The no good Noongar kid

Meet ‘Ricky’. He is Aboriginal, Noongar his people. He’d be a poster boy for many of the statistics and labels entrenched in public psyche about this group of people, particularly when young – low literacy, poor school attendance, lazy, the only good thing he can do is kick a footy, use hands, drawing and art … want more? You want to hear his life story and reasons why he is currently in DCP care and protection? You don’t.

Ricky has just finished his first ever Big Picture exhibition (a presentation of student’s work over a term). He is pretty shy and I didn’t want to put him on the spot to ‘talk to an audience’ for half an hour. So we dropped ‘the standard model’ and did it together. I listed, introduced things he had accomplished this term, he explained them, answered questions, expanded, showed. Nobody stood up, we just sat around the table with another staff member who was our audience. It was a conversation with, around and about Ricky.

He explained in detail about his bricklaying ‘Try A Trade’ course (he did brilliantly there!) and his use of tools, principles of physics, maths, spatial awareness, precision, motivation, all in conversational manner.

We moved to his first website he started creating with me. It’s about dirtbikes – first picking the images (stage at now), then descriptions, followed by comparisons and reasons (all coming up next term). Through the conversation about bikes it emerged that he regularly gets spare parts off other bikes and puts them on his bike to fix it. Just like that, ‘no big deal’.

Then came a guided demo of of a couple of online games he plays – problem solving, maths, economics in action, right there on screen but without the fancy terminology and lingo to describe it exactly. But skill and knowledge of principles? Easy!

It also turned out that he has probably achieved the highest sporting achievement at the school this term by playing (well!) for Peel Thunder in the 2012 Nicky Winmar Cup (football tournament for Aboriginal youth with top metro, country, even interstate teams).

We talked about his care about getting the right spelling when writing his two journal entries and a couple of weekly reflections this term. Nobody in class writes slower out of care for getting things right.

We talked about his trampolining prowess, his ability to get along with students and staff, his calm and cheeky ways, the respect he gives and takes and which is miles from when he started coming to our school last year. He does not have any enemies here, truly.

At the end, he wrote down his strengths and weaknesses (pictured above). And we talked about them. He was really honest, he didn’t shirk back from saying he is lazy sometimes and wants to go and get more things done.

We laughed, shook hands to congratulate on a job well done. His exhibition took 55 minutes, more than any other in my room!

Not bad for a ‘no good’ kid who, on paper, has ‘low IQ’, ‘low aspiration’ and a bagful of other ‘low’ descriptors much like many of his brothers, sisters and cousins.

I have goosebumps as I write this, the colleague who sat in with us welled up with tears afterwards.

Low? Bullshit.

Go Ricky, you got my back any time mate!

4 comments

  1. John Pearce

    Hey Tomaz,

    Why do we so often use labels in education, (maybe read life), when we too often forget that the labels only exist in the paradigm we situate them. Change the point of focus and suddenly we can see things completely differently, (or better still we even recognise things we’ve been blinded to otherwise).

    Well done on celebrating Ricky’s awareness building, (not to speak of the others in the room and beyond). Great read again Tomaz as these stories need to be told far and wide. Thanks for sharing.

  2. John Pearce

    Hey Tomaz,

    Why do we so often use labels in education, (maybe read life), when we too often forget that the labels only exist in the paradigm we situate them. Change the point of focus and suddenly we can see things completely differently, (or better still we even recognise things we’ve been blinded to otherwise).

    Well done on celebrating Ricky’s awareness building, (not to speak of the others in the room and beyond). Great read again Tomaz as these stories need to be told far and wide. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Malyn

    It’s a gift to find the good in people. Tomaz, you have that gift.

    Go Ricky! I’m sure that’s not the first time I’ve said that. 🙂

  4. Malyn

    It’s a gift to find the good in people. Tomaz, you have that gift.

    Go Ricky! I’m sure that’s not the first time I’ve said that. 🙂

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