Through the wardrobe

By Vita Forest

School is done for the year and I’m thinking of the kids I won’t see again in the playground, gone off to other schools and even other countries.  And I’m hoping that next year  we keep the easy rapport, the banter, the in-jokes that have developed this year with the ones that remain.  And I’m thinking of the messages in the cards and the worries of the kids over who will teach them next year, or the year after, and who they will play with now their best friend is gone, and wondering how it will all work out, and knowing that it will.

And I’m thinking of our Narnia project – the scenes brought to life in miniature, in paper and cardboard, the wardrobes, the forests, the lampposts, the beaver’s house complete with washing on the line and even a moon on a paper scroll that moved when you turned it.  Of Tori and Quentin stamping shards of snowflakes out of white and grey paper and carefully arranging them in drifts through the wardrobe.  And Milos making rows of Narnian trees standing upright on folded cardboard stands and Brendan and Barnaby cutting a forest as they chatted and coloured and worked out how to make it all work without the roll of sticky tape sitting on my desk.  And the origami girls folding tiny squares into boxes that were piled up into chest of drawers (because there would be one near the wardrobe in that room in that house).  And how they made me mini chatterboxes too and boxes to sit them in and a flat white giraffe to stick on the side of my computer screen across from a lonely gecko left over from last term.

And I’m remembering how on the last day, they lay down in front of the whiteboard with cushions from the corner and rugs from home and made headrests out of old tote trays and lay and watched in a big clump of nine and ten year olds, as the story they had read appeared on the screen.  And how Evan and Kyle N slipped back to their desks to draw while they watched, as they always liked to do.

And that last week, Freddy and Aiden loved to clean, moving canvases and shelves and wiping out the dust that had blown in all year and coated the window sills and the backs of the computers and the spaces around their trays.  And we emptied out their trays and pulled out the shelves and it was just like Christmas!  Finding the homework book that had got lost a term ago, the book of Times tables and too many pencils to even count.

And how we listened to a flurry of one minute speeches on anything they liked which meant we heard about War and Memes, Scams, their cat, their dog, Soccer, the Life Cycle of Frogs and even Porridge .

And how every morning they would come into the classroom before the bell rang to stand about and chat and show me things and just generally hang out together, so when school started most of them were already inside.

And wondering if I’ll ever meet a nicer bunch of kids.

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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.