I feel good!

A lot of good feelings and thoughts have been passing around the blogosphere in recent weeks including the #1000Speak for Compassion project and, closer to (my blogosphere) home, the Carrot Ranch with  Charli’s Mills’ flash fiction challenge and the responses by the Congress of Rough Writers.

Hearing these good things is good for my soul which could otherwise become burdened down by the cruelty that is experienced on a personal, local and global level.

Areas of Queensland and the Northern Territory were, over the weekend, devastated by severe weather, other states by fires, parts of the northern hemisphere by cold and snow. Nature itself is so destructive, why do humans think we have to add to it?

Many homes in Central Queensland were destroyed by damaging winds when the cyclone hit. In the early morning news the following day there were already reports of looting. It seems incomprehensible to me that people would do that to each other. Stealing from homes of those left vulnerable and sheltering in a community evacuation centre!

In the same bulletin there was a report about people receiving payments from the government while training to fight overseas for terrorist groups. The list goes on. The news media are not the best places for seeking uplifting stories or developing a habit of meliorism.

applications-internet

I turn back to my blogger friends for their stories of compassion and inspiration, and thoughts of how we can raise children to be kind, caring and compassionate.

My two most recent posts, Who cares anyway? and #1000Speak for Compassion, addressed the issue of compassion and received a number of comments which added more interest and value to the topic. Most of those who responded have also shared their thoughts about compassion on their own blogs, each post as individual as they. Here are a few links to get your reading started:

Charli Mills writes about Literary Compassion

Anne Goodwin about Compassion: Something we all need

Geoff Le Pard: Me, me, me; You, you, you #1000Speak

Sarah Brentyn: 1000 Voices for Compassion

Irene Waters: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion – mine is but 1

Sherri Matthews: How to save a life

Christy Birmingham: To Writers Who Struggle with Self-compassion #1000Speak

Lori Schafer: #1000Speak about Compassion: Through the Eyes of a Rat

I am very happy to belong to a community that values kindness and compassion. As at least one  blogger commented though, it may be difficult for someone who has not experienced compassion to express compassion for others. Compassion may be a natural feeling, but it also may need to be learned. It reminds me of those famous words, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” and also of a story shared by Lata on Hot Cup of Kaapi as part of the #1000Speak for Compassion project. (Note to self: Remember this!)

In my last post I shared two ways of showing compassion suggested by Daniel Goleman in his video Why aren’t we more compassionate?:

Pay attention

Consume ethically

At about the same time as I was reading these posts about compassion, I also read a post on one of my favourite educational sites Edutopia about Creating More Compassionate Classrooms.

The author of this article, Joshua Block teaches at The Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, which you may recall I mentioned in a post about Chris Lehmann and Visioning a better school, a better way of educating. I was certainly impressed by Chris Lehmann, so I expected to be impressed by this article and its suggestions, and I wasn’t disappointed.

In the article Block talks about the Academy establishing an Ethics of Care as described by Nel Noddings. I am both embarrassed and disappointed to admit that I hadn’t previously heard of Noddings but I will be looking more in depth at her work in the future. So much of her work is pertinent to these discussions we have been having about compassion, including her understanding of the terms sympathy and empathy, for example. The article about Nel Noddings, the ethics of care and education states that

“We learn first what it means to be cared-for. ‘Then, gradually, we learn both to care for and, by extension, to care about others’ (Noddings 2002: 22). This caring-about, Noddings argues, is almost certainly the foundation for our sense of justice.”

It sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Block questions how he can create a more compassionate classroom without adding to the demands already placed upon him as a teacher. He wonders what a compassionate classroom would look like and suggests

“A compassionate classroom environment is not an environment that lacks academic rigor. In this environment, students are understood to be complex people. Here, young people feel that they belong. Here, they meet challenge and encouragement while we ask them to be the best versions of themselves. Compassionate classrooms are places where student voices and student ideas are prioritized.”

I do like the sound of that classroom environment.

Block goes on to suggest six practices that help to develop that environment:

  1. Remembering to Check-in
  2. Informal Conferencing
  3. Increasing Personal Connections with Content
  4. Asking Better Questions
  5. Expressing Belief in Student Abilities
  6. Being Flexible and Accepting Failure When It Happens

I think each of these practices could fit under the banner of being attentive, of really tuning in to the needs of the students. They are all great practices that should form the basis of establishing any classroom environment.

Joshua Block has his own blog: Mr J Block: Reimaging Education and his article can also be accessed there, along with many other interesting posts and information.

Now back to the title of this post and my flash fiction response to the challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week to: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about feeling good.

I trust that somewhere in Marnie’s life she had a teacher (or more) as compassionate as Mr J Block.

I feel good!

She stood at the door for one final glance. Not much had changed, but it felt, oh, so different. They were gone. Gone!

Almost twenty years had passed since she’d stood in this spot; since she’d fled their cruel ways. Twenty years of dodging shadows, double-locking doors, and fearing the phone’s ring.

But no more. They were gone. Gone! And for more than five years! Five years to track her down! All that remained was the house. She’d sell of course.

With the door closed behind her she almost skipped down the stairs, her heart singing, “I feel good!”

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

37 thoughts on “I feel good!

  1. Paula Reed Nancarrow

    Have tried to post this several times but my Internet seems to be wonky today, so apologies if there are multiples awaiting your moderation.

    What Charli said. In spades. So much good stuff here, Norah, and thanks for providing James Brown for me to write my comment by. 😉 You really do a great job of creating community on your blog.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I meant to say, “Thank you for being persistent!” I hope your internet problems have been sorted out. How painful they can be now that we have come to rely on good service. 🙂

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  2. Sherri

    Love your flash Norah and thanks so much for linking to my post and those of other Rough Writers. Thinking of Noddings – not heard the name – but her philosophy makes me think of how things were taught in the American schools my children attended when they were young. I was amazed at how much emphasis was put on citizenship and being kind and caring towards each other alongside academic teaching. Certificates were handed out each month for Citizenship and I really saw a difference in these children as compared to how things were when I was at school in the 60s and 70s in England. It’s great to learn here in your excellent and informative post of the awareness of the importance of teaching children these fundamental lessons in life as part of their overall education. Very encouraging and now I do feel good, thanks so much Norah 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Sherri. I’m glad you feel good. Now I feel good too! 🙂
      How fortunate your children were to learn about compassion at school as well as at home. Caring for each other is very important part of getting along, isn’t it?
      Thanks for sharing your experiences. And it was a pleasure to link to your post. 🙂

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  3. Annecdotist

    Lovely post, Norah, as always and so generous of you to list the compassion posts you’ve visited. Honoured to be included there and just one I haven’t read yet, but will certainly do so.
    There were riots here a couple of years ago, starting with a protest that got out of hand, leading to looting of shops. Now, while that was clearly wrong, there seem to be a bit of an overreaction from the courts, pressurised by politicians, to pass unusually harsh sentences on those culprits they managed to identify. Others might disagree, and my memory of the details is now quite vague, but there seemed to be a lack of compassion for the fact that young people might find themselves carried away in such circumstances. Some were clearly taking advantage of the disturbance to satisfy their own greed, but others had had small items passed on to them.
    Lovely to have Marnie once more feeling good and putting her past behind her. I wasn’t entirely clear whether the place she was visiting was her old school or her former home, but I did have associations to the idea of the school of an acquaintance who had been bullied at school but was then instrumental in setting up a school reunion that was filmed for a TV documentary. I think she wanted to be able to demonstrate that she had moved on, had a good job, etc, but I’m not sure I would have trusted the TV people to put together a compassionate story on a vulnerable part of my own life.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hello Anne, Thanks very much for adding your voice to the conversation. I am particularly interested in what you have said regarding the looting. You have made me question the conclusion I had made about the behaviour as lacking compassion and being mean, taking advantage of and kicking those who are already down. I guess as we have previously discussed, there is always more than one side to a story, more than meets the eye, and transferring our perceptions onto others doesn’t always reflect the truth.
      Thanks for your comment re Marnie. This piece was meant to link with an early one in which she returned to the family home after the death of both parents and told the agent to sell, happy to put that part of her life behind her.
      I’m not too sure that I’d trust the TV people with that documentary either. They would need to get their juicy story and maybe open up a few old wounds. I think I’d rather just live my life well without having to prove to my childhood bullies that I was doing so. “Proving to them” would, in some way, acknowledge the power that they had had, and maybe still had if that process was necessary.

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      1. Annecdotist

        Well, I think there’s still a viable moral standpoint that looting in any form is wrong, but I suppose there are different levels of wrongness depending on the circumstances. I feel very uncomfortable at the thought of people taking advantage of a natural disaster to ransack unoccupied homes.
        Oh yes, I remember the original Marnie story now, and it’s wonderful how she’s developed through Charli’s prompts. And I think you’re absolutely right that “proving to them” continues the power imbalance, yet it can be hard to walk away from grievances from the past. I don’t know whether it worked for this person as a step towards leaving the past behind or not, but I do think the involvement of the TV crew could have complicated the process of “moving on”.

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thanks again, Anne. I probably shouldn’t have expected readers to remember their initial encounter with Marnie. In fact, many readers may not have even read that first episode. I guess it is the job of the writer to fill in enough gaps for the story to make sense to the reader.
          I definitely agree with you about the intrusion of the television crew. I wouldn’t like that one bit!
          🙂

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  4. Bec

    Hi Nor, as always thanks for an insightful and interesting post. Like Geoff, I find the glimpses into Marnie’s story fascinating, and intriguing. I am reading ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ at the moment, by Virginia Woolf, and I really like the way I get to follow the characters around as an observer of their haphazard and unexpected thoughts. The writing style reminds me a bit of James Clavell’s Shogun, where the narrative seems to pass between the characters, moving from one to the other as the characters’ paths cross. That was a bit of a tangent, but I like the way your stories about Marnie, like the insights in Mrs. Dalloway and Shogun, help to show how much depth there is to every person behind what we see on the surface. And in steps compassion, as you and your contemporaries in this wonderful community of bloggers have explained, to help make us appreciate that there is always that depth, even when we don’t – or are unwilling to – see it.

    Glenn and I have been reading about and discussing Stocism a wee bit recently, and although a paradigm apart from compassion, these lenses, or schools of thought, or whatever you want to call them, seem to be threaded together by the common theme of mindfulness – being thoughtful, assuming there is more to everything than what is on the surface, and taking the time to challenge first impressions.

    Your discussion of compassion in the classroom made me think of a Life Matters program (actually I think there were a couple of episodes on this theme) earlier in the month about the place of religious education, ethics, and scripture lessons in schools. I tuned in at the point where ethics lessons (in New South Wales) were being discussed, and I thought it sounded fantastic. Teachers help students to work through ethical dilemmas and other thought experiments while always keeping their own opinion or thoughts out of the discussion. There is no ‘right and wrong’ enforced, only the students’ examination of ethics. Then the program turned to the scripture lesson, and – although you will know where my thoughts stand on this – it was very disappointing to hear a young student’s questioning be stifled. The example I’m thinking of is a recording of a scripture lesson where a child was asking ‘If Adam and Eve were the first humans, how are there so many people now? Didn’t brother and sisters have to marry?’ and so on, and the “teacher’s” response was something like ‘it’s confusing, but you should just accept it because the bible says it is so’. The contrast, to me, couldn’t be more stark. How do we learn compassion, if compassion requires deep thought and reflection, when children are taught – when in the context of learning about how to “live right” – that they are to not think deeply, and rather should just accept the surface of things. Though I think it is great to learn about religions, just as it is about culture and history, it is a shame that the ethics lessons are only in one state in the country, and in that state there has been campaigning by the Christian lobby to get rid of the program because, presumably, it encroaches on the space of religious instruction.

    The Life Matters program is great, and I love the sound of the ethics programs. The ethics teachers are volunteers, the person interviewed I believe was a philosopher in a NSW university.

    Here’s a link: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/god-and-the-classroom/6073526

    So there’s another tangent for you, Nor – I hope you’re getting used to the oblique thoughts your writing provokes!

    P.S. I agree you have a very lovely community of kind, thoughtful people, and I consider myself fortunate to be able to e-meet these folks through the blogs!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Bec, Thanks once again for a lovely long and thought provoking comment. I think I’ll have to capture your comments and put them into a post!!
      Firstly, thank you for your comments on my flash and Marnie’s developing character. Thank you for reading the depth into it.
      I’m interested that you and Glenn are discussing Stoicism at at the moment. I know we had a bit of a discussion about it here on my blog for Stoic Week last year. There is certainly a lot to think about with it.
      I like the sound of the ethics classes you mentioned. I think they are very valuable, and how great that the students are encouraged, and provided the opportunity, to do their own thinking and develop their own opinions. I have just finished reading “Hitler’s Daughter” by Jackie French and there are many ethical questions raised in it. I think it would be a wonderful book to discuss with children from about 10 years of age. How sad, then, to compare these classes with the shutting down of thought experienced in the religious education classes. If their belief is strong, they should be able to discuss it all openly and respond intelligently to any questions. Similar to this was a response to a statement made by my grandson in his prep class this week. The teacher was talking about fairies and he (my grandson) said that fairies weren’t real. The teacher said to him that there could be fairies in his garden. To “pretend” that there might be fairies is one thing, to “believe” is another. (This is also beginning to sound like other conversations we have had!)
      I haven’t as yet had a chance to listen to the program for which you provided the link, but I am looking forward to doing so.
      Thanks for encouraging my thinking and for being a part of this great online community. I very much enjoy the discussions. 🙂

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      1. Annecdotist

        Great tangential discussion here, there’s always so much to think about in your posts and comments.
        I just think how hard it must be for children when they are ahead of their teachers in some matters. I imagine your grandson being quite proud of his knowledge and then feeling knocked back by the teacher’s rebuff. I guess it’s hard in a classroom juggling potentially contradictory worldviews among the children, but there’s really no excuse for telling a child he is wrong when he’s right.

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  5. macjam47

    A wonderful compilation of thoughts on compassion. I had already read most on their blogs, but will not read the ones I missed. I believe compassion exists everywhere, but sometimes life’s “dark side” stand in the forefront. And don’t get me started on the media, I think they have gone from merely reporting the news to fanning the flames.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks so much for adding your voice, Michelle. I agree with you about the media and their fans. Sometimes they have to work harder than others to incite unrest, but other times they seem to do it almost effortlessly. They do their best to manipulate our thinking in order to promote their own (hidden) agendas. Critical thinking is a very necessary part of citizenship.

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  6. Pingback: Feeling Good « Carrot Ranch Communications

  7. Charli Mills

    It’s true how unexpectedly nature can be devastating. You would think that our natural inclination would be to ban together against the storms, but that’s not always so. I, too, am grateful for the values expressed in our blogging community. Thank you for the thoughtful listing of #1000Speak blogs posts from your blogosphere! As always, I come to your posts as if each were an extension of your own classroom. I feel stimulated and encouraged to learn as if you were modeling the compassionate classroom.

    Marnie must feel good, that’s a huge burden off her soul. I know that teachers do make a difference. I had teachers who opened my mind to learning, my imagination to stories that showed me a better way and my heart to reach out to others. Had it not been for a few special teachers, Marnie might have shut down to ever knowing what it is to feel good. You’ve really developed her story!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for you lovely comment, Charli. I really appreciate your support. I’m pleased that you had those teachers who opened your mind to learning and showed you how to reach out to others. You certainly learned that well. You have a large and generous heart, welcoming us all to sit at your table and learn from your wisdom. Much appreciated! 🙂

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  8. writersideup

    In order to not weigh me down more than life can, I avoid pretty much all TV and certainly the news unless there’s good reason to watch it. And I’m so sorry to hear about the devastation from the cyclone. The looting is something I’ve never understood either. It comes down to “I need it, you’re not my problem” thinking 😦

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing, Donna. I’m inclined to agree with you about TV and the news. I have noticed that Anne has expressed a slightly different view of looting in her comment. Interesting. I’ve tended to think about it in the same way as you. It doesn’t seems mean to me.

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      1. writersideup

        Norah, I’m not sure if you understood me correctly with the way I expressed it, but I definitely think looting is mean. It’s a very self-centered way of thinking, only worrying about what they want, even if it’s taking from someone else 😦

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  9. latasun

    Thanks Norah for adding my link. It is a first for me and feeling very proud about it. I loved it that you compiled a list of stories you loved from the #1000speak and I felt I should have also done that!. Thank you.

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  10. TanGental

    Another set of thought provoking links; Noddings (great name btw) is interesting as is Block. And the FF is really good. The think what I love about how your flash writing has developed is the way that we now see the stories that lurk behind the flash – you create a world of depth, asking us to wonder at what has happened and to fill in those histories with our own imaginings.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you Geoff. I’m pleased you like the flash. As Charli sets each new challenge I wonder about what aspect of Marnie’s life I might be able to draw upon to respond. I hadn’t ever thought about developing a character in this way, but it is certainly giving me a lot the think about. I can move between the experiences she may have had at different ages but don’t yet have to pin any down. I’ll wait and see what develops and adjust her experiences and responses to them as they form more solidly. At this stage I am not too concerned about conflicts as I am working these parts of her character out. This piece actually refers back to an early one (maybe even the first) where she tells the agent to sell the house and dumps the toy unicorn in the bin as she leaves. Thanks for always reading so carefully and thoughtfully. 🙂

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      1. Charli Mills

        The workshop I took on book development with Mary Carrol Moore was helpful in this regard. She said we can write scenes like islands and then come back to rearrange them all into one land mass. It gives one the freedom to explore and think creatively how to tell the story. It’s exciting to be on this adventure of discovery with you and I love how Marnie’s story can embody all that you value in education.

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        1. Norah Post author

          I feel authenticated by your comment. I’m not the only one to go about exploring a character and story in this way. I hadn’t even thought of my flash being that in the beginning. Your prompts have just drawn it out of me! Like a good teacher: education means “to draw out”. 🙂

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