The Duck in the Gun. Written By Joy Cowley and Illustrated by Robyn Belton.

Week 9
I asked the kids what kind of a story they would like to read this week and the overwhelming response was for funny although some wanted sad and funny. I went back to the book shop and hunted through the entire NZ children's section. Not much funny. How sad. But this is funny. I wanted to read a book with a gun or a cannon in it since Craig read Drummer Hoff Fires It Off. But I am a girlie girl of sorts and my grandfather protested against war in the first World War and my other grandmother was a Doukhabour with complete pacifist sentiments so no hope of me reading a gun sort of book really. But I do like ducks. I have two ducks. Mrs. Duck and Mrs. Duck. I like Leunig ducks too. Everyone needs a little duck. Joy Cowley wrote this story in response to her feelings about the Vietnam War in 1969. She had a read an article in a newspaper about a building job that had to stop because a duck had a made a nest in it. One boy in my class always wants to play guns and I say "NO, NO, NO." As you do, eh. Last week he wrote a picture book and he showed it to me. "Then the cop pulls out his gun..pow pow pow....oh please let me keep it in pleeeeeeaaase." I'm thinking "Keep what? Oh, the gun." Roll eyes. I let him.

Leunig cartoon. Sad isn't it?

Day Zero-Ramblings
In the last holidays we had an ICT cluster
PD day. Derek Wenmoth gave a thought provoking talk. He asked the teachers how many of them had watched the Mars "landing" with their students. Not many had. Why? He shared his experience of interacting with others online about it as it was happening. He was pretty excited about it. Then he shared his memory of sitting in a school hall with maybe 1200 kids quietly listening to a radio broadcast of the moon landing. He was comparing these two experiences and asking why so many people stopped still and listened to the moon landing and hardly anyone noticed the more recent event. Why? As a teacher you were left feeling a little chastised and guilty. Oh I should have...
I love this Leunig cartoon. It captures exactly how I feel about it. One day a teacher was saying how amazing it was to watch a dissection of a frog online and I was thinking, yes but it is much more amazing to just watch a frog, a real live frog, or even a dead one. It is really nice to go outside for a long time at night and look up at the sky and not interact with anyone at all. Wouldn't we all be a little better off if we taught our children to do that. To marvel at the real world. To stand still and listen to it. The reason nobody tuned in is because there is too much too much too much to tune into. And that is the point. There are a lot of stars up there but somehow it doesn't matter. You can just keep looking.

Mrs. Duck and Mrs. Duck

Maiden of the mist?
Day One -Not
I didn't go to school today. My colleague and I drove over the misty hills to the funeral of our friend's mum and our student's nan. It was a sad and beautiful day. Roimata's Cloak came with me as we drove along enshrouded in mist and then later when the sun burst through and a little fantail followed me through the garden. I have been reading a book. Actually I haven't been able to put it down. It is called Why Reading Literature in Schools Still Matters. Imagination, Interpretation, Insight. It is by Dennis J. Sumara. Read it. I have been writing notes for myself: "In a world that has decided that having access to a lot of information is more valuable than developing committed and ongoing relationships to a small amount of subject matter, it is more difficult to fall in love with anything or anyone."

He talks about the gradual instant. You know the way you have an epiphany but actually your whole life has been leading up to that moment. Or something like that. " Truth grows gradually in us, like a musician who plays a piece again and again until suddenly he hears it for the first time.(Michaels) I think I have felt that way about the picture books. You read them once and then again and again and each time they become fuller and take on a life of their own almost. I have never had that experience reading books to kids until this project. The talking and the illuminating and the togetherness of it. We are paying attention to details and to the details of our experiences with each other. It is a kind of deep engagement with the story and sometimes with each other. Sometimes this is transformed into insight. And sometimes that insight is a kind of whole group moment, a shared nod.

Gratitude. I like presents. This project is about books and learning and also about intersections of people. Sue gave me this book to read and I feel like she has given me all these ideas to ponder. Each time Craig comes to visit he brings books and loans them to me and it really is like Christmas. At the same time I am getting to know these people a little. Jane, my colleague who loves books and shares all her childhood favourites with me. We all have a shared love and interest.
Tomorrow we will read a Duck in a Gun. This week I will load a couple more movies we made. Probably not til later in the week though.

I am a bird, a kakariki-this is me when I die, because I like to fly.

Day Two
I am pretty worn out today. This is a conversation I overheard at story writing time. "What will you be when you die?"
"What bird?"
"You don't get to choose. God gets to choose. You turn into birds and sometimes animals.
I always remember how I was one of those try hard parents and I'd ask my kids every day, "What did you do at school? How was your day?" etc... The response was usually a blank look and then a return to whatever play they were immersed in or else , "Nothing."
After awhile I tried not asking and it was interesting because the kids would never say much about that day but before bed they would sometimes tell me great long stories as though they had just happened but actually they had happened some time ago. I think that happens with books. It is like our brains let the story settle slowly to the depths and then it resurfaces as a kind of interpretation. The kids act things out naturally in their play but now I can hear them having discussions related to plots or themes of our stories and I am not welcome to participate!! When I was a kid I was a great eavesdropper. I loved listening to adult conversations and being little is a great camouflage because people just ignore you if you're quiet. Now I am an adult and little people ignore me because they know that I do not belong to this part of their world but they also know they can and it is o.k. I don't mean they ignore me all the time, just when they are in their world of talk/play.
A kindergarten teacher came to watch what we do today. I was watching us through her eyes. I wonder.
I read A Duck in a Gun. The kids laughed right from the title. They were a bit worried about the blowing up the town possibility but then quickly laughed when it was resolved that a marriage was better than a war and the general wouldn't blow the ducks out with the canon balls! They respond now by saying who they like in the story, who they relate to I guess. That is interesting in itself. The whole class is fighting to get onto the reading chair and read the books they made. I am trying to keep the calm but they think they should all be able to read their books everyday. It is what you want I think as a teacher. This is not just enthusiasm. It's more. It's passion.
The kakahu is nearly ready for our Matariki Celebrations. I showed the children the photos of the funeral and the trip and they could see the maiden of the mist in them.

Play reading.

Plug me in
Day Three
You should know why you do things but I don't really know why I am doing this. Writing like this. Maybe it's just dumb.
When I was a kid I did a lot of racing. Swimming, running, skiing, I know something about myself. I know I always leap off the block quickly and sprint too hard in the beginning and then limp into the finish. I feel like I'm limping now. School is so busy isn't it. There are so many things to do in one day.
I like this book. It is so funny and the more you read it the funnier it is. We're all imitating the General "Here dilly dilly dilly." I asked them what they thought of real guns and I was surprised at the gravity in their faces-all of them even the gun players. Real guns kill people. They are not good. Someone has told them. Good. I told them about my grandpa and how he didn't want to go to war but he had to and how he had his ear bitten by a rat and how muddy it was. They asked if my grandpa was like Poppa Pockets which really surprised me because I only told them about Poppa once and he was a character based on my grandpa but I hadn't told them that. Then a girl told us about her uncle who was in the first World War. I have sent them home to ask who they know that went to war. Two children showed up with teddy ducks and both ducks had their birthday today.

National Standards. What I have realized is that most people don't understand how it all works-education and schools. I read editorials and I think to myself how do you respond to people with opinions but they are people who have no true understanding of what they are arguing? How do you reply to ignorance? How do you respond to it when it is initiated by your own politicians? These people have an agenda and it means well but it won't work. These things happen over and over across history and what is the best way to respond? Especially when it is personal. When you think to yourself, how will I do my job? I cannot send home information to the parents of a five year old that says achieving well below standard. That would be like saying I am someone I am not. I do things I don't believe in sometimes but how much can you compromise? I think we push reading too hard and too fast already. Children will learn much better if they are given more time, more confidence, more skills, a stronger foundation. My partner is a builder so I know about foundations. I also know a good recipe for creating a non-reader. It's easy. You just make sure their parents get really anxious about reading and push them just a little too hard so that they always feel that they aren't any good and voila! They give up.

The other day on the radio they were talking about Maori and entry to Universities. They were saying that they know it is a problem but they need to put more energy and money into secondary and university to solve it. Where are the people who know that is wrong? The money, the love, the time, the books, all of it is worth much much more at 5. A dollar towards a five year olds education will cost you several times that for a university student. Same with the love. It's value at five is worth much more than later. Politicians count beans. I wish I had a magic bean that could make them understand. I feel powerless. I feel like I am failing the kids. Like we are all failing the kids if we don't stand up and say very firmly NO.

Day Four
Sometimes in one day you can move through every shade and tone of emotion possible and then you discover some you hadn't confronted. Today was one of those days for me. I remember reading a subversive book about education once. Maybe it was Instead of Education or something.
I went to the hospital today and they put me on a table and put something on me to numb the pain and then I felt the scalpel and I saw my legs twist and fly and my teeth grip and my back arch. I saw my wrists bend and mostly I felt that scalpel cut my skin. It was an infected cyst. But the funny thing is I was thinking, this job of a doctor's is not so hard. You only have to do one thing at a time and hardly anybody interrupts.
Tonight we had a Matariki lantern walk and a mid winter feast at school. I took my hospital band off and forgot about the scalpel and looked at the sky instead. We hung our lovely kakahu up and it was good. I have learned something. If you open your mind to possibilities and explore something, even something very simple, or perhaps especially something simple, you can find a point, like a little star, will resonate within yourself. This has happened reading Roimata's Cloak. Actually this has happened with all of these simple books. I have found more learning for myself than I would have imagined possible. I thought it was only going to be a little something, a bit of fun for us, but it has been much more.

Day Off
I don't like walking there and back, I'd rather do a different track back. I don't want to read my own writing but maybe it is like the track back, you are going the other way so it all looks a bit like a new track anyways.
I opened The Listener this morning and the first page I saw was a review of a book by Anne Michaels, a Canadian writer who wrote Fugitive Pieces. The book Sue loaned me referred to this book many times. How strange. She has just written a new book. I'm going to read them.
What has happened with the movies and performances is that I have found that I am getting the kids to act out the big shared reading books. I have always done this but now we film them when we can. This seems to be a logical thing to do. We are filming Jack and the Beanstalk this week. To make movies from the picture books requires a lot of creative thinking and it does evolve but they are much bigger projects than simply acting out a traditional story. That is because to create a movie from a picture book really requires quite a lot of interpretation in a different way and it isn't as straight forward. I like to do it but it needs time more time. The picture books have all evolved into some creative project but not necessarily a film. Our cloak, for example, is a shimmering metaphor for our togetherness. I think that I will make little photographic slideshows with music to display the processes of some of these. The kids can help me.

We have one week left to the term. What shall we do? I have organized a professional puppet show for next Thursday.
We have to do clearfile portfolios which is always funny for my age cause we don't do much worksheet stuff. Ironically, if we did e portfolios, we would have lots to put in this time.
I think we will carry on with The Duck in the Gun. My grandpa wrote several little books for all of us grandchildren full of photos of his adventures and tales of war and travels. He was a staunch Scot. He swam against the tide of his time and protested against World War One and in the end went as a medic and walked those boardwalks through the mud carrying injured men. I will show these to the kids. I will also read them the little part at the back of The Duck in a Gun which describes where Joy Cowley got her ideas. The kids are loving this book and I am enjoying listening to them repeat the language. One thing I am especially enjoying is seeing there reaction to my reaction to the book. I laugh a lot and make comments and say "That's not very nice, that prime minister should loan him his gun so it would be generous and then they could blow up his town." And I laugh! They laugh too but I can see that they are a bit uncertain about an adult laughing and making fun about a gun and blowing up towns. There is a bit of tension around it that is interesting. One of my favourite picture books is a book called Why. It has no words. It is about war but it is a frog and a lily and I can't remember. I'll show the kids next week. I want to relate these books to the children's personal conflicts in some way.
I guess one thing to think about is how this may or may not continue into the future with my teaching and our learning. That will happen naturally if it will. I was thinking of expanding my picture book idea to look at books from different authors now, around the world. I would like to read a lot of books by one author like Leo Leone or Mem Fox or Hans Christian Anderson or Grimms or who knows. I would do it less intensely. I would also like to start to purchase a few good books about reading to loan to parents or other teachers or kindergarten teachers. Books by Mem Fox and so on. I will continue to make films of the shared books we act out and I would like to teach the kids to film for science-documentaries of change. There's the rest of the year planned out!!