Are you coming or going?

© Norah Colvin

My mother used to sometimes say that she didn’t know whether she was coming or going, meaning that she was a bit frazzled with too much to do and too little time. With a small house filled ten children, is it any wonder?

Sometimes when asked “How are you going?” meaning “How are you going in life?” or simply, “How are you?” people respond, “Getting there”. Sometimes I wonder where they are getting, and wonder if they know too.

But does it matter? Is it important to know where we are getting? Is not there joy in the journey itself? What if the “there” turns out to be totally unexpected, a surprise? I have no idea where I’ll be after the door on this life’s journey closes. I hope it’s a pleasant surprise, but I’m more inclined to think it will be no surprise at all. This convinces me that it is important to enjoy the journey whether we’re coming or going or anywhere in between.

One of the purposes of education is to support people along their life’s journey, regardless of where they came from or where they are going.  I previously wrote about some issues affecting itinerant families in This too will pass. Saying goodbye to friends, if indeed there has been time to establish friendships can be difficult; so too the establishment of new friendships at each next place.

Robbie Cheadle, who blogs at Robbie’s Inspiration, recently shared her experiences in a comment on the readilearn blog. She said, “I changed schools 14 times during my primary school years and it was very hard. I was always the new girl and always having to start over. It does teach you to get on with people and to be resilient.” Robbie obviously learned to do so, but it doesn’t happen that way for all.

Sherri Matthews, another friend from the S.M.A.G. community, who blogs at A View from my Summerhouse recently shared her excitement at the publication of her essay Promise of a Rose Garden in Lady by the River: Stories of Perseverance, “a collection of  personal stories about facing everyday challenges”. This is a wonderful book and I have no hesitation in recommending it to you.

In her moving story, Sherri describes “having her heart ripped out” at ten years of age when she realises that the goodbyes exchanged between herself and her father as she left for school were more permanent than she expected. She says she kept her feelings inside, telling no one how she felt about her mother leaving her father. She says, “I cried alone at night, missing my dad so much that I thought my heart would break”.

These two experiences alone demonstrate that we may never know just what the children in our classrooms are experiencing. They may keep their feelings inside, not wanting to share. This is particularly so when the time that could be used for getting to know each other is pushed out to accommodate more drill and practice and standardised testing.

No child’s situation is the same as any other. There is no standard experience that puts everyone in the same spot on the graph at the same time. We need to make the effort to get to know individuals and to tailor the situation to their needs. This means providing opportunities for them to share their experiences, discuss their feelings, and follow their interests.

Of course, children should never be pressured to share more than they are comfortable with, but an open, welcoming, supportive classroom will provide them with a refuge from other issues that may confront them. I seem to keep returning to this point: the importance of a warm, welcoming, supportive classroom. I’m like a broken record, stuck in that groove. But it is the relationships that are vital and of greatest influence to a child’s ability to learn.

There are many simple activities which can be incorporated into the school day to help build community. I’ve talked before about the way I used to do the roll, with each child standing in turn to greet classmates. How much more effective it may have been had children said “good morning” in their mother tongue, teaching others the greeting, and receiving it in response. Children enjoy learning words from other languages.  What a great celebration of diversity this would be.

It was these thoughts that went around and around in my head this week when Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a hello or a goodbye. You can pick any greeting that grabs you from howdy to fare thee well. It will be interesting to see how the collection intertwines the opposite greetings. Charli herself has experienced a series of hellos and goodbyes in recent times, with another goodbye imminent.

For my goodbye story, I have taken another turn and gone full circle. I hope you like it.

Round and round

He felt tall, grown up, sitting in the saddle, holding the reins, feet in the stirrups.

Mum was watching.

“Hold tight,” she whispered. “Love you.”

He smiled.  Then they were off. He turned, letting go quickly to wave one hand.

“Goodbye,” he called. His lip quivered. How soon before he’d see her again? He turned, but she’d disappeared.

Suddenly she was in front of him.

“Hello,” she called.

“Hello,” he smiled.

Again, she was gone. “Goodbye,” he heard; then “Hello again!” He giggled.

“Going around in circles,” she thought. “Life’s like a carousel. You’ve got to enjoy the ride.”

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

60 thoughts on “Are you coming or going?

  1. julespaige

    I think the last time I was on a carousel was when I attended a winter wedding. I actually have a photo of my hubby on of all things a frog! I think someone told me that the difference between a carousel and a merry-go-round is that only one of them has animals that go up and down or is it that only one has all horses? Either way enjoying life is a must.

    (I am so behind on visits I fear I may never catch up…but will keep trying. Right now I’m trying to enjoy some quite time while looking out a hotel window at the Ohio River on the Kentucky side – the sun is setting at 7 pm… the river is always moving but the blue of the sky makes a nice color to the water.)

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    1. Norah Post author

      That’s an interesting comment about the difference between a carousel and a merry-go-round. I always thought that a carousel had animals and seats on a fixed base, and a merry-go-round had horses (or other seats) that swung out on chains. According to results in a Google search, the difference is in the direction in which they turn. Carousel is the name given to them in Europe where they turn clockwise; and merry-go-rounds in the US where they turn anti-clockwise. My understanding is as an Australian. It seems there is much we can’t all just agree on! 🙂
      Don’t worry about catching up. I’m miles behind too. It sounds beautiful where you are. I’ve had a week catching up with family and friends and very little reading or writing time. People are important. 🙂

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      1. julespaige

        I think you are probably correct about the difference in the rides. Something to keep in mind when I find one…as there are so few of them left. I remember being at the New Jersey shore and being on an outside jumper to catch brass rings, that were mixed in with just steel ones. If you caught the brass ring you got a free ride.

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            1. Norah Post author

              The images are obviously of a merry-go-round. The horses are all facing anti-clockwise. The image I used is also a merry-go-round. The horses and carriages are going anti-clockwise. I took the photo on the Santa Monica Pier last year. So that’s correct. By my definition, I would have called it a carousel. I’ll have to look for a pic of what I refer to as a merry-go-round. Thanks for sharing.

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              1. julespaige

                Odd though in the article that the terms Merry-go-round and Carousel are used interchangeably. Oh…I’ve been on the Santa Monica Pier too! There is another Merry-go-round that I’ve been too…I’m going to look it up to see if it is still around…
                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broad_Ripple_Park_Carousel
                The years don’t seem to be right…I thought I rode this in open air…but then maybe not. The years aren’t lining up (so to speak, I thought we road it outside, but maybe we did inside the museum?). But there is a nice history in the article. It is one of the oldest and has been declared a National Historic Landmark. 🙂

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                1. Norah Post author

                  Thanks for all the information, Jules. I’m so pleased this little post sparked your curiosity, imagination, and rekindled memories, even if they don’t line up exactly. It is interesting that the two terms were used interchangeably in that article. I noticed that too. I guess it brings us back to that important thing: critical literacy. We must accept that every text is written by a person who may or may not be an authority on the subject. When in doubt we need to verify with other sources. We’ve had a fun time going around on this together.

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  2. Kate

    I’m catching up on some reading and had to stop to comment on this one! I for one support your broken record – a warm, welcoming, supporting classroom (and teacher) makes such a huge difference in any child’s life! I was one of those students who responded to a supportive teacher who showed interest in me and challenged me at the same time. Great us of the prompt – I could not imagine a more perfect setting than a carousel for a story about hello and goodbye.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Welcome back, Kate. Thank you for stopping by to read and comment. I’m so pleased you had supportive teachers who showed interest in you and challenged you. Thank you for your comment about my flash. You’ve captured a child wonderfully in your own flash this week.

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  3. Sarah Brentyn

    Interesting about the different languages and greetings. I think quite a few such as French, Spanish, German, and Russian (when translated literally to English) say “How are you going?” Or “How do you go?” And I’m going round and round like your little boy in the flash. 😉 Perhaps not as happily. Very cute and great use of the prompt.

    When asked how I am, I often say, “I’m getting by.” I’m know what that means but not quite sure what “getting there” means. I understand it but, like you, wonder where “there” is. I need to enjoy life’s journey a bit more. 💖

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m sorry you’re going around in circles but not having fun like the little boy in my flash. I hope the merry-go-round stops soon and lets you off for a while. Sometimes we need to take time out to realise where we are on our journey, and just be. Look after yourself. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  4. Mabel Kwong

    I hear “how you going” a lot, be it at work or in social circles, and it is usually the first thing people ask me. It’s quite an ambiguous question, but sometimes I ponder it over too much and struggle to come up with an answer more than “Good” or “The usual”. Agree with you that it is the journey that matters. It is over time where we pick up experiences and learn from them – even if we are having a hard and challenging time, there is something to learn from it.

    “support people along their life’s journey” This is a wonderful view on education. I may not teach a classroom of kids, but at work I am required to train and provide guidance to new colleagues – each of whom have different lives and come from different backgrounds. Each of my colleagues are very eager to find meaning in what they do at work and I am equally eager to help them to achieve what they want to achieve – and be better people out of it 🙂

    Sherri is an amazing writer. It was an honour to publish alongside her in Lady by the River, and her chapter is incredibly moving. We are alone if we want to be alone. Alone time can be a time when we reflect upon ourselves and learn to do things ourselves. But also, if we reach out, that can also be an equally eye opening, educational experience.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Mabel, thank you for your very lovely and very thoughtful comment.
      “How are you going?” is one of those phrases which must puzzle speakers new to English. We have many of them that just don’t stand a literal translation.
      I’m impressed that your learners are just as excited as you in wanting to find meaning in their work. How much more rewarding this must make the experience for all of you.
      Congratulations on the publication of your story in Lady by the River. I haven’t read it yet. I will read it next (hopefully this evening). You are right in saying that we all need time to be alone, and time to be in the company, and receive support, of others. Or indeed, give support to others.
      Thank you very much for popping by to read and comment.

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      1. Mabel Kwong

        When I first heard the phrase ‘How are you going’? I really thought of it literally – like where I was going right now. I’d take it would mean what am I doing right now, or where am I headed (like the supermarket).

        My learners at work always like to ask questions. Which is a good thing because that shows they are engaged and really want to learn 🙂

        This was such a great write, and it was a pleasure to read, Norah .

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thank you for your kind words, Mabel.
          Last night, I read your story Reality in “Lady by the River: Stories of Perserverance” and thoroughly enjoyed it. As a fellow Australian I was interested to read your impression of life in Australia. It is important for us all to understand how society impacts each of us. I admire your perseverance and thank you for sharing your wisdom. I particularly appreciated these two pearls: “When we have the courage to believe in what we do, it is only then that we can be the person whom we want to be.”
          “When we let go of what others think and stop thinking about what others think of us, we find the freedom to do what we really want to do.”
          Best wishes.

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          1. Mabel Kwong

            It is so kind of you to read my chapter, Norah. I am touched that you took something away from it, and I had an amazing time writing it. Also, glad to have connected with a fellow Australian in the blog world world, and I look forward to reading more of educating and education on your blog 🙂

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  5. Pingback: Hello, Goodbye « Carrot Ranch Communications

  6. susanzutautas

    Loved your flash!
    I’m one of those children that moved so many times during my school years. I hated it. Every time I’d make a friend or two we’d up and move again. With my own boys I swore that would never happen and it didn’t. They all grew up with so much confidence, something I’ve always lacked.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for sharing your experiences, Susan. I’m sorry your childhood was so disrupted by constantly moving home. How wonderful for your boys that you were able to break the cycle and provide for them what you didn’t have but wished for.

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  7. Sherri Matthews

    What a wonderful post Norah, and thank you so much for mentioning my essay and ‘Lady’. Again, I am truly honoured that you both read it and enjoyed it, you are very kind to share it here. Thank you too for sharing Robbie’s comment. I agree, there is no doubt that my experience taught me great resiliency and an ability to get on with people from all walks of life. A child finds ways to survive, of that there is no doubt. Despite my heartbreak at ‘losing’ my dad and being ripped away from my home, school and friends, I went on to thrive at my new school. Yes, I held in my pain about my dad, which wasn’t ideal by any means, but somehow I found a way to deal with it. A life long pattern really. But…the big but… I wish it hadn’t happened, no doubt about it. And it hurts me terribly to think of all those children who go through their parents’ divorces and suffer in silence. One of the reasons I kept quiet was because I was the only one out of my school mates whose parents had split up. None of my friends went through that. Sadly, it is far more common today. The kind of classroom setting you provided and encourage now for all educators goes such a long way to help with that. And how wonderful to encourage children to express ‘good morning’ in different languages. How important for a child to feel accepted and validated in a safe and nurturing environment…your work to help facilitate that is vital. Love your flash, so sweet and lovely the way it captures the initial worry of the child but then his joy at ‘coming and going’, life in full circle indeed and it really is about enjoying the ride. SMAG dear Norah and huge hugs! 🙂 ❤

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences here a little more, Sherri. I hoped you wouldn’t mind my sharing what I did. It is interesting the way times have changed. There were few divorces back when I was a child. A few of my aunts left violent husbands, but I didn’t have any classmates with divorced parents. Sticking it out in violent or unhappy situations isn’t always the best thing for the kids either. That’s the trouble. It’s never just black or white.But then that’s what makes it interesting too.
      I’m pleased the flash worked. And S.M.A.G. to you too. I’m so pleased you keep reminding me of it. 🙂

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      1. Sherri Matthews

        No worries at all dear Norah…just so sorry it’s taken me this long to reply to your message. Things have been pretty hectic but you will be pleased to know that at least I’ve been able to snatch some memoir writing time when I can, meaning blogging is having to take a back seat once again, as I just can’t manage it despite my hope I could do ‘short but sweet’. I will be signing off with a post – been trying to for the past couple of weeks – to let everyone know, although I’m barely hanging by a thread as it is! But absolutely, I am honoured that you would share anything of mine. Oh I am glad your aunts left their violent husbands, how terrible for them. And yes, you are so right about it never being black and white…always so much more than meets the eye isn’t there? I hope yo well my friend…I will see you very soon, as soon as I come up for air… love, hugs and loads of SMAG! 🙂 ❤

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        1. Norah Post author

          Hi Sherri, I’m pleased you have found some time for memoir writing. I think it is a good idea to sign off from blogging for a while so you can concentrate on finishing your book. You don’t need to add an unnecessary guilt trip to the baggage. Look after yourself. I look forward to seeing you when I see you. 🙂 Hugs and SMAG back!

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          1. Sherri Matthews

            Thanks so much as always dear Norah. This is the first time I’ve checked in for a while…always lovely to find you here with your happy, cheery smile and lovely message. I’ll be okay so long as there’s SMAG and plenty of hugs…and of course, knowing that things are going well for you. So glad to see you on FB too…see you soon my friend! 🙂 xxx

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                  1. Sherri Matthews

                    And a couple since gone by! Here’s to another weekend and then, hope beyond hope, to return to the Ranch as soon as possible. I miss you and all there so much…but great to see you on FB. Big hugs and SMAG to you my friend! 🙂 xxx

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                    1. Norah Post author

                      Yeah, and another one bites the dust! So much to do, too little time! Thank you, Sherri. It’s always delightful to bump into you too – wherever that be. 🙂

                      Like

  8. Charli Mills

    I’m glad to see you spreading the S.M.A.G community spirit, Norah, just as I picture you building a welcoming classroom built upon familiar greetings at role call. Your flash is delightful, and brought up a memory of my own children on a carousel, fervently waving each pass. Thank you!

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  9. Annecdotist

    Interesting how different cultures have different types of greeting. Your opening reminds me of travelling on foot in rural North Thailand when people would greet you with Where are you going? (in Thai) but it actually meant Hello (or at least that’s what we thought).
    Anyway, I loved this post, as usual, and the reminders of your thoughtfulness as a teacher in creating a friendly classroom. And I love the flash – although you did give the game away a bit with the image at the beginning.

    Liked by 3 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      I guess the “Where are you going?” in Thailand demonstrates the difficulty experienced in word-for-word translations.
      Thank you for your kind words of support about the post and the flash. I did give it away a bit, but hoped it worked anyway.

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  10. thecontentedcrafter

    You captured the feeling of a very young child on their first merry-go-round experience perfectly Norah! And of course preceded by a wonderful article. The issues that are important to you as an educator are, I think, the issues that should be important to all educators – and to all bureaucrats who fancy themselves as knowing what is best in schools. 🙂

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  11. macjam47

    A wonderful post, Norah. My youngest son’s classmates experienced an extraordinarily large number of divorces, more than 60% of the class. The most heartbreaking were the kids who tried to hide their hurt. Those that cried, expressed anger, or in some other way openly dealt with the situation seemed to fair much better. Unfortunately, most of the divorces occurred during the children’s adolescent years.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your comment, Michelle. Sixty percent is a lot, isn’t it? I wonder how that will affect the future generations of partners and parents. Your observation that those who were open in dealing with the breakups fared better is interesting.

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      1. macjam47

        I’ve often wondered the same, Norah. When I was in high school back when divorce was rare, there were two classmates (twins) whose parents divorced. Neither of them ever married because of the trauma from their parents divorce and events leading up to it. So sad.

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  12. robbiesinspiration

    Splendid article, Norah, and I was pleased to see my comment mentioned. I hope it helps people to know that you can learn to adapt to continuous change and that it is not something to be feared. I enjoyed your 99 word story, that is so true. Goeie Dag (Afrikaans), Sawubona (Zulu), Dumela (Setswana) or Hello.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Robbie. Thank you for your supportive comment. I’m pleased you didn’t mind that I mentioned you. I thought the point you made was very helpful. Thanks for adding the greetings. Do you use them all?

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