Tag Archives: growth mindset

there'll be good days like this, all is not lost

Days like this

Not the End of the World

Ever have one of those days? You know—it seems the world is against you, and everything you do goes wrong. Maybe you oversleep and in your rush, you fumble, make mistakes and get even later. You hurry to the stop as your bus pulls away. You flop down reviewing life’s punishments, and some jackass walks by telling you to “Smile, it’s not the end of the world.” What would he know? You open your phone and scroll: trivial drivel. Then this one story blows your insignificancies away. You phone your appointment, apologise and reschedule. All is not lost.

All is not lost Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge

I wrote this in response to the challenge that Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch set for writers this week, to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about “not all is lost.” It can include recovery from disaster, an unexpected insight after a fall, or however the phrase moves you. Go where the prompt leads.

In her post, Charli tells of her friend Cynthia who normally sleeps outside in a tent, even in the snow, but not on the night of June 16. As Charli explains, “In a few hours, the thunderstorm stalled over the lower Keweenaw and dumped 7 inches of rain. Cynthia, who usually sleeps where a mountain slammed into her house, slept inside that night. She and her daughter woke up when her refrigerator tumbled over. Water filled her stairwell to the bedrooms on the second floor and pushed against their doors in a torrent, preventing escape.”

Though much was lost during that storm and its aftermath, Cynthia did not lose her spirit or her optimism. As she looked around at the devastation, she had thoughts other than loss (as quoted in Charli’s post):

“This is what I saw: beloved neighbors talking with selfless helpers and eating something finally as they gazed over tge work of some long days, people still digging and puzzling in the waterway, laughter ringing, dogs barking, a moon rising… and I was so pleased, so happy, so fulfilled. This is life, this is who we are capable of being. This is who we are. It was such a beautiful scene. It is our new reality. Blessed be.”

All around the world, there are tragedies of enormous proportion: wars, floods, fires, droughts, volcanic eruptions, illness. The list goes on.

What I attempted to show through my flash is that it can be easy to get caught up in the trivialities of our daily lives and forget to look from afar and see how small they are. When our problems seem overwhelming, we don’t need to look too far to see someone in a worse position. For those of you who are truly suffering, I apologise, I in no way intend to trivialise your concerns.

I also intended it as a reminder that we don’t always know what someone else is going through and an off-hand remark to tell them to “cheer up” may not helpful.

It is the same for children in our schools, in our classes. We don’t know what bumps they may be experiencing to make them withdrawn, moody, hostile or aggressive.

To truly understand another’s position we need to listen, put ourselves in their shoes and consider how we would feel. We need to accept that the world doesn’t always work in the way or timeframe we wish.

If we could lend a helping hand, a listening ear, kind words, and an open heart what a more beautiful world it would be.

Just as Cynthia chose to see beauty in the scene around her, it is important to remember there’ll be days like this, that all is not lost.

Thank you blog post

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

How important is perfection?

Are you a perfectionist? If so, in what areas?

I think it would be difficult to be a perfectionist in everything, indeed, in anything.

I have never considered myself to be a perfectionist, though others have occasionally labelled my attitude to work that way. I do have certain standards that I like to meet, and I always strive to attain them, to do the best I can. I concede that my expectations of spelling, grammar and punctuation correction may tend towards perfection, but if I can, why would I not? Of course, the occasional imperfection will slip through. It is difficult to catch all when we are editing and proofing our own work. However, if I spot any, I will quickly change them, embarrassed that I let them escape.

There are many areas in which I am far from a perfectionist – especially housework. I’ll do what needs to be done, but only if I must; and my idea of need may differ vastly from yours. I am often reminded of my mother’s words when I’d completed a household chore; for example, sweep the steps, when I was a child. She’d comment that I’d given it a “lick and a promise”. These days, housework rarely gets more than a promise, a promise I’m not good at keeping.

As a teacher of young children, it was not perfection I was looking for in their work, but for the best they could do. I expected their work to reflect their development. If they were capable of the calculation, spelling or of using the correct punctuation, I expected them to use it. Opportunities to revise answers and responses were given and improvement was encouraged.

I’ve hedged around this topic a few times in posts; such as, Is contentment compatible with a growth mindset? The end, Phrasing praise and What is failure.

But how do we decide when good enough is good enough and that we have put in as much effort as the task requires? I know there are many who agree with me about housework, but what about other things; maybe like, hanging a picture, following a recipe, parking a car, making a payment, checking copyright, or painting a room?

I recently watched a TED Talk by Jon Bowers entitled We should aim for perfection and stop fearing failure. Bowers provides some different perspectives on the topic of perfectionism, challenging an adjustment to thinking.

He begins by discussing typos. We’ve all made them, haven’t we? The seemingly innocuous typo can give us a good laugh at times. But it can also do a lot of damage.

Bowers tells us that “one little typo on Amazon’s supercode produced a massive internet slowdown that cost the company over 160 million dollars in the span of just four hours”, and “an employee at the New England Compound, which is a pharmaceutical manufacturer, didn’t clean a lab properly and now 76 people have died and 700 more have contracted meningitis.”

Bowers says,

“When did we come to live in a world where these types of typos, common errors, this do-your-best attitude or just good enough was acceptable? At some point, we’ve stopped valuing perfection, and now, these are the type of results that we get. You see, I think that we should all seek perfection, all the time, and I think we need to get to it quick.”

traffic

He talks about the need for perfection when behind the wheel of a vehicle. How many lives are lost daily through inattention, through lack of perfection?

credit card

He talks about the need for credit card manufacturers to demand perfection. How would it be if even 1% of our credit cards didn’t work properly?

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He says that “if the Webster’s Dictionary was only 99.9 percent accurate, it would have 470 misspelled words in it.  If our doctors were only 99.9 percent correct, then every year, 4,453,000 prescriptions would be written incorrectly, and probably even scarier, 11 newborns would be given to the wrong parents every day in the United States.”

He goes on to make many other statements that I’m sure will get you thinking too. At less than 11 minutes in length, the time commitment is far less than the potential learning gain.

When I watched this video, I was contemplating my response to this week’s flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Charli shared a “possibly spam” email received as an entry into the Carrot Ranch Rodeo Contest #2: Little and Laugh. You can read the email in Charli’s post, which also includes the challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a fictional story about The Real Nanjo Castille. (The spammer).

I thought the email to be a little too clever to be real spam, too many clever word choices, phonetic spellings, and our favourite: bitchcoin, that could be purchased for ten dollars, $20 or £20. And the poor writer has an identity crisis, not sure whether to spell his or her name Nanjo or Najno.

I wondered about how the performance of this child in school might be viewed and what profession might be suggested as a goal.

This is my response. I hope you enjoy it.

A job for Nanjo?

The parents waited.

Start positive, she reminded herself.

“Nanjo has a wonderful imagination.”

They smiled.

“Very creative too, especially with spelling and punctuation.”

They exhaled.

“Has trouble understanding money though, and his knowledge of number facts is non-existent – “ she hesitated, then continued quietly. “I can’t think of any employer who’d have him.”

“Pardon?”

“I mean, employment, suited to his – ah – special skills.”

She cracked.

“I’m sorry. Your son is unemployable. His spelling and grammar is atrocious. He can’t even spell his own name, for god’s sake! I don’t think he could even get a job as a spammer!”

Make sure to check the results of Contest #2 at the Carrot Ranch. I’m not the winner. Nor is it Nanjo. Could it be you?

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

readilearn: Introducing Pamela S. Wight, author of Birds of Paradise – Readilearn

In the author spotlight this month is Pamela S. Wight, a fellow blogger, writer, and teacher of creative writing. I enjoy the stories of life Pamela shares on her blog Rough Wighting, and also enjoyed reading her adult novels. But it was the story of how this picture book Birds of Paradise came to be, a picture book 35 years in the making, that really captivated me. I knew I wanted to share it with you. Before we start talking about the book, though, let me introduce you to Pamela.

yellow bird Pamela Wight

Pamela Wight has joined the ranks of authors who are, as she calls it humorously “bi-genre” or “ambi-writers.” Think of Ian Fleming, who yes, wrote the James Bond books, but also switched genres and wrote the children’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Before A.A. Milne wrote the Winnie-the-Pooh books, he penned a popular whodunit entitled The Red House Mystery.

Wight wrote two books of romantic suspense, The Right Wrong Man and Twin Desires, before fulfilling her lifelong dream of publishing her children’s story Birds of Paradise about two special sparrows.

About the story:

Birds of Paradise

Sweet sparrows Bessie and Bert grow up as differently as night and day. Bessie is fearful of the dangers inherent in being a bird. She’s scared to leave her cozy branch. But Bert relishes flying in the sky and

continue reading: readilearn: Introducing Pamela S. Wight, author of Birds of Paradise – Readilearn

Inspiring creativity – celebrating Dot Day – Readilearn

inspiring creativity - dot day

Next Friday 15 September is International Dot Day, a day for celebrating and promoting creativity, courage and collaboration.

Celebration of the day was initiated in 2009 with teacher Terry Shay introducing his class to the picture book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.

The story is of Vashti and a teacher who encouraged her to make a mark and have a go. Lacking self-belief and courage, Vashti was reluctant to participate in art class. When the teacher framed and hung her signed painting of a tiny dot, Vashti was determined to do better. She painted all kinds of dots that wowed the people at the school art fair. What happened when one little boy admitted to Vashti that he wished he could draw will inspire children everywhere to be brave, have a go, and be creative.

For a wealth of celebratory suggestions, visit the International Dot Day Get Started page and sign up to download a free Educator’s Handbook, which includes a lovely certificate of participation which can be printed and personalised for each child.

I have included a link to the page in the new resource Getting creative with dots in which I suggest additional ideas to add to the celebration.

getting creative with dots

The suggestions, of which examples are shown below, can be used in conjunction with International Dot Day, or any day when you feel like going a little dotty.

Continue reading: Inspiring creativity – celebrating Dot Day – Readilearn

Is contentment compatible with a growth mindset?

I am quite a fan of the growth ‘not yet’ mindset which focuses on a belief in the ability to do and achieve more through persistence and hard work. I have previously written about this mindset in What do you have in mind? and in The power of not yet.

I wonder how compatible a growth mindset is with a complacency or acceptance of the way things are; a “This is it. I can’t do anything about it.” attitude.

When I think of contentment, I think of serenity, tranquillity, a feeling of peace and acceptance. I think of it as a positive state of mind. The dictionary defines it as:

Does this imply that there is no wish for things to be different?

I often talk about the importance of imagination and creativity to inspiring innovation and invention. But do they also require a certain degree of disequilibrium or discontent with the way things are? Is it necessary to find fault with something in order to improve upon it? How many gadgets do you use regularly, accepting their imperfections without a thought of how they might be improved? It is not necessary to have the ability to improve them in order to imagine how they might be improved.

A fun thing to do with children is to get them to think of an easier or more enjoyable way of conducting a routine activity. How about an alternative to the traditional, in Australia anyway, emu parade which has children criss-crossing the school grounds, bobbing up and down to pick up rubbish? How about something to carry their heavy back-packs home? Or something to do their homework? (Oh, that’s right, they’ve already invented parents for that!)  I’m sure children, and you, can imagine far more exciting improvements.

Imagination is the driver of innovation and change. But it also requires action. It is the action that gets us into the growth mindset; perseverance, hard work and repeated attempts. As Edison is oft quoted,

 “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

He also said,

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

I wonder how my friend Pauline King The Contented Crafter would respond to my title question. While I know she has reached a certain stage of contentment in her life, I also know that she strives to better her craft, and does what she can to make the world a better place. How much need for change or improvement can contentment tolerate?

Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch and her flash fiction challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about feeling content  got me wondering about this. Charli talked about moments of contentment sprinkled among frustrating events and dreams of change.

It helped me realise that, while they appear to be in contradiction, we need a little of both. We need to be happy with who we are, what we have, and what we have achieved; while at the same time, we need to be aware of what can and should be improved, and some strategies for action. Questioning is important to stimulate imagination, and when paired with creative thinking, innovation can occur. We need the inspiration of just one forward-thinker to lead us into the future.

The same balance between contentment and growth can be seen in children’s play. I have used it as my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope you enjoy it.

Purpose in play

They worked furiously as if with one mind; digging, piling, shaping, smoothing the sand.  As if on cue, two began to tunnel through from opposite sides, meeting in the middle. Others carved into the surface, forming window-like shapes. Sticks, leaves, and other found objects adorned the structure. Then, simultaneously, the work stopped. They glowed with collective admiration. But Than was not yet content. Something was missing. He swooped on a long twig and stuck it into the top, antenna-like. “For communicating with the mother ship,” he declared. Soon they were all feverishly adding other improvements to their alien craft.

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

 

 

You’re not allowed!

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How many of these did you hear when you were a child?

  • You’re too small
  • You’re too big
  • You’re too young
  • You’re too old
  • It’s too far
  • It costs too much
  • It’s too dangerous
  • Girls don’t do that
  • Boys don’t do that
  • It’s too …

Sometimes it was difficult to find an activity that, like Baby Bear’s bed, was just right. Oftentimes it was only ‘just right’ in the eyes someone wielding the power; and not always in the eyes of the one wishing to have, do, go, or be. Setting limits is often easier than chasing possibilities.

starr-cline-creativity

Many years ago I read What Would Happen If I Said Yes?… A Guide to Creativity for Parents and Teachers by Starr Cline.  Cline writes about creativity, emotional intelligence, giftedness, intelligences, diversity, and the power of “Yes”. On her website, she makes this statement:

“After years of observation and research, I have drawn the following conclusions:

  • Everyone has the ability to create.
  • The external environment is critical in the development of one’s potential, whether it be in mathematics, language, the arts, etc.
  • Individuals may have one or more areas in which they excel
  • IQ scores do not reflect specific talents or abilities
  • Creativity begins diminishing at about third grade”

I’m inclined to agree, and feel especially sad about the last point she makes.

What Would Happen If I Said Yes? challenged me to think about ways in which I could parent (and teach) more positively and encourage, rather than inhibit, creativity; encourage a willingness to try new things; and to avoid placing unnecessary limitations upon others and myself. I can’t say I was entirely successful, but I did make some gains.

In the book, Cline suggests that you “STOP every time you are about to say no. THINK about what might happen if you said yes!”  Consider the worst scenario that could occur if you said yes, and whether it would be really that bad, or even likely.

She says to consider why you may say No.

“Is it because …

You don’t want to be bothered

It wasn’t your idea

It’s a habit

Someone treated you that way

It makes you feel powerful”

She reminds that the messages saying “No” often sends are:

“Your idea is stupid

You are stupid

You’re not capable

You’re not worth it.”

In the long term, are these negative messages more important than a temporary inconvenience, or than the benefits that would accrue from positive responses?

But don’t get me wrong. Cline doesn’t suggest you just say “Yes” to everything. She says that sometimes you may need to come up with a creative way of saying no. She provides many ways of doing so in her book, which I recommend as a great read for both parents and teachers.

Even as adults we can find ourselves in situations where certain things are not allowed and rules are imposed, such as in the workplace or in clubs and other organisations.

Sometimes the things we are not allowed to do are self-imposed limits; we may not allow ourselves to do things because:

  • It’s scary
  • It’s unfamiliar
  • We feel uncomfortable
  • We don’t know anybody there
  • It costs too much

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Sometimes, as I explained about my attitude to camping in a previous post Around the campfire, we make choices and find ways of justifying our decisions, at least to ourselves if not to anyone else. There are many reasons I choose to avoid camping, many other things I’d prefer to do, and I don’t often consider myself to be missing out.

Although I can appreciate camping’s appeal to others, it was only when I read a late comment by Bruce Mitchell that I began to consider some of the wonders, including Antarctica, I had missed. Maybe I’ll be more adventurous next time round!

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about something or someone not allowed

In her post, Charli speaks of many injustices, including the rules that say who is and is not allowed to vote in elections in the United States. The rules affect many, for many different reasons (or petty excuses based on power) and tend to be divisive rather than inclusive.

charli-mills-gift

Charli says that,

“The greatest gift you can give is to allow another. Allow someone else to listen to their favorite music. Allow someone else to tell you their story. Allow someone to connect to you even if you feel harried. Smile back, nod, acknowledge, empathize. Be loving. Some among us have denials you can’t see stamped upon their countenances because of circumstances.”

While deciding what we will or will not allow our children to do may seem trivial in comparison, surely bringing up our younger generations to be confident, independent, responsible, and accepting of others, allowing them to join in; creating an inclusive society, is something to strive towards. Perhaps if we allow our children, they will allow others.

For my response to Charli’s flash, I’ve gone back to childhood. Where else? I hope you enjoy it.

Not allowed

She knew they were in there. She heard their chatter. Her knocks began timidly, then louder. The room hushed. There was rustling, then padding feet. She waited. The door opened a peek. Her loving sister’s smiling face appeared, then contorted unrecognisably.

“You’re not allowed!” the monster screeched, and slammed the door.

She froze – obliterated, erased, smashed to smithereens. She was nowhere, nothing. Why? What had she done?

She could only shrug when Mum asked why she wasn’t playing with her sister.

Later, at dinner, she viewed her sister’s sweet smiles cautiously. Was she real? When would the monster reappear?

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

Scary monsters

This week at Carrot Ranch Communications Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a monster story.  Being an early childhood teacher I think immediately of picture books. Two of my favourites are The Gruffalo, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, and The Monster at the End of this Book , written by Jon Stone and illustrated by Michael Smollin.

The Gruffalo

The Gruffalo is as fearsome as any monster you are likely to meet with its “terrible tusks, and terrible claws, And terrible teeth in his terrible jaws”; “a poisonous wart at the end of his nose” and “purple prickles all over his back”. The quick witted mouse, who imagines the Gruffalo into storybook “reality”, must find a way of ridding himself of the monster’s inherent danger and once again uses his ingenuity to escape.

I’m not sure if it was Donaldson’s intention, but I think this is a great analogy for the monsters we create for ourselves such as self-doubt, unrealistic expectations, and (you can add your own monster here). Not that I’d be sharing that thought with young children.

In this video Axel Scheffler explains his concept of the Gruffalo and even hints, a couple of times, that he too may be troubled by that all too common of personal monsters, self-doubt.

Monster at the end of this book

Throughout The Monster at the end of this Book Grover, from Sesame Street, pleads with the reader to not turn the page as there is a monster at the end of the book. You could almost say he is immobilised by this fear, or that he tries to immobilise the reader. Of course it is a lot of fun and provides much laughter. When we (reader and Grover) do get to the end of the book, he is rather embarrassed to find that he, “lovable, furry, old Grover” is the Monster. He tries to assure us that we, and not he, were the scared ones.

Of course Grover wasn’t the monster only at the end of the book. He was always the “lovable, furry” harmless monster. It was his fear that was the real monster. How often are we immobilised by our fear, and how often when we take that jump despite it, do we find our fears to be groundless? Sometimes I think, or is it only me, we are our own worst monsters setting ourselves impossible targets with too-high expectations that lead us only to disappointment if we don’t achieve them.

But if we view ourselves as works in progress, in the process of working out where we want to be and how to get there, we can find contentment in what we achieve along the way, in where we are and how far we have come, rather than ignoring those milestones and looking only at how much further we must (in our own minds) go.

It is all too easy to contribute to the development of children’s personal monsters by doing to them what we do to ourselves: setting unrealistic targets, expecting too much, insisting on error-free work, measuring them against external benchmarks … To avoid this, we need to view them also as works in progress and encourage them, through a growth mindset, to reach their own milestones and goals in the time that is right for them.

Like the mindset of the mouse in The Gruffalo who was able to think on his feet and overcome the obstacles, or that of Grover who realised there was really nothing to be worried about at all.

We need to be not afraid of the monsters under the bed or in the cupboard, most of which we have created in our imaginations and stuffed there, sometimes with the assistance of others, allowing them to multiply like wire coat hangers until there is no room left for anything good. I have taken the theme of internal monsters for my response to Charli’s challenge.

Open, close them, open anew

The picture was clear. Taken with wide open shutters and long exposure, then developed in black and white for extra clarity, the result was undeniable and exactly what would be expected.

“You’ll never amount to anything.”

“That’s rubbish.”

“Pathetic.”

“You’re always the troublemaker.”

“Because I said.”

“Shut up!”

“Stop asking questions.”

An existence devoid of value was drilled with reminders hurled unrelentingly from birth. Well-schooled in self-loathing, the lessons were regurgitated without effort or question. The monsters without had created the monster within. How could one escape from what was recognised only as truth?

And now for something a little lighter:

The Monster Mash

Thank you

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