Sunday, March 29, 2009

Just avoiding working on my assignment by blogging for a while.

I'm still 500 words or so over the limit, which is a problem. If anything, I feel like I need to write more, not less. I'm starting to wonder if I've answered the question as fully as I should have, met all the marking criteria, demonstrated wide reading and use of professional tools. I have the feeling that I could just keep going and going with this assignment, and never feel really satisfied and "done".

Love this picture. I'm a big fan of beautiful scenes, nature pics and colour. Maybe some would say what I like is "cheesy" or even vomit-inducing, but I like them.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Don't drink and blog.

Had a lovely night at my sister's place. First, champagne. (Or I should say Australian sparkling wine.) Next, fondue. Yes, fondue!!! Me, my sis, my hubby and my brother-in-law, along with 5 children 10 and under, all sharing cheese fondue and chicken stock fondue. Quite an experience! We put 'Herbie Fully Loaded' on for the kids, and my sister and I went for a drive for some Shiraz (we felt like Shiraz). Then back again for dessert: chocolate fondue! Strawberries, banana, apple, marshmallows and pound cake dipped in melted dark chocolate and cream...yummmm!!!

Now I'm home and thinking a bit about my uni assignment. I must edit fiercely and cull 500-700 words from it before I can submit it. I also must tidy up the whole referencing thing...surely the bane of any uni student's life. I think, in terms of the spirit of the question, I have answered it admirably. In fact, I think any teacher would be thrilled to have me as the TL advising them on the resourcing of a unit of work. I have entered into it with enthusiasm and genuine interest, I have thought carefully about the actual school context and what is already in the library collection, and I a truly excited about the new resources I have found. I really hope I have written well enough and fulfilled the marking criteria to get a good mark for it.
In all honesty, I can look at it a couple of ways. I can just be happy to pass, tick that off and move on to the next thing. After all, I'm here to pass the course and get my qualification so I can work. Or I can look at it from the point of view of wanting to really excel and get the best possible marks I am capable of and really stand out in the crowd and possibly impress the lecturers so much that I go on to an academic career. Mad, isn't it! But somehow in the back of my mind it's a bit of a dream for me. We'll see...I guess I'm using this first assignment as a bit of a litmus test.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The demolition is continuing apace here at home. Tomorrow I'm actually going to take an hour or so off study to go to a kitchen showroom or two to pick out laminate for my benchtops and a finish for my cupboard doors. Yes sadly I have now reached the stage in life when a kitchen renovation is about the most exciting thing I've got going on!
Every time I read through the Assessment 1 forum on the CSU website I freak out a little more. I'm plodding away, but a lot of other people seem to be well ahead of me when it comes to the assignment. What I'm most worried about:
  • Referring to enough professional resources so that what I write has authority, rather than just being all out of my head.
  • Referencing in the correct APA style (time-consuming and tricky).
  • Adhering to the word count while still answering the questions.
  • Demonstrating critical analysis and other higher order thinking skills.

As the days slip by I realise the due date is getting closer and closer...I know I will submit it in time, there is no question of that. I just want to make sure that what I submit is work that I am proud of.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ok, so I've actually started writing my first assignment - hooray for me! My daughter competed in a ballet eisteddfod today and got third place for her classical solo - hooray for her! School fete was on today, managed to make an appearance during the lunch break of the eisteddfod. Will be back there (at the eisteddfod) tomorrow, then off to the doctor on Monday...things have not been conducive to study lately.
A lot of people seem to be asking a lot of very detailed questions about the assignment on the forum. It makes me feel like I'm not worrying about it enough. But I have to follow my own instincts and answer the questions in the way that I think is best. I can't be swayed by what other people are stressing about. I have a sneaking suspicion that no matter what, I'll have a mad rush at the end. There's nothing like a deadline!
Interestingly enough, while working through the assignment, which deals with the resourcing requirements of a unit of work, my mind is constantly turning to the teaching of the unit. I keep getting great ideas for activities and start feeling enthusiastic about it. But I'm not even a classroom teacher at the moment, and don't have any desire to be one! I guess I'm really putting the T into the TL. I hope that because my mind is firmly on the actual teaching and learning of the unit, I will be able to be very insightful about the resources that will and won't be suitable. Already I've found heaps of great books; more than I can include in my assignment. My biggest worry at the moment is all the books and other resources that I haven't looked at yet.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Up, up and away.

I'm starting to feel like I can do this. All the reading I'm doing, all the thinking, all the internet surfing etc is starting to crystallise in my mind. I do have great ideas for teaching and learning that use many different resources. I'm open to innovation and enthusiastic about collaboration. I like to learn and try new things and enjoy finding out about new ideas in the world of education. I actually buy into the hype about new ways of doing things!
Now maybe I'm a little too idealistic! But in the world of academia, a little idealism can take you a long way. I think I can get more excited about my essay writing than the average cynic.
I have been reading a bit about critical thinking and other higher order thinking skills, and, I've got to be honest, I think I'm pretty good at them! A lot of the processes come naturally to me; I don't even have to think about them. It's normal for me to take what I learn and make connections with other things I already know. I ask a lot of penetrating questions - I'm a great "devil's advocate". I'm good at organising information and restating it for others. I can cut through the bull and get to the essentials.
I just thought I was clever! Now I know I have good higher order thinking skills the question is: how did I learn them? how can I model them? and how can I teach them?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Having a very difficult week. One minute I'm up, the next I'm down.

When I've got a lot going on, I find it hard to focus on my uni work. I like to have everything else "sorted" so I can relax and pay close attention to what I'm reading and learning and what I think about all the issues.

It doesn't seem to be in my nature to have insights when I'm worried about medical test results, daughter's ballet eisteddfod and children's birthday parties. But this is life...messy and I just keep plodding away and expect that the insights will come when they're good and ready.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Yes, as you can see, my husband thinks that now is a great time to start demolishing the house!
OK, it's not that bad, I do get to pick out a new kitchen benchtop and new kitchen cupboard doors!
As for my course, I am just barely on top of things. Really I'd like to be way ahead! Maybe that is an unrealistic expectation. Maybe I should let go of that expectation before it really hurts me. When working as a librarian, and especially if I work as a teacher librarian, I'll have lots of times when my workload means I'll have to prioritise and not expect to do everything. I'll often have to be happy with what I can do, and not waste time worrying about what I can't do. It won't always be an option to be "ahead". I'd really better get used to it!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Position Vacant

Of course! I now realise that all I need is a personal assistant! Someone to take care of all the routine tasks like entering my references into my endnote library, reading my emails and informing me of anything important within them, and maybe a little light housework!

Any takers?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Role of the Teacher Librarian

Each time I read something new, I am having to re-evaluate my thinking on this topic. A while ago I blogged about seeing the TL as a superhero, with so many hats to wear. Now my thinking has headed in a different direction, seeing the TL in a role as a "teacher to the teachers". Making sure that the whole school has a clear vision of the goals of the library program, coming alongside the principal as an ally in regards to the school's mission, and providing training for teachers in regard to collaborative planning and information literacy are now on the agenda.
I'm sure that as time goes on, other aspects of this complex job will come to the fore. Over time I will be able to sort through all the different ways of looking at things and develop my own philosophy about the TL's role.
I'm a little worried that the demands of my course and the rest of my life might make it difficult to have enough time to really ponder these issues. I have an assignment due date which is acting as a deadline.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Rollercoaster

Feeling a bit down about how I'm progressing with my study today. I have a friend who is also studying (a different course) and she is way ahead and has almost finished 3 assignments! I am quickly falling behind on the weekly readings and have only just begun my first 2 assignments. I'm having one of those days when I wonder if I'm going to make it.

I feel a bit like I'm riding a minute up, the next down.

Today I feel pretty tired, which doesn't help. I guess this is enough fun and games, I'd better get back to my readings.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Real World...

Had an interesting weekend...While at a friends house, he commented on his daughter's maths homework. (I'm a maths teacher, people often tell me about their children's maths homework.) She had an assignment to complete which involved her researching a particular type of "special number". She had a list to choose from: Square numbers, Pascal's triangle, the Fibonacci sequence etc, and had to produce a poster with a definition, any special properties or applications of these numbers and any other interesting facts she could find out about them.
See what had fallen into my lap? A real world example of "inquiry based learning"! From chatting with her father, hearing about her approach to the task and seeing her finished product, I am able to make the following statements.
1. This task/topic was not at all motivating to this student. She had not engaged with it at all.
2. The expectations for the product of this task were not clear enough. (Her product would not pass at all under my reading of the task description. However, she and her parents seemed satisfied with the result.)
3. The methods and skills for completing this task were not explained, taught or modelled. After completing the task, the student knew nothing about the Palindromic Numbers she had chosen to study, and had no idea how she would go about finding more information if she wanted to. (She didn't.)
4. Parents are often ill-equipped to help students complete inquiry based tasks at home. These particular parents were happy to help but really didn't have the skills to do so. They also didn't have a clear understanding of the expectations of the task. (Did anyone?)
I can appreciate that this task was a well-meaning attempt by the teacher to depart from the "chalk and talk" and exercises from the text of a normal maths lesson. But I don't think the execution has been very successful.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

I'm having insights all over the place now!

Reading Kuhlthau et al's Guided Inquiry has really got me thinking. Firstly, I actually enjoy reading this stuff...I find educational theory interesting! I think this sets me apart from a lot of other students, who would rather focus on more practical and "realistic" stuff. I remember now...when I was doing my Dip Ed I felt the same way...that I'd happily stay at uni forever studying this stuff and never have to set foot in a school!

What does this say about me? What does it indicate for future career directions?

Secondly, it gives me insight into how I am approaching my own inquiries i.e. my assignments for uni. Am I simply fact-finding or looking for the right answer? Am I having difficulty finding a focus? Am I finding my own point of view, constructing my own understanding, and preparing to write something new?

Friday, March 6, 2009

I have had a chat to the Teacher Librarian at the local school and am starting to see the job from the inside, rather than the outside looking in. I have not spent enough time in the library to have a complete picture, but here are some of my initial impressions.
The school takes a very structured approach to the units of work that are taught. Every class in each year follows the same program of study, year in, year out. Younger siblings end up doing exactly the same projects that their older siblings did a year or two or three before! I imagine that means that teacher's planning of teaching/learning activities is reduced.
The school librarian has put together plastic tubs containing teacher resources for each topic on the program. Teachers simply grab the whole tub and take it to the classroom when they need it. These tubs do not contain any student resources eg: books from the student collection. The librarian refuses to send all the books to the classroom. She wants them to be on the shelf when students come into the library looking for them. But do they come...???
The school librarian does not engage in any collaborative teaching with classroom teachers. Her weekly library lessons are "Relief from Face-to-Face Teaching" time for the respective classroom teachers. She teaches a program of library and research skills. These are not tied to any of the curriculum areas being taught, but stand alone. She commented to me that the computer teacher does teach computer skills in the context of the curriculum. However, she did not feel that the methods employed taught digital information literacy (she didn't use this term) successfully because any websites used were handpicked by the computer teacher prior to the lesson.
I am still unclear as to whether when the librarian puts together the tubs of teacher resources, there is any communication with the classroom teachers. Does she just get told what the topic is and then choose whatever she likes, or is there some collaboration? I am also not clear of whether the computer teacher communicates with classroom teachers about what online resources and skills should be used when teaching particular topics.
It is clear to me that the teacher librarian takes her job in promoting information literacy among the students very seriously (again, she didn't use this term). But I'm not clear whether print media is seen to be her job, and digital media the computer teacher's job, or whether there is any crossover. And it seems to me that classroom teachers don't do much to promote information literacy (based on my experiences when my children bring home projects from school).
With each visit to the library and each communication with the librarian, I'm sure I will learn more.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I have had quite an insight today. I have been feeling a bit out of sorts - worried, anxious, depressed. Not good for me. I can recognise the signs...not wanting to do things that normally give me pleasure, being overly self-critical, feeling overwhelmed. I was starting to feel that "getting my uni work done" was taking over my life. I was starting to worry that I wasn't doing a good job as a wife and mother, and that I was neglecting important areas of my life. But how to get back the balance?

I decided to take control of my day today, and do some things that I know make me feel good. I went for a coffee at a local coffee shop, taking my uni readings to look over as I sipped my Vanilla Latte. Just a simple pleasure, but it really helped me.

Then I drove on to the local Japanese Gardens to sit and continue my readings. The beautiful weather and surroundings felt very healing to me.

But what was surprising was the insight I gained from what I was actually reading. As luck would have it, I was reading about "Personal Management" in an extract from Stephen Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He begins with the need to form one's own "personal mission statement" and the importance of knowing just what are your foundational principles.
He then goes on to explain that the best way to plan your diary is to:
1. List the different roles you will play during the week.
2. Set one or two goals for each role that are achievable this week.
3. Set aside time to do things that will contribute to reaching these goals.
It makes sense to me, and makes me realise a few things about myself:
1. I was doing the "urgent" rather than the "important".
2. I didn't have a big picture approach to what I was actually trying to achieve.
3. I hadn't thought through my goals with reference to my personal "mission".
4. That's why I was feeling unhappy, unfulfilled and unsettled.
So now I've got a place to start from in rethinking the way I plan and prioritise.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I'm feeling pretty good about my uni work this week. Three reasons...

1. I actually feel like I'm keeping up!

2. I have got in contact with the local school librarian. This will allow me regular access to a school library which will make my assignments much easier to complete.

3. I have learnt a little bit about selection tools, so now I'm not worrying so much about how on earth I'm going to find resources for my first assignment!

Overall, I think I may have been a bit overwhelmed at the beginning and had a bit of a negative view of things. I've decided to think positive now. That doesn't mean I'm not going to notice mistakes I make though!

I realise that I am prone to spending too much time on line reading through forum posts etc. I'm going to try to set aside special times for this and stick to them so I can get on with some reading and writing work too.

I'm really surprised at how much satisfaction I am getting from studying. A great surprise!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Confession Time

I have a confession to make...I don't think I want to become a teacher librarian. When I decided to do my MEd, it was with the intention of "keeping my options open". As I am already a qualified and experienced teacher, the MEd will qualify me to be a teacher librarian (work in a school library) or a regular librarian in a public, private or "special" library. After much thought and soul-searching, I believed that working in a library would be enjoyable for me. This course seemed the way to get the most "bang for my buck" so to speak.
I guess I imagined a library to be a nice calm, quiet environment to work in. I imagined it to be intellectually stimulating, and frankly, downright bliss to be surrounded by so many books! I love to read; fiction, but I also read quite a lot of non-fiction for recreational purposes. I just like to learn new things! I enjoy biographies, and lately I've been reading quite a lot in the psychology/mind-body-spirit/philosophy subject areas. I've been re-thinking some of my answers to the 'Who am I?' and 'Why am I here?' questions of life.
I also know enough about myself to realise that I'm a good organiser, and I don't at all mind routine "administrative" tasks. I believed that within a library was a wonderful place for me to make use of these skills.
I'm a great communicator, both verbally and with the written word. I believed that I would be a great asset in a library when it came to interacting with "clients", be they young mothers with children trying to get some "time out" at storytime in the children's library, or adult researchers needing help to access information.
In my course, the focus has been squarely put on the school context. There has been a huge emphasis on collaboration with teachers, planning of teaching and learning programs and lots of interaction with students. Now don't get me wrong, I love interacting with at a time! The reason why I am not currently working in a school as a teacher is because I don't like the classroom context. I don't like having to deal with behaviour, I don't like trying to teach 30 individuals all the same thing in a 40 minute period, and I don't like working alongside colleagues who have no interest in collaborating with or supporting each other. I have been in schools that have no written program! (They just follow the text book and try to get to the end of it by the end of the year!!!) I have been in schools where there is no support for new teachers or help for them to improve their classroom management skills.
I'm not a fan of the idea of jumping back into that world. However, I'll try to keep an open mind as I continue on with my course...