This week

By Vita Forest

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Vaucluse House

This week I have been

  • READING The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton and another book which I will not mention as it not one I would recommend.
  • WRITING
  • VISITING Vaucluse House with my class – how lovely!
  • WATCHING some Nordic Noir in the form of The Bridge on SBS.  Very creepy.
  • SWELTERING in Sydney’s February heat.
  • CELEBRATING my sister Briony’s birthday with the family.
  • SWIMMING at both Collaroy and Balmoral on Sunday – how refreshing!

 

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Not Poor Judd

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By Vita Forest

A little while ago I was catching up with Saskia who had just seen the English language version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I had read the book a few years ago and voiced my distaste for the level of graphic violence in it which seemed gratuitous and verging on the salacious to me.  Saskia’s take on it was difference.  She appreciated seeing a female avenger heroine, who did not become a victim when the system failed her, but exacted revenge on her own terms.  (As I’ve said before – perhaps it all depends on what is going on in your own life as to what you take from a piece of art??)

Saskia also valued the conversation with the eventual murderer, where he discusses how most victims came with to him without much fuss, as they did not want to appear rude.  They were more concerned with hurting the murderer’s feelings than with their own safety.

This struck a chord with me.  How often do we do this?  How often are we so concerned with others’ feelings that we forget about our own?  How often do we silence that inner voice that is telling us to run? To get out of there NOW?

I think this is particularly true for females.

At school we teach the children about Child Protection.  We teach young children the importance of listening to their bodies (sweaty palms, butterflies in their stomach etc) – the “No” feelings.  If they get a “No” feeling they do not need to be polite, they do not need to think how that other person is feeling, they do not need to hang about and explain themselves, they should just leave and go to someone they trust.  Good advice for everyone.  I wish I had learned it earlier.

Lucy and I watched a young Hugh Jackman becoming a star in Oklahoma! recently.  As well as the enjoyment factor, I was struck by Laurie staying to listen to the obsessive Judd, when all her instincts were telling her to run.  She stayed because she felt sorry for him, because her friends and family told her not to worry, because she was polite.  She could talk herself into staying, but her body was telling her to leave.  Lucy and I talked about this later.  How she has rights.  How she should be respected.  How her feelings are just as valid as someone else’s (more so when the situation appears menacing).

It is important to be mindful of others’ feelings, to think how our actions effect others.  But conversely, there are some times we do not need to be polite.  There are some times when we need to listen to what our bodies so rightly know.

Sometimes we need to leave.  Do you always trust your instincts?

 

This week

By Vita Forest

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A book, a cuppa, a cushion and a cat.

This week I have been

  • READING Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  • WRITING
  • WATCHING The Belier Family
  • LISTENING to music to make a choice for our Year 5/6 dance group.
  • BRAINSTORMING lots of story, costume and choreography ideas for the dance competition we are entering.
  • BABYSITTING my niece and nephew.
  • MAKING lots of plans for Sunday then cancelling them all and staying at home with a book, a cuppa, a cushion and the cats.  I was shattered!

Marble Treat

By Vita Forest

Cloud watching

Cloud watching

On Thursday, Darcy became the most popular kid in the class when he was able to correctly describe what a “long shot” was, thus earning the class their one-hundredth marble in the jar, and hence their first “marble treat” of the year.

Due to peanut allergies, dairy intolerances and a desire to encourage healthy eating habits, I don’t do food rewards.  Instead we do experiences, and one of the best of these was passed on to me by my friend and colleague Betty.  The whole class gets a little early-mark for lunch and takes lunchboxes, drink bottles and hats (and sometimes even picnic rugs) and ventures through a gate, into a lovely grassy park-like area, beneath some shady paperbark trees, for a private picnic.  This area is usually “out of bounds” as it is located behind the school hall (and therefore out of sight of teachers on playground duty), so stepping onto this hallowed grass is highly exciting for 5 – 7 year olds.

So as Friday lunchtime approached, we took our provisions and set forth in two lines beyond the gate and into “out of bounds”…

The kids sat beneath the trees and pulled out their sandwiches and sushi.  A gentle breeze wafted through the gathering and some kids looked up through the leaves to the sky beyond.

“Look at the clouds!  It looks like an ice-skate!”

“I think it’s a dragon breathing smoke!”

“No, it’s an elephant, it has a trunk…”

“I think it looks like an atomic bomb,”  The last from a very worldly seven year old.

“It’s changing!”

And it was.  We watched the cloud pictures blow about, the breeze obviously stronger up there than down here on Earth.

When eating was done, there were handstands and cartwheels from the girls (even a one-handed one from Desiree).  The boys started a game of Survivor Tip, dodging each other around the tree trunks.  There were smiles and shouts and laughing and squeals and everyone playing together.

Then the bell rang and it was time to go back and join the rest of the school again.

“I wish we could just stay out there,” someone said wistfully as we crossed back “in bounds”.  It was very tempting, for me too.

All it took was fifteen minutes, but what a refreshing little break we had.

Tea in a teeny tiny cup

By Vita Forest

Isaboe and the teapot

Isaboe and the teapot

Today I had a busy day – marking and playground duty before school, teaching all day, lunchtime gone with dance auditions, meetings and eating lunch after school, organizing the logistics of two excursions (one next week) and rushing to finish an email so I could rush out the door early to (somewhat ironically) make it to my favourite yoga class.

The aim of many a yoga class for many a yogi, is to get through to that last five minutes when you are allowed to lie on the ground, with your eyes closed doing absolutely nothing at all.  Bliss…

As I write this, I am sipping jasmine tea out of an extremely tiny cup, pausing to fill it from my tiny glass teapot.  The size of the cup forces me to stop and slow down.  To stop rushing.  Time is a scarce resource.  But does it have to be?

At work I am trying to be extremely organised, to avoid this rushing, this feeling of panic, of having to be elsewhere.  Perhaps it will all settle down.  Soon.  When my programs are finished, when the auditions are done, when our assembly is over, when our item is learned, when we have had our video conference with our sister school, when I have booked the buses for the excursion…  Are you the same?

But at home – I am scheduling in some slowness.  Some luxury.  Yes I want to write, yes I need to send out submissions.  But if I never stop, I’ll never let those thoughts float to the surface.  Never be able to know what I really think.  Never recognize those moments of revelation.

I need to slow down.

Here are some of the things I do to indulge in slowness:

  • walk when I could drive.
  • breaststroke when I could freestyle (for the swimmers amongst us).
  • hand sew or make something from scratch instead of buying it.
  • read – preferably all day after sleeping in.
  • have a picnic and just watch the world go by.
  • cuddle a cat.
  • sip tea.
  • weed by hand.

What has happened to us?  Why is being busy a badge of honour?

Perhaps I should stop writing and just enjoy my tea…

Sometimes you just need to drink tea

Sometimes you just need to drink tea

This week

By Vita Forest

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

This week I have been

  • READING
    • On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta.  You can never read this book enough times.
  • WRITING
  • MAKING up a dance with my buddy teacher for Year 5 and 6 dance auditions next week.
  • VISITING the beach twice this weekend.  Happy days!
  • WATCHING Labyrinth with my kids and sister Briony.  A trip back in time.
  • PRESENTING at the Parent Teacher information night for my class.
  • FINISHING covering all the class exercise books with our home-made book covers.
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    Can you spot the monkeys? (QVB Chinese New Year decorations).

Scribble-tastic!

By Vita Forest

Detail of the collaborative artwork

Detail of the collaborative artwork

This year I have a composite class so there are lots of students who don’t really know each other yet.  We seem to have the names down now, but still don’t know what makes other people tick.  So on Friday afternoon we took time out from making book covers, doing spelling tests, writing samples, maths tests and maths (we are busy! busy! already) to do some art and work together and get to know each other.

First we talked about how we were going to draw.  We were not going to draw things, we were going to draw lines inspired by the music we were going to listen to.  Some students looked sceptical.  Some looked worried.  Some just nodded unconcerned.  I showed them on my whiteboard (big slashing zigzags for strong beats and wispy, spiralling scribbles for undulating cello).  I told them they would be drawing over and over on the same piece of paper, building it up, not worrying about finding a little spot of pure white.

They took their pieces of paper and chose their implement (a crayon or a pencil).  I found some music and off we went.  It was Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (Summer) and after a few seconds, they got the idea.  There were mad, fast scribbles to accompany the sawing strings.  I stopped the music and the kids changed colours.  The crayons hovered over the paper expectantly.  Out of the speakers blared  We will rock you by Queen, the Year 1 boys chattered in recognition (they had danced to it last year).  Soon the room was full of thudding crayons, banging out the beat.  We continued on with Dynamite by Tao Cruz, Spiegel im Spiegel by Arvo Part and Wade in the Water by Sweet Honey in the Rock.  Then they left their drawings and swapped seats, sitting in front of a new drawing.  We continued on, building up someone else’s starting point.  Then moved again (Hey Jude – The Beatles, Fly to Paradise – Eric Whitacre, Beautiful- One Direction, Bach’s cello suites, Fireworks Katie Perry and Simon Tedeschi playing Pictures at an exhibition by Mussorgsky).

We sat in a circle on the floor and the children held their artworks under their chins.  Very interesting.

But there was more to do.

Working on the floor together

Working on the floor together

This time there was two big sheets of brown paper taped to the floor and the children picked an oil pastel or a white crayon.  They went and chose a spot around the paper.  Then the music began again and they commenced the lines on the two giant artworks.  The music stopped and they took three steps to their left, follow the leader.  They sat again and I started up the music.  They pushed their lines into other people’s spots, over other people’s scribbles, blending, obscuring and overlapping.  They streaked their fingers through the rainbow of colours that was building up, layer upon layer.  They moved on again.  And again.  The paper ripped so we applied more tape.  Hands got messier, lines became more confident.

All hands on deck

All hands on deck

We stopped and I hung the pieces of paper over the whiteboard.  They chattered on, happily looking at what they had made.  It was “Scribble-tastic!  Art-mazing!  Totally colour-licious!”

In the centre is part of the finished artwork - not bad hey?

In the centre is part of the finished artwork – not bad hey?

I think I’ll show them some Jackson Pollack next.  I think they will understand.