Playing with possibilities

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Creating an environment which nurtures children’s learning and development is as important as creating an environment that nourishes and encourages the growth of plants in a garden. The link between the two was first recognised by Froebel in the early 19th century when he coined the term “kindergarten” which translates to “garden for children” (kinder meaning child and garten meaning garden), and created the first educational toys.

Froebel “devoted his life to educating children and developing methods to maximize human potential”. He was the first to recognise the importance of a child’s early years (birth to three) and considered creativity to be something in all of us.

Froebel’s kindergartens were the first “formal” education for young children and his work greatly influenced that of other educators such as Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner. His beliefs, for example that children have both unique needs and capabilities are still influential today. He believed in the importance of play and some of his toys were favourites of people such as Buckminster Fuller and Albert Einstein.

I have touched on the topics of play, creativity and children’s uniqueness in previous posts. A respectful, encouraging, nurturing and stimulating environment underpins all that I value in education; as does a belief in the power of play to develop understandings of self, of others and relationships, of the world and how things work, and to inspire thoughts of what could be, to imagine possibilities never before imagined.

The poem Education is expresses my beliefs about education and has informed my decision making every step of the way.

In documents prepared for introducing myself to other educators or potential employers I explained it this way:

Statement of values:

I value individuality over group consensus

I value creativity over conformity

I value self-discipline over imposed order

I value ingenuity over “one right way”

I value choice over restriction

I value questioning over silence

I value independence over dependence

I value self-confidence over submission

I respect children as people in and with their own rights. I provide an environment which is rich, stimulating, open and caring, and in which the characteristics I value can flourish.

At the time of writing it I believed it to be a true reflection of my values and the environment I provided in my “Create-A-Way” sessions, and would provide in the independent/alternative school I was working towards establishing.

The values of the “school” I was setting up were stated this way:

Colo Values

Just as it is important for gardeners to learn from the wisdom collected by other gardeners, it is important for teachers to learn from the wisdom collected by other educators.

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Without a set of guiding principles it is easy to be blown off-course by the winds prevailing at the time. While I acknowledge that I may have fallen far short of the values espoused, that they guided my direction, decisions and choices could not be questioned. The current climate makes it difficult, but I am yet to read of a time that could be considered a golden age of education.

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This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about roses; roses that grow in gardens and roses as symbols of life’s pleasures and joys. She challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a rose.

Because my blog has an educational focus, I always like to give Charli’s prompt an educational twist. Over recent months I have enjoyed the additional challenge of finding a way of applying the prompt to the life of Marnie, a character whose story I have been developing.

Marnie is from a dysfunctional family and suffers many disadvantages. Fortunately she has found an ally in an art teacher who helps her develop self-respect and hope for a better future. A few weeks ago (in response to a different prompt) we learned that she had lived under a different name after leaving home. Could it perhaps be Rose, a name inspired by this interaction with her adored teacher?

99

Still life

Marnie observed the roses Miss R. had arranged for class, carefully assessing the colours and studying the lines while sketching them on the canvas, striving to match their perfection. Oblivious to all but Miss R. and the roses, for one hour nothing else mattered.

As other students streamed out Marnie hung back to chat with Miss R.

Miss R. handed her a rose from the vase saying, “You are that rose. You may be surrounded by thorns, but the beauty of the rose is inside you. Remember that always. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Thank you

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

24 thoughts on “Playing with possibilities

  1. Bec

    It’s lovely to witness one of the more positive moments in Marnie’s life, and we are so fortunate that there are teachers like this one (and the author of this blog!) who do their best to make every student feel valued.

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  2. Pingback: Among the Roses « Carrot Ranch Communications

  3. Annecdotist

    Your flash reminds me what a delicate task it is working with neglected children. I have a sense that that little bit of kindness will go a long way with Marnie yet, because it’s so rare in her life, it could skew her development in a particular direction as she is so eager to please Miss R. Another interesting layer of her story.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Anne. It certainly is a delicate task. I think this kindness will be of great benefit to Marnie. I hope it doesn’t skew her too far off-centre, but may be draw her back towards that! 🙂 I appreciate your comment, and coming from your background in psychology gives me more to think about. 🙂

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  4. macjam47

    Statements of values pits the restrictive with the more open, encouraging thoughts on education, as does your infographic with the positive traits highlighted in the stars. All of your posts are so encouraging, and inspiring. Every parent would be so fortunate to have you teach their children.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Irene. I appreciate your support. Sometimes I hesitate about sharing things like values as I wonder what others will think. Knowing that you and others agree is encouraging. I’m pleased that I was able to write a little more positively about Marnie’s story this time. 🙂

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      1. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Not everyone is going to have the same values although when it comes to education it is hard to think why you wouldn’t have those values (but I’m sure there are those that don’t). As long as people communicate and have a conversation with an open mind and then agree amicably to disagree I think the debate is a healthy thing. We have to be challenged in our beliefs to form them in the first place and being able to communicate them makes it clearer in our own heads as to why we believe what we do. Sometimes we have to say it is time I relooked at an aspect. I suddenly had that happen the other day when I was having a discussion on forgiveness and suddenly realised that I haven’t forgiven the US, UK and our involvement in Iraq and this was stopping me from moving on to a new space that I should be in my thoughts regarding the current conflicts. But enough said about that – that really is an area where conversations can get overheated.

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thanks for popping back with that additional comment, Irene. I think an open mind is indeed an asset and requirement for true learning and discussion to take place. It is easy to think we have it. Sometimes it is only when our ideas are challenged that we realise we may not be as open as we like to think.
          I like what you said about the power of forgiveness in moving on. Sometimes it is easier to “think” forgiveness in the head than it is to “feel” it in the heart. Shifting it from head to heart can take a long time. I think recognition is probably a good place to start. 🙂

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  5. Sarah Brentyn

    Of course you would do the children’s garden. I should have known that. Perfect. I somehow like thinking of Marnie as a rose surrounded by thorns. It would be nice if the thorns weren’t there but then, of course, it wouldn’t be a rose. I do like your “star” ideas. That’s what we’re all trying to teach our children. (Maybe not all at the same time…) 😉

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Sarah. I’m pleased you like thinking of Marnie as a rose. I quite like that too. I’m thinking she may have a small rose tattooed on the inside of her forearm as a reminder of Miss R.’s words; and of her taken name. 🙂
      You are doing a fabulous parenting job, teaching your sons great values through daily living.
      I hope your week is going well. 🙂

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      1. Sarah Brentyn

        I have good days and not-so-great days so it’s annoying but nice that I get the good ones. Thank you. We try. I hope each of my boys has at least most of those stars. That’s what we’re aiming for — the stars. 😉 P.S. LOVE the idea of Marnie getting a tattoo of a rose as a reminder of this day.

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thanks Sarah. I hope you are making good progress and get some good news soon. I think your boys will have most of those stars, if not by now, they will soon.
          Thanks for you encouragement re Marnie’s tattoo. I’m not into tattoos myself, but I think Marnie probably would be and would see this as a way to remind herself of her inner beauty and value. I hope so. 🙂

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  6. Charli Mills

    I had not made the connection between gardens and kindergarten, though I understood it was German. Those are all good values to espouse and as you say, our values guide us. I’m sad to think that the current state of education makes it difficult for teachers to set sail by their values. Your flash is a beautiful one for Marnie. I feel her blossoming under Mrs. R’s thoughtful care.

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  7. jan

    My children were both Montessori kids and I used to love to explore their classroom – something about that method of education brings out the curious and creative in all of us.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing, Jan. I know a few people whose children have attended Montessori schools, some for just the preschool programs and some through until high school. How long did your children attend?

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  8. TanGental

    Yes we do benefit from the accumulation of wisdom as long as it doesn’t become a mantra of thoughtless repetition. Not likely with your pithy insights, Norah. And as usual your flash neatly encapsulates the point for us all of separating the superficial from the substantial.

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