Home' Teacher : December 2009 Contents PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT 13
Unfortunately both Dante and Beatrice
were already married to other people. Dante
wrote many beautiful poems to Beatrice but
she never read them and sadly she died when
she was only 24 years old. Beatrice was bur-
ied in a church in Firenze now known as the
Chapel of Beatrice.'
It was while sitting in the chapel, think-
ing about Dante's love for Beatrice, that the
words lacrime d'amore -- 'tears of love' --
came suddenly to Mazzella, and inspired the
song the children will perform.
'And now will you sing it for me?'
The students stand and, guided by
Virginia Bott, one of The Song Room's
teaching artists, take their positions. Bott
counts them in and suddenly 20 kids in
worn tracksuits, hand-me-down runners
and faces that speak of a dozen different
languages and cultures join as one and fill
the hall with the intoxicating sounds of
unrequited Italian love.
Sulla terra cade,
Terra cade, terra c ade
Forgiveness,forgiveness is the cashI need
Sorrow's my garden andmy tears a seed.
Things grow from seeds
The Song Room has been providing music
and creative arts programs to Sacred Heart
School for a number of years. The school is
situated on the northern boundary of Ather-
ton Gardens, one ofMelbourne'slargest pub-
lic housing estates with an estimated popula-
tion of 3,000 residents. The huge majority
-- 96 per cent -- of Sacred Heart School's 157
students are from the estate, and speak some
15 different languages at home.
Principal Mary Lawrey tells a familiar
story of entrenched disadvantage when
describing the local community.
'Many of the people living on the estate
come from socioeconomically disadvan-
taged backgrounds. Drug trafficking, drug
addiction, gambling and clashes with cul-
ture, all affect our community greatly,' she
says. 'Some of our families are homeless, and
ou r growing African population is predom-
inantly new and recent refugee arrivals to
Australia. Some have little or no English and
some are not literate in their ow n language.
'A lot of the children have difficulties
with settlement due to the trauma that
they've experienced as refugees. They often
arrive at school without a broad range of
life experiences and without having made
sense of the experiences they have had. They
can often be aggressive because they don't
possess the language of social interaction to
help them connect and sort out the things
that happen in their world.'
According to Lawrey, The Song Room
program helps 'level the playing field' for
these disadvantaged students, enabling
them to gain a sense of achievement and the
opportunity to experience positive forms of
'Addressing the social, emotional and
creative needs of the children is critical
before they can begin to learn,' Lawrey
explains. 'The children develop a sense of
self-esteem and identity by participating in
the programs. They're able to connect with
others, building skills and capacity by work-
ing together, developing respect and com-
Lack of life experience is a theme ech-
oed by the acting principal of Heatherhill
Primary School, Gillian Harris. Heatherhill
is in a highly disadvantaged community in
Melbou rne's southeast where 74 per cent
of the students are from a language back-
ground other than English.
'Most of our students are "experience
poor,"' Harris explains. 'They don't belong
to sporting clubs, learn to play instruments
or attend artistic events. As their experi-
ences revolve almost exclusively around
home and school, it's vital that our school
provides these experiences. This is very
difficult to do without asking parents for
money that they don't have.'
The Song Room is providing Heatherhill
with a workshop program led by teaching
artist Zoë Barry. Barry will work with stu-
dents and teachers over two terms to develop
a singing program with the children, build
teacher skills and confidence, and prepare
for a number of performance opportunities.
'We used to have a music program, but
now our enrolments don't allow us the flex-
ibility to provide the range of subjects we feel
the students need. The Song Room program
has provided them with a terrific opportu-
nity to experience music as an audience
member and to make music of their own.'
It's not just the students that benefit. One
of the long-term impacts of the program has
come from professional development and
mentoring work to encourage sustainable
programs and practices within the school.
Teacher Lisa Sinclair, who attended a pro -
fessional development session at The Song
Room earlier this year, was keen to work
with Barry as a mentor to develop her skills
Sinclair went on to lead the Heatherhill
Choir at Voices of the Choir, an event that
brings together a range of local schools at
Wallarano Primary School, Noble Park, in
Melbourne's south-east. It was the first time
that Heatherhill had participated.
Hard to believe
At Western English Language Ser vice
(WELS), meanwhile, a group of teenagers
is practising a song with their classroom
teacher, Chiharu Shuey. WELS is a Victo -
rian govern ment school providing English
as a second language programs for primary-
and secondary-aged students across seven
campuses in Melbourne's west. Half of the
WELS students are refugees from Sudan,
Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia and Burma. The
rest of the 450 students are children of
migrants from Vietnam, South America,
Philippines, Indonesia, China, India, Paki-
stan and Afghanistan.
According to principal Yolette de Zilwa,
WELS was looking to expand its delivery in
the arts domain. When she was approached
by The Song Room with an offer of some
free program delivery she 'couldn't quite
believe' there was an organisation working
with high-needs schools in this way.
'The arts domain is a key domain for
newly-arrived refugee and migrant childre n ,'
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