9/2/2000

Dear Heather,

I would like to acknowledge and thank you once again for the input you have given to our writing program and the self esteem of our children at Haig Street Primary School during 1999.

Your involvement over the whole year and your obvious love and gift for teaching writing resulted in a much imroved program at our school. Most of your ideas and techniques have been followed by our own teachers. I am particularly keen to implement your process for linking writing to our Internet and computer facilities and will personally follow that up this year.

I know of children in our two grade5/6 classrooms who had little success with or enthusiasm for writing before your sessions. They can now produce work of which they are proud and have a changed attitude towards themselves as a result. The work of our more competent writers has also been taken to a new level.

Your regular sessions were looked forward to by all concerned and work produced was of a high standard. As principal I am naturally delighted by your input for the children involved, but also for the effect it has had on teaching strategies at Haig Steet Primary.

Once again thanks, Heather from all at Haig Street.

Yours faithfully

Carol Watt
Principal

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22 June 1999

Dear Heather,

I wish to thank you for your wonderful efforts with grade five six children at this school over the past two years.

I must say, that when you first approached me, I wondered what motive you had, and what there was really in it for our children.

I now realise that your motive was one of love of seeing children use the English language in ways that creatively outstrip anything that they (or their teachers) thought possible.

The work that you have done has been enjoyed by the children and appreciated by the staff. You would be pleased to know that it is not unusual to see teachers using methods and ideas taken from your sessions. It has, as a result been useful professional development for the teaching staff, as well as enormously beneficial to the children.

You have a unique style that motivates people to want to involve themselves in their writing. Your commitment to your methods of teaching is commendable.

I have been most impressed with the work produced by the children.

I believe that you have a gift in how you are able to inspire. I thank you for sharing with Haig Street Primary School.

Yours faithfully

Don Crowe (Principal)

The Magic of Alchemy within a Primary School Classroom

When early alchemists looked to explain the mysteries of the structure of the universe they looked within. They believed that answer to the mystery lay within their own bodies and in that part of the body we call the unconscious. The alchemist believed that he could ask matter to tell him what he consists of. Instead of treating matter as a dead object to be thrown into a vessel and then cooked in order to see what would come out, one could just as well take a block of iron, for instance, and ask it what it was, what kind of life was, what it was doing, how it felt when melted. Since all these materials are within you, you can contact them directly. In that way alchemists contacted what we now call the collective unconscious. They consulted this power directly, by talking to the iron or quicksilver. Naturally the unconscious fills the gap with a personification.

Experience has taught me that listening to a blade of grass, for example, provides us with a fresh perspective. Look at the following and assess this for yourself. "Speak to me blade of grass!" "Hi Jai! You made a good choice". "How do you know my name?" "I know everything......even your deepest secrets!" "How do you know my deepest secrets? I didn't tell you." "I know everything!" "Okay, give me some details" "Your ten years old, turning eleven in September on the 30th, your in grade five, you live at Outhwaite Road, your phone number is......, your middle names are.... "Enough, Enough! I believe you now...... Jai Higgs


"Gidday! What is your name? My names Greenie. I like doing dirt games, mud wrestling. My favourite food is fertilizer. My favourite drink is water. I dislike pesticide. He is the biggest bully in this area and his girlfriend, Acid rain is scary. I live on 666 dirt road. My best friends are Green finger and pebbles...." Luke Streeter Haig Street Primary School

"The blade of grass said "You sicken me so I will make it quick, follow your instincts, that's all. Now get back to work and leave me alone. Oh! One more thing! Tell those insignificant soccer players to stop treading on my friends" BUT "Get me out of your ear. You give me the cooties." BUT "I meant that! Now get a life." Michael Marten. Haig Street Primary School

"Blade of Grass, speak to me." "OOOh Who disturbs my slumber? "It is I, Erin" "Ha Ha You are talking to a piece of grass" interrupted a black bird. "Ha ha ha ha ha ha interrupted another." "Have fun talking to the blade of grass" said the first bird. "Who disturbs my slumber?" Erin. Haig Street Primary School

"When I put my grass up to my ear it told me all about nature. It talked to me about how wonderful it is to listen to the birds sing and in summer to listen to the crickets chirping. Kate Vella, Keon Park Primary.

These children gain wisdom and insight as they talk to the grass and personify it. By personifying objects we gain insight into the human psyche. When Sylvia Plath writes "Nobody sees us, Stops us, betrays us; The small grains make room" in her poem 'Mushrooms' she reveals an underlying bitterness about treatment she has witnessed. She goes on to pick up a biblical illusion by referring to the mushroom as the 'meek' who will 'multiply' and 'inherit the earth'. Likewise, in her novel 'Peeling the Onion' Wendy Orr uses the onion to explore the pain of diminished self esteem. She writes "I am peeling like an onion - decaying slimy layers, hiding blackened mush inside."

Over time I have discovered that it really does work to talk to 'the meek'. Broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, onions and the humble blade of grass all have something important to say. They can provide us with a fresh perspective; another way of seeing things. Recently I gave my workshop participants a potato each and instructed them to care for it and talk to it on a daily basis. They were told to keep the secret diary of the potato for a month. If the discussion around the table was any indication this humble earth loving creature was freely dispensing fresh insight and home spun philosophy in no time at all. The notion of being in the dark was enough to get the writing going. Then my mother remarked that if Dad saw her potato he would pop it in the ground in no time and the conversation quickly turned to the joy of growing vegetables and the exquisite taste of a home grown spud. Gleeful I remarked that we could write pages about caring for potatoes, harvesting potatoes, storing potatoes, methods of planting potatoes.....until I caught the look in their eyes and realized that they were all off in a fantasy land, planning the perfect spot to plant some spuds. Oh well! It sounded like a good idea to start people writing!