Tag Archives: Compassion

A break in the Flash Fiction routine: #Flash4Storms #WATWB #FFRODEO

Usually at this time on a Tuesday evening (my time) I am posting a flash fiction response to the prompt by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. But not tonight, and for good reason.

The usual weekly Carrot Ranch flash fiction prompt is on hold during the month of October, replaced by the Flash Fiction Rodeo which kicks off today. There are many prizes for both writers and readers. Check out the post for details of how you can win.

My contest runs first with a prompt about childhood ambitions. It will go live at the Ranch, and again here, on Thursday. I do hope you will join in.

You may have read my contribution to the We Are The World Blogfest with the story I posted on the weekend, #WATWB The Teacher Helping Hurricane Harvey’s Youngest Victims – And How You Can Help / A Mighty Girl | A Mighty Girl The story tells of  a teacher from Texas who created the online Hurricane Harvey Book Club. The Club involves children recording videos of themselves reading books to share with children who, as a result of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, have no access to books. Hundreds of videos were uploaded to Facebook, and the Club is also raising money to help restock classrooms devastated by the storm.

Flash for storms

Hurricane Harvey was just the first. More was yet to come with Irma and Maria following close behind. Fellow Blogger and Rough Writer at the Carrot Ranch Sarah Brentyn, who blogs at Lemon Shark has extended a helping hand to those in need with her own flash fiction challenge #Flash4Storms.

For each flash fiction response to her prompt “Help”, Sarah will donate $1 to hurricane relief. Check out Sarah’s post to find out how you can join in and lend a helping hand.  Let Sarah know in the comments that I sent you, and I’ll add another dollar to Sarah’s donation.

Here’s my response to Sarah’s challenge for a story of 50 words or less on the theme ‘Help’.

Kindness repaid

He was proud, never asking for or accepting help. If he couldn’t do it, it wasn’t worth doing. He’d always be first to help others though. Never too much trouble, there was little he couldn’t do. But, one day, when his world came tumbling down, they eagerly repaid his generosity.

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

#WATWB The Teacher Helping Hurricane Harvey’s Youngest Victims – And How You Can Help / A Mighty Girl | A Mighty Girl

On the last Friday of each month in the We Are The World Blogfest, bloggers post positive news items that demonstrate that “love, humanity, and brotherhood” still exist in a world where negative news items seem to proliferate. They encourage as many bloggers as possible to join in and share good news stories.

I’m a bit late joining in this week, but I wanted to ensure you heard this wonderful news about teachers and children helping out those affected by the recent devastating hurricanes  – education of the heart.

Books, children, reading, children helping children, teachers, compassion, empathy. Great ingredients for a better world.

If you would like to join in, click Here to enter their link . As they say, “Bigger the #WATWB group each month, more the joy!”

The cohosts for this month are: Michelle Wallace , Shilpa GargAndrea MichaelsPeter NenaEmerald Barnes. Check out their posts, and others, for stories to warm your heart.

This is the story I share with you as part of the Blogfest this month:

When Hurricane Harvey struck this week, second grade teacher Kathryn Butler Mills of Katy, Texas quickly learned how many of her students were affected. In photos on social media, she saw “several of my students, past and present, sitting under staircases, in bathrooms, and in pantries, waiting out tornado watches and warnings.” She wanted to find a way to “bring a little normal to them in very not normal circumstances.” After seeing a number of kids pictured with books in hand, she hit on the idea of creating an online boo

Source: The Teacher Helping Hurricane Harvey’s Youngest Victims – And How You Can Help / A Mighty Girl | A Mighty Girl

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.

The Principal’s Office

Principal's office

The thought of being sent to the Principal’s Office is notoriously fear-inducing with the implication that some misdemeanour has occurred and that punishment will follow. Of course, I know this only from the stories of others. It’s true: I have no recollection of ever having been sent to the Principal’s Office during my school days. In fact, I have no recollection of there being a Principal’s Office at all, or indeed who that principal might have been. Perhaps there are some serious omissions in my memory files.

In a previous post, I introduced you to Robert Hoge and his memoir Ugly through a lying incident he relates. Robert also shares recollections of being sent to the offices of a deputy principal and a principal while he was at school. Both incidents are also included in the version for Younger Readers.

Ugly coverUgly for kids.PNG

Robert recalls that,

Most of the school lived in a vague, unspecified fear of Mr Fuller (the deputy principal). He was the perfect second-in-command. He delivered the bad news when needed and administered a strict, no-nonsense form of discipline that mainly worked by keeping students so in fear of the threat of getting in trouble, they behaved.

One day when Robert was summoned to Mr Fuller’s office he was informed that some teasing had been occurring. As he was usually the one being teased, Robert was relieved that he wasn’t getting into trouble. Instead of informing on others who had teased him, Robert said,

“Well, sir, it wasn’t anything really. Nothing that got me very upset anyway.”

Sadly, though, it was Robert’s turn to be reprimanded for being the teaser. The children who were so good at teasing him, weren’t so good at taking a little teasing in return, and had made a complaint.

Robert confesses surprise at how much the other child had been upset because he (Robert) “was teased so often … (that he) … became better and better at dealing with it” as he got older. However, it wasn’t just the children who were cruel and sometimes, when adults were cruel, he found it more difficult to take.

Robert describes an incident that occurred in year ten when he and another student elected to do a week’s work experience as teachers at a local primary school. He was allocated to a year seven class and the other student to a year two class. Robert enjoyed the week and was pleased that his appearance drew few comments from the students.

On Friday afternoon Robert was summoned to the principal’s office. Waiting outside, expecting perhaps to get a ‘thank you’ from the principal, he was surprised when the other student wasn’t also there. What happened when he was called into the office is astonishing.

Without so much as a greeting, Robert was chastised for the school’s not having being warned before he arrived. Warned about what, Robert wasn’t sure. When he enquired, the principal quickly informed him, that she should have been warned about him; that when he’d arrived on Monday they’d had to swap the classes to which he and the other student were assigned. Robert was initially confused as to the reason, then he realised that she was talking about his appearance, that perhaps the year two students would not be able to cope as well as the year sevens.

Robert was upset. He didn’t know what to say and started to cry. When he said, “I’m sorry”, the principal responded with “Good” and showed him the door. Of course, Robert was distraught. He writes,

It wasn’t the last time I cried about the way I looked, but it was the very last time I apologised to anyone else for it.

Each of these incidents occurred in a Catholic school. Anne Goodwin who blogs at Annecdotal recently shared a guest post here about the legacy of a Catholic childhood. I was also educated at Catholic schools. While most of my teaching service occurred in the state system, I did teach for a few years in Catholic schools. I saw and experienced many instances of adults being mean to children. I also saw many instances of kindness.

For my flash fiction response to this week’s challenge set by Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications to In 99 words (no more, no less) write an office story, I have decided to write an alternative encounter for Robert with a more principled  and compassionate principal. I’d love to know what you think.

movie board

The Principal’s Office, Take Two

“Ah, Robert, come in,” she said, extending her hand and shaking mine as if I was an adult rather than a work experience student. As she returned to her desk, she indicated for me to also sit. I was puzzled. I knew I’d done a good job in the classroom. Why would the principal want to see me?  I waited. She looked at me quizzically. “Robert, I’ve heard a great deal about you this week …”  I squirmed. “… and all of it positive.” She smiled. “I’d like to suggest, if you’re still undecided, that you consider teaching as a career …”

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Although Robert didn’t choose a career in teaching, he has powerful lessons for us through sharing his story.

Thank you

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

What the world needs now

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about needs. She questions why necessities sometimes feel like luxuries and why basic necessities, such as drinking water and access to a bathroom, incur a fee. While she is temporarily homeless, she is seeing first hand some of the ongoing difficulties of others faced with long-term homelessness. Surely to be treated with some compassion and afforded the dignity of respect is equally a basic human need and a right.

what do living things need

Young children begin to learn about needs when they start caring for plants and animals. In science they learn about the needs of living things and how those needs are met. It is not long before they start to learn about the differences between a need and a want. This understanding, and acceptance, can take a long time to develop. Some never develop it.

need want

Perhaps if there was a greater understanding of the difference between a need and a want, the gap between those who have much and those who have little would decrease. But perhaps not. While there is little increase to basic needs over time, the wants increase exponentially; and the more one has, the more one wants.

If it is difficult for adults to distinguish between needs, wants and must haves, imagine how much more difficult it is for young children. It is possibly even more difficult for young children in an age with frequent replacement of one model for another, one gadget and one gimmick for another; the latest is always the best.

This difficulty is the focus of my flash fiction response to Charli’s challenge to in 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that explores human needs.

The latest thingamajig

“But Mum, I need it. Everyone’s got one.”

“Who?”

“Marco; and Christopher; and … everybody!”

Mum pictured their big houses and flashy cars.

“Has Yin got one?”

“No.”

“Amir?”

“No.”

“Why do you want it?”

“They won’t play with me if I don’t have one.”

“Who?”

“Marco and Christopher.

“I thought Yin and Amir were your friends.”

“But Marco and Christopher are cool.”

“And you want to be cool like Marco and Christopher?”

His eyes flickered.

“Will you still be cool when they get the next best thing? What about Yin and Amir? Will they still be your friends?”

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In a recent post Home is where the start is, I wrote about the importance of the early years to a child’s development. I suggested that it is difficult to regain what is missed in those early years. However, as Sarah Brentyn who blogs at Lemon Shark said: it may be difficult, but not impossible to make improvements. Sarah was concerned that parents may not make an effort if they thought it was too late. I agree with Sarah that it is never too late to make improvements. However, it is much more difficult to change established patterns and to make up for lost learning time. Not impossible. Difficult. It is even more difficult for those who have not had their basic needs met.

An article in the Huffington Post on June 30 compares two boys who were born on the same day in the same town, but will have dramatically different lives. The boys are now five years old. One boy who received a diet of nutrient-rich foods is now at school, making good progress, and has many friends.

The parents of the other boy were too poor to do the same for their child. He now suffers from chronic malnutrition, or “stunting”, which affects growth, strength of the immune system, and brain function. According to the article, 1 in 4 children worldwide suffer from chronic malnutrition. The statistics reported in the article are quite confronting, and challenge a privileged view of needs and wants.

After reading the article, it is with some embarrassment that I now admit to a need to be away from the blogosphere for the next few weeks. I will be back intermittently to read and respond to your comments. I apologise in advance for any delay in doing so. Please know that I do enjoy our conversations and appreciate your comments. I will be back to respond to you as soon as I can.

Thank you

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

Home is where the start is

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Early childhood years, from 0-8, are the formative years. It is during these years that most is learned. Children learn about the world through their explorations. They learn about themselves through the responses they receive from others, and learn about others through these responses also. Attitudes to most things begin in the home.

Children require warm, nurturing, positive relationships that demonstrate the way life should be lived, in actions, not just words. As Anne Goodwin, former psychologist says, the interactions with significant adults will greatly influence the adult that the child becomes.

If home is where it starts, then we can’t wait until the children are of school age. By then it’s too late. It is relatively undisputed that it is difficult for children to catch up what may have been missed in those early years. Sadly, much of the intense formal work in school does more to alienate these children further, rather than improve their opportunities for learning.

Therefore, we must begin in the home, and I don’t mean with formal structured programs. I mean with fun activities that validate parents and children and provide them with opportunities and suggestions for participation and learning.

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children. © Norah Colvin

It is these beliefs that informed my home-based business Create-a-way,

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

and my idea for an early learning caravan that, staffed with an early childhood educator, would

  •  go to the parents and children in their neighbourhoods, meeting in a local park or community greenspace, on regular weekly occasions;
  • invite parents to talk with, read to and play with their children using provided books, games and toys;
  • model positive parenting behaviour, explaining to parents the benefits to their children of engaging with them in activities and discussions;
  • provide suggestions for inexpensive and easy activities to do at home;
  • encourage borrowing from a book and toy library.

Of course, for many parents, such as those reading this post, nurturing a child’s development is almost second nature. They have the education and resources, and a belief in the benefits, to empower them to nurture their children’s development. They require little additional support.

Requiring most support are those without the benefits of education, resources or a belief that life could be improved. If all they have experienced through school systems is failure and rejection, they will have difficulty in perceiving any purpose in trying. It is these parents and their children that we need to reach. If they feel valued, they in turn may find value in others. If we improve the lives of those marginalised by poverty or lack of education, it must contribute to improving our society, and our world, in general. This will help us to feel safe in our homes, in our localities and in the wider world.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills is talking about homes and the importance of having a roof over our heads. The way we treat each other, especially those hurting, indicates there is a greater need for compassion and for those in need to receive a helping a hand.

In my response to Charli’s flash fiction challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about home, I attempt to show that the situation in which one is raised is not always a self-fulfilling prophecy. Out of the cruellest situations, hope can be born. We, as a society, need to do what we can to give hope to many more, to help break the cycle of despair.

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The birth of Hope

Startled by the blueness of eyes and the intensity of unfamiliar feelings, she suddenly relaxed, as if finally, home.

She’d not known home before: not locked in a room with hunger the only companion; not shivering through winters, barefoot and coatless; not showered with harsh words and punishments.

She’d sought it elsewhere, mistaking attention for something more. When pregnancy ensued; he absconded. They kicked her out.

Somehow she’d found a place to endure the inconvenience. Once it was out, she’d be gone.

But now, feeling unexpectedly connected and purposeful, she glimpsed something different —a new start, lives entwined: home.

Thank you

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

You’d have to be mad!

That is, as in M.A.D. — Making a Difference.

I love to hear of children being involved in projects that help others, that aim to make a difference to the world. I have previously written about some of those projects here, here, and here.  Sarah Brentyn, who blogs at Lemon Shark, often shares about the wonderful ways in which she and her boys are making a positive difference in their community.

This week I read about the M.A.D. projects of Canadian teacher Peter Cameron (a.k.a. Mr. C) and his students. At the beginning of the school year Mr. C challenged his students with the question, What will you do to make a difference? The projects, which were selected, organised, and conducted by the students, were recently completed. They included things such as:

  • Helping others on snowy days by shovelling driveways
  • Helping parents, grandparents, and great grandparents
  • Giving compliments
  • Supporting Doctors Without Borders
  • Helping the elderly
  • Helping at the Humane Society
  • Keeping their school tidy
  • Assisting the homeless by collecting socks, making supper, and hot chocolate
  • Encouraging kids to eat healthy, and to spend more time outdoors.
  • You can see a celebration of their projects in this video.

Mr. C. said that it was one of the most rewarding aspects of his 20+ years teaching career. The acknowledgement received from their member of parliament in the Canadian House of Commons, and his encouragement for others to join in, further affirmed the merit of the project.

Now Mr C. is reaching out to other classes around the world to join in with their M.A.D. projects and form a Global Make a Difference Team in which participants complete a M.A.D Project to help make our world an even better, happier, healthier place to live”.  Their goal is to have 100+ classes join in. Will yours be one of them?

To make it easy, Mr. C is making available to teachers all of his resources which may be modified to suit individual classes and situations. He says,

“The goal is simple: challenge your school, class, clubs and individual or groups of students to make a difference and see where it takes them! Be sure to let us know that your school/class will be participating and fill in the form to add your class to our M.A.D map!”

Places on the map are so far confined to North America. How wonderful it would be for locations to be added from all around the world. Children would see not only the differences they are making in their own communities, but also the positive actions of others around the world, which may in turn, inspire further projects.

Be sure to let us know of other projects that involve children in making a difference. I know there are many, some conducted by organisations, and others by individuals and families. They are what give us hope for the future.

Thank you

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