Tag Archives: Carrot Ranch flash fiction

What lives in trees?

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - trees

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that goes in search of trees. It can be one particular tree, a grove, woods, or forest. What makes the tree worth seeking? Go where the prompt leads!

This week, we’re observing a science lesson with a group of 5 – 6-year-olds in search of knowledge about life in trees.

What lives in trees?

The teacher displayed photographs of trees.

“We’ve been learning about where animals live. Today, we’ll list animals that live in trees.”

Hands shot up, bursting to contribute.

The teacher wrote:

possums, koalas, beetles, snakes, birds …

Amir’s English was developing but his classmates were puzzled when he said what sounded like ‘goat’.

“Repeat,” encouraged the teacher.

“Goat.”

When asked, Amir drew a tree with a recognisable goat standing in it.

“Not story,” smiled the teacher. “Real.”

Amir nodded and pointed to the laptop. “Google.”

A quick search confirmed it.

Everyone cheered. Amir added to their knowledge tree that day.

……….

Many of you who have travelled may have seen the tree goats of Morocco. However, I wasn’t aware of them until, a couple of weeks ago, a photo popped up on my desktop. Intrigued, I had to find out more. A search for the goated tree began.

I discovered that the photo wasn’t fake, as I had first thought. The tree is the Argania tree from which we get Argan oil, and the goats like to eat its fruit.

Although more hygienic methods are now often employed, the oil used to be pressed from the seeds which were passed in the goats’ poop after the fruit had been eaten. I’m certain that 5 and 6-year-old children would love this titbit of information.

If you are interested, here are some links to help you learn more about the tree goats:

The Tree Goats of Morocco

The Story Behind Bizarre Tree-Climbing Goats of Morocco

Moroccan argan oil: the ‘gold’ that grows on trees

However, it seems, as with so many things, some people thought they could make extra money from tourists wanting to photograph goats in trees. Sadly, it is not only the goats that suffer from these unkind practices. The trees suffer too and, according to one article I read, “are in danger and the forest is listed by UNESCO as an International Biosphere Reserve.”

Iconic ‘tree-climbing’ goats of Morocco revealed to be a scam

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Can you fool the tooth fairy

Can you fool the tooth fairy?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills discussed important things in life including attitudes to aging. She challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about growing older. It can be humorous, dark or poignant. It can be true or total fiction. It can be fine wine or an old fossil. Go where the prompt leads!

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - ageing

Most of my work as a teacher has been with children who are experiencing one of the earliest physical signs of growing older — losing their baby teeth and growing adult teeth. The loss of these teeth is usually accompanied by great excitement, especially with the expectation that the tooth may be replaced with a coin by the tooth fairy.

lost tooth - Artie Feb 13 16

I previously wrote about the world’s diversity of traditions dealing with the loss of children’s baby teeth in A tooth for a tooth. That post also contains a flash story involving some gappy children’s smiles that help to cross barriers.

When I was growing up, many of my grandparents’ generation had false teeth or dentures that they left in a glass of water by their bedside when they were sleeping. With improved dental hygiene over the years, those numbers are now decreasing. This aspect of growing older — losing teeth whether at six or sixty-six — made me wonder if the tooth fairy might be fooled by false teeth and whether a creative child may have once tried to raise money that way.

Great-Grandmama’s Teeth

The sound like freight trains roaring through a tunnel assured Billy Great-Grandmama was asleep. He turned the doorknob ever so slowly, pushed the door gently and slipped into the darkened room. A chink of light bounced off the glass at the bedside. He daren’t breathe as he tiptoed over. Three quick whistles and he froze. The cavern with wibbly wobbly edges stretched wide. Would she wake? No, but better be quick. He lowered his fingers into the glass and withdrew his prize. All that was left was to fool the fairies and he’d buy his Mum that birthday cake.

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Create the possibilities

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - exhaustion

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes exhaustion. Who is exhausted and why? Can you make art of exhaustion? Go where the prompt leads!

Feeling a little overwhelmed with extra demands on my time over the past few of months, coupled with a recent battle with the flu, I didn’t know if I could muster enough energy to respond this time. But when this blog’s tagline includes the words ‘Create the possibilities’, I thought I should give it a go. I hope you like my response.

Exhausted possibilities

Jolted awake when the bus reached the terminal, they grabbed their belongings and stumbled out. The driver shrugged when asked about accommodation.

‘NO VACANCY’ signs flashed along narrow streets. ‘NOT WELCOME’ lists accompanied the few with vacancies.

Trudging back to the terminal, hoping for seclusion, a ‘VACANCY’ appeared where none before. An old man bade them enter, waved away their money and installed them comfortably.

“Thank you. Thank you,” they bowed, and collapsed into sleep.

In the morning, they were alone. A note lay on the table:

When you think you have exhausted all possibilities, there is always more.”

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flash fiction rainbow futures

A rainbow of opportunities

The classrooms of today are filled with children from a diversity of backgrounds and with a multiplicity of perspectives. The futures of those children are filled with opportunities that were unimaginable when I was a child and possibly even now. The world’s landscape — physical, political and social — is changing rapidly. Maybe we are not too far away from finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Could our ‘wealth’ be bound up in acceptance of our diversity?

Charli Mill's flash fiction challenge - Gender fluidity

When Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch challenged writers this week to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about gender. It can be fixed or fluid. Explore the topic on your own terms and open your mind to possibilities and understanding. Go where the prompt leads! I thought I’d have a little play.

Rainbow futures

The children went around the circle telling what they’d be when they grew up: police officer, paramedic, teacher, doctor, prosecutor, influencer …

Laughter erupted when Rudii responded, “Mother.”

“You can’t be a mother,” taunted one.

“Can too.”

“But you don’t have, you know, boobies,” said another, glancing at the teacher.

“Dad said I can be anything I want,” retorted Rudii.

“But—”

The teacher shushed them and the circle continued, punctuated only by an occasional half-giggle or nudge.

A rainbow of opportunity awaits, Teacher smiled inwardly, contemplating the question he and his partner were processing: who would be Mom?

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teacher burnout is a big issue

Keep the teacher fires burning

Teacher burnout is a huge problem. Fading are the days of veteran teachers staying in the job and sharing the wisdom of their experience with the younger generation of teachers. Many articles tell of teachers leaving the profession after five or fewer years.

Teachers start out with fire in their hearts, with an ambition to change lives and improve outcomes for all the children in their care. Many leave after just a few years when that fire has not only burnt out but has burnt them out too.

For others, who contemplate no alternative, the fire smoulders for years until they become cynical with a system that is ever-changing but rarely improving, and expectations that increase exponentially with little recognition of their efforts or the value they add to lives or society.

I recently listened to a book on the topic written by a passionate educator whose fire was extinguished by overwhelming expectations and an inability to reconcile unrealistic demands with a desire to teach children.

In a job interview, when asked what she taught, it was her response ‘I teach children’ that landed her the position. As the years passed, her employer’s focus turned from teaching children to teaching content and collecting data. As for many, her challenge was to continue educating the whole child while fulfilling the requirements of her employer. It’s a challenge that defeats many.

Teacher: One woman’s struggle to keep the heart in teaching by Gabrielle J. Stroud is a personal record of one’s teacher’s journey and how she faced the challenge. But it is more than that. It is the story of a journey travelled by many teachers. The names and places may change, but the story stays the same.

It is a book I wish I’d written. I laughed with Gabbie and cried with Gabbie. I’d walked in her shoes and she in mine. While our times and schools were different, our responses to the changing education landscape were very similar. She wrote from my heart as much as from hers.

If something doesn’t happen soon to support teachers, there’ll be no heart left in education and it will be a wasteland of useless data, lost potential and unhappy futures. Of course, I’ve written about that before, describing differences between education and schooling in a poem I called Education is.

If you are interested in reading more about teacher burnout and considering how teachers may be better supported, here are some articles to get you started:

The Causes of Teacher Burnout: What Everyone Needs to Know on The Chalk Blog. (US)

Burned out: why are so many teachers quitting or off sick with stress? In The Guardian. (UK)

Stressed-out teacher? Try these self-care tips on ABC Life. (Australia)

The hardest, most underestimated part of a teacher’s job on News.com.au. (Australia)

Heartbreak becomes burnout for teachers when work is turbulent on The Conversation. (Australia)

The Truth About Teacher Burnout: It’s Work Induced Depression on The American Psychology Association’s Psych Learning Curve. (US)

Teacher Workload in the Spotlight from my own Queensland College of Teachers. (Australia)

These are but a few of the many describing conditions that contribute to teacher burnout. However, for a truly entertaining but heartbreaking read that provides an accurate understanding of what happens to the heart of many a passionate teacher, you can’t go past Teacher: One woman’s struggle to keep the heart in teaching by Gabrielle J. Stroud. Gabbie summed it all up sadly by saying that she didn’t leave teaching, teaching left her.

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - fire

It’s about the teacher fire that I’ve decided to respond to the flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills this week at the Carrot Ranch. Charli challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about fire. It can be a flame that burns or a light that inspires. Follow the flames and go where the prompt leads!

99 no more no less fire words

The heart of a teacher

“It’s storytime, children.”

They gathered at her feet, bright-eyed, transfixed.

Jane read, instructed and encouraged. They never tired.

Later, all snuggled up in bed, Mum asked, “What will you be when you grow up?”

“A teacher.”

 

“Storytime, children.”

They gathered at her feet, bright-eyed, hearts open, minds buzzing.

Miss Jane read. They hung on every word, contemplating obstacles and possible resolutions, following the heroes’ journey into the cave and out.

 

“Ple-ease!”

“No time for stories. It’s test time.”

They slumped at desks, eyes glazed, minds dulled, hearts heavy.

The cave was cold and dark. Were they ever coming out?

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the benefits of play and using imagination

Let’s pretend — play and imagination

If the title conjures up images of children playing dress-ups with forts and castles, saving princesses and defeating dragons, that’s good. Such was my intention.

Pretend play, in which children use their imaginations, allows them to try out different roles, experience different possibilities and enact a variety of solutions to problems they encounter.

But play and imagination isn’t just for children. It is through playing with ideas that new discoveries are made, inventions are created, and innovations implemented. Without imagination, everything would always stay as it always was. Science wouldn’t progress and stories wouldn’t get written.

Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge Eminence

When Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that uses the word eminence. It’s a rich word full of different meanings. Explore how it sounds or how you might play with it. Go where the prompt leads!, I knew that imaginations the world over would be employed to respond.

Every week when Charli sends out a prompt, writers play with ideas to engage readers with unique and imaginative perspectives on the word or phrase. When all have been submitted, Charli searches for threads that bind the diverse stories together and compiles them into a connected whole.

Charli’s use of the word ‘eminence’ in her flash fiction story was unfamiliar to me, so I opted to stay within my comfort zone. With such a serious and imposing word though, what could I do but play? I hope you enjoy it.

Your Eminence

She glided in, regal robes flowing, loyal subjects lining the path.

“Your eminence,” they bowed as she passed.

She occasionally extended her gloved hand to receive their kisses of adoration or stopped to bestow a gift of royal chatter. Though her crown and responsibilities weighed heavily, she held her head high as she proceeded towards the throne. Decorum dictated every move. She dared not breathe out of sync. Her subjects depended upon her.

When seated, she motioned for all to sit. They obeyed, listening respectfully.

“I decree– “

“Lunch is served, Your Majesty.”

“Aw, Mu-um!”

“You’ll reign again later.”

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water conservation on World Water Day

What’s water to you?

Last Friday 22 March was World Water Day.

Sustainable Development Goal 6 is crystal clear water for everybody by the year 2030.

Many of us living in developed countries take access to clean healthy water for granted. We turn on a tap and it is there. Even though it is free and plentiful, the sale of water in plastic bottles is increasing and the bottles are contributing greatly to the destruction of the environment.

If it seems crazy, it must seem especially so to those who live in places without access to regular supplies of clean water.

The figures quoted on the World Water Day website are astounding:

  • 2.1 billion people live without safe water at home
  • 1 in 4 primary schools have no drinking water service
  • about 159 million people collect their water from ponds and streams.

And so, the list continues with one horrifying statistic after another.

Water is essential for life, not only for drinking but also for many of our personal, societal and global everyday activities. According to business reports, it is even more precious than gold. Maybe we could live without gold, but we can’t live without water.

Learning about water — the water cycle, its uses, conservation and pollution — is an important part of everyone’s education. Sometimes we find teachers in the most unexpected places.

Bill Nye - everyone you meet can teach you something

Charli's flash fiction challenge a bucket of water

Not surprisingly, education is the theme I’ve taken in my response to the flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a bucket of water. What is the condition of the water and what is the bucket for? Drop deep into the well and draw from where the prompt leads!

water more precious than gold

More Precious than Gold

The children observed the bucket.

Teacher explained, “Let’s find out about what’s in the bucket. Ask only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. Do not say what you think it is.”

Is it wet?” “Yes.”

Is it a liquid?” “Yes.”

Is it heavy?” “Try.” “Yes.”

Do we drink it?” “Does it come from clouds?” “Does it make puddles?”

“Yes. Yes. Yes.”

Is it more precious than gold?”

Don’t be stupid,” spluttered Andy. “It’s water!”

Teacher glared. Andy’s smirk dissolved.

Ahmed looked squarely at Andy. “In my country

Teacher closed the book. Ahmed’s lesson was more effective than any she’d prepare.

getting the most out of life

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