Tag Archives: diversity

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

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.

 

 

Whose story is it anyway?

Nor and Bec reading

Children love stories.

They love being read stories and beg for them to be read, over and over again.

Equally as much, if not more, they love being told stories, especially stories of their own lives. They beg for them to be told over and over, listening attentively and with wonder as their own stories (her story and his story) are being revealed. They commit these tales to memory so that eventually it is difficult to distinguish the genuine experiential memory from the telling. Even as adults they seem to not tire of hearing tales of the cute things they did when they were little, or of shared experiences.

They also love being told stories of their parents’ lives. These are the stories that help define them and their existence: how they came to be. The stories tell of times gone by, and of how things used to be. They marvel that their parents were once children and try to imagine how that might have been.

My daughter would often ask for stories about herself, her brother, myself or other family members. One day when she was about six, she asked again, ‘Tell me a story about when you were a little girl.’ Before I could respond she jumped in with, ‘What were the dinosaurs like?’ She was teasing, of course, and her comedic timing was perfect. A story was created, one that has been shared many times.

History is a story, though at school I never saw it as such. Had it been a story of lives, as its name implies, I may have been interested. But history at school was a list of wars and dates, and kings and queens to be memorised and regurgitated for a test at the end of the term. There was no story, no human emotion, no semblance to any narrative that may have lured me in.

I hope that today’s students of history are not required to commit sterile lists of facts to memory without the stories that would give them meaning and significance, some human element to help the information stick.

History, as a subject, had always been relegated to high school. It was not a discrete part of the primary school curriculum, though aspects were explored in other subject areas such as ‘Social Studies’ when I was at school, or more recently ‘Studies of Society and Environment’. With the introduction of the new Australian Curriculum, History is now a stand-alone subject.

As an early childhood teacher I was a bit terrified that young children would be required to memorise lists of seemingly random facts and dates. I’m pleased to say that, for the early years anyway, this is not so. Children in the early years start by exploring their own history and the history of their family, considering similarities and differences between their lives, the lives of their parents, and of their friends.

I applaud this as an excellent starting point. I believe, when working with children, connections must always be made with their lives and what they know. What better starting point than investigating the traditions of their own family and culture.

In Australia, as I am sure it is in many other places, a great diversity of cultures is represented in each classroom. Encouraging children to share similarities and differences of traditions with their classmates helps to develop understanding of each other’s traditions and beliefs, which in turn fosters respect and empathy. For this purpose, I developed some materials to make it easy for children to share their traditions. These are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Whoever you areMem Fox has written a beautiful picture book Whoever you are that I love to share with children when discussing their cultures and traditions. It explains in a simple and beautiful way that although children around the world may live in different houses, wear different clothes, eat different foods, for example ‘inside, their hearts are just like yours.’ Mem Fox explains the story on her website.

I also like to sing I am Freedom’s Child by Bill Martin Jr.; and in Australia we have a great song that tells about our different beginnings, I am, you are, we are Australian by Bruce Woodley.

Heal the World by Michael Jackson is another great one for appreciating diversity and fostering inclusivity.

What got me thinking about history in particular for this post is the flash fiction prompt posted by Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications. Charli’s challenge is to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that considers history, near or far.

 

This is my contribution:

washing 1949

Washing day

Her freckled, calloused hands were red and chaffed as they gripped the wooden stick and stirred Monday’s sheets in the large copper pot heating over burning blocks of wood.

The children played in the dirt nearby, scratching like chickens, hopeful of an interesting find.

The dirt embedded under her torn and splitting fingernails began to ease away in the warm sudsy water as she heaved the sodden sheets and plopped them onto the wooden mangles.

The children fought to turn the handle, smearing dirty handprints on the sheets.

She sighed, and hung them over the line. One chore done.

 

I welcome your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of the article or my flash fiction piece.

 

 

 

 

 

What is education, anyway? Pt.2

This week I am sharing a post published on Teachling earlier this year. Teachling introduces her post with a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson, an international advisor on Education. Like Teachling, I very much admire his work and would love to see education systems implement his recommendations. I hope you will set aside the 19 minutes it will take to listen to what Ken has to say. You will be amused, entertained and educated. I intended providing a summary of important points from his talk, but found I was recording the talk in full! Teachling has provided a few notes but I would love you to listen to the entire talk and let me know what you think. How can we join the revolution that Ken says we need?

Teachling

Let’s face it, children are basically all the same and should be taught in the same, tried and tested, chalk and talk, fashion. Teachers in schools should focus purely on the 3R’s – Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic – and leave that creative ‘fluff’ for kids to pursue in their own time. Children should be viewed as empty vessels and a teacher’s role is to fill them with enough knowledge to pass the test. Some kids are just lazy, hyperactive or incapable of learning, so teachers should let them be whilst focussing on the other kids that can and want to learn. Wait… What? Was there actually a time when people thought this way about education? I do hope that the opinions above are not felt by any person on this earth. My opinions are much more aligned with those articulated in Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk, “How to escape education’s death…

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