Roimata's Cloak. By Esther Tamehana.

Week 7

I went to the book store to buy Roimata's Cloak and they said that you can't buy it anymore as it is no longer being printed. I spent ages looking through the children's books to find another book that may have been published more recently that I could read. It was a bit surprising how few really top quality books I could find even from overseas. I ordered it from National Library instead. Last year a girl brought this book to school and said she wanted me to read it to the class as she thought it was beautiful. I had never heard of it. The children were so moved by this book that they all wanted to talk about it and it was the first time I had really paused to listen and let the conversation and ideas flow as a result of a picture book. It was a defining moment. I realized that I had been in too much of a rush all the time. That I had been telling myself I was a good teacher of reading but that actually it wasn't true. I had read lots of books but rarely had I really really listened to children. Rarely had I ever thought about the way children are touched by stories. Of course I had thought about it in a superficial adultish sort of way but not in a way where I slowed right down and opened my heart and listened with stillness, with none of my own ideas waiting to jump out at them, with none of my teacher trained questions or techniques. This is hard to do but really necessary. This book is why I did the fellowship. I am not there yet, but I am a little way along the way to really hearing, watching, connecting, and understanding.
This week we will weave. For The Kuia and the Spider and for Roimata's Cloak. We will see how the two books connect to each other.

Kehua Playdough

Day One
Sometimes I am so dumb. Today a boy made a ghost kehua playdough thing at reading time. He was really wanting to show it and he was excited and I wanted to clean up and dance and move and we always put the dough away or it dries so he didn't show it. At least he took a photo but I sense that it could have turned into something really good. I've been wanting to make a playdough animation with the kids and here it was.
My collaborator came out. My researcher said she didn't understand about that. Well here it is. I met this guy who is really brilliant and also very generous and he happens to be interested in reading and in my project. He has great books and a probing and subversive nature combined with an artistic perfectionism and lots of great knowledge about ICT. He comes out and reads to the kids and shows us books he has written and helps me figure things out. It makes the project fuller and richer.
I read Roimata's Cloak today. It is much longer and more complex than the other stories. The children had questions to ask as soon as I finished and before. "I was wondering why all the birds put the feathers on the cloak." Another child answered, " Because she helped the kereru and the kereru had no feathers so maybe they did it for her kindness." "Maybe they gave the feathers to her to think of the kereru." "To remember her?" "Yes." "It was a sad story." I don't really understand this story myself. I will need to read it a few times. I am feeling excited because the kids are all bringing things to weave. I talked to them about weaving a cloak. When I was walking home from work I imagined it as really huge and all the children could bring a piece of material from home and maybe the other children and teachers and we could all weave it together.

Kakahu-the start of our cloak.

A mist..ical day

Day Two
Rainy day. We dance all day long so I can keep them moving, keep them from bursting. We are dancing spiders, weaving webs, wriggling legs. A girl has been away for two weeks. She came back this morning and we had a big hug. She has been to a sad sad funeral. I listened. Later I showed her Roimata's Cloak. She told me her Dad read it to her when they were away, on the day of the funeral. She likes the page when the bird has died and they lay it on the cloak. Later I read the story to the class again and this time it comes alive, so alive that I feel I am not reading it anymore, that it has it's own life. It is like the bird and the mist in the movement and rhythm of words and emotions.
Later we talk a bit about the story. The children offer a few ideas but they are restless. Then the girl tells us about her journey and the funeral and everyone becomes silent and calm again and they listen. The flowers and the candles and the hole in the ground and as well the bubbling mud and volcanoes. I tell them about when my Mum died a couple of years ago and the photos and the raven that came and watched and waited. And then the others start to tell their stories. And we talk and talk. They say, "I will die too one day." "Yes" "And then we will turn into a bird." "And then we will be an animal." "We will be a teenager first." "Then you will grow old like me, I say." "When you grow old you will have white hair and a walking stick," A child replies. "Maybe."
Each of the children tells of the funeral they have been to or the pet who died and the one girl who hasn't said anything says, "My grandma is dying." And she is. I know and somehow it all feels so beautiful.
We talk about the mist and then we run outside and they are all bursting with wildness and joy to be in the fresh misty air and all around us in our nestling hills their is mist.

There are three new movies on the movies page. We're Going on a Bear Hunt, A Lion In the Meadow, and Humpty Dumpty. I quite like them. movies



Day Three
Another rainy day. Actually I stayed on the couch drinking coffee for as long as I could avoiding the day. It turned out to be gentle and soft and it just unfolded almost without me.

The girl who had been to the funeral came with soft homespun wool that her grandpa had grown and spun before he died last year. She wants to weave it into our kakahu-cloak. Children brought feathers, material, and stories. As we started the cloak I asked them to take photos as they worked.

Each of the children made a puppet for creating a play of Roimata's Cloak. I asked them if they had ever seen a shadow puppet play and I got such a surprise when they all said they had. Then I laughed and laughed because the show they had seen was at the Kindergarten and it was my class the year before performing and they were the audience. They had a really vivid memory of it.
I found a huge piece of material to make a backdrop in the room. The kids want to act out The Kuia and the Spider. We have been singing Hirini Melbourne's song Pungawerwere which is so soft. It looks like I am doing a lot of the work for the films but their is a lot of cooperative creativity. Kids have to accept ideas and learn how to decide who will play a role. We are having a book week next week and I hardly ever do anything when I am
supposed to. I buy people presents when it is not their birthday and I study picture books when it is not the right week and then when it is the right week, I can't seem to get it together. I want to get a book made so that it looks like a real book with a hard cover. I'm off on a tangent as usual.
I feel like reading a really bad book. A book by Grimms with some horrible evil characters and high drama. Must be the rain. Rain I can hear you making holes in the silence...
Maybe I am running out of steam. I just want to have a release day. Not try and try. And I have telephonaphobia. How can I get a reliever when I can't phone people. And it's just too hard so I won't bother but I a m going to collapse and give up. Teaching is a stupid job. I should be a postal delivery girl on a bike. oops.


Day Four
I have a nice boss. No postal delivery girl on bike for now. Am I the only person who thinks like that. It feels like it. I was reading my friend's blog and he had a bit about Donald Murray and his belief that teachers need to be writers. Writing is a process of discovery, discovering what you know, what you think. Teachers need to write so that they understand the thinking processes and so that they know the craft they are teaching. I think that that is true. It has been a strange experience writing this journal. Challenging in a way I didn't anticipate. I enjoy writing but I like to have time to edit and think and this is just roll it on out quickly and then don't look back or my cheeks will burn.
We talked about words. Sacred. The kereru is sacred. They said precious..nature.
The kids are weaving the kakahu themselves. That is really satisfying to me and to them, since it is hard to do things like that by yourself when you are five. They grab their parents at the end of the day and drag them in to see it. I feel on the edge of tears watching it. I'm not sure why.

mother and daughter hands

Day Off
I am reading the boy who would be a helicopter by Vivian Gussin Paley. Sometimes I don't start books at the front. I just open them and see what that page has for me. That was a bother this morning. It is hard for me to write about some of the challenges I experience here because my class is so small that I do not want any of the children to be identified especially in a context of "challenging." The thing that always makes me question the job I am doing is the"management" of children. I am pretty "good" at it. They respect me for the most part. They say you are the best teacher in the world and all that. But yesterday I watched a parent reading to a group of kids while I was taking a reading group and a child had his head cuddled up on the parent's chest. It struck me. I have been getting frustrated with a couple of kids. They are so excited they call out or act out things at the "wrong" time. How much control we exert over the kids and whether it is appropriate. What do we do with the non-conformist? How can we teach if a child is pinching another on the mat? How often do I sit and just have a normal conversation say at lunchtime with the kids? Why don't I sit down and read a book with a few kids now and again throughout the day? Chat with a few about the books instead of having formal discussions?

I find this project is challenging me in a different way than I anticipated in terms of the picture books. They get under your skin. You start dreaming dragons in flight. You remember the yellow of the kowhai tree and the tui after your Mum died. You have some strange recollection of these great big wooden blocks at your preschool and you being the absolute boss of them. You don't try to remember but it just keeps happening. Also you remember what it was like, just a little memory of what it was like to be little. To be five or more and to be read to and to live most of your days in an imaginary world of play. None of that really matters in regard to the project except on a personal level. Except. Isn't that funny. That is what I am teaching them. That books affect us on a personal level, whether it be through invoking joy and laughter and imaginary play or whether it be a discussion around death and what each person's experience of that is. That they can respond with an opinion or a criticism or play or just lie back and listen and enjoy the rhythm of another person's voice rising and falling with the tones of emotions and words of a story. That reading is much much more than pointing and predicting and sounds.

I met my collaborator for coffee. He challenges me and I try not to rise to it and then I get home and I'm trying to figure out why I think like I do and why I do what I do. I don't care about anyone reading this. I really don't. Maybe that is wrong. I did like it, getting a message from another teacher. She said she was inspired. But I am just sorting something out.

I like the way Helen sums up her week. I wish I could do that. My thinking won't settle itself. It is a galloping horse.

At the end of this week what I think is that it is better when the sun shines. I am a bit frustrated with the choice of books. I don't want to book in to ULearn because I just don't. It will just be too hard. There's no such thing as a free lunch but I want one.