This is what my brain looks like with 3 kids, working part time, studying part time and anticipating lockdown 2.o due to corona virus.
This post is dedicated to the wonderful girls who are supporting me on this journey.
This is what my brain looks like with 3 kids, working part time, studying part time and anticipating lockdown 2.o due to corona virus.
This post is dedicated to the wonderful girls who are supporting me on this journey.
Two simple words.
Well they do not read as much as they used to and they certainly do not read the variety and depth of texts that their parents and grandparents read. To put it mildly, many teens do not read for recreational purposes. A modern teen is overwhelmed by the variety of recreational activities they could choose from including the persistent lure of technology and glitzy apps, which as we all know, hold far more appeal than stodgy texts. For a bibliophile like me and an emerging Teacher librarian, this dilemma has coined a phrase known as ‘reluctant readers’ which means people, both adults and children that do not read for pleasure.
Why does this occur? We are all aware of how important literacy and reading are in primary school. Students have readers that come home weekly and library visits as a class. Parents are constantly bombarded to read to their children by advocates from both the health and educational faculties. Reading is fun! Schools run literacy activities that boost skills as well as point out the pleasure in reading, such as the CBCA book week. Within this week, teachers and other educational providers seek to promote books and the love of reading to children of all ages. It is thrilling to see little children so excited by costumes and parades. Their faces light up when they hold up their favourite book against their outfit with happy eyes and grins to match. Primary schools across the country go through great lengths to set up parades. Teachers get dressed up in elaborate costumes and there is a general feeling of goodwill and happiness to all. But when does this joy with reading decline?
The same attitude for recreational reading does not translate into the latter years of schooling. High school students are not encouraged to find pleasure in reading. There are multiple reasons for this decline. Arguably the primary reason is that teenagers are often plagued by compulsory texts that hold little appeal for them. Texts that have endured generations of disengaged students. I know from my own memory of high school two decades ago, and the apathy that quickly follows William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies”. But yet the text’s presence in the curriculum continues. Yes, I agree that it has valuable social commentary. But I am sure that there are more engaging texts exist- “Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins is plausibly a good replacement for Goldings dry and dismal story. But forcing students to read books that they have no interest in only elicits anger and disgust for the text and its taint spreads to even the activity of reading.
Douglas (2013) prescribes that an ability to read for pleasure as a teen is an indication of an ability to thrive in social environments. He goes on to explain that children that derive intrinsic pleasure and joy from reading are also the ones who end up being life-long learners. This could simply be because those that find that inherent motivation to read are also the ones that have that immanent drive to succeed. Or it could be that those, even when cajoled, bribed and begged to read, with no innate motivation, are guided into the habit of reading, which over time could develop into something that brings great joy’ as Marie Kondo is often quoted. Either way, the importance of reading is no longer just an educational issue but rather a social issue
Douglas (2013) elucidates that the demise of recreational reading in teens is based upon gender, attitude and societal expectations. I can only tell you how many times I have rolled my eyes backwards when I hear parents and occasionally some teachers excuse reluctant readers with the banal phrase ‘boys will be boys’. In some circumstances, my eyes have rolled back so hard they have gotten stuck against the back of my head! But I digress!! This gender based preference for reading is societal in origin rather than biological as Wong (2018) points out, “the brain is a unisex organ”. But first world nations such as Britain, US and UK, the disparity in reading statistics between boys and girls is no longer just a fable, a myth. It is a disturbing statistic that affects half our student body. This inability to read translates to less dexterity in processing words, less sophistication in communication, and a consistent decline in educational outcomes. On the note of societal disparity – in developing countries, the gender gap is primarily based upon unequal access to education.
The other problem lies in that once a student is considered to be a competent reader in upper primary school, the focus changes from ‘learning to read’ to ‘read to learn’. Ill informed parents believe that their children can now read and after years of being forced to read “Where is the green sheep” (by Mem Fox), (#mylife!), they dance their way from having to read to their children. I must include myself with this charge. I too stopped reading to my eldest once she could read and have had only re-started after seeing the research. my Netflix time can wait a little longer.
As educators and as teacher librarians, we need to make reading FUN for our high school students. We need to remind them of when a book character could make you laugh, cry and fall in love. We need to show them how reading books is not just about school work and assignments, but rather reading can be the quickest escape from it all.
I am going all out for book week this year. I am going to make a complete idjit of myself and show my students that reading is FUN! That reading books you are interested in brings great joy! Most of all, I am going to show my colleagues that recreational reading is still important for teenagers. And I am going to show them that whilst looking FABULOUS!
Douglas, J. (2013) The importance of instilling a need to read. The Telegraph UK. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationopinion/10035473/The-importance-of-instilling-a-need-to-read.html
Wong, A. (2018) Boys don’t read enough. The Atlantic- Education. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/09/why-girls-are-better-reading-boys/571429/
But no. Sadly I am only fluent in English, accented as it can be and possess a smattering of inappropriate words in a few other languages. Think more like a sailor and less like a teacher, if you get my drift!
I am also sure that I am not the only emigrant with this linguistic dilemma with a dismal knowledge of my native tongue. As new citizens, my parents so keen on assimilation that they discarded all linguistic connections to the motherland to ensure we settled in as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, this discarding of language has lead to feelings of inadequacy as an adult. Besides feeling like a ‘fake’, the saddest aspect of my own inadequacies of language is that I cannot teach my children their heritage. This death of language diversity can be attributed to numerous reasons, with emigration as mine. Other reasons include, political persecution, globalisation and civil war (Strochlic, 2018). In Australia alone, over 100 Aboriginal languages have disappeared since Philipsy and his ruffian filled boats docked in Sydney (Strochlic, 2018). You don’t have to try too hard to imagine why… do you?
Strochlic (2018) reminds us all that over 200 languages have become extinct since the end of WW2, with every fortnight another language dying a silent death. It is predicted that by the end of this century, another 90% will disappear. This loss is tragedy for current and future generations.
But all is not lost. Modern Hebrew, made a dramatic reappearance in the 18th century. Conversational Hebrew had all but disappeared in the 4th Century and was revived in the late 18th. As aspects of the language were preserved in copies of the Torah and Talmund across the world, the words and phrases within could then be extrapolated to frame conversational Hebrew (Bensadoun, 2015).
Another memorable reincarnation are the Egyptian hieroglyphs, which were decoded using the famous Rosetta stone. This stone was paramount in aiding academics in understanding the amazing wonders of that ancient empire. The stone helped construe the pictorial script into ancient Greek, which could then be further translated into modern day English (British Museum, 2017).
But what about languages with no written component? What will happen to those mother tongues? The speed in which languages disappear is heightened when they are only exist in an oral form as there is no documentation to ensure preservation. Communities with distinctive languages will become extinct and this death is a blot on society.
What can we do about it?
Well, there are several groups around the world that are seeking to preserve rare dialects and languages using wikis. These groups use available technology to record, store and transfer these conversations for preservation purposes. Noone (2015), additionally advocates the use of technology as a preservation tool to document and record languages for future generations. Other ICT tools such as Skype or Facetime, can be used by people to converse with greater ease even if separated by large distances. Language, like all other skills, becomes rusty with lack of use and regression is quite common when unused for extended periods. By using these tools, people all over the world can converse and practice their skills.
As teacher librarians, we can assist students and teachers access these audible resources. Libraries are no longer just archives for the storing of information. Instead, they are centres of ‘resourcing’ information. The same technology that permits us to document and preserve these languages also enables us to access and share them.
The State Library of Queensland has an impressive collation of Indigenous language resources on their webpage. They are working towards preserving and documenting the various dialects of the region and are drawing these word lists from their range of historical texts within the collection (SLQ, 2019b). I like the word lists. It is a simple way for me to learn some common use terms for myself and then share them with my children. SLQ also has another challenge on their portal called the ‘ Say G’day in an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Language’. As 2019 is UNESCO’s Year of Indigenous Language, SLQ is challenging Queenslanders to use an Indigenous language to greet their mates in an effort to help raise awareness and promote Indigenous cultural awareness.
This sentiment is shared by this years NAIDOC’s them of “Voice, Treaty, Truth” as it places great emphasis on the importance of giving voice to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia. But as indigenous languages fade into the history pages, the voices that speak these languages are then also muted. There cannot be a treaty if voices are not heard. For voices to be heard and understood, we must understand that Australia is more than just English.
Whilst I do regret my inadequacy of mother tongue, I also regret not learning the language of land in which I stand on. It never crossed my mind to learn the local Indigenous dialect. That in itself is something I need to resolve as I forge my way through this M. Ed.
So I leave you with these greetings as I acknowledge that the language heritage and knowledge reside with the traditional owners, elders and custodians of the various nations. So from me to you,
Galang nguruindhau (Turrbal)
Deo boro dis dium (Konkani)
Bensadoun, D. (2010) History: Revival of the Hebrew language. Jerusalem Post. Retrieved from https://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Jewish-News/This-week-in-history-Revival-of-the-Hebrew-language
Brtish Museum (2017). Everything you wanted to know about the Rosetta stone. British Museum Blog post. Retrieved from https://blog.britishmuseum.org/everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-the-rosetta-stone/
Crump, D. (2015) Aboriginal languages of the Greater Brisbane area. SLQ Blogs. Retrieved from http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/ilq/2015/03/16/aboriginal-languages-of-the-greater-brisbane-area/
Noone, Y. (2015) How technology is saving Indigenous languages. NITV. Retrieved from https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/2015/11/11/how-technology-saving-indigenous-languages
Strochlic, N. (2018) The Race to Save the World’s Disappearing Languages. National Geographic. Retrieved from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/04/saving-dying-disappearing-languages-wikitongues-culture/
State Library of Queensland (2019b), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander word lists. Retrieved from https://www.slq.qld.gov.au/discover/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-cultures-and-stories/languages/word-lists
State Library of Queensland (2019), “Say G’day in an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Language”. Retrieved from https://www.slq.qld.gov.au/sites/default/files/SLQ%20Say%20G%27day%20Wordlists%202019.pdf
Lamb (2011) agrees that a TL has multiple roles with many of them evolving rapidly in the recent past. The budgetary squeeze has added pressure onto TL to adapt their roles to ensure their viability in the school context. This adaptation has redefined the role of the TL from a archivist and curator of knowledge into facilitator of knowledge in both the physical and digital worlds. This facilitation ranges from the acquisition of materials that build a school collection, text and digital, and the implicit and explicit teaching of life long skills
The importance of connections with people is highlighted in (Lamb, 2011, p.4). Whilst these connections can be both F-T-F, there is far more importance placed on electronic communication. A TL must be able to connect to the school audience, which includes its students, teachers, parents, board members and community. In doing so, the TL firmly installs the library, and its programs as a cornerstone of the school. These connections, also known as clever marketing, will promote the value of the library to its patrons and its financiers. Whereas Purcell ( 2010) defines a TL as a leader, in that they are tasked with being involved with the school hierarchy and extended community. They can see the big picture of the school community and identify what trends are occurring within the school.
Herring (2007) argues that for a TL to prove their worth to a school context, prioritising the inclusion of instructional partner is essential. In this role, TL collaborate with their colleagues to implement the pedagogical practices that benefit the student cohort (Purcell, 2010). This is because there are a multitude of studies to highlight increased educational outcomes when TL plan teaching, learning and assessment with their colleagues. This increase in outcomes is often measurable and can be used to highlight the efficacy of the library programs amidst budget cuts and cranky principals. The dynamics of a TL allows them to engage in curriculum design and create assessments that promote higher order thinking. Due to their experience and knowledge, a TL is able to create learning opportunities that are often beyond the scope of a classroom teacher.
It was odd that Purcell (2010) classified teacher as the last and theoretically least important, the role of a TL. This correlates with the view that many principals and teachers do not believe that teacher librarians are in fact teachers simply because many do not have face to face time. The modern TL is challenged to do so much more. TL need to model correct information seeking behaviour in the digital world. They also need to teach it. TL need to teach literacy skills, critical thinking skills and and at the same time model best practice to their fellow colleagues. Teaching teachers is essential to a TL as it is impossible for a librarian to closely monitor and instruct all the kids in their learning. But if the classroom teachers know the skills, then they can re-iterate the teaching and learning to their students (Purcell, 2010, p.33). TL are the model of 21st information seeking behaviour. As the information specialist, a TL is able to seek, find, use and create information with ease.
The irony is that Purcell (2010) places the role of information specialist above teaching. But libraries have evolved significantly in the past fifty years from print, microfilm, newspapers, to print, ebooks, databases and websites. The internet revolution has permanently changed how adults and children seek information. The advent of technology has speed up the rate in which this information seeking behaviour has changed. This facet of being a TL means that they have to assist students in the seeking of information across multiple modalities as well as ensure that resources within the library support the curriculum.
I honestly do not know how to prioritise the roles and which aspects of my job I should let slide. There are some days when I do not get time to even have a bite to eat as I am flat chat run off my feet, let alone plan for what aspect is more important than another. Yesterday was one of those days. Between prepping book boxes for classes; explicitly teaching information literacy and supervision during recess/lunch, I sat down for the first time at our staff meeting at 4pm. Book boxes for classes we cannot fit into the library, as we are currently fully booked out, so now we prepare resources for classes that cannot get a booking and run the lesson in their room. Most classes have a range of abilities so I had to hunt for some hi-lo texts as well as find some interactive websites and digital resources for the classroom teacher. We do make an extra effort for graduate teachers to ease them into teaching. What we don’t want is them leaving the profession. So we do try to make their lives a bit easier.
So the only thing I gave up this week was lunch. Unfortunately, that is not translating to a svelte figure but rather the scoffing of snacks between classes and the 3.45pm biscuit binge.
ALIA and ASLA (2016) Statement on Teacher Librarians in Australia. Retrieved from https://asla.org.au/resources/Documents/Website%20Documents/Policies/policy_tls_in_australia.pdf
Herring, J., (2007) Chapter 2 – Teacher librarians and the school library. LIbraries in the 21st Century, Charting Directions in Information Services. Topics in Australasian Library and Information Studies. Pp. 27-42. DOI: 10.1016/B978-1-876938-43-7.50002-8
Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with potential: Mixing a media specialist’s palette. Techtrends : Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 55(4), 27-36
Purcell M. All Librarians Do Is Check out Books, Right? A Look at the Roles of a School Library Media Specialist. Library Media Connection. 2010;29(3):30-33
Kachel, D. (2017). The principal and the librarian: Positioning the school library program. Teacher Librarian, 45(1), 50-52.
The role of a teacher librarian has changed dramatically from memories of high school, which had T/L as the “the literature expert at the school” (Braxton 2008). These bastions of knowledge, could with great skill, able to place the right books into correct hands using age, developmental ability, curriculum and abilities as criteria. But these days, the teacher librarian themselves have grown into a powerful resource due to the dynamic way information is now sourced.
The advent of the portable devices and the ubiquitous use of the internet has permanently changed how we learn. Instead of numerous shelves holding reference books, journals and encyclopaedias, most school libraries are equipped with databases, online newspapers and encyclopaedias with a significantly smaller physical collection. But with such transition comes with a transformation in practice and this has been described by ALIA (2004) – Teacher Librarian in their standards.
The first role of a TL is a curriculum leader. Whilst wearing this hat, T/Ls work with heads of departments and the executive to ensure that information literacy skills are embedded across the curriculum and school. They work with classroom teachers to “plan, teach and evaluate…to ensure the effective integration of information resources and technologies into student learning” ASLA & ALIA (2014). This role extends to ensuring access for students with diverse learning needs, cultural backgrounds and for students where social justice may lead to inequity. (Braxton 2008)
An information specialist is another aspect of the role. Being able to obtain, interpret, provide access and assist students as well as staff in utilising the information management system available. ASLA & ALIA (2014) clearly state the importance of providing “specialist assistance to students using technology and information resources in and beyond the school and for independent research”. This is further substantiated by the General Capabilities curriculum which promotes the need of students to become independent learners with a life long learning capacity (ACARA 2014).
The last countenance that ASLA & ALIA (2014) deems to be part of a TL role is as an information services manager. It seems redundant to point out that teacher librarians are also responsible for maintaining the resource collection whether it be physical or electronic. A TL must also be able to select resources that fulfil the needs of the curriculum as well as meet the needs of the students within the policies, budget and moral frameworks of the school.
So basically, a T/L is a multifaceted superhero fighting a battle against illiteracy and promoting critical thinking… without wings.
ACARA (2014) General Capabilities Curriculum Overview. https://australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/general-capabilities/ accessed 6/3/19
ALIA (2004) ALIA/ASLA standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. https://www.alia.org.au/about-alia/policies-standards-and-guidelines/standards-professional-excellence-teacher-librarians accessed 6/3/19
ASLA & ALIA (2014) Learning for the future: developing information services in schools, 2nd Ed. Cited in https://asla.org.au/what-is-a-teacher-librarian (accessed 6/3/19)
Braxton B., (2008) Teacher Librarian as literacy leader. Teacher Librarian 35 (3)
Costello, C., (2016) The role of TLs. https://www.virtuallibrary.info/tl-musings/the-role-of-tls accessed 6/3/19
Jones, G., (2011) Daring librarian. http://daringlibrarian.com/portfolio/public_html/About_Me.html accessed 6/3/19
Trombetta, S., (2017) 17 quotes that prove librarians are the best. Bookbub. https://www.bookbub.com/blog/2017/01/19/quotes-about-how-much-we-love-librarians accessed 6/3/19
Last week I received a major shock to my inner sense of well-being. I had just spent the drive home from work congratulating myself on achieving nirvana whilst still possessing a heartbeat. I was very happy with how my life was panning out. My family was and still is healthy, my children delightfully rambunctious, my relationship with hubby comforting and my workplace peaceful and content. I had smiled with happiness at the joy my friendship circle brings to my life and was anticipating a night plonked on the couch with my crochet and peppermint tea.
So after the usual busyness of dinner and bath-time of three children 8 years old and under, I kissed cheeks, read stories and tucked them into bed. I will mention that my inner sense of peace was challenged briefly by one child that did have to be tucked in multiple times but that is the nature of a feisty three year old that struggles with impulse control. The anticipation of my evening of crochet and tea was a siren call but I firmly put that aside as I quickly decided to check my CSU account as I wanted to get familiar with interact2 before the session started.
And there it was. The subjects and their outlines. At first I was excited and opened the outlines up to read the tasks and then that excitement quickly became dread. Both subjects I had enrolled for had assessments due on the same day as the another one. Further inspection of these dreaded documents only revealed that the tasks were heavily weighted and very heavy on the word count. It was 8pm and my inner sense of peace and happiness was overtaken by a sense of dread and anxiety. My panic stricken brain could not compute how I was going to balance my work days with my family commitments and now academic pursuit. Was I actually completely insane?
Insanity has often been bandied around me by well meaning family and friends. I have a habit of biting off more that I can chew. Like moving interstate solo with three little children (one an infant of four weeks) with a deployed husband. Or starting and finishing a portfolio for full registration in just under six weeks. Is that perseverance or tenacity or just plain insanity.
It’s been six days and my fear is subsiding… what will the next six days bring?
The last Thursday. It’s not the last Thursday of the month, nor is it the last Thursday of the school term. Today was the last Thursday I could have to myself for a long time.
I am very passionate about a work life balance. Granted, it is not for everyone as for many, long hours of work are essential to cover living expenses. But in my own little bubble world of middle class mediocrity, part time employment has enabled me to have an active and engaged role in motherhood. Even though my youngest is three years old, I still feel like my kids need me to be around.
I had the privilege of growing up with a mum who worked school hours. Consequently I spent my afternoons lounging on the couch scoffing biscuits and regaling stories of the days adventures to my mother. My children are less fortunate. They shuffle between afternoon activities and after school care. Their school days are often 8-9hrs long.
So I have Thursdays off. On Thursdays I am a parent first. I do the school run and hang around for the chit chat. I take the toddler for sneaky milkshakes and donuts. In the afternoons, Abby and I snuggle for our naps together. I still get great joy from the way she refers to our naps as ‘mummy snuggles’. I do the school pick up and have a battle Royale with the car park crush. We eat afternoon tea all together in the backyard whilst I get bombarded with the days events. The big kids do their homework whilst I draw pictures for the baby.
On Thursdays I also look after me. I attend a weekly craft group whilst Abby goes to a community run playschool program. It’s only for 3 hours a week but it’s the only guaranteed time I truly get for me. These craft sessions have gained me more than just spotlight points. I have learned how to be patient cos impatience leads to unpicking. I’ve learned numeracy in trying to work out yardage and the stuffing it up by cutting fabric without checking. I’ve learned literacy skills by reading patterns and instructions. I’ve learned how to use various pieces of technology in my quest to make quilts. I’ve learned how to respect and interact with women of such varied backgrounds. I’ve learned how to problem solve, think critically about pattern matching, analyse my work and evaluate my process.
I love my Thursdays. It is because my Thursdays bring me such joy, it will also be there to reward me when this semester is over. Continue reading