Visit to Porangahau School

 When I was a little girl in the Primers (ages 5-9) at Woodhatton Primary School, Wood Street in Wainuiomata, the thing I love the most was having a teacher read out loud to me. 

Fresh faced and attentive (the girls) squirmy and distracted (most of the boys), we sat on the “Mat” and listened to teachers reading one through books one or two chapters at a time or poems. I can’t remember all the books read out to us in the first two years except for the “Little House” books by Laura Ingells Wilder from the first book ‘Little House in the Big Woods” all the way through to her last, ‘These Happy Golden Years”.   The poems I can remember were the Highwayman and one about something swallowing a fly.  

My second favourite thing was writing my own stories and poems.

My third was illustrating these little bits of writing with whatever was going on in them, like pirate battles, vampires, murdering husbands with blue beards, flowers and animals, but most usually beautiful women with yellow hair which always seemed to fall over one eye. 

My fourth favourite things was the fact my stories and poems usually ended up on the notice board in the staff room, or taped to the windows of the classrooms so kids and parents could read them from the outside and on the wall in the classroom.  I was always on the wall.  It got so bad that kids started getting annoyed that I always on the wall and jeer when the teacher was about to pin me up.

This was my thing.  I couldn’t play sport to save myself.  I was awkward and ungainly shy and inarticulate, covered in eczema, and always on the verge of tears.  I was bullied by skinny mean girls who used to hitch up their skirts and show of their frilly witches britches.

Now, 46 years later I still remember the sound of Mrs Bedford’s soft English accent reading out stories.  I also knew, right back then that I wanted to be an artist and a writer.  And every day since then, yes every single day for the past 46 years I have written something and drawn, in fact, if I couldn’t do these things my life would be intolerable.

On Monday, 28th of July, at around 5am Nina and I left Porirua in an over revving rental car (until we discovered there was an extra gear we didn’t know about) and drove to Porangahau Primary School to spend the morning with the senior classes reading from my books ‘I Taniwha’ a book I wrote to accompany workshops in Austria where I represented New Zealand, and my novel ‘Heart of the Tapu Stone’.  We were also asked to deliver a creative writing workshop.

The kids were amazing, almost all of them related to us some way or other and they were brilliant, bright, attentive and enthusiastic.  Also we had adults come in support and listen including my dear Aunty/Niece Raina Ferris. 

Nina introduced us, pointed to where our fathers were born and talked about Dusky.  Then I did a visual presentation of who I am and what I do with powerpoint.  I showed examples of my work and how I plan out books including showing then a couple of my Visual Diaries and a collection of designs. 

We talked about how to development characters the structure of a story using the three act story arc and looked at dialogue with role play and I read from both books. 

Before Lunch the Principal Doug asked the students to tell us what they learned and it was amazing how much they had learned.   Then the students asked us if we would stay for the rest of the day.

 A delegation of students came to see us while we were having lunch and asked if we could do a design and art workshop in the afternoon. 

I always plan workshops carefully and had some exercises I could put together for the afternoon but this really was a jump in the dark for me, I am used to teaching youth and adults not children.  I talked a bit about design, kowhaiwhai and we did some drawing. 

I learned as much as they did that day especially about always having a plan B, Plan C and sometimes all the way to a Z plan.

I also learned this is the age group I love to teach, so, on top of everything else I am doing I will be applying to teachers training college next year for a teaching certificate.

The end of the day was magical. 

We were given an awesome speech from our cousin Tyler  wonderful gifts and asked for autographs.  Nina got a fright when they asked her—that was funny.  We signed everything from books to tee shirts to back packs and pencil cases.

I told them anything was possible and that your limits are only as far as you can dream and dreams are infinite. 

We sang. 

I also told them that when I was a small child I loved to write stories draw pictures and make things and now I do it for a living.