Tuesday, January 29, 2008

early learning

First day back at Kindy today - the children and I spent most of the morning re-learning where things were as the teachers had reorganised the layout over the holidays.

There is now a pianist on the staff so the piano is more prominant, the 'science' and 'art' areas have been swapped over and the blocks are now in a more 'protected' area - ie no longer on the main route through the building and less likely to be disturbed/knocked over by enthusiastic passers by. The outdoor play area has changed in preparation for total renovation.

Of course there were new children who'd moved up from afternoon kindy too.

It was fascinating watching how the children adapted to the new layout/routines, who stuck to old favourite activities/play things despite their new location and those who stuck to the same location but used the newly located resources, plus of course the adventurous types who'll give anything new looking a whirl no matter where/what it is! It was also a salutary lesson to see how I worked with it too! The new teacher was obviously a big draw - the sandpit was the place to be today. It was reassuring for me though to have some of my usual hangers-on seek me out at various times through the morning and want to sit next to me at mat time - it's nice not to be forgotten about over the long summer holidays!

I had very mixed feelings when a girl came over to me to show off the dress-up dress she was wearing. I suspect, given how shyly she approached, that she had been told to come and show me. It was pink, frilly, sparkly, with a smocked top and a tutu-like skirt. Basically something I would never have been seen dead in at any age. It grates against every anti-stereotyping, tomboy bone in my body. Yet I had created this thing. The top had been donated, the skirt material bought by a staff member - all they needed was someone with a sewing machine to put the two together.... as I sat up til midnight last night finishing off the sparkly trimmings I pondered on the irony of me literally losing sleep to finish it ready for the first day back.

But whether I like it or not some little girls want to be stereotype little girls, they like - even love - pink, they like dressing up as princesses ready for the ball or parties - however as in real life there's a distinct shortage of prince charmings around to court them! I saw that dress on at least four different girls this morning, each time I winced and yet at the same time felt pleased that something I had created was being used and had fun with.

As I embark on my studying (I'm classing this blog post as thought processing rather than procrastination...) it's been good to have such a reminder of how my own values affect my practice and attitudes to teaching. I know if there was only one frilly frock in the dress-ups it would get fought over and that having none at all is not the right solution to that no matter how much I'd prefer it! I can appreciate how easy it is to get stuck into a routine of what activities and people are comfortable to be around. I didn't push a single child on a swing today which must be a first and today was probably the first time I've hung out with the 'girly girls' altho' we were playing a pirate memory game it has to be admitted... well it was a step towards their world, but I don't think I'm up to bathing dollies and playing house just yet. And I think the dress-up corner needs some Bob the builder/Wendy dungarees....

Monday, January 21, 2008


Well today was my first day of school.... again. I started back at uni, a mere 15 1/2yrs after graduating last time. I wasn't a very diligent student student first time round it has to be admitted and I'm far from being born for academia so it was with some trepidation that I arrived this morning in the pouring rain. Thanks Sue for the lift - at least I didn't have to worry about getting there on time!

We started with in introduction to what a pōwhiri is and how it would be conducted. I'd expected to be in a minority on several fronts whilst on this course but finding out that those of us who had attended a pōwhiri before were well outnumbered by those who hadn't came as a surprise to me. Especially given that most there were Kiwis! So silent thoughts of thanks were offered up for the Triennial organisors for their pōwhiri and both Pukepoto School and Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa (Kaitaia) for letting me be part of their Noho Marae (residential event on a Marae).

The feeling of being somewhat ahead of the game slightly increased as all the waiata we were to learn (and of course sing at the appropriate points of the actual ceremony) I already knew from volunteering at kindy - including the A, E, I, O, U song (ah-ay-ee-oh-oo) which I'd heard being done rock'n'roll style just days before at the Wellington Soundshell! (don't panic - we just sang that to warm up!). I had worried when applying that being an overseas student without the benefit of having grown up here would be a disadvantage - as I sat there wincing at the Librarian's pronunciation of Te Whāriki each time he said it (aprox Tay Faahr-iki and most definitely not Tee Fa-reekie!) I began to realise just how priviledged I've been over the last four years to have those around me who have taken the time, and given me the opportunities, to learn about tikanga Māori and Te Reo.

One of the e-journals we were set to find during our Library introduction course turned out to be co-written by Sue who I'm staying with. In the WebCT session we were somewhat put on the spot to give our response to a statement on the message board and I found myself using terminology I hadn't really realised I'd assimilated - I'm pretty sure that came from tea-table discussions with Elizabeth and not the pre-course reading I'd done! The universe smiles on me once more....

When for some random reason (as happens with technology - gigo is a dirty lie....) several of us found our online ids and passwords didn't work on the library system (even though they worked everywhere else...) it was suggested it could be linked to whether we'd got our matric-cards or not yet - some had, some hadn't - 'so much for that working theory' I quipped having been talking about that very thing in the car that morning with Sue... blank looks from those I was sitting with, ah well - I'm pretty sure my head start will fizzle out pretty quickly once we've got going. In the meantime it's reassuring to think that if I can remember things from passing conversations then I've a reasonable hope of retaining information actually studied.

So apart from all the ways in which the universe has conspired to make even being on the course possible (which are multitudinous - many thanks to all those earthly beings who have made this possible - you know who you are - and to the spirit behind them) I am feeling extremely grateful right now for all that has put me in a position to start studying with a lot more confidence than I had felt 12hrs ago!

Thursday, January 17, 2008


...seems to be a recurring theme on this blog; from losing track or the lack of it and the rapidity of its passing to the bizarreness of timewarp experiences...

The end of one year and the start of the next invariably brings about reflection on the year gone by, how life has changed in the last 12 months, 2, 3, 5, 10 years. It seems to be becoming a habit to look back and realise there is no way I could have predicted even last year quite where I would be in life now 12 months down the line, let alone from 5 years ago! As for this time next year? Who knows...

Four years ago I was at the FWCC Triennial in Auckland (16th-25th Jan '04), an event that dramatically changed my life and I think it's fair to say the lives of several of those who were around me. Little did we know then just how intertwined some of our lives would become over the next few years with WGYF and the blossoming of the YF community here in Aotearoa NZ. This weekend I'll be at the wedding of Thomas who was part of both the Triennial and WGYF crowd - looking back his relationship with Rhea seems to be one of the few constants twixt then and now in our lives and them marrying about the only thing we might have been able to predict with any degree of accuracy!

A couple of days ago I visited my cousin George who moved to Wellington a couple of months after I moved north. Last time I'd seen him was when travelling around post-Triennial and I stayed with him in Bangkok where he used to live. He had yet to meet his now wife Vicky and their baby daughter Amelia was a hypothetical pipe-dream. We've never seen much of each other over the years due to us tending to live in different countries but I can remember him being in nappies and various childhood holidays spent together. It's really nice having someone here who has been part of my life since I was four and has not just met but is part of the family I grew up with. The passage of time has given us far more in common in life then we ever had as children.

So yes, if you hadn't worked it out already, I'm back in Welly again - just for a few days, catching up with old friends (and new) before the wedding. Then it's up to Auckland and the first of the on-campus weeks of my course.... eeek! No doubt the year will be gone before I know it and I'll be writing another post wondering just where the year went.... for those of you who had expected/hoped for a christmas missive I'm afraid that yet again that fell foul of the chaos that is the end of the Kiwi year. Getting back here from the UK a week after the last posting date for Europe & the Americas didn't help it must be said and writing a Christmas letter in October so did not figure on my itinerary. Then of course once back there's the wind up of the academic year, the planning of and going to Summer Gathering, the chaos of the festive season itself and before I know it it's mid January... maybe I should just go for midwinter instead! Theoretically I should have more time then, and no doubt an essay to avoid writing!

Fran was telling me last night about a friend's blog post where she answered 40 questions about herself and published her answers for last year too, like Fran I'm not sure I'd publish it all online but having seen just how radically my life has changed in each of the last five years I'm curious to give it a go and repeat it each year - if I can find the time that is!