Smorgasbord Posts From Your Archives – What You Don’t Know by Norah Colvin

I have the very great honour of being featured among the lovely Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives series on Sally’s Cronin‘s blog. Sally has graciously shared one of my earlier posts What you don’t know.
Thank you, Sally, I am delighted to be featured on your blog.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

We begin a series of posts by educator Norah Colvin who shares her thoughts on our approach to learning as individuals… we have all heard the expressions that ‘ignorance is bliss’ ‘What you don’t know won’t hurt you’ but shouldn’t we be the judge of that. The desire to learn and keep learning whatever age you are, is a gift that is not offered to everyone. Are we making the most of that gift?

What You Don’t Know by Norah Colvin

 One of my favourite quotes is that of Manuel in the BBC television series Fawlty Towers: “I know nothing.” I love quoting this but, just like Manuel, I too am learning. And what a wonderful gift it is to be able to learn.

Recently I read a post  This time it’s Personal by Tony Burkinshaw on his blog.

He explained unconscious incompetence in the following way: “

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#WATWB Children helping children

I love to be inspired by positive stories about education, especially about empowering children, and about empowered children helping those in need.

That I can share those stories once a month in the We are the World Blogfest is an extra bonus.

The purpose of #WATWB is to spread good news stories around the world, to shine a light when much around is looking dismal. We are asked to link to a human news story that shows love, humanity and brotherhood and explain why it touched us.

Each month different members of the group host the blogfest. Hosts this month are Shilpa Garg, Inderpreet Uppal, Sylvia Stein, Susan Scott, Andrea Michaels and Damyanti Biswas . Please stop by their posts to check out other good news stories and say, “Hi”.

If you would like to join in by sharing a good news story you have read this month, click here to enter your link.

The story I wish to share, I read in a post published on the Student Blogging Challenge. Miss W. wrote about Mahika Halepete, a year 8 student who presented a talk at a conference about youth empowerment attended by Miss W.

Mahika has created her own non-profit organization. Her aim is to “empower young people (ages 12 to 25) in developing countries to design and implement projects that solve problems affecting them and their communities.”

In the post, Miss W. includes a video of Mahika performing her own song. It’s worth a listen.

Miss W. also outlines her personal actions that aim to have a positive impact, both locally and globally, on the world. In addition, she lists world problems that require solutions, and challenges teachers and students to consider ways of helping. Although the post addresses those involved in the Student Blogging Challenge, the problems and suggestions are ones any of us could consider.

I do hope you find these initiatives as inspiring as I do.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

Winner of Flash Fiction Contest #3

Do you know what a septolet is? Did you enter the Septolets in Motion #FFRodeo Contest #3? Whether you answered yes or no, check out the winning entries to read great stories and find out what a septolet is. I didn’t know before I entered the contest. Now I do! And guess what? I even got an honourable mention. Thank you Judge Jules! 🙂

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Septolet in Motion Contest Results

By JulesPaige

Thank you to all who ‘Spelled’ a bit of magic by entering Septolet in Motion either in the Contest or Challenge arenas. The short Selptolet verse of fourteen words in two parts totaling fourteen lines intertwined in a short fiction piece cast magic for Susan Z, Susan B and Jules. We used a point system through blind judging. Then Jules averaged the scores. Our winner is Deborah Lee.

Practical Magic, Or Even Best Efforts Need a Push Sometimes

By Deborah Lee

She pauses in the vestibule by the elevator outside the law firm doors. Beyond the window the sky looms gray over twenty-five stories of air filled with drizzle.

Another interview over. For better or worse.

No. For better, this time.

She examines the cuffs of her blouse, new-to-her from the thrift store, not frayed, nicely white. Her slacks bag a bit; she’s…

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When ideas mesh

Have you ever had that moment of inspiration when two ideas mesh and you know you’ve found the answer? I’m certain you have. It’s creativity. It’s energising. It’s like bubbles in a can, popping all over the place, bursting with exuberance, needing to express; and there’s no keeping it in.

Writing is like that for me. Writing or teaching. Writing and teaching!

Except for when it’s not.

I can think and think and think and struggle to find an idea. But as soon as the two (or more) right ideas come together, there’s an explosion, and I just can’t wait to get it down, or try it out.

It’s what I love about creating teaching resources. I think: how can I best explain this concept, what will children enjoy most, how will they best learn? Fizz! And I’ve just got to do it. I love the creative outlet. Without it, life’s just, well – dull.

I like to think that what I write is different; that my teaching resources differ from the millions of repetitive worksheets that are written to keep children busily unengaged in the learning process. I imagine myself using them, and having fun with my class. I like to think of other teachers using them to encourage children to think creatively, critically, logically, imaginatively, and learning through discussion with their teachers and peers. But do they? I like to think.

Do you hear that self-doubt? Like so many creatives, I find self-promotion difficult. I struggle to put my work out there for fear it might not be good enough. Each new step requires blinkered determination, focus, and practice, practice, practice to strengthen self- belief that wavers at the first hint of a breeze.

But did you see that? I called myself a creative. Should I? Do I have the right? I always say that one thing I loved about teaching was the opportunity it gave me to be creative. Though I may think I was creative, does my thinking allow me the label?

A few years ago, I gave myself some good talking-tos, took some deep breaths, and attended a writer’s group. Sure, they were the creative types – picture book writers and junior fiction writers. And me. Well, I was aspirational, but had a number of educational publications behind me and was working on my own collection of teaching resources.

In turn, around the circle, we were required to introduce ourselves to the group, sharing what writing we were working on. I could have said I was working on picture books and junior fiction. I have several stuck away in drawers for future development, many with rejection slips to prove I was aspiring. I’d been collecting rejection slips since long before many of these writers were born. I must admit that none of them were recent though, as I’d been more involved in other things, including educational writing.

When it was my turn, I took a deep breath, and stated that I was involved in educational writing at the moment. “Oh,” said the leader. “Educational writing. That’s so formulaic.” And she quickly turned to the next person. Well, if that didn’t burst my bubble. The confidence I’d struggled to muster to even attend the meeting was felled in one swoop.

Not only was she wrong, (well, I believe she was wrong), her attitude was wrong, and her response to an aspiring writer was wrong. She asked no questions, gave no opportunity to discuss why my work may be considered creative, or what other more creative writing I might engage in. She obviously considered I had no business being there among the “real” creatives.

Similar difficulties can be experienced by children in school. People are quick to judge, assess and dismiss on perceptions of background, ability and potential. It can be difficult to stay strong and persistent when the brush of other’s biases paints you inadequate. Without a strong framework and inner fortitude, the will may crack and crumble at the first sign of tension.

Surely, one purpose of education must be to build those strong foundations in order to avoid wreckage in the future. Just as for buildings, we start from the bottom, building on a strong base, adding more to each layer. There’s no starting at the top, or even the middle. Each new layer must mesh with the one before.

Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) use the word mesh in a story. Mesh is both an object and a verb, which you can freely explore. You can play with its sound, too. Go where the prompt leads.

I immediately thought of the mesh that is embedded in concrete to give it inner strength, to hold it together when under pressure, to prevent it cracking and crumbling. What a great analogy for both personal core strength and a foundation of a great education. How could I resist?

Here’s my story. I hope you enjoy it.

Strong foundations

Jamie heard the vehicles; the doors slam; then men’s voices. He looked to his mum. She smiled and nodded. Dad was already there, giving instructions.

“Watch, but don’t get in the way,” he’d said.

Clara arrived, breathless. “What’s happenin’?”

“Carport. Pourin’ the slab,” he answered. “That’s the frame. Keeps it in shape.”

Beep. Beep. Beep. The concrete truck backed into position.

The men quickly spread the mix, then lifted the mesh into place.

“Makes it strong,” said Jamie.

Another load of mix was spread.

“All done,” said Jamie.

Later, in the sandpit, the children experimented with strengthening their structures.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

P.S. If you are a teacher of children of about 5 to 7 years of age in their first three years of school, I’d love your feedback on readilearn, my collection of early childhood teaching resources. Please complete the survey here and share this post with other early childhood educators you know. I am keen to receive honest feedback about the site’s visual appeal and usability, as well as suitability of resources. Thank you. 🙂

Readilearn: Introducing Kim Michelle Toft, author and illustrator

Kim Michelle Toft

This month it is my great pleasure to invite Kim Michelle Toft to the blog. I have been an admirer of Kim’s work for many years. Not only does she do the most marvellous and unique silk paintings to illustrate her work, her books inspire children, and adults, to share her passion for protecting the ocean and its inhabitants.

I have previously written about Kim’s work here, here and here. In this post I am talking with her about her innovation of the familiar Christmas carol The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Kim’s book The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas is a celebration, not only of the season, but of the beauty of our world and its gift to us. Our gift in response is to care for and preserve it. As well as information about all the animals featured, it includes a stunning six-page foldout poster as well as information about the original carol.

Welcome to readilearn, Kim. We are looking forward to getting to know you better.

Thank you for having me.

Kim, you tell your stories with words and pictures? When did you know you wanted to be a storyteller and share your stories with others?

I started drawing when I was 4 years old. I would spend hours on my own, drawing. My mother would buy me small Golden Books and take me to see all the Walt Disney movies. I knew then that I wanted to have a career in art. I started writing and illustrating my picture books when my daughter Casey arrived, 26 years ago.

Continue reading: Readilearn: Introducing Kim Michelle Toft, author and illustrator

How important is perfection?

Are you a perfectionist? If so, in what areas?

I think it would be difficult to be a perfectionist in everything, indeed, in anything.

I have never considered myself to be a perfectionist, though others have occasionally labelled my attitude to work that way. I do have certain standards that I like to meet, and I always strive to attain them, to do the best I can. I concede that my expectations of spelling, grammar and punctuation correction may tend towards perfection, but if I can, why would I not? Of course, the occasional imperfection will slip through. It is difficult to catch all when we are editing and proofing our own work. However, if I spot any, I will quickly change them, embarrassed that I let them escape.

There are many areas in which I am far from a perfectionist – especially housework. I’ll do what needs to be done, but only if I must; and my idea of need may differ vastly from yours. I am often reminded of my mother’s words when I’d completed a household chore; for example, sweep the steps, when I was a child. She’d comment that I’d given it a “lick and a promise”. These days, housework rarely gets more than a promise, a promise I’m not good at keeping.

As a teacher of young children, it was not perfection I was looking for in their work, but for the best they could do. I expected their work to reflect their development. If they were capable of the calculation, spelling or of using the correct punctuation, I expected them to use it. Opportunities to revise answers and responses were given and improvement was encouraged.

I’ve hedged around this topic a few times in posts; such as, Is contentment compatible with a growth mindset? The end, Phrasing praise and What is failure.

But how do we decide when good enough is good enough and that we have put in as much effort as the task requires? I know there are many who agree with me about housework, but what about other things; maybe like, hanging a picture, following a recipe, parking a car, making a payment, checking copyright, or painting a room?

I recently watched a TED Talk by Jon Bowers entitled We should aim for perfection and stop fearing failure. Bowers provides some different perspectives on the topic of perfectionism, challenging an adjustment to thinking.

He begins by discussing typos. We’ve all made them, haven’t we? The seemingly innocuous typo can give us a good laugh at times. But it can also do a lot of damage.

Bowers tells us that “one little typo on Amazon’s supercode produced a massive internet slowdown that cost the company over 160 million dollars in the span of just four hours”, and “an employee at the New England Compound, which is a pharmaceutical manufacturer, didn’t clean a lab properly and now 76 people have died and 700 more have contracted meningitis.”

Bowers says,

“When did we come to live in a world where these types of typos, common errors, this do-your-best attitude or just good enough was acceptable? At some point, we’ve stopped valuing perfection, and now, these are the type of results that we get. You see, I think that we should all seek perfection, all the time, and I think we need to get to it quick.”

traffic

He talks about the need for perfection when behind the wheel of a vehicle. How many lives are lost daily through inattention, through lack of perfection?

credit card

He talks about the need for credit card manufacturers to demand perfection. How would it be if even 1% of our credit cards didn’t work properly?

book

He says that “if the Webster’s Dictionary was only 99.9 percent accurate, it would have 470 misspelled words in it.  If our doctors were only 99.9 percent correct, then every year, 4,453,000 prescriptions would be written incorrectly, and probably even scarier, 11 newborns would be given to the wrong parents every day in the United States.”

He goes on to make many other statements that I’m sure will get you thinking too. At less than 11 minutes in length, the time commitment is far less than the potential learning gain.

When I watched this video, I was contemplating my response to this week’s flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Charli shared a “possibly spam” email received as an entry into the Carrot Ranch Rodeo Contest #2: Little and Laugh. You can read the email in Charli’s post, which also includes the challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a fictional story about The Real Nanjo Castille. (The spammer).

I thought the email to be a little too clever to be real spam, too many clever word choices, phonetic spellings, and our favourite: bitchcoin, that could be purchased for ten dollars, $20 or £20. And the poor writer has an identity crisis, not sure whether to spell his or her name Nanjo or Najno.

I wondered about how the performance of this child in school might be viewed and what profession might be suggested as a goal.

This is my response. I hope you enjoy it.

A job for Nanjo?

The parents waited.

Start positive, she reminded herself.

“Nanjo has a wonderful imagination.”

They smiled.

“Very creative too, especially with spelling and punctuation.”

They exhaled.

“Has trouble understanding money though, and his knowledge of number facts is non-existent – “ she hesitated, then continued quietly. “I can’t think of any employer who’d have him.”

“Pardon?”

“I mean, employment, suited to his – ah – special skills.”

She cracked.

“I’m sorry. Your son is unemployable. His spelling and grammar is atrocious. He can’t even spell his own name, for god’s sake! I don’t think he could even get a job as a spammer!”

Make sure to check the results of Contest #2 at the Carrot Ranch. I’m not the winner. Nor is it Nanjo. Could it be you?

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Never Too Many Cooks: Literary Recipes in a Flash

How is cooking like writing?
One’s a feast for the body, the other a feast for the mind. For some great flash fiction to get your teeth into (including one of mine!) read on:

Open Thought Vortex

By Charli Mills

A chef in the kitchen is not unlike a writer at a desk.

Both feel the heat of what it takes to transform a raw start into an end worth savoring. A chef chops vegetables to maximize flavor and texture the way a writer slices sentence structure to evoke reader response. One chef favors reduction sauces, and another fuses flavors. One writer cranks out cozy mysteries, and another crafts a character-driven epic science fiction.  A chef is a food artist; a writer is a literary artist.

If you’ve ever tuned into a televised cooking show that challenges chefs with secret ingredients, you’ve seen how varied the results can be. I used to provide some of those secret ingredients to a regional chef show at the Mall of America in Minnesota. For over a decade the foodie culture of Minneapolis-St. Paul immersed me in the artistry of food…

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