Tag Archives: Friendship

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

Early childhood resources for celebrating friendship – Readilearn

Republished from readilearn

In this post I suggest ways of helping children develop friendship skills, and describe some readilearn resources for celebrating friendship.

Developing a welcoming, happy, supportive classroom environment, a place where children want to be, is essential for learners of all ages, but especially so in early childhood. These classrooms are the first that children experience and influence lifelong attitudes to school and learning. It is important to establish strong foundations with positive attitudes, respect, and friendship.

Making friends doesn’t come easily to everyone. Simply being put with a whole bunch of other children of similar ages doesn’t ensure friendships will be established, or that children will be accepting of, and respectful to, others.

Strategies for helping children develop effective social skills need to be interwoven throughout the curriculum. Respect, kindness, and empathy need to be modelled and taught. It is especially important for children who have had limited experience mixing with others, or for those who respond to others in inappropriate or unkind ways.

Some useful strategies include:

  • Develop a vocabulary of words used to describe feelings. Words

Source: Early childhood resources for celebrating friendship – Readilearn

Room for one more

Squirrel Heaven

Have you ever squirreled anything away? I have.

In the year prior to my 50th birthday I squirreled away every $5 note I received. By the time my birthday arrived I had stored over $1000: enough to purchase a charm bracelet to mark the achievement of a half-century. Now, almost a decade and a half later, it would be impossible for me to repeat the process. From using cash for most purchases at the dawn of this century, I now use mainly card and rarely carry cash. How quickly and, unless giving thought to it, almost imperceptibly the changes occur.

To some, the differences in the seasons in the part of Australia in which I live are subtle, with the changes almost imperceptible, at least when compared to the four distinct seasons occurring in many other places. However, changes do occur and are obvious to those who are attuned to them, especially the Indigenous Peoples of Australia.

I was reminded of this when listening to A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold, a book recommended and referred to numerous times by Charli Mills. I second her recommendation.

A Sand County Almanac

The book is divided into twelve chapters. In each chapter Leopold describes the subtle differences that occur from month to month in the environment around his home. I marvel at the detail of his observations and the knowledge that he gleans from subtle changes. In March he says,

“A March morning is only as drab as he who walks in it without a glance skyward, ear cocked for geese.”

He then goes on to say,

“I once knew an educated lady, banded by Phi Beta Kappa, who told me that she had never heard or seen the geese that twice a year proclaim the revolving season to her well-insulated roof”,

and asks,

“Is education possibly a process of trading awareness for things of lesser worth?”

Sadly, I think many of us, myself included, are aware of the fluctuations in temperature and the coming of the storm season, but not so attuned to the habits of animals and seasonal variations in plants. The majority of our native trees are evergreen and, in our insulated and insular cities, changes in the natural world are less obvious. Indeed, many seasonal changes are obscured by artificial means.

In cooler climates animals have adapted to the changing seasons in various ways. Some migrate; some, such as squirrels, store food for the winter; and some hibernate.

While some Australian birds, moths and other animals migrate, I am not aware of any squirreling away large stockpiles of food to see them through the cooler seasons (please inform me if there are any I should know about); there is but one native Australian mammal hibernator, the mountain pygmy possum.

I have been thinking of this in relation to the flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week. While Anne Goodwin, blogging at Annecdotal may have instigated her thinking about squirrels, Charli included the metaphorical as well as rodent  variety.

Until visiting in London in 2014 I had not seen a squirrel as they are not native to Australia and, until checking just now and finding this article, was not aware that any had been introduced here. I saw many cute grey squirrels in parks and gardens in London and I was quite fascinated by the tiny creatures.

© Norah Colvin 2014

© Norah Colvin 2014

However, I was disappointed to find that they are not natives to the UK either, but introduced from North America in the 19th Century, and are doing just as much damage to the native fauna as are many introduced species here. At least when I visited Hamley’s, the most amazing toy store, the only toy squirrels I could find were red, the native kind.

© Norah Colvin 2016

© Norah Colvin 2016

The squirrel toy was purchased to add to others collected as mementoes of countries visited; and joined my panda from Beijing and hedgehog from Belfast.

© Norah Colvin 2016

© Norah Colvin 2016

© Norah Colvin 2016

© Norah Colvin 2016

In a couple of months, I am accompanying my grandchildren and their parents on a quick visit to Los Angeles and New York. I am determined to expand my soft toy collection, but am wondering which animal might be an appropriate choice. If you have a suggestion, I’d love to hear it please.

Meanwhile, back to Charli’s challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a squirrel. It can be about a squirrel, for a squirrel or by a squirrel. Think nutty, naturalistic, dinner or ironic. Go where the prompt leads and don’t forget to twirl with imagination.

I decided to go with the theme and make my own toy story.

toy box

One more?

They knew when she left – airplane tickets in one hand, luggage in the other – that it meant only one thing.

“Time to plan,” announced Kanga, the original and self-proclaimed leader.

“It’s too crowded!” moaned Little Koala.

All stuffed in the box inhibited thought.

“Right. Everybody out,” said Rabbit, taking over.

Squirrel, last in, was first out, twirling her tail.

Soon everyone was out, exchanging opinions. Inevitably disagreements erupted. Ever patient Kanga quietened them.

“We always make room. We will adjust. We will welcome the newcomer. Once we all were different. We still are. But we learn to get along.”

Thank you

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

 

Lending a helping hand

johnny_automatic_playing_dress_up

If I was to ask a group of six year olds what a friend is, I would receive responses such as:

  • A friend is someone who plays with you
  • A friend is someone who likes you
  • A friend is someone who helps you
  • A friend is someone who looks after you when you’re hurt

For just over two years now a group of writers have formed a bond of friendship by playing together each week, responding to a flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. You couldn’t get a more supportive group of writers. In fact, a while ago I coined the term S.M.A.G. (Society of Mutual Admiration and Gratitude) to express the relationship many of us feel.

SMAG ccbyncnd

This week Lisa Reiter, who blogs at Sharing the Story, showed that the ability to lend a hand is not restricted to friends who live close by. Although they live at opposite sides of the Atlantic and half the world away from each other; and despite the fact that no request for help had been made, like the true friend that she is, Lisa saw a need and immediately assisted Charli by writing this week’s flash fiction prompt and post. You won’t be surprised to know that the theme is helping out.

This ties in beautifully with a TED talk I listened to this week. The talk by Australian humanitarian Hugh Evans is titled What does it mean to be a citizen of the world?  Hugh talks about the organisation he co-founded: Global Citizen; which is described on the website in this way:

Global Citizen is a community of people like you. People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges—and use their power to get other people involved too.

We bring you stories and actions that make a difference. That help fight extreme poverty and inequality around the world, and support approaches that will make life more sustainable for people and the planet.”

EarthsOtherSide

These are some of the points I have brought away from Hugh’s talk:

  • A global citizen is “someone who self-identifies first and foremost not as a member of a state, a tribe or a nation, but as a member of the human race, and someone who is prepared to act on that belief, to tackle our world’s greatest challenges.”
  • Hugh describes himself as “one of those seriously irritating little kids that never, ever stopped asking, “Why?” He went from asking questions like, “Why can’t I dress up and play with puppets all day?” to why couldn’t he change the world?
  • He had already been raising large amounts of money for communities in the developing world when, at age fourteen, he spent a night in a slum in Manila and thought, “Why should anyone have to live like this when I have so much?
  • “that of the total population who even care about global issues, only 18 percent have done anything about it. It’s not that people don’t want to act. It’s often that they don’t know how to take action, or that they believe that their actions will have no effect.”
  • Hugh initiated the Global Citizen Festival in New York’s Central Park. Tickets for the festival couldn’t be bought, They had to be earned by taking action for a global cause. He said, “Activism is the currency”.
  • By becoming a global citizen one person can achieve a lot because they are not alone – there are now hundreds of thousands of global citizens in more than 150 countries

“We, as global citizens, now have a unique opportunity to accelerate large-scale positive change around the world. “

“Global citizens who stand together, who ask the question “Why?,” who reject the naysayers, and embrace the amazing possibilities of the world we share.”

He finishes his talk with the challenge:

“I’m a global citizen. Are you?”

Hugh’s contribution to the world is a great recommendation for encouraging children to ask questions, isn’t it?

 

Here is his talk if you would like to be inspired by his own words. You may find other points that speak more clearly to you.

This brings me back to Lisa’s helping hand which, while not on the same scale, clearly demonstrates the opportunities that exist to help if we take the focus from ourselves and place it on others in an attempt to understand their situations and how we might be able to assist.

Lisa’s prompt is to In 99 words (no more, no less) write about offering to help someone. What’s their situation? What’s yours? Do they think they need help? How is it received? Could you be misinterpreted?

child helping

For my flash, I’m bringing you back even closer to home, to a situation with young children that will be familiar to many. Little ones love to help and hate to be helped in almost equal measure. “Let me do it!” and “I can do it myself!” are two frequently heard phrases in households with little ones. Opportunities for both are essential for their developing sense of self, independence and confidence. Both require a great deal of patience on the part of parents and a larger allocation of time than one would normally feel necessary. I think I must have been in a rush and didn’t have time to wait in the queue when patience was being dished out. Fortunately, my children shared some of theirs with me. Sadly, not always soon enough for their benefit. (Sorry, Kids.)

A playdate at Bella’s

Mummy checked the calendar. Oops! Her turn for cake. Dulcie was engrossed playing. Great! Just enough time, if ….

Scarcely was everything out when up popped Dulcie. “Let me do it!”

Too pressed for winnerless battles, Mum kept one eye watching Dulcie, the other on the clock.

With the cake finally baking, Mummy suggested clothes to wear.

“No! I want this one,” pouted Dulcie.

 “Let me help with the buttons.”

“No! I can!” objected Dulcie.

Only thirty minutes late, with warm cake and buttons all askew, they arrived.

“Come in,” greeted Bella’s mum, “Looks like you need a hand.”

Thank you

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

You’ve got a friend in me

 

One of the greatest contributors to a child’s happiness at school, indeed for happiness in life, is friendship. Talking with children about their day at school will more than likely contain some reference to their friends; who they played with, who they didn’t, who was absent, who was mean. If they felt sad during the day it was possibly because someone wouldn’t play, wouldn’t let them play, or was mean.

Getting along with others seems to come naturally to some children, especially to those who see positive social skills modelled by parents and family friends, who are given lots of opportunities to mix with others of all ages, and who are encouraged to express themselves and their feelings. Other children don’t find it so easy, sometimes due to lack of positive role models, but often for other reasons.

Most children require some explicit teaching from time to time, for example to share, take turns and to use friendly words. Many schools incorporate the development of friendship skills into their programs. Some schools, such as one that employed me to write and teach a friendship skills program in years one to three, develop their own programs. Other schools use published materials such as the excellent You Can Do It! program which teaches the social and emotional skills of getting along, organisation, persistence, confidence and resilience.

In the early childhood classrooms of my previous school, we used the songs, puppets and stories included in the You Can Do It! Program. We also involved children in role play and discussion, providing them with opportunities to learn the language and practice the skills in supportive and non-threatening situations. Having a common language with which to discuss feelings, concerns and acceptable responses meant issues were more easily dealt with. More importantly children learned strategies for developing positive relationships and friendships with others. They came to understand their own responses as well as those of others.

SMAG ccbyncnd

I have talked about friendship in many previous posts, including here, here and here. My online friend Anne Goodwin, who blogs at Annecdotal even wrote about it in a guest post here, and I described friendship trees that I used with my class here.

Friendship tree

In this post I want to acknowledge a new friend and a long-time friend. (I can’t say ‘old’. She’s younger than I!)

My new friend is Pauline, The Contented Crafter. At the beginning of last week Pauline announced a very generous giveaway for Christmas which I shared with you here.  Pauline invited readers to nominate someone as a deserving recipient of her beautiful Christmas light catcher. She posted the nominees and their stories here and invited readers to vote for the two they would most like to receive the light catcher.

pizap1

I nominated Robin, a friend of over thirty years. That must be deserving of an award in itself! In case you missed her story on Pauline’s blog, I include it here so that you can understand why I value her friendship so highly.

I have a wonderful friend for whom this beautiful light catcher would be a perfect gift. Each of its strands holds a special significance, as if Pauline had her in mind.

She gifted her friendship to me more than thirty years ago and, thanks to a miracle and the protection of angels, it is a gift that continues.

Over twenty years ago, on my birthday, she was involved in a serious car accident. My birthday became her life day, a constant reminder that life and each passing year is a precious gift. 

Her many injuries, requiring numerous surgeries over the years, did not injure her bright, cheerful nature and positive outlook on life. Although she lives with constant pain you wouldn’t know unless you asked, and then only if she chose to tell you.

She has an enormous generous and loving heart, and her home is warm and welcoming. Family, especially her two grown daughters and her dear Mum who passed this year, is important to her. She loves to bake and craft individual gifts for her family and friends. She is always busily thinking of others.

She is a gifted musician and amazing music teacher. She plays the flute and sings like a Robin. She incorporates music and fun into classes for children and lessons for adults learning English. All come to her classes eager to learn and leave singing with joy and acceptance.

At Christmas the family gather round to decorate the tree and “remember the moments” marked by ornaments made by smaller hands, collected on travels, or signifying achievements and occasions like graduations and engagements.

I know my friend would treasure this beautiful light catcher as another reminder of life’s precious gifts and moments that make it magic. Thank you Pauline for the opportunity to express openly how much I value her friendship.

You can find out more about Robin on her website and even purchase her wonderful CD “Notes from Squire Street”.

Robin - Notes from Squire Street

I am very excited to say that Robin is included in Pauline’s list of winners. In fact Pauline’s generosity is being extended to many of the nominees, and even to one for commenting on the post. Very soon Pauline’s light catchers will be dispersing rainbow light of friendship and joy around the world. I think that is a beautiful and generous gesture.

Thank you

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

 

 

Sugar and Snails: On friendship, fact and fiction

sugar-and-snails cover

In this post I am very excited to introduce Anne Goodwin sharing tidbits from her debut novel Sugar and Snails, published just last week by Inspired Quill. It is already receiving rave reviews and I am happy to add my voice to those in praise of it.

Anne and I have been friends for the best part of two years. I can’t quite remember just how we met but I do remember it was on Twitter and that we hit it off almost immediately. I followed up one of our Twitter conversations with a post and we haven’t looked back. We have enjoyed many wonderful discussions on each of our blogs, and the blogs of others. With Anne’s background in psychology and mine in education there is considerable opportunity for a meeting, as well as divergence, of minds.  I learn from her, I think, as much as she learns from me. Or should that be the other way round?

On her blog Annecdotal Anne shares reviews of novels she has read and her thoughts about and understanding of the writing process. I have read some of Anne’s recommendations, including “The Examined Life” by Stephen Grosz, which stimulated a great discussion on my blog, including a first guest post by Anne.

Anne is also a fabulous teller of short stories with over sixty published either online or in print. I must confess I have not yet read all of Anne’s stories but have thoroughly enjoyed each I have read. I think she has a gift for a surprise ending, though she does not employ the technique in every story.  Her style is easy to read with a natural flow of language. Her portrayal of characters shows a depth of understanding that may be attributed to her background in psychology, but the variety of settings and topics displays a much broader understanding of the human condition in different environments and from different cultural backgrounds.

It is my great pleasure to hand this post over to Anne.

Anne

Anne Goodwin: On friendship, fact and fiction

The year I turned fifty, I wanted to do something special, but a party really wasn’t my thing. Instead, I celebrated with a long distance walk: 190 miles across northern England from the west coast to the east. As the route begins only a few miles from where I grew up, I took the opportunity to meet up with a bunch of old school friends the evening before I set off.

About a dozen of us got together for a meal in the pub we used to frequent after school. I’d kept in sporadic touch with a few of the women over the years, but some I hadn’t seen since I was fifteen. Although there was some lively conversation, I spent a lot of the time sitting staring, overwhelmed by how I could detect within these middle-aged faces the teenagers they’d once been, and the pleasure of being back among them.

After hiking across three national parks, meeting up with various friends and family along the way, I reached my destination at Robin Hood’s Bay, exhausted and exuberant. Back home, with a couple of days free before returning to work, I began writing the novel that was to become Sugar and Snails.

Like many writers, I’m an introvert. I relish my time alone. I need to be able to withdraw into the privacy of my own mind to reboot. But friendship is important to me as well. Those two and a bit weeks of reconnecting with old friends served as a reminder of that, and also that, in the right form, sociability can revitalise me too. It felt so important I dedicated my novel to the coast-to-coasters and old school friends.

Yet it wasn’t until very recently that I realised that my novel was itself a celebration of friendship. Of course I’d given my main character friends but, in my head, I didn’t distinguish them from other people who drive the plot forward: a troubled student; her difficult boss; the social worker who found her a place at boarding school at fifteen. Maybe, because Diana herself doesn’t fully trust her friends, I wasn’t able to appreciate them either.

Two of her friends are crucial to the story and, although they never meet, they are brought together strongly in Diana’s mind early on. Attending a dinner party to mark the forty-fifth birthday of her best friend, Venus Najibullah, Diana is asked to pop upstairs to tell Venus’s daughter a bedtime story. In response to the seven-year-old’s insistence on a story about “when you were a little girl going on adventures”, Diana finds herself lost in the memories of Geraldine Finch “the girl who ruled my childhood”.

As with many childhood friendships, Diana recalls an intense connection with Geraldine as the pair absorbed themselves in dressing up for role-play games. But as they approached their teens, Geraldine proved fickle, neglecting her playmate in favour of other friends, unless there was something she wanted. The friendship ends abruptly in what appears to be a betrayal, followed by Diana’s departure for boarding school a few months later. But it would be premature to regard this strand of the novel as about the dark side of female friendship. From the vantage point of adulthood, Diana might come to view this childhood friendship differently, just as the reader might gain a different perspective on learning more about the character of Diana.

Meeting for the first time aged eighteen, Diana is somewhat intimidated by Venus until she discovers they have something in common:

On my first Sunday night at university, I was en route from the bathroom to my study-bedroom in the student halls, clutching a damp towel and my quilted wash-bag to my chest like a shield. My gaze levelled at my fluffy primrose slippers peeping out from under the hem of my stripy galabeyah as I shuffled along the corridor. I didn’t notice the other girl until I’d almost bashed into her: tall, with a cascade of ebony hair and skin the colour of butterscotch.

I made to move on, but the girl blocked my path, looking down her long nose at me from beneath heavy eyebrows: “You do realise that’s a man’s galabeyah you’re wearing?” Her voice was as haughty as the girls’ at Dorothea Beale, with an exotic lilt that brought to mind the rhythms of Cairo.

No doubt I blushed. At boarding school I’d kept it hidden in my trunk. But university promised another chance and, besides, who was going to be able to tell the difference between a traditional Arab shift and an ordinary nightgown? Who, apart from this arrogant girl who was scrutinising me like I was an exhibit in the Egyptian Museum?

I glanced down at the loose cotton gown I’d picked out with my dad at the Khan el Khalili three years before. “That’s what I like about it,” I told the girl. “A dress that’s meant for a man.”

A wide smile softened her features. “Fair enough, although I prefer a dash of frill myself.” It was only then that I recognised her floor-length lilac robe as another galabeyah, trimmed with lace around the neckline, with pearl buttons where mine fastened with bobbles of cord. “I’m Venus Najibullah, by the way. Come back to my room and I’ll make you a coffee and you can tell me how an English girl came by such a thing already.”

Yet, although they become close friends, and remain so for years, Diana can’t tell Venus the full story of her trip to Cairo, fearing rejection if she does. She’s become so accustomed to presenting a false self to the world, she genuinely wouldn’t know how to share the secret of her past. Over the course of the novel, she has to take a risk to discover whether she can trust Venus with a more authentic version of who she is.

When Norah first offered me a guest slot on her blog, I thought I’d write something more closely tied in to the theme of learning. Yet when she showed me the draft of her lovely introduction, I knew this was the right way to go. To both give and receive friendship is something best learnt through experience but, to do so, we have to be prepared to take the risk of being rebuffed.

Norah is a prime example of the wonderful new friends I’ve found through writing, and I’ve been especially touched by the support I’ve received from friends, old and new, online and off-line, as I publish my debut novel. Tonight I’ll be at the second of my book launch parties along with a few blog/Twitter friends I’ll be meeting in person for the first time. Norah can’t be there, but I’ll be conscious of her presence in spirit, as well as that of other dear friends from across the continents. A few of those “old school friends” to whom I have dedicated my novel will be there, however, closing the circle of friendship that is a central theme both of my novel and my journey to write it.

Anne Goodwin author photo

Anne Goodwin writes fiction, short and long, and blogs about reading and writing, with a peppering of psychology. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was published last week by Inspired Quill. Catch up on her website: annethology or on Twitter @Annecdotist.

blog tour week2

 

Thank you, Anne, for sharing your thoughts. I am delighted  to join in the excitement of your publication celebrations. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Sugar and Snails and am happy to recommend it to others.

Thank you

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