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…

 

Crow

By Vita Forest (based on a story of Pemulwuy’s escape)


He came out of the forest, across the river to fight them.  They were taking his land.  They were killing his country.  They had tried to kill him.  One time.  Two times.  And though the muskets had filled his leg with lead (they had seen it) he had gone back into country and re-emerged.  Alive.

But now he was locked in their dark cold cave.  The iron bands around his feet.  The iron bands around his hands.  Trapped.  They had him now.

He stared coldly into their hooting faces.  He turned himself inside.  And waited.

The cave got colder, the night got darker, the iron on his wrists, cutting into his skin.  They had his death in their minds.  They were hungry for it.  They wanted it like nothing else.  But they would wait for the morning, for the sun to rise and flood the valley with its light.  For the whole world to be full of light.  Illuminated.  They wanted to show everyone his broken body, his broken spirit.  They wanted to show his people he was gone.

He closed his eyes and turned himself inside.  Made himself part of the darkness.  The blackest black, the deepest crevice between the stones.  He called up his totem animal, buried into it, danced its dance, sang its song.  Whispered its name.

He snapped his beak, clawed at the gritty ground.  He breathed and blew the air down through his bones, down to his fingers, flattening, stretching, flicking them into shards of feathers.  He jerked his neck and shook out the collar of black across his skull, across his back, drew his claws in, slipped out of the circles of iron.  Folded back his wings, rattled out of the chains at his wrists.  Unrestrained.    

He swivelled his eye, cocked his head, listened to the snoring sentry and the whispered secrets of the moths at the lantern, the crying bats in the fig trees beyond.  The world was alive out there.  Waiting for him.  Waiting for him to leave this place. 

With a spring, he was up on the ledge, slipping through the bars, gripping the wall with his claws.  The world outside flooded him.  He drank it in, breathed it.  Rolled back his shoulders and was gone, back into the world, into the night.

Gone.

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.

Skubiszewski on the wireless 

By Vita Forest


Car coasting, gliding, sliding

down the slick road

for the millionth time

when the chiming through the speakers

alerts me to this moment

– Here.

Skubiszewski

(apparently)

Pulls me back to my body

To my seat

To the reverberating space between my ears

Clear as two hands

Firm on my shoulders

Listen

It says,

And I thumb up the volume

Be here 

in this jaunty, curious place

And I look past the rainspeckled glass

As the car descends

And we are floating,

Drifting with the fog that is

Rising in sheets, in veils

Come up from the river

Ssshhh

The trees are grey lace layers

Looming and swaying apart

And we are swimming through a cloud in a car.

This week

By Vita Forest

Where does the sea end and the pool begin? South Curl Curl


This week I have been

READING

  • Eric by Shaun Tan to my class at school (how lovely!)
  • A structural report by Sui-Sui on an old novel I wrote – she has taken the time to really analyze it and come up with suggestions to rework it into something better – Thanks wonderful lady!  You will make a great editor some day!

WRITING Mobile Tales 6: A rainbow of reading (Further adventures of Christabel La Mouse)

WATCHING

  • A Strategic Plan at the Griffin Theatre Company (another intense night of theatre)
  • Please like me Season 3 (I particularly enjoyed the scene where Arnold practises coming out to his own Dad by singing Sia’s Chandelier to Josh’s Dad – just gorgeous!)

VISITING

  • Observatory Hill for a spot of sketching
  • Curl Curl for a wild swim in the rock pool and a cliff top walk with Saskia and Rowdy.

    CATCHING UP with lots of lovely people including Sui-Sui, Saskia and Vastra.

    REALIZING that Saskia’s, Vastra’s and my child-free weekends coincide… what adventures lie in store…

    Mobile Tales 6: A rainbow of reading

    By Vita Forest

    In which Christabel solves a puzzle and resolves to rearrange her bookshelf.

    Peering through her spyglass one day, Christabel watched the undertakings in The Lounge Room with great interest. The smallest human was seated on the ocean floor in front of The Book Shelf and was sorting those precious rectangular receptacles of Knowledge and Stories into piles.  Christabel could not quite understand the categorisation.  Whereas her own small library (residing on two precious shelves in her cabin) was arranged by subject and author, the Human seemed bent on an entirely new system.  The treasured volumes by Melina Marchetta were split asunder and placed in four different piles, however the Neopolitan novels of Elena Ferrante remained side by side.  What was the logic?  The largest human swam about too, picking up and volume here and a volume there and examining the books with a critical eye.

    It was the spine of the book, not the covers the humans were taking particularly note of.  Why was that?  The author and title could be gleaned just as easily from the front cover (and generally more easily too, being in larger print).  Christabel watched as the human picked up Eleanor and Park, and uncoupling it from Carry On, moved it to the first pile of books.

    Then all at once the puzzle was unlocked.  These books were Daffodil, Sunshine, Egg Yolk and Fresh Butter. Carry On was placed with Turquoise, Deep Ocean, Midnight Sky and Glacier.  The new classifier was colour!


    In the distance began The Yellows (rather small but imbuing that far-away corner with a cheery glow). Then the books progressed through The Oranges and into the drama of The Reds.  From there, it was a flicker into The Blues and then a lazy dappled wave over into The Greens.  This was Christabel’s favourite section.  She even held out her own green-gloved paws against the books to see where they would slot (third from the right Fangirl).


    The Greens moved from a verdant jade through to an almost golden khaki, then onto The Browns proper.  A swift muddling of Greys and then into the solidity of The Blacks (where all Elena Ferrante’s tomes firmly sat).  Some books were most difficult to decide a place for.  The J.K. Rowlings in the collection were from that early multi-coloured era where each spine was made up of four lozenges of colour.  Which one to choose?  Christabel did not envy The Human those decisions.


    When it was all done, she ran her eyeglass quickly along the finished shelves and delighted in the rainbow of colours.  Who cared if the books were not arranged by author?  Or by height?  What delight to make the books themselves a work of art, a pleasing object to look at!

    And the smallest Human had made finding a treasured volume somewhat easier by writing out lists of books on colour coded paper to remind the reader that The Handmaid’s Tale had, in fact, a red spine and The Tao of Pooh, a blue.


    Christabel snapped her spyglass back into itself and slotted it back into its holder.  She stared down myopically at the ocean floor for a moment, deep in thought.  All at once, she banged her palms lightly on the edge of the ship.  It was decided – she would emulate the Human creature – she would make a rainbow in her own cabin!

    And with that decision made, she rushed downstairs to do just that.