Encounter They met at the back door He was going out She was coming in Bemused, enchanted They stood face to face Eye to eye She was charmed by His long fluttering eyelashes Then she took a peck We rushed to sweep him up Before she reached his eye Only eight months old Though already […]
On leaving Bubup Wilam
Teaching 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.
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.
Our Place = Bubup Wilam, Main Street, Thomastown, 2010
… 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.
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.
gets into your bones
and lives on in your HEART and soul
All images © Bubup Wilam for Early Learning Inc.
Let’s Go baby-o! – The Setting
This story started as a moment in time, and grew into a book.
Let’s Go Baby-o! Janet and Andrew McLean, 2011, Allen and Unwin
– a book sharing
One day in 2008, our newly-born grandson, Rory, lay on the floor in the back room of our house surrounded by the people and animals he would be growing up with. There was his mum and dad, his auntie, two dogs – Rupert and Bella, a cat – Norah, and his Janna and Pa (that’s us, Janet and Andrew). Outside a pair of blackbirds was building a nest in the ornamental grapevine that stretches across the back verandah. Three years later, in 2011, Let’s Go Baby-o! was published. Now it’s 2018 and Rory has just turned ten. He is one of The Brothers whose stories are told elsewhere on Packing for the Journey!
Our own place was the perfect setting for this book. Baby-o and Cuz could be inside the house playing together, and every now and then stop to look out the window and watch what was happening in the garden.
Our garden has led us down may different paths since we first moved here thirty-two years ago. The patch of concrete that was big enough for a usable handball court is long gone, paved over with bricks salvaged from elsewhere in the garden. The bamboo forest along the south side fence that took so long to remove has been replaced with wild salvias, a cherry tree, a lemon and a lime. The crabapple tree that appears in Let’s Go Baby-o! has been replaced by a weeping cherry that, so far, seems to be holding its own.
The ever-changing garden
While the garden is too small to call rambling, it has become an intriguing place for children, grown-ups, dogs, cats, birds, possums, spiders and insects, and slugs, snails and skinks. Children follow paths and climb, cats stalk, dogs chase, mosquitoes bite, spiderwebs trap, and birds fill up on ripe fruit and scrabble for worms – and all of them find secret places to hide.
Everyday life in the backyard
For thirty years the garden has also been a bone orchard for two cats, Dinah and Norah, and four dogs, Maggie, Kipper, Rupert and Bella. Every one of these animals has made their way into our books (There’ll be more about Dinah, Maggie and Kipper, and the books they turned up in, in a later post). Norah, Rupert and Bella are characters in Let’s Go Baby–o!
Our Skye-boy terriers, Callan and Danny, are still waiting to be in a book.
On the day Bella was buried
Callan, for a few moments
settled himself over
Where the birds nest.
Nesting just outside the window
One of the preferred spots for the birds to nest is in the ornamental grapevine that stretches across the back verandah. The brown female and and the black male fly from tree to vine, from creeper to bush, sussing out the best place to build their nest. Once they have chosen the right spot the brown one scavenges in the garden for leaves and grasses, and the odd bit of plastic. She binds these together with mud to make a scrappy, cup-shaped nest, and lines it with soft grasses and tufts of dog hair from whichever of our dogs is around at the time.
The vine where the blackbirds nested again this summer
This year we found a nest just three feet off the ground in the Rosa Perle D’or. It was filled with half-eaten, dried out quinces. I like to think of the brown, the black, and the fledgelings filling up on these before taking off.
A nest of quinces
From inside the house
The windows and doors in the back room of our house overlooks the backyard – perfect for seeing what’s happening out there.
Inside looking out
So, we had our setting, and some of the characters.
1. Let’s go Baby-o! – The characters.
2. Re-imaginging setting and characters to make a book
“…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?
Let’s Go Baby-o! (2011)
A young child and his cousin play actions games together, but in between they stop to look out the window. What do they see?
Let’s Go Baby-o! is a fun-filled story for sharing with young children who are discovering the world around them.
Make It I’m the Mother (2000)
One morning at kindergarten, Pascal and his friends learn how how to resolve their differences when they all have their own ideas about how to play their game.
Make It I’m the Mother is a funny, honest and affectionate story that many children will relate to, learn from and enjoy.
Josh and the Ducks (1998)
Josh likes to be in on everything, but these two ducks won’t let him play. They don’t like dog games…or do they?
Josh and the Monster (1998)
Josh and his friend are off to find the Monster of Mud. Up and over the mountain they go…but where is the monster hiding? And can Josh catch that Monster?
We received a lovely message this week about our book Hector and Maggie which was
published in 1990.
“Hector & Maggie – My 29 year husband has a very well loved copy of Hector & Maggie that his late mum gifted him as a child. He is a farmer & kelpie working dog breeder & says this book was always his standout favourite & he has lovely memories of his mum repetitively reading it to him. Now our 3.5 year old also loves it, I just wanted to say thankyou & let you know that this beautiful book is still delivering lots of joy to the next generation :)”
We were thrilled to hear that Hector and Maggie are still running around the farm after all of these years. The idea for this story came from a family holiday we had with our children, Alex, Angus and Catriona at Auntie Heather and Uncle Kev’s farm at Glenroy (near Penola/Coonawarra) in south-east South Australia.
It was in 1988, the year of the Bicentennial. We were staying at their farm while they went to Sydney to join in the celebrations. As soon as we stepped out of the car we came face to face with the main characters in the book, Hector, Maggie and Old Tom. Auntie Heather told later that she called Hector, Sid Vicious. Maggie’s farm name was Bluey, and Old Tom was called Tom.
Here are some photos we took at the time. We managed to capture Hector and Maggie in full flight, and the hens fussing around Hector, and his “beautiful tail was gone – except for on last feather.” Andrew did a few sketches too, in case we wanted to turn the story into a picture book later on.
The girl collecting the eggs is our (then) seven-year-old daughter, Cat. Here, she’s been bailed up by Hector. She’s calling for help, “MU-U-U_UM’. Auntie Heather told us that she had to take a rake with her when she went to hang out the washing – Hector would chase anyone and anything.
By chance, while I was writing this post, Andrew found this sketch of Old Tom, tucked into one of his art books.
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)