enriching lives and communities with education

Enriching Lives and Communities with Education

Education has the power to enrich lives. By education, I mean all of life’s experiences that contribute to learning. Sometimes these experiences occur in school. Mostly they don’t.

Schooling is but a small part of ones’ education, and its ability to enrich varies depending on:

  • an individual’s circumstances and attitudes to school and learning.
  • the school culture and attitudes to children and learning.
  • and the teacher’s attitude to children and learning.

Over the years I have been aware of enrichment programs offered in some schools. The programs were available to children considered ‘brighter’, having greater potential and, possibly, even ‘gifted’. The children were those who pleased their teachers with compliant behaviour and diligent work, and whose well-to-do families contributed to school facilities. Often, the program was a reward for children who needed neither incentive nor enrichment (their lives already had both) and an easy way for schools to say they were catering for diversity and individual differences.

The model of enrichment with which I was most familiar was a selective program offered one afternoon a week. Children were withdrawn from their regular classrooms to participate. Activities included things such as problem-solving, advanced science and maths, chess, reading and writing clubs.

In my opinion, these are activities which would benefit all children, especially those from impoverished homes who received little encouragement for learning, either in school or out, or opportunity for enrichment. My belief is that ‘enriched’ individuals enrich their communities and society as a whole. My suggestion of an early learning caravan, if implemented, would help remedy the situation for some.

early learning caravan

Surely education should be about enriching all lives, not just a few. It should be about asking, ‘What can I do to enrich your life, to provide opportunities for you to learn, and enhance your potential for a successful life?’ It shouldn’t just be ‘What can I cram into you for the test at the end of the week/month/term/year?’ I summed up some of these differences in my poem Education is.

poem about the difference between education and schooling

© Norah Colvin

Of course, not all schooling is a nightmare. Much of it is enriching. You only have to read the blogs of wonderful teachers like Jennie Fitzkee, Jacqui Murray, Marie Forst, Adam Hill and others, to realise that children’s lives are enriched by inspired teachers, every day.

readilearn teaching resources for the first three years of school

My life’s work has been an attempt to enrich the lives of others through education; from my years in the classroom to my current work on readilearn where I support teachers with resources to enhance their teaching and lighten their workload.

In so doing, my own life has been enriched in many ways. You see, I consider enrichment to be something that fills one up on the inside:

  • with feelings of self-worth, self-respect and self-confidence,
  • with a sense of purpose and empowerment,
  • with trust, understanding and empathy,
  • with compassion and love for others,
  • and an interest in all that is.

Enrichment has little to do with external riches (though most of us wouldn’t say ‘no’ to sufficient to make our lives comfortable).

I have always seen my roles as both parent and teacher, so closely entwined, to be not only a giving back but a paying forward to the future of the universe. My children, biological and in the classroom, have enriched my life enormously, and for that I am very grateful.

Enrichment flash fiction prompt by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch

But why am I writing about enrichment this week? You might have guessed —in response to the prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the idea of enrichment. Use many of its different manifestations or explore reasons why it matters to the character. Go where the prompt leads.

I hope you like my story:

What Kind of Enrichment?

The meeting dragged. After analysing data, discussing duty rosters and responsibilities, lockdown and evacuation procedures, enthusiasm flagged. Jocelyn itched.  Last on the agenda; her topic was enrichment.

As she took the floor, groans and tapping pencils defied her resolve. A phone ban meant some eyes were on her, at least. Her suggestions of enrichment were met with derision.

“They don’t learn what we teach ‘em. ‘ow are we gonna’ enrich ‘em?’ Everyone laughed.

Jocelyn’s mouth opened to respond but gaped as Taya burst in bearing an enormous cake with candles ablaze.

“Now that’s my kind of enrichment.” Everyone cheered.

Thank you blog post

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

50 thoughts on “Enriching Lives and Communities with Education

  1. Pingback: Enriching Lives and Communities with Education — Norah Colvin – Unified Caring Association

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  3. Mabel Kwong

    So agree with you that enrichment should be for all children. All of us have different paces of learning. But if we’re generally slower at learning things it doesn’t mean we should be denied the opportunity to develop our skills further. Your post reminds me of my high school days in Singapore. Those who were more scientifically and mathematically inclined were streamlined into science and maths-heavy school streams, whereas those who weren’t were encouraged to take up other subjects like moral studies. This was regardless of what subjects the student was really interested in. I was put into the science-maths stream which I was good at, but at the same time I was much more interested in English and writing.

    By putting students into advanced classes, some might call these students as gifted and talented. At the end of the day, if given the correct guidance, anyone of us will be able to do these advanced classes.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Mabel,
      Thanks for sharing your wisdom and experiences. I think the model of streaming you describe was quite commonplace. I very much agree with your concluding statement, that ‘At the end of the day, if given the correct guidance, anyone of us will be able to do these advanced classes.”

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thank you, Mabel. I appreciate that you read and add such thoughtful comments.
          The notification of your post is still sitting in my inbox. I’ll get there – I promise!

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
  4. Jennie

    You have, yet again, hit the nail on the head about what is most important for children. Enriching lives is more about the heart and education is more about the mind. We need both, but the mind can’t learn until the heart is full and ready. Thank you, Norah. And, your flash fiction is very good!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  5. Patricia Tilton

    Your poem about shows so eloquently the stark differences between education and schooling — and what it should be. I saw both when my daughter was in school in 80s and 90s. With the many teachers I run across today, I can only hope the tide is beginning to change. I think of teachers like Barbara Gruener (A Corner on Character website) and many other and have hope. What you are doing to encourage and assist teacher with resources is amazing. Don’t stop!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your lovely, supportive and encouraging comment, Patricia. I hope you are right about the tide turning. I’ll have to check out Barbara Gruener. She sounds like my kind of teacher. But you are too – I learn so much from you. Thank you. 🙂

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  6. Charli Mills

    I love the ways in which education has enriched you and your enriching of it in return. That growth-mindset is enriched and I agree — those who get to be in the programs meant to enrich are “The children were those who pleased their teachers with compliant behaviour and diligent work, and whose well-to-do families contributed to school facilities.” Maybe students would have more to offer, the more offered to them without the biases of people-pleasing and parent-indulging. I see you in your flash. Do you cave and have cake or continue to battle the distractions on behalf of the students?

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      I’m pleased you saw the positives in the post, Charli. I wondered later if I’d been too negative. Sometimes, I let the negatives cloud the great. And there is a lot of great out there. Just not enough.
      Yep, I do believe that if children were offered more they’d have more to offer in return. If we can fill them up (and I don’t mean cram them with knowledge as in filling an empty vessel) until they’re overflowing, they can’t help but pour out what has gone in. And I’m talking about those things I mentioned as enrichment – self-worth, self-respect, self-confidence, empowerment, empathy, compassion etc. When a child (human) feels valued and respected, they can do almost anything. Your making literary arts accessible to all is but one testament to that. Thank you for all you do to fill us up.

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      1. Charli Mills

        I wonder why it becomes so hard to fill up children with all the enrichment you mention? I didn’t think you were being negative, but calling attention to what needs to be changed and offering ways to do it.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. Norah Post author

          I wonder too. Hopefully, the times are changing. That would be good. I’ve been enjoying listening to Michelle Obama read her memoir ‘Becoming’. I have also listened to some interviews and speeches made by Barack and Michelle – they’ve been popping up on YouTube so how could I resist. Listening to Michelle and Barack give me hope in the future. What a wonderful couple, an amazing family. We need more like them in the world. What a wonderful world it would be.

          Liked by 1 person

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          1. Charli Mills

            Michelle is such a hope lifter! That is definitely one book I’ll also get on Audible just to hear her words in her voice. She and Barack have done so much while our current administration flounders in greed, bigotry and chaos. They are showing us where the high road is.

            Liked by 1 person

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            1. Norah Post author

              I just can’t get enough of them at the moment. I listened to Barack reading ‘The Audacity of Hope’ years ago and loved it, though I couldn’t tell you anything specifically he said/wrote. I knew nothing about Michelle until reading her book and I’ve fallen in love. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

              Reply
              1. Charli Mills

                I fell in love with Micelle when she got children gardening as First Lady. Toward the end of her husband’s presidency, she made a couple of appearances and talked so profoundly about family, values, and doing good.

                Liked by 1 person

                Reply
  7. Susan Scott

    AIl students!! Teachers and parents have a huge responsibility to ensure each and every child is enriched during their growing years. Not to feed them just data, but also experience in seeing education as not only necessary but also exciting – and enriching.

    Thanks Norah, this is a lovely post and thank you for all that you do in the name of enrichment of education.

    I enjoyed your 99 words!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Susan, thank you.
      I’d love to quote your first paragraph and put it up in bright lights for all to see! So true.
      In fact, with you permission, I might just do that. Would that be okay?

      Thank you for enjoying my story and encouraging me in my quest of improving access to an enriching education for all. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Susan Scott

        Please do Norah – no need to use my name – thank you! Reading is so vitally necessary for children to start broadening their horizons and piquing their imaginations … and now that I think about it to also be in the outside world and observe nature.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. Norah Post author

          I agree with you entirely, Susan.
          Thank you for allowing me to quote you. Of course I will attribute it to you! I’ll let you know when I post it somewhere. 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Oh, Jacqui, I so agree with you. Learning might sometimes be tough but if it’s something we want to know we’ll push through until we are satisfied with the answers. It’s quite a different reason from that of students being bored in school, but we won’t go into that now. I think we’d agree on the causes, and probably the solutions. 🙂

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  8. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    Well said as ever, Norah. I love the anger I sense behind this post (or am I projecting)? We enrich society by enriching ALL children’s lives but there’s widespread acceptance of a ‘winner takes all’ model.
    I wondered about your flash, did Jocelyn join in the cheers or did she feel the cake was a distraction from what she was trying to convey? Sometimes those sugary attempts at enrichment aren’t as satisfying as we might hope.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      You’re not projecting, Anne. But I’m not sure if it’s as much anger as frustration, disappointment, disillusion and a sense of futility. Perhaps they all add up to anger. As I said to Pauline, while not a true story, the flash was based on experiences I had when employed to change the negative attitudes and ways of teachers. It was futile. How many x does it take to change teachers? None. It’s impossible. Unless the teachers want to change. 🙂
      What an enriched world it would be if we could enrich it for all. 🙂
      I appreciate your question about the flash and can see how I could improve upon it to get my message across. So, thank you. No, Jocelyn didn’t join in the cheers. She was totally floored and devastated by the disinterest of teachers in enriching their children’s education. She probably packed up quietly and left them all to their cake.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        That was the way I understood it, but wasn’t sure you would!
        And sorry it was based on your real experience. Very hard to challenge people’s use of treats to avoid the task in hand without them taking offence. And hard to change workplace culture without a concerted strategy from all major players. I don’t know what your situation was, but I think sometimes managers bringing in change agents as a way of maintaining the status quo. A recipe for burnout.

        Liked by 1 person

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        1. Norah Post author

          The role wasn’t much fun and I wasn’t very effective. I was happy to leave the position as soon as I could and teach a class of my own. I went from the worst to the best experience and never looked back.
          (The cake part wasn’t real, but the attitudes were.)

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    1. Norah Post author

      Yep, I don’t think there was much else for Jocelyn to do. She’d probably have to stuff her mouth with cake like the rest of them. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  9. thecontentedcrafter

    Oh Norah! I wonder if your other readers feel the same amount of pain I do in reading this. Your inspiring preceding article about ‘enrichment’ for all, followed by that harsh blast of reality almost brought me to tears. The world of education needs you!

    And PS – I also love your Education/Schooling poem, though I wish it weren’t necessary for you to write it.

    Liked by 4 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Pauline, Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry if I was too harsh. I need to focus more upon the positives in education. While not a true story, my flash was based upon an experience I had when employed to be an ‘agent of change’ in schools where the teachers weren’t interested in changing. It was very difficult to listen to them complain about the children and do nothing to adjust how they ‘taught’.
      I wish I didn’t have to write the poem too. It was funny how it was written. A wonderful teacher, often drowned by the negativity at one of those schools I just mentioned, was adding to her qualifications and asked me for ideas differentiating/comparing education and schooling. She was completing an assignment. The poem wrote itself. I was its vehicle. Sadly, for many it is still as true now as it was then, three and a half decades ago. And my quest remains. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. thecontentedcrafter

        I didn’t think you were unnecessarily harsh Norah – just stating facts really. I guess for me it was the reality of re-living the pain of once being there at the chalk face and meeting that apathy and blame coming from those teachers who didn’t get it. It’s impossible to change others, we can only change ourselves and hope we shine a light for others to step into. I was heartened greatly a few days ago to learn that our government is in the process of reviewing teaching practises that came into being in the late 1980’s – when education stopped being education and became places that were government legislated for technological and corporation interests. I guess the changes won’t come overnight and I also expect there will be resistance, but at least there is some sense re-entering the world of education – at least here on this tiny land mass. So take heart – change will come!

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thanks, Pauline. I love this: ‘It’s impossible to change others, we can only change ourselves and hope we shine a light for others to step into. ‘ It’s so true. I’m thinking I’ll have to make a file of blogger’s comments that are worthy of quoting. Yours certainly is! And what you have said about change is what I experienced. I hope I shone a little light. I don’t know if anyone stepped into it though.
          I have heard good things about education in NZ. I know last time I mentioned it to you, you didn’t think it was right. I’m pleased that you can see it now too – it must be real. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
          1. thecontentedcrafter

            I feel sure you have readers who are being positively influenced by your posts Norah – and I trust that Readilearn numbers and users are growing daily – there is such a dearth of good websites to aid teachers and home schoolers, they must be finding you. It is heartening to see that some sensible decisions may be made soon about education practises – My radar is sweeping for good news 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            Reply
  10. Book Club Mom

    Great story, Norah! And I agree with your earlier point that enrichment should benefit all students, not a select few. There’s always that weird feeling the kids left behind in the classroom feel, when the smart ones go off somewhere else.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your support of all kids, Barbara, and I agree. The kids must think, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ If ‘they’ only gave the kids a chance, they’d soon find out there was nothing wrong with them.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, D. That you think it’s ‘good’ is good enough for me. I wondered later had I been too cruel. Sometimes I find it easy to focus on all the negativity I’ve seen and experienced in schools. I’ve seen lots of good stuff too. Perhaps I should focus on it a little more. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Honesty and honest informed opinion is not cruel. I’ve seen what you so eloquently describe. That you are not turning away and continue to advocate for all children and better education for all speaks to your character and strength of your convictions.

        Liked by 1 person

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thank you, D. That is what I try to do. If it was all wonderful I wouldn’t need to say anything. If it was all wonderful, I could walk away and retire quietly into my box. 🙂

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