Tag Archives: respect

Peace in a pod

© Norah Colvin

Gardeners understand that effort is required to create a garden that provides the desired outcome. The same is true for raising children, with the adage “we reap what we sow” appropriate in both instances.

A school principal surmised once, after observing my interactions with children, that I must have a beautiful garden. But such was not so. The time that may have been spent nurturing plants, I turned instead to nurturing minds, including my own.

While the sowing is important, so too is the nurturing. Just as there is more to raising a seed than simply sowing one, there is more to raising a child than simply having one. The amount of care required depends on the stage of growth. How they are nurtured in the beginning stages sets the foundation for future growth and determines the harvest.

Susan Scott was thinking along similar lines when she wrote New Moon, Rosh Hoshanah and the Equinox for her Garden of Eden blog this week. She says,

“A good time to plant – seeds of whatever kind – love, patience, kindness, joy are a few that come to mind – anything that blossoms in receptive and fertile soil.”

The words resonate with me at any time, but especially this week when writing my response to the flash fiction prompt at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community. Charli Mills challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about what it is to gather a harvest.

With the International Day of Peace and its 2017 theme Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All falling just a few days ago on 21 September, it all seems very timely.

Jennie Fitzkee, a remarkable early childhood teacher who blogs at A Teacher’s Reflections, shared her, and her students’, thoughts  about peace on the International Day of Peace. Jennie is a wonderful role model for peace and is passionate about nurturing young children.  She says,

“peace is about the heart, thinking and doing the right thing. The little things are the most important of all, because they’re the foundation for the big things.  By teaching children’s heart they come to understand peace.”

In a previous post Plant the seeds of literacy, I included this excerpt from Jackie French’s 2015 Senior Australian of the Year Valedictory Speech:

“You never know what seeds you plant will grow; if they will keep growing; who will take them and tend them. But there is one thing I have learned in my 62 years: keep planting seeds.

Never think: I am 62 and still have not achieved world peace, universal tolerance and justice, or even an Australia where every single child is given the chance to learn to read.

Change is never fast enough for any person of goodwill.

A rain drop is just a rain drop. But together we are a flood.  Together we have changed the world.”

She concludes her speech with these words:

“Let us give our children role models who do not, will not despair, no matter how long it takes to change the world. And let us never surrender, no matter how tired we are, or how long it takes. Because with these weapons we shape the future of our planet.”

I also employed the garden analogy in a post entitled  The classroom garden.  Responding to Charli’s prompt to write about “fruit”, I included the word “harvest”.  Rather than simply repeat that story, which would be pleasingly easy but teach me little, I’ve gone in a different direction this time.

In her post, Charli talks about harvesting peas; peas in a pod. It doesn’t take much imagination to turn this into “Peace in a pod.”

Wouldn’t that be wonderful, to plant a seed of peace with “respect, safety, and dignity for all”; “love, patience, kindness, joy”; and “universal tolerance and justice”; nurture it, watch it grow, and then harvest the bountiful rewards. It’s not only the role of teachers and parents, it’s the responsibility of society at large.

Here’s my story. I hope you like it:

Peace in a pod

“The Peace Prize goes to …”

The applause was deafening. It took minutes to realise it was their life’s work being recognised. Who’d have thought? Against a long-range solar-powered superstealth aircraft with adaptive camouflage, how would a peace capsule stand a chance? They stumbled to the stage, minds a-tumble with words, phrases, and blank spaces. In their years of preparation, of tweaking combinations of ingredients, they’d never prepared for this. The standing ovation relieved them of the necessity, drowning each word. Finally, peace pods were ready for harvest and distribution. With mass inoculation, peace was now a real possibility.

 

After writing the story, I realised that such a pill may not be the panacea I was initially contemplating. Any pill that controls the thoughts and behaviour of the masses could be just as easily used for evil as for good. I may have to send those two back to the lab for further tweaking.

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

Safety in friendship

With Australia’s National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence occurring  this Friday 17 March and Harmony Day next Tuesday 21 March, it is timely to consider what we can do to ensure our schools and communities are safe places; places where everyone is included, diversity is appreciated, and others are treated with compassion and respect.

I recently wrote about the importance of teaching children strategies for making friends and getting along with others.  As for children in any class, these strategies would be very useful for Marnie and others in her class. Marnie, a girl who is abused at home and bullied at school, is a character I have been developing intermittently over the past few years in response to Charli’s flash fiction challenges at the Carrot Ranch. I haven’t written about her recently as the gaps widened and the inconsistencies grew and I felt I needed to give her more attention than time allowed.

You may wonder how I got here from the current flash fiction prompt by Charli Mills to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a honeymoon story. But my mind will wander.

Sometimes, when children are having difficulty settling in and making friends at school, are being bullied, or are bullying, it is easier to point the finger, allocate blame, and attempt to place the responsibility for a solution on others. Firstly, I think we, as a society, need to realise that we share responsibility. Secondly, we need to be the type of person we want others to be: compassionate, kind, accepting, welcoming, respectful. Thirdly, we need to teach the attitudes and behaviours we wish to encourage and make it very clear what is and is not acceptable; including “Bullying.No Way!”

We are not always aware of the circumstances in which children are living or the situations to which they are exposed which may impact upon their ability to learn or to fit in. I wondered why Marnie might be abused at home. Although I knew her parents were abusive, I hadn’t before considered why they might be so. Charli’s honeymoon prompt led me to thinking about young teenage parents, who “had” to get married and take on the responsibility of caring for a child when they were hardly more than children themselves. I thought about broken dreams, lost opportunities, and definitely no honeymoon. Such was life for many in years not long ago.

Blaming is easy. Mending is more difficult. Safety and respect are essential. I’d love to know what you think.

Honeymoon dreams

Marnie sat on the bed, legs drawn up, chin pressed into her knees, hands over her ears. “Stop it! Stop it!” she screamed inside. Why was it always like this? Why couldn’t they just get over it? Or leave? She’d leave; if only she had somewhere to go. She quivered as the familiar scenario played out. Hurts and accusations unleashed: “Fault”. “Tricked”. “Honeymoon”. “Bastard”. Marnie knew: she was their bastard problem. He’d storm out. She’d sob into her wine on the couch. Quiet would reign, but briefly.  Marnie knew he’d be into her later, and she? She’d do nothing.

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

Remember to catch up with Karen Tyrrell who writes about empowerment in my interview on the readilearn blog this Friday.

The importance of community

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about the importance of belonging to and having the support of a community. Charli is talking about the supportive rural community where she lives and describes the way everyone rallies around to help in times of need. No asking is required. Everyone responds and pitches in, like spokes on a well-oiled wheel.

Charli also talks about the importance of the online community, reminding writers that spending time on social media is not a bad thing but an essential part of building community. For many of us introverted writers it is the easiest way of linking up with like-minded people. We gravitate like moths to the flame for our weekly meet-ups around the Carrot Ranch camp fire where Charli stokes the flames to inspire writers and build community.

Charli says that,

“Community is my foundation. All else pushes out from that hub like spokes on a wagon wheel.

Community is the hub; it’s our core. From the community, spokes of opportunity open up to reach the wheel that drives us in the writing market — readers.

An organic community is one that occurs naturally. It’s the kindred-spirits, the shared-values bloggers, the like-minded who gather to write, read and discuss. We might be from varied backgrounds, genres and experiences, but we find common ground in our process, ideas and words.”

People are social creatures, and that sense of belonging to a community, whether large or small, is something most desire. The type of community in which I have spent most of my life is the classroom community, typically an early childhood classroom. As with any other, it is essential that all members of a classroom community have a sense of belonging and feel valued and respected.

Creating a welcoming classroom with those essential ingredients: having a sense of belonging and feeling valued and respected were always high on my list of priorities as a teacher.  I tend to mention this frequently and have done so here, here and here, to list just a few.

That these ingredients, along with the other essentials, learning and fun, were thoroughly mixed through everything I did is what characterised my classroom. In my classroom, the community knew that everyone, whether child, parent, support staff, or volunteer, was welcomed and valued for the contribution each made.

Routines and expectations enabled the classroom to function effectively and I tried to add a little fun to lighten up even the dullest of routines expected of us. One routine that will be familiar to many is the daily roll call. The teacher sits or stands at the front of the room calling, in a repetitive monotone and in alphabetical order, the name of each child who responds with a half-hearted, “Present, Miss”. Meanwhile the other children wriggle and fidget waiting for the tedium to finish.

But not in my classroom. Within a matter of days my children knew their position, and probably that of many others, in the roll. While I marked attendance on the roll each day as required, I didn’t call the children’s names. Each child in turn stood  and greeted the class warmly, “Good morning, everyone!” The class and I responded by returning the greeting to the child. Everyone was involved all of the time, a community in action.

This five minutes of the day was always fun and filled with smiles and laughter. Some children jumped up with arms outstretched and called out loudly. Some popped up quickly and back down with a quick greeting. Some did a little dance and sang the greeting. Others greeted us with a new language they were learning, or their own first language.

When the children were confident with the order, we would sometimes do it in reverse order. This gave them a little more to think about, but it didn’t take them long to get the hang of it. The children who were usually last on the list enjoyed being first for a change.

When new children joined our class, their names weren’t always immediately added to the roll in their permanent alphabetical location as the rolls were printed fortnightly. This gave us a great opportunity to discuss where in the roll the child’s name would be. Sometimes we had to discuss more than the first letter in family names to determine the correct placement. Oftentimes this would be one of the first things children would insist upon. They wanted everyone to feel welcome and fit in to our warm classroom community.

Adding a little bit of fun to an otherwise tedious task had other benefits:

  • Building community,
  • Recognising individuals.
  • Being engaged,
  • An opportunity for activity
  • Learning alphabetical order
  • Developing memory

We could also have a bit of fun seeing how quickly we could line up in alphabetical order, each time improving on the last. It was a quick way of making sure everyone was there after an activity or break.

It is this theme of community that Charli has used as her flash fiction prompt this week, challenging writers to, in 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about how a community reaches out. I hope you enjoy mine about a classroom community.

Belonging

 He waited quietly as yet another teacher heard his life story; a story without hope of redemption or the expectation of a happy ending. With each familiar incriminating snippet, “more schools than years”, “single parent”, “transient”, “neglect and abuse”, he’d instinctively glance towards the teacher. Instead of the usual furrowed brow and flat-mouthed grimace, he found sparkling eyes and a turned-up smile.  He peered into the room. When the children saw him looking, they waved him in. He hesitated. Then the teacher said, “Welcome to our class, David. We’ve been waiting to meet you. Come and join us.”

Thank you

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

 

How inclusive are you?

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Benefits of inclusion.

In that post I linked to this TEDx talk by Dan Habib, Disabling Segregation.

In the talk, Dan advocates for the inclusion of students with differences in mainstream schools. He explains that there are benefits for typical children as well as for children with disabilities.

The benefits include:

  • better communication skills
  • higher academic achievements
  • wider social networks, and
  • fewer behaviour problems.

He also says that typical children learn to be more patient, caring, compassionate and loving.

He decries the fact that although these benefits are known most children with differences still spend most of their day segregated.

In that post I also referred to article on The Cool Cat Teacher’s blog in which Gary Dietz, author of Dads of Disability, shared 5 practical lessons for elementary classroom inclusion.

His suggestions are:

  1. ‘Meet the student “where the student lives” (where they need to be, at their level of development)
  2. Presume competence
  3. Be creative in your use of ‘adaptive’ technology
  4. Listen to parents and help them listen to the child
  5. Give “overlooked” children the same chance to shine as the superstars.

The post received many wonderful comments, including some by Gary, which continued the discussion. It is worth having a peek back to see what people were thinking if you are interested.

Because your response to that post was so positive, I thought I would share with you some others that I have come across since publishing it.

On her blog, teacher versus mum, an Adelaide teacher wrote a post called When inclusivity becomes exclusion. In the article TeacherMumWife questions whether it is the attitude of teachers towards students with disabilities that impedes the progress of inclusivity.

TeacherMumWife describes a situation at a school in her local area as one promoting exclusion, rather than inclusion, through its lack of preparedness. She describes the aggressive and fear-inducing behaviour of one child and condemns the attitude of parents and teachers who question whether the school is the best place for the child. She asks, “isn’t it about time teacher attitudes got a kick up the bum, and teacher training programs and systemic funding be modified to reflect this need in our classrooms?

respect

I personally favour the idea of inclusion and believe that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and given a fair go. However in a situation such as that described by TeacherMumWife, a situation that many teachers are faced with on a regular basis, I have to admit teacher guilt in also questioning whether the regular classroom is the best place for the child.

A child with aggressive and disruptive behaviours, who injures teachers and classmates and who disrupts the learning of other students, in my opinion, is not giving others a fair go. I do not think accepting them into the classroom is equitable. If a child with special needs is placed into a classroom that is unable to provide for those needs, then it is not any more satisfactory for that child than it is for any other participants in the classroom.

There is already a great deal of pressure upon classroom teachers. The expectation that a general classroom teacher should be able to cater for a great diversity of special needs in addition to the range of diverse abilities and needs in a group of twenty-five to thirty or more students is, I believe, unrealistic in most current educational systems and environments. Qualifications to teach special education requires additional years of study. Teacher training, here is Queensland anyway, is already four years. How many years will it take to prepare teachers to cater for all needs that may present themselves at the classroom door?

People_16_Teacher_Blackboard

I agree with TeacherMumWife that more training is required so that teachers may develop a greater understanding of differences, and develop a genuine empathy for parents of and students with those differences. Additionally education must receive more funding to provide trained teachers and support personnel to work with students with special needs, and enable them to be more integrated into a situation which caters to their needs as much as to the needs of others.

 

A commenter on the blog agrees, saying, “The teachers involved in any class environment, have a right and expectation not to be placed in a situation they are not trained for or feel threatened by the situation they find themselves in.” He describes the progress of his ASD daughter from early primary to high school years.

Blake Wiggs, an instructional coach shared an article called Rethinking tolerance: Ensuring all students belong on Edutopia. He explains an exercise conducted with his students that highlights a similar situation to that noted by Dan Habib in his TEDx talk: that people form friendships with those who are similar to themselves and that perceptions of those who are different may be influenced by stereotypical thoughts. Blake’s article did not address disability specifically but the activity and attitudes are relevant just the same. He noted three necessary ingredients for creating a more tolerant environment, including:

  1. Create a culture of acceptance
  2. Address feelings of isolation
  3. Foster meaningful relationships

 

I think Jamie Davis Smith would agree with those. In her post, I’m so sorry my daughter’s disability is such an inconvenience for you shared on HuffPost Parents, Jamie expresses a parent’s frustration at the lack of consideration shown to those with disabilities. However she is not talking about school inclusion, but acceptance and inclusion in society.

Linda Petersen has a many positive suggestions on her Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Staying Sane Blog. Linda shares stories of her lifetime living with people with disabilities. In her recent post she says,

Every child is a joy! Imagine yourself in the mother of a disabled child’s shoes. Have empathy for that mom. Join in her admiration of her child, and maybe you will also internalize the concept that “God don’t make junk!

 

I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.