Working in the front garden

We have now begun to include the children from Green Group in some work in the front garden.  This is the area you pass through when you come in the gate each morning.

This area is not part of the children’s playground, and we have not taken children there in the past.  However, we have been able to sort through the changes in regulations to now work out how we can include activities in this area in the program.  It is part of the licensed area, where children are allowed to go.  We have conducted a risk assessment and worked out what we need to do to ensure that it is safe to have children in this area.  Now that we have done that, and informed families (you should have received an email) we can start to take children out there from time to time.

We will have children in small groups in this space – not more than 6 – and they will be involved in a task with an educator.  If they wish to return to free play, they will go back into the playground.

We kicked off this part of the program last Thursday with a session planting indigenous plants in the beds in the curves of the earth wall seat.

SH

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A bit thin on the ground

We are used to educators having a bit of a whinge about having too many students. Not so common to hear lamenting about too few.

But that is my problem now.

My teaching style is geared to working with groups of 22.  Above 25 I get a bit stressed. But 18 is great. Even 15.  Or 12 at a pinch.

At the moment, I only have 5. And it is really not enough.

I don’t quite know what to do with myself.  After I have set up some things for them to do, dealt with the separation anxiety, had some quality interactions, and done a spot of intentional teaching, I kind of feel like I need to give them some space.  I don’t want to be in their faces all the time.

So I write a few obs.

And then twiddle my thumbs for a bit until one of them needs me.

 

Funny thing is, I know there are educators who are geared to working with 4 or 5 kids. I only have them for 2.5 hours. How do people do this all day?

I suppose it goes to show how much our teaching knowledge is tied to particular settings and ways of working.  Each setting (and age group, and timeframe) has its own particular set of habits and skills. Just because you know how to do one, doesn’t mean you can transfer straight across.

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What a mess

A lot of eggs got broken trying to make this omelette. And now it is full of shell.

One of the class of blogs I follow a bit is gluten-free cooking. A few weeks ago, there was a post about a US food blogger being suddenly widowed, and a call to help raise funds for her. A group called Bloggers Without Borders formed, and started to collect donations and facilitate auctions.

At the time, I wondered about the validity of this. The call for help seemed to stem largely from the fear that the family would not be able to afford health insurance and might have to sell their apartment. I have to admit, I would prefer to see Americans putting their energy into getting universal health care, rather than setting up fundraising organisations to help people who used to be able to afford $1800/month on insurance.

But this stuff is my recreational reading, not my real life, so I drifted off into other things for a bit. Until a new post popped up on my page revealing that the whole enterprise had erupted into an uncomfortably public fight.

The widow posted that she would be putting the money raised into a college fund. Some donors were shocked and said if they realised that was a possibility, they would not have donated.

I have no doubt all these people meant well. But instead they have ended up with an unseemly brawl that must only be making the widow’s life more difficult.

This is probably a scenario that has played out many times before. But somehow social networking seems to amplify it. The number of people involved is bigger. The territory is bigger. The amount of money raised is bigger.

I am sure that similar problems – about who controls money, what purpose it is raised for, the worthiness of recipients – are all totally familiar to people professionally involved in charity work. These are the kind of complications that people can foresee and deal with when they know what they are doing.

I wonder if it is actually inherent in the world of blogging and social networking that amateurs go clodhopping into areas they know nothing about, scorning the knowledge of established organisations and professionals. So many food bloggers are self-taught domestic cooks that have become self-taught writers who self-publish. Perhaps they are naturally positioned to assume they don’t need any expert advice.

And I also wonder if there is some way social networking dooms us to relearn the lessons of how humanity behaves in groups. The problems of flaming, stalking, character assassination, privacy – all of these are areas we have explored and learnt to manage first in villages, then cities, then in publishing. But somehow our rules and know-how seem to have been flung out the window by this new form of community. We are faced again with the problem of how to deal with the nastiness people are capable of.

Blogging creates community. But community is not always automatically good.

For those who need to read the originals, here are the links:

http://www.bloggerswoborders.org/2011/10/an-open-letter/

http://www.injennieskitchen.com/2011/10/thank-you.html
http://www.injennieskitchen.com/2011/09/in-search-of-an-anchor.html

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Just another weeknight dinner

Tonight it worked.

It was the boy’s turn to cook. I provided cut up lamb and skewers and pointed out that there was broccoli in the house. The sister wanted to eat pumpkin risotto, so she said she would cook it if he cut up the pumpkin, which he did with good grace.

They put some music on the iPad, and stood side by side at the stove, stirring and turning and chatting.

They put a lovely dinner on the table for us. We had conversation. Then the cleaning up agreement kicked in, and they all picked up their plates and put them in the dishwasher.

It was all very pleasant and effective, and done without fuss and without me.

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Learning to expect prejudice

My son got suspended from school.

He got in trouble for chucking a younger kid in a bush.  He says they were playing. I believe him.  He says he knew there were no rocks under the bush to fall on.  He basically did a risk assessment and knew the bush would break the kid’s fall.  I believe him.  That courtyard is his territory and he knows it well.

But the teacher did not believe him.  The teacher saw danger and bullying.

She called him over. They clashed. She wanted him to come with her. He wanted her to tell him why. She would not. This made him angry.  His anger made her refuse to answer him at all.

The school suspended him for two days.

I want my son to learn how to survive in the world he lives in.  So I tell him to try to see it from the teacher’s point of view, from the school’s point of view. It is not always easy to tell from outside if you are watching horseplay or bullying.  Arguing with an audience may not be the best way to reach understanding. Teachers have institutional power, and you have to respect the office even when you don’t have much time for the individual.

I will back the school up.

But part of me is thinking, I don’t like this.

I accept that the school probably needs to stop this kind of horsing around, because there are dangers in it that the kids don’t see. But I think there could have been a friendly way to break it up and remind the boys they were breaking the rules.  I suspect it was the teacher who escalated this situation into conflict.

The world my son lives in is suspicious of youths.  Even afraid. Their playfulness is seen as dangerous. Schools restrict or ban physical play. Age groups are separated. When groups of youths congregate, the world gets nervous.  Malls eject them.  The media talks of gangs.  A group of my son’s friends were stopped and questioned by police last year for walking around a suburban block after dark, while we parents were inside at a party.  Apart from sporting clubs and the odd drop-in centre, our modern urban society does not provide public spaces where youths are welcome.

Part of me suspects that this teacher is one of the many people in our society that fear teenage boys. Secondary teachers like teenagers more than most people, but still some find their way into schools who share the world’s nervousness.  Part of me suspects that this teacher is too ready to see danger in the physical power of a tall, strong young man.  That she does not see the playfulness of the child he still is.  That she does not value the fact that he likes the younger kids and they like him. That she has no idea who he is, and jumps to conclusions.

In teaching my son to put up with this teacher’s reaction, I fear I am teaching him to expect prejudice and injustice.  And that saddens me.

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Separation anxiety

Thanks blue milk for drawing my attention to the exhibition by Madison. It is fascinating, as is your discussion of issues arising from the exhibition and reaction to it.

I think at the end – when you talk about who has the right to give permission to photograph – you hit on one of the core issues of mothering/feminist mothering: the difficult, wonderful, fascinating journey from individual to bonded pair to two individuals.
Becoming a mother stretches our boundaries as individuals. During pregnancy we literally hold the child within us, but it is not as if birth represents a clean break. The child takes a long time to individuate. And the mother deals with years, if not a lifetime, of no longer being an independent individual, but part of a more complex identity.
Mothers are faced – sometimes hourly – with decisions about when to put the child’s needs ahead of their own. Our identity is challenged and changed.
Feminism in this era is bound up in a more long-term trend to an individualist view of society. Part of the liberation of women was reclaiming the right to a self beyond motherhood. In some ways, it was actually feminism that led us to this place of struggling and juggling the needs of the mother against the needs of the child. After all, once there was no question that the mother’s needs as an individual were of no consequence. As feminist mothers, we reassert the right of the mother to an independent self. But we also recognize the complexity of dealing with a messy self, full of contradictions and with fuzzy boundaries.

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Vivir con miedo

I lead a pretty privileged life. I have the all the rights of citizenship. I am white, educated, employed, healthy. I usually have to rely on the stories of others, on imagination and empathy to sympathise with the experience of persecution.

But in the aftermath of Utøya, I know how it feels to be part of a class of targeted people. This attack was politically motivated, and the political target was people like me.

I know, logically, that I am no less safe here in my own life than I was on July 21. But the wave of fear that terrorism unleashes can travel far, and I feel it.

I fear for the safety of my comrades, and my children and myself. I feel vulnerable.

Terrorism works. It does spread fear.

Many commentators* have jumped in to label this as the act of a lone madman. They want to exonerate others who espouse the same views as the killer.

Commentators on the left are more inclined to ask questions about what social movements and conditions created this madman. That is partly because that is how the leftwing mind works. We are observers of the patterns of humanity. But it is also because we are the ones in the firing line.

It is all very well for the right-wingers to say he acted alone and this was a one-off thing. He wasn’t aiming at you.

*See Simon Jenkins here, for example:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/26/norway-illiberal-britain-patronising

and a summary here

http://theconversation.edu.au/norway-tragedy-exposes-pundits-tunnel-vision-on-terrorism-2491

and the alternative view here from Seumus Milne

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/28/rage-muslims-no-loner-breivik

Andrew Jakubowicz

http://theconversation.edu.au/anders-breivik-australian-anti-multiculturalists-and-the-threat-to-social-cohesion-2542

Binoy Kampmark

http://theconversation.edu.au/the-lone-mad-man-breiviks-lunacy-label-stops-vital-questions-2573

and

http://theconversation.edu.au/norway-killings-a-sign-of-extremism-on-the-rise-in-europe-2492

The other kind of response are those that think the lunatic was doing the wrong thing for the right reason.  Like this piece of tortured logic from the Jerusalem Post.

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Editorials/Article.aspx?id=230788

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