Shine a light

The flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a beacon. It can be from a lighthouse or other source. Use the word literally or figuratively and go where the prompt leads you.

Charli writes about our fear of change, fear of the unknown, and of the need for guides “to bring us in to a new harbor, a light to show us the rocky shoals.” She suggests that “Perhaps blogging, writing, are mediums of light that shine a path to bridge cultural differences.” but also acknowledges that, “Instead of looking for a way, some people have backed out of the water and barricaded themselves on the beach.

I see education as the way that will bring us to a “new harbour”, the light that will “shine a path to bridge cultural differences”. Sadly, as I say in my poem about education, there is far too much emphasis on schooling and not enough on education, too much desire to keep the masses down by the insistence on conformity and ignorance rather than the encouragement of creativity.

© Norah Colvin

I was well-schooled as a child, but have spent my adulthood exploring what it means to be educated and promoting the benefits of a learner-centred education as opposed to other-directed schooling. I read of a book about “teaching backward”, beginning with what the student needs to know and working backwards. (Needs as determined by others, not the student.) I’d rather teach forwards, beginning with what the student wants to know and going from there.

When my earliest teaching experiences fell short of my expectations, I searched for the beacons to guide my way out of the murkiness in which I found myself. I devoured books by John Holt, A. S. Neill, Ivan Illich, Paolo Freire, and others, with ideas about education and schooling that were as challenging as they were exciting. I read of innovative educators such as John Dewey, Maria Montessori, and Rudolf Steiner.

The ideas challenged what I’d been taught but blended comfortably what I had learned through observation of children, including my own young child, and relating it to my own experiences. The pieces began to fit.

At about the same time, I undertook further studies in literacy learning and was fortunate to work with a team of inspired educators led by Brian Cambourne, whose work and guidance placed the piece that helped the puzzle take shape, and guided my learning journey.

Beacons, or shining lights, that guide and inspire us, are as essential to our growth as sunlight is for plants. Educators such as those mentioned, and more recently, Ken Robinson, Rita Pierson, and many others, are such beacons. We are constantly told of the success of the Finnish school system and I wonder why it is that those holding the power in other school systems fail to see their light. We need at least one to rise above the fog of number crunching and data collecting to see the bright lights shining on the hill.

Is it fear, as Charli suggests, that keeps them out of the water? I watched the movie Monsters Inc on the weekend. It seems to deal with the issue of controlling the masses with falsehoods and fear quite well. It is also a great laugh – one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen for a while. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend it.

I’ve attempted a similar situation with my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope it works.

Let there be light

Eyes squinted in the dim light under low ceilings. Immobilised by never-ending paperwork, the menials dared not look up. Flickering numbers on data scoreboards mesmerised supervisors. Inconsistencies meant remonstrations, even punishment, from above. Heads down, keep working, don’t ask questions. The system worked fine, until … Maxwell nodded off. His pencil fell, tapped first, then rolled away. Startled, Maxwell went after it. The room stilled. Sliding too fast, he slammed into the wall, activating a button that illuminated a set of stairs leading up. Everyone gasped. Maxwell hesitated, took one step, then another. Nothing happened. He continued. Everyone followed.

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

 

49 thoughts on “Shine a light

  1. Annecdotist

    I’m sure I left a comment on this last week, Norah, but WordPress seems to have eaten it. Anyway I enjoyed you shining light on your heroes of education and showing the value of true enlightenment versus bean counting in your flash.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks so much for checking back, Anne. I was prompted by your comment to check my spam folder. Maybe I should so it more often. I found three of your comments in there. Some were duplicates. You obviously persisted in trying to share your thoughts, even when WP wasn’t cooperating. I appreciate that. I always love to receive your comments.

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  2. robbiesinspiration

    A most interesting post, Norah. My children are taught using an outcomes based approach and I think it is really wonderful compared to how I was taught at school. The learning programme incorporates so much application of information. A lovely response to the prompt.

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. Sarah Brentyn

    I love Monsters Inc.! 🙂 So glad you saw that. If I’d known you hadn’t, I would have suggested it.

    This is great: beacons, for us, are like “sunlight is for plants…” And that is a fantastic flash, lady!

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. jennypellett

    I love Maxwell. I think I work with several similar to him, thank goodness.
    Great post Norah, and an inspirational response to the prompt. Makes me reckon that any student taught by you should be thanking their lucky stars 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. Pingback: Beacons of Light « Carrot Ranch Communications

  6. Marsha

    Your provocative post made me think. I could just feel the embarrassment of the sleepy boy. As always, our educational system stands at the whim of the government. A friend went to Washington DC to meet with the new Secretary of Education in late May. She wasn’t there! She has very little staff! Grants that need to be funded, didn’t have staff. That’s administrative – school stuff, but essential to public education. I just read a good book if you didn’t see my review. It’s about an educational system without teachers. (of course, that leaves me out, but it’s an interesting read.) https://wp.me/p7tP3I-OQ Remember when we used to teach units and developed them around topics that students enjoyed learning. We raised guinea pigs, silk moths, and learned to play the recorder. Then we wrote about them, did the math, etc. It was fun to teach, and I think the kids loved it as well.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Marsha, Thank you for calling my post provocative. I’m thrilled that it made you think. Sadly, there is much with our education systems that could be improved. Much that is good too – especially the teachers! Thanks for pointing me to the review. The underlying premise of Uscopia sounds as if it might have been influenced by some of the educators I mentioned in my post. After reading your opinion, I’m intrigued. You say here that it is a good book, but in your review, I wasn’t sure. I thought you wavered a little between praise and disparagement.
      I do remember teaching in units developed around topics that children enjoyed learning about!! I think it is a fabulous way to teach, and for children to learn – in meaningful contexts connected to their lives and providing opportunities for them to follow up on things of interest to them. Yay!!! I’m waving my flag.

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      1. Marsha

        You picked up on exactly what I felt. The theory behind the learning is fabulous, but not realistic. When he started talking about what he did with his own son, it made more sense. I totally agree with teaching that way, but learning without teachers, hmmmm. And to the level they were learning. In all my experience with children, I’ve never seen kids take things to the level of learning to mastery in so many different subject areas. In that respect it did not seem realistic. It’s worth the read. You should read it and see what you think.

        Liked by 1 person

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        1. Norah Post author

          I have just purchased a copy of the book. It’s sitting in my Kindle library, along with a lot of others I’ve started to read. 🙂 I was hoping it was available on audio as I just finished the one I was listening to. I’ll let you know what I think after I’ve read it. 🙂

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  7. autismmomwithanswers

    Thank you for shining your “light”” on me😃👍🏾reading a few paragraphs of your blog just did something major for me😃AGAIN, THANK YOU!

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. Charli Mills

    Norah, I always know I’m going to find education among whatever it is you post and create. Maybe I have always had a deep thirst for education, not responding well to schooling. I recognize an open mind in you, sharing in such a way to open the minds of others. And that’s what I see reflected in your flash, too. And it’s not easy to be the one to find the stars for others!

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Charli. I do my best to fit a little education into my post, however difficult you make it! If it stretches me to think, explore and make connections, especially in ways I haven’t before, then that is a good thing. I love learning and can never imagine being unable to do so. I know you meant ‘stairs’ in your comment, but I haven’t changed it from ‘stars’. There’s nothing wrong with reaching for the stars. I think it’s important to stretch ourselves and aim high. Who know where we may land.

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  9. jeanne229

    Oh how I resonated with this, having been a manager in the community college system for years. I saw our own organization grow increasingly top-heavy, marginalize the teachers (creating more part-time positions and edging out the experienced full-timers, and turning ever more enthusiastically to data-driven planning. When I left for an uncertain future as a freelance editor and ghostwriter, the hearty support of my closest colleagues validated my decision. One by one, they too have left the system, or are awaiting their escape. And yes, fascinating to follow what other countries are doing. Here of course the answer is clear why we don’t follow their “best practices.” Especially now with our new Trump-appointed education Secretary of Education, it’s all about the money–taking it away from public education and funneling it into untested charter schools and private institutes with a bad track record on outcomes ( to say the least). So your flash gives me heart Miss Norah! Sometimes it just takes that one to lead the way, to breach the non-existent barrier. Well done!

    Liked by 3 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Jeanne, thank you for sharing your experiences and showing the truth in my flash, which was quite a struggle, and I wasn’t sure if I’d achieved what I set out to do. That it resonated with you means the message did get through. Thank you. If only real education, rather than money, was in the driving seat of our schooling systems.

      Liked by 3 people

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  10. Annecdotist

    A nice tribute to those beacons of education, Norah, as well as the brilliance of Pixar. Your flash captures beautifully that escape from drudgery – and the courage it takes to leave the familiar behind.

    Liked by 1 person

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  11. thecontentedcrafter

    Brava Norah! I agree with the previous commenters, you ARE a shining light and I often wonder how many will find their way forward through reading your posts and being inspired by your words. Wonderful flash too! Onwards and upwards 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Pauline. I really appreciate your comment. I would love it if my words helped someone on the path forward. If I can shine the way to those who illuminated and inspire me, then I will have achieved something. Onwards and upwards. Yes!

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
  12. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    You are something, the way you connect and correlate Charli’s prompts with your posts on education. Positively positive. I believe you are the beacon, for keeping your light burning, not burning out, as they say in (some) education circles.
    PS, love all those educator/authors in your post.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your encouragement and kind words. They make my day. I do try to remain positively positive and not burn out. Struggling a bit with that at the moment, but hopefully I’ll win the struggle.
      I’m so pleased you admire the same educators as I. I find them all a pretty awesome bunch.

      Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Allison. I’m pleased you think so. I really struggled with what I wanted to express and am not really happy with the result. If it works on some level, that’s good.

      Liked by 2 people

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