Friday, February 29, 2008

Poem of the Week no. 5: Everything Changes

This week's poem is by Cicely Herbert, who is still alive (thus the poem is still within copyright). She's one of the originators of the Poems on the Underground program, and one of the POTU books is where I found it.

The line of laminated poems is growing along the wall, week by week. Poems coming out from inside the covers of books, and being around for students to read, think, ponder. It's one of those things you do in teaching, a stone tossed into a pond and you may never know where all the ripples travel, or who they touch. You need a certain optimism, to be a teacher, a willingness to work without some of the more direct rewards of commerce. You may never fully know what, or if, you have achieved, by programs such as this. If, however, the alternative is to not try at all, then that is sadder by far.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Happy Life of Teacher Librarians no 2

(I know, I haven't published no. 1 yet. I'm still deciding about nosemining as a topic).

The scene: lunchtime, a school library. Three or four junior boys bustling around the other kids in the library, seeming to be very busy at some task.

Miss, do you want to join our religion?
Um, thanks, but no. Does it have a name?
Yup. Jacksonism.
Ah. And that would be because...?
His name (points to one of his mates) is Jackson.
Jackson and the other boys are asking kids to sign a piece of paper. Getting converts seems to be remarkably easy - no curiosity about, say doctrine?!
Ah. Tell me about your religion.
Well, if you have 200 people you have an official religion and if you have an official religion you can have religious holidays and then you don't have to come to school.
He grins, and heads off in search of more converts.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Poem of the Week no. 4: What Am I, After All?

What Am I After All

What am I after all but a child, pleas`d with the sound of my own name? repeating it over and over;
I stand apart to hear - it never tires me.

To you your name also;
Did you think there was nothing but two or three
pronunciations in the sound of your name?

Walt Whitman

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Harmony Day 2008

Last year the school celebrated Harmony Day, and is planning to do so again in 2008.

Harmony Day is an Australian Government initiative: Harmony Day is celebrated on 21 March each year and is about bringing people together to celebrate Australia's community harmony, participation and cultural diversity.

While helping those planning for this year's event, I came across HopeRevo, and the idea from this site could be adapted for Harmony Day.

We also sell these badges as a fundraising initiative - making the badges here at school with a badgemaking machine. The colour of Harmony Day is orange, so we used orange scrapbooking papers (with lots of interesting designs and patterns) and some simple sayings, such as "You +Me=Us" in quirky fonts.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Teens and Social Media

In researching a staff presentation on internet use among young people, I came across the Pew Internet site. Lots of useful research reports. Here's one of their most recent ones:

Teens and Social Media: The use of social media gains a greater foothold in teen life as they embrace the conversational nature of interactive online media
12/19/2007 Report Amanda Lenhart Mary Madden Alexandra Rankin Macgill Aaron Smith

Content creation by teenagers continues to grow, with 64% of online teenagers ages 12 to 17 engaging in at least one type of content creation, up from 57% of online teens in 2004.

Girls continue to dominate most elements of content creation. Some 35% of all teen girls blog, compared with 20% of online boys, and 54% of wired girls post photos online compared with 40% of online boys. Boys, however, do dominate one area - posting of video content online. Online teen boys are nearly twice as likely as online girls (19% vs. 10%) to have posted a video online somewhere where someone else could see it.

The survey found that content creation is not just about sharing creative output; it is also about participating in conversations fueled by that content. Nearly half (47%) of online teens have posted photos where others can see them, and 89% of those teens who post photos say that people comment on the images at least "some of the time."

However, many teen content creators do not simply plaster their creative endeavors on the Web for anyone to view; many teens limit access to content that they share.

There is a subset of teens who are super-communicators -- teens who have a host of technology options for dealing with family and friends, including traditional landline phones, cell phones, texting, social network sites, instant messaging, and email. They represent about 28% of the entire teen population and they are more likely to be older girls.

Link to the full report: click here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The future of libraries

A TL email list alerted me to this recent article in the Herald-Sun (Melbourne).

Books go byte size in digital age by Janet Metlikovec. Herald Sun, 19 February 2008.


School Library Association of Victoria executive officer Mary Manning said while the concept of a school library had changed to embrace the digital age, teacher librarians were more important than ever.

"Teacher librarians are still showing students how to access the most appropriate information and use it effectively, even if they are doing it online," Ms Manning said.

"There are still the same issues about information literacy and it is even more important, as there is a lot of misinformation on the internet," she said.

Japanese link: Poupee Girl

I don't have enough Japanese* to be able to read this site, but the LOTE (Languages Other Than English) teachers were excited to know about it:

*apart from words used in English, such as sushi, I'm limited to konichiwa (?sp) and respectful bowing. I can, however, count to ten in Irish.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Engaging with literature: sharing Gatsby's dreams

Interesting article about The Great Gatsby, from the New York Times, about how students from varied backgrounds - to whom the 1920s world of Gatsby might appear to be long ago, far away and also obscure - engage with the book's ideas and characters and find it relevant/meaningful to them.

The article precis says: Urban students see glimmers of their own evolving identities and dreams in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel.

Books can connect in all sorts of ways: we are hardwired for stories. While this article focuses on a book taught as a classroom text, it also argues to me the case for the fiction section in the library being a cornucopia, offering choices and possibilities, because you cannot predict what will connect with this student, or that one. But you can offer them choice, not just supporting the classroom, but a wider choice than the time/space constraints of the class.

You may have to do a once-only register to see the NYT article - I've been registered for a while, and never had any problems with spam or anything else. And there's lots of good info there, together with excellent archives.

Apology: Impact

SUPPORT for the stolen generations apology has leapt since the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said sorry in Parliament last week...In total, 68 per cent voiced their approval, up sharply from the 55 per cent who backed the apology two weeks ago.

From a Sydney Morning Herald article by Mark Metherell dated 18 February 2008. Read it in full here.

Monday, February 18, 2008

How to help our young enjoy reading

An excellent article from Agnes Nieuwenhuizen which was in The Age in January this year.

She begins:

THERE is increasing evidence internationally that a high level of literacy is critical for young people and adults to have a productive personal and working life. It is also a key to finding our place in society, to using laptops effectively, to accessing and interpreting information, and to understanding and enjoying the riches to be found in the world of books and ideas.

Australia is sadly lagging in what is widely known internationally as reader development. Many countries have instituted national organisations to create and deliver innovative programs to foster reading and literacy. This goes well beyond teaching initial literacy and implies an active engagement in reading and reading-related activities from babyhood to old age. Our new government could be inspired and informed by some of these initiatives. If the Government takes a lead, creates an expectation of action and invests some real (not huge) funds, then business and philanthropic funds will follow.

She then gives some practical suggestions.

Worth reading by teacher librarians, teachers, principals, parents, the community and particularly, politicians.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Poem of the Week No. 3: The Thought-Fox

The Thought Fox, by Ted Hughes.

At the third week of this program, a poem about writing poetry seems like a good stimulus to discussion and reflection.

Alternatively, I picked this one because it's a favourite, and I hope it will find new friends among the kids.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Apology III: Hansard: full text of speeches

Hansard has the full text of today's speeches by:
  • Kevin Rudd (Prime Minister) - not only the apology, but the speech he gave to follow it
  • Brendan Nelson (Leader of the Opposition) - response

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

This week's Apology in Parliament

This week the Prime Minister will stand up in Parliament and say sorry to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were taken from their families as children.

A description from historian Inga Clendinnen:

“….with no legal process at all, in clear violation of the common-law rights of children and of parents … with no inquiry into their actual physical and emotional care, on the authority of a public servant's signature on a form, and with no appeal, children were grabbed, transported and set down again, sometimes with white foster families, more often in institutions, in conditions of acute loneliness and emotional and often physical deprivation, and immured for years until they were released to serve the white world as cheap labour.”

Some useful links:
Source: memo from the Director-General, NSW Department of Education and Training received in today's email.

Apology - posters

I put together three simple posters with Microsoft Publisher, a quote on each, a line border and a script font in a small box in the bottom right, with the word sorry... in it.

The three quotes represent three points of view.

The Inga Clendinnen quote, an historian's view:

“….with no legal process at all, in clear violation of the common-law rights of children and of parents … with no inquiry into their actual physical and emotional care, on the authority of a public servant's signature on a form, and with no appeal, children were grabbed, transported and set down again, sometimes with white foster families, more often in institutions, in conditions of acute loneliness and emotional and often physical deprivation, and immured for years until they were released to serve the white world as cheap labour.”
From an account
by historian Inga Clendinnen

This quote from Us Taken Away Kids, from Alec Kruger, who was taken:

"As a child I had no mother’s arms to hold me. No father to lead me into the world. Us taken- away kids only had each other. All of us damaged and too young to know what to do. We had strangers standing over us. Some were nice and did the best they could. But many were just cruel nasty types. We were flogged often. We learnt to shut up and keep our eyes to the ground, for fear of being singled out and punished. We lived in dread of being sent away again where we could be even worse off. Many of us grew up hard and tough. Others were explosive and angry. A lot grew up just struggling to cope at all. They found their peace in other institutions or alcohol. Most of us learnt how to occupy a small space and avoid anything that looked like trouble. We had few ideas about relationships. No one showed us how to be lovers or parents. How to feel safe loving someone when that risked them being taken away and leaving us alone again. Everyone and everything we loved was taken away from us kids."
- Alec Kruger *
‘Us taken-away kids’, quotation taken from
Alec Kruger and Gerard Waterford,
Alone on the soaks, IAD Press, 2007.

And this quote from Kevin Rudd, then Leader of the Opposition, now Prime Minister:

“...simply saying that you’re sorry is such a powerful symbol.

Powerful not because it represents some expiation of guilt.

Powerful not because it represents any form of legal requirement.

But powerful simply because it restores respect.”

Kevin Rudd,
during the 2007 election campaign

Each faculty got a set of three posters photocopied on A3 paper, they're going on the school day sheet and teachers have been invited to ask for a set for their classroom if they wish. There's a pile of information about: this is an attempt to put three simple, shorter pieces of text into the learning environment, to help students understand this historic event.

15 Feb: I emailed a .pdf of these posters to the NSWTL list, so if you're on it, you can retrieve them from the email or the archives.

Australian Women's Archives Project

To quote from the website:

Australian Women’s Archives Project

The National Foundation for Australian Women established the Australian Women’s Archives Project (AWAP) in 2000, to enhance public knowledge and appreciation of the contribution women and their organisations have made to Australia. To do this, the Project encourages Australian women and their organisations to preserve their records and to make them more accessible to academic, government and community-based researchers, to journalists, to school children as well as to the general enquirer.

AWAP is comprised of two elements:

an on-line Women’s Register, containing biographical data about Australian women and their organisations;
identification of suitable collections of records, and brokering of arrangements for the archiving of these records, in some cases contributing to the costs of indexing the records.
The searchable-on-line Register of the Archives Project is a valuable and growing source of biographical data about Australian women and their organisations, with hyper-links to the archival repositories where their records are held and to other sources of information. Women and women’s organisations are listed alphabetically. You’ll also be able to search by functional classification- P covers physicists, politicians, pharmacists, pacifists and many more.

There is a number of virtual exhibitions on-line (see the sidebar). These exhibitions recognise particular groups of women, such as those who were recipients of awards under the former Imperial Honours system. More virtual exhibitions are being developed.
The Register is a joint project of the National Foundation for Australian Women and the History Department of the University of Melbourne. The eScholarship Research Centre at the University provides technical assistance to the Project.

With the apology to the stolen generations scheduled for Federal Parliament this week, I was searching for information on Aboriginal poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal. Here's the AWAP page on her, to give you an idea of its comprehensive data.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Poem of the Week no. 2: Stop all the clocks

Stop all the clocks, by W.H. Auden.

Teachers would probably know it from Four Weddings and a Funeral - it's the poem spoken at the funeral.

It's Valentine's Day at the end of this week, and I wanted to choose a poem about love. Not necessarily a love poem - something by Donne was suggested, or Robbie Burns (My love is like a red red rose etc) but somehow I wasn't sure that they'd connect in the way I wanted with the kids, at least at this stage of the Poem of the Week program. Some senior students, perhaps, but not necessarily the junior students.

So what to choose? This one (sometimes called Song, sometimes Funeral Blues, sometimes just printed with its first line as its title) is undubitably about love, although the sadness of love lost.

It's a truism of teaching that what may be old or familiar to us may not at all be so for the students. I remember showing Gattaca to some senior students about ten years ago - I knew it well, but to them, too young to see it on first release, it was fresh and engaging and we had a terrific discussion about nature vs nurture. So while teachers may know or half-remember this poem, it's likely to come fairly fresh to the students.

A couple of the English teachers have given some feedback already, and it's encouraging to know that the first poem found a place in class discussion and engaged the students' interest. They - the kids - wanted to know if they could suggest poems (an avenue worth exploring), and reading it has become part of the class week. Another teacher (not an English teacher) just said she liked the poem, and had cut it out of the daysheet to put it on her wall. It's all good.

In the library, I took down an old and somewhat faded poster and have freed up a long narrow horizontal wall space on which I'll put each poem, week by week (laminated). The current week's poem is framed and visible on first entering the library (I'll just change over the poem in the frame each week).

I had one of the support staff ask me to define what a poem was - not because she didn't know so much as she was interested in my version.

I said, to me, a poem is a compressed use of language, the language having to work harder than is often the case in other prose. It carries meaning, or multiple meanings. It doesn't have to rhyme, nor does it need a galloping, obvious rhythm (although well-crafted poems can have such fine, elegant structures that you don't notice at first just how fine or elegant they are, or that they may well rhyme). They can be strong or difficult, wise or foolish or funny or penetrating, plead a cause or make a case or just show us other ways of seeing. Most of all, though, it is language well-crafted, working like a practised swimmer, to whom water is a medium rather than an obstacle, so their skill shows us what is possible.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

100 Word Stories

If your English teachers are looking for ideas to prompt/inspire student creative writing, the 100 Word Stories blog has a new inspiration/word/phrase every week day.

The challenge is to write a story in just 100 words, no more, no less (a form of writing which came out of the world of sci-fi fanfic, according to some accounts I've read). This is known as a Drabble.

Long enough to need thought, small enough to be not only workable, but less intimidating too. Definite potential for the classroom.

And maybe good ones to be 'published' in a book or intranet/online form too, for other students to read?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Photo inspiration: Omnia and Flickr

The student I wrote of yesterday had, among her inspirations, a photographer on Flickr who is one of the best I've ever seen. A lot of the photography kids now talk about 'omnia' and search out her photos. Whether it's nature or the world around, her lens is the most marvellous 'eye' to share through her images. Take a look here. She's an Australian, although travelling in Asia at present. Don't miss her images of plants and leaves, or the shells/beach/sand ones.

Flickr is an excellent image source option for students. The ability to search on groups (photos with a common theme) or tags (which the photographers have put on their photos themselves) means you can search on colour, or content, or so many other options.

You don't have to belong to see public images (which millions of them are).

Just remember to remind the students to acknowledge their sources. Every photo can be identified by an individual url.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Art in the Library

Part of making the library a welcoming place is to have plenty to entertain the eye. I'll take some photos of what we have over time, but for now, today's excellent news is that one of our students has agreed to sell me a copy of her Visual Arts major work. She completed high school (the HSC) last year, and this was a photography work - I was able to help her a bit with her research for it. And was blown away by the results. Unlike many major works, it's reproducible, and she's agreed to make one copy (involving several canvases) which will go on the library wall. It's colourful and inspiring and it's great to have such good quality student work to display long term.

It's worth taking time, if you can, to see your senior students' major works - maybe there will be something you could buy and display in your library. And it's wonderful encouragement to other students who follow them through the school.

We do have other temporary exhibitions of student work through the year, from a variety of faculties/subjects.

Poem of the Week: Sometimes

Inspired by the Poems on the Underground program (nearly a quarter of a century old, I don't take too long to get inspired, ahem) I've begun a Poem of the Week program at school. Copy of the poem in the library, copies to all the English teachers, to any other teachers who would like them and also on the daily bulletin one day during the week.

As with Poems on the Underground, it's about making poetry part of the landscape. In the library, when you get the kids in search of a poem, very often they don't know many poems, or modern poets, and so you show them anthologies and see them grasping at straws. Or else they claim that Tupac Shakur is a poet, and my English lit. self winces. And then you show them some specific poems that do catch their attention, and change their mind about what might be good.

So I don't know how exactly each teacher will use this, but it's worth trying; and as the poems build up week by week, papering classrooms and building up critical mass, some students will read them. Some won't. But it's like a lot of things in education, you try it to see how it goes and never truly know the impact of what you do. Did Mrs Bloor know that thirty years later I'd still remember studying Ted Hughes' The Thought Fox, and Romeo and Juliet in 3 unit English (advanced level English) and that they'd still be such strong parts of the furniture of my mind? Probably not. (Thank you).

I'm preparing each poem as a .pdf and providing each teacher with a copy on differently coloured paper and a different, not too fancy font for each poem, so they look like cousins rather than twins. In the fine print, the source/weblink if available. We'll see how it goes.

This week's poem is Sometimes, by Sheenagh Pugh. It's in the anthology, 100 Poems on the Underground, which is where I found it.

Poetry on the Underground links:

(I don't plan to reproduce copyright poems here unless it seems to be OK from what I've found online, eg. a poet gives permission. Sheenagh Pugh used to have this poem on her site on this page, but on checking today, it's gone).

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A silent play, with 450 characters and 27 actors

Amid the mind-boggling array of gadgets and gimmicks drawn to the internet world's attention on Book of Joe, an account of a play that may intrigue drama teachers - or at least prompt useful discussion about what is essential to a play, or drama, or stage performance.

The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other by Peter Handke (at London's National Theatre, February 2008).

A few days ago he also linked to an excellent interview with actor Daniel Day Lewis (related to the premiere of There Will Be Blood for which he has been nominated for Best Actor).

(While these are Usefuls, gee whiz I do chuckle at some of Joe's finds!)

Citation machine

I haven't played with this one yet, but if it does what it says, it's a promising tool, especially for senior students:

Son of Citation Machine.

(I note at the end of the page that it 'enjoyed' major revisions. Isn't it nice to know websites can enjoy things?)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Young Adult Fiction - 25 modern cliches?

Kristin the literary agent has a list of what keeps turning up in modern young adult fiction.

A countdown of 25 things that show up repeatedly in young adult fiction:
  • #25 – Vegetarian teens with unsympathetic meat-eating parents
  • #24 – Shy or withdrawn characters that take refuge in the school’s art room/ compassionate art teachers
  • #23 – A token black friend among a group of white friends - usually it’s a girl, and she’s always gorgeous
  • #22 – A tiny scar through the eyebrow, sometimes accompanied by an embarrassing story
  • # 21 – Using the word ‘rents for parents, but not using any other slang
  • # 20 – A beautiful best friend who gets all the guys but doesn’t want them
  • #19 – The wicked stepmother who turns out to be simply misunderstood and it’s all cleared up in the climax
  • #18 – Authors showing their age by naming characters names they grew up with (i.e. Debbie, Lisa, Kimberly, Alice, Linda, etc.)
  • #17 – Parents who are professional writers or book illustrators
  • #16 – Using coffee, cappuccino, and café latte to describe black people’s skin
  • #15 – Main characters named Hannah and making a note of it being a palindrome
  • #14 – Younger siblings who are geniuses, adored by everyone, and usually run away during the book’s climax, causing dramatic tension
  • #13 – The mean-spirited cheerleader (and her gang) as the story’s antagonist
  • # 12 – A dead mother
  • # 11 – Heroines who can’t carry a tune, even if it were in a bucket
  • # 10 – Guys with extraordinarily long eyelashes
  • # 9 – The popular boy dating the dorky heroine to make his former girlfriend jealous, and then breaking the heroine’s heart
  • # 8 – The diary, either as the entire format, or the occasional entry
  • # 7 – Fingernail biting
  • # 6 – Characters who chew on their lip or tongue in times of stress – usually until they taste blood
  • # 5 – Raising one eyebrow
  • # 4 – Main characters who want to be writers
  • # 3 – Calling parents by their first names
  • # 2 – Best friends with red hair*And the number one thing found in YA novels…
  • #1 – Lists
© Joëlle Anthony, 2007
Originally published in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Bulletin, July/Aug. 2007. Original can be found here.

Agree? Disagree? Can you add to this?

Friday, February 1, 2008


I keep tripping over useful stuff on the net that's worth a) having in one spot so *I* can find it again and b) having in one spot so others can find it if they wish to.

Being a teacher librarian is a great job. It's changed so much in twenty-coughcough years, but it's still a great job. Just not enough time to sit and drink Diet Coke and read the newspaper, like people seem to think you do, but hey, every job has its cliches.

(Dang, I'm working the bun and glasses thing today - only it's too hot to not have your hair out of the way, and the glasses are a genetic gift from Grandpa. Can't win 'em all...).

So welcome to my virtual office. Pull up a pew. Post a comment. Share useful things you've found that I can add here for other teacher librarians. But bring your own Diet Coke...! And if you were in my real office, you could dig into the jellybean jar. Jellybean diplomacy is damn fine stuff.