Tag Archives: goals

Well I declare

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is making declarations. Specifically she is declaring herself an author, making it clear what her writerly intentions are. I also have declared my writerly intentions. In previous posts, here, here and here, I shared my goal of establishing a website with early childhood teaching resources of my creation.

In her post Charli expresses it this way: success for her is publishing books. She wants to write books for readers who want to read them. Not only that, she wants to market her books “well enough to eat more than hand-picked dandelions from (her) yard”.

Change books to early childhood teaching resources and, for me it’s the same. I want to publish teaching resources that teachers want to use, that enhance their teaching and improve children’s learning. I’d also like to do well enough to not be reduced to eating dandelions from my backyard.

Some writers consider “educational writing” less worthy and lacking in creativity. “Oh educational writing,” said one disparagingly, “that’s so prescriptive,” and quickly moved on to discuss others’ more literary pursuits.  

I know some educational writing can be prescriptive. I have done some of that formulaic writing myself. However the resources I am creating do not conform to a formula, are not worksheets to be completed by students sitting quietly in rows.

I am developing a variety of resource types, some with interactivity, to help develop understanding and skills in a meaningful context. Many encourage critical thinking, problem solving and purposeful applications. Many are built around my own original stories and poems as well as non-fiction texts.

I have chosen this path in order to support teachers with ready to use teaching episodes and parents with suggestions for nurturing their child’s development. Prescriptive? Far from it. And please don’t prejudge my educational writing against the stereotype of formulaic worksheets and textbooks which are far too abundant and easily accessible on the internet and in bookstores.

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

From the declaration of writing goals to a declaration of another kind, repeated often on my blog: my appreciation of all things early childhood, especially literacy and picture books, and the importance of reading to and with children on a daily basis.

The years from birth to eight, especially those before formal schooling begins, are crucial to a child’s development and have an enormous impact on future happiness and success.  It is during these years that basic skills and language are developed along with attitudes to self and relationships.

noisy nora

The picture book Noisy Nora by Rosemary Wells is a delightful book about a middle child who fails to get the attention of her parents who are busy with the older and younger siblings. Finally Nora declares that she is leaving and never coming back. With Nora gone the house becomes unusually quiet and the family go looking for her. At last she declares herself back again as she clatters out of the broom closet.

(This information from Wikipedia explains why my cover differs from the one in the Amazon store.)

I took Nora’s declaration as the basis for my response to Charli’s flash challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) declare an intention in a story. Is it one person, a character speaking up or speaking out? Is it a group or a nation? Create a tension before or after the declaration. It can be private or public, big or small. Does it have power to those who state it or hear? What does it change?

While I wrote it with Marnie in mind, it could be about any number of others in oppressive situations and seems particularly appropriate to those trapped by the horrors of domestic violence which is at the forefront of our news at the moment. Unlike Nora, who declared she was leaving and never coming back but didn’t really leave, Marnie definitely won’t be coming back.

from "Noisy Nora" by Rosemary Wells

from “Noisy Nora” by Rosemary Wells

Leaving

It was time. No more would they treat her this way. No more would she accept the cruelty of their world. She was more than this, more than they made her believe. With cash from a secret job stashed in her pockets, a few clothes in a backpack, and hope in her heart, she left. No need to follow a bag through the window. No need to wait for night’s darkness. No. She navigated past their stupor of beer, smoke and flickering screens; paused at the door to declare, “I’m leaving,” then closed off that life as she left.

Thank you

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

 

 

 

Ignorance is bliss … Learning to be explicit

My Dad used to say that what I didn’t know wouldn’t do me any harm. He was not impressed when a brother wrote in my autograph book when I was in my early teens that what I didn’t know wouldn’t do me much good either!

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

I’m torn between the two. I have come to realise that the more I know, the more there is to learn.

the more I know the more there is to learn

This learning journey never ceases. Each step is just one further into the unknown. I seem to know less now, or need to know more now, than I ever have before. How can that be?

There are those around me who are content with who they are, with where they are, with what they are doing, and wake up to each day wanting no more than it brings. I strive to achieve that contentment, and practice the joy of being in the present moment, believing strongly in its rewards. But at the same time I strive to do more, to learn more, to achieve more. The doing and learning is joy in the present moment, for me. It is both exhilarating and disheartening to realise that the learning journey stretches so far ahead.

Learning about learning

I have spent almost my entire life thinking and learning about learning and education, particularly literacy education and the education of young children. Though the journey has been long, my knowledge is narrow and small, and of absolutely no use in a trivia quiz, unless the question happens to be about a nursery rhyme, and then don’t ask me too much about its “real” or original meaning.

When I set upon my journey to create a website of teaching resources that I had made, I thought it was an easy thing. I had many resources already made. I just needed to get some illustrations done and put them on a website. What could be simpler than that?

Simple?

Every step I take drives me deeper into complexity, into the unknown. Unravelling the complexity demands that I be explicit, that I see and describe each minute step.

Being explicit

I always considered the ability to be explicit, to see and understand each step, essential to effective teaching in an early childhood classroom. If one was unable to see the exact spot where a child was going wrong, where a misunderstanding had been formed, or a misconception learned, or the potential for its occurrence, it was difficult to either prevent or repair it. I considered that ability to be one of my strengths as a teacher.

Over the past few years when I have been giving art briefs to illustrators, my need to be explicit was stretched anew. I had to describe in precise detail exactly what I wanted. It was no use saying I wanted a castle on a hill and expect that the artist would be able to fill in all the details I could see in my mind. I had to explicitly describe it in detail:  did it need a moat or a drawbridge, was the drawbridge to be up or down, were there turrets or flags, and if there were flags, what colour and design they would have, how many windows, how many people, and what were they doing and how were they dressed …

© Norah Colvin Artwork by Kari Rocher Jones

© Norah Colvin Artwork by Kari Rocher Jones

Then it was time to start thinking more specifically about what I required of the website … More complexity to unravel!

Oh for a journey across the seas rather than deeper into complexity!

It is said that it is darkest before the dawn. How much darker will it get?

A recent comment by Sarah Brentyn of Lemon Shark alerted me to the fact that although I have mentioned my website in previous posts, I had not made it clear that the purpose of the website is to make my resources available through subscription i.e. to sell my resources. While some will be available without subscription, many will be available only by paid subscription. I have received a quote for establishing the website, which I am considering. I have previously referred to it being my jetski. I think I was fairly explicit about my requirements in discussions with the designer.

However, I want some of my resources to be interactive, not downloadable, used only on the website by paid subscribers. It appears that creating the types of interactivity I have in mind will be more problematic, but they are what I consider will be my point of difference. I have had to learn to explain, very explicitly, the types of interactions I require. I even made videos demonstrating the interactions in the hope of achieving greater clarity.

However, it was while being explicit about these steps that I realised I had omitted something from my website brief that will be necessary for the interactions to be used effectively, if they can be made at all.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

And so I go in my merry dance – up the ladders and down the snakes, hoping to fall into a pool of clarity rather than a puddle of complexity.

Thank you for allowing me to express my muddle through writing in an attempt to make sense of it all.

Thank you

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

 

Making choices

In my most recent post I discussed my goals and the steps I was taking towards, and away from achieving them. Writing that post, and receiving your wonderful comments, advice and suggestions, provided me the opportunity of really assessing how I spend my time and of deciding where to from here; at least until I meet the next juncture anyway.

My most important realisation is that

I love the writing community that welcomed me so warmly and of which I feel very much a part:

  • The friendship and sharing
  • The open communication and exchange of ideas
  • The feedback and encouragement
  • The writing practice
  • The opportunity to be doing something with my time – it does a good job of keeping me off the streets!

The impact that being a part of this community may have on my ability to reach other goals may never be known. But for now it meets other needs in many wonderful ways that I am not prepared to forgo just yet. I may need to reassess the content of my posts in view of my writerly, as opposed to teacherly, audience; but since you have all accepted and responded so well to them thus far, maybe not. I can’t think what else I know about anyway!

However, I must prioritise my other work as well.

To do this I have refined my record of comments:

  • to include the twenty bloggers I engage with most frequently (reduced from the approximately thirty I showed on the infographics in that previous post, and seventy plus I had in the table when I began the record!)
  • by arranging the bloggers alphabetically to make them easier to locate and record
  • to match the Monday to Sunday week used in WordPress stats (I was using Sunday to Saturday previously)

While I have not unfollowed any bloggers, I have requested to not be notified of new posts of bloggers who have not engaged with me. This will reduce the number of emails I receive and therefore the time taken in dealing with the burgeoning inbox. I won’t be distracted by their content; and, if I have any spare time, I can always check out their posts in my reader.

Reducing the number of emails I receive each day is one of the things I am looking most forward to! It has always been a bugbear.

I have also decided that I will not actively seek new blogs to follow at this stage but will continue to maintain existing relationships. However if someone new engages with me, I will be more than happy to respond.

These changes should help me devote more time to other projects.

I have already written a lot of teaching resources. Unfortunately I am no more of an artist than I am a singer and, since my resources are mainly for use in early childhood settings, most of them need to be illustrated. My niece has illustrated some for me but she has her own life and busy work schedule as well so I need to look further afield.

Last week I decided to take action.

I signed up to 99 designs and ran a contest to see if it was possible to get some illustrations for one of my stories. It has been a steep learning curve and very interesting; even a bit harrowing at times. Many artists submitted work in the contest and I have narrowed it down to four finalists. I am running a poll to get some advice on the illustrations. I’d appreciate your thoughts if you have time to check it out.

monsterbraingames, golden trophy with glaze (remix)  https://openclipart.org/detail/202115/golden-trophy-with-glaze-remix

monsterbraingames, golden trophy with glaze (remix) https://openclipart.org/detail/202115/golden-trophy-with-glaze-remix

I feel a bit uncomfortable with all the work the artists have done, in the hope of winning the contest (these are 99designs’ terms), but it seems to be the way it is done so I guess they are aware of and expect it. I am already looking towards future contests and getting more work illustrated. I may also look at other options, so if you have other suggestions I’d be pleased to hear them.

I’ve been trying to think of a segue from there into my flash fiction response to the challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week. Charli’s prompt is to In 99 words (no more, no less) include a juxtaposition between the ordinary and natural worlds. Now that I look at it again, I’m not so sure my response quite fits, so perhaps that is fitting in itself. It seemed like a good idea at the time: matching the turquoise stone to the colour of Marnie’s eyes, which I didn’t even include!

turquoie necklace

Here it is anyway, the next little revelation of Marnie’s story that continues on from this one:

Juxtaposition

She paused her dusting, as often she did, scanning the fading faces. Her gaze lingered, as always, on one. She gave it an extra rub as if to wipe away a tear, erase the pain.

She lifted the postcard wedged into the frame to read the words she knew so well but wished had more to tell: “Thank you, Miss. Remember me.”

“Where are you? How are you doing?” she’d never stopped wondering, hoping.

She fingered the smoothness of the turquoise stone, its partner given long ago . . .

A quiet knock on the door interrupted her thoughts.

Thank you

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

 

Assessing the impact of blogging on writing goals

cyberscooty, a basketball about to enter a basketball hoop https://openclipart.org/detail/205569/basketball

cyberscooty, a basketball about to enter a basketball hoop https://openclipart.org/detail/205569/basketball

I love writing. Always have. I usually confess that I am a better writer than a speaker.

I like the time that I can take to choose a word or phrase and combine them to mean just what I intend.

I like the opportunity to check a word’s appropriateness before using it. Often when speaking I leave my sentence hanging embarrassingly in mid-air while I grope around in the murkiness of my mind for the “correct” word.  Why can my fingertips find the right word, without any thought, and the tongue cannot?

And of course there are all the opportunities that writing provides for self-expression, creativity and sharing ideas with a wider audience.

I started out writing stories, poems and songs, as most children, do and tried my hand at short stories, children’s stories and poetry as I got older. As I became more involved with my career in education, and in raising my children, I had (or made) less time for those creative pursuits.

There are many reasons I loved being a teacher and one of those was the opportunity it provided for me to be creative: creative and innovative in the way I worked with children to encourage their learning; and creative in writing resources to assist my teaching and the children’s learning.

I was fortunate in having a variety of opportunities to write materials for educational publishers at different times during my career, and I am currently writing documents to support curriculum implementation for my state educational authority. But I really wanted to be in control of my own writing.

At the back of my mind there was always the thought of sharing my teaching and learning resources with a wider audience. (Just a little bit further back, or maybe even close to equal footing, is the thought of publishing children’s stories, short stories, and maybe even a novel . . . one day.) I had had no success with submitting unsolicited manuscripts before and couldn’t think what publisher might be interested in the variety of educational resources I had made, many specifically for use on a computer.

So a couple of years ago I decided that a website of my own was the ideal platform for sharing my resources.  Getting that website up and running is my primary goal. However, observers could be mistaken in thinking that writing a blog is my primary goal. The path to establishing a website has taken a side-track via blogging.

venkatrao, A butterfly flying with a dotted path over a hill background https://openclipart.org/detail/69967/1278212857

venkatrao, A butterfly flying with a dotted path over a hill background https://openclipart.org/detail/69967/1278212857

Blogging, Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media were recommended me to right from the beginning as a way of targeting and establishing an audience. At the time I was familiar with none of these and set off learning how to become involved. It has been an exciting journey. I have learned lots and made many wonderful online friends.

However I am not sure how far it has moved me towards achieving my website goal. In fact, I think very little progress has been made.

  • I have not found and established my “target” audience and am really none the wiser about doing that.
  • The time that I am spending writing, reading and commenting on blogs is time that I am not spending on preparing materials for my website.
  • I need to be more proactive in finding illustrators for my work.
  • When I discovered the Teachers Pay Teachers site and established my Teachers Pay Teachers Store I had thought this may be an alternative avenue for sharing my work. But I haven’t been as successful there as I would like either. This may be telling me something about my website goal. What is it telling me? Should I listen?

So my dilemma comes down to these questions”

To blog or not to blog?

How to blog?

How much time for blogging?

The answer to the first one is easy:

Yes! I very much enjoy writing my post and receiving the almost immediate feedback from the wonderful community of writers I engage with.

Yes! I love reading and commenting on others’ blogs and joining in the discussions that ensue. We are a S.M.A.G. group: Society of Mutual Appreciation and Gratitude. What’s to not like?

The second two questions are a little more difficult.

The focus of my blog is education, but my audience consists of writers. Educators have shown little interest in developing a relationship with me online. I haven’t been able to figure that one out, but I have a few hazy ideas, none of which I think I want to address at this stage. If I change the way I blog I would quite likely fall out with the community I have become part of; and there is no guarantee I would pick up a teacher audience. So I’ll have to keep mulling this one over for a while.

The third question is the one I have been “researching” for close on five months. As time is limited and I need to devote more time to achieving my primary goal, it is important that time spent on blogging activities is worthwhile.

I decided to find out who is keen to engage with me and who isn’t.

I began keeping a record of the number of comments I made on others’ blogs, and of those they made on mine.  It wasn’t always as I expected, and highlighted some interesting trends; the main one of which I have noted above:

Writers have a wonderful sense of community.

The record helped me ensure that, if someone visited and commented on my blog, I would visit and comment on theirs, maintaining a balance as much as possible.

This key explains how to interpret the information on the tables below.

Table legend

I have removed names from the tables to respect privacy. (I don’t really expect you to look too hard at the tables. You have better things to do. But they do look pretty!)

November 9 2014 – Jan 24 2015

Slide1

 

Jan 25 2015 – March 26 2015

 

Slide2

I have not included all blogs I “follow”, or even all the ones I have ever commented on. Only the ones on which there has been some consistency in connecting.

I have also not included the comments of those who follow and comment on my posts but do not have a blog of their own on which I could reciprocate.

I generally post twice a week.

Others post more often.

Sometimes the number of comments I make on their posts in relation to their comments on mine is affected by the greater number of times they post. If someone chooses to post more often than twice a week, I will not necessarily read all their posts, regardless of how much I enjoy reading them, as there are other ways I must use my time, including a reading greater variety of writer’s work, and getting more done on my own. I’m sure they have enough other readers to not miss me!

Sometimes when a blogger posts less frequently than I do, their comments on my posts may tip the scales in my favour. I can’t do much about that either, but I do try to catch up when next they post.

I have found that it can take a few weeks of commenting on a blog I like to get a return visit and comment on my blog. Frequently I don’t even get a response to a comment I’ve made on theirs. I guess that’s how it goes. Some bloggers blog to develop community. Others blog to broadcast. I just need to decide how best to use my time.

If you have walked with me to the end of this post, thank you. It is rather longer than I intended. I had intended to respond to Anne Goodwin’s invitation to join in a writing process blog hop , Sherri Matthews’ invitation to join a workspace blog hop, and Sarah Brentyn’s questions for writers, as well as explain my writing goals to Sacha Black, thank Julie stock for her Sisterhood of the World bloggers award and draw on Paula Reed Nancarrow’s wonderful survey about Twitter #hashtag days and blogging. But they will have to wait. We all have others things to do.

Contributing partly to my procrastination with responding to these wonderful invitations, which I do very much appreciate, is that I have already nominated the majority of bloggers I follow, or if I haven’t someone else has. And the remaining ones don’t wish to be nominated. What is a girl to do? I’d appreciate your suggestions.

Thank you

Thank you for reading.

I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts and advice, especially about how to increase time. If anyone knows a good time alchemist, I’d love to meet her!

But I want it now! How long can you wait? The importance of emotional intelligence

marshmallow 5

In my previous post Life: a choose your own adventure – how do you choose I discussed the difficulties we may experience in prioritising options and choices, and the need to be self-regulatory in performing tasks and achieving goals.

The discussion reminded me of the marshmallow test I had heard about from Daniel Goleman in his book “Emotional Intelligence”.

The marshmallow test was a study conducted in the 1960s by Walter Mischel .

As described by Daniel Goleman, In this experiment four-year-olds from the Stanford University pre-school were brought to a room and sat in a chair in front of a juicy marshmallow on a table. The experimenter then told them they could eat it now, or get two if they were willing to wait until the experimenter came back from running an errand.

You can watch a video demonstrating the experiment here:

Some children could not wait and ate the marshmallow as soon as the examiner left the room. Others toyed with the idea of waiting, but were unable to resist the temptation. Others were able to wait and scored two marshmallows when the examiner returned.

While this study revealed certain aspects of childhood behaviour, follow-up studies into the behaviour of these children when young adults and graduating from high school revealed that Those who waited, compared to those who grabbed, were more popular with their peers, had less trouble delaying gratification, and scored far higher on achievement tests.”

A further study, conducted 40 years later, as reported by Sylvia R. Karasu writing for Psychology Today, found that the ability to resist temptation is fairly stable over the lifecycle and predictive of behaviors 40 years later!

Goleman talks about the important role of parents in supporting children to develop the ability to control impulses and choose behaviour. As children learn to internalise and choose the ‘no’ imposed by others, they learn to regulate impulsive behaviour. He calls it the ‘free won’t’, the capacity to squelch an impulse.”

Karasu supports this by saying that “The researchers also suggested that a family environment where self-imposed delay” is “encouraged and modeled” may give children “a distinct advantage” to deal with frustrations throughout life.”

Goleman says that the ability to curb dangerous impulses is an aspect of emotional intelligence, “which refers to how you handle your own feelings, how well you empathize and get along with other people. (He says it) is just a key human skill.”

He continues by saying that “it also turns out that kids who are better able to manage their emotions . . .  can pay attention better, take in information better, and remember better. In other words, it helps you learn better.”

It sounds like emotional intelligence is something that all schools should be developing, don’t you think?

Goleman says that the ability to delay gratification hinges on a cognitive skill: concentrating on the good feelings that will come from achieving a goal, and so ignoring tempting distractions. That ability also lets us keep going toward that goal despite frustrations, setbacks, and obstacles.”

Without that ability it may be difficult for any of us to achieve our goals. Saving for the future, studying towards a qualification, working harder now to have time off later; none of these would be possible without the ability to delay gratification.

But can emotional intelligence be taught? And should it be taught in schools?

It seems to me that if emotional intelligence is able to predict “success” in later life, then it is important to develop it as early as possible. This can begin in the home with parents helping their children learn to delay gratification, build resilience and develop empathy.

I believe it is important to make a place for programs that develop emotional intelligence in schools. Children need opportunities to internalise emotionally intelligent responses to a variety of situations. A very structured, force-fed, content driven, test based approach where almost every action is directed and monitored leaves little room for students to develop skills of self-regulation.

Discussions of whether emotional intelligence can, or importantly should, be taught in schools can be read here and here. The theory is that children can no more “pick up” emotional intelligence than they can “pick up” maths or English. To leave it to chance seems to be denying our children the opportunity to develop skills that will help them lead happy and successful lives.

What do you think? Would you have one marshmallow now, or double it later?

1 marshmallow      marshmallow 2

Please share your ideas.

 

You can read more of Daniel Goleman’s work at Edutopia, and hear his talks and conversations at More Than Sound.

 

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