Tag Archives: empathy

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

 

 

Stop bullying now!

No bullies allowed2

Today all across Australia children, teachers and other school personnel are dressing in orange to mark the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. The Bullying No Way! Program aims to

“create learning environments where every student and school community member is safe, supported, respected and valued”

A very worthwhile goal, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The Bullying No Way website has resources for parents, teachers and students, including this video for young children:

The Prime Minister Tony Abbott delivered a message to children telling them that there is no place for bullying in Australia, that bullying is wrong.  I definitely agree!

Picture1

Last month Yvonne Spence organized a very successful #1000 Speak for Compassion campaign. This month she has placed the focus on bullying and requested bloggers to unite their voices against bullying. You can join in by visiting the Facebook page. I have already linked my most recent post Bully for you! as well as this one. There are many others there to read.

Last week Charli Mills extended a challenge to write a flash fiction story about bullies. She has compiled the wonderful stories in her post Circling the Bullies.

My previous post, Bully for you! received many comments, some sharing experiences of bullying, either of themselves or someone close to them. One comment was from a new visitor to my blog Sherrill S Cannon who shared information about her books dealing with bullying for children, and also explained her involvement with I’m bully free.org to which she donates 50% of the revenue from her books purchased through that page.

There are many other organizations that promote information about and actions against bullying worldwide.  Hopefully as more voices unite in making others aware of, and in speaking out against bullying, we can come close to eradicating it from our society.

As Michelle James commented on my previous post

“More needs to be done to prevent bullying. I really believe that there should be more intensive courses for teachers and administrators to learn to deal with the bully issue. We will never eradicate bullying completely. It is a tactic used by despots and terrorists, and sadly, they seem to thrive.”

Many of the comments on the post last week were in relation to the bullying incident involving Marnie. I share her story again here in case you missed it:

Not funny at all!

Jasmine and Georgie rushed towards the cluster of children who were laughing hysterically at something unseen. They expected to see an entertainer performing magic tricks. Instead they saw Marnie, face down in a puddle, reaching for her unicorn; sobbing.

“Good one, Brucie!” Two boys high-5ed. Another called, “Way to go!”

The children stood transfixed by the spectacle. Jasmine pushed through. She picked up the muddied unicorn, stretched out a hand to help Marnie up, then put an arm around her waist,

As she led Marnie away Jasmine glared at the group of disbelieving faces.

“Shame on you,” she said*.

*Thanks to Donna Marie for suggesting I change “mouthed” to “said”.

In this piece I tried to show that there may be many participants in bullying, not just the obvious “victim” and “bully”.

Marnie is the obvious victim. But there were many onlookers. None, except Jasmine, spoke up against the bully. By their silence were they condoning it? Or were they fearful that they would be the next targets if they said anything? Does that also make them victims? How does that affect their confidence and self-image?

Brucie was the obvious bully, causing Marnie’s embarrassment. But what of the boys who applauded with their high-5s and words of encouragement? Were they joining in because they too were mean; part of a gang of bullies? Or like the other onlookers, did they feel threatened about what may happen to them if they didn’t join in?

But is Brucie also a victim? What makes a bully a bully? Why did he pick on the vulnerable? What in his life caused him to act this way?

And what of Georgie who stood back in the crowd and did nothing while her friend Jasmine went to Marnie’s rescue? Why was she reticent to support her friend?

I wonder, too, what they all said when they turned away. Did they speak out in private about the bullies? Geoff Le Pard commented on a similar lack of support for him when he was bullied at school.

Jasmine was the only one who came to her rescue? Why did she? How was she feeling? Had she been the victim of bullying and so felt empathy with Marnie? Did she just know it was wrong and that it was important for someone to take a stand? What had happened in her life to make her so strong?

Donna Marie of Writer’s Side Up commented how being bullied had ruined her boyfriend’s life and suggested that more needs to be done to change the bully’s behaviour. Perhaps some bullies need protection from bullies themselves. Did they need to learn the behaviour somewhere?

The word bullying is sometimes used to describe a one-off unpleasant incident, like poking out a tongue or showing the “rude” finger. However bullying usually refers to something more ongoing, where there is an imbalance of power, the “stronger” picking on the “weaker”.

To avoid becoming the weaker, I think children need to develop resilience. They need to realise that just because somebody says it doesn’t make it true. They need to learn to take responsibility for their feelings, realise that they can choose to feel upset or choose to ignore it. I am in no way saying they should ignore aggressive, violent, intimidating behaviour, but learning to be resilient about the little things helps to develop strength of character.

I think we would probably all agree that bullying is a complex issue with many facets. That education is required to reduce its incidence is a given. What do you think?

Thank you

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

 

#SOL15: Day 5, Reflecting Back

The themes of emotional intelligence, empathy and compassion have featured frequently on my blog, especially the need for them to be incorporated into classroom practice and taught, particularly through modelling, to children.
My most recent series of posts about compassion, starting with Who cares anyway? and concluding with Ripples through time, with three more in between, were prompted by the #1000Speak for Compassion Project.
I thought I was done with that theme for a little while at least, but last night I read a very moving post by Julieanne Harmatz on her blog To Read To Write To Be.
Julieanne wrote with much emotion and compassion about a child in her class; a child who tears at your heartstrings, (and sometimes makes you want to tear out your hair), a child most teachers will recognise from their practice, a child you wish to be everything to but know that at least if you can be someone who really sees the child within, for a little while, you have done something worthwhile.
I urge you to read Julieanne’s story, and watch the TEDxtalk by Helen Riess that Julieanne has embedded in her post. Riess explains what empathy means through this acronym:

Empathy

Thank you

Thank you for reading. Please share your thought about any aspect of this post.

To Read To Write To Be

Magic moments happen in teaching, and they make our hearts soar.

But, there are moments that can break. Us and our hearts.

Z is struggling. He lies down on the picnic table outside the room. When we’re all inside, he enters saying, “I don’t want to sit there.” He paces. We look for a place. He settles beside N. Then moves. Again and again. Searching for a spot.

Sitting is painful. School doesn’t fit, and the discomfort emanates from his being.

Someone says something about dads. He blurts, “My dad doesn’t come home no more.”

Gulp.

Enter Reading Workshop. Z gets together with his book group they are planning. Z says, “I don’t read at home. I read here, not at home.”

Later, Z paces in the corner, reading his book, Reading and walking, in circles. This is his way.

Lunch happens. Z doesn’t eat. He doesn’t want to. Can’t. He just…

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#1000Speak for Compassion

#1000Speak for Compassion

Today is the day that over 1000 bloggers have answered the call to unite in dedicating a post to and voicing an awareness of the need for compassion. The call is to “flood the blogosphere with good”. I am adding my voice to the number.

In my most recent post Who cares anyway? I linked to a TED talk by Joan Halifax.

In her talk Halifax explains that compassion is good for us, it enlivens us and makes us resilient, it also develops our immunity. She asks “if compassion is so good for us, I have a question. Why don’t we train our children in compassion?

I think Halifax’s question is an excellent one. It has great appeal and interest to me as an educator. In this and one or two future posts I will explore and provide suggestions for developing compassion.

Early last year I introduced you to psychologist Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, in a post entitled The importance of emotional intelligence,

In this post I will share some Goleman’s thoughts about compassion from his TED talk “Why aren’t we more compassionate?

In the talk Daniel talks about a study into the reasons why, when we have many opportunities to help, we don’t always do so. He suggests that one reason is that we are not focused in the right direction. He says, “if we attend to the other person, we automatically empathize, we automatically feel with them.” He suggests that if we are focused on ourselves; our own needs and problems like time constraints; then we won’t be focused on the needs of the other, and are therefore less likely to help, less likely to be compassionate.

This issue of attention has been raised previously on my blog, including in the guest post written by Anne Goodwin Examining Praise which discussed the work of psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz.  Paying full attention to the other seems to be the best form of praise as it means really tuning in to the other. It is only by that tuning in, by attending to the other than any real understanding, and therefore compassion can be felt.

In his talk about compassion, Goleman says that the differences between focusing on self and focusing on the other can be subtle, but he urges us to be mindful of them. He talks about atrocities being done because the perpetrator was able to “turn off” the part of himself that would feel empathy. If that part had not been turned off, the actions would have been impossible.

He goes on to talk about “the possibilities of a compassionate consumerism”, pointing out that everything we buy has hidden consequences. He says that often “we’re oblivious to the ecological and public health and social and economic justice consequences of the things we buy and use.”

 

 

 

 

 

These hidden consequences are something that I am learning to be mindful of, but although I use my Shop ethical supermarket and Sustainable Seafood guides, I know that I still have a long way to go to be truly ethical and, as a consequence, compassionate in all my purchases.

He talks about “Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things” a book about sustainable living that “draws the reader’s attention to the domino effect of consumption and explores the possibility that “less stuff can mean more happiness. Hearing about that brought me to The Secret Life of Things website which is full of great information to help each of us make more informed choices.

Goleman raises a lot of interesting issues regarding compassion. I urge you to watch his entire video. There is sure to be at least one idea worthy of your further consideration. Goleman concludes the video saying that all it takes to get people to act compassionately is “that simple act of noticing, and so I’m optimistic.”

Goleman says that compassion is implicit to TED talks. There are many others about compassion. You can find a list of them here.

For me, Daniel’s talk highlights the fact that there are many ways of expressing compassion. Some are of those ways affect people who are near to us, and the effects are clearly visible. Others have a more lasting impact upon people we may never see, but for whom the effects can be just as, if not more, life changing.

Two important actions we can begin implementing immediately, and which we can model for children to implement, in order to become more compassionate are:

Pay attention

  • be more attentive to others
  • take notice of those around us
  • give our full attention to those we engage with by focusing on what they are saying rather than what we can say next

Consume ethically

become aware of hidden consequences:

  • to others who are engaged in the production processes
  • to the environment
  • to the long-time economy

 

In future posts I will explore further suggestions for developing compassion.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I value your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post. Please visit  #1000Speak for Compassion to read many more thoughts and suggestions about Compassion.

Use the ripple effect to spread compassion around.