Sunbright School

by Mary Beth

Annie and Cora have been at their new school for one week now, and all reviews so far are positive. School runs from 9 am until 3 pm. The origins and meaning of the name, Sunbright School, are shrouded in mist. Annie named it. She was asked to name it and she did so, with confidence and without hesitation.

Their day looks something like this:

9:00-9:30: Free Play

This takes place in the main playroom of Sunbright School, which is otherwise known as the living room. Students are encouraged to entertain themselves with toys. Sometimes there is music, and students can dance if they choose. The important thing is for students not to irritate each other by ripping toys out of each other’s hands, pulling hair, etc. Sometimes this is hard for the students. There are only twenty or thirty toys in the playroom, and there are two students, so it is inevitable that sometimes students absolutely need to play with the same toy, urgently – so urgently that there is no time to ask the other student to share the toy – only time to snatch the toy away.

Teachers use this time to clean up breakfast and to prepare anything that needs to be prepared for the day.

9:30-9:45: Mat Time

Mat Time starts out with passing the Mihi stick around the circle, so students can introduce themselves. Many students come to school at Mat Time and only at Mat Time – Cora and Annie are joined by Alice Olivia, aka Sweetbud; Chandelier Angel, aka Chandy; Baby Gemma; Minnie Mouse; Ugly Baby (which we are fairly confident is a CPR infant mannequin); and numerous other children. Annie helps them all say their Mihi. If Cora has time, she will take the Mihi stick and say “Coco!” but often Annie is faster, and says her Mihi for her. Daddy, the official teacher, will bungle his way through his Mihi, and then get corrected; Mommy, the assistant teacher, will do the same when she is there. Often, Cora gets confused and walks around the circle, hitting everyone on the head, and saying “Duck! Ducky!” or occasionally “Goose!” and then periodically running around behind the couch.

The class also discusses the weather, and puts a weather card on the wall, and discusses the day of the week.

Cora pauses to smile at the camera; afterwards, she goes back to crumpling up the weather cards.

Then they have News. Anyone in the class can share anything they want. Most of the students speak with Annie’s voice when they share, but occasionally Cora will pick up a fellow student, and that student will share – usually an incoherent/semicoherent one-word enthusiastic exclamation.  Then there will be birthday announcements. It is usually someone’s birthday at Sunbright School, so most days everyone sings Happy Birthday, followed by the Maori version of the song, “Ra Whanau”.

9:45-10:30: Nature/Science

This is a time to explore the natural world around us. Daddy really likes this time. He loves to plan exciting lessons. For instance, he might dig up some dirt that has flowering weeds in it, and put it in buckets so the class can explore the dirt, so everyone can learn about how interesting and complicated dirt can be, or about how roots work. When the dirt is presented to his pupils, they might admire the flowers on the weeds for a few seconds and then dump out the dirt and wander away.

Other things the class has done are: collecting beautiful autumn leaves, to press and use for art projects later; stomping in puddles; admiring spiderwebs; walking around the neighborhood; collecting seeds from plants to grow in egg cartons. Half of the students (Annie) are generally very reluctant to go outside at all. That section of the student population would sit inside all day, every day, if it could. The other half of the student population wants to do nothing but stomp in puddles for the full forty-five minutes.

One of the rainy days, the school did experiments with fire using birthday candles – what happens when you spread fire between two candles, or when you put a glass over a candle, or when you spray water on a candle flame. Half of the students (Annie) were terrified, and the other half (Cora) were fascinated and wanted to grab the lit candles.

10:30-11:00: Snack

It is very important to have many opportunities to eat during the day, especially for Cora. By this point it has been 3 hours since her breakfast of a large bowl of oatmeal. Cora will be ravenous.

11:00-12:00: Art/Music/Dance

This is a very popular segment of the day with all students, as long as the students are in a good mood. For music, generally there is singing and dancing, led by the teacher, who will also play guitar, keyboard, or ukulele. The class is very good at dancing. Sometimes the class plays instruments as well. Cora favors the recorder, which she can tootle very loudly on (“That hurts my ears!” her sister cries when she plays, leading her parents to cackle and think “What goes around comes around!” after years of ringing in their ears caused by Annie shrieking). Annie usually prefers to dance. If Mommy is present but is not singing, Cora will instruct her to sing by tilting her head side to side and saying “La la la.”

Art is also very popular. The first day of school, the students and teachers collaborated on a sign for the school. The second day, they made weather cards to use during Mat Time. Annie designed these and determined what would be on them. The first card she designed was “Windy”. The second card was also “Windy”. The third card was “Sunny and Windy”. These are actually very appropriate cards for the area where the family lives, but after that her parents helped to come up with ideas for other weather cards.

An edible art project, on Mommy’s birthday

Crayon drawings are currently in vogue at school. Younger students have their paper taped down to the table while they color, but still sometimes forget which paper is theirs and which belongs to older students, and accidently scribble all over the carefully drawn pictures of their older classmates. Younger students also enjoy dumping all the crayons all over the floor and then walking over them, leading to the school having very few unbroken crayons. The teacher has been working hard to find a way to outsmart them, and has found a container that the younger half of the class is unable to dump out; however this angers Cora and she complains bitterly, in a loud voice, about the injustice of it.

12:00-1:00: Lunch

By this time, of course, the whole school is starving. When she realizes the teacher has gone to make lunch, Cora stomps around the school shouting “Brekkie! Brekkie! Brekkie!” She does not realize that this is not breakfast. Nor does she care. Often the teacher has to give her a snack to quiet her down and give him time to prepare food. Then she will scarf down her own lunch and demand her teacher’s lunch (which will be untouched, as her teacher will not have had time to eat).

1:00-2:00: Quiet Time

This segment of the day is the least popular with the students, and the most popular with the teachers. The younger population will be desperately in need of a nap by this point, and there will be tears and screaming as this population comes to terms with the idea of a nap, which always seems to come as an unpleasant surprise, despite the fact that it happens every day. The older population is expected to play quietly during this period without the help of teachers. This population is starting to get used to it and is coping well with it. Sometimes an older student might fall asleep while playing quietly with her dolls, which is totally acceptable. Sometimes a teacher might pass out as well, on a couch or a bed. Sometimes this segment gets stretched until 2:30 if needed.

2:00-3:00: Outdoor Play

A necessary end to the school day, but large segments of the student population are yet again reluctant, particularly as the teachers are unable to bribe the students to go outside by promising a playground (since playgrounds are all closed at this point) or a playdate with friends (since everyone in New Zealand is in isolation).

3:00: Snack

Needless to say, Cora would probably starve to death without this.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *