Tag Archives: Flash fiction

flash fiction rainbow futures

A rainbow of opportunities

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

Charli Mill's flash fiction challenge - Gender fluidity

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

Rainbow futures

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

Laughter erupted when Rudii responded, “Mother.”

“You can’t be a mother,” taunted one.

“Can too.”

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

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

“But—”

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

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

Thank you blog post

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teacher burnout is a big issue

Keep the teacher fires burning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - fire

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

99 no more no less fire words

The heart of a teacher

“It’s storytime, children.”

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

Jane read, instructed and encouraged. They never tired.

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

“A teacher.”

 

“Storytime, children.”

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

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

 

“Ple-ease!”

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

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

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

Thank you blog post

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school days reminiscences of Hugh Roberts

School Days, Reminiscences of Hugh Roberts

Welcome to the School Days, Reminiscences series in which my champion bloggers and authors share reminiscences of their school days. It’s my small way of thanking them for their support and of letting you know about their services and publications.

This week, I am pleased to introduce Hugh Roberts, author, blogger and WordPress Whiz who generously shares his knowledge and advice to assist others along their blogging journey.

I’m not quite sure when or how Hugh and I met, but it was probably over at Geoff Le Pard’s blog some years ago. They are both now involved in the organisation of the Annual Bloggers’ Bash celebrating its fifth anniversary in London later this year (find out more on Hugh’s blog here).

Hugh Roberts and Books

Hugh features many interesting series on his blog and always welcomes new readers and often contributors. I read and enjoyed Hugh’s first book of short stories Glimpses. The second volume More Glimpses has recently been released, and I am looking forward to seeing what twists and delights Hugh has in store for me now.

Hugh also entered both Carrot Ranch Rodeo Contests that I hosted. Although they are judged blind, Hugh won the first competition and came second in the second. That’s a fair indication of what I think of his story telling. 😊

Before we begin the interview, I’ll allow Hugh to tell you a little of himself:

Hugh W. Roberts lives in Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom.

Hugh gets his inspiration for writing from various avenues including writing prompts, photos, eavesdropping and while out walking his dogs, Toby and Austin. Although he was born in Wales, he has lived around various parts of the United Kingdom, including London where he lived and worked for 27 years.

Hugh suffers from a mild form of dyslexia but, after discovering blogging, decided not to allow the condition to stop his passion for writing. Since creating his blog ‘Hugh’s Views & News’ in February 2014, he has built up a strong following and now writes every day. Always keen to promote other bloggers, authors and writers, Hugh enjoys the interaction blogging brings and has built up a group of on-line friends he considers as an ‘everyday essential’.

His short stories have become well known for the unexpected twists they contain in taking the reader up a completely different path to one they think they are on. One of the best complements a reader can give Hugh is “I never saw that ending coming.”

Having published his first book of short stories, Glimpses, in December 2016, his second collection of short stories, More Glimpses, was published in March 2019. Hugh is already working on the next volume.  

A keen photographer, he also enjoys cycling, walking, reading, watching television, and enjoys relaxing most evenings with a glass of red wine.

Hugh shares his life with John, his civil-partner, and Toby and Austin, their Cardigan Welsh Corgis.  

Welcome, Hugh. Now let’s talk school.

First, could you tell us where you attended school?

I spent my whole school life in the town of Chepstow; a town on the south-east border of Wales and England in the UK.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

They were government-run schools.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

I left school at the age of 16 with five ‘O’ Levels and three GSCEs.  I then did a brief stint in college on a hotel and catering management course. A job offer meant I left the class before it finished.

What work or profession did you choose after school and was there anything in school that influenced this choice?

My first job was as an office junior before I went into retail.  I enjoyed an office environment, but it wasn’t customer facing (which is what I wanted). I told my careers teacher at school that I wanted to join the police force or fire brigade. Unfortunately, I didn’t qualify to join either because you had to be above a certain height. I was a couple of inches too short!

What is your earliest memory of school?

I was the only one standing up in class crying my eyes out while I watched all the mums and dads walking away. It was my first day at school, and I didn’t want my mum to leave me there. I was very emotional and felt she had abandoned me and was not coming back. Of course, she did.

What memories do you have of learning to read?

I remember the ‘Peter and Jane’ books which started at 1a, 1b and 1c and went up to 12c (which was the last book in the series). They got harder as you moved up to each one, and you were only allowed to move on to the next book when your teacher was satisfied that you could read the current book satisfactorily.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

I remember the first ink pens given to us to practice writing. They were very thin and had to be filled with ink from a bottle, which we had to fill ourselves. It could sometimes get very messy.

While many of the children around me were doing ‘joined-up’ writing, I was doing all mine in block letters. I can remember being taken aside and told that I had to join the letters together. It took me a long time to gets to grips with joining the letters together, and it wasn’t long before I was left behind.

What do you remember about math classes?

I was not too fond of maths. Numbers did not interest me. All I wanted to do was make up stories. All my maths teachers were rigorous, which didn’t help in me gaining any confidence in numbers. I saw them as nasty, uncaring people, who didn’t seem to care about the children around them. I’m sure they did, but I didn’t see it that way.

What was your favourite subject?

Geography. I enjoyed learning about other countries and the people who lived in them. I was fascinated by maps and the names of towns and cities and the roads that connected them. Even the positions of countries intrigued me, and when I discovered time zones and realised that it wasn’t ‘lunchtime’ everywhere at the same time, ‘time-travel’ entered my life.  I remember wishing that it would become part of the Geography education module before I left school.

School Photo - Hugh Roberts

What did you like best about school?

Drama class. In primary school, I could run around being who or what I wanted to be. Whether it was a tree, an animal or somebody driving a vehicle, I enjoyed the fun, laughter and enjoyment of the class.

As I grew up, Drama got more serious, but I enjoyed playing different parts in the school play.

What did you like least about school?

Playing sport. I had no liking for playing any physical games, especially on cold, wet days on muddy fields. After Easter, we would do athletics which I enjoyed a lot more. The long jump was my speciality!

How do you think schools have changed since your school days?

Unfortunately, I think there are now more children who have no respect for their teachers than there were in my school days. Not only that, but some of the parents also have little regard for the teachers.

It also saddens me to hear about schools not being able to afford to buy the basics like pens, pencils, books and even toilet rolls, because their budgets have been cut so much. Many now turn to the parents asking them to help fund children’s education when it really should be the government which funds it. I was so lucky to have ‘free’ education but, these days, ‘free education’ is something that is disappearing fast.

What do you think schools (in general) do well?

I hear more and more about schools inviting authors, writers and experts to come in and talk to the pupils about a particular subject. Whether it be about self-publishing, how to be safe on social media, or help and advice on careers or money matters, it gives those who want to help a chance to pass on their knowledge to new generations to come. I think it’s fantastic that they also ask people to come in and talk about their memories about specific events. It helps keeps memories and ‘past ways of lives’, alive.

How do you think schools could be improved?

More needs to be done in educating children about diversity and the hate crimes we hear so much about nowadays. Nobody should feel afraid to go to school because they are bullied or just because they’re told they are different and don’t fit in. Children should be encouraged to read about different ways of lives and to speak out about bullying. As a child who was bullied at school, my life was made much worse because I was afraid to tell an adult what was happening. These were the days before social media where bullying and hate crimes have now taken up residence. Children, these days, have a lot more to put up with, but I think there are also more bullies these days than there were when I was at school.

thank you for your participation

That’s an interesting observation with which to conclude, Hugh. Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general. It’s been wonderful to have you here. I’m sorry you were bullied in school and wish bullying was something we could eradicate.  

 

Find out more about Hugh Roberts

on his blog: Hugh’s Views and News

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads

Connect with him on Social Media

Twitter: @HughRoberts05

Flipboard

Mix.com

Purchase Hugh’s books here:

Glimpses by Hugh Roberts

Universal Link for buying Glimpses

More Glimpses by Hugh Roberts

Universal Link for buying More Glimpses

 

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Look for future interviews in this series to be posted on Sunday evenings AEST.

Coming soon:

Debby Gies

Pauline King

Jules Paige

D. Avery

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

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

 

the benefits of play and using imagination

Let’s pretend — play and imagination

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

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

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

Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge Eminence

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

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

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

Your Eminence

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

“Your eminence,” they bowed as she passed.

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

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

“I decree– “

“Lunch is served, Your Majesty.”

“Aw, Mu-um!”

“You’ll reign again later.”

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size is a point of view

It’s a point of view

Have you ever been faced with a task, at work or at home, that seemed so big you didn’t know where to start?

Have you ever been hustled by a supervisor, external or internal, to make a start whether ready or not?

Have you ever jumped in, hoping it would all work out in the end?

Have you ever chipped away without any real sense of direction and eventually found what you were looking for?

Charli Mills flash fiction challenge chisel

It was of these situations I was thinking as I responded to this week’s flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a chisel. Use chisel as a noun or a verb. Think about what might be chiseled, who is chiseling. Be the chisel. Go where the prompt leads!

Perspective

The monumental task cast a shadow deep and long, miniaturising the toolkit at his feet.

He shook his head, muttering complaints and impossibilities.

The supervisor appeared. “Better get started. No time to waste.”

He rummaged through the toolkit, lifting, inspecting and replacing each implement in turn.

“What’s the holdup?” bellowed the supervisor.

He grabbed the mallet and whacked the stone. “Take that!” Chunks smashed around him. He wiped his brow and whacked again.

“Great. You’ve started at last,” encouraged the supervisor.

Later, as the light turned, the shadow faded and diminished. He lifted his chisel and refined his work.

size is a point of view

Of course, I’ve had the opposite happen too. I’ve begun a task that I thought was miniscule but turned out to be mammoth. What about you?

Thank you blog post

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

Image of quarry by Ann Jessica Johnson from Pixabay.

 

flash fiction challenge about backing up

What’s got your back up?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has urged writers to have a backup plan in place for their work. She suggested a variety of ways including storage on USBs or external hard drives, in the cloud or as hard copies. She also warned that no method is fail-safe.

flash fiction challenge to back up

The cautionary post preceded, as her posts often do, a flash fiction challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the term backup. You can back up or have a backup, just go where the prompt leads! However, there is no suggestion of caution in her final phrase ‘go where the prompt leads’.

When I began to consider how I might use the term ‘backup’, I was soon faced with the complexity of our language and wondering how we ever learn to make any sense of it at all.

Back up may be used as a two-word-phrase or as a compound word. The words, with their regular short vowel sounds and consonants, are easy to read and pronounce, even for the youngest beginning readers. Individually, their meanings are clear. Back refers to a part of the body or a location behind. Up is the opposite of down. But put them together and the complexity of meaning emerges with possible use as nouns, verbs or adjectives.

Below are some examples of meanings that can be applied to the phrase:

Feeling annoyed

Perhaps the most literal translation is in reference to a feeling of annoyance; for example, He got his back up when they insinuated he was always late for work. This use comes from a cat arching its back when annoyed.

Move backwards

The truck driver was told to back up to avoid blocking the driveway.

He had to reconsider and back up when the others told him he was wrong.

Teachers may need to back up on what they had planned when they realise the children are not understanding their lessons.

Blocked

The backup of traffic was caused by an earlier accident on the narrow bridge.

The water would back up in the gutters and overflow every time it rained due to the leaves from the overhanging trees.

Support

It is important to back up any science report with evidence from research.

The situation was escalating, and the police were relieved when backup arrived.

The backup singer was required to take the lead when the performer got laryngitis.

Alternative strategy

You need a backup plan in case this one doesn’t work.

You need to backup your digital work in case your computer crashes.

Posture support

One birthday, thoughtful Hub gifted me a wearable device for supporting my posture during long hours at my desk. Sadly, it was complicated, and he was the only one to don it, semi-successfully. Those of us less brave to even attempt were in stitches as he manoeuvred himself into it. Having failed to convince me or anyone else to try, it has been relegated to the back of an (unknown) cupboard ever since. Mere mention of the BackUp causes fits of laughter and it remained #1 inappropriate gift for many years – until he presented man perfume on another birthday.

This is a true story. No names have been changed to protect the innocent. I tried to find an image of the device online, but it seems the design has probably improved over the years. The one Hub gave me had straps to go around the knees as well as the back.

You’d think with all the different meanings of ‘back up’ that I’d have no trouble finding a story to write. However, since the description of my birthday surprise is 99 words, no more no less, and for the fact that I have no backup plan, that true story will be my contribution this week. I hope you like it. Perhaps truth is stranger than fiction.

Thank you blog post

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

Technology Pushes Back

There’s been a glitch or three at the Carrot Ranch this week, and the usual Flash Fiction schedule has been interrupted. I haven’t yet written a response to Charli’s challenge, but pop over to read about Charli’s challenges and pen a response yourself.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Living in remote places I have experienced Internet difficulties, even piracy. But never before have I had devices fail, resulting in a communications blackout. As if I needed more evidence of impending apocalyptic doom, a winter blizzard of such ferocity hit the Keweenaw Peninsula it stunned even seasoned winter-hardy locals.

That bit of green? That’s all you can see of our garage in the photo. A sea of snow eight feet deep swells between us and neighbors. The wind howled through our street at 60 miles per hour, and at times we couldn’t see the house next door. Whiteout.

My story begins with the earlier blizzard, the one that blew in like streamers across the weather radar last Wednesday. The Hub had an appointment to evaluate his right hip, and we had to drive to Iron Mountain. The roads were choked with snow and the bad weather hit us after…

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