Only a matter of time…

By Vita Forest

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It’s the last day of the year, and earlier in the month it was the end of Lucy’s primary school days, the end of an era for Lucy and the whole family – that rollercoaster of nine years that began when Max started at that school and ended when Lucy left it.

I remember clutching Max’s hand on the first day and being herded into the school hall, where for the first time the Kindergarten rolls were called and the tiny four and five year-olds climbed onto the stage to join their teacher and their new classmates.  They turned back to find us beaming – all grown up now.

I remember their first music lessons at the school; Max clasping an enormous guitar and the thin shard of a pick, Lucy in a tribe of tiny violinists who played Busy, Busy, Stop, Stop as they walked in a circle, knelt on the ground and even lay on their backs.

There were intense new friendships for children and parents, some of whom are still my most trusted confidantes.  There was the amazing realisation that Max could read.  There was watching the stunning progress of the Kindergarten kids that got me interested in changing careers and becoming a teacher.

There were pregnancies (some planned, some not so much), some met with congratulations but others with clapped mouths and shrieks of horror.  There were births and babies sleeping in slings, sitting in prams and standing on their own two feet (now they too attend the school).  There were parents there everyday, somedays, never anymore as they returned to work, retrained, moved away.

There were new buildings, new friendships, new teachers, new trees rising up above the new garden beds.  There were murals, markets and music.  I wrote articles for the school newsletter (the first public outings of my words in years), took single children out to read beneath a tree as Lucy drew pictures, listened to groups read, assembled class artworks, worked in parent teams on gardens, working bees, musicals and farewells.  I helped build a tranquil frog pond under Saskia’s leadership.

We dug in the garden, I went digging in the costume room, now I’m digging in the past seeing Lucy taking little skipping steps up the hill, holding hands on our way to collect Max, Lucy and Max both in school uniforms carrying hefty backpacks and wearing monstrously large hats, dropping the kids off and shooting off to university, dancing with Lucy at her farewell dinner in the hall I had helped decorate the night before.

There were the bad days – death, illness, fractured friendships, affairs, divorce.  There was pain.  There was manipulation.  There was despair.  But there was also growth, support, determination, resilience, confidence and mastery.

Lines blurring, waiting in the playground, helping in the classroom, working briefly as a casual teacher at this school where a uni friend taught, where she had gone to school, where my kids went to school, where I was crossing the line from parent to teacher and back again.  (A few years later when I was entrenched elsewhere, Max was chatting to his teacher about the fact that I was also a teacher and she pulled out the list of casual teachers and found I was still on it.  A little out of date).

There were Trivia nights (where we won the “Best Dressed Table” category twice – once as bikies, the second time as Scots).  There was one fundraiser where I strode in alone, announcing to some acquaintances that I was now a single parent and no longer had an “other half”.

I watched tiny children morph and grow, now taller than me, entering puberty before they entered high school, changing.

I stood emotional with other parents, thanking class teachers for all they had done, now I’m on the other side but know that feeling, that trust, that sense of time flying away and measured by children growing, growing, growing and learning, learning, learning.

At my school, we make a human archway for all the school leavers to pass through on their way out the school gate for the last time.  As I held hands with one of my students, I imagined Lucy as one of the laughing kids stooping beneath my arms, imagined Max, imagined myself – we’re all grown up now – it’s time for a new adventure.

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This week

By Vita Forest

Christmas Day at Manly

This week I have been

FINISHING school for the year!

MOVING classrooms

SORTING through a lot of stuff and chucking some of it out.

WRITING

READING

  • The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit (the first of her books I’ve read.  Beautiful!  I am hungry for more).
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (compelling but manipulative.  Left me with a nasty taste in my mouth).
  • The Forgotten Affairs of Youth by Alexander McCall Smith (always lovely to spend time in the company of Isabel Dalhousie).

RESTING after feeling shattered at the end of Term 4.

TAKING various Harry Potter quizzes at the behest of Lucy.

SWIMMING in the ocean on Christmas day with Vastra and the kids.

LYING on a picnic rug under a Frangipani tree with my nephew for a “little rest” before all the kids got wet in the paddling pool at our family Christmas lunch.

PLAYING Speed and Bananagrams with Max as we watched a documentary on Queen.

 

Worried

By Vita Forest

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It is the end of the calendar year, and in Australia, the end of the school year too.  The last week or so has been filled with lots of “special” and “fun” events.  But these occasions have also been felt as changes to routine and the end of predictable patterns that a lot of children hold dear.  Some children reverted to behaviour that I thought we were past, interesting quirks returned and lots of kids were tired and emotional.  I chatted to some colleagues about it – my class was not unique.

Believe it or not, some kids like school.  They crave the stability, predictability, the safe environment, that for some of them, unfortunately, is only to be found at school.  The idea of long summer holidays, away from their classmates, teachers and school community, fills them with nothing short of dread.

After a particularly exasperating morning, I called a class meeting.

“How is everyone feeling?” I asked, “Hands up if you worried about anything.”

A few hands went up.  Then a few more.

“What are you worried about?”

Then it all came out.

Next year.  What if I’m not with my friends?  Who’ll be in my class?  Who will my teacher be?  Homework!  Naplan! (Is this really what eight year olds should be thinking about?)  What if my teacher doesn’t know about me? (Special chair, special sticker chart, special chats, special expectations).  What if I can’t do the work?  Who are you teaching?  Will we have you again?

I told them teachers were feeling the same way too.  Who will be in my class!  (They laughed at that).  What grade will I be teaching?  And for some – Do I have a job?

Then we remembered how we felt at the beginning of this year and how things have changed since then.  The friends we have made.  The things that seemed so hard that now seem easy.  How if we weren’t with our friends from our last class we could still play with them at lunchtime.  And we still saw our old teachers around the playground.  And we could still talk to them.  And the work wasn’t so hard we couldn’t do it.  And how we all got used to each other and what we needed.

Then we all took a deep breath and felt a little less worried.

 

 

This week

By Vita Forest


This week I have been

READING The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton

WRITING Overheard… In the playground

WATCHING Rosalie Lum at a preview with Lucy. We liked it!

DANCING 

  • in the school hall as the teachers performed a surprise flash mob for the kids
  • in another school hall with Lucy at her Year 6 Dinner dance (she has now finished primary school…)
  • at Zumba of course

FAREWELLING my little people as the school year ended (for them).

SKETCHING at Milsons Point and its surrounds

WALKING and SWIMMING at the beach with Vastra and Saskia

EATING pomegranates and mangoes

Overheard… in the playground 

By Vita Forest


Eric: Ms F! Ms F! There’s a banana and a cockroach in the funeral.

Me: What?

Eric: There’s a banana and a cockroach in the funeral!

Me: I have no idea what you are talking about.

Eric: The funeral, you know – where you stand?

Me: Where you stand?

Eric: In the boys’ toilets…

Me: Ah the urinal.

Eric: Yeah, the funeral.

(Much laughing…)

This week

By Vita Forest


This week I have been

READING

  • Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta (a bit of comfort reading…)
  • The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton

EATING Tapas with my book buddies

PRACTICING for our secret teacher flash mob…

CELEBRATING our Year 6’s Farewell dinner (in a beautifully decorated hall).  The two school captains cut the huge multi-level cake up on stage under fairy lights like a bride and groom…

MAKING a cushion cover for my niece Pippi to decorate her new reading nook.

VISITING the Finders Keepers Market with my parents

FILLING nine plastic crates with dance costumes

STRIPPING artwork from my classroom walls and sending it home

LAUGHING at my class’s reaction to cassette tapes.  They were so fascinated by those ancient artefacts I found in the back of my storeroom that I distributed them by lucky dip rather than throwing them out. (They needed lessons in how to open the cases however).