Everyday more geckos

By Vita Forest

For the last two weeks

A strange phenomena

A gang of geckos in my classroom.

They march up the walls

Keeping watch over the rubbish bin.

They peer at the whiteboard

Their sticky toes hugging the frame.

Some particularly curious ones watch me work at my computer

They must tell their friends –

Everyday more geckos.

And on the back wall by a Boy table and under the Indigenous language map

An army has appeared

Everyday more geckos

One clings to the clock and listens to its tock

They crawl up the windows

Every size, every colour, every pattern

When will it end?

Everyday more geckos.

This Week

By Vita Forest


This week I have been

WRITING Will you take the risk?

READING The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

GOING back to school

LEARNING some interesting things about Gen Z and Gen Alpha (our current students) and Creative and Critical Thinking at some Professional Development sessions.

ENJOYING having my children back from their overseas holiday (except for the feral jet lagged fighting)

WATCHING Julie and Julia with Lucy

SKETCHING and enjoying the good company and warm sunshine at Carriageworks, Redfern.

Will you take the risk?

By Vita Forest

Lots of good things happened this week.  This is one of them.

Our final dress rehearsal before the audition for a big interschool production was scheduled for Thursday.  On Tuesday we discovered that one of the key players – the girl who was going to read the introduction explaining our piece to the audition panel, was away on holidays and would only arrive back at school next Monday – the day of the audition.  My teaching buddy and I discussed who we could get to fill in for this girl, someone who was in the performance and who hadn’t already got a “special job”.

I thought of Ivan, a Year 6 boy who I had watched run a Peer Support Group.  He had been friendly, firm and had handled the younger kids well.  (Besides this, he seemed to possess a strong, expressive voice that could be clearly heard across the room).  Neither my buddy or I particularly knew Ivan, but we knew he was a nice kid who always tried his best.  He seemed like a good place to start.

I approached Ivan on Tuesday lunchtime carrying the script in my hand, and asked if he would like the job of filling in for the absent girl, with the slight possibility of having to read it for the actual audition.

Ivan wasn’t sure.

I was a bit disconcerted.  I hadn’t expected this.

I explained that I thought he could do a really good job so why didn’t he take the script and look it over?  If he really didn’t want to do it, we would find someone else.  He reluctantly agreed.

The next day I mentioned this encounter to one of the Year 6 teachers.  She stared at me in alarm and told me a different story about Ivan.

Apparently he was prone to anxiety.

Apparently he was not very confident.

Apparently he could get a bit tearful sometimes.

Oh.  No.

Maybe we should have gone with one of the school leaders who speak at every assembly.  Perhaps we should have chosen someone on the Debating team.  But I had wanted to give someone different a chance.  Was this going to be a mistake?

Thursday was the day of the dress rehearsal.  Feeling increasingly worried that I had caused Ivan some major stress, I sought him out at recess time.

Was he ok to read the script in front of everyone?

Yes, he told me.  He had been practising.  He would do it.

After lunch, the kids changed into their costumes and got into their starting positions.  Ivan stepped forward with his script and…

Absolutely nailed it!

He spoke confidently, clearly and with excellent expression.  I gave him the thumbs up.

The principal went and got us “an audience” of five classes of various ages from across the school.  Ivan would now have to speak in front of over one hundred people.

Again he did a fantastic job.  We continued on with the rehearsal.

Later Ivan told me – public speaking really scares him as he sometimes stutters!

The next day I found his teacher and was telling him the story.  I was in the middle of the story -telling him how I had decided to choose Ivan and give him a go.  He too, like the other Year 6 teacher, immediately looked worried and started to tell me he didn’t know whether Ivan would be a good choice – he didn’t know it had already happened!  I told him how great Ivan had been.  I told him how I hadn’t known Ivan had a stutter.  His teacher was thrilled to hear of his success.

I love these times when a kid steps up, takes a risk and really shines.  I hope Ivan will always remember how brave he was that day.  I hope he will recall how despite feeling terrified, he was able to accomplish something wonderful.  I hope it gives him confidence.

Sometimes we go to school to teach the kids.  Sometimes we get taught by them.

 

This week

By Vita Forest

Banksias in the winter sunshine


This week I have been

READING The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

WRITING

  • School days
  • Programs for next term – big plans, big plans…

WATCHING The Honorable Woman (wow!)

RUGGING UP against some chilly winter weather

RECORDING results for the long jump at our school’s Athletics carnival

PAINTING our dancers’ faces for our dress rehearsal

EATING OUT

  • with the rest of the staff at an end of term dinner and
  • at a friend’s for book club

WALKING and TALKING with Saskia

LOOKING forward to the school holidays.

 

School days

By Vita Forest

 

I hear a child say he wished to die.  Saw no point in it and he was tired, tired, tired.  I know, said the woman with the water rubbing his hand, I know.

Another said she likes to hang out here, in my room, their room, our room, more real and familiar than that house they had just moved to.  They swing open the door with confidence, as if they own it, which they do, and march in to look at the schedule, to get their hat, to get their book, to have a chat.

I stand in the playground with the sun at my back and wave at my grinning girls as they skip through hoops and miss completely the boy brandishing his fist at another.  The victim tells his tale as the other stalks away.  The parties are gathered and talk tearfully in turn,

He said….  

He did….

I only wanted to…

I was just trying to… 

It wasn’t my fault.

Another day I do not miss the boy, morning meds forgotten, baring his teeth at his friends, lashing at the air, at a tree, at the curious Kindergarten boys who venture too close before I turn them away.  We watch and let him roam and calm and he creeps back again, more in this world than out.  Yes, his mother is told, the drugs do seem to make a difference.

After a final Peer Support meeting, the whole school frolics outside, playing Tip, playing Grandmother’s Footsteps, playing on the soggy muddy grass, shrieking in the cold wind.  One boy, one of my dancers, asks if I will hold the final treat, the bag of lollies for him – he needs both hands.  Only if you give us one later, shoots back another nearby teacher.  He grins and runs off and we compare notes on the ups and downs of children as we watch them play.  Later that week I will draw thick black smudges over the boy’s eyes and silver lightning bolts on his cheeks and spiralling scrolls on his chin.  It’s the first time I’ve worn makeup he tells me, looking at the eyeliner pencil in wonder.

In Assembly the boys point to their knees and I give the filthy, muddy, knobbly things the thumbs up.  It brings me joy to see such evidence of unabashed play.  And later that week, those boys who stand atop those strong, wiry legs collect ribbons for long jump, for high jump for hundred metre races.  See what playing in the dirt will do?

That day we go to the oval and the clouds hang low, but we make a start and how they run and jump and throw!  The parents provide free cups of hot drink for adults and on a break I clutch a tea in my cold hands and huddle into my parka.  I collect the lengths of long jumps on my clipboard, measured and sung out by high school boys, the same age as my faraway son.  In any gaps in the proceedings, they tear down the path themselves and hurl themselves into the sandpit.  Foul!  the other cries, but hardly ever mean it.  At the other end of the pit, the children who did not like to run pat sand into castles and fashion hills with their bare hands.  At lunch, the clouds come down and we find shelter where we can, but still the children run and still the children jump.  I go back to school early, standing swaying on a crowded bus with the children who have finished, who have lost interest, who are cold! whose breath turns the windows of the bus to fog.

In the crowded classroom, we turn on the heat and a movie, while the boys make a meticulous list of who would go on the computers, and in what order.  Enraged he had to wait, one boy from another class kicks his shoes in the air, slams the door, screams.  The others stare momentarily, used to his behaviour, then go back to their lunch.  I know him too, he hasn’t changed.  I ring the office, I let children go to the toilet, I accept drawings done on scrap paper, I time the time they have on the computer, I text my friend late back after their bus gets stuck on a tiny street, she has to stand in the rain and help direct it past an illegally parked car.

And the next day we show the school the dress rehearsal with costume, hair and makeup.  Eyes boring out from black scribbles smudged with finger tips, others peering out from itchy wigs in psychedelic colour.  An audience – it brings both excitement and intimidation as their classmates see them, watch them, judge them.  How much harder to stare into familiar eyes than into blank, unappraising space.

I walk back and forth through the week, carrying armfuls of paper, photos, reports in yellow envelopes, skipping ropes, jackets with silver collars and stage makeup.  Carrying list of things to do, people to talk to, staples, velcroze, stiff black cardboard, plans for the holidays and for next term.

We hold a party for the whole Year on the last afternoon to farewell my student, going overseas for years, to celebrate the end of term for all.  They bring out bags of food and one boy tells me he has never eaten such things before, his mother makes everything and will not buy this food wrapped in plastic.  He concedes her homemade cakes tastes better.  Another boy eats fruit, he is going away tomorrow, he explains, and doesn’t want to get sick in the car.  My girls present a card to their friend, make a speech, send her off.  The card-maker tells me she got all the girls to sign it but had to write some of the boys names herself because they would not cooperate, not be appropriate, not behave, she says severely.  (The boys are outraged at this assessment).  They all kick balls, throw balls, lounge around the picnic tables and shovel food into the mouths.  The ground is muddy still despite the sun and I am offered up more muddy knees for inspection.  The bell rings and my departing student hangs behind with her friends, not wanting to leave, looking around the classroom one last time.  She gets a marker and writes her class, her old class, a message for next term:

I will miss you – yes even the boys… it says.

This week

By Vita Forest

From Clive Park

This week I have been

WRITING Lex and Ruby

READING Lucy’s assignment pitching a movie based on the life of Lin Manuel Miranda – very entertaining!

MARKING mountains of assessments… (it’s report time)

WALKING as a break from all the marking

MAKING bacon, eggs, mushrooms and toast for Sunday brunch

VISITING Clive Park in Northbridge again to show my kids this lovely spot


TRYING to decide who to cast in my class play.  Decisions!  Decisions!

 

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?