Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Interview preparation for children - an education for life

"How do I prepare my child for an interview?" is a common question we get at Brandon Learning Centre. In an ideal world, this question would be "How do I prepare my child for life?" The two aims are very closely linked!

Children with no outside interests are children with little to say in an interview. Equally, in later life, they may not have the cultural richness which will allow them to multiple environments. We are surrounded by opportunities to expand our children’s horizons; museums, galleries and plays are all available and are not necessarily expensive. These environments not only provide stimulation but as parents and teachers, we can also use them to challenge children to develop their critical thinking skills.

As a child, my parents would take us to libraries where we developed our ability to explore literature and learn about the history of our areas (the Thomas Ashe exhibition at the Dingle Library which included the dessicated remains of the last piece of bread the Irish Patriot refused will remain in my memory forever!) By exposing our children to culture and discussing it with them, we prepare them for interviews and social encounters later in life. Much more effective than rote learning answers!


Museums Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Museum of History

The Story of Thomas Ashe

Monday, 25 April 2011

The Perfect (Royal) Wedding Gift - Posies fade but Poetry lasts forever

Wedding presents serve a number of purposes; they demonstrate that you care for the couple, that you want to give them a good start or (if we are being cynical) that you want to use your wealth to impress or even to cement business contacts.

If you are short on the cash but long on the love, a poem is a heavenly present that really does keep on giving. Beautifully re-copied on a scroll or frame (depending on your creativity and budget) a poem is always a winner. As an extra gift, you could even offer to recite at the Wedding Breakfast. Last year, we had a fabulous student at Brandon Learning Centre who wanted to practice a poem for his Grandparent's 50th wedding anniverary. I heard later that his Grandmother said that this was the most meaningful gift she had every received.

Ideas could include:

Sonnets from the Portugese - Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sweetly pretty and has the benefit of being instantly quotable:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee free, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise,
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, - I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! - and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Or for the modern approach Elizabeth Jenning's Friendship which is a hymn to the lasting joy which comes through mutual respect and love.

Such love I cannot analyse;
It does not rest in lips or eyes,
Neither in kisses nor caress.
Partly, I know, it's gentleness

And understanding in one word
Or in brief letters. It's preserved
By trust and by respect and awe.
These are the words I'm feeling for.

Two people, yes, two lasting friends.
The giving comes, the taking ends.
There is no measure for such things.
For this all Nature slows and sings.

And, even better, you don't have to giftwrap a poem!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Poetry - the mirror that permits us to reflect on life

The Brontes; marooned in their Haworth parsonage on the edge of the wild moors. Writing thrilling, visceral and untamed literature that touches the deep core of our beings. At the risk of sounding like a Sixth Form essay, I want to spend a few Good Friday moments on Emily Bronte's Last Lines; a poem which explores the role of God in our lives.

This poem is a powerful Good Friday reading. Traditionally Good Friday is a time when we are looking for hope and reflecting on the coming resurrection. The language of the poem is a powerful; full of imagery of being tossed on life's ocean. There is a stunning series of verbs "changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears" which encapsulate the circle of life.

Last Lines is a poem which should be read slowly, giving listeners time to reflect. The main trap for a reader is the enjambment (when the sense runs on to the next line) which needs to be respected in order to convey meaning.

Emily Bronte only lived for thirty years but, in Last Lines, she leaves an eternal legacy which reminds us of the central role God can play "Thou are Being and Breath" and the hope which this can provide. At a time in the cycle of the religious year in which joy is symbolically removed from the world with Jesus's death, this poem prepares us for the resurrection and is a reminder that there will always be the "wide-embracing" love of God.

">To read the poem in full

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Easter revision - the calm before the storm (or study skills can prevent panic!)

Brandon Learning Centre is normally a haven of tranquility in the maelstrom of Causeway Bay. Students discuss literature in measured tones, small children give engaging presentations and even science experiments take place in an atmosphere of studious calm. Not this week though. Oh no. Easter revision is upon us and everywhere we see teenagers frantically leafing through files of notes, prep school boys trying to cram vocabulary into over-stuffed heads and teachers desperately printing revision sheets.

So how do you avoid being swept into last minute panic?

1: Plan a timetable allocating time to each subject. Work out how much work you have to cover and allocate periods to each block. Make it realistic; look at the time you have allowed and double it! Build in rest periods and any other activities (tennis?) you know that you will do. There is no point creating a work of fiction!

2: "Chunk" your work. Don't try to cover too much in one session.

3: Test yourself after each work block. Or rope in parents/friends/random passer bys and try to reteach the topic to them.

4: Make notes. Use colours, concept maps, post-it notes and highlighters.

5: Create flashcards that you can refer back to before the exam.

Most importantly.. eat well, be kind to yourself and allow yourself time to relax and recuperate.

Good luck!