Category Archives: Philosophy

Who wouldn’t be excited with high test scores?

Regular readers of my blog are aware of my attitude to didactic top-down, content and assessment driven methods of schooling students to become machines regurgitating meaningless facts on command. A bit of push and shove it in and belch it out.  For those of you who weren’t aware – now you are!

I probably should apologise for my indecorous description as I’m usually a little more temperate in the way I express my views, but I won’t as that is how I am feeling about it at the moment. The authorities who have the power to make the changes necessary are so caught up in their own murky visions that they fail to see either effects or solutions. Every time I read another report of test scores or hear of another child damaged by a faulty system my frustration grows.  It becomes one of those hysteria blossoming days.

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A few moments ago I read a post titled “Vietnam Wallops US on PISA. Vietnamese educators belittle value of PISA” on Diane Ravitch’s blog. Ravitch is an education historian.

As the title suggests, Vietnamese fifteen year old students did better than their US, UK and most other EU counterparts in the 2012 PISA tests, ranking 12th out of 76. What I found interesting about the article was not the results but the attitude of Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Education and Training. His view that the tests don’t reflect students’ overall competence, reminded me of a letter, shared in my previous post, written by teachers to students sitting the national tests last week in Australia. (PISA are international tests).

In the article referred to by Ravitch, Dr Giap Van Duong was reported as making reference to UNESCO’s four pillars of learning: Learning to know, Learning to do, Learning to be and Learning to live together. His opined that PISA addresses only the first pillar, and in only a limited way. He said that while Vietnamese students did well on the tests, “many … students fail to land a job after graduation. (and that when) they study overseas, many have difficulties in meeting the requirements of advanced education systems like team-work, problem solving and creativity”. Perhaps they are not “out of basement ready” as described by Yong Zhao.

Duong said that the reason Vietnamese students do well on the tests is because the “The whole system operates to serve only one purpose: exams.”

Duong’s admission that Vietnamese students lack the ability to work in teams, to problem solve and to think creatively reiterates the fears of many teachers who are  ruled by expectations of high test results and provided little opportunity to inspire learning, which surely remains the real (if neglected) purpose of education. Counterbalancing one’s philosophy with an employer’s expectations sometimes seems like being caught between a rock and a hard place.

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about rocks and hard places. But Charli knows that good can often spring from those seemingly hard places through making connections. She has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows a hard place and a connection.

It is connections that are most important in my two main roles in life: parent and teacher. Neither is easy and neither will result in much good without making connections. I often worry about things I have said and the affect they may have had on others. To be truthful, occasionally it even keeps me awake at night. While I would rather think of my words and actions creating a positive ripple, there is no guarantee that, even when delivered with my best intentions, they won’t do harm.

Trevor Pilgrim shared a quote which puts it this way:

What-a-teacher-writes-on

In his article Pilgrim says,

“teachers have (the power) to develop their students and shape their future lives.  The power to turn them on or off academically, stimulate or dampen their minds and heighten or destroy their engagement and intellectual curiosity.”

Scary stuff!

At about the same time I read an article that said that the influence of teachers is not as great as one might think; that socio-economic status, amongst other things, is more important. While I am happy with the thought of having a positive effect, I definitely do not wish to ruin anyone’s life so am happy to know that my influence is not be the most important to the lives of my students.

For this challenge of Charli’s I am back thinking about Marnie’s art teacher and the hard place she found herself in when she saw the brown muddy mess that Marnie seemed to have made of her paints. That she must respond is a given; but how? Whatever she says will probably have a lasting impact so she must ensure that her response is appropriate. While her initial instinct is to express disappointment, she maintains her professional composure and delays commenting until she has thought it through.

Here is my response:

Brown.

She glanced at the child, usually so eager to please, and knew this was no ordinary day.

Downcast and avoiding eye contact, the child trembled. Her instinct was to reach out with comfort to soothe the hurt; but stopped. Any touch could end her career. What to say? Brown earth/brown rocks? would ignore and trivialise the pain. Any talk now would be insensitive with other ears listening. Any word could unravel the relationship built up over time. Nothing would harm more than doing nothing. Her steps moved her body away but her heart and mind stayed; feeling, thinking.

 Thank you

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

Finding meaning

Always look on the bright side of life’ is a philosophy to which I aspire. Many think I have achieved it but they don’t know how hard I struggle. I do try to find the good in people and situations, but it’s not always my first and instinctive reaction. When I realise I’ve reacted negatively I try to change or hide my negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. But it’s not always easy to convince myself, regardless of whether I convince anyone else or not.

It reminds me of a quote on a laundry bag which has stayed with me in eight different homes in three different states and for well more than thirty years. After all this support I have finally thought to seek out the source of the wisdom and found it to be UK poet and playwright Christopher Fry.

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I feel the quote represents me quite well; doing what I can to hold it all together and keeping those negative instincts in check by ‘nipping them in the bud’, all the while fearful of one day just losing it and letting it all out in one mighty swoosh. I guess the expectation of fewer years remaining in which I will need to keep myself contained makes me a little optimistic. (Always look on the bright side!)

I like to think I’m more of a hopeful realist than either a Pollyanna or a negative realistic. A discussion about optimism and pessimism followed a previous post in which I asked How much of a meliorist are you?  But meliorism is more a belief that the world can be improved by the actions of humans than an optimistic or pessimistic expectation of the outcome.

I believe that humans have an amazing potential for improving our world (i.e. every aspect of it). That makes me a meliorist. Recognising what is happening in the world now makes me a realist. A belief that human actions will make improvements in the future makes me an optimist, but not one without some pessimistic fears. While stories of terrorism, climate change and violence fuel the fears, stories like this TED talk by Tasso Azevedo show that improvements can be, and are being, made.

I am an education meliorist. I believe that education is a powerful agent for change and has an enormous potential for improving lives. My optimism that education will impact positively upon individual lives as well as the collective human situation outweighs my pessimism about the outcomes I see in current systemic trends and leads me to seek out educators, like Ken Robinson, Chris Lehmann , Michael Rosen, Barbara Arrowsmith-Young and Rita Pierson who share my vision of what could be.

A quest to improve my own life and the lives of others through education has been a long time passion. Ensuring that my own children experienced the benefits of learnacy, though I hadn’t heard of the term at the time, as well as literacy and numeracy was of great importance to me. I encouraged them to question, to create, to think critically, to read, to learn, to wonder . . .  There is so much we teach our children the list goes on. It is very rewarding for me to see that they have a love of learning and are passing that same love on to the next generation.

Having, sharing and fostering a lifelong love of learning perhaps in some ways contributes to giving meaning to my life. But it also leads me to question life and its purpose in ways that many others don’t.  This questioning can lead to a sense of unease, of lacking fulfilment, of needing to do and achieve more. I know others who better accept the way things are, accept each day as it comes, and are content in their existence. Sometimes I envy their complacency.  Other times I want to shake them and make them realise that there is more to life than this.

But am I wrong? Is there actually less to life than this? It is sometimes said that there is no point in accumulating wealth and possessions as you can’t take them with you when you go. But is there any point in accumulating a lot of learning and knowledge? After all, you can’t take it with you when you go either; but like wealth and possessions, you can leave it behind for future generations. If we lived only for what we could take with us, would there be a point?

I guess what matters is what helps each of us reach that level of contentment, of being here and now in the present moment because, after all, it is all we ever have.

I often think about life, existence, why we are here and the purpose of it all, constantly wavering between seeing a point and not. A recent discussion with a friend about her feelings of emptiness and needing to find more purpose and meaning in life disturbed my approaching, but elusive, equilibrium again. Will I ever reach that blissful and enviable state of contentment: knowing and accepting who I am, where I am, where I am going and how I am going to get there? Who knows? But I can have fun figuring it out. I am determined to enjoy the journey. I don’t think there will be much joy at the end!

Which is all very timely with the current flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch who talks about actions that we take to reach our goals and challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that describes a moment of being.

I hope you enjoy my response.

Being, positive

“It’s positive,” he said.

She smiled. She knew. She only needed official confirmation.

He wanted dates. She supplied.

But she knew the very moment an unexpected but welcome spark enlivened her being with its playful announcement, “Surprise! I’m here!”

She’d carried the secret joy within her for weeks, never letting on, keeping it to herself, waiting. No one would have believed her without proof. But with her whole being she knew.

Finally, after nine inseparable months, she held the child, distinct and individual. She marvelled at the tiny creation whose existence breathed purpose and meaning into hers.

Thank you

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

The Question X Revisited

Tomorrow, 20 November 2014, is UNESCO’s World Philosophy Day. Celebration of the day “underlines the enduring value of philosophy for the development of human thought, for each culture and for each individual.”
In recognition of the day I am reblogging a recent post from The Philosophy Foundation which discusses the differences between open and closed questions and explains the greater value of The Question X.
The importance of encouraging children to ask questions has been a recurring theme on my blog (here, here, here and here) , as has the need to encourage them to think for themselves rather than to become experts at regurgitating force-fed information (here and here).
The discussion of The Question X gave me a lot to think about. Maybe it will do the same for you.
Happy thoughts and thinking on World Philosophy Day 2014!

philosophyfoundation

We read this blog ‘Closed Question Quizzing, Unfashionable Yet Effective‘ by Andy Tharby the other day. The virtues of closed questioning are well known to The Philosophy Foundation as they are central to our philosophical questioning approach, so we wanted to share this extract taken from a chapter entitled ‘If it, Anchor it, Open it up: A closed, guided questioning technique‘ that Peter Worley has written for the forthcoming book The Socratic Handbook ed. Michael Noah Weiss, LIT Verlag, 2015. Some of these ideas were first written about in The Question X published in Creative Teaching and Learningand available here: The Question X. In this blog Peter has developed some of the ideas written about in The Question X.

Plato’s Socrates asks many closed questions – questions that elicit a one-word or short answer such as ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘Paris’. Dip in to any of the dialogues…

View original post 2,461 more words

Motivation – why we do the things we do

Over at the Carrot Ranch this week Charli Mills is talking about motivation, specifically the motivation of fictional characters to do the things they do. She explains that ‘motivation can be external–a desire to please, to be found attractive, to be accepted’ or ‘internal–a drive to succeed, a passion to experience adventure, a fear of failure’.

Motivation is not a new concept to this blog and I have explored it in a number of previous posts.

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In What did you do that for? Rewards and motivation I discussed the use of extrinsic rewards (such as stickers, awards and cash incentives) for school students; and questioned the authenticity of intrinsic motivation, which ‘is usually related to something of one’s own choice through interest, challenge or purpose’, in an institution at which attendance is compulsory.  I suggested some strategies that teachers may employ to stimulate an intrinsic love of learning.

why am I doing thiswhat's the point

Continuing the consideration of the effect of compulsory schooling on a learner’s motivation, the post Why do I have to? explored the use of philosophy as a tool for making the goals of education explicit. All three philosophers: Peter Worley, Michael Hand and Stephen Boulter agreed that if students knew why they were expected to learn certain things, they would be more motivated to do so.

the examined life

A discussion of the impact of praise upon a learners’ motivation and achievement was stimulated by reading The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz, a book recommended by Anne Goodwin.  The Post Seeking praise – Stephen Grosz revisited explored Grosz’s suggestion that praise could cause a loss of competence, especially if children were being praised for being clever. Responses to the post, including a guest post by Anne Goodwin, added greater depth to the discussion.

Other ideas about motivation abound.

Shelley Wilson’s blog Live every day with intention,  which promises to inspire and motivate you (‘A motivational blog about living life to the full, writing, reading and feeling inspired to follow your dreams’) is the basis of her new book ‘How I changed my life’.

In this TED talk The puzzle of motivation, Dan Pink explains that the value of intrinsic motivation is a scientific fact. While the focus of his talk is the business world, the findings are equally relevant to education. He says that external rewards may work in limited situations but that they often impede creativity. He says that ‘the secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive – the drive to do things for their own sake. The drive to do things because they matter.

Which brings me back to my motivation for writing this post and sharing these thoughts: Charli’s post, mentioned at the beginning of this article, was an introduction to her flash fiction prompt to In 99 words (no more, no less) show the underlying motivation of a character.

My motivations for engaging with the flash fiction challenges set by Charli are both intrinsic and extrinsic:

I enjoy:

  • the dual challenges of writing to a prompt with a clearly defined word count;
  • the opportunity of writing fiction;
  • exploring the application of Charli’s prompt, however tenuous, to education;
  • the camaraderie of the fellow writers and the opportunity to read and comment on their posts and flash fiction pieces; and

I appreciate the feedback, support and encouragement I receive in response to my writing.

In her prompt, Charli suggested that the character ‘may not even understand the motivation fully, but (that I should) let the reader grasp it.’ I have written two pieces in response to this prompt. I hope you enjoy them, and get an inkling of what motivates the characters.

 

More than numbers

The more he stared at the numbers the less sense they made.

They swirled and blurred. He just didn’t get it.

“Numbers don’t lie,” they’d admonished.

“But they don’t tell either,” he’d thought.

The hollowness left when all he knew had been extracted could not be filled with the smorgasbord of numbers loaded on the page.

The richness of lives reduced to mere squiggles.

“This is what’s important,” they’d said, fingers drumming tables of data.

With heaviness of heart he closed the book and walked away.

“They are not even numbers,” he thought. “If they were numbers, they’d count!”

 

 

More than words

“More!” they implored.

She surveyed their eager faces then glanced at the clock.

“Just one more?”

“Okay. Just one more.”

Before she could choose, a book landed in her lap.

“This one,” he said.

“Yes,” they chorused. “It’s a good one!”

She smiled agreement, then started to read.

They joined in, remembering, anticipating.

She turned the page.

“Wait!” he said. “Go back.”

“Did you see that?” He pointed to the page.

“But look what he’s doing,” someone else chimed in.

They all laughed.

The shared joy of a beloved book. Each time the same. Each time a little more.

Thank_you_pinned_note

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

Of rainbows and unicorns – Part 2 – Do fairy tales and fantasy still have a place for children?

I have many discussions with parents about whether they should read fairy tales and stories with magical elements to their children. These parents raise a number of issues, for example:

  • Horrible things happen – Hansel and Gretel are abandoned in the woods (by their parents) and are captured by a wicked witch – the wolf tries to trick the seven little kids left at home alone
  • Parents are often dead or absent – Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk
  • Stepmothers are mean – Cinderella, Snow White
  • Sexism, especially the need for a female to be rescued by a handsome prince – Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty
  • They contain “magical” creatures such as fairy godmothers (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty), witches (Snow White), giants (Jack and the Beanstalk), trolls (Three Billy Goats)
  • Myth of happily ever after
  • Stereotypes – beauty is good, ugly is bad
  • The presence of magic – good magic of fairies and bad magic of witches – Sleeping Beauty; magical bean seeds and geese (Jack and the Beanstalk)
  • Bullying – Cinderella

Maria L. Hughes, writing for The Little Prickle Press sums up the concerns this way:

“many of the older tales incorporated rather dark themes devoted to death, suffering and children being murdered. But then there is also a second incorporation that has to do with later Disney movies of these fairy tales and them being too happy and can result in parents thinking their child will be deluded with ideas that the world will just work for them and things will be good.”

While I acknowledge these elements occur, I am not prepared to abandon fairy tales because of it.

While I may consider a diet of only fairy tales problematic, I think something would be lacking if a child was refused access to the richness of their stories and tradition. Like most fiction, they offer an avenue for escapism. In addition, the stories can be used as a tool for initiating non-threatening discussions of the issues listed above.

In Once upon an if The Storythinking Handbook Peter Worley writes

“Stories are just one way that we are able to sharpen our own character in order to prepare for the narratives we will one day find ourselves in as the story of our life unfolds before, around and within us.” 

Following a comment by Richard Dawkins, a recent discussion on The Guardian considered whether fairy tales are harmful to children. So far the consensus seems to be that they are not.

Albert Einstein was a supporter of fairy tales and is often attributed with the following quote, discussed in more detail by Maria Popova on brain pickings.

Anne Fine, in the Foreword to Once upon an if The Storythinking Handbook explains

“In an increasingly complicated world, we more than ever want our children to be able to think with clarity, rather than lead lives hampered or derailed by all those false assumptions and unexamined prejudices that seem as easily inherited as freckles or brown eyes.

How can we go about teaching them to peel back the surface of their first thoughts on a matter, or even their strongest beliefs, and look at them with more care? . . . fiction has always fostered the moral, intellectual and emotional development of the growing child. (‘Should she have done that?’ ‘Would I?’ ‘What else could have been done?’ ‘How would it feel?’) Good stories highlight the sheer complexity of things. They furnish a far greater understanding of the world and everyone in it. For most of us, fiction has always been the earliest – and many would argue the best – instrument we have had for ethical enquiry.”

Think of the ethical inquiry that could occur when discussing Goldilocks and her break and enter, Jack’s theft of the giant’s belongings and the constant portrayal of the wolf as the bad guy; just to get you started.

Melissa Taylor on her blog “Imagination Soup” suggests the following 8 reasons why fairy tales are essential to childhood:

  1. Show kids how to handle problems
  2. Build emotional resilience
  3. Give us a common language (Cultural literacy and canon)
  4. Cross cultural boundaries
  5. Teach story
  6. Develop imagination
  7. Can be used to teach critical thinking skills
  8. Teach lessons

In a previous post about fairy tales, written in response to a flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills  I mentioned that I was not a keen reader of adult fantasy. In a comment on that post Charli mentioned that she knew others with similar feelings. I will leave you with a link to another article on brain pickings in which Maria Popova discusses the thoughts of one of the masters of fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien on Fairy Tales, Language, the Psychology of Fantasy, and Why There’s No Such Thing as Writing “For Children”

What do you think? Should we read fairy tales to children? Why/why not?

What are your favourite fairy tales and what lessons have you learned from them?

Please share your thoughts.

This is nice

If you haven’t yet visited Brain Pickings by Maria Popova, this week’s newsletter is a great place to start.

Maria Popova describes herself as “an interestingness hunter-gatherer and curious mind at large”. She gathers up all sorts of things that you didn’t know you were interested in, until you are.

Brain Pickings — “is a cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces spanning art, design, science, technology, philosophy, history, politics, psychology, sociology, ecology, anthropology, and more”.

I’m sure you will find something of interest to you!

This week’s offering If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? Kurt Vonnegut’s Advice to the Young on Kindness, Computers, Community, and the Power of Great Teachers  provides ideas, quotations and excerpts from speeches made by Kurt Vonnegut at college graduation ceremonies between 1978 and 2004.

Here are just a few that I found particularly interesting or appealing. Please visit Brain Pickings for a more complete synopsis.

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 “But I say with all my American ancestors, “If what Jesus said was good, and so much of it was absolutely beautiful, what does it matter if he was God or not?”

If Christ hadn’t delivered the Sermon on the Mount, with its message of mercy and pity, I wouldn’t want to be a human being.

I would just as soon be a rattlesnake.”

“But in our personal lives, our inner lives, at least, we can learn to live without the sick excitement, without the kick of having scores to settle with this particular person, or that bunch of people, or that particular institution or race or nation. And we can then reasonably ask forgiveness for our trespasses, since we forgive those who trespass against us. And we can teach our children and then our grandchildren to do the same — so that they, too, can never be a threat to anyone.”

“I recommend that everybody here join all sorts of organizations, no matter how ridiculous, simply to get more people in his or her life. It does not matter much if all the other members are morons. Quantities of relatives of any sort are what we need.”

“By working so hard at becoming wise and reasonable and well-informed, you have made our little planet, our precious little moist, blue-green ball, a saner place than it was before you got here.”

“When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment, and then say out loud, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

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Which ideas of Kurt Vonnegut do you find interesting?

With which do you agree or disagree?

Liebster Award acceptance responses

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Recently I nominated a number of bloggers for a Liebster Award. Out of the thirteen I nominated, six chose to share their thoughts by answering the questions I asked. Considering the percentage of responses that are often received to a survey, I think this is a great result.

Below I have presented the questions that I asked and collated a summary of each response. If you wish to read each respondent’s answers in full, please visit their blogs. I’m sure you will find much more of interest.

You may notice that not all respondents have answered every question, and that one respondent has chosen another question of her own. That’s okay. I gave them permission to do so!

Remember, these were open-ended questions with no wrong answers and everyone did a marvelous job in answering them. I am very grateful to each for sharing the depth and openness of their thoughts. I think we have much to learn from them, and from each other. This is a list of respondents with links to their blogs.

Anne Goodwin  annethology  annecdotal Anne Goodwin’s Writing Blog

Nillu Nasser Stelter, Fiction and Freelance Writer

Nicole Hewes Cultivating Questioners

Charli Mills Carrot Ranch Communications Words for People!

Caroline Lodge book word

Nanny Shecando

 

1. What do you value most in life?

Anne Goodwin

Authenticity; ambivalence; fairness; mutual respect.

Nillu Nasser Stelter

the ability to choose how I live my life. Freedom is everything.

Nicole Hewes

moments of possibility and opportunity, where the world seems open and the choices seem infinite

Charli Mills

living in such a way that I look for beauty all around me and find good even when life’s path gets rocky

Caroline Lodge

my daughter

Nanny Shecando

the chance I get everyday to make the most of it. That I can do whichever I chose to do.

 

2. What activities do you enjoy and why?

Anne Goodwin

Reading and writing; walking in the countryside; choral singing and growing (some of) my own food.

Nillu Nasser Stelter

lazy afternoons in the park with my family; sinking into a bubble bath with a good book; singing when nobody is listening and dancing when nobody is watching

Nicole Hewes

reading

Charli Mills

Activities that connect me to living in the moment: gardening, cooking and writing about the birds outside my window

Caroline Lodge

Reading and writing, and talking about both with other enthusiasts.

Nanny Shecando

any activity that allows me to be creative

 

3.What is something you wish you had more time for?

Anne Goodwin

I don’t think we can do everything (that’s what fiction is for – the chance to live other lives) and I’m reasonably happy with how I portion out my time.

Nillu Nasser Stelter

reading and writing; other creative pursuits

Nicole Hewes

travel, try new recipes, read more books, and to spend with my friends and family

Charli Mills

I’ve found that by taking time to stare at a sunset or falling snowflakes, I have all the time in the world. It’s what I do with it that matters.

Caroline Lodge

it’s not so much time as ability to fit all the things I love in my life

Nanny Shecando

read more books

 

4.What is one change you would like to make in the world?

Anne Goodwin

a shift in emphasis from a culture of greed to one of equality and compassion

Nillu Nasser Stelter

more understanding for each other, first within our own countries and then across country boundaries; clean water for all!

Nicole Hewes

change our society so that equal educational opportunity could actually exist, so that everyone could have access to basic resources, and so that money and special interests wouldn’t dictate the media

Charli Mills

contribute to world change through one beautiful book at a time; honor the hero’s journey within us all and to actualize everyday beauty

Caroline Lodge

World peace; access to books for everyone

Nanny Shecando

people holding themselves accountable for their actions

 

5.What is something you would like to change about yourself?

Anne Goodwin

I’d like to be more laid-back; a published novelist

Nillu Nasser Stelter

I’d like to care less about what other people think about me.

Nicole Hewes

I would like to be a tad more outgoing and a little less independent

Charli Mills

To stop worrying whether or not people approve of what I do.

Nanny Shecando

to practice a, “you’re full of greatness so long as you tap into it and utilise it” mentality

 

6.What surprises you most about your life – something good in your life that you hadn’t expected, dreamed of or thought possible?

Anne Goodwin

taking part in choral concerts of major classical works along with some pretty decent singers and a full orchestra. It’s a real emotional hit

Nillu Nasser Stelter

The ease of transition from single person to family life; how tiring and rewarding it would be.

I have evolved from a child with a mass of insecurities to someone who is comfortable with herself.

Nicole Hewes

Being in a relationship with a partner with a worldview quite different from mine who challenges my views and assumptions and is incredibly kind, supportive, and loving.

Charli Mills

an upheaval in my life would open the door for me to step into that writer’s life. It isn’t easy, but it is what I’ve dreamed of doing and I’m doing it.

Caroline Lodge

That it goes on getting better, that I go on learning, that there are so many amazing people in the world and I know some of them.

Nanny Shecando

that I am able to be so happy, comfortable, confident and secure in leading the life that I do.

 

7.What ‘big” question do you often ponder?

Anne Goodwin

The fact that our species has invested so much energy and creativity in the technology of warfare and so little in strategies for living in peace with our neighbours.

Nicole Hewes

Why our differences continue to lead to such polarization and why empathy can be so selective.

Charli Mills

How do I listen to God’s calling and live in the light?

Caroline Lodge

How can articulate and intelligent people inflict direct and indirect suffering upon others?

Nanny Shecando

life vs the state of dreaming. How can we really distinguish which is which? How do we know if what we perceive to be real is actually so?

8.What sorts of things amuse you?

Anne Goodwin

my husband’s dreadful punning jokes. And I quite like dark humour exemplified by the ditty Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from The Life of Brian

Nillu Nasser Stelter

Slapstick comedy and Ally McBeal; innuendo; the children

Nicole Hewes

comments that my second graders make in our classroom; when the ridiculousness of an idea is exposed by positing the same thinking in another situation.

Charli Mills

Silly little things

Caroline Lodge

Unintentional meanings in things like the sign “uncontrolled pedestrian crossing” in London.

Nanny Shecando

the daily conversations that I get to share with the kids.

 

9.What do you like to collect?

Anne Goodwin

Slugs from the garden

Nicole Hewes

copies of student work that blows me away with its insight or hilarity (I have a “smile file” where I keep these items). I also like to collect quotes and articles and stories that suggest that gender roles are actually shifting and gender stereotyping is altering. And pasta recipes

Charli Mills

Stuff from the ground that’s old–rocks, fossils, arrowheads, purple glass.

Nanny Shecando

books and old sheet music

 

10.If you could talk with anyone and ask them to explain their ideas and/or actions, who would it be, and why?

Anne Goodwin

I’d ask the women who doled out white feathers to men out of uniform in the First World War why they thought they had the right. If I couldn’t time travel, I’d ask our Prime Minister, David Cameron, why he isn’t ashamed that a rich country like ours has spawned so many food banks.

Nillu Nasser Stelter

both my grandfathers, who have both sadly died

Charli Mills

I’d love to talk to my 5th-great grandfather and ask him why he left North Carolina. He was a poet and wrote such sad verse about leaving those mountains as an old man.

 

11.What is something you can’t do without?

Anne Goodwin

My glasses, voice-activated software

Nillu Nasser Stelter

feeling connected

Nicole Hewes

a good book on my person at all times

Charli Mills

Internet!

Caroline Lodge

my daughter

Nanny Shecando

a notebook and pen

 

12.What is something important you learned about life, and how did you learn it?

Anne Goodwin

That, unlike a work of fiction, we can’t scrub out the bits that don’t work and start again.

Charli Mills

A life of truth is not an easy one.

Nanny Shecando

you don’t get anything unless you ask for it

 

13.What is your earliest memory?

Anne Goodwin

I distinctly remember standing on the steps leading up to the front door of our house, replying “two in August” to a passerby who’d asked my age. However, this being one of the stories my mother liked to tell about me, and knowing what I do about the fallibility of autobiographical memories, especially those from early childhood, I doubt its authenticity, and regard it as my mother’s memory, not mine.

Nillu Nasser Stelter

Probably my gran singing ‘Nanu maru nak’ (my nose is small), a Gujarati nursery rhyme, to me, but I often question whether my memories are real or reconstructed, so I can’t be sure.

Charli Mills

One of my earliest memories is of a black cat that I coaxed into being a pet on a ranch where I lived the first seven years of my life. That cat made me feel safe

Caroline Lodge

Someone threatened to steal my little sister. It was an early experience of a quandary: if I went to get adult help she might get taken, but could I make sure she was safe on my own. I was scarcely 3 and she was newborn.

14.What sorts of things irritate you? (Caroline Lodge)

Caroline Lodge

There are lots of things, and one of them is the pervasive idea of favourite books and writers in tweets and blogs. It’s such a simplistic, reductionist concept that I try to avoid it. I added this question, just so I could indulge in a favourite whinge.

 

The responses reflect the richness of our humanity, both the commonality and its diversity. Which responses strike an accord with you? With which do you differ?

Please share your thoughts and keep the conversation going.