Tag Archives: Jeannie Baker

respect not fear

Out of respect, not fear

As an early childhood educator, I believe that children need to be respected. It is only through being shown respect, that children learn to respect. It is not learned through fear. Sure, fear may generate what appears to be respect – compliance, conformity, obedience. But inside, feelings of discontent may simmer until, at some future time they manifest in a variety of unpleasant ways.

Children also need to respect, and not fear, each other. I frequently write about the need to develop a welcoming and supportive classroom in which children feel valued and respected. They need to understand the diversity that exists in our world and learn to accept, appreciate, respect and embrace it. Fear is often the result of the unknown, so by getting to know each other better, that opportunity for fear, at least, can be erased.

In a previous post Watching ink dry, I wrote a story about a child being singled out and humiliated for an inability to keep between the lines in a handwriting lesson. An interesting discussion developed in the comments about nuns–teaching nuns, which surprised me. You see, although that particular situation wasn’t one I personally experienced, I did have in mind one of my teachers, who happened to be a nun, as I wrote, but I made no mention of it. I really didn’t think the attitude I portrayed was reserved for nuns during my childhood.

Within a few days of publishing the post, I visited the optometrist where the assistant, without prompting of any kind, (I have no idea how we got onto the subject) told me about nuns who repeatedly humiliated her at school. I then told her about my story, but not my real experiences which were quite similar to hers. I added this to the discussion, and so the conversation grew, prompting Charli Mills from the Carrot Ranch to entertain the thought of “Nun” as a flash fiction prompt.

black and white flash fiction challenge

She did shy away from it in the end, fearing, I think stereotyping nuns unfairly. Instead, she challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features something black and white. It could be a nun in a zebra monster truck, a rigid way of thinking, a bird in a tuxedo — be imaginative and go where the prompt leads.

But it was too late for me to consider the fear, or perhaps to feel the fear and resist doing it anyway. I’d already started recording my black and white view, coloured from years under the rule of those nuns in their black and white habits (literally and figuratively).

One memorable event occurred when, handing out history test results, the teacher (a nun) distributed everyone’s but mine. She then made a big show of trying to find it while telling the class what a dreadful result it was, and that she must have put it aside out of disappointment. Though I am quite tall, she did her best to make me feel small.

Funnily enough, when I experienced a similar situation at a writers’ critique session over the weekend–one of the writers had everyone’s story but mine–I was able to accept his apology and not relive the earlier trauma, even though it was brought to mind.

Perhaps I’m more like the nuns of my childhood than I’d like to acknowledge. Perhaps I find forgiveness no easier than they. So, apologies to all the lovely nuns, whom I am sure must exist, this poem is not for you. It is a reflection of my black and white reflections on my black and white experiences. I’m not sure that I expect you to enjoy this one.

nun praying

The nun’s prayer

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

I have no need for counting sheep,

I count the girls that I made weep.

 

Lord, I ask Thee, help me please

To do my job with greater ease–

Bless them even when they sneeze,

And keep their skirts below their knees.

 

I know the task should be not hard

And I should never drop my guard

But if they’re ever marred or scarred,

It puts a mark upon my card.

 

And while she dreamed her cunning schemes,

Her girls were strangling silent screams.

 

Circle picture book by Jeannie Baker

To finish on a more positive note, which is more my way, on her Big Sister Blogs this week, Maria Parenti-Baldey shared a post of wishes creatives have for children. Those wishes are opposite to those of the nun in my disrespectful poem. One of my favourite quotes is that by Jeannie Baker whose books I have previously written about here and here and here.

According to Maria,

Jeannie Baker wished for every ‘single’ child ‘to love and be loved’. For children to have a supportive home, a peaceful environment and ‘to be creative and not be criticised’. To go to school with time to ‘exercise their curiosity… use their imagination’ and find and make things. Jeannie wanted children to think for themselves, play outside and engage with nature with feelings of awe and wonder. Some children experience a fear of nature – ‘Nature deficit syndrome’. ‘What one fears, one destroys. What one loves, one defends.’

I thought it was a perfect quote to round out my post. I wholeheartedly agree with her wishes–they match my dream.

Please pop over to Maria’s post to read what other creatives; including, Leigh Hobbs, Gus Gordan, Mark Wilson, Anna Fienberg, Kyle Hughes-Odgers and Deborah Abela, wish for children. Great wishes, every one.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading, I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

A Celebration of Australian picture books #5 — Jeannie Baker

Jeannie Baker - planet changing

This post is the fifth in a series celebrating picture books by Australian authors. If you missed earlier posts, please follow these links to the introduction, Mem Fox, Kim Michelle Toft and Narelle Oliver.

In this post I introduce you to Jeannie Baker, a collage artist and author. Jeannie was born in the UK but has lived most of her adult life in Australia, and most of her books, though having universal themes, are set in Australia.

2015-09-19 11.09.45

Jeannie had already published a number of books prior to 1992 when I first became aware of her work through “Window”, winner of the Australian Picture Book of the Year Award.

Window tells, in beautifully detailed collage, of the transformation of a landscape from natural bush to city-scape. The changes are observed through a window by a boy as he celebrates alternate birthdays from birth to 24 years. Like many of Jeannie’s books, “Window” carries a strong environmental message. In her note at the end of the book, she says,

“Our planet is changing before our eyes. However, by understanding and changing the way we personally affect the environment, we can make a difference.”

The intricate details in this textless picture book provide many opportunities for discussion. Children and adults are enticed to study and compare the changes that take place in each successive picture. The carefully constructed collages give a sense of being able to almost step into the scene and experience the sights, sounds and smells of each landscape.

Jeannie Baker - time

I was fortunate to attend an exhibition of Jeannie’s artwork for “Window” as it toured the country in 1992. What surprised me most was the size of the collages. With all their detail I had expected them to be quite large; but they weren’t. They are miniature, much smaller than a page of the picture book on which they appear. The collection and arrangement of a mix of natural and artificial materials is amazing. Jeannie describes the process of constructing her collages here.

2015-09-19 11.11.04

In 2004 Jeannie published a companion book to “Window” called “Belonging, which, in 2005, also received a number of awards, including one from the Wilderness Society. This textless picture book tells a story of a changing landscape over a number of years as a city is transformed with plants and welcoming spaces for children and families. In a note at the end of this book, Jeannie says,

“It takes time … But by understanding the land on which we live and by caring for it we can choose between just having a place to live or belonging to a living home.”

2015-09-19 11.10.25

One Hungry Spideris the third of Jeannie’s books I own. Unlike “Window” andBelonging, the illustrations in this one are accompanied by text. One Hungry Spideris a counting book, but a counting book with a difference: it includes information about the spider. For example when one of seven ladybirds gets caught in the web we find out that “the spider took no notice (because) spiders don’t like the taste of ladybirds.” And when nine wasps fly by the spider left the web and hid because wasps catch spiders. Additional details about the spider are provided at the back of the book. Once again the illustrations throughout the book are magnificent.

Surprisingly I own only these three of Jeannie’s books. However I am familiar with others. At school I had access to many of her titles in big book format (approximately 50 x 40 cm) which were perfect for sharing with a class of children.

4 of Jeannie Baker's books

These are other favourites:

Where the Forest Meets the Sea”, “The Hidden Forest”, “Mirrorand The Story of Rosy Dock”.

Are you familiar with Jeannie’s work? If so, which ones and what do you think of them?

Please check out these and other titles of Jeannie’s if you have a chance. Their illustrations will intrigue you and their positive messages will inspire you.

As a writer, I found inspiration in Jeannie’s response to the question,

“Of all the books you have made, which is your favourite?”

She answered,

“When a book is finally finished, I find it hard to think about it anymore …I want to fill my
head with something totally different, with a new book.  My favourite book is the
‘new’ book I’m working on, still working out and trying to make better than the books I
made before it!”

I think that indicates a strong growth mindset and Jeannie’s joy in the “continual challenges this medium gives … to invent techniques and explore and experiment with materials and their textures.”

Jeannie Baker - favourite book

It affirms the quest for improvement and a reason to embrace the challenges we both set for ourselves and meet along the way.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.