A mountain of stories

“We know of course that there’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced or the preferably unheard.”

-Arundhati Roy, Sydney Peace Prize 2004[1]

everything out of home copy

I am currently sifting through a mountain of children’s paintings, drawings, collages and writing, transcripts of dictated stories, play-scripts, conversations, anecdotes and photographs of children’s play. I accumulated this collection when I was teaching at Yarralea Children’s Centre in Alphington, Victoria, on and off, between 1984 and 2006.

For the past nine years I have also been encircled in the life stories of my grandchildren, Rory, Otto and Fraser – ‘the brothers’.

Packing for the Journey – a spaciousness for sharing children’s voices over a timespan of thirty years.

 

Two more Mother’s Day drawings

Palimpsest 4

Otto's Janna portrait
Portrait of Janna

When Otto had finished his portrait of Andy
he put his pen to his lips and murmured
Hmm… what will I do now?
Half sitting on my lap
he looked at me and said
Want me to draw you?
I nodded, Yes.
He pointed to the chair
where Andy had been sitting
and said, 
Sit over there.
He set me in a pose
one hand on a hip
the other leaning on the table.
Like this, he said
showing me how.
Then drew me
in a standing pose and asked
is it  okay to put you in an Essendon jumper?
(That’s the team I barrack for
His team is St Kilda).
As he started to add more objects
he hesitated
and asked
Do you want  me to draw you 
here?
(at his house)
or at your house?
Before I could answer
he decided
to put me in my house.
In the big room. 

Dining table and chairs
a rug on the floor
a sideboard with
a bowl of round
wooden balls
and a jar of
pens and pencils
a lamp with
a plugged in cord
Fraser’s high chair
two shaggy dogs
one black
called Callan
one white
that’s Danny
a cat called Norah
a light overhead
a rocking chair
two couches with
people
a window
with  a 
puppet doll
hanging from the latch
a vine outside
an overhead light.

And a palimpsest
of an upside down
faded cat

showing through
from the back.

Palimpsest 5

Otto's bird
A bird

The dots
surrounding the bird are
from an earlier drawing
on another piece of paper.
They have bled through
onto this drawing.

palimpsest
ˈpalɪm(p)sɛst/
noun
– a manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on effaced earlier writing.

– something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.

Mother’s Day Palimpsests

 

Palimpsests 1 and 2

Friday, not Sunday, was the day we celebrated Mothers’ Day this year with Alex, Damon and the brothers, Rory, Otto and Fraser. Andrew, Cat and I were coming over early to cook the tea because Alex and the boys had footy training and wouldn’t be home ’til about 7 o’clock, and, at the end of his first week in a new job, Damon had to stay late at work. We thought that the hamburgers would be ready to serve up as soon as they walked in. As it turned out we all arrived at their house at the same time – about 7 o’clock As usual, we had left home too late, stopped to buy a bottle of wine, got caught up in Friday night can’t-wait-to-get-home-and-watch-the-footy traffic.

As we let ourselves in the side door, three boys aged nine, seven and two (one of them in a particularly bad mood) burst through the front door, closely followed by Alex who was taking in a few deep breaths. Damon had already arrived home.

We opened the bottle of wine, Andrew got on with making and cooking the hamburgers. and the rest of us found a place to be – in front of the tele, on a device, on the floor, on a bike, at the table, in a bedroom yelling MAAAAAM!!, on the couch calling out, ‘If you want to talk to me come out here.’

I asked Otto if he had found his SRC badge which he had lost somewhere in the house last Sunday. He and Rory have both been chosen (by their friends) to be on the school Student Representative Council – known as The SRC. No SRC at primary school in my day. The badge did turn up and they had been to their first meeting. 

“How was it, Otto? I asked.
– ‘Oh it was really good,’ he said.
‘What happened?’
– ‘We talked about respect. We all had a piece of paper and we had to write and draw about RESPECT!.’
Tell Janna about your idea,’ said Alex.
– ‘Oh yes. I had this idea for a Fun Group. It’s for people who don’t have a friend. They can come and have fun with me – play sport and, …have fun games.’
‘You could make a poster to put up around the school to let everyone know about  group – make copies and put them around the school to tell everyone about your idea.
– ‘I’ll have to talk to the principal first. I’ll talk to the principal, and if he says ‘yes’ then I’ll put them up and hand them out.’

Otto found a sheet of A4 copy paper and started on his his poster at the dining table. The ink went through to the table. Alex told him to put something under the paper. He got a few more sheets and slipped them under the poster, and went on writing with large outline letters for maximum impact. 

‘Where did you get the idea to start a Fun Group?’
‘Oh, well Lachie, he’s a boy in my class, he came up with the idea for a Nature Group, and then I thought I could make a Fun Group.’

I didn’t get a copy of Otto’s poster, but, if or when I do I’ll post it.

Here are the notes I took at the time. I need to do that these days. They are written on the back of a drawing Otto did of his favourite St Kilda footy player Nick Reiwoldt (see below).

Otto's Fun Group poster

  • palimpsest
    ˈpalɪm(p)sɛst/
    noun
    – a manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on effaced earlier writing.
    – something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.

Otto's RoowyOtto also created his own distinctive signature. 

Who is the mother?

screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-2-15-08-pm

Can I play?

    I ‘m the mother 
I want to play
    I’m playing with the baby

You can’t say I can’t play
    Yes I can – You can’t play
You can’t say you can play
    Yes I can – you can play
Yes – I can play
    You can play
    But
    I’m the mother

© Janet McLean, 3 March 2016
After Vivian Paley –  ‘You can’t say you can’t play’

 

‘A Stunning New Musical for Australian Schools!

This great resource for children aged  5 – 12 years blends songs, drama, comedy

“Award winning author Phil Cummings and renowned composer/songwriter Glyn Lehmann launch their new musical Arlie Abbstock and the Incredible Cape.

Written for performers aged 5-12 years, this work is full of songs, drama, comedy, action and even a rap. This work celebrates difference and explores themes of resilience, perseverance, resourcefulness, artistic endeavour, empathy, acceptance and recycling!

The story revolves around Arlie Abbstock who lives in a small medieval village. The other children like to play with swords and battle axes but Arlie likes to stitch and weave and sew. When the king is captured by a dragon, and the bumbling knights fail to rescue him… Arlie has a plan of his own.”

Available Now at: www.songlibrary.net/Arlie-Abbstock

Arlie Abbstock and the Incredible Cape

…a magical, medieval musical script and lyrics by Phil Cummings

music by Glyn Lehmann
There’s a terrible dragon, a kidnapped king, a feisty queen, a plucky princess, bumbling knights…and then there’s Arlie Abbstock.
Arlie Abbstock and The Incredible Cape

Arlie isn’t like the other children; while they play with swords and battle axes, he likes to stitch and weave and sew. When the dragon kidnaps the king, the knights attempt his rescue but return blackened and defeated.

Who will save the king now?

With help from the princess, Arlie puts his plan into action by doing what he does best. Teased by the other children and scorned by the knights, Arlie surprises them all; proving that friendship and a little self-belief go a long way.

Drama, comedy, songs, rap and much more!
For performers aged 5-12 years.

Duration: approximately 40 minutes

MORE INFORMATION
Arlie Abbstock and the Incredible Cape celebrates difference and explores themes of resilience, perseverance, resourcefulness, artistic endeavour, empathy, acceptance… and recycling!

Key aspects:

  • 19 speaking parts and chorus opportunities in which many children can participate.
  • Easy, flexible costuming options with opportunities for recycling.
  • Staging suggestions for do-it-yourself stage design and props.
  • Parts included for beginner recorder and ukulele players.
  • As well as the obvious benefits of being involved in a school production there are a number of themes that may be expanded upon in the classroom. We have provided suggestions in the accompanying materials.

We hope you enjoy teaching, learning and exploring our new musical.

Phil and Glyn

Pirates – part 2

I do not ask the children to stop thinking about play. Our contract reads more like this: if you will keep trying to explain yourselves I will keep trying to help you think about the problems you need to solve.

Vivian Gussin Paley (1981) Wally’s Stories

 The pirates nudging each other

When Richard told me his next story Ned was sitting next to him.
‘I’m going to do a play,’ said Richard.
‘There’s only two people. Ned, do you want to be in my play?”
Ned didn’t answer.
‘Ned, do you want to be in my play?’
Silence
‘Ned, do you want to be in my play?’
Nothing.
‘Ned, do you want to be in my play?’
‘Maybe’. Continue reading

The day we found cat poo in the sandpit.

This post is in response to the Child Care Collection Online Course – “Potty” Story 1 http://www.naeyc.org/tyc/poop-machine , and “Potty” Story 2. Define “potty.” Define “scientific thinking.”

At kindergarten one day we had to warn everyone not to go into the sandpit until we had dealt with the overnight offering left there by one of the neighbourhood cats.

I was annoyed that we were still having to deal with this problem because the promised sand pit cover hadn’t arrived yet, but I did what I always try to do when these kind of problems arise. I paused, assessed the situation, and then set about fixing it as quickly and calmly as possible. At the same time I watched and listened to see how  the children were responding. I sensed a heightened level of excitement as the word ‘poo’ spread through the group.

There’s dog poo in the sandpit!
Where? Show me! 
Ooh!
Yuck!
Errgh!
Pooh!
My cat did a poo in our sandpit.
Mine too! Mum said we’ll have to get a cover for it.
(I sigh)
Let’s make a sign. Come on!

We put the signs up near the sandpit, and no-one went into the sandpit until it was safe to do so.

dog-poo-1In the sandpit.
Dog Poo

dog-poo-3
Poo

Throughout the year making signs had become an integral part of the program. These children knew how to make signs to warn, control, direct, make announcements, and advertise.They had learned the art of using words, images and symbols to get their messages across in simple and direct ways.

these-children-are-bricoleurs-copy