventually, everyone will grow up. Maybe the reason they haven’t learned is because they haven’t made enough mistakes yet. I know it’s my mistakes I’ve learned from, so perhaps people who aren’t learning are simply smarter than me. And I just know that there are people who look at me and wish I’d grow up.


I just need to remember that eventually, everything will level out. I don’t know how or when I just have to be a little bit patient. A little tolerant. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Friends and Foes... Beat the Bullies.


We know that bullying is a complex issue and there are many different kinds, as I’ve mentioned. Below I’ll try and give some advice on how to deal with various bully stereotypes out there. I know each case is different, and if you are being bullied and don’t find these useful, you can always email me at catherineann.mk@gmail.com. I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I will try and help, or see if I can find someone who knows what you’re going through and report back!

CYBERBULLYIING
With this kind, at least there’s evidence to show what’s going on. If you’re getting nasty messages on your computer or phone, show your parents or another adult right away. Even if you think it’s nothing, they’ll see it and understand what you’re talking about. Always block nasty texters, facebookers or tweeters right away, and don’t reply because a) it’s not classy, and b) there will be evidence of that, too.

PHYSICAL BULLYING
I will never, ever condone hitting back, but you do have to let the bully know you won’t stand for it. The very first time you are hurt in any way, tell them that it’s not on. We all know how quickly a little shove can turn into someone being badly beaten up. Try talking to the bully, as it’s likely they’re using violence  because they don't know how else to communicate. As with all kinds of bullying, demand that teachers or other adults take it seriously. Obviously with physical bullying it’s best avoiding the bully... I know that’s easier said than done but try ensuring you’re with a group of people. If you have to be with them alone, try faking a bit of confidence. Walk tall, look like you know exactly where you’re going even if you don’t. Violent bullies prey on the weak.

INVISIBLE BULLYING
This is a form of bullying where people manage to make you feel bad in a subtle way that those around you might not notice. They can make seemingly harmless comments, maybe a joke or two, that leave the subject feeling absolutely distraught. Often victims don’t know how to deal with this: “Maybe I’m taking it the wrong way...” “Maybe he/she doesn't mean it...” You’re right. Maybe they don’t. But if you’re being made to feel bad, you shouldn’t let it carry on. Start by telling the bully how you feel. Tell them their comment hurt, but that you appreciate they might not have meant it to. If they didn’t mean it, it’s likely they’ll feel bad, apologise and stop. If they did mean it, you need to let them know they can’t get away with it. Each time they make a hurtful remark, tell them straight away how it made you feel. Hopefully, this will be nipped in the bud quickly. If you don’t stop it as soon as it starts, the bully will gain the upper hand and be in a position of power. If you’re in it pretty deep at the moment, let your friends and family know how you feel and try to spend as little time with the bully as possible.

EXCLUSION
Are you feeling excluded from your group? Hopefully it’s unintentional. If so, talk to them about it and tell them you’d like to be included more. If you want to be more subtle about it, organise a day with just one or two people to remind them how fun and interesting you are. If you feel like people are leaving you out on purpose, then it looks like you could find some better friends. I've done a few posts on making new friends if you fancy trawling through my archives. You can’t make yourself fit into a group, but if some members are really nice to you, organise time with them to talk about how you’re feeling. If you look around your class/group right now, I’m sure you’ll find one nice person who’ll want to be friends with you. You just have to look properly. 

GOSSIP
It’s all very well to say that you don’t care what people say about you, but there comes a point when we all do care. Very much. Don’t add fuel to the fire. Just make sure those you care about know that whatever it is isn’t true or better still, don’t give anyone a reason to gossip about you. Make sure you share things with people you trust. Try to let it go if there is something being said about you... it’s likely half the community won’t believe it, half won’t care, and some like me won’t even have noticed what day of the week it is.

GANGING UP
Even when it’s nothing important, nobody likes to be “ganged up” on. It might be a minor disagreement between two friends, but when six people all disagree with you at once... Some people might find it quite hurtful. Try and see things from both sides and always check to see how people cope with something. That annoying person in class: they’re probably like that for a reason. Maybe they want to impress people to make friends. Whatever their motivation, imagine if twenty-five people all told you that you were an idiot. Nobody deserves that. When someone makes a mistake in class and it’s funny, I personally always check to see if they’re laughing before joining in. Remember everyone is unique and deals with things in different ways. If you feel you’re being ganged up on, try to calmly explain your point of view. Spend time with smaller groups of people so they can get to know you and hopefully you’ll make some solid friends. Recognise, however, that the group probably don’t mean any harm. Again, easier said than done, but don’t take it too personally.

Finally, and this can go for everything, try and remain calm. There’s nothing that spurs a bully on more than the victim getting hysterical or upset. Let them know how you feel, but be reasonable. Don’t shout and scream and swear. You may not feel like it right now, but you’re better than that.

I hope some of you have found this useful. Or perhaps you read it and thought “she hasn’t got a clue what she’s talking about!” or “how on earth does she expect that to work?”. I bet some of you did. If so, please comment below, as other people might he having a problem. Alternatively, as I said, send me an email. Hopefully things will work out soon. I know they will eventually.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Friends and Foes... What is Bullying?


OK, I’ll admit I’ve been putting off writing this post. I’ve been practising ukulele, painting my nails, looking at a picture of Crow in a dress... even revising for my Irish test. Bullying is a really depressing topic, but it’s something I’ve experienced and feel strongly about and I felt that I should add to the resources already out there, particularly as this is a blog for teens. I’m not going to go into my experience in a lot of detail, because frankly this blog isn’t about me, it’s about you guys. I want it to have a personal touch, but it’s not my secret diary and it’s not my place to talk about personal issues which maybe I still haven’t got past. As my mum advised me, in five years’ time I might feel differently to the way I feel now. Some blogs are very personal, and that’s great for them, but me... not so much. So, bullying in general...

Bullying comes in many different shapes and sizes, so it’s hard to identify. Let me put it this way: If you think you’re being bullied... you probably are. If, on a regular basis, you’re being made to feel bad by another human being, this is bullying. It can come in many different shapes and sizes, from obvious and physical, to cyber-bullying which is getting a lot of press lately, to comments so subtle you don’t even notice them until it’s half an hour later and you’re feeling upset.

Probably the first question a victim of bullying asks themselves is this:



The answer is... there’s simply no reason. I know at least three girls, each of whom is so beautiful I envy them, who have told me they were bullied “Because I was fat.” As I’ve said to them, they weren’t bullied because they were fat—none of them were—they were bullied because people wanted them to think they were fat. Characters in films and books, like poor old Neville above, who get bullied, usually have a specific characteristic: they’re clumsy, they’re geeky, they’re supposedly ugly, or maybe they just don’t act like the rest of us. But there are plenty of clumsy, geeky people who aren’t the same as everyone else, but who go through life without ever getting bullied. There are also people with none of those characteristics who do. The point is, there’s no stereotype when it comes to bullying. Anyone can suffer from it, once people decide to pick on them.

But there is one thing the movies get right. Eventually, people overcome bullying and turn their lives around. And often, the bully gets left behind.

As for why the bully feels they need to act that way, it’s not because they hate you. It’s because they are jealous of you, or maybe they like you so much that they don’t want you to have tons of friends. Yes, that’s easy for me to say, and I know that’s hard to believe, but I can guarantee it’s true. Nobody is bullied through their own fault, but there are some things we can do to stop it.

My next post will be about how to deal with bullying (advice which should be taken with bucketloads of salt), so if you’re being picked on, hang on in there! Please comment below or email catherineann.mk@gmail.com to tell me your views on bullying. 

Friday, 17 May 2013

Friends and Foes... Minding Your Manners


Hi everyone!

Two little things before we start. Firstly, Wolf has finished the beautiful illustration for my post on “Zombie Teachers”. Well, actually she finished it a few days ago, but I kept forgetting to scan it, so my bad. Of course I’ll add it to the relevant post, but here it is for all to see! I really admire Wolf’s work, and can’t wait to see what she enters in the competition!


Secondly, I’ve created a Facebook page. I already have Google Plus (by accident, it came with my email, I didn’t even... never mind), but as nobody appears to have Google Plus, you can go and “like” my page at www.facebook.com/CatherineAnnMinnock. I’ll share updates about my writing and any links I think you’ll enjoy, as I've done a lot of writing-based research on the internet over the years. I hope it’ll be the go-to page for teenage writers very soon!

Now, onto manners...

This is something which has always been important to me, and it’s essential to the theme of relationships. Manners-based problems have been eating at me for a while now—invariably with their elbows on the table—so I wanted to write about what good manners mean and why they’re important.

Good manners were always paramount in my primary school and in my home. Even if I was having a tantrum as a child I would still remember to say “please” and “thank you”. When I went anywhere with my dad, he’d say “hello” and “how are you, sir/ma’am” to everyone we passed. They would smile politely back. I decided that his greeting of strangers was an ‘Irish thing’ and couldn’t wait to see for myself. Indeed, I imagined the country as a cornucopia of manners and friendliness.

Ha.

I make a point of smiling at everyone I meet and am astounded by the lack of response from people who either drop their gaze or look back at me as if I’ve just run over their pet Labrador. I don’t want to turn this into a lecture, and I should mention that of course there are some of the loveliest, most polite people you’ll meet here in Ireland, but it makes me rather sad when I make the effort just to be shot down.

Manners go a lot further than minding your P’s and Q’s or holding open a door (though those are a good place to start). Manners are about the way you treat other people, with your actions, words and body language. When you talk to someone, do you look right into their eyes? When you listen to someone, do you... well, listen? Do you think about the effect your smile, your insightful question, your text or call or email might have on another human being?

Manners are about how we interact with each other—they are rooted in respect. Do we ask people questions about themselves? Do we make sure everybody is included and catered for? Do we try our best to make sure negative feelings are kept at bay?



Sometimes I get the feeling that, especially among young people (though as I’ve said before, there are grown-up culprits...), manners are considered un-cool. Rubbish, in my opinion. If I leave you a message, does it mean I have nothing better to do? Not necessarily—it means I’m thinking of you. If I smile at you when I see you, does it mean I’m hopelessly in love with you? Almost definitely not—it means I want your day to be as bright as mine. If I thank the teacher after class, does it make me a teacher’s pet? Not necessarily—it means I remember that teachers are human, too... mostly.

It means I have manners.

Of course, I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination! I need to work on my language, think of things to talk about with people who look lonely, and remember to get in touch with old friends.

Remember, there’s more to manners than the obvious. They’re a little thing that can make a huge difference to someone’s life.

And yes. I am now an eighty-year-old grandmother. I make no apology. Direct your complaints to catherineann.mk@gmail.com. But please, do so politely. 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Friends and Foes... of the Imaginary Variety


A few weeks ago, I met a boy who bore a startling resemblance to a fictional character I’d made up. I had a mini heart-attack at the time and luckily Bambi was on hand to calm me down—as a fellow writer, she understands these things! Anyway, I’ve since got to know this person and it’s easy to differentiate, but just occasionally he will say something which reminds me so much of my character that I wonder if there isn’t some kind of freaky, Tom Riddle’s Diary stuff going on here.

I suppose that’s one of the pitfalls when you have as many imaginary friends as I do—and I’ve got several.

My first ever imaginary friend was a girl called Ashley who always wore a blue and pink stripy t-shirt. She was a lot more adventurous than I, and on long car journeys she would become bored, hop out and run alongside. This is either because I’ve always longed for a dog, or because I’ve always imagined people who can do things I can’t, as you’ll see. The next friends came from the imagination of JK Rowling. I’m not ashamed to say I ran around the house in my dressing gown, asked Hermione to teach me spells I could cast with a twig, and tutted at the latest evil deed Malfoy (synonymous at times with Ferret) had done.

The first ever character to come out of my writing was just about the anti-me, save for her slightly bemused view of the world around her. She was very sporty—in fact, she had superpowers, but more on that if her story’s ever finished—and she commanded the total respect of everyone around her. She genuinely didn’t care what others thought about her. In short, she was my polar opposite, and I loved her for it. When I wrote about her, I could step into the shoes of the girl I wanted to be, back before I learned to love the me I already was. (Thanks, Word, there’s no need for all the green lines. I know that sentence doesn’t make sense.)

It was a long time before I decided to write about someone like me. At first it seemed such a boring idea, but hey, who could I write about better? Besides, if I ever got a story published one day, I’d want it to be for people like me to identify with... just as I hope some of you are able to do with this blog.

My new girl was very similar to me indeed. She was going through a lot of big changes, missing family members and being picked on at school. She was feeling lonely and taking refuge in her writing. I decided she’d be average-looking, not perfectly skinny or a Barbie doll. She would be real. Perhaps most importantly, she would not be able to catch a ball. But she’d be funny, clever and loving. She’d be beautiful in a way. All girls are beautiful if you look hard enough. (You can quote me on that if you like, it’s from my latest ‘novel’.)

As I shaped her story, I looked at her life from an outsider’s point of view. I thought about the advice her friends would give her and whether or not she’d take it. I could attempt to boil down her biggest problems to their simpler causes and look for solutions, deducing on many occasions that her life would be a little easier if she’d only change her attitude. So she did. And I did.

I encourage you all to have imaginary friends as well as real ones. They are not only enormous fun, but they can be exactly what you need when you need it... and maybe they’ll teach you a bit about yourself, too. 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Friends and Foes... What Makes a Friend?


I’ve decided to call my third theme “Friends and Foes”. I wanted originally to address the issue of bullying, but I thought it might get a little depressing to spend two weeks writing about that. I’ve consequently decided to talk about both bullying and friendship, as although they’re complete opposites, they’re also woven together in everyone’s life. This theme will probably last a fortnight or so, by which time it will be my mum’s birthday, and shortly after that, Crow's, so I’ll return to food and post recipes and pictures of the treats I’ll be making for them! You can also expect to see some pictures which are sent in for the competition.

First I’d like to talk about what makes a good friend. If you read my blog regularly, you’ll have noticed that I have a pretty nice group of friends at the moment. Unfortunately, this was not always the case. I’ve had bad friends and been lonely too, but there have always been one or two people who have stuck by me—even if they have been members of the family I’m so lucky to be a part of.

So I guess that’s the first thing. A friend who will stick by you. This doesn’t necessarily mean stick up for you, because that’s a pretty hard thing to do sometimes and I know some of my friends can often be just as scared as I am. Sticking by someone means you're there for them when they need you, whether it’s to find a solution or just to sympathise and say “I’m sorry that happened to you.” When I was bullied, the worst of it was that I thought nobody cared, that it was just going to have to be a part of life. My friends were the people who took the chance to say: “You know what? That shouldn’t have happened to you, and we feel really sorry that it did.” Sometimes, that’s all you need.

Another important thing in friendship is to have things in common. It might seem that you don’t have the same hobbies and interests as your friends, and that’s fine, but what I mean is that it’s nice to have someone with the same kind of views as you, someone with whom you can share your opinion without worrying that they’ll think you’re stupid. Friends rarely agree on everything, but it’s important to have a friend who can see where you’re coming from. My two newest friends are people who have a passion for writing just like me, so for instance when I have an experience with my writing, I know they will understand.

Now, all of my friends are incredible people. Take Bambi, for example. It’s near impossible to find something she isn’t good at, and usually it would be hard to take someone like that because they’re perfect, and they make you think that everything you do isn’t good enough. Not so with Bambi. While she has all these perfect talents like her writing and music and general awesomeness, she’s so busy complimenting all my talents that I don’t have time to be jealous. Real friends are supportive and build each other up. I’ve known people in the past who have been all to ready to tell me what I was doing wrong... I thought they were trying to help me, but as I get older I realise that no good friend will pull you up on all your flaws. Good friends make each other feel good, it’s as simple as that. I went to see a motivational speaker last year (I know, but it was good), and he advised us all to “surround yourself by great people”. That’s what I’ve done. So don’t worry about feeling jealous of all your friends’ talents, instead learn from them! Get them to help you... they won’t mind, I promise! Each of my friends helps me with different things. Wolf advises me on baking, Phoenix helped me with my singing in the school play, Bambi and Crow are of course my editors, Black Sheep has said he’ll help with my ukulele... and all my family have many skills which they’ve been teaching me since I was born!

Those are a few things I think are essential in a friend. What do you think makes a good friend? If you have a great group of friends, why not tell me about what makes them special? Comment of email as usual! I can’t wait to hear and tell you more about making friends and how to deal with bullying. 

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Competition Time: Help Me, Oh Talented Ones!


My darling readers,

My blog is looking a little plain at the moment, and I thought it would be really cool to add some pictures with my posts. The thing is, I want them to be my pictures, personal to my blog. I don’t want to get them off another website or something. I want something new and exciting and beautiful...

Oh, but the only problem is... I can’t draw. Or paint. Or really photograph that well.

So I’ve decided to hold a competition.

I would like you to send me as many pictures as you like which can be included in my blogs, whether it be a photograph, sketch, painting, anything that can be scanned! They should be inspired in some way by my blog, on the themes of food, school, bullying, friendship, happiness, reading, writing... or pretty much anything you like! I welcome creativity. Maybe there’s a topic I haven't mentioned that you’d like me to cover? Sending in a piece of art would be a great way to drop me a hint!  

I will feature ALL entries (within reason) here on “Unlucky For Some”, including your first name, age and county, and any info you include about the picture, for example:

“This is a lovely picture of a tree by Kate, 14, from Waterford. She drew it because she loves trees.”

...only of course yours will be much more interesting...

 The winning piece, judged by me along with two other impartial judges, will receive a prize which includes some beautiful handmade decorative cards by Bambi at everythingandanythingtolove.blogspot.ie, as well as some chocolate (a writing staple!) and a pretty notebook. I’ll post a picture of the prize as soon as I’ve put it all together!

The competition is open exclusively to residents of Ireland, but if you’re from somewhere else and fancy sharing your talent on the World Wide Web, I’d be grateful for any contribution. As this is a blog for young people, entrants must be aged between 12-18. 

Simply email me at catherineann.mk@gmail.com stating your name and age along with your artwork as the attachment.  It can be a photograph, painting, drawing... anything you want! You could also include a message explaining it. If it happens that you are chosen as the winner, I will email you to ask for your address which will be used to post the prize and deleted immediately afterward. Your personal details will not be seen by anyone except me, Catherine Ann. The judges’ decision will be final and the closing date will be 30th July.  My two assistant judges will not be told who submitted what picture. Does that all sound legal and above board? I hope so. Now, get entering!

Any questions? Comment below! xxx

Friday, 10 May 2013

The Milestone and the Competition!

Hi everyone!

Wow, 1000 views! I know for you big-time blog buffs that might not seem like a lot, but to a teenager who just started blogging in March, it's kind of a big deal. I just want to thank (holds up coffee cup pretending it's an Oscar) my friends, particularly Bambi and Crow for their promotion and inspiration, but also Phoenix, Wolf and Black Sheep for probably refreshing the page 300 times each, just to be nice ;)

I also want to let you all know that I've joined Pinterest. My first pinboard is called "Catherine Ann's Writing-Related Gems" and it's going to be full of inspirational pictures and also links to blogs I enjoy reading, as I think it's really important to share good writing with the world. So if you have a blog or any kind of content, do let me know so I can check it out and "pin" it if I like it. (This is an example of the first five minutes of joining a website when I get thoroughly over-excited, so make the most of it!)

I decided a while ago that when I reached 1000 views, I would hold a competition. I've decided to make it an art contest, because my blog looks quite plain and, as someone who isn't artistic at all, I really admire people who have that talent.

More details will be announced over the weekend, but it's going to be a competition for pictures of any kind, whether it be a painting, drawing, photograph or even collage... anything that can be scanned onto a screen! So get your thinking caps on and artistic muscles flexed, and watch this space for more info. Think about the themes of the blog so far, and what you'd like to see on it.

Hope to see you all again soon!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

School... The Scariest Place on Earth.


“...so don’t rely
on people you meet,
cos no one is
safe
in
these
streets...”

Turns out, school can be a pretty dangerous place. Terrifying, in fact. Over the past few days I’ve been surveying my friends and anyone who doesn’t run away from me, and there were a few things that really stood out. It turns out, at least from my limited and highly questionable research, that we teenagers don’t really mind the learning. We’re all for learning. When people talk about being unhappy at school, it doesn’t tend to be the schoolwork or difficult subjects. These are concerns, yes, but they can be borne and dealt with. Perhaps I’ll touch on them in the future. The problems which came up most when I asked people were the social aspects—how school can make them feel. Here’s my attempt at help.

I Hate School Because...

·        I always feel self-conscious. We do spend a lot of our school days comparing ourselves to others, don’t we? Are we pretty enough, slim enough, clever enough, sporty enough, artistic enough...? I know I’ve wondered all of these things. We feel intimidated or sometimes jealous of our classmates because they’ve got it all figured out and are simply better than us. What if I told you every single person has felt this way at one time or another? That girl who always looks perfect? She wishes she was as clever as you. That boy who’s amazing at art? He wishes he could play football as well as you can. Bear in mind that for everything you envy, there will always be something you have that others don’t. You have a very unique set of skills. Why would you want to be like other people? I think once we stop comparing ourselves to others and concentrate on being the best we can be, things will get easier. Accept that school is where people see you at your best... and your worst. This goes for everyone.  But in a month’s time, nobody will remember your bad hair day. What they will remember is the way you smiled at them or shone at that test. It seems to me everyone is simultaneously feeling that they’re not as good as the next person. By my calculations, that makes us all equally brilliant. Right?
·         The teachers are mean. It’s supposed to be one of the golden rules of teaching that you don’t let your mood affect your work. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case with many people. I’m a stickler for good manners and have been brought up to believe mutual respect is the way forward. Yet still we see teachers rolling their eyes and giving attitude, taking their bad mood out on their least favourite pupil... I've even seen teachers make weaker pupils feel worse by mocking them. Many teachers seem to feel the only way to show their superiority is to pick on people. This is really the problem of the teacher, but if you’re a pupil and you feel you’re being given a rough time, it’s important to remain calm and respectful. Let the teacher know you feel like you’re being picked on, without being rude. Instead of saying “I didn’t do anything!” calmly tell them “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do anything wrong.” Hopefully, this should work. If they continue to pick you, try to rise above it. I know it’s not ideal, but hopefully if you stay quiet they’ll leave you alone. You can always talk to another adult if things are getting out of hand. Remember you shouldn’t be scared.
·         I am bullied. This is a huge problem for some people. Bullying is an issue much too diverse, serious and sensitive to be spoken about here, but it’s probably going to be my next theme, so please do come back if you need help.
·          I can’t be independent. It’s so confusing, isn’t it? At school, we are told to take responsibility for our work, but at the same time teachers seem to be constantly looking over our shoulder and determined to keep us within the lines. It’s a necessary balance, of course, but many teens feel that their school misses the mark slightly on this one. I know it’s hard to feel stuck in between childhood and adulthood, with so many different things expected from you, but I think the mature approach is the best one. That way, if you feel as though you’re being treated like a kid, you can inform people in a polite, respectful manner about the way you feel.
·         Of PE. There have been lots of surveys asking adults what they recall about school, and many people who had a hard time at school remember PE class as agony. I suppose it adds up: people who are interested in and excel at sports tend to have experience with being on a team, making new friends and socially interacting. Some of us... don’t. I’m someone who suffers in PE, as it seems my hand-eye co-ordination is and always will be terrible. I’m OK with that, even if my PE teacher isn't. Do try to get involved when you can, but if you’re like me and your class has learned to steer well clear, don’t fret. It’s only a couple of hours a week, maybe less. Perhaps you’ll find a sport you love, or you might just have fun cheering people on. As sports teams don’t suit me, I’ve joined a drama group instead. All the benefits with none of the humiliation. Remember that PE is something many of us un-coordinated souls have had to endure, and although it may feel as though you’re the only one who trips or drops the ball... trust me, you’re not.

So I guess the most important thing to take from this is to remain calm. Realise, as I mentioned here, that nothing is the end of the world. You’re not going to be in school forever. But it is quite a chunk of time to be miserable... so change what you can and accept what you can’t, and if there is a problem, try to treat it in the most reasonable, sensible way possible. Put everything into perspective and don’t be afraid.

By the way, I might start sharing songs with some of my posts from time to time. I’m the sort of person who has a million and one pieces of music floating around in my head, and occasionally one will surface that resonates with my writing. It could be something I heard yesterday, or when I was six. Here’s today’s which I think is great background music for the scary noisiness of school:

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

School... Excuses, Love and an Essay on Dreams.


Oh my GOSH, is that the time? It’s the eighth already? I’ve been trying to keep up a pretty regular stream of a new post more or less every three days and it’s been going well so far... but then I look at my posts and realise I AM A DAY LATE. Sincerest apologies. I guess it’s flown because I had one of the best weekends ever! Bambi came round and it felt like I hadn’t seen her in an age, so we spent two days eating cake, chatting about writing—well, about everything—and even coming up with some parodies of songs, which has become a little hobby of mine recently. Most are about cake. Anyway, as if that wasn’t fantastic enough, I was mentioned on not one, not two but THREE other blogs at the weekend:

Bambi and Crow are both doing the “Blog Every Day In May” challenge, and it was their job to come up with a blogger they admire... and it turned out to be yours truly! I certainly have the loveliest friends and my self-esteem got a huge boost out of it... though maybe they were looking for some cupcakes! You can find out more about the challenge on both of their amazing blogs which I now feel obliged to share (and I want to anyway because...just look at them).


...or find out what Crow’s been up to at www.dearsaul.wordpress.com.

I also got a little shout out on the blog of someone I haven’t met yet, one of Bambi’s friends, but I’m hoping to see her soon as she has the best taste in music. She’s just started her blog at www.alessergod.blogspot.ie!

It’s almost time to wave goodbye to the theme of school for a little while. In the next few days I’ll be finishing my list of why teens hate it so much, and solutions (here, in case you missed it). But for now, I want to share an essay I wrote for school—yes, my teacher found my book—as it will bridge the gap nicely between this and the next theme, “Friends and Foes”, and also talks about writing, which will of course get its turn shortly.

DREAMING

I must have been about eight when my mum took me into the city for a day out. Although it was only half an hour’s journey, I felt quite grown-up about it. We took the bus, looked at museums, ate lunch in a proper restaurant, and on the way home I pressed my face against the glass and gazed out at the night. Three young women traipsed arm-in-arm down the road, laughing on their way home from a day at university. I was in awe of them. I wanted to be them. I would grow. I would study. I would make new friends and laugh with old ones. Soon enough, it would be me walking down that road with my arms full of books.

This was my dream. I would go on to imagine it for many years and it would later become a more properly formed goal. I wanted to live my dream and, until I was twelve, there was absolutely no question that I would.

Lots of things changed when my family moved to a new place and I was exposed to a wider range of experiences. This was a scary world where barely anyone queued, the customer wasn’t always right and if someone thought you were ugly, they told you so—whether close up or from a passing car. This was a world of brutal honestly. I didn’t like it. I soon became insecure, convinced that everything I did was wrong. 

My university dream seemed childish now—life was all to eager to remind me of everything that could go wrong. The dream was synonymous with success—and I really didn’t feel that was an option for me anymore.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Harry Potter, and it was Dumbledore who said that “in dreams we enter a world that is entirely our own”. I realised my imagination was a place nobody could touch. Day and night, my dreams were the thing which remained perfect and couldn’t be taken away or damaged. I bought myself a notebook and began to write.

Over the next four years I created elaborate, make-believe worlds where no one had spots, everyone was able to catch a ball and, most importantly, villains always got their just deserts. Mine were worlds of  happy endings and simple solutions, and I loved every one of them dearly. It got to a point where I could step away from a bad situation and knock on the door of any made-up world of my choosing. I would be welcomed warmly by characters of my own creation and could stay there hidden until it was safe to come out.

After a while, I started to read back over what I’d written and thought that, actually... it was rather good.

A new dream began to take shape in my mind. What if I could keep doing this? What if I could be a real writer? Not the next JK Rowling or anything like that, but maybe I could do what I loved professionally, actually publish my stories to be read by people like me? Would it be possible to share my world and my friends with others, rent out my universe as a holiday destination for lost souls?

I don’t know exactly when or how it happened, but all of a sudden I had a dream again. I poured yet more energy into my writing. I attended fairs, writing courses and workshops. Last November, I took part in National Novel Writing Month and wrote 50,000 words in 30 days. Along the way I have met some of the most amazing people and made some of the best friends I could have hoped for—other people who let their dreams guide and shape their lives.

They’ve helped me get my confidence back. I don’t daydream in the usual sense anymore; I dream about a future. Slowly, I’ve reconsidered the possibility of my childhood dreams: I still want to go to university in Britain and study English with History. Maybe I’ll become a writer, or perhaps a publisher or journalist—who knows? The point is that I have something to chase. I’ve found that dreams can be the ultimate motivator. My desk drawer is crammed full or university prospectuses which I can flick through when my mind wanders from study, to remind myself why I am working so hard.

Ultimately, I’ve learned that the most important thing about dreams is not the ability to escape into them, but the belief that they can, just occasionally, come true. 

Saturday, 4 May 2013

School... Twenty Questions


Hello and welcome to Catherine Ann’s cop-out emergency blog post! I had intended to share an essay about dreams which I wrote for school last week, as it links together lots of themes I talk about, such as school, happiness, writing and bullying. However, my book has been temporarily mislaid through no fault of my own, so it will have to wait for next week. What? I’m not bitter or anything. I’m also working on that list of why teens hate school, which you can still submit to. Oh! And I’ve been asked to create content for a website called www.spunout.ie, so it’s all hands on deck at the moment.

Anyway, here’s a quick list of things I ponder when I’m at school. It’ll be very quick, too, because Bambi’s coming over tomorrow, and I have to tidy up and bake cookies and such, so... 


Twenty Questions I’ve Asked Myself at School This Month...
·         Where is my life going?
·         Oh my god. What if people can read my thoughts? Remember that time that really embarrassing thing happened? No! Shut up!
·         Who is that? Were they always in my class?
·         If God wanted us to draw diagrams of what goes on inside our bodies, would He not have used simpler design?
·         When will I ever need to know what a logarithm is?
·         What is a logarithm?
·         When’s lunch?
·         Do teachers know they could save all that yelling if, the first time, they just bothered to enunciate?
·         Why does each individual seem to have a different set of rules?
·         Since when were there five members of One Direction?
·         If the oral Irish in leaving cert is worth 40%, why was no oral work required for the Junior Cert?
·         If history essays are now about coming to your own conclusions and forming opinions, that’ great, but why have teachers for the last four years encouraged/forced/told us to learn by rote?
·         When’s lunch?
·         How can one not enjoy reading?
·         What’s going to happen next in that French mini-series which is half way between Neighbours and The Saddle Club?
·         What career path will make use of all this learning off and regurgitating we do at school?
·         Am I even in this class?
·         When’s lunch?
·          If I ran away right now, could anyone really stop me?
·         Why, oh why, can’t all the toilets have toilet seats? 


Wednesday, 1 May 2013

School... The Curse of the Zombie Teacher.


I first saw the phrase “zombie teacher” in an article in the Irish Independent (the online version of which can be found HERE) and fell in love with it because it’s something that says what we’re all thinking. This particular article is more of a warning that the government will be trying to rid our schools of “zombie teachers”, but as Severus Snape would say, “before that happy moment of farewell," I’m going to tell you how to deal with them.

WHAT IS A ZOMBIE TEACHER?
Artist's impression by Wolf.

We’ve all had one. They show up to class five minutes after the pupils, inquire as to what page you are on, and read it out loud or demand same of some poor, unsuspecting student. Sometimes they assign no homework, but often realise that nothing has been done in a while so set a few five-page essays to make up for it. It’s always a surprise when they call you by your actual name, and you can’t remember the last time they wrote on the board. In a fit of madness, they have been known to take up copies, which are returned no less than two weeks later with a solitary red tick on the most recently filled page.

In short, they have little or no effect on the school and sort of wander round (yes, zombie-like) frowning and looking busy.

HELP! I’VE BEEN BITTEN...

The worst thing you can do when faced with a zombie teacher is allow yourself to be bitten and turn into one of them. (Have I got that right? Or is it just vampires that do that? Anyway, you know what I mean.)
Try looking around the zombie teacher’s class. Notice those with glazed or sometimes mildly irritated expressions, who aren’t taking any notice of the teacher. If your response to this suggestion is “why should I?” then you’ve probably already been bitten.

When you get bitten, you adopt the attitude of the zombie teacher. You stop caring about the subject in question because, well, if they don’t, why should you? You don’t bother with the homework because they’re not going to correct it anyway. Their class is a “doss” which you spend whispering about way more important things, like what you’re going to have for dinner, or whose hair looks particularly glossy this afternoon.

SUCK OUT THE POISON

(Again, I could be wrong here. I think this is to do with snakes... Just roll with the metaphor, people)

Even if you have been bitten, there’s still hope for you. Try approaching the zombie teacher (but do so with caution) and ask them to help you with something. This might remind them that they have a job to do and prompt them to blow the dust off that brain that has to be in there somewhere.  Are they neglecting to grade your work? Ask them what grade you would have achieved, or even enquire as to what could be done to improve your work. Hopefully your enthusiasm will be contagious.

Falling victim to a totally unapproachable member of the Undead? It’s likely that you also have a really good teacher. Look at the methods they use and see what you can apply to the zombie’s subject. Maybe it’s keeping a vocab copy or taking notes in a certain way... if it works well for you, then it can probably be adapted.

Now, according to my dad, who used to be possibly one of the best teachers going (and I’m not being biased here), every teacher should make the class aware of the curriculum and what they’re aiming toward. Some of your teachers will do this, but it’s doubtful that a zombie will. You can generally find this stuff online, or why not (subtly) ask another teacher in the department? They might be able to help. It’s also a good idea to start looking at exam papers, so you know what all this work will be leading up to.

Most importantly, remember that the zombie teacher isn’t anything to be afraid of, and that they’re probably more scared of you than you are of them. They really should be working a bit harder, and sometimes a gentle nudge is all it takes. Remember, teachers are only human, even if they’re Undead. So be sure to ask lots of questions and do any work they do set to the best of your ability... otherwise, it’s only you who is missing out.