Tag Archives: motivation

I love poems – Readilearn

I love poems. Children do too. Poetry is a great way of introducing children to the joy of language, as well as to features such as rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, similes and metaphors. What is taught through poetry can be as simple or as complex as required by the ages of the children or your teaching purpose.

One of the great benefits of teaching young children through poetry is the fun aspect. It’s enjoyable for teachers and students alike and, when children innovate on poems to create poems of their own, very motivating.

With St Valentine’s Day not far away it is timely to read and write love poems. One of my favourite poems for writing with young children is based on the traditional camping song I love the mountains. I was taught the poem by the amazing literacy educator Bill Martin Jr at a reading conference in the 1980s, and used it with every group of children I taught thereafter. I have previously written about that on my other blog here.

The repetitive structure and easy melody invites children to join in and is easy for children to use in writing poems of their own, whether they are emergent, beginning, or advanced writers.  The poems can be completed using pictures or words.

This is one of my favourite versions of the song.

Continue reading: I love poems – Readilearn

A garden party

The purposes of education are many; but perhaps one important purpose of “free” public schooling is to ensure that everyone is provided with the opportunity of being educated. While this goal is achieved to a certain extent, inequalities of opportunity still exist, many of which are related to socioeconomic status (SES).

letter from Camus

While there is no doubt that a teacher can have a powerful effect upon the lives of students and any teacher would love to receive a letter such as that written by Albert Camus, socioeconomic status is often considered to be the most reliable predictor of success in school and, therefore, in life. There are many reasons for this, few of which have anything to do with intelligence.

According to Macquarie University the majority of students in tertiary education are of mid to high socioeconomic status. The parents of these students may have professional backgrounds and may have attended tertiary institutions themselves.  Most have an appreciation of the benefits of higher education and are able to continue supporting their students, to some extent, while they study.

While students of lower SES are attending tertiary institutions in greater numbers they are disadvantaged in doing so by a number of factors, primarily financial in origin. Although Australia is supposedly free of class distinctions, attitudes towards those from lower SES areas are often demeaning and unsympathetic. Students from these areas may battle to develop the self-esteem that seems to be a birthright for others from more privileged backgrounds. The negativism with which they are viewed, and some come to view themselves, can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Ready for school - year 2

Ready for school – year 2

I was a fortunate one for, while I grew up in a family with low SES background, my parents saw the value in education and sacrificed much for their children to have the opportunities it provided. The high costs of tertiary education that are now incurred could not have been afforded, but I achieved well enough in school to obtain a scholarship to teachers’ college and a three-year bond (guaranteed employment) when that was finished.

Nowadays there is no such thing as guaranteed employment and few scholarships. Many families cannot afford to have post-secondary/adult students continue to live at home and not contribute to expenses while they undertake further study. This means that students have the additional burden of working while they are studying. Many opt out of study altogether to seek long term employment, often in low paying jobs with little opportunity for advancement. And so the cycle continues. The lack of permanent employment even for graduates makes deferring earnings less desirable again.

caravan

Of course the disadvantage doesn’t just begin when approaching final years of school. The impacts can be observed from the earliest age. (My suggestion for an early learning caravan addresses this in part.) Although education is provided “free” to students, there are many other associated costs that families may struggle to meet, such as books, equipment, and extra-curricular activities such as excursions and incursions.

In most Australian schools, the wearing of uniforms helps to minimize differences that may otherwise be obvious by choices of clothing and footwear. It also helps to reduce costs. Sometimes additional activities can be a drain on family expenses, and while many schools will fund expenses for those in need, not all families are willing to ask for that help.

DCF 1.0

Studies have shown that many children arrive at school without having eaten breakfast. While this phenomenon can occur in any family, it is more prevalent in low SES areas. Some schools are now providing a healthy breakfast for students when they arrive at school. I think this great as hungry children tend to have difficulty concentrating and learning, are often lethargic and may suffer from mood swings and negative attitudes. I know how irritated I become when I am hungry. My family “joke” about not getting in the way of me and my food! How much worse for children who come to school with empty bellies.

Of course these issues are compounded for children who live in dysfunctional families. As much as we may try to be inclusive and equitable in the way we treat them, these students are often the ones who notice their differences and inadequacies and become most self-critical. It can be a very difficult task to change the attitudes and habits of generations.

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills talked about attending a garden party. The hosts and guests at this party had obviously enjoyed some of the finer things that life reserves for a few.

lake-pend-oreile-cruise-may-21-31

Charli shared a photo of a rather idyllic spot on an island and challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story, using the above photo as a prompt.

Well the photo is beautiful, but I couldn’t get away, I was stuck at the garden party. I thought it was a wonderful analogy for the rewards that can be had from an education; rewards that may be obvious and perhaps available to many, but rewards that may be out of reach to others because of circumstances over which they have no real control. I thought of Marnie who suffers the double disadvantage of a dysfunctional family in a low SES area; but who knows there is something better out there and wants it for herself.

Thanks to Charli for her prompt, here is another episode from Marnie’s life. I hope you enjoy it.

The garden party

Marnie’s face pressed into the bars of the tall white gate with amazement: white-covered tables laden with food; chairs with white bows; white streamers and balloons; and a band!

But the ladies had her spellbound with elegant dresses and high, high heels; flowers in their hair and bright painted lips.

A man in uniform opened the gate to guests arriving in limousines. Marnie followed.

“Not you, Miss,” said the uniformed man.

Marnie held out her invitation, “Jasmine . . .”

But he’d closed the gate and turned away.

Marnie looked down at her stained dress. What was she thinking?

Thank you

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

Are you ready or what?

When thinking about schooling and education there is always a lot of discussion about readiness and the things that must be done to have a child ready for school, ready for the next class, ready go to college or university . . .

While I agree that a learner must be ready to take the next step, to broaden understanding of a concept or to grasp the complexity of deeper issues; just what that readiness requires is often up for conjecture.

Back in the early days of my teaching experience workbooks of ‘reading readiness’ exercises were frequently used with students in their first year of school. These activities generally required children to identify the one that was different in a group of objects. The exercises, such as those shown below, progressed through various levels of difficulty with the aim of preparing children for reading.
reading readiness exercises

Fortunately our understanding of how reading is learned has progressed since then and it is now recognised that exercises such as those did little to prepare children for learning to read. We now know that the best preparation for reading is to be immersed in language through conversations, with adults especially; to be read to frequently; and to develop a love of books and interest in print by sharing with others. The role of parents in preparing children for reading cannot be underestimated.

This week I watched a video of a presentation by Yong Zhao about a type of readiness he referred to as “Out of basement readiness”. I admit I hadn’t heard the term before but the concept is definitely familiar.

I do recommend you listen to Zhao’s talk. It is interesting, thought-provoking and humorous. I think I enjoyed listening to this talk as much as to Ken Robinson’s on How schools kill creativity which I have mentioned in previous posts here and here, amongst others. However at 55 minutes some of you may not be willing to commit the time. For me, it is 55 minutes of my life I’m very happy to not get back!

I will not attempt to share all the content of the talk; there is too much of value, but here are just a few snippets that resonated with me:

Zhao explains out of basement readiness this way:

out-of-basement readiness - Yong Zhao

 

Zhao says that students are being mis-educated, that they are being educated for something that doesn’t exist, and suggests that we should remove several phrases from the language we use to talk about education, especially

  • Under-performance
  • Evidence based
  • Data driven

 

His description of the traditional education paradigm will be familiar to any frequent readers of my blog. He says that it is “about forcing people to do what some other people prescribe them to do” and that we reduce it to just a few subjects that can be tested.

 

He talks about the “homogenisation” of schooling, and explained that homogenisation was the best way of getting rid of creative people and innovative thinkers.

 

He mentioned kindergarten readiness tests, and suggests that the only test should be whether the kindergarten was ready for the children and parents.

 

He recognises the uniqueness of every student, with different backgrounds, motivations and talents; and stresses the importance of effort. He says, “You cannot be born to be great. If you do not put effort into it you can never be good at it.” He explains it this way:

 “If you put ten thousand hours into something you are good at, something you are interested in you get great talent. But if I force you to spend time on something you have no interest in, you hate and something you are not good at, you at best become mediocre.”

He says that countries that produce high test scores, score low on confidence and interest.

He says,

“Everyone is born to be creative, that’s a human being, that’s our gift: to be able to adapt, to learn and relearn and do new things. But school has typically tried to suppress it (with) . . . short term learning. . . Direct instruction may give the short-term gain but cause long term damages Studies show that if you teach children how to play with the toy, they lose creativity, lose curiosity and if you allow children to explore more they may not test very well but they maintain creativity and curiosity.”

American schools _ Yong Zhao

Zhao says that “our students do not fit into a future world, they create the future world. This is why we need a different type of education.” He says that “education is to create opportunities for every individual student, they are not an average, they are not a probability, they need to be improved as individual human beings.”

our students do not fit - Yong Zhao

I couldn’t agree more. What do you think?

 

I was led to Zhao’s talk via Diane Ravitch’s blog which is about the education system and situation in the US. Much of what she writes has applications further afield and I recommend it to anyone wishing to stay informed of current issues in education.

Thank you

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

 

 

A sprinkling of semicolons

wordle semicolons

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about semicolons; but not the little squiggles on a page, the semicolons that are sprinkled liberally through life as new beginnings. Sometimes we see them and grasp the opportunity for renewal, other times we ignore them and miss the chance to revitalize. Sometimes we get pushed down and it takes all our strength to pull back up, grasping onto the semicolon as if it was a dragon’s tail.

Charli was inspired by Project Semicolon that provides this explanation:

“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence if your life.  Project Semicolon exists to encourage, love and inspire.”

Every day can be a new beginning in some way. With our thoughts, words and actions we can change our own lives, or the lives of others. The impact may be deliberate or unintentional. We may be aware of the effects, or we may never know the consequences.

Without wishing to diminish the importance of helping those “who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction and self-injury”, which is the focus of Project Semicolon, my focus as always is on education and the importance of maintaining curiosity and an interest in and love of learning.

jimmiet, A colourful monarch butterfly   https://openclipart.org/detail/19002/monarch-butterfly

jimmiet, A colourful monarch butterfly https://openclipart.org/detail/19002/monarch-butterfly

What better analogy of a semicolon of life than the transformation from a caterpillar in a pupa to the beauty and flight of a butterfly. An inspiring teacher can mean the difference between full stops and semicolons in learning.

To illustrate this I refer a post called Deeper Learning: Highlighting Student Work written by Ron Berger and shared on Edutopia.

In the article Berger discusses his obsession with “collecting student work of remarkable quality and value . . . the work of regular students in typical schools around the country . . . (whose) teachers have helped them develop the skills and mindsets necessary to produce work of exceptional quality, and have built classroom and school cultures in which exceptional work is the norm”.

Berger discusses ways of engaging students in authentic work, work that can have an impact on their communities and on the way they see themselves as learners. I remember Charli Mills telling me about similar work that her children were engaged in when they attended The School of Environmental Studies in Minnesota; and I shared some of Chris Lehmann’s work at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia here.

Berger says,

“Once a student creates work of value for an authentic audience beyond the classroom — work that is sophisticated, accurate, important and beautiful — that student is never the same. When you have done quality work, deeper work, you know you are always capable of doing more.”

Semicolons in teaching and learning, all.

As with the three cited above, the situations referred to are often of teenagers in high schools. I am an early childhood teacher and, while I find the work exciting, I sometimes struggle to see the relevance to my situation. However, in this article Berger shares the work of Austin, a year one student from Boise, Idaho doing a project about a tiger swallowtail butterfly.

Austin was to illustrate his project with a detailed scientific drawing of the butterfly. His initial drawing was what I would consider to be fairly typical of a year one child. However he received feedback that was specific and not mean from follow students; and through a series of six drafts finished with a drawing that was much more sophisticated and demonstrated more careful ‘scientific’ observation.

Berger also shared work by year two students at another school, demonstrating what can be achieved “when students are allowed, compelled and supported to do great things”.

 

Last week Charli’s flash fiction challenge “the day the earth turned brown” prompted me to write about a student mixing all the colours together to make one muddy brown. The teacher paused before responding. There are many such pauses, (semicolons) in a teacher’s day. The teacher knows the power of every remark and must consider the impact that a response may have.

If you had provided each child with a palette of primary colours and black and white expecting them to mix a variety of colours and shades and tones to create an interesting picture; then found that one child had mixed them all together to make one muddy brown, how would you respond?

There were a number of comments on the flash including one from Geoff Le Pard  who said that there were “So many questions as to why the little girl is making muddy browns and lathering them everywhere.”

So true. The teacher’s response would be influenced by knowledge of the child’s background, interest in art, and behaviour that day, among other things.

Charli Mills said that “It could mean many things and nothing!” She recalled, “mixing paints as a child hoping to create a vivid new color and (being) disappointed to end up with mud.Anne Goodwin agreed, saying that “mixing paints to make a muddy brown, (was) a distinctive childhood memory”.

In my experience there was usually one child who ended up mixing all the colours together, often for no other reason than to see what happened. Sometimes the process of discovery gave as much pleasure as would a colourful painting of a house a tree and a sun.

house and sun

However, there might be more to it than that. Charli Mills sympathesised with the teacher, saying that “So much is put on the teacher to figure it out.” She thought that the child “might be disturbed, highly imaginative or confident enough to experiment”.  Sherri Matthews suggested that perhaps the child was “troubled . . . living in a dark, mixed up world, but . . . trying to find their way”.

So much to consider. So powerful the response. Will it be a full stop, or a semicolon?

This is my response to Charli’s challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a renewal story that proclaims, “This isn’t the end; I will go on.

muddy brown

She paused. The muddy brown extended beyond the paper virtually cementing it to the desktop. The palette too was brown with little trace of the beautiful primary colours she had prepared. Looking from desk to child she observed two large smears adorning the shirt. A bruise-like smudge on the cheek showed where an intruding hair had been brushed away. “Oh!”

She breathed; she counted to ten; and back again; “Breathe,” she told herself. “Why?”

She moved on, observing the assortment of smiling suns, houses and garden paths, but her mind was on the mud; the child . . .

What would be the appropriate response?

Thank you

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

 

Spelling tests – How well do you score?

ABC

Familiar to most will be the weekly spelling test held on a Friday morning after a week’s practice at learning a list of words. Some will have dreaded the test fearing they may forget the “i before e”, “silent” letter or double letter rules, for example, their inadequacies made all too obvious by the large red crosses. Others would have relished the experience, requiring little effort to learn words they already knew, seemingly by osmosis, with the expectation of large red ticks and 10/10.

Spelling test

I dare say that most of you reading this blog are of the 10/10 variety. Just to be sure this is so, I have set you a little spelling test to do before you read any further. Please get your pen and paper, finger and notebook, or keyboard ready, then press PLAY to take the test.

So how did you go?

I hope you could see from that exercise that knowing how to spell has a lot to do with meaning. In fact the spelling of many of our words in English has more to do with morphology than with sound, and although sound can be helpful there are often many different letters or letter combinations that can be used to represent the same sound, for example:

eye

According to the Bullock Report, published in 1975:

“For 6092 two-syllable words among the 9000 words in the ‘comprehension vocabularies’ of a group of 6-9 year olds, 211 different spellings of the phonemes were needed – and these spellings required 166 rules to govern their use! Even at that, 10% of the words had to be left aside as ‘exceptions’; which means that ‘even if a young child memorised these rules while learning to read he would still encounter hundreds of words not governed by them.’”

Lists of words, such as spelling lists, provide little support for learners, rarely providing context or meaning which might help them remember the words, or choose the correct meaning and therefore spelling, as shown by the spelling test exercise given above.

Alphabetical

In his book “Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story”, Michael Rosen explains that transmitting meaning is the reason for writing, for having an alphabet.

Rosen describes the alphabet as “a stunningly brilliant invention. We could call it a ‘cunning code’ or a ‘system of signs’ whereby we use some symbols (letters) to indicate some of the sounds of a language. … Though it is wonderful, there are some snags for users …” including:

  • letters and letter combinations do not represent the same sound each time they are used (e.g. ‘c’ in ‘cat’ and ‘city’)
  • letters represents different sounds according to regional accents
  • a particular sound is not always represented by the same letters (see the ‘eye’ example above)

He says that “Becoming or being a reader of English involves absorbing all these variations and then forgetting that they exist.”

a phonic's teacher's lament

He explains that the alphabet is more than a system of sounds and syllables and that “Our forebears devised alphabets so that they could store and retrieve meaning … over time and/or space”.

While not speaking specifically about learning spelling words, in his book “Why Don’t Students Like School? A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How The Mind Works and What It Means For Your Classroom” (referred to in a previous post here), Daniel T. Willingham consistently refers to the importance of meaning when acquiring knowledge. He says,

“Teachers should not take the importance of knowledge to mean they should create lists of facts . . . some benefit may might accrue, but it would be small. Knowledge pays off when it is conceptual and when the facts are related to one another, and that is not true of list learning. Also … such drilling would do far more harm by making students miserable and by encouraging the belief that school is a place of boredom and drudgery, not excitement and discovery.”

When a child scores poorly in a spelling tests and their errors are marked in red they see themselves as bad spellers, lose confidence in their ability and have a defeatist attitude before they even try.

Why is spelling important?

Standard spelling is essential to ensure the meaning of the message is transmitted correctly from writer to reader. While readers may very quickly notice spelling errors in text they are reading, these few errors, when embedded in meaningful text, rarely inhibit the transmission of meaning. However if the bulk of the text is in nonstandard spelling, the message would be virtually indecipherable.

How do we learn to spell?

The most effective way most of us use to learn to spell is reading. While reading we are exposed to a large number of correctly spelled works in context. If we read often enough, we see words frequently and learn to recognise them. We notice when they are misspelled and so recognise how they are spelled.

The importance of spelling correctly is relevant to and a tool for our writing. The learning of particular words is best done in the context of writing.

These are some strategies that can be used with beginning writers:

  • Model writing for them, let them see you write for real purposes, think out loud so they can see what you are doing, for example: “I going to write a . . . I’m going to start … I need to write … ”
  • Encourage them to write for self-expression, to share ideas, to tell a story . . . sustained and uninterrupted writing without the fear of a red pen anywhere.
  • Encourage them to listen to the sounds in the words and write any of the letters they know (Beginners usually start with the initial consonant, then perhaps the initial and final consonant. Vowel sounds are the most difficult to hear and differentiate and are irregular in how they are represented.)
  • Respond to their writing with written comments to their messages, modelling the correct form, for example: If the child writes “I wet to the bich on the weced” you could reply with “Did you have fun when you went to the beach on the weekend?” This enables the child to see the importance of writing for communication, demonstrates the correct spelling without being “corrected” and provides a model which can be used in future writing.
  • Encourage children to proofread their own writing by circling words they weren’t sure how to spell. Don’t always expect them to discover the correct spelling. Being able to recognise when a word is or is not spelled correctly is a first step in developing competence.
  • Notice and comment on any development that can be seen in the child’s spelling ability, for example: “You have written the word ‘kitten’. You have written the ‘k’, you know that it begins with ‘k’; you have written the ‘t’ you can hear in the middle and the ‘n’ at the end. You have listened very well to the sounds in the word.”  
  • If you want to give a child a list of words to learn, use words that have been misspelled in independent writing. Independent writing provides you with information about what the child wants to write about.
  • As they begin using technology for writing, show them how to use the tools available for checking their spelling.

bee 5

As a final note, in the Conversation this week was an article by Nathaniel Swain, entitled Spelling bees don’t teach kids literacy, or much else. The article discusses a soon-to-be aired television show that pits nine to thirteen year old children against each other in a spelling competition.

Swain says,

“How would you go spelling feuilleton, stichomythia, cymotrichous, or appoggiatura? More importantly, do you know the meaning of these words, and could you use them in a sentence?

Challenging and insightful, or obscure and essentially pointless? Spelling bees encourage endless memorisation of complex but low-frequency words – and are a distraction from the core of literacy education.”

Thank you

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

 

 

 

Finding meaning

Always look on the bright side of life’ is a philosophy to which I aspire. Many think I have achieved it but they don’t know how hard I struggle. I do try to find the good in people and situations, but it’s not always my first and instinctive reaction. When I realise I’ve reacted negatively I try to change or hide my negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. But it’s not always easy to convince myself, regardless of whether I convince anyone else or not.

It reminds me of a quote on a laundry bag which has stayed with me in eight different homes in three different states and for well more than thirty years. After all this support I have finally thought to seek out the source of the wisdom and found it to be UK poet and playwright Christopher Fry.

bag

I feel the quote represents me quite well; doing what I can to hold it all together and keeping those negative instincts in check by ‘nipping them in the bud’, all the while fearful of one day just losing it and letting it all out in one mighty swoosh. I guess the expectation of fewer years remaining in which I will need to keep myself contained makes me a little optimistic. (Always look on the bright side!)

I like to think I’m more of a hopeful realist than either a Pollyanna or a negative realistic. A discussion about optimism and pessimism followed a previous post in which I asked How much of a meliorist are you?  But meliorism is more a belief that the world can be improved by the actions of humans than an optimistic or pessimistic expectation of the outcome.

I believe that humans have an amazing potential for improving our world (i.e. every aspect of it). That makes me a meliorist. Recognising what is happening in the world now makes me a realist. A belief that human actions will make improvements in the future makes me an optimist, but not one without some pessimistic fears. While stories of terrorism, climate change and violence fuel the fears, stories like this TED talk by Tasso Azevedo show that improvements can be, and are being, made.

I am an education meliorist. I believe that education is a powerful agent for change and has an enormous potential for improving lives. My optimism that education will impact positively upon individual lives as well as the collective human situation outweighs my pessimism about the outcomes I see in current systemic trends and leads me to seek out educators, like Ken Robinson, Chris Lehmann , Michael Rosen, Barbara Arrowsmith-Young and Rita Pierson who share my vision of what could be.

A quest to improve my own life and the lives of others through education has been a long time passion. Ensuring that my own children experienced the benefits of learnacy, though I hadn’t heard of the term at the time, as well as literacy and numeracy was of great importance to me. I encouraged them to question, to create, to think critically, to read, to learn, to wonder . . .  There is so much we teach our children the list goes on. It is very rewarding for me to see that they have a love of learning and are passing that same love on to the next generation.

Having, sharing and fostering a lifelong love of learning perhaps in some ways contributes to giving meaning to my life. But it also leads me to question life and its purpose in ways that many others don’t.  This questioning can lead to a sense of unease, of lacking fulfilment, of needing to do and achieve more. I know others who better accept the way things are, accept each day as it comes, and are content in their existence. Sometimes I envy their complacency.  Other times I want to shake them and make them realise that there is more to life than this.

But am I wrong? Is there actually less to life than this? It is sometimes said that there is no point in accumulating wealth and possessions as you can’t take them with you when you go. But is there any point in accumulating a lot of learning and knowledge? After all, you can’t take it with you when you go either; but like wealth and possessions, you can leave it behind for future generations. If we lived only for what we could take with us, would there be a point?

I guess what matters is what helps each of us reach that level of contentment, of being here and now in the present moment because, after all, it is all we ever have.

I often think about life, existence, why we are here and the purpose of it all, constantly wavering between seeing a point and not. A recent discussion with a friend about her feelings of emptiness and needing to find more purpose and meaning in life disturbed my approaching, but elusive, equilibrium again. Will I ever reach that blissful and enviable state of contentment: knowing and accepting who I am, where I am, where I am going and how I am going to get there? Who knows? But I can have fun figuring it out. I am determined to enjoy the journey. I don’t think there will be much joy at the end!

Which is all very timely with the current flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch who talks about actions that we take to reach our goals and challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that describes a moment of being.

I hope you enjoy my response.

Being, positive

“It’s positive,” he said.

She smiled. She knew. She only needed official confirmation.

He wanted dates. She supplied.

But she knew the very moment an unexpected but welcome spark enlivened her being with its playful announcement, “Surprise! I’m here!”

She’d carried the secret joy within her for weeks, never letting on, keeping it to herself, waiting. No one would have believed her without proof. But with her whole being she knew.

Finally, after nine inseparable months, she held the child, distinct and individual. She marvelled at the tiny creation whose existence breathed purpose and meaning into hers.

Thank you

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

Never-doubt-that-a-small - Margaret Mead

Can you make a difference?

My previous post How much of a meliorist are you? attracted many comments and much lively discussion, including comparisons of seemingly pessimistic or optimistic views of the future and the validity of each.

This discussion surprised me as my intention in writing the post was not to delve into the damage that we humans have wreaked upon the world, but simply to express my belief that we humans, should we desire to do so, have the power to improve the world. We may not be able to change everything we would like to see changed, but we can make a start within our own circle of influence.

Few-will-have-the - Robert F. Kennedy

Or, in the words of Michael Jackson, one can “Look in the mirror and make a change!”

My chosen avenue for making a difference is education; through maintaining my own interest in learning, through attempts to keep alive a love of learning and a curiosity about our world and others, and through improving learning opportunities for others throughout their lives beginning at birth (or earlier!).

The contribution each of us makes is unique and reflects our own values and life choices. I am grateful to others who help me grow in my understanding of what motivates and drives us, what excites our imaginations and stimulates our curiosity, and what propels us towards choices for improving our individual and combined futures.

Its-the-action-not-the - Mahatma Gandhi

Among those who encourage my learning and stretch my thinking are you, my wonderful readers, who selflessly contribute thoughts and ideas to extend my understanding. To you all, my teachers, I express my great gratitude.

Thank you

While I may often fall short of the mark and need to make frequent reminders to myself, these are just a few ways I try to make my little spot in the world a better place:

Smiling

Being friendly towards those I engage with throughout the day

Being polite

Being kind, sometimes randomly and anonymously without requiring thanks

Listening attentively, to understand and without interrupting or interjecting

Accepting graciously and without whingeing and whining

Finding humour in situations which enable me to laugh, especially at myself

Changing behaviours to reduce my impact on the environment

Seeking ways to ease the burdens of others

Accepting and encouraging others to be themselves

Recognising and accepting my ‘mistakes’ and shortcomings, and those of others

What about you? What do you do to make your little spot in the world a better place? Please share your ideas so we can all learn from your example.

At times in my life I have been told that I take life too seriously. At other times I have been told that I don’t take it seriously enough. I think life should be about enjoyment and fun, so I’m going to turn the seriousness of this post on its head and leave you with another quote, this time by A.H. Weiler:

“Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn’t have to do it himself.”

I welcome your feedback. Please share your thoughts and ideas about any aspect of this post, whether you agree with me or not!