Tag Archives: bullying

The Battle of Bug World – Interview with Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

This week I have the pleasure of welcoming Karen Tyrrell back to the blog. I previously interviewed Karen about her book Songbird Superhero for the Author Spotlight series. Karen has now published a second book in the Song Bird Series The Battle of Bug World.

I enjoyed Songbird Superhero, so was delighted when Karen approached me to participate in her blog tour. The fact that the book is about bugs may have something to do with it. As you saw last week, I am a fan of minibeasts, including bugs.

As soon as Karen announced the release of her book, I purchased an advance copy and was able to post a pre-review on Goodreads. This is what I wrote:

I loved Song Bird Superhero and wondered if a sequel could possibly match it. But with The Battle of Bug World, Karen Tyrrell didn’t just match it, she surpassed it!
This fast-paced page-turning story is packed with disasters that even Song Bird is not sure she can fix.
What is that nasty Frank Furter up to now? And what’s with the severe thunder storm hovering above his house? What’s happened to all the bees? And why has Song Bird’s sister

Continue reading: The Battle of Bug World – Interview with Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

Author Spotlight: Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

Read all about award-winning author Karen Tyrrell and her empowering book for children – Song Bird Superhero; just in time for the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence.

With today being the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence in Australia, today is the perfect day to introduce you to author Karen Tyrrell.

Karen is an award-winning author who writes books to empower kids (and adults) and help them live strong and be resilient.  After many years of classroom teaching experience, she continues to educate through sharing her own story of resilience as a survivor of bullying, through her words on the page, and through her workshops for adults that deal with writing, marketing, and funding, in addition to empowerment. She presents workshops for children in schools, libraries, and other creative spaces. With her flair for costuming and performance, she always conducts entertaining sessions with a splash of fun staring in her own scripted pantomimes.

In her first book Me and Her: A Memoir of Madness Karen tells of the bullying she experienced as a teacher, and of her remarkable survival story. Her second, Me and Him: A Guide to Recovery tells of the important role of her husband as support on her journey back to health.

From there Karen has gone on to write a number of children’s books, including Bailey Beats the Blah and  STOP the Bully, both of which are endorsed by Kids Helpline. She won an RADF (Regional Arts Development Fund) grant for her picture book Harry Helps Grandpa Remember about memory loss and strategies for remembering.

Karen’s three Junior Fiction novels Jo-Kin Battles the ItJo-Kin vs Lord Terra, and Song Bird Superhero share positive messages of self-belief, resilience, team building, problem solving and STEM science; each with a good dose of humour included.

It is Song Bird Superhero, a book for readers of about 7 – 10 years, that Karen and I are discussing today.

 

Continue reading at: Author Spotlight: Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

Safety in friendship

With Australia’s National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence occurring  this Friday 17 March and Harmony Day next Tuesday 21 March, it is timely to consider what we can do to ensure our schools and communities are safe places; places where everyone is included, diversity is appreciated, and others are treated with compassion and respect.

I recently wrote about the importance of teaching children strategies for making friends and getting along with others.  As for children in any class, these strategies would be very useful for Marnie and others in her class. Marnie, a girl who is abused at home and bullied at school, is a character I have been developing intermittently over the past few years in response to Charli’s flash fiction challenges at the Carrot Ranch. I haven’t written about her recently as the gaps widened and the inconsistencies grew and I felt I needed to give her more attention than time allowed.

You may wonder how I got here from the current flash fiction prompt by Charli Mills to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a honeymoon story. But my mind will wander.

Sometimes, when children are having difficulty settling in and making friends at school, are being bullied, or are bullying, it is easier to point the finger, allocate blame, and attempt to place the responsibility for a solution on others. Firstly, I think we, as a society, need to realise that we share responsibility. Secondly, we need to be the type of person we want others to be: compassionate, kind, accepting, welcoming, respectful. Thirdly, we need to teach the attitudes and behaviours we wish to encourage and make it very clear what is and is not acceptable; including “Bullying.No Way!”

We are not always aware of the circumstances in which children are living or the situations to which they are exposed which may impact upon their ability to learn or to fit in. I wondered why Marnie might be abused at home. Although I knew her parents were abusive, I hadn’t before considered why they might be so. Charli’s honeymoon prompt led me to thinking about young teenage parents, who “had” to get married and take on the responsibility of caring for a child when they were hardly more than children themselves. I thought about broken dreams, lost opportunities, and definitely no honeymoon. Such was life for many in years not long ago.

Blaming is easy. Mending is more difficult. Safety and respect are essential. I’d love to know what you think.

Honeymoon dreams

Marnie sat on the bed, legs drawn up, chin pressed into her knees, hands over her ears. “Stop it! Stop it!” she screamed inside. Why was it always like this? Why couldn’t they just get over it? Or leave? She’d leave; if only she had somewhere to go. She quivered as the familiar scenario played out. Hurts and accusations unleashed: “Fault”. “Tricked”. “Honeymoon”. “Bastard”. Marnie knew: she was their bastard problem. He’d storm out. She’d sob into her wine on the couch. Quiet would reign, but briefly.  Marnie knew he’d be into her later, and she? She’d do nothing.

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

Remember to catch up with Karen Tyrrell who writes about empowerment in my interview on the readilearn blog this Friday.

Making friends – Readilearn

What many children look most forward to about school is playtime with their friends.

Learning how to be a friend, and how to make friends, is an essential ingredient in an early childhood classroom. Children’s socio-emotional development is perhaps more important than any other as their future happiness and success will depend upon it. Happy kids learn more easily than unhappy kids.

The importance of developing a warm, welcoming, supportive, inclusive classroom environment cannot be overstated. Many readilearn classroom management resources assist teachers with this, and I have previously suggested ways of helping children get to know each other, including using class surveys and the Me and my friends worksheets to discover their similarities and differences.

In this post, I suggest strategies that can be used to help children develop friendship skills.

Continue reading: Making friends – Readilearn

Targeting prey

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills expresses her admiration for the raptors that “wheel on currents of air high above the La Verkin Overlook” near her new home in Utah. She marvels in their flight and challenges writers to let their imaginations take wing and soar.

Australia, too, is home to a large number of raptors, many endemic, several threatened. You can read about them in this Conservation Statement by Penny Olsen: Australia’s Raptors: Diurnal Birds of Prey and Owls, or in one of Dr Olsen’s many other publications.

2015-09-19-11-15-11

Narelle Oliver’s beautiful picture book Home, which I wrote about in this post, celebrates one of these Australian raptors, the peregrine falcon. The book is based on a true story of a pair of peregrine falcons that nested at the top of a 27-storey building in Brisbane city. The birds, named Frodo and Frieda, fascinated a city and, for a while, had their own reality show “Frodocam”.

As often occurs, my thoughts head off in a different direction when thinking of Charli’s prompt. Rather than the beauty and magnificence of these amazing birds, it was the word “prey” that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. It pummelled me into submission, like a bully that seeks out the vulnerable when targeting prey.

This may be due to the promotion of October as National Bullying Prevention Month in the US. There the program is called Stomp Out Bullying. In Australia, the The National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence is held on the third Friday of March each year with a program called Bullying. No Way! I wrote about that here. Websites for both programs are packed with useful information and resources for teachers and parents.

It is probably a good thing that these dates don’t align, as there is no time that is not a good time to eradicate bullying.

No bullies allowed

I have previously written about bullying in posts and flash fiction stories, especially those concerning Marnie, about whom I wrote several stories, collected here. Stories about bullying specifically include these:

 

·       Not funny at all! from the post Bully for you!

In this post, I listed books that feature bullies, including:

The fairy tales Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin,

Roald Dahls stories Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Twits, and

Anthony Browne’s Willy the Wimp.

·       Symptoms from the post Displaying symptoms or true colours

In this post, I shared information about a rap version of “True Colours” with additional original anti-bullying content written by 12-year-old MattyB to support his younger sister who is excluded and bullied because of her “symptoms”. Here is the song. Check back to the post for more information.

·       Art class from The story behind brown paint

For this post I wrote a longer story to provide more information about Marnie and the bullying to which she was subjected.

·       Motives from It’s a steal

In this post, I suggested that children who tease, torment and bully are often themselves victims of similar behaviour. They may feel powerless and lack control in their own lives. They are possibly lowest in the pecking order at home, and targeting someone more vulnerable provides an opportunity to find a sense of power; for a while at least.

One of the most effective ways of reducing the incidence of bullying is through the development of social-emotional skills; including helping children develop

  • self-esteem
  • confidence
  • resilience
  • friendship skills and
  • empathy;

in an environment in which they feel welcome, valued, and supported.

We need to model the behaviour we want children to develop, provide them with alternatives to inappropriate behaviour, and teach them how to respond when the behaviour of others upsets them.

It is also important to teach children to recognise bullying and to seek help if they see it occurring. Observing and doing nothing is a way of condoning the behaviour, and the bullying may escalate if an audience gathers. Ignoring bullying in a way also condones it. It is important to take action to prevent or stop it.

Karen Tyrrell, “an award winning Brisbane resilience author who empowers you and your children to live strong”, has written books for both adults and children about bullying. Having been on the receiving end of bullying herself, Karen understands what it is like to be targeted.

stop-bully-jpg-largesongbird-jpg-large

Karen’s books STOP the Bully, for 9 to 12-year-olds and Song Bird for children of 7+ years, both explore issues related to bullying.

Karen told me that “The little boy in the photo read STOP the Bully 6 months earlier after my first book shop visit. Then found me again 6 months later to say thank you when Song Bird came out.”

If you are looking for resources to initiate the discussion about bullying, Karen’s are a good place to start. You may also like to access the free teacher resources and free kids activities Karen has available on her website.

raptors-prompt

Now back to Charli and her birds of prey prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a raptor.

With apologies to the magnificent birds, I offer my response about a child in need of understanding, and of learning friendship skills such as getting along, caring for others, and empathy.

Prey time

Children chattered like birdsong – not a ruffled feather in sight. If only all playtimes were as peaceful.  Sudden realisation.  She scanned the children. Anxiety stirred.

“Has anyone seen Zane?”

Thomas pointed to a distant figure flitting and swooping, arms outstretched.

“Zane!”

She couldn’t leave him there. Could she?

“I’ll get him, Miss.”

As Thomas approached, Zane screeched and rushed towards him. Thomas fled, missed his footing, and fell. Zane, still screeching, pounced, pinning him down.

“Zane! Let him go!”

“I’m a raptor. He’s my prey.”

Thomas cried. “I’m not playing.”

If he was, it would be more fun.

Thank you

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

The story behind brown paint

muddy brown

Over the past few months in response to flash fiction challenges set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch, I have been writing snippets from the life a character, Marnie, whose story is beginning to emerge as I respond to the prompts.

A couple of recent prompts had me writing about a particular situation which involved mixing paints in an art class.  While all flash fiction stories relevant to Marnie’s story can be found on her own page, the two specific to this post can be read here and here (scroll to the bottom of each post for the flash fiction).

I was appreciative of the comments on both posts, with those specific to Marnie’s story encouraging me to reflect and think more deeply about the art class situation in relation to both Marnie and the teacher. While I am still mulling over the appropriate response the teacher may make, I thought I would write a longer piece to explore one possibility from Marnie’s point of view. This episode also relates to other flash fiction pieces, but hopefully the longer episode will be strong enough to stand on its own.

Art class

Marnie looked at the paints. The bright colours reminded her of a rainbow, and her unicorn. Her gaze dropped. She needed her unicorn now, but it was up in the office, drying out on Mrs Tomkin’s desk.

“It will be here waiting for you at home time,” Mrs Tomkin had said, smiling. “Okay?”

Marnie nodded, reluctantly, knowing there was no other choice. At least there was only the afternoon session left, and that was art with lovely Miss R.

Miss R. always wore beautiful dresses with colourful patterns. She had long wavy red hair, the colour of Marnie’s and her nails were always painted brightly, sometimes decorated with stars, sometimes with hearts, and sometimes with other patterns. She smelled of paint, and chalk and crayon and other scents Marnie found delightful. She noticed everything about Miss R.; because Miss R. noticed her. Miss R. always had a kind word to say:

“I like the way you used this shade of blue for the sky. I can see a storm is brewing.”

“Tell me about this picture. What’s it all about?”

“I can see you worked hard to get that looking just right.”

Marnie liked it best when she said, as she often did, “I like your choice of colour, Marnie. Your pictures are always bright. They make me happy when I look at them.”

But not today.

Miss R. stopped and looked at Marnie’s work. Her paper was covered in paint the colour of brown mud.  Marnie felt Miss R.’s eyes on her work, then on her. She didn’t look up. She didn’t want Miss R. to see the tears that were threatening to fall, that would fall whatever was said. Her lip quivered.

Miss R. moved on.

“I am not crying. I am not, not, not . . .” but it took all her strength when her insides felt as muddy as the paint on her paper. She felt like mud. Maybe she should look like mud too. She smeared her paint-covered hands on her shirt, and wiped the strand of hair away from her eyes. She wanted to tell Miss R. She wanted to tell her about Bruce and what he had done. But she dare not. Bruce had threatened her and she knew he meant it.

Bruce had tripped her at lunch time and she’d fallen into the puddle. The mud had covered her from head to toe. She’d tried to hold her unicorn high; tried to keep it out of the mud. But it had fallen as she hit the ground. It was all muddy too. Everyone had laughed. Everyone except Jasmine, that is. Jasmine had taken her to Mrs. Tomkin, who had helped her clean herself up and gave her some clean clothes to wear. Mrs Tomkin had said she’d call her Mum, so that was another problem looming. At least things would be okay in art with Miss R.

But not today.

Bruce had pulled faces at her and made threatening arm movements as they lined up. He made fun of the oversized shirt Mrs Tomkins had found for her. Everyone was sniggering at it; at her.

Marnie looked straight ahead, trying to ignore the stares. “I am not crying!”

Then Miss R. was there and she suddenly felt protected, like everything was going to be alright; for a little while at least.

But not today. Today was a bad day, a very bad day. It had been bad in the beginning, and it was going to be bad at the end too. Nothing she could do.

Miss R. handed out the papers and paints. Everyone had their own brush but a small pot of water was shared by four.

Marnie couldn’t wait to get started. She knew what she was going to paint: a rainbow and a unicorn! Maybe a tree and some green grass, with some flowers. She couldn’t have her own unicorn but she could paint it. Miss R. would like her bright happy colours, and her pleasure would make her feel better, for a little while at least.

But not today.

While Marnie was contemplating which colours to mix for her unicorn’s mane, Brucie reached over and snatched Marnie’s brush. With one flourish he had dragged the brush through the middle of each of her colours leaving a dirty brown trail. Marnie had opened her mouth to speak, but Bruce silenced her with a threatening motion of a finger across his neck, as it to slit it open. He stashed her brush on the shelf out of reach, and turned back to his paper, innocent-like. Marnie’s eyes searched for Miss R.’s hoping she had seen and would come to her rescue. But Miss R. was talking to Jasmine and some others at the front, and didn’t see.

Marnie looked at her palette. “I am not crying,” she thought as she tried to still her quivering lip and stop the tears that would give Brucie so much pleasure.

She looked at him and poked her tongue. He held up a fist.

Marnie rubbed first one hand, and then the other into the coolness of the paint, blending all the colours. It felt soothing somehow, the way her hands slid easily through the paints. She watched each colour disappear into the muddy brown she was creating, wishing she too could slide away and disappear where no one would notice her anymore; where no one would taunt or bully or harm. If they couldn’t see her, if she was invisible, maybe she’d be safe.

She looked at her palms – covered in brown, just like the mud that had covered them earlier. She smeared the paint on her paper, covering it from edge to edge so nothing of it remained. She wiped what was left on her shirt. What did it matter? She couldn’t be in more trouble than she already was. They were already going to kill her. Sometimes she wished they would. Sometimes she wished she’d never been born. Sometimes . . .

Miss R. stood beside her desk. Marnie could hear her breathing; could still smell her marvellous scents above that of the muddy brown paint that was now her camouflage. She longed for Miss R. to paint her life away, to ask her about her work and what it meant. But she willed her not; and it must have worked because she walked away. How could she tell her? Her life was as muddy as the paint and she could see no way out.

Thank you

 

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. I’d love to know what you think of this as a possibility of Marnie’s thinking.

 

 

 

 

Displaying symptoms or true colours

For just over a year now I have been participating in the weekly flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch. I enjoy participating for a variety of reasons, including:

Challenge: I enjoy the challenge of

  • thinking of something to write
  • telling in story or scene in the 99 word total
  • applying it in some way to my blog’s focus on education

Variety: I enjoy writing in various forms and genres and the fiction is a pleasant change from the informational writing that I am primarily engaged with at the moment

Practice: The requirement to tell a story in just 99 words means that I need to:

  • choose my words carefully to make my meaning explicit
  • decide what can be told, what can be implied, and what can be omitted
  • think of alternate ways of expressing an idea or describing a situation or character

rough-writers-web-compCommunity: The Congress of Rough Writers: I have made connections and online friendships with a wonderfully supportive and encouraging group of bloggers, whose numbers are constantly growing.

 

Feedback: The feedback that I receive in response to my flash fiction pieces and the posts in which I embed them gives meaning and purpose to the writing. I enjoy the in-depth discussions which quite often occur in response to the blog’s content and the additional thinking that I often need to do as a result. While it does distract me somewhat from my longer-term writing goals, the immediacy of the feedback is encouragement to continue and I am always appreciative of it.

There are many other reasons and benefits of participating in the challenges. The above are just a few. If you have not yet considered joining in the fun, now might be the time to do so.

This week Charli Mills wrote about a vivid dream that compelled her from her bed in order to capture it on paper before it escaped. She says that

“Characters sneak into our dreams, our waking moments and tease us. We write to find out who they are.”

Thinking about the character from her dream led her to consider symptoms, and the way that symptoms reveal more of who they are.  She challenged the Rough Writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story to reveal a character’s symptoms. 

Many of my responses to Charli’s challenges have been written to find out more about Marnie, who reveals snippets of her life, as if in flashbacks or dreams, at various ages. You can read what we already know about Marnie here.

“Symptoms” seemed perfect for revealing a little more about Marnie. A child such as she would display a great variety, an important one of which would be her attempt to hide those symptoms from others.

Here then is the next part of Marnie’s story, which follows on from the bullying episode shared last week.

 

 Symptoms

The children suddenly appeared: one bedraggled and muddied, the other exuding authority.

“Brucie tripped her. On purpose!” declared Jasmine.

“Come on, Marnie. Let’s get you cleaned up,” said Mrs Tomkins. ”Then we’ll see about Brucie.  Is your mum home today?”

Marnie looked down and shook her head.

“Will I help you with that jumper?”

A jumper? It’s too warm . . .” Her thoughts raced.

Marnie turned away. As she pulled up her jumper, her shirt lifted revealing large discolorations on her back.

Over the years Mrs Tomkins had seen too many Marnies; too many Brucies; never enough Jasmines.

 

Sadly, children like Marnie and Brucie are very real and very familiar to many teachers.

A few weeks ago I shared a post by Julieanne Harmatz on her blog To Read To Write To Be. I always enjoy reading Julieanne’s blog because it helps me walk right back into the classroom, in my mind. The Student Z she described in that post has many “symptoms” in common with other students I have worked with over the years.

This week Julieanne shares ways she provides authentic opportunities for using digital technologies in her classroom. One of the ways is student blogging, and Julieanne linked to a post written by one of her students, Zoe. I was very impressed. I’m sure you will be too.

In the post Zoe shares information about, and links to, her favourite song and singer. She says it is her “favorite song because it teaches you why not to bully.”

The song is a rap version of “True Colours” with additional original anti-bullying content written by 12 year old MattyB to support his younger sister who is excluded and bullied because of her “symptoms”. I have not linked to the song here because I would like you to read Zoe’s blog and listen to the song there.

I was so impressed by Zoe and MattyB, both showing traits of strength and of being an “upstander”, as described by Mrs Varsalona in the comments on Zoe’s post,  that I decided to find out a bit more about MattyB.

Here is the story of how MattyB and his family wrote the song to support MattyB’s sister Sarah.

I love to hear positive stories like this, don’t you?

Thank you

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