If you read this please take the time to read it right to the end.
I had the most wonderful day with the pupils and staff of Craiglands Primary yesterday. There was something amazing about this intimate school as you drove down the narrow driveway in (and of course yesterday I chose to drive the chunky monkey car!) but it opened out onto a small parking area – would have to think about the 20 point turn I would need to get back out again later.
Janine my namesake met me, oh what a beautiful lady, she made me feel so welcome right from the start and looked after me throughout my visit. we chatted and as I turned, there was a lovely golden retriever coming towards me.
“You have dogs here, how marvellous.”
“Actually we have 5 of them.”
Did I say this was a special school? It really is.
We threaded our way through the excited children that had assembled and she then helped me put up my posters. The usual Jozi traffic seemed worse than normal yesterday and I had arrive with literally only a few minutes to spare.
Then as I turned around there were 75 eager faces looking at me (gr1-7). As I said it is a small, special school. Actually no that is wrong. My first impression was that it was actually a rather large family.
We chatted about being an author and how to write a book, as well as the content of my books How Polly Became a Parrot and Polly’s Piralympics . We also identified many of the different types of challenges we all have – can’t dance, can’t sing, can’t ride a bike, can’t see, can’t hear, one arm, no legs etc. We also acted out how to BEAT THE BULLY. The trick here if there isn’t a parent or teacher around is to GET YOUR FRIENDS TO HELP YOU – THERE IS STRENGTH IN NUMBERS. Later I would learn just how powerful that little exercise had been.
Then I read from my book Polly’s Piralympics, the chapter I had chosen was – the 3 legged race. The children helped me with some of the sound effects and we all laughed as one of the crews had to be rescued from walking around the whole island.
Then it was question time, hands shot up everywhere, including from the staff, ha,ha,ha. and then it was finished. I packed up my posters and joined the staff for a cup of tea. Their ‘staff room’ was a table and chairs on the stoop (veranda) overlooking the climbing frame and play area.
One of the staff had taken her class to clear up their classroom. On her return she told us how during that exercise one of the boys had upset some of the others by telling a lie. The rest had all stood up to him and told him how it was wrong to do what he was doing and that they didn’t like it. – oh my gosh, never has one of my talks ever had such a fast effect.
Whilst we sat there children occasionally would come up to ask another question, and then all too quickly it was all over and time for me to leave. I drove back up the narrow driveway and out on to the main road my mind was racing with the events of my morning. Opposite there was a shady area to park under the trees alongside the road. So I pulled up.
“You’re being stupid, ” I told myself as the tears started to trip down my face. I couldn’t get the images of Nathan, Liaam and his twin brother Teghan out of my head. They along with others had come up to me when I finished my talk.
“I can’t see very well.” Nathan told me.
“He has only 10% vision.” Janine added.
We chatted about how he didn’t let this stop him and how he too wanted to write a book, as did Chloe, who also stood before me.
Then the twins Liaam and Teghan, I’m not sure which one was which, but one of them showed me that his brother had a hearing aid. He said that sometimes people bully his brother and he can feel it too, he knows what it is like – such is the connection between these two brothers.
“Can I put you two in one of my books?” I asked them.
There is a special connection between twins and these brothers as they stood in front of me holding hands had just melted my heart and etched their faces in my mind forever. They will appear in one of my future books, of that I am sure.
So this morning I spoke with Ms Irmela Turner the head (another very special, inspiring and gentle lady.) and thanked her again for the opportunity to have met her ‘special’ children yesterday. I feel my life is a little richer from the experience and I look forward to returning in February.
Oh and did I mention that Craiglands Primary is a special school, with very special teachers and support staff, very special dogs and very special pupils – WELL IT IS, and yesterday they all touched my heart forever.
Craiglands is a remedial school for learners who experience problems in mainstream schools due to their learning difficulties. It caters for children with challenges, ADD and ADHD, is a co-ed school for learners gr1 to gr7.
You see I told you it was SPECIAL.