Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Imagining and Visualizing Little Miss Open and Mr. Open #openlearning17 #oer17

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking ahead of #oer17 but what I am reading MOST are books to my little kid each night and throughout the day. Because I am neurotic about raising a kid who loves to read more than I am neurotic about anything else in parenting, and because the technical teaching of reading in school is OK but it doesn’t give kids the confidence to read and does not nurture a love of reading. So she is currently addicted to the Mr. Men and Little Miss series.

(back of Little Miss/Mr. Men books flickr photo by me (just took a photo from my phone

Now I buy these books for 3 main reasons

  1. They’re cheap 🙂 and abundant (so we haven’t yet run out of new ones)
  2. They’re small and light and portable so I can put several in her backpack wherever we go
  3. They remind me of my own childhood coz I used to read them to myself when I was a bit older than her (this means she can’t read them on her own yet, but she can read parts and she enjoys the reading together process so much the words “Read it Yourself” on some of her other books seem to traumatize her! This was a funny but worrying revelation. Making me wonder if she enjoys reading simply because it ties me to her rather than enjoying the reading intrinsically)

I have a lot of objections to the books, though. I don’t understand why the male characters are fully Mr but the female characters are Little Miss. Why little? I read about the original author (Roger Hargreaves) inventing the series to answer his (at the time young) son’s question “what does a Tickle look like?” and I love that the son in question, Adam, continued to add more books to the series after his father passed away.

I often think a book has so much potential but ends up falling waaaay short of what it could have done (like Mr. Nobody – imagine how meaningful such a book could be! But it was rather silly in the end). And sometimes the storyline is downright annoying. And often the humor is really difficult for my child to understand… Though I get most of it, lilk the time Mr. Wrong said, “What? I was right? That’s so strange because I am usually…” [turn page over ] “…left!”.

I do love how these books help my child learn the meanings of difficult words that are the descriptions of the characters (I don’t think even I knew exactly what Fickle meant before). I also think it’s interesting how they choose to illustrate each character to represent the adjective (or occasionally noun) that is their name. I sometimes joke with my kid and call her one of the characters when she does something. Occasionally I will make one up, like “oh, you’re Little Miss Thoughtful” (and of course I am then asked to explain what thoughtful means).

Anyway. All this long intro is just to explain that immersion in these books has got me thinking of all kinds of other books and characters that could exist…but copyright and all that… I don’t think Adam Hargreaves is on Twitter so I hope he doesn’t mind what I am about to do…

I started imagining what a Little Miss Open or a Mr. Open might look like. I started to visualize what their character would look like, and to draw one on my phone (I remembered partway through the frustration of that…that I am actually much better at drawing by hand than I am drawing graphics on a machine, so I will make time to do that, and maybe invent a few extra characters for my child in the process! Why not, right?)

So here is my caricature of Little Miss Open and it’s still in progress.

How does Little Miss Open Look? 

Some ideas:

  1. Wide-eyed because she is open to looking at everything and curious?
  2. Open-mouthed because she talks about everything openly
  3. With perked up ears because she listens well?
  4. Transparent?
  5. Open-hearted? (we can see an open heary in her transparent self – at which point i realized that these characters have huge faces with tiny legs/arms but no body so nowhere to put the heart… So maybe wearing heart on her sleeve? Err arm?)
  6. Open-minded – would we draw an opening in the head, or just never really close the head and have the mind popping out, or have a gear icon on her head symbolizing open process?
  7. Participatory – should her head be filled with thoughts/ideas of other people?
  8. Open arms? Open to collaboration with others?

Beyond the character’s looks, her behavior could take any number of directions…

  1. Open door to her house and whether this is always a good thing
  2. Sharing things, and whether sometimes she ends up oversharing to the point she might hurt someone
  3. Overly transparent to the point that she makes herself too vulnerable sometimes?

And then something interesting occurred to me. There is a book about Mr. Good who originally lives in Badland (poor fellow) where he is unappreciated (duh) but eventually stumbles upon Goodland… And I was wondering if maybe Little Miss Open is born Open but lives in Closed-Land then eventually moves to Open-Land.

Then I realized I am pretty much describing myself here, right?

I am Little Miss Open in my office and in my personal life. I am married to Mr. Private and have some colleagues who are  Miss Secretive and Miss Careful and Mr. E-Safety and such 🙂 but I also have my Open-Land, my online PLN of all the many Opens… Who are each open in their own way but generally more geared towards open than closed. So the Miss Vulnerable and the Miss Welcoming and the Mr. Collaborative and Mr. Narrator-of-Process and Mr. Share and Miss Amplify

I dropped the “little” before the miss coz it’s so sexist but it’s one of those cute things that’s sexist

Anyhoooo just needed to get this silly little brainstorm off my chest… If you’re interested in working with me on visualizing this, I may use it in part of my keynote 😉 I hope that’s not too silly.The rest of the keynote is kind of serious, I promise. But one of the beauties of being a parent is that in this horrible world, you get to be silly by duty for part of your day. And that’s a blessing.

8 Comments

  1. Very intriguing line of thought, Maha. I don’t draw, but your description was evocative of a young me. I came from a rural background so had none of the boundaries and self preservation that urban children learn to grow up with. Way too late in life I was still wandering around with head and heart and eyes and mouth open to the world.

    I am retired now and upon life reflection, I think these qualities brought me some pain but overall served me well. I’m still teaching one class a term and still trying new things, trying one last time before I go to get it right.

    Which is to say, how old is this character going to be? Cuz those qualities you outlined are not limited by age or gender or color. Clearly this is an opportunity for a fun Alien Open Educator!

    I look forward to what you and your collaborators come up with!

    • Hehe i like your point about the ageless/genderlessness of the character. Though actually how the world responds to the open person.. Is contextual. Do some ppl not talk to me at all because i wear a headscarf? Do some ppl pay me extra attention BECAUSE I am in Egypt and therefore interesting just because of that? What risks do men vs women take by being open?

      • The magic of the internet is who knew you wore a headscarf or why? I didn’t know you lived in Egypt and you may or may not know I live in Eugene, Oregon. Who can really tell my age?
        We choose how much vulnerability to express on the internet, we each define what “open” means to us and what our limits are.

  2. I love this post Maha, you almost made me cry! My daughter loves these books and knows all the characters. She asks me to read them all the time, even during breakfast. Some stories really annoy me (like Mr Dizzy), some I like a lot (Mr Fussy). The funny thing is she was very disappointed when I told her that Mr Men were boys! (Well I then told her maybe they weren’t boys after all, it’s just in the name right?)

    This is a great idea, please do it and I will be happy to develop the characters with you.( Maybe Miss Open doesn’t talk about everything, it’s more to do with openness to others?)

    • Awww re Mr. Men as boys… I hope the Little Miss series helps make that better? There are also some “celebration” books where the mr and miss folks all talk to each other (also happens in some of the Little Miss books… Because I guess they came later than the Mr ones)

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