What holds the rainbow down?

rainbow
What holds the rainbow down?

Words of the angry or angered?

Words with a hashtag or without?

The rainbow is coming down.

 

What holds the rainbow down?

Words – some, more violent than rocks

Used as shields, more potent than plastic

To wage the war and broken peace

Rainbow come down.

 

What holds the rainbow down?

Truth – yours or mine?

Power -yours or mine?

Love – yours or mine?

Rainbow come down.

 

What holds the rainbow down?

The rainbow is coming down.

Rainbow come down.

 

-Rose-Anne Reynolds

*Illustration by Brandan

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The weight of paper

 

Kai Reynolds

One day, in 2010 when our son Kai* was in Grade 1 after he had finished the ‘work’ or ‘task’ assigned to him by his teacher he asked for a piece of paper to draw on. This is a daily standard practice in (some) schools – when the child has finished the work they need to do they get to do something else…like draw or read or play with blocks etc. It is one of the earliest, simplest ways we as teachers create a binary in the class between what is work- that has been sanctioned  by the state, the curriculum, the school which COUNTS and then what the children do which is not assessed, valued or recognized as work -usually the drawing, talking or playing. I am making some sweeping generalizations but I am using these assumptions to illustrate a point.

Kai was given a piece of paper ( or went to collect it from the box called scrap paper) and started to draw Hiccup from How to train your dragon, he then asked for another piece of paper  which he glued to the first piece and then proceeded to draw Toothless, the dragon, and then when that page was full he asked for a third piece of paper, and when that was full, a fourth and all these were glued under each other, and then went to the top of the page and added another piece of paper to the left of Hiccup. When he came home that afternoon he was very pleased and continued to work on the piece. It ended up being 3 A4 pieces across and 4 A4 pieces down.

Kai’s teacher aide in Grade 1, a close friend to this day, Lisa Harrison, told me she watched him and he would draw until he got to the edge of the page and then paste the next page and then carry on going  – he had a vision of what it is he wanted to complete, the process was important too – he did not paste 12 pages together and then start drawing, he drew until he had no paper left and then kept going. If you see the one he started with there is more ‘detail’ in that part as he did the 5 pages at school and also had used different colouring pencils, to the ones he used on the next 7 sheets. (The content of the scrap paper will be the material for another blog – it is fascinating what it on the reverse of the drawing).

Fast forward to July 2016, almost exactly 7 years later and I had the privilege of attending the Reggio Africa Area Alliance conference at UCT, where Tiziana Filippini was one of the guest speakers. In one of her two illuminating lectures she spoke about the materials we give children and how it matters that we end up giving them the same size paper, the same colour paper, the same colours of pencil crayons etc…or not give them but make available to them all the time. She explained that their thinking/drawing/feeling changes depending on the size of the paper for example and this reminded me of the drawing Kai had done. I too have been guilty of giving and storing only one size of scrap paper in my classroom – when I was a classroom teacher and usually it was white. I am not saying that the child who wants to draw will only use the paper in the size it is given – many children do what Kai did – they join pieces together, they cut them up and are very creative with the materials they are provided with. The irony is, is that sometimes as teachers we are so stuck in the sameness of what we provide, what is on offer, what we make available and acceptable in our classrooms. There is also a tremendous amount of policing of the resources that children use in some classrooms  – so we tell children not to “waste paper” and not to “waste time”. B ut we don’t acknowledge when we are “wasting children”?

When Kai came home that day I knew this was the most important ‘thing’ he had done for the day – but that would not reflect on his report or any of the other ways schools believe they need to measure success at school. This reminded me about what we value in our classrooms – is it what the children do after we are finished ‘teaching’ them: We need to value who they are talking to and what they are talking about, the great plans they are making, the thinking, the laughing, the staring into space or the staring into the world, the planning required to meet somewhere for lunch, to play a game, to sit together. There is so much we don’t value that is happening all day, every day in schools- which is not reflected in the curriculum or in the planning or on their reports.

So -let’s start evaluating how we refer to what we are doing in class and what is valued by everyone and everything in it. I challenge you – teachers/ parents/ caregivers/ change the size of the paper available –  tear little scraps and if they need something to draw on give them the little scrap or just leave the pritt or sellotape out – we know that children are inherently creative and yearning for ways to express what they know, what they love, what they want to be doing – but if the ‘rotatrim’ lid or box contains the scrap paper they’ve been using for the year then shake things up!

I remain cognisant that for many children paper is a luxury and am grateful that we use and reuse paper as scrap paper. I think we need to relook at the assumptions that are presented to our children not just through the delivery of the curriculum, in our teaching but also in the materials in our classes.

*Kai gave permission for me to use his piece for this blog.

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m different now

I don’t think like I used to think
I don’t write like I used to write
I don’t read what I used to read
I don’t look like I used to look
I don’t love like I used to love
I think differently now
I look different now
I sound different now
I move differently now
I breathe differently now
I love differently now
I’m different about difference now.

Rose-Anne Reynoldsimage

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Projecting projects

So this is ‘my’ project, birthed from the water restrictions and a garden with more lawn than needed! So it has no cover page and no list of references! The list of collaborators is long- Devillers our magic fingers gardener, Brandan, Kai,Ella and Speedy and now it’s populated by plants and pots and trinkets from dear family and friends! Other collaborators are the sun, wind, rain and soil, the soccer balls that sometimes bump and the feet that don’t always land on the stumps! It was an idea now a growing, breathing, life giving part of all our days and it started as a project…my wish is that this is what a project could be in school- meaningful, relationship building, conversation creating, silence provoking- there will be no marks ever!image

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Inclusion is…  

  

  

  

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And so the land is lost

And so the land was lost

It now stands vacant

A place holder, like a space bar 
And so the land was lost 

The people too

District Six remains a place on a map

A memory, an urgent reminder of the Group Areas Act
And so the land was lost

Others ask you to forget 

And they describe it as a loss
And so the land was lost

And we write articles, poems, plays

Still the land remains lost 

And the people….
The people know, the people do,

That the land was taken from them and that, cannot be so easily forgiven

The people experience the pain of regret, of a life lived well or lived harshly

People who were born, lived and died in District Six and then were asked, no not asked, then forced to be born, to live and to die everywhere else but in District Six.
And so the land is lost and pain becomes the story.
Rose-Anne Reynolds

*50 plus years ago my mother and her family lived in District Six, 50 years ago they were forcibly removed from District Six, it is one generation ago for me. The pain has become part of my story. 

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Negotiating the first weeks of the new school year

image

If your children are struggling to bounce out of bed with unlimited enthusiasm because they are taking a bit longer to adjust to their (new) school, class or teacher, acknowledge their sadness and talk to them about what they are feeling.

A young boy I once chatted to said to me : “my mom says I don’t like my new teacher, but how can I like him I barely know him?” Words of wisdom from a 10 year old. I have thought about this a lot since we had that conversation and am cautious about asking my children or any child…do you like your teacher? Think of other ways to engage about your child’s teacher.

Watch your use of adjectives and value laden words- ‘you are going to big school’ or making the teacher out to be the ‘big bad wolf’. Develop some rituals and routines that provide comfort but without being rigid ( it’s not humanly possible for a child to go to bed at the same time every night.)

Khalil Gibran when asked about children : ‘You may strive to be like them but seek not to make them like you…’ Read this more than once when choosing extra murals, after school activities, sporting opportunities, when reading their results, the list is endless.

Try not to compare yourself to other parents, they are not judging you they are deeply concerned about their own children. If they are judging you- then that’s really problematic for their own children -as they are not focussing their energy where they should.

Try not to obsess about play dates I don’t necessarily think Aristotle and Plato had play dates, this is a very middle class phenomenon, some children will make good friends quickly, some will make friends more slowly what you want your child to do is develop around the biggest diversity the species can offer and delight in their and their friends differences! When we arrange play dates we also challenge the natural order of friendships that develop because of proximity, common interests and even because of perceived ‘boredom.’

Your children need time playing on their own- even without you. It’s invaluable for children to learn to be on their own this helps the introverts and shy children who have spent the better part of their day in a busy classroom in a busy playground surrounded by lots of children and people, regroup. It helps the extroverts who love interaction to learn what silence and aloneness feels like so that it is not so foreign when it is required of them in life.

At the beginning of every school year there are new skills to acquire, routines to establish, subjects, homework,sports, musical instruments and extra murals to learn. So, when talking about your child and when talking to them a word of caution : Please do not use the word never to describe what they can do as in …they will never be able to… As an adult you would not say I will never break my arm, because you just don’t know…with children there are things we just don’t know either so instead of using a limiting set of beliefs as your reference point, choose the opposite…endless possibilities…

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