Reverberations

By Vita Forest

Papped by a sketch buddy at The Cutaway, Barangaroo

Last week sitting in The Cutaway at Barangaroo, a place that I’ve been so many times before and seen “dressed up” is many different ways – with a cardboard city, with hundreds of yogis, with thousands of white balls converting it into a dry beach.  But for Aurora Eora, the space was mostly physically empty and yet it was transformed.  It became a space to linger in, to reflect in, to close your eyes and be in (and in my case a space to get lost in a drawing in.)  What made it so?  What changed this big cavernous space, made people want to walk slowly to its centre and sit down?  Lie down?  Stop?

It was music.

The voices of the Australian Children’s Choir echoed through the vast interior reminding me of monks singing acapella incantations in a sacred space.  With speakers placed in a circle facing the centre of The Cutaway (to which we were encouraged by a pathway made up of strings of electric bulbs, like giant fairy lights, standing in for church candles), voices and rich harmonies washed over you from all directions.  People sat and looked about.  Looked up at the ceiling, looked at the rock cliff face, strolled quietly up and down.  There was nothing much to take a selfie with, it was just a quiet place to linger and reflect.


(Later as I wandered over the hilltop I heard the music again, this time drifting out of the large vent that opens at the top of The Cutaway.  Again, it altered the mood of the people who heard it, turning the Frisbee players into ballet dancers as they spun and leapt.  It called a gentle invitation to curious passers-by to try and locate the source of music – like a benign Pied Piper.)

And later, as I drove somewhere or other, I was listening to RN and caught the extraordinary story of Andrew Schulman who created Medical Musicians after music saved his life – literally.  He was deep in a coma with nothing more to be done when his wife played his favourite piece of music (Bach’s St Mathew’s Passion) and the medical team watched in amazement as his vital signs changed before their eyes.  They had verifiable and measurable scientific data that proved the power of music.  Schulman went on to create Medical Musicians playing Bach and other carefully selected pieces to patients in trauma wards as an “effective, non-invasive treatment” which “produced certain chemicals in the body” and “allowed the body to relax and heal”.

And I remember years ago, doing a meditation course and the teacher talking about “cleansing” your home by playing calming music in it – even if you were not there.  Leaving on some classical music and going out and letting the sound change the energy.

And think about my students over the years and how they love “doing Relaxation” where I put on some Vivaldi or Bach and they lay down on the floor and closed their eyes for a few minutes.  (If we missed it one day for some reason, they were quite put out).  How kids with behavioural problems would choose listening to music as one of their strategies for calming down, settling themselves.  They even started doing it at home, their parents reported back to me.

And even my cat Zadie, flopping down on this table on which I write, choosing to curl up right in front of the portable speaker from which Richard Tognetti plays the Bach Violin Concertos, the sound making the whole table reverberate, I can feel the physical sensation through my arms as I write.

There is something quite amazing about music.  You can’t listen to it in the past or the future, it makes you “be” here in the present.  Right here.  What is your soundtrack for calm?

 

 

This week

By Vita Forest

 

This week I have been

WRITING School saga

READING Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (I haven’t seen the mini-series yet, any good?  I will write more about this one soon).

WATCHING

  • Beginners (a gorgeous movie by Mike Mills)
  • Beauty and the Beast with Lucy and her friend (which other “Disney princess” could Emma Watson play but the book-reading Belle?)

HOLDING a class-worth of parent-teacher interviews (see School saga) phew!

MISSING my usual classes at the gym to hold the parent-teacher interviews and therefore

FEELING stiff and stressed.

PICNICKING near the river on Saturday on a rare sunny day.  We have had an extremely wet March, may April be drier…

 

School saga

By Vita Forest


(All names have been changed of course)

This week I met with the parents of the children with whom I spend my days.

I learned that some children look like their fathers, others get their mannerisms from their mothers.  Maria’s mother said school was her “happy place”, that they sometimes talked about moving but she was dead against it.  They couldn’t move, not yet, not now.  She needed to stay at this school.

I heard that Fiona’s Mum had discovered unsuspected ambitions of future leadership roles in her daughter, had discussed strategies for how to get there, plotted it out.  All at the age of nine.

I saw one mother for the fifth time this term.  Then the sixth – when she burst in unannounced at the end of another parent’s interview to accuse another child of bullying.  Another child who I know to be kind, funny and occasionally bratty.  Another child in the list of children she believes are bullying her daughter.  Again I repeated the steps we are taking, the way I and the other teachers are watching them all.  Something is not right there but I suspect it is to do with the mother not the daughter.  Until we can get to the bottom of it, this woman is sucking up my time.

I heard about kids who were happy, who couldn’t wait for school, who were spending their afternoons writing speeches and rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing them for their families.  I was told about kids who were in the lowest position in the sibling pecking order and therefore felt the need to flex their muscles at school.  I discussed with two mothers the fact that their kids sat side by side in class and constantly bickered and told on each other.  I have told them they needed to “work it out” to stop hiding each other’s scissors and “accidently” throwing each other’s pencils in the bin.  One of their mothers reported that the other kid had said to her kid that he hoped she had “the worst birthday ever!!” on the day she turned nine.  Nice.  But then on Friday, I watched as both kids were playing the same game, talking and joking together.

I met Fred’s Mum with her potty mouth, who tells her son his messy homework is “crap” and that he needs to rub it out and start again.  (Apparently she also told another parent who didn’t know much about me that I was “frickin’ awesome” – I taught Fred in Year 1 too).

I saw parents who pulled out notebooks with dot points to cover off, parents who took notes on what they could work on at home (times tables, reading analogue clocks) and parents who were laid back “all good” and “he’s happy”.  I waited for parents who didn’t show up.  I wonder if they do that for doctors too.

I met parents who are genuinely grateful for what we do at the school, for giving their children opportunities, for a well-timed compliment, for encouragement to try something new or do something better.

I heard about Harriet who plays at being a teacher at home – she even has a whiteboard.  From Malik’s Mum who has been anxiously asking me for a couple of weeks now about the entrance test for the prestigious, challenging and stressful O.C. class (Opportunity class for Gifted and Talented children) (-notes go out on Monday).  About how India’s mother wants her to sit the test too and how Nadia’s Mum doesn’t.  I pointed out their children’s artwork from amongst the menagerie of animals that we live amongst in the classroom at the moment.

I learned that some kids were the less smart siblings of high achievers, the less popular siblings of the life of the party, the last child in the family for whom their parents had little energy or time left to give to.  I heard about the lovely grandmother who used to bring her granddaughter to school each day, who I used to chat with, who used to be a teacher too, back in the day, who now has dementia and is living in a hospice.

I heard that Tahlia thought she was “dumb” and “bad”, I listened as Marvin’s parents reported that they thought he was “messy” and “lazy.” But the most heartbreaking of all was the tale of Quentin’s despair and self-loathing, the catastrophizing that lies behind his sulky demeanour and hot angry tears.  I got his parent’s permission for him to see the school counsellor and talked of other things we can start in the classroom immeidately.  Recognising the good things he can do, some strategies for controlling his emotions before they get away from him.  Poor kid.  (The next day he received praise for his kindness and helpfulness and I circled around him keeping an ear on the conversations he was involved in).

It’s been a rollercoaster of a week, pushing through the utter physical and mental exhaustion with information shared and received and a new protectiveness felt about certain children with their friendship issues, their dreams and their parental ambitions.

Thank goodness we can debrief in the staffroom.

 

 

This week

By Vita Forest


This week I have been

WRITING Crow

READING my old novel in preparation to rework it.

LISTENING to an inspiring interview with Tim Smit on Radio National (he instigated The Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Eden Project in Cornwall).

VISITING

  • with my old high school gang for a lovely meal and great conversation.
  • with Saskia and friends for another lovely meal and great conversation.
  • with family – to see my cousin up from Victoria.
  • a local national park with an Indigenous guide.

DANCING in the school hall for a very fun Zumba class.

MAKING 3D whimsical flowers with my class (potted up in strange receptacles in the style of Shaun Tan’s Eric).

STARTING our senior dance group’s rehearsals.

PREPARING for Parent/Teacher interviews next week…

 

This week

By Vita Forest

Wet weather walking scenery


This week I have been

READING

Weslandia by Paul Fleischman (they loved it!)

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (some comfort reading).

WRITING Skubiszewski on the wireless 

GETTING ready for Bullying. No Way! day at school with lots of teamwork, meetings, collaborative artwork and a poetry competition

DRAWING a magical garden inside a pantry in the style of Shaun Tan in Eric (I think we might make a 3D sculpture garden too…)  The kids enjoyed using 4B lead pencils, many of them discovering them for the first time.

LISTENING to a lot of Adele at dinner with the kids.

MAKING Jules Clancy’s Fudgy 5 ingredient chocolate cake (so delicious)http://thestonesoup.com/blog/2013/03/a-duo-of-easter-treats/

then

CELEBRATING my sister Kara’s birthday with all the fam (eating the aforementioned cake)

WHIPPING out for a quick walk when the rain stopped with sister Briony and Lucy.  It’s been a relentlessly wet week here…

FEELING rather exhausted.

This week

By Vita Forest


This week I have been

READING 

  • Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 

WRITING Not even the beginning

MAKING a Harry Potter trivia game with Lucy (feel free to submit question ideas if you like!)

WALKING with Saskia after the rain.

SKETCHING my balcony garden as my sketch club was cancelled due to the rain.

ATTENDING a meeting about the combined schools concert my school is involved in later in the year.

BRAINSTORMING lots of ideas for stories, choreography and costumes for our item.

TRYING another tack with my 4th grade class for poetry writing (providing them with a starting word for each line) and 

DISCOVERING they were poets!

REMEMBERING how when she was in Year 1, one of my current students poo-pooed one of my suggestions for a song to sing at assembly because it was “a kids’ song”!  They could see the humour in that comment now.

This week

By Vita Forest

Angophora trees at Balls Head

This week I have been

READING

  • On Writing by Stephen King (great!)
  • Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit

WRITING Summer sketching

WATCHING the new series of Grand Designs

HAVING a brain explosion of ideas for our new dance item

GIVING my presentation to my class’s parents for the Parent Information night and not feeling well then

GETTING sick and almost losing my voice (at least it was in that order…)

RESTING for a couple of days

GOING for a gentle walk around Balls Head with my sister Briony

CELEBRATING Briony’s birthday with the family