Category Archives: Quotes

Of puddles and rainbows

wonder-socrates

In her beautiful picture book Once Upon a Picture Sally Swain asks readers to wonder about famous artworks by Renoir, Klee, Van Gogh, and Rousseau.

once-upon-a-picture

I am very much in favour of wonder, and have written about it before in

Is it any wonder? about reclaiming your right to wonder;

Breathe – a sense of wonder! about watching nature close-up with live butterfly kits in the classroom;

Wondering in the everyday reminds us to pause and observe our surroundings; and

Noticing and Wondering: Kicking off and supporting enquiry shares a post in which Aaron Eden on Edunautics, Exploring a World of Learning questions whether there could be any skills more important than noticing and wondering.

questioning-einstein

This week Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch got me wondering about rainbow puddles with her flash fiction prompt to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rainbow in a puddle. Is it a silver lining of sorts or a false reflection? Think about what it might mean or convey. Simple science? Hope? Or the doom of humankind? Create action or character reflection.

I wasn’t sure if rainbows would be seen in puddles that weren’t coated with oil, but it did make me wonder.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir The Umbrellas ca. 1881-86

Pierre-Auguste Renoir The Umbrellas ca. 1881-86

Sally Swain invites readers to wonder about the girl with the hoop in Renoir’s painting “The Umbrellas”. Swain asks, “What does she want to do? Play?” and illustrates her thoughts with pictures of the girl playing in the muddy puddles that are inevitable on a rainy day. There is not a hint of rainbow though.

Rainbows are common in works for children.

rainbow-fish

There is the beautiful series of Rainbow Fish books by Marcus Pfister with a simple message about the joy of sharing, of making oneself happy by making others happy too.

There are songs such as Somewhere Over the Rainbow” sung by Judy Garland in her role as Dorothy in the movie version of The Wizard of Oz, and Sing a Rainbow.

Rainbows are also popular for helping children learn maths facts and colours.

Of course, there is the science of rainbows too; but before the science comes the wonder: looking at rainbows in the sky, and wondering.

rainbow-wonder

When I was a kid we loved playing with the hose or in the sprinkler. Depending on the angle of the water and the sun, we could make our own rainbows, we didn’t need to wait for rain.

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This got me thinking of children who might go for years without seeing rain, or therefore a rainbow, and how exciting their first sighting might be. I have combined a few of these ideas in my flash. I hope you enjoy it.

Of puddles and rainbows

For children of the drought who had never seen rain, the gush when the pipe from the bore burst a seam was a rare opportunity for water play and unexpected learning. While Dad and his Station Hand worked to repair the hole, the children danced in puddles under the cooling spray.

“Look at the colours,” a child exclaimed, trying to capture each one. The men paused to smile at the children’s delight, remembering their own childhood glee. Mum watched from the verandah – without their precious resource, there’d be no washing off mud or cooking the dinner that night.

Thank you

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

 

 

Can I keep the change?

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rattling sound.

Charli mentioned a variety of rattling sounds:

  • Hail – “Balls of ice the size of frozen peas” rattling on her RV

(Here’s a video of some pea-sized hail dancing in my garden recently.)

  • Political divisions and discussions, with each side clamouring to be heard but only sounding “like discordant hail on a fiberglass roof”

(Remember that saying about “Empty vessels make the most noise?”)

plato-empty-vessels

  • The saber-rattling incident in Chilean history “when a group of young military officers protested against the political class and the postponement of social measures by rattling their sabers within their scabbards.”

In her prompt, Charli suggests that the rattling sound could be “an intimidating sound of protest, a disorienting loud sound, a musical expression or a gentle baby’s toy.”

I thought of the rattle of coins – reasonably familiar in my childhood, less so now.

australian-imperial-coins

When I was a child, most transactions involved the use of cash – notes and coins. Back then, before the introduction of decimal currency just over fifty years ago, we had pounds, shillings and pence.

Decimal currency certainly made calculations easier but, though I remember my mother occasionally writing a cheque, transactions were still made mainly with cash.

I am from a large family and the finances didn’t stretch to pocket money. However, I do remember the occasional threepence to spend at the shop beside the school. I think they may have been gifts from the “tooth fairy”. How we agonised over which sweets to buy – maybe a rosy apple, four aniseed balls and some musk sticks.

Occasionally we might find a coin in the sand at the playground or beach, or be gifted one or two from an aunt, uncle or grandparent. Sometimes, when sent to the shop for bread or milk, we’d ask if we could keep the change. Sometimes the answer was “Yes”!

Although the anticipation of a purchase was heightened by the sound of a couple of coins jingling in a pocket or purse, we were also keen on saving them toward future desires.

The money box most of us had back then was a tin replica of the Commonwealth Bank’s head office in Sydney.  The clink of coins being added to the box was music to our ears, as was their rattle as we shook it to determine how full it might be and how much we may have saved.

The trouble with these money boxes was twofold:

  1. It was impossible to do anything with them quietly, and
  2. It was practically impossible to extricate any coins once they were in. The tins could only be opened with a tin opener! Sometimes, with the right tool, the opening could be widened and one or two coins could be removed, but the shaking and rattling required was a real give-away.

How different it is for children today. Not only are many transactions made using credit or debit cards, many purchases are made online. No cash, no “money” is seen to exchange hands.

Nonetheless, it is still important for children to understand monetary values and to be able to calculate the cost of items. I think it is good for children to have pocket money for which they can make decisions regarding spending or saving. The ability to save up for something, to delay gratification, is an important part of maturation. I wonder how many of today’s children are sent to the store on their own and, if so, whether they can keep the change.

The use of technology means that even cashiers (is that term also becoming outdated, like hanging up the phone?) are no longer required to calculate. The register does that for them. Yes, they do have to count out the change, but that involves little calculation.

With the changing values, too, Australia no longer has one or two cent coins. Five cents is the lowest denomination, and I doubt that a child could buy anything with just one, not even an aniseed ball or a musk stick. I wonder how long before it too disappears.

While online shopping, and paying with cards and phones is becoming commonplace, it is still important for children to handle, recognise, and become familiar with money. They need to be able to compare the value of coins and notes, and perform calculations with them. It is important for children to realise that a greater number of coins doesn’t necessarily mean more money.

australian-coins

The images on the coins and notes also provide an opportunity for learning about our Australian animals and significant people and events in our history. Perhaps in the lifetimes of today’s children, coins and notes will go the way of our Imperial currency and become simply items in a museum and history lessons.

For my response to Charli’s prompt, I have gone back to the days of coins rattling in pockets and money boxes, when thinking of the wonderful things that a few coins could buy was pure delight.

Can I keep the change?

With the string bag slung over his shoulder and the purse clutched tight, he was on his first big boy errand. And, he could keep the change. He rattled the purse. What possibilities awaited. Should he hurry to get the money, or dawdle and contemplate? Regardless, he got there soon enough.

He handed the purse to Mrs Kramer, who extracted the list and gathered the items. As she counted the coins into the till, he announced, “I can keep the change.” She peered over her glasses, then held out one large brown coin. He trembled: what could he choose?

australian-imperial-penny

A penny for your thoughts!

Thank you

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

You’re not allowed!

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How many of these did you hear when you were a child?

  • You’re too small
  • You’re too big
  • You’re too young
  • You’re too old
  • It’s too far
  • It costs too much
  • It’s too dangerous
  • Girls don’t do that
  • Boys don’t do that
  • It’s too …

Sometimes it was difficult to find an activity that, like Baby Bear’s bed, was just right. Oftentimes it was only ‘just right’ in the eyes someone wielding the power; and not always in the eyes of the one wishing to have, do, go, or be. Setting limits is often easier than chasing possibilities.

starr-cline-creativity

Many years ago I read What Would Happen If I Said Yes?… A Guide to Creativity for Parents and Teachers by Starr Cline.  Cline writes about creativity, emotional intelligence, giftedness, intelligences, diversity, and the power of “Yes”. On her website, she makes this statement:

“After years of observation and research, I have drawn the following conclusions:

  • Everyone has the ability to create.
  • The external environment is critical in the development of one’s potential, whether it be in mathematics, language, the arts, etc.
  • Individuals may have one or more areas in which they excel
  • IQ scores do not reflect specific talents or abilities
  • Creativity begins diminishing at about third grade”

I’m inclined to agree, and feel especially sad about the last point she makes.

What Would Happen If I Said Yes? challenged me to think about ways in which I could parent (and teach) more positively and encourage, rather than inhibit, creativity; encourage a willingness to try new things; and to avoid placing unnecessary limitations upon others and myself. I can’t say I was entirely successful, but I did make some gains.

In the book, Cline suggests that you “STOP every time you are about to say no. THINK about what might happen if you said yes!”  Consider the worst scenario that could occur if you said yes, and whether it would be really that bad, or even likely.

She says to consider why you may say No.

“Is it because …

You don’t want to be bothered

It wasn’t your idea

It’s a habit

Someone treated you that way

It makes you feel powerful”

She reminds that the messages saying “No” often sends are:

“Your idea is stupid

You are stupid

You’re not capable

You’re not worth it.”

In the long term, are these negative messages more important than a temporary inconvenience, or than the benefits that would accrue from positive responses?

But don’t get me wrong. Cline doesn’t suggest you just say “Yes” to everything. She says that sometimes you may need to come up with a creative way of saying no. She provides many ways of doing so in her book, which I recommend as a great read for both parents and teachers.

Even as adults we can find ourselves in situations where certain things are not allowed and rules are imposed, such as in the workplace or in clubs and other organisations.

Sometimes the things we are not allowed to do are self-imposed limits; we may not allow ourselves to do things because:

  • It’s scary
  • It’s unfamiliar
  • We feel uncomfortable
  • We don’t know anybody there
  • It costs too much

camping-1289930_1920

Sometimes, as I explained about my attitude to camping in a previous post Around the campfire, we make choices and find ways of justifying our decisions, at least to ourselves if not to anyone else. There are many reasons I choose to avoid camping, many other things I’d prefer to do, and I don’t often consider myself to be missing out.

Although I can appreciate camping’s appeal to others, it was only when I read a late comment by Bruce Mitchell that I began to consider some of the wonders, including Antarctica, I had missed. Maybe I’ll be more adventurous next time round!

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about something or someone not allowed

In her post, Charli speaks of many injustices, including the rules that say who is and is not allowed to vote in elections in the United States. The rules affect many, for many different reasons (or petty excuses based on power) and tend to be divisive rather than inclusive.

charli-mills-gift

Charli says that,

“The greatest gift you can give is to allow another. Allow someone else to listen to their favorite music. Allow someone else to tell you their story. Allow someone to connect to you even if you feel harried. Smile back, nod, acknowledge, empathize. Be loving. Some among us have denials you can’t see stamped upon their countenances because of circumstances.”

While deciding what we will or will not allow our children to do may seem trivial in comparison, surely bringing up our younger generations to be confident, independent, responsible, and accepting of others, allowing them to join in; creating an inclusive society, is something to strive towards. Perhaps if we allow our children, they will allow others.

For my response to Charli’s flash, I’ve gone back to childhood. Where else? I hope you enjoy it.

Not allowed

She knew they were in there. She heard their chatter. Her knocks began timidly, then louder. The room hushed. There was rustling, then padding feet. She waited. The door opened a peek. Her loving sister’s smiling face appeared, then contorted unrecognisably.

“You’re not allowed!” the monster screeched, and slammed the door.

She froze – obliterated, erased, smashed to smithereens. She was nowhere, nothing. Why? What had she done?

She could only shrug when Mum asked why she wasn’t playing with her sister.

Later, at dinner, she viewed her sister’s sweet smiles cautiously. Was she real? When would the monster reappear?

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

It’s not what you see

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This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills is talking about the effect of changing a lens on how things are viewed. She says,

 “No matter what lens we apply, there is something to be seen in each of us that is worthy.

Perhaps if we focus differently, we might actually achieve peace.”

This is true too of children. Sadly, I think too often children are seen for what they are not yet, rather than appreciated for what they are. Childhood is all too fleeting, and with the current focus on assessment and teaching-to-the-test in many educational systems, it is becoming almost non-existent. Recess and free-play times are being eroded to cram in more cramming time.

I recently read an article in the Washington Post that told of children in a US school having to walk laps during a 20-minute recess. The supposed intention was to get the children active. However, most children would be naturally active if allowed the freedom to run and play. The benefits of free-play activities for health, well-being, and social development would be far greater than that of walking laps.

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This practice contrasts with one described in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald. Children in Finland have fifteen minutes of mandatory outdoor play every hour, whatever the weather. “Fresh air, nature and regular physical activity breaks are considered engines of learning.”

Each of these practices recognises the importance of activity, but each has a different way of providing for it, and only one is effective. I wonder why those with the power to make positive changes in education, fail to see the damage being done by didactic and test-driven practices that rob children of any love for or joy in learning. It seems to matter little what lens is used, they are unable to focus clearly on what matters most.

In this TEDx talk, Nancy Carlsson-Paige explains what happens When Education Goes Wrong: Taking the Creativity and Play out of Learning.

Towards the end of the talk, beginning at 12:45, Nancy says,

 “The difference between understanding concepts and reciting facts is very important for us to understand right now, because it captures the essence of what is happening in education today. There is a gross misunderstanding of what education is that has swept across the country, and the unfortunate belief is that you can direct teach, and you can measure and you can quantify learning; but the truth is, it is only the most superficial and the most mechanical aspects of learning that can be reduced to numbers. Unfortunately, this mistaken idea about the nature of education has pushed down to our youngest children. “

She says that when we “drill and grill” kids, we not only lose the power of the learning experience, we lose all the amazing capacities that children bring to us in education:

  • initiative
  • creativity
  • the ability to define and solve their own problems
  • originality of thought
  • invention of new ideas
  • perseverance
  • cooperation.

She says that when we take those capacities out, we take away the love of and joy in learning, not only from the children but from teachers too.

These are themes that are familiar to regular readers of my blog, and the most influential when I decided to leave the classroom. More than thirty years ago I wrote a poem to describe the differences between what often is, and what could be.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Sadly, I cannot say that nothing has changed. It has. The differences have become more stark.

Here is my response to Charli’s prompt to: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using a lens. It can be literal, like looking at the world through rose-colored lenses or the need for spectacles.

pink-sunglasses-clipart-1

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my rose-coloured glasses.

What you see

They saw him for what he wasn’t and what he lacked, not for what he was and what he could be. Their ill-fitting garments failed to clothe, and their unpalatable diet failed to nourish. If only they’d zoomed in upon his potential. Instead the wide-angled lens showed a panorama of disadvantage: an excuse for failure to fulfil his needs or enable his possibilities. A lens in proper focus may have seen a burning curiosity, a rich imagination, a wisdom older than time, and a heart in harmony with the universe. Instead they considered the negatives not worthy of development.

Thank you

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

Room for one more

Squirrel Heaven

Have you ever squirreled anything away? I have.

In the year prior to my 50th birthday I squirreled away every $5 note I received. By the time my birthday arrived I had stored over $1000: enough to purchase a charm bracelet to mark the achievement of a half-century. Now, almost a decade and a half later, it would be impossible for me to repeat the process. From using cash for most purchases at the dawn of this century, I now use mainly card and rarely carry cash. How quickly and, unless giving thought to it, almost imperceptibly the changes occur.

To some, the differences in the seasons in the part of Australia in which I live are subtle, with the changes almost imperceptible, at least when compared to the four distinct seasons occurring in many other places. However, changes do occur and are obvious to those who are attuned to them, especially the Indigenous Peoples of Australia.

I was reminded of this when listening to A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold, a book recommended and referred to numerous times by Charli Mills. I second her recommendation.

A Sand County Almanac

The book is divided into twelve chapters. In each chapter Leopold describes the subtle differences that occur from month to month in the environment around his home. I marvel at the detail of his observations and the knowledge that he gleans from subtle changes. In March he says,

“A March morning is only as drab as he who walks in it without a glance skyward, ear cocked for geese.”

He then goes on to say,

“I once knew an educated lady, banded by Phi Beta Kappa, who told me that she had never heard or seen the geese that twice a year proclaim the revolving season to her well-insulated roof”,

and asks,

“Is education possibly a process of trading awareness for things of lesser worth?”

Sadly, I think many of us, myself included, are aware of the fluctuations in temperature and the coming of the storm season, but not so attuned to the habits of animals and seasonal variations in plants. The majority of our native trees are evergreen and, in our insulated and insular cities, changes in the natural world are less obvious. Indeed, many seasonal changes are obscured by artificial means.

In cooler climates animals have adapted to the changing seasons in various ways. Some migrate; some, such as squirrels, store food for the winter; and some hibernate.

While some Australian birds, moths and other animals migrate, I am not aware of any squirreling away large stockpiles of food to see them through the cooler seasons (please inform me if there are any I should know about); there is but one native Australian mammal hibernator, the mountain pygmy possum.

I have been thinking of this in relation to the flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week. While Anne Goodwin, blogging at Annecdotal may have instigated her thinking about squirrels, Charli included the metaphorical as well as rodent  variety.

Until visiting in London in 2014 I had not seen a squirrel as they are not native to Australia and, until checking just now and finding this article, was not aware that any had been introduced here. I saw many cute grey squirrels in parks and gardens in London and I was quite fascinated by the tiny creatures.

© Norah Colvin 2014

© Norah Colvin 2014

However, I was disappointed to find that they are not natives to the UK either, but introduced from North America in the 19th Century, and are doing just as much damage to the native fauna as are many introduced species here. At least when I visited Hamley’s, the most amazing toy store, the only toy squirrels I could find were red, the native kind.

© Norah Colvin 2016

© Norah Colvin 2016

The squirrel toy was purchased to add to others collected as mementoes of countries visited; and joined my panda from Beijing and hedgehog from Belfast.

© Norah Colvin 2016

© Norah Colvin 2016

© Norah Colvin 2016

© Norah Colvin 2016

In a couple of months, I am accompanying my grandchildren and their parents on a quick visit to Los Angeles and New York. I am determined to expand my soft toy collection, but am wondering which animal might be an appropriate choice. If you have a suggestion, I’d love to hear it please.

Meanwhile, back to Charli’s challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a squirrel. It can be about a squirrel, for a squirrel or by a squirrel. Think nutty, naturalistic, dinner or ironic. Go where the prompt leads and don’t forget to twirl with imagination.

I decided to go with the theme and make my own toy story.

toy box

One more?

They knew when she left – airplane tickets in one hand, luggage in the other – that it meant only one thing.

“Time to plan,” announced Kanga, the original and self-proclaimed leader.

“It’s too crowded!” moaned Little Koala.

All stuffed in the box inhibited thought.

“Right. Everybody out,” said Rabbit, taking over.

Squirrel, last in, was first out, twirling her tail.

Soon everyone was out, exchanging opinions. Inevitably disagreements erupted. Ever patient Kanga quietened them.

“We always make room. We will adjust. We will welcome the newcomer. Once we all were different. We still are. But we learn to get along.”

Thank you

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

 

Teacher appreciation

Readilearn bookmark

In the US, for the entire month of May, people are encouraged to acknowledge and show appreciation for teachers who have influenced their lives. Although the first week is the main focus, I think it is wonderful to have a month dedicated to appreciating teachers. While I always felt the appreciation of my students and their parents, there seemed to be little shown in the community beyond that and it was often a struggle even to get World Teachers’ Day acknowledged in some places I worked.

In previous posts here, here, and here, for example, I acknowledged teachers who had a positive impact upon my learning and my teaching. In this post I even shared a letter of appreciation written by a parent about me. It was lovely to read Emily Case’s Reflections on Teacher Appreciation Week and the acknowledgements she received from students and parents.

From time to time I have shared the work of other inspiring teachers, and discussed with many, teachers who had influenced them. I was pleased to read this email in which President Obama honoured his fifth grade teacher, Ms Hefty. He said that she made everyone in the class feel special, and reinforced the value of empathy, a message which he carries with him every day.

Thank you to my wonderful students, and their lovely Mum who made this for me!

Thank you to my wonderful students, and their lovely Mum who made this for me!

He wrote of librarians and their important role in bringing people and books together, and of programs to provide books for those who might otherwise not have access. He acknowledged that reading for just 20 minutes a day can have a powerful effect upon one’s life. I’m delighted to say that on those issues the President and I agree. They are familiar topics on my blog.

For me there is nothing like passionate educators sharing their love of learning and the joy they receive from working with children.  I have to admit that it gives me goosebumps; but I am a softie at heart.

In this post I am delighted to share with you a TEDX talk by teacher Lisa Lee who shares her passion for education and admits, as I also have, that she has learned more from her students than they ever learned from her.

In the video she shares her belief that

“Every single person has the capacity to make a difference”

She also discusses the Common Core, but perhaps not in the form those words may conjure up for you. She speaks of the common core in the heart, and says it must come first. I can do nothing other than agree with her words:

The common core – everyone one of us needs to be “valued, respected and accepted and seen as who we are”

I hope you enjoy the video.

Please share your thoughts and, if you care to, your appreciation for a teacher who inspired you. As President Obama said it can be a teacher who inspired you, a book that changed you, or a college that shaped you.”

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback.

Thankful and inspired: schools and education

I have just watched the movie “He named me Malala”. The message has not lost its importance or impact. Sadly the need for her message to be heard and responded to has only grown over time. I share this post again as a reminder of Malala’s courage, strength, and determination. She says, “The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born.”

Norah Colvin

In recent posts there was some discussion about the importance of education, the value of schools and the role of teachers. I thought it timely to re-share this post, first published in July 2015.

Earlier this week I read a post by Kimmie of Stuck In Scared about Ten Things of Thankful. I have also read many other posts about things to be thankful for. These posts prompted me to share something for which I am thankful: schools and education.

I know that I often write about what I consider the shortcomings of traditional schooling and make suggestions of how schools could be improved. However I live in a country that values education and in which every child has a right to a free education. For that I am thankful. Those of us who have access to schools and education are the lucky ones.

This week I have been…

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