Tag Archives: respect

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.