Guest Post: Virginia Lowe #1

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Today Packing for the Journey features two stories from Dr Virginia Lowe. These wonderful anecdotes show how shared book reading enriches children’s knowledge and their ever-expanding understanding of life.

 

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I’ll tell you a story Mum’: Two children tell
by Virginia Lowe      

I kept a record of my two children’s contact with books and their responses. Rebecca is almost three years and three months older than her brother. The children’s own stories arose naturally from contact with books. These two stories demonstrate how the children use this literary material – in this case at least, one shows her scientific bent, the other works on relationships.

1. Nick the whale. One morning, Rebecca and I had a row before school – the reason for it is not recorded, but Nick disliked us arguing and was tense about it. Later he was helping me hang out the washing, as usual handing me pegs. (He was 3y1m old.) 
This time he was picking them up in his mouth because he was being alternately a shark and a whale.

       N: I’m picking them up in my mouth cos I can’t use my flippers. I’m a friendly whale.

       V: You’re clever to do that Mr Whale.

      N: Yes, I can do that ‘acouse I’m an excellent whale who can do everything that is magic. 

He talked a bit about his mother who had gone shopping underwater. Then,

        N: I’m having an argument with my mother [imaginary whale one that is].

       V: Oh yes. Do whales like arguments? [Expecting him to say that like him, they didn’t. It’s obviously different for whales]

        N: Yes. Argumenting [sic] is good for whales.

He carried the monologue on over lunch. His [whale] mother was sitting beside him.

        N: I’m sharing my food with my mother. She said to put the plate in the middle.

        V: What am I?

        N: You’re people

He carried through fairly logically, as a completely anthropomorphised whale.

        N: Do you know how we get out of the water? We use our flippers on the steps.

        N: Do you know how we wash our clothes?

        V: No.

        N: In a washing machine! [etc etc].

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Whale’s Way Written by Johanna Johnston, Illustrated by Leonard Weisgard.                                   Originally published in 1962

Anyway, at rest time, I fetchedWhale’s Way (Johnston) to read to him. He at once identified himself with the largest whale on the endpapers and first few pages.


        N: That’s me and that’s my mother. I’m bigger than my mother.
       N: That’s me and that’s my mother [the lower, closer one]. I’m bigger than my mother. I’m a grown up whale.

 

 

Some pages later he chose the smaller of two on the page

        N: There’s me looking small.

        V: Do you look small because you’re further away?

        N: Yes.

        N: That’s me and that’s my mother [lower, closer one]. I’m bigger than my mother. I’m a grown up whale.

On several pages he commented on the more distant whale as ‘that’s me looking small’ presumably to make sure that we both understood it was only through perspective that he looked smaller.

        N: I have those flukes. I swim and splash with my flukes (etc. mainly echoing the book’s text).

But the book is fairly long and very complicated, and he was restless before the end of most pages. 

        N: I’m tired of this whale book

So we stopped and he cuddled down to sleep with it clutched in his arms.

When he woke from his nap, his grandparents were visiting. I asked him if he was still a whale, he grinned and said ‘yes’ and told them with excitement –

        N: We’ve got a book about whales!

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2. A story-game from Rebecca. She was 4y 4m, and we were exploring Italy in a campervan.

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The Fairy Tale Collection selected by Virginia Haviland, illustrated by Raymond Briggs, first published 1972 by Hamish Hamilton

A day of turnips inspired by ‘The Turnip’ (Tolstoy) which is in two of the collections of stories we had with us, Bamberger My First Big Story Book and Haviland The Fairy Tale Treasury.

First, in a park, by a delightful pond (Florence) – Rebecca pointed to a large clump of grass.

        R: That’s a great big turnip, Mum! There must have been a show here to grow such a big turnip (presumably she meant the biggest vegetables would be grown for and sent to agricultural shows). 

That evening, while tea was preparing, she played ‘turnips’ outside in the campsite for half an hour or so. She was pulling up clumps of grass. This is just a few jotted phrases of an interminable conversation.

    R: Look at this great big turnip, Mum! It’s so heavy, and it was hard to pull up. We’ll have turnip for supper.

   R: If I find more than four turnips I’ll invite some friends to tea (a partial quote from Potter’s The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher).

    R: Look at them on the scales. See how heavy the big one is? (One in each hand, arms  straight, bigger one low, smaller high)

Later:
     R: Now I’ve got two little turnips and one big one. Nick will have a little one, and I will have a little one, and you and Daddy shall share the great big one.

      R: Three of them are boiled now. I can’t wait to eat them.

    R: I’ve planted some more of that brand of turnip. They’ll be ready in the morning. They’re the sort that grow overnight. I hope they’re as nice as the ones we’ve just eaten.

As might be expected, this one is now a scientist (a permaculture one) and the other a teacher, coping with relationships all the time.

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Dr Virginia Lowe has been a Judge for the Children’s Book Council’sBook of the Year Award and Convenor for the CBCA Crichton Award for new illustrators. She is now an honorary life member of the CBCA (Vic) and recipient of the Leila St John medal from them for services to children’s literature in Victoria. She has taught children’s literature, English and creative writing at university. She is a published poet (her latest, with her husband John, is published by the Melbourne Poets Union, Lines Between), and has also written extensively on children and books with some forty academic articles and a regular column ‘Two Children Tell’ in Books for Keeps  http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/. Virginia’s book Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two Children Tell was published by Routledge (London, 2006).

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Virginia Lowe’s book  Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two Children Tell is based on a reading journal of over 5000 hand written pages in which she recorded all the books read to her two children and their responses to them. 

Links:

https://createakidsbook.com.au

http://www.shelleychappell.com/blog/introducing-virginia-lowe

http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/member/virginia-lowe

https://monash.academia.edu/VirginiaLowe

A Message to Bubup Wilam

On leaving Bubup Wilam
March 2015

 

IMG_0533 copyTeaching and learning at Bubup Wilam 2009 – 2015

I was going to sit down and write this before I did anything else, but I went into the garden instead.

For me, gardening is a kind of meditation. I recall Jeannie’s words – ‘Just let your mind go wherever it wants to, don’t fight it’.

Now I am ready. I have pulled out some weeds, raked over some dirt, and planted in some herbs.

In 2009 I started working at Bubup Wilam when it was a one room kindergarten in Nebel Street, Lalor.

I had left teaching ten years before and didn’t expect to go back to it.

I had loved being a teacher and I missed the day-to-day emotional and intellectual buzz that I got from being with babies to six year old children.

I jumped at the chance, just as I was turning 64, to return to it.

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Our Place – Bubup Wilam, Nebel Street, Lalor. 2010

When I started teaching at Bubup Wilam, I believed my educational philosophy and way of teaching would fit well with Bubup Wilam’s vision and aims.

Now I know how much I still had to learn about teaching, about people, and about being a non-Aboriginal person working in an Aboriginal community.

What challenged me the most was the realisation that I still had a lot to learn about myself. 

It was a steep learning curve, often uncomfortable, sometimes distressing.

Every day we were confronted with the effects of on-going generational trauma suffered by Aboriginal people as a result of colonisation, dispossession of land and culture, and the forced removal of children from families – the Stolen Generations.

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Our Place = Bubup Wilam, Main Street, Thomastown, 2010

THANK YOU…

… all of you, my colleagues who have become my friends, and from whom I have learned so much.

Here I want to single out a few, and what I say to them, applies to you all

Trish, Dianne, Jedda, Lisa – the strong Gunditjamara, Gunnai/Kurnai, Mutthi Mutthi, Yorta Yorta women – that I met when I first started at Bubup Wilam in 2009, at Nebel Street

You welcomed me into the Bubup Wilam family.

You have been my teachers.

You have openly and honestly shared your life stories with me.

You have helped me begin building my own understanding of what it means to be  Aboriginal, and living in Australia today, with a sidelined 60,000 year heritage and culture.

And to realise what it means to me to be non-Aboriginal in the same country.

You have been my role models, and helped me to broaden my own understanding of true social justice.

You have introduced me to Aboriginal ways of thinking and living, and to Aboriginal English, and to your unique style of humour.

You are rebuilding the parts of your lives that have been broken through the effects of historical events.

You are healing yourselves, studying, reconnecting with long-lost family, and raising and creating a new generation of proud and deadly kids, with strong connections to Community, Country and Culture.

We are growing and learning together.

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By chance I turned up at Bubup Wilam 5 years ago.

I am leaving the building.

I can forget the entry code and how to lock up.

I can kiss goodbye to rosters.

I look forward to walking with you as far as I can.


Bubup Wilam

gets into your bones
and lives on in your HEART and soul
HEART
Honest
Ethical
Accountable
Respectful
Trusting 
&
Trustworthy

All images © Bubup Wilam for Early Learning Inc.

 

Bubup Wilam for Early Learning

Bubup Wilam

Bubup Wilam is a self-determining Aboriginal Child and Family Centre managed by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal children, families, and Community. It provides access to an integrated range of services and programs, including: early intervention and prevention programs, early years education, and health and wellbeing services.

I began teaching at Bubup Wilam in 2009 when it was a stand-alone kindergarten in Lalor, one suburb north of Thomastown.  In 2012, the Centre opened at its current site in Thomastown, and between January 2012 and March 2015 I worked there as the Pedagogical Leader.

Bubup Wilam – Purpose

In partnership with families
to nurture
strong proud and deadly kids
in a culturally rich and supportive
educational environment.

Bubup Wilam means ‘Children’s Place’ in Woi Wurrung language. The Centre is situated on the Wurundjeri land of the Kulin Nation, in Thomastown, in Melbourne’s north. It has become a Meeting Place for  Aboriginal people who have settled in Melbourne from different parts of Australia. 

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Families from many mobs/clans come together at Bubup Wilam

Bubup Wilam – Vision

Children who are proud
and have
a strong Aboriginal identity
as their foundation for
lifelong learning, health and wellbeing.

Bubup Wilam – Philosophy

‘Community Control is defined as the Aboriginal local Community having control of issues that directly affect their community, meaning that Aboriginal people must determine and control the pace, shape and manner of change and decision making at all levels. This reflects the right of Aboriginal people to self-determination in a meaningful and effective way.’ National Aboriginal Health Strategy (1989)

Bubup Wilam meaning Children’s Place in the Woi Wurrung language seeks to underpin and strengthen (our) vision through the service’s philosophy of

Instilling and strengthening
children’s strong sense of
Aboriginal identity and
personal self-esteem as
their foundation for lifelong
learning,
health and
wellbeing. 

This equates to children, with the support of their parents and extended family,

Taking a lead responsibility in
owning and developing
their learning,
playspace,
interactions, and
engagement with others
in a 
confident and supported way.

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I was a non-Aboriginal professional educator working within a self-determining  Aboriginal Community. Every day for the five years that I worked there, my beliefs, and ways of being, my knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal history and culture, my educational philosophy and ways of teaching, were challenged. I have never stopped learning, rethinking, revisiting, and searching for ways, as a non-Aboriginal woman, to walk in step with the Aboriginal Community.

Following the announcement by the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, that the Federal government had Allocated $50 million of taxpayer money on a new monument celebrating Captain Cook’s arrival in Australia, I wrote this response.

“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that such incidents (throwing paint on statues of CC) are part of “a deeply disturbing and totalitarian campaign to not just challenge our history but to deny it and obliterate it”. Is he serious? 

Spending $50 million on a ‘Captain Cook Memorial is a “deeply disturbing and totalitarian campaign” in the hands of the incumbent government which is setting, and has set the history agenda for over 230 years. 

That $50m would go a long way towards ‘memorials’ to teach all Australians the history of our land in the years prior to, and since 1788. This history is being written, painted, danced and sung, by Aboriginal people, who are still living with the effects of colonisation – telling how First Nations people lived here for 60,000 years, and have survived the consequences of invasion, destruction of the environment, massacres, and the terrible effect on whole families and clans, of the stolen generations. 

This government is setting its agenda for a culture war. That agenda must be challenged

 Sharing Aboriginal Voices is the place on Packing for the Journey for me to share stories of our past and current history from an Aboriginal perspective.                             

Janet McLean 

 

 

 

Anyone can be the mother

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“…Vivian Paley observes in her classic study of social inclusion, “You Can’t Say You Can’t Play”…
“Certain children will have the right to limit the social experiences of their classmates. Henceforth a ruling class will notify others of their acceptability, and the outsiders learn to anticipate the sting of rejection” (p.3)

What then if, as Paley documents in her work, we took a stand against such exclusion, and actively (intentionally!) sought to shape and guide the social relationships occurring before us, just as clearly and strongly as we seek to shape the other kinds of learning that happen in our settings everyday?

http://thespoke.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/what-if/#comments

 

 

You can say “You Can’t Play”

I introduced this concept, to Yarralea, after hearing Vivian Paley speak at a conference in Brisbane in the early 1990s. I found that it gave teachers and children a phrase to begin thinking about the complexities of ‘belonging’.

As Vivian Paley states: We must be told, when we are young, what rules to live by … [teachers should] prepare our children to live and work comfortably with the stranger that sojourneth among them. And should it happen that one day our children themselves are strangers, let them know that a full share of the sun is rightfully theirs.'”

“New friendships were forged as children got to know other children. Children felt relieved (even the ones who did most of the excluding). Teachers could handle issues of exclusion simply (You forgot the rule) rather than approaching each instance as a moral puzzle to be solved.” (Laurie Levy)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurie-levy/you-can-say-you-bullying_b_5104903.html?ncid=engmodushpmg00000003