Tag Archives: resilience

Author Spotlight: Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

Read all about award-winning author Karen Tyrrell and her empowering book for children – Song Bird Superhero; just in time for the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence.

With today being the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence in Australia, today is the perfect day to introduce you to author Karen Tyrrell.

Karen is an award-winning author who writes books to empower kids (and adults) and help them live strong and be resilient.  After many years of classroom teaching experience, she continues to educate through sharing her own story of resilience as a survivor of bullying, through her words on the page, and through her workshops for adults that deal with writing, marketing, and funding, in addition to empowerment. She presents workshops for children in schools, libraries, and other creative spaces. With her flair for costuming and performance, she always conducts entertaining sessions with a splash of fun staring in her own scripted pantomimes.

In her first book Me and Her: A Memoir of Madness Karen tells of the bullying she experienced as a teacher, and of her remarkable survival story. Her second, Me and Him: A Guide to Recovery tells of the important role of her husband as support on her journey back to health.

From there Karen has gone on to write a number of children’s books, including Bailey Beats the Blah and  STOP the Bully, both of which are endorsed by Kids Helpline. She won an RADF (Regional Arts Development Fund) grant for her picture book Harry Helps Grandpa Remember about memory loss and strategies for remembering.

Karen’s three Junior Fiction novels Jo-Kin Battles the ItJo-Kin vs Lord Terra, and Song Bird Superhero share positive messages of self-belief, resilience, team building, problem solving and STEM science; each with a good dose of humour included.

It is Song Bird Superhero, a book for readers of about 7 – 10 years, that Karen and I are discussing today.

 

Continue reading at: Author Spotlight: Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

If not you, then who?

Earlier this week in my post Smile! It’s contagious I mentioned the commonly held misconception that adults usually know when children are lying. I say ‘misconception’ because it’s been shown that adults have no idea whether children are lying or not, and it appears that children, also, have no idea if others, even their siblings, are lying.

This inability to distinguish the liar from the truth-teller is portrayed clearly in an incident in the book Ugly, a memoir, by Robert Hoge. We’ll call it The Chocolate Incident.

Ugly cover

Robert is the youngest of five siblings. One day the five of them were called to a family meeting in the lounge room. When they were all standing up straight in a line from oldest to youngest Robert knew that something was up. Their mother soon informed them that chocolates had been taken from a box on top of the fridge, and not just a couple that wouldn’t be missed, but more than that.

Both parents were involved in the interrogation. Their mother said, “We’re going to ask who took the chocolates. We’re going to look you in the eye and ask you, and you’d better come clean or there’ll be real trouble.

Robert explains that in turn she approached each child, starting with the oldest. She stared at each for a few seconds, then asked, “Did you take any chocolates?” In turn each child replied in the negative and, as they did so, turned to look at the next in line.

As the parents moved from child to child Robert, knowing he was innocent, observed the responses of his siblings. Who took the chocolates? The looks of dread, panic and fear that were so obvious on each face convinced him of their guilt. But no, each sibling denied it.

When the fourth child denied taking chocolates and turned to face Robert, he realised that he was the last in line, “there was no one there for me to look at. Not even Sally, our dog.

He continues, “I started crying before Mum got to me. One by one the others turned to look at me. Dad glared ominously over Mum’s shoulder and I tried to say, “It wasn’t me. It wasn’t me.” But everything was lost to my sobbing and I got the blame. I still don’t know who took those chocolates.

I wonder if there’ll ever be a confession! Or if the culprit ever felt remorse for Robert, the youngest, having to take the blame.

There is more to Robert than this one incident portrays. His is a remarkable story. I have heard it many times and am yet to tire of hearing it. I first heard him speak at a writers’ seminar, the seminar that was the final impetus to set me on my blogging journey. I heard him speak again at a Writers’ festival at which I purchased his memoir. I have also seen him tell his story on television more than once.

My signed copy from the writers' festival!

My signed copy from the writers’ festival!

I own three versions of Robert’s memoir: paperback, audiobook and the Kindle version for younger readers. Robert reads the audiobook, which is a special treat. It gives authenticity to the listening experience, particularly since I was already familiar with his voice. It also means when I read his books to myself, that I hear his voice telling me his story. All versions are written in a pleasant, easily readable and conversational tone, as if we are sitting together, chatting over a cup of tea and a Tim Tam.

tim tam and tea

When I handed my Mum a copy of the book, I wasn’t sure whether she’d enjoy it or not. However, after 70+ years of adult reading (she was 90), she informed me that it was the best book she had ever read.

I’m not sure why this story makes such a strong impression on us. Maybe it’s because we think it could have happened to either of our families. Robert is only two years older than my Robert, and six years younger than Mum’s youngest of ten.

Houghton Highway

Maybe it’s because the family’s culture, growing up in another Brisbane bay-side suburb just across the bridge, was similar to ours.

Maybe it’s because it’s a story of resilience, of survival against the odds, and of making hard decisions. Maybe it’s a bit of all of these, and more, including the raw honesty with which Robert writes.

Ugly for kids.PNG

There are many opportunities for learning in Robert’s book, many different topics I could choose to write about; so many that I haven’t known where to start. After the previous discussion about lying, this seemed an appropriate introduction.

I haven’t told you much of Robert’s story. It is better to have him tell you himself. He introduces himself in this TED talk.

Links to other interviews, and to connect with Robert online, can be found here

I recommend Robert’s story to you. It is definitely a story worth sharing.

Thank you

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

Stop bullying now!

No bullies allowed2

Today all across Australia children, teachers and other school personnel are dressing in orange to mark the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. The Bullying No Way! Program aims to

“create learning environments where every student and school community member is safe, supported, respected and valued”

A very worthwhile goal, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The Bullying No Way website has resources for parents, teachers and students, including this video for young children:

The Prime Minister Tony Abbott delivered a message to children telling them that there is no place for bullying in Australia, that bullying is wrong.  I definitely agree!

Picture1

Last month Yvonne Spence organized a very successful #1000 Speak for Compassion campaign. This month she has placed the focus on bullying and requested bloggers to unite their voices against bullying. You can join in by visiting the Facebook page. I have already linked my most recent post Bully for you! as well as this one. There are many others there to read.

Last week Charli Mills extended a challenge to write a flash fiction story about bullies. She has compiled the wonderful stories in her post Circling the Bullies.

My previous post, Bully for you! received many comments, some sharing experiences of bullying, either of themselves or someone close to them. One comment was from a new visitor to my blog Sherrill S Cannon who shared information about her books dealing with bullying for children, and also explained her involvement with I’m bully free.org to which she donates 50% of the revenue from her books purchased through that page.

There are many other organizations that promote information about and actions against bullying worldwide.  Hopefully as more voices unite in making others aware of, and in speaking out against bullying, we can come close to eradicating it from our society.

As Michelle James commented on my previous post

“More needs to be done to prevent bullying. I really believe that there should be more intensive courses for teachers and administrators to learn to deal with the bully issue. We will never eradicate bullying completely. It is a tactic used by despots and terrorists, and sadly, they seem to thrive.”

Many of the comments on the post last week were in relation to the bullying incident involving Marnie. I share her story again here in case you missed it:

Not funny at all!

Jasmine and Georgie rushed towards the cluster of children who were laughing hysterically at something unseen. They expected to see an entertainer performing magic tricks. Instead they saw Marnie, face down in a puddle, reaching for her unicorn; sobbing.

“Good one, Brucie!” Two boys high-5ed. Another called, “Way to go!”

The children stood transfixed by the spectacle. Jasmine pushed through. She picked up the muddied unicorn, stretched out a hand to help Marnie up, then put an arm around her waist,

As she led Marnie away Jasmine glared at the group of disbelieving faces.

“Shame on you,” she said*.

*Thanks to Donna Marie for suggesting I change “mouthed” to “said”.

In this piece I tried to show that there may be many participants in bullying, not just the obvious “victim” and “bully”.

Marnie is the obvious victim. But there were many onlookers. None, except Jasmine, spoke up against the bully. By their silence were they condoning it? Or were they fearful that they would be the next targets if they said anything? Does that also make them victims? How does that affect their confidence and self-image?

Brucie was the obvious bully, causing Marnie’s embarrassment. But what of the boys who applauded with their high-5s and words of encouragement? Were they joining in because they too were mean; part of a gang of bullies? Or like the other onlookers, did they feel threatened about what may happen to them if they didn’t join in?

But is Brucie also a victim? What makes a bully a bully? Why did he pick on the vulnerable? What in his life caused him to act this way?

And what of Georgie who stood back in the crowd and did nothing while her friend Jasmine went to Marnie’s rescue? Why was she reticent to support her friend?

I wonder, too, what they all said when they turned away. Did they speak out in private about the bullies? Geoff Le Pard commented on a similar lack of support for him when he was bullied at school.

Jasmine was the only one who came to her rescue? Why did she? How was she feeling? Had she been the victim of bullying and so felt empathy with Marnie? Did she just know it was wrong and that it was important for someone to take a stand? What had happened in her life to make her so strong?

Donna Marie of Writer’s Side Up commented how being bullied had ruined her boyfriend’s life and suggested that more needs to be done to change the bully’s behaviour. Perhaps some bullies need protection from bullies themselves. Did they need to learn the behaviour somewhere?

The word bullying is sometimes used to describe a one-off unpleasant incident, like poking out a tongue or showing the “rude” finger. However bullying usually refers to something more ongoing, where there is an imbalance of power, the “stronger” picking on the “weaker”.

To avoid becoming the weaker, I think children need to develop resilience. They need to realise that just because somebody says it doesn’t make it true. They need to learn to take responsibility for their feelings, realise that they can choose to feel upset or choose to ignore it. I am in no way saying they should ignore aggressive, violent, intimidating behaviour, but learning to be resilient about the little things helps to develop strength of character.

I think we would probably all agree that bullying is a complex issue with many facets. That education is required to reduce its incidence is a given. What do you think?

Thank you

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

 

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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