Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Changing Perspectives.

Sunday Blogscomposition time totally usurped yesterday by Downton Abbey and a Newsletter deadline. So I'll have a go at a Monday slot and see what happens. 
Relaxing on a Wednesday at the Johnson's!

I have been reflecting a lot on changing perspectives in my life over the past few weeks. One big change in perspective just 'happened' as I was making a cup of tea before settling down to write.
Trailing down the kitchen wall was a ragged line of Sugar ants. They had set up one of their highways from the remnants of the cats dinner, all the way up to the ceiling , which must be about 8 ft high. Now, this time last year I would have been fascinated by the whole scene. I would have had a lovely time watching the little darlings wend their merry way up the wall. Oh the awe I would have felt at their incredible feats of strength, carrying crumbs of cat food up the vertical surface. I might even have had a little game re-directing them by putting a line of water across their road. It would have necessitated the camera coming out. BUT NO MORE! Those days are gone. Now a trail of Sugar ants inspires only one response in me. Mass murder. Now, I know what it means, those comical little trails. It means a creeping sensation all over your skin every time you sit down at your desk. It is especially nasty to take the last swig of cold coffee and find you mouth and face alive with little intruders. So no more fascination for me. Just violent thoughts of total annihilation.
Another huge change for me this year. I have actually started feeling cold. Last year I used to struggle sleeping at night because it was always too hot to sleep with any covers. There is something wrong and not nice about sleeping without a quilt or something. But this year I have woken up 'cold' some nights. Yes, cold. The temperature has dropped to 25 degrees and it feels cold. It's great! I have even had to resort to wearing my travelling to and from England hoodie twice.

So what of the progress of 6L? Have perspectives changed there? Well, yes and no! I think I can safely say that my description of them at the start of the term would no longer be accurate for a growing proportion of them. I have a lovely little team at the end of every day who stay and tidy the class. They always leave with the words, " Thank you for teaching me today." It always ends my day with a smile. I have decided to try and approach them with a bit more of a sense of humour. Which isn't always easy!
We have recently introduced the concept of collaborative group work to the primary school. It was great to watch the children take on different roles in a group. Each group had a Manager, Designer, Runner, Timekeeper, Encourager and Presenter. The group was then given a very easy task to perform. This time it was to produce a poster about How We Should Treat One Another.  I made a decision (rightly or wrongly?) to put 6 of the most difficult customers into the same group. My reasoning being, that if they achieved nothing it would be better to do it all together than spread out and cause all the groups to achieve the same nothing. As with most things to do with children, they knocked my reasoning out of the window, by getting on with the task and producing and end result that was comparable with every other group! One group member however did spend the 45 minutes work time holding a pair of scissors and insisting his job was to cut out. I think he had a total cutting job load of about 4 minutes. Never mind he was happy sitting holding his scissors and looking busy. It did my heart good to watch all 25 of them working alongside each other, developing  skills that are not usual in this culture.
 Can you see the 'waiting' scissors? Not the ones actually working, but the ones being held in sort of readiness! That is how they spent most of the lesson. It was quicker for the other team members to do it themselves if they wanted something cut.

I have probably mentioned before that King's School is now split into a House system. The aim of the system is to provide inspiration for better behaviour and a greater sense of positive identity. It has also become an avenue for enabling the children to think beyond themselves and contribute to the wider community of Bujumbura and Burundi. I belong to Ntahangwa house (Green) . To this end the Primary school had a Community Day on November 22nd. Ntahangwa house visited the Mother Teresa Home in Bujumbura. The home cares for both the elderly and very young who have been abandoned by their families. It was again a chance for me to view three of my very challenging boys with a new perspective. They each had to care for a younger child through the day, whilst meeting and greeting a wide range of people. It was good to see them willingly serving others and letting go of their 'attitude'. The children of Ntahangwa house sang and danced for the residents. Then we shared juice and donuts with absolutely everyone in the place. Even I tottered round in very inappropriate school shoes, serving drinks to the workmen who were digging up all the paths.

 Ntangahwa House : all set to leave on our great Adventure

Greeting the 'Old Ladies'.

Finally, I'll share my change in perspective regarding the artistic abilities of Burundian children. Last year I have to admit that I was a little sceptical about such skills. It seemed that on the whole many of the children lacked the ability to produce anything approaching 'artistic'. Painting was just an exercise in making a mess. However in September when it came to choosing an After School to run, I decided that a nice little painting class would do the job for me. Most of the children would turn their nose up at it, I was sure. Too slow, too boring. How wrong was I? On average I have about 25- 30 at the club each week. They have shown incredible progress in their ability to paint. They accept happily that art is a slow, quiet activity! Shh! don't tell them that's not always true. It is if you are in Mrs Liz's art class. Every week I plod round, telling them painting is slow and peaceful. They have learnt how to care for a paint brush. To never use it as a scrubbing brush. They mostly believe that I can hear their paint brush crying if they squash down too hard. Last, week sadly one newcomer actually abused their paint brush so badly, it had to be taken away for a paint brush funeral. We had to have a minute's silence. And I have to admit that there is in fact an abundance of artistic talent among Burundian children. (plus a few other nationalities)