Tuesday, 12 October 2010

australia IV first day of school

After one week in Adelaide I started my job helping as an artist in residence in Ingle Farm school a primary school about 20km North of the city. I was a bit nervous about what it would be like but on arrival I found everything so hectic with all the teachers rushing about confused about what was happening on the first day of school that I was immediately put at ease. No-one really seemed to know what was going on and the classes went just as smoothly as normal. Kids turn up and sit down and maybe work or mess around but still, that was quite remarkable! To me it was a lesson in conventions, when people are told what to do enough they just do it even if reluctantly! Scary but handy! I helped out in Rita's classes because I cannot be with the kids on my own because I might rape them all, which suits me because I don't have to take any of the responsibility. When Rita was telling the kids off I would sometimes find it hard not to giggle at their cheeky comments and had to cover my face a couple of times but it worked out fine, I apologized to her and she said it was fine. As a teacher I think you get used to being firm and acting angry without actually feeling vicious.

We had four classes today. The school specializes in helping recent immigrant kids and some dyslexic children too so there is a large mixture of ethnic backgrounds and some very original young cats. There are several immigrants from Afghanistan, some Iraqis, Sudanese, Rwandans and Liberians, a couple of Koreans and Chinese and Indian kids too. All in all we numbered around 20 nationalities which was exciting. In the class of six year olds, Benjamin from Liberia came in late and started chatting loudly in French in a very polite and kind way. He could not concentrate on the drawing at all but just joked and laughed and showed how he liked to dance. He was a natural show off in the nicest sense. He made me laugh a lot and feel good. He told me about how he would dance with his granny and she would give him apples. I mentioned that they could draw animals too and he said he heard a story about a white guy who went to see a lion in the zoo and the lion eat him and then put his paws together and prayed saying: "Thank you Lord for this lovely meal!" Then he added, "Actually I just made it up!" A few minutes after Benjamin was late a skinny little Sudanese boy stepped in and walked straight to the empty desk saying loudly: "Dont talk to me, I am very sad!" then sat down ignoring everyone. What an entry for the first day of term! I got him some paper and pencil and explained what we were doing and he cheered up real quick and was joking with Benjamin about who loved Maria the coy Colombian girl who had a little pink hand mirror and who had eaten the donkey's underwear. One other totally new boy called Ryan from Korea also made quite an impression. He did not speak English and the other Korean lad helped him but he seemed to be quite autistic anyhow. One second he was busy drawing amazingly tiny detailed apartment blocks in the corner of his A4 sheet and the next moment I looked up he had all the spare pencils stuffed on the inside of his spectacles like some medieval anti-cavalry defense on his nose! You don't even have time to notice because there is so much else going on and if it is not disruptive then you just accept it!

I was quite curious about Benjamin saying that he spoke Liberian English and I looked up the strange and terrible history of that very unique West African country. It was, along with Egypt, the only African country not to be made a colony but like Egypt, that is not quite true. It was actually 'colonized' by freed Afro-American slaves who were told by president Munroe that America would never be a pleasant place for black people and they were best going back to Africa. They honoured his cynical tip by naming their capital city after him, Monrovia, but they were also immigrants and there were problems with the local population who they imposed their US style inspired government over. These immigrants spoke the original Liberian English which is now based around a bunch of towns in Liberia named after old slaves homes in Louisiana! Only in the last 10 years was power taken from the Afro Americans and a leader from a local ethnic group ruled. But even this was not normal. The current president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is the first and only female African head of state and is quarter German and 3 quarters local tribes and was brought to power on the back of an amazing popular upsurge of protest after over 12 years of terrible civil war. An amazing woman, a simple mother of several children called Leymaa Gbowee convinced other Christian AND Muslim women to join her in peaceful praying in the markets for peace. This movement exploded and soon they were forcing the terrible leader Mr Charles Taylor to open peace negotiations with the other waring factions. They even blockaded the presidential palace where the negotiations were taking plays in Ghana and would not let anyone in and out of any doors or windows until peace had been agreed on! The story is very moving and she is one of my new heroines!

Anyhow, back to school: the older kids were also nice but some of the Afghanis were a bit lippy and bossy to the girls. The oldest kids were very hard to inspire. They did not want to draw anything. One boy whom trouble seemed to gravitate around was having a hard time drawing a pizza to express his Italian heritage and when I came up to see if they needed help I heard him defending anti-evolutionary theories against two Iraqi boys:
"Of course evolution happened you fool!"
'N0 it didn't, you can't proove it!'
"You probably believe in aliens too!'
"Everyone knows there is life on Mars!' ... and so on! Pretty ripping debate! Another class of the same age-group was remarkably attentive and much nicer. They got stuck into the mask workshop and helped eachother. Two boys in the corner pretended to be old men on the park bench grumbling and pretending to attack each-other with scissors but actually being quite chummy. Too bored to move or get involved at all but not upsetting anyone. A couple of the kids were interested in starting a chess club and one Chinese kid was quite persistant that I show him some breakdancing at the end of the class. Rita wanted me to play a song on the guitar but I could not think of any song that they would like so I went to the playground and did windmills, flares and nut-crackers on the AstroTurf which they all really enjoyed. One African kid was pretty good and he joined in which was wonderful and lots of others were interested so I think we will soon have a breakdance and chess club going and I have been learning some pop songs I think they will like so I will have something different for them next time: the final countdown, Bongo Bong, baby baby one more time and miss dinami-te-hee! With a bit more organisation I reckon I could get some good results from the kids and expand their minds a bit perhaps! So it was a fun day but I am quite fair-dinkum now! My cup of tea never tasted so good! Anyhow, I still had energy to go to the Zig Zag circus training but after I cycled half an hour to an almost desolate part of town I found the youth club was full of chubby women doing aerobics! I used my new WOW WOW WOW mobile phone to find out that the website was incorrect! So I cycled home and chatted the evening away with Erko and Louise and Mr and Mrs Martucci. They are both so nice to me. I have my own bedroom which is so cosy and full of their kids artwork and lovely fairytale books and art books and much more! Things have become much better! Also much less sleep! Wo hoo!
lots of love

1 comment:

  1. hallo jimmy,
    lot of english! hard for me to read...
    but the paintings are wonderful! i am sure the texts are wonderful as well, but i ll need some time, not my mother language you see!
    wish you good (perfect!) going on!
    ..........dimitra - greece here!