Tag Archives: difference

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.

Starting with one

© Charli Mills

© Charli Mills

There’s an event worth celebrating at the Carrot Ranch this week. Two years after posting her first prompt encouraging writers to hone their writing skills by joining the 99-word flash fiction posse, Charli Mills has posted her 99th.

I’m proud to say that I’ve been there since the first, riding the range of story prompts with others who have gathered around the campfire to share stories, wise words and writing tips in response to the nurturing offered by Charli’s warm, honest and generous spirit. It is she who is the hub around which has formed a community that is welcoming, supportive and encouraging. She is the one who keeps the wheels turning, the imaginations stirring and the words flowing.

rough-writers-web-comp

© Charli Mills

It is fitting, therefore, that her 99th challenge is to in 99 words (no more, no less) write about the idea of “just one.” If all it takes is just one, what is the story? Explore what comes to mind and go where the prompt takes you. Bonus challenge: eat cake while you write, or include cake in your flash. She is the “just one” who, week after week, writes an inspiring post, sets a thought-provoking challenge, ropes in the writers and compiles the stories into a collection as diverse as the readers. It would be interesting to know how many writers have answered every prompt. I don’t think the number would be large as even I didn’t manage to ride every muster.

I take this opportunity to congratulate Charli on her initiative. In this recent post she restates that “the original intent of Carrot Ranch as of March 5, 2014 was to create a bully-free zone where writers could learn to access creativity through problem solving (the constraint); write from a unique perspective (diversity); read and discuss the process or prompt (engagement).”  There is no question that she has achieved that and more. I have met many wonderful writers, bloggers and friends through my visits to the Carrot Ranch. If you are not yet a visitor, I suggest you pop on over. You’ll be warmly welcomed.

one

Recently I received as a gift a book called “One: How many people does it take to make a difference?” The book is filled with many wonderful quotes, stories and suggestions; too many to share, in one post anyway. I decided to open the book to a random page and share what I found. This is it:

“If someone listens, or stretches out a hand, or whispers a kind word of encouragement, or attempts to understand, extraordinary things begin to happen.” Loretta Gizartis

Loretta Gizartis

That’s a pretty powerful quote. The effects of Charli’s “just one” contributions are easy to see. The quote is equally applicable to teachers and the effects that they may have upon the lives of others.

Readilearn bookmark

It is lovely when teachers are publicly (or privately) acknowledged for the positive influence they have had upon a life. Charli did this recently when she acknowledged a high school teacher who had encouraged her to achieve more than she thought she could.

stephen hawking - teacher

Last month when announcing the Top Ten Finalists for the Global Teacher Prize Stephen Hawking acknowledged one who had had a powerful effect upon his life. He said,

“Thanks to Mr Tahta, I became a professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, in a position once held by Issac Newton. I have spent my life attempting to unlock the mysteries of the universe. When each of us thinks about what we can do in life, chances are we can do it because of a teacher.”

Even teachers need mentors and many can name one who has made a difference to their lives.  As if in response to Charli’s challenge, this week Vicki Davis, the Cool Cat Teacher, nominated “just one” personal mentor who had taught her the most about teaching. Of Maryfriend Carter, Vicki says,

“I’m grateful for her mentorship and encouragement in my life. She changed my thinking about teaching as she taught me about teaching. She single-handedly convinced me that testing doesn’t work and what does.”

But not all who teach the most important lessons in life are “professional” teachers. There is a great saying that goes something like, “When the student is ready the teacher appears.” I often say that my own children have been my best teachers. But I have also been inspired by other wonderful teachers too. I have mentioned many of them in previous posts including here, here and here.

However, my response to Charli’s flash fiction challenge aims to demonstrate that even the smallest, seemingly inconsequential, action can have a powerful effect upon the life of another. Sometimes we learn of the effects, sometimes we don’t; but when we do, the effect can be magnified. I hope it works.

The Power of One

Only much later, through a chance meeting with mutual friends, did she discover her power of one.

“I know you,” said the other, pointing her cake fork. “You’re the one.”

The old fear gripped, twisting tight. Her cake lost its appeal.

Which one?” another asked.

“In the foyer. On the first day. You spoke to me.”

“Oh,” she reddened, shrinking to nothingness inside.

“I was so nervous. You made me feel welcome, at ease. I’ve been wanting to thank you.”

“Oh,” she lifted her fork, smiling. “You’re welcome.”

“If only you knew,” she thought. “I did it for me.”

Thank you

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

 

 

A tooth for a tooth

lost tooth - Artie Feb 13 16

My gorgeous grandson has just lost his first tooth, an event much anticipated and causing a great deal of excitement. In the months leading up to the event I had wondered how the family might mark the occasion and if the Tooth Fairy might visit. Though I shared the myths of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy with my children when young, as adults they have debated the ethics of perpetuating these myths with their own.

As a teacher of 5 – 7 year olds it was not uncommon for me to encounter gappy grins and lost teeth through the course of the year. Mostly children would arrive at school proudly displaying a new gap, or a new tooth peeking through. Sometimes the tooth would dislodge at school and there would be great excitement. I would carefully place the tooth in the centre of a tissue, fold the edges down around it and sticky tape below the tooth to make a little “tooth fairy” to keep the tooth safe for the return home.

tooth fairy

Sometimes the children would discuss how their families marked the occasion of a lost tooth. Although there were children from diverse backgrounds in the classes I taught, I don’t remember any great divergence from the, to me, traditional tooth fairy story.

When I was a child, I put my tooth in a glass of water and placed it on the kitchen windowsill. The following morning, if I was lucky (for sometimes she’d forget), the Tooth Fairy would have been and left me a shiny silver threepence.

Some children I taught put their teeth under their pillows, some in a special box by their bedside, but what most had in common was the fact that the tooth had been taken and replaced with a shiny coin. Sometimes, when a child lost a tooth, we would read a story such as What do the fairies do with all those teeth? or Moose’s Loose Tooth.

tooth books

While I was contemplating what the response might be to my grandson’s lost tooth, I read about a book called Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions from Around the World by Selby Beeler with illustrations by G. Brian Karas.

throw your tooth on the roof

I wondered if it would be a suitable gift to mark the occasion and went ahead and ordered it. I wasn’t disappointed. The book briefly describes traditions from many cultures and countries around the world. While the Tooth Fairy’s visit and gift of a coin is familiar to those of us living in the UK, US, Canada and Australia, it is not so familiar to all. In Mexico and Venezuela a mouse replaces the tooth with money. In El Salvador a rabbit does the same. In Guatemala it is El Ratόn.

The title of the book comes from the tooth traditions of Botswana and the Dominican Republic. In some countries children receive coins, as described above, or a gift in exchange for the tooth. In other countries they ask for a new tooth. In Costa Rica and Chile the tooth is made into an item of jewellery. What surprised me was the great variety of traditions, of which I have mentioned only a few.

In her Author’s Note at the end of the book Selby Beeler explains the chance discussion, with a friend from Brazil who hadn’t heard of the Tooth Fairly, that piqued her interest and lead to the writing of the book. She says,

“I quickly discovered that the best way to learn what people do with their baby teeth is simply to ask them. While collecting customs for this book I stopped people wherever I went. I smiled, introduced myself, and asked them the question I had asked my friend, ‘What did you do with your baby teeth when you lost them?’”

The result is fascinating. Thank you Selby for being curious and asking a question that elicited so many interesting responses. Thank you also for selecting some of the hundreds of traditions and compiling them into this lovely book that enables us to find out a little more about each other; some things that are the same and some that are different. I’d be delighted too if you, esteemed readers, shared your traditions in the comments.

In the introduction to the book Beeler says,

“Has this ever happened to you?

You find a loose tooth in your mouth.

It happens to everyone, everywhere, all over the world.”

I am disappointed that, in all the years I was teaching children in the “loose tooth” age group I hadn’t ever thought to investigate different traditions. Although I took many opportunities to celebrate the diversity in the classroom (I’ve shared some of those here), I wonder what other opportunities I missed. If I was still working with year one children this book would be essential to my collection and sit alongside another favourite for discussing diversity and acceptance, Whoever You Are by Mem Fox. I am pleased I found it in time to gift to my grandson to mark his first missing tooth.

Whoever you are.

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is also talking about diversity and has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story of a character who is diverse. Who is this person? Does this character know, accept or reject being perceived as different? As writers, consider how we break stereotypes. Tell you own story of “otherness” if you feel compelled. Or, select a story of diversity, such as rainbows revealing gold. How is diversity needed? How is your character needed?

Coincidentally I am reading a book about diversity at the moment. The book, The Social Brain: How Diversity Made the Modern Mind by Richard Crisp was reviewed by Anne Goodwin who blogs at Annecdotal. In her review Anne says,

“I’m pleased to say that Richard Crisp’s highly accessible overview of recent research into cultural diversity has not only revitalised my interest in social psychology but is highly relevant to how we all live today. I touched on one of his papers in my recent post on Looking at difference, embracing diversityThe Social Brain develops those ideas in more depth and detail.

social brain

I am compelled to add my voice to Anne’s recommendation. It is a fascinating, challenging and enlightening read.

In a comment on her post, Charli stated that diversity is in the small things, not just the big. I believe she is right. It is the attitudes and actions we incorporate into our everyday lives that can make the big difference in another’s world. I’m sticking to my tooth theme for my flash with a wish for recognition of commonality, acceptance and respect. Richard Crisp’s book goes a long way towards helping understand what drives us, and why.

A friendship born

The invisible wall was a fortress built of fear and prejudice. On either side a child played alone. The rules were accepted without question.

Then they saw each other, and a challenge was born.

At first they kept their distance, staring across the divide, until scolding adults bustled them away.

Curiosity and loneliness won over fear as they mirrored each other in play.

One day they drew close enough to touch, but hesitated. Simultaneously they bared their teeth, each proudly displaying a gap, in the middle on the bottom, a first. Surprised, they laughed together: more same than different.

Thank you

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

I’m new here

Australia is a land of immigrants. The first Australians arrived, it seems, about 65 000 to 40 000 years ago, after the second migration out of Africa. The second group arrived only little more than 200 years ago. Some think of Australia as a young country with a history beginning with arrival of Europeans in 1788. But Australia is not only the oldest continent, it is also home to the oldest living culture and was inhabited long before many other parts of the world. It is a tragedy that little recognition and respect is given to this culture and its peoples.

Disharmony and conflict, on a scale from the personal to global, often occurs because of perceived differences: “He’s not like me. She doesn’t think like me. They don’t believe what we believe. I am right and you are wrong.” The realisation that what we share in common far outweighs the differences, and the appreciation of those similarities and differences, would go a long way to soothing that discord.

The National Geographic Genographic Project aims to find out more of our collective human history; where we originated and how we came to populate the world. Projects such as this may help to strengthen the focus on what we share rather than ways in which we differ.

Young children are generally accepting of differences they may notice in each other and are usually more concerned about having someone to play with than about visible differences.  Fear of and discomfort with differences is often learned.

Mostly my classrooms were a microcosm reflecting the rich diversity of cultural heritages represented in Australia. Learning about those heritages from the children and their families, as well as through literature and other media, helped us all develop an appreciation for our differences as well as our commonalities.

The celebrations of International Days when children would wear traditional clothing, bring items from home to display and discuss, contribute cultural food to a shared lunch, teach how to play traditional games or share traditional stories were always appreciated by the children and families; including those who considered themselves to have a cultural background and those who didn’t.

 

Units of work, such as my Getting to know you — Early childhood history unit, learning to greet each other in the languages represented in the class, reading traditional tales and discovering each other’s favourites of anything also contribute to developing understanding and empathy.

Whoever you are.

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox is a wonderful picture book which can be used to discuss similar themes. It explains in a simple and beautiful way that although children around the world may live in different houses, wear different clothes or eat different foods, for example ‘inside, their hearts are just like yours.’ Mem Fox explains the story on her website.

I have drawn upon the ideas discussed above for my flash fiction response to this week’s challenge by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows the interaction of a migrant culture on the place of migration.

Playground connections

The adults dotted the perimeter, holding tight to their own; bound by the security of sameness reflected in their own eyes, excluded by fear felt for differences perceived in others: different dress and hair, unintelligible words and unfamiliar scents.

In the centre the children romped together, united in the secret language of smiles and laughter, funny looks and gentle patting hands; no words needed.

The children smiled, waving promises of future plays, as one by one the adults called them home, delighting in their children’s easy ways, wishing for their own nonprejudicial days. A nod. A smile. A beginning.

Recently I found this quote on Yvonne Spence’s post in 1000 Voices for Compassion. I think it sums up the intentions of this post  beautifully.

we are together

 

 

Thank you

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

 

 

Can you make a difference?

My previous post How much of a meliorist are you? attracted many comments and much lively discussion, including comparisons of seemingly pessimistic or optimistic views of the future and the validity of each.

This discussion surprised me as my intention in writing the post was not to delve into the damage that we humans have wreaked upon the world, but simply to express my belief that we humans, should we desire to do so, have the power to improve the world. We may not be able to change everything we would like to see changed, but we can make a start within our own circle of influence.

Few-will-have-the - Robert F. Kennedy

Or, in the words of Michael Jackson, one can “Look in the mirror and make a change!”

My chosen avenue for making a difference is education; through maintaining my own interest in learning, through attempts to keep alive a love of learning and a curiosity about our world and others, and through improving learning opportunities for others throughout their lives beginning at birth (or earlier!).

The contribution each of us makes is unique and reflects our own values and life choices. I am grateful to others who help me grow in my understanding of what motivates and drives us, what excites our imaginations and stimulates our curiosity, and what propels us towards choices for improving our individual and combined futures.

Its-the-action-not-the - Mahatma Gandhi

Among those who encourage my learning and stretch my thinking are you, my wonderful readers, who selflessly contribute thoughts and ideas to extend my understanding. To you all, my teachers, I express my great gratitude.

Thank you

While I may often fall short of the mark and need to make frequent reminders to myself, these are just a few ways I try to make my little spot in the world a better place:

Smiling

Being friendly towards those I engage with throughout the day

Being polite

Being kind, sometimes randomly and anonymously without requiring thanks

Listening attentively, to understand and without interrupting or interjecting

Accepting graciously and without whingeing and whining

Finding humour in situations which enable me to laugh, especially at myself

Changing behaviours to reduce my impact on the environment

Seeking ways to ease the burdens of others

Accepting and encouraging others to be themselves

Recognising and accepting my ‘mistakes’ and shortcomings, and those of others

What about you? What do you do to make your little spot in the world a better place? Please share your ideas so we can all learn from your example.

At times in my life I have been told that I take life too seriously. At other times I have been told that I don’t take it seriously enough. I think life should be about enjoyment and fun, so I’m going to turn the seriousness of this post on its head and leave you with another quote, this time by A.H. Weiler:

“Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn’t have to do it himself.”

I welcome your feedback. Please share your thoughts and ideas about any aspect of this post, whether you agree with me or not!