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. 🙂

49 thoughts on “When ideas mesh

  1. robbiesinspiration

    I am indignant on your behalf, Norah. Of course non-fiction writing is creative. I write books about investing in Africa and I research 10 to 15 different sources and create facts and graphs to support a view. That is creative and to discover a new way of looking at the facts is creative too. I wouldn’t give that woman’s comments a second thought. I know you are creative as I can see it in your lovely ideas for teaching and your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your indignation, Robbie, and your lovely comment. Maybe as non-fiction writers, we are more attuned to the creativity required. We still need the right word, the right phrase, and the right voice to connect with our audience appropriately. It’s not just a matter of slapping down some information. Discovering new ways of looking at data and information is definitely creative and hugely important.

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  2. Pingback: Through the Mesh « Carrot Ranch Literary Community

  3. Charli Mills

    From the first time you rode onto the Ranch, I knew you were a creative! I was so amazed at the combination of skills you have and the entrepreneurial spirit you possess. Some leaders are not fit to lead. She made a wounding remark, and I’m pleased you overcame it. Likely, with perseverance and creativity! And speaking of creativity, look how wide your mind spins on a prompt — you bring back the most creative angles! I would not have thought about the mesh used to strengthen concrete. Hopefully, we are all part of the mesh for each other.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Charli. Your words mean a lot to me. I do often feel I’m the odd one out with all the creative fictioneers about. Like many creatives, particularly introverts, feeling we don’t belong is almost a given. It hits hard when another applies the label as if it’s written on our faces for all to see. Don’t they know what an effort it is to get there in the first place? That’s what’s so lovely about Carrot Ranch – we’re all accepted as we are – warts and all. (Actually I don’t have any warts!) Yes, my mind diverges. It never stays still for long. Not like the rest of me! 🙂
      But yes, we do mesh well at the Ranch – probably more closely than the concrete mesh – more like your mesh. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. Charli Mills

        I think we mesh at Carrot Ranch because we share common ground which is built on creativity with words. O often find it strange when people put expectations on what a creative should look like. Personally, I like warty creatives!

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  4. Sarah Brentyn

    Hmm. Well, that was downright shitty of the ‘leader’, first of all, to say. But I also agree with you that she was wrong about it. For many years, I developed writing workshops. That was what I did with my writing. For kindergarteners, teenagers, middle-graders, and adults. None of which I felt were formulaic. They came from a deep well of creativity inside me. I still love some of those programs and have used them with other classes and my own kids.

    I’ve seen your educational writing and it’s far from formulaic. It’s creative. I think you know that but just putting my two cents in. 🙂

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    1. Sarah Brentyn

      P.S. I think you should put your ‘P.S.’ is a separate post. Just the survey. Put it out there. Here’s a form if you can spare a moment of your time or if you could pass it on… It’s tucked at the end here. I don’t know. Just a thought. 🙂

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thanks, Charli. I’m thinking maybe a Twitter and FB post first. I seem to have lots of blog posts going at the moment and don’t like to bombard people. We’ll see, maybe in a week or two, or/and in the new year. I can’t believe it’s almost the new year! Where did this one go? My list is too long to accomplish in what’s left!

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    2. Norah Post author

      I appreciate that you put your two cents in, Sarah. It’s far more valuable than two cents to me. I also appreciate that you consider me to be creative. I guess my brand of creativity is a little different from that of others in creative writing groups. I understand the difference. I feel the difference. But I don’t accept the put-down and dismissal.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for the warmth of your comment, Jennie. I’m pleased you enjoyed the story. I think all these experiences we have, help us grow in empathy and understanding of the needs of our little learners.

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  5. Annecdotist

    You correctly illustrate how that woman lacked your creativity and teaching skills to dismiss you that way – and she loses out on the opportunity for an acknowledgement in your magnus opus. However, I suspect it’s a trap I could easily fallen into myself in equating creative writing with fiction, if I hadn’t had the advantages of Internet connections with you and others who use your writing creativity in different ways.
    I think we should celebrate all kinds of creativity. Some people are good at thinking up practical solutions to problems. Some might be creative in their style of dress.
    I’m amazed the prompt made you think of the mesh in concrete. Fascinating how our creativity takes us in different directions. Your flash made me think of the difficulty of removing a concrete path because the mesh in the middle! We were wishing the former owners of the garden hadn’t known the mesh would help to keep it stable.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Anne. You don’t know how excited I am to think that I surprised you! Hopefully, that means I’m not too predictable after all. 🙂 And I like your alternative view of the importance of mesh in concrete. It does rather support my view though. 🙂
      I love your second paragraph – that we should celebrate all kinds of creativity. And I acknowledge the difficulty in defining what may and may not be creative. I like to think of it as finding a new and original way of doing or looking at things. I love it when thoughts are expressed in original ways, or someone innovates to improve something already existing. I guess what I didn’t like about the ‘formulaic’ judgement was the speed with which it was made and that she put me in a box and closed the lid – a lid I didn’t want to have closed. I am rather claustrophobic. I prefer to think of my teaching ideas as encouraging children’s creativity and imaginations as opposed to suppressing their thoughts with mindless repetition. I would like to change the types of activities many children are condemned to in too many classrooms. But you know that. Sorry for the rant. Her attitude still makes me cross, though I can understand where she was coming from.

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  6. roughwighting

    “A Creative.” How I like that term! I never thought of myself in that way, but now, thanks to you, I shall.
    I’m a non-violent creative, in my spoken words and in my writing. BUT, I’d like to give a verbal slap to that ‘teacher,’ who was the opposite of a Teach – her. She was a PUT down her. Yuck and Yikes. But perhaps she did you good by making you stronger in your knowledge of who you are.
    A beautiful CREATE-her. xo

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    1. Norah Post author

      Oh, Pam, I’m so happy you’re going to call yourself a creative. Who knew you wouldn’t already have regarded yourself in that way!
      The rest of your comment is just too awesome. I love the creative way you used to state your opinion. Not only that, I thank you for it. You’re awesome! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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  7. Susan Scott

    Bleep bleep re that horrible woman and her response ….
    Even though I’m not in the field of education per se Norah, I love your posts and am always a little envious at your skill and creativity and those of others who you spotlight. They stay with me. I know well the value of reading writing rithmetic to little ones from an early age. Einstein when asked by parents ‘how can we help make our children clever’ replied, ‘read them fairy stories, and then read more fairy stories’ ..

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for the warmth of your support and encouragement, Susan. I’m pleased you enjoy reading about those I find inspirational. I always enjoy sharing a good story. Isn’t that a wonderful quote of Einstein’s – a man we think of as a great scientist teaches us the value of imagination and reading. In fact he has a great quote about imagination being more important than knowledge too. I guess he showed us that it is true. He had to imagine what is now shared with us as knowledge. Being innovative and discovering new things requires a great deal of imagination. 🙂

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  8. Adele Marie

    You are a creative, a wonderful one because you write but you also give the little minds creative ideas which will help them grow. That woman is probably still feeding her ego and stuck while you have soared high above the clouds. xxx

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    1. Norah Post author

      Oh Adele, I love your comment. Thank you for your kind words. Have you read my poem “Education is”? Your words “feeding her ego and stuck while you have soared high above the clouds” mesh with it beautifully. Thank you. You’ve made my day.
      Giving little minds ideas to help them grow is definitely my goal. When I help their minds grow, mine grows too. It’s just as much for me as it is for them. How selfish of me. 🙂

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      1. Adele Marie

        It’s not selfish, Norah. The squirrel takes nuts and hides them away but some drop and become giant trees. lol I don’t know if what I’ve just said makes sense. But, please keep on doing what you are, you are a star. xxx

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks so much for your support, Geoff. I really appreciate it. I’m so pleased you agree with me on this one. I was worried everyone would agree with her and tell me I’d got it wrong! I hope you’re not all just being polite.

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  9. thecontentedcrafter

    Oh! Oh my Norah! Well someone was in the wrong group – and I don’t think it was you! When I was training to be a teacher my favourite lecturer talked constantly about ‘the art of education’ it is a catch cry in my type of education. Dry, arid and formulaic education doesn’t work – we see that in the reams of uninspired, unmotivated school dropouts who haven’t been reached, who have been passed over, just as you were in that group. All good educators are looking for inspiration, asking how can I inspire, interest, get my point across? All good educators self review constantly, seek feedback wherever they can and constantly try to up the game for themselves and their students. Good educators seek out constantly new and relevant ideas, plans, thoughts, games, songs music, dances and general content. Good educators look to be inspired. The content they deliver is then relevant to the students age level and understanding. It is interesting, enlivening and reaches through hands to the the heart and finally the head, I think the mesh that holds a class together is the content.

    I’m sure you are also asking the users of your website for feedback and I have been and will continue to mention your site to folk I meet who might be interested. Have you visited local schools yet Norah?

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    1. Norah Post author

      Pauline, you’ve done it again. I’m sorry I’ve drawn out the educator inside you that never fades away. Again. I love it. I’m not really sorry at all. 🙂 Your description of good educators is spot on. What a survey it would make. Are you a good educator? Do you … I wonder how many would fare. I like to think I’d tick “yes” in all boxes.
      You’ve got me thinking about the mesh that holds a class together though. I’m wondering are you right? Is it the content? I’m thinking relationships; positive relationships in which each one is valued. And this makes me think of a video by Rita Pierson I shared some time ago. She says, “kids don’t learn from people they don’t like”. Here’s the video.
      https://embed.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion
      I’ll think more about the mesh being content, relationships, or other. It’s great to have thinking challenged.
      I have asked for feedback from current readilearn users, Pauline, but hoped to get some feedback from further afield too. I haven’t visited local schools but have contacts in most of the schools closest to me. It is something perhaps I should give more consideration to. Thanks for the suggestion.

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      1. thecontentedcrafter

        It’s a good discussion point isn’t it Norah 🙂 I know I always seem to end up having something to say about education even though I’m not working with children and teens any more – it doesn’t seem to ever go away does it. I guess I think that forming good relationships is endemic – because I agree you get nowhere if the child feels unseen and unvalued – don’t we all respond negatively when we meet that? As a teacher I always saw the work of the first year with a class (remember my school has units that stay together for seven years) as being one of relationship building across the board. Without that there could be no basis to build your community on. And I always wanted to have a supportive and tolerant and safe classroom community.
        Without that, it seems to me, in the ensuing years there would be no platform for your teaching content to land……. So in effect you are correct! 🙂

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        1. Norah Post author

          I think for us true teachers, the little ones and our concern for their welfare linger in our hearts forever, tugging at the strings, forcing us to reflect, as we always did.
          I’m so pleased you consider good relationships to be endemic. Maybe they were for you and your colleagues in your Steiner school. How wonderful. I’ve seen so many negative relationships, sometimes I think they cloud my impression of schools. I’m sure there are many more wonderful than not, but it takes only one inappropriate splotch to spoil the painting. (Talking about painting, have you seen “Loving Vincent” yet? It’s magnificent.) I must work to make that splotch blend into the positives better.
          I’d forgotten you worked with the same group of children for seven years. The most I ever did was three, which was a pretty awesome experience.
          I don’t need to be correct. I was just interested in working it out through discussion. I appreciate that you’ve helped me see it from your perspective. Whether we’re “right” or “wrong”, agree or disagree, it’s only through discussion that we can come to understand another point of view. Thank you for sharing yours and expanding my understanding. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

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  10. dgkaye

    Loved this Norah. First, let me say you absolutely are a creative! And I loved the subject of this post – building foundations. My newest book references the importance of building a strong foundation to weather a marriage through whatever comes together. 🙂 x

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Debby, Thank you for your encouragement. Strong foundations are definitely important for holding a marriage together. I haven’t yet read your latest book, but I’ve read some tantalising blog posts and seen the gorgeous cover reveal. It’s on my list! 🙂

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  11. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    That was not a formulaic response! The mesh in concrete was brilliant. Such an analogy. I loved how the kids immediately put their observations to practice. (I loved that they were playing outside! That right there is an important part of a person’s education, but I digress)
    This was an honest and creative post. Your own inner mesh has given you resilience and perseverance even in the face of that writing group “leader”. Shame on her, and good for you. You are an inspirational Creative.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your supportive comment, D. I appreciate it. I like to think I’m not formulaic, but then I get to wondering, am I really just like all the rest. If so, they all do it so much better than I do. So, different or not, I just have to be me and do what I do. “an inspirational Creative”! I know a few others deserving of that crown. 🙂 Each in our own way.

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