I usually prepare for pre-school amid a flurry of photos, trying to decide how I’ll record last week’s session to be useful to the director, L., or interesting to the children. L is doing battle with the Regulator and the Being, Belonging, Becoming document which is a maze of outcomes and indicators. This is familiar turf to me as my battered English K-6 Syllabus attests, so maybe I can be helpful.
Sometimes I stick photos on cardboard with a bit of text. These posters are blu-tacked to the windows, the outcomes and indicators discreetly stuck to the back. The kidlets love seeing photos of themselves and words about what they are doing.
Sometimes I write letters to I. who has written to me from her “office”, and scrunched her letters up into envelopes.
I write a letter back and I too put my letters in envelopes.
I’m very pleased! I got another two letters from you and a drawing that filled up the whole page. Here are some butterfly photos to say thank you, because I know you like butterflies.
Sometimes I make a sheet for L to file, marking particular achievements with a photo and words, accompanied by the dreaded outcomes and objectives.
Today I’m empty handed. I’ve been absent for two weeks and impetus has retreated behind a cold and a trip to Sydney.
I drive through the village at snail’s pace to avoid dogs lying on the road or ambling along it. The view is magnificent – out across the headland to the sea and down over the lake out to the mountains. The closer view is not so good: yards full of battered vehicles; broken windows; a burnt-out car; smashed glass.
The pre-school nestles at the bottom of the hill with a view through the trees to the lake. The solar panels were a community installation and have only been bricked once.
T is standing at the easel, wielding a paint brush with total confidence. He’s painting his mum, laying on the paint for her smile thick and sure. S is a bit surly: “Don’t look at it.” I can’t charm her. Later she resists my comments about the sparkly glitter in her hair with the same glare.
I is at the table with paper and a texta, drawing a friendly monster with enviable speed. She pastes it in her special book. Then she writes her name, over and over, stumbling only at the “e”, which she doesn’t seem to be able to master. I make it out of dots for her to trace. She turns all the other letters in her name into dots too. She tells me about the football day yesterday to celebrate fathers day. Her dad won the lucky door prize. We look at the photos L has taken and read the story she has written.
K, another volunteer, is on the reading lounge, engulfed by children. No-one is playing with blocks today: there have been some splendid constructions on other days. The sense of balance is amazing – I’m certain the whole construction will tumble, but small dexterous fingers add one more, and then another. Sometimes they make long roads, or garages, or a tall gateway to walk through. My favourite blocks are the stained glass ones, which have been turned into many architectural splendours.
I don’t spend much time with M, aka Capman, today. He’s a lad of passions. One week it was snakes, another it was dinosaurs. He is meticulous in his colouring in, but his speech is very hard to understand. Today he shows me his monkey T-shirt.
Mid-session L and Aunty C come in. I’ve known them both for a long time, from different pieces of my past life. They are spending the day further down the hill at the old graveyard, identifying where bodies lie. They won’t be able to find the exact place for each person, but they plan to put all the names on a plaque.
The session ends with big plastic teeth. L shows the children how to clean the teeth, and they each have a turn. Then she gives them a toothbrush each and a box to keep it in, so they can clean their teeth after lunch at pre-school. They are all very definite about what colour toothrush they want. They are not quite so definite about the round and round, along, across movements necessary for a good clean.
I scrub two tables, removing glitter, glue and play-doh, ready for afternoon fruit. It’s time to head off back through the village, taking the speed-humps cautiously and waving to a couple of teenagers leaning aginst the wall in the sun.
Gulaga looms, its crewcut of trees sharp against the grey sky.