Friday, October 30, 2009

My Sister's Keeper by Jodie Picoult

I suppose that by now, everyone that wants to read this, or see the movie, has done so. But just in case you haven't...

Had been meaning to read this one for ages, even before I knew there was a movie being made. In fact, if a movie is made it's really neither here nor there for me. I have read Picoult before, and I wanted to do so again. Her novels are incredibly thought-provoking, dealing with complicated issues in non-linear ways.

What's this one about? Well, in case you've been living under a rock...

Anna was an IVF baby. The embryo that became her was selected specifically because she would be a perfect genetic match for her sister, Kate, suffering from APL, a type of leukemia with a low survival rate. The idea was that Anna's umbilical cord blood would provide stem cells to potentially cure Kate. However, it didn't work out that way, and over the years Anna has donated blood and bone marrow to Kate, who's health has continued to deteriorate. Now Kate's kidneys have stopped working, and a kidney transplant from Anna is her only chance, if she's strong enough to survive the surgery. It all comes to a head when Anna retains legal counsel to sue her parents for medical emancipation so that she can make her own decisions about being a donor for her sister.

I think Picoult relishes writing about difficult subject matter. She avoids giving clear-cut answers, and reveals more and more about her characters, little by little. I think she purposely keeps you guessing so that you keep thinking. She's also the master of the tear-jerker. Enough said.

So if you haven't yet read My Sister's Keeper, I recommend that you do. And I've heard that they've changed the ending for the movie, so I don't think I'd bother with that. (The ending is a very big part of the story - I can't believe they would change it!)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Mum has a ride in an Ambulance

The call came while I was at gymnastics watching Alana. It was my sister. "Mum's had a bit of a fall here."

It took a while for it to sink in. Mum? She's still young, and full of energy, and very steady on her feet. Sometimes I find it hard to keep up with her!

"She's in a lot of pain. We called an ambulance to take her to the hospital. They think she might have broken her shoulder."

It turns out that her shoulder wasn't broken, just dislocated with a bit of bone chipped off. (Yeah, I know, still horrible.) Once she was at the hospital, and they had x-rayed her shoulder, and got a doctor to look at her, they were able to put in back in place. But boy, is my mum a character!

Apparently she was instructing everyone, including the ambulance officers, not to fuss over her, and not to let my sister come in the ambulance with her "because she needs to stay and look after her kids". I spoke to her this morning, and she raved over the psychodelic drugs that they gave her for while they were putting her shoulder back into place! "Ooooh, I could see all colours! And they said I might have some pretty vivid dreams last night - and I did!" And God love her, she was sounding pretty chipper, and reminded her how lucky she was that it was only dislocated and not broken.

What a trooper! Love you mum, and hope that your shoulder is back to its best in no time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Weighing the Soul by Len Fisher

This book is for adults who still ask "why?", and "how does it work?", and like to learn a little something every now and then.

From the cover notes:
"In this witty, insightful and engaging book, scientist and broadcaster Len Fisher reveals why common sense can be the biggest enemy of good science as he takes us on a tour from one American doctor's attempts to weigh the departing human soul, via alchemy, frogs' legs, lightning rods, polaroid sunglasses, the structure of DNA, Frankenstein's monster and the dimensions of Hell, to the necessary, but common sense-defying, mysteries of modern science."

And from the author's introduction:
"This book tells the stories of scientist whose ideas appeared bizarre, peculiar or downright daft to their and common sense often don't mix...Those who proposed bizarre-sounding ideas were often forced to do so after recognising that the accepted wisdom, or 'common sense', of their era was simply insufficient to understand what was going on...This book traces the route of the procession trought the stories of those who forced the changes, and shows how many of their ideas, which seemed to be so at odds with the common sense of the times, are now used by scientists to understand and tackle everyday problems."

The cover notes were enough for me to rescue this book from the 'bargain bin' and take it home. I, quite simply, love to learn, and thought that the subject matter sounded fascinating.

You don't need to know a lot about science to enjoy this book, but you should be interested in the subject matter. Recommended also for history buffs; Fisher has researched thoroughly to ensure that his stories of scientists past are grounded in reliable documents such as original diaries, papers and notes.

A very interesting read that you can pick up, and put down, as the mood strikes.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Most Embarrassing Mum Ever

Here is a scanned photo of my beautiful daughter doing her "modern expressive" solo at a recent eisteddfod. She dances to Show me Heaven by Maria McKee.

Anyway, I think I may be a contender for the Most Embarrassing Mum ever. I always suspected that I would excel in this area, after all, my own mother was very embarrassing when I was a teenager!

At the eisteddfod, we were sitting quite close to the adjudicator. When it came time for the competitors in the classical ballet improvisation to listen to the music that they would have to dance to, I did a little classical-ballet-in-my-seat in time to the music. Just having fun! The adjudicator turned to me and said, "You've got the right idea! I hope some of the competitors dance like that!" It sounds all very tongue-in-cheek, but actually I'm sure that she was complimenting me on my excellent interpretive skills! I came back with, "Yes, next year I'm going to enter." To which she replied, "I'll lend you a tutu!" A lovely little exchange.

So, after the classical ballet improvisation competition was finished, it was time for the adjudicator to announce the winner. Before that though, she recounted the tale of how a mother that was sitting right near her had the right idea, and that this mother might even enter next year wearing a borrowed tutu!

My daughter turned to her father, and, with a roll of her eyes said very dryly, "That was Mum."

"I thought so." he replied.

So, are any of you guys contenders too?

Dear Fatty by Dawn French

Dear Fatty is a memoir written as a series of letters Dawn's nearest and dearest. Touchingly, many are written to her father, who died when she was only 19, to update him on what has been going on in her life since then. Dawn is known as a comic actress, and is one half of the comedy duo French and Saunders. Her reminiscences are so honest, and real, that they had me both laughing and crying.
Dawn's warmth, and immense love for her family and friends, comes through every page. Every embarrassing story is told with joy, and noone is spared her brutal honesty in the telling!
One of my favourite stories is the tale of the day that the Queen Mother visited the air force base that her family were living on, and her family had been chosen to receive her in their house. Dawn describes the flurry of dusting, mopping, new haircuts and new outfits; not to mention the curtsy practising. She describes her extreme disappointment that the Queen Mother's head was adorned with a hat, and not a crown. And, horror of horrors, the Queen Mother had black teeth! She was clearly a witch!
A very enjoyable read.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Nearly, nearly, nearly finished.

Here are the roses that my hubby bought me "just because". Isn't he a sweetheart? They are in a blue vase which you can't really see because I took the photo from above (standing on a chair). The background is the checkered tablecloth on my dining room table.

My final assignment for the semester is very close to finished. It is so very tempting to just submit it now so I don't have to look at it anymore. That's why I'm taking a little break; so I can resist the temptation and take a little more time to read over it and make sure that I'm super happy with what I've written.

Think I will make myself a cuppa and visit some blogs for a while...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Taking a little break from work.

Here is my beautiful daughter performing her classical ballet solo at a recent eisteddfod. My apologies about the scanned image, but I had to buy copies of the photos taken by the official eisteddfod photographer. They arrived in the mail yesterday.

Doesn't she look gorgeous!

At present she is watching the latest New Moon updates on YouTube. Of course, she should be doing her science project, or practising the piano...Much like I should be working on my uni assignment!

Only a few days to go, and all my assessment tasks for this semester will be finished!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What have I learned???

I'm struggling a bit with the second part of my ETL504 assignment, the bit where I need to discuss how my learning in a particular area has developed. I do get to choose which area I talk about, (from a list including 'quality management', 'innovation and change', 'conflict resolution'...) but I'm not sure that I have enough to say about any one of the choices! This is the part when I stop and think - so, what exactly did I learn? And it's all a bit of a blur...

I'm supposed to use my learning journal (this blog) to guide my discussion. I've been reading through my posts labelled ETL504, and I do say a lot! But can I demonstrate any real development of thought on any one topic? I feel that we have had so much to cover that it's been a bit like one of those tours where they say, "If it's Monday, then this must be Paris!". Except I'm saying, "If it's week 5 this must be 'negotiation'!".

I hope that you see my point. I'm saying that we have moved so quickly through so many different topics, that I'm finding it hard to chart my development on any particular topic.

I'm sure that I must have learned something! I just have to capture that learning and get it down onto paper.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Complexity and the Change Process

Fullan, M. (1999). Complexity and the change process. In Change Forces: The sequel (pp. 13-30). London: Falmer Press.

An organisation can be thought of as a living system. It changes and grows over time, and cannot be assembled in one single act of creation or change. It is one thing to see an innovation up and running, but quite another to get there in your own organisation.
One of the most important aspects of change and innovation is knowledge creation. An organisation creates knowledge by finding the sources of knowledge and disseminating it throughout the organisation.
We should be inspired by the mandates and vision that comes from above. Top-down mandates and bottom-up energies need each other. Success comes when initiatives combine accountability (from above) with the development of individual capacity (at the bottom).
We should make sure that any initiatives combine sound pedagogical theory with explicit strategies for change. The local context is a crucial variable.
Differences and conflict, if respected, help us learn more and have creative breakthroughs. Sharing of tacit (hidden) knowledge among individuals with different backgrounds, ideas, values, and perceptions is a vital first step.
"Small groups of self-selected reformers apparently seldom influence their peers." (Elmore, 1995, p. 20)
Organisations going through change are complex almost to the point of chaos. Allow for flexibility within a structure of priorities, targets, deadlines and responsibilities. Create opportunities and processes for communication within the organisation.
High quality interconnectedness and emotional support allows collaborative cultures to keep tackling hard problems.
In education, there are so many new policies, innovations and competing pressures, that unconnectedness becomes a problem. Principals are essential as integrators and synthesisers. What is important is to create procedures for making meaning from tacit knowledge to bring it into the open to be shared. Also important is to create ways to integrate or connect each now opportunity with the organisations central focus.

Doing the Happy Dance!

Hooray! I have submitted my ETL501 pathfinder-and-critical-analysis assignment.
Now I have to get my head back into ETL504 to finish off my Portfolio (sounds fancy, but it's really just a multi-part assignment).
While flicking through yesterday's (Sunday) paper over lunch, I was reading my favourite column, Sarah Wilson's This Week I... in which she describes her ongoing experimental journey, trying anything and everything to make life more meaningful, happier, sweeter. I really enjoy her column, because I too want to make my life more meaningful, happier and sweeter. And a lot of the things that she tries are things that I might like to try too.
Anyway, for a while now I've been wishing that she blogged, because I think her blog would be one I'd like to read, and voila! Follow this link to check it out.
It's nice when something that you wish for happens!
As for ETL504, I'm getting my head around development in leadership theory, and how they might relate to the role of the teacher librarian. There's plenty to get my teeth stuck into!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Super Duper News and Super Sucky News

My son got 3rd place (bronze medal) in Level 2 Mens Short Track Tumbling at the NSW Gymnastics Country Championships!
That's him with his team-mates and a cheeky smile :)
In less super and more sucky news, I have been in touch with my lecturer and need to do some serious revision to my pathfinder for ETL501.
Enough said. I'm celebrating the wonder that is a 9-year-old boy cartwheeling his way along the tumbling track and loving it!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Good news, bad news

The good news is I am still here!

The bad news is I have no time for clever, witty blog posts.

The good news is my pathfinder is finished!

The bad news is I am over my word limit.

The good news is I have a wedding to go to tomorrow and then Josh's gymnastics comp on Saturday!
The bad news is I only have until Monday to complete my pathfinder and accompanying critical analysis.
Take care everyone :)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

This one's for you, Alana.

With many thanks to Diane at the Book Resort!

I had a lovely break from the angst of uni assignments today. I had a lunch date with some girls that I went to high school with (we finished 20 years ago!), their husbands, and children. We had lunch in a nice, upmarket hotel not far from where we grew up. It has been updated quite a bit since our high school days of underage drinking! Now it has a lovely family-friendly bistro with an indoor play area for kids.

It's always great to catch up with the girls, we make sure that we "do lunch" about four times a year. But it had been ages since we'd caught up with all the kids. Of course everyone sees their own kids every day, and doesn't always realise just how much they've grown since the others saw them last. But with cries of "look how big they are!", we all admired each other's children!

Josh was thrilled not to be overrun with girls for once (he has lots of girl cousins!), at five boys to three girls the boys were in the majority. We hardly saw him all afternoon - the play area and the other boys kept him occupied. It was a little bit harder for Alana, at eleven she was the oldest child, and officially too old for the play area (designated for children up to 10). She did go in a few times with the younger girls, but couldn't quite stand up inside it and had to stoop a little! Poor thing!

Now I'm back home and back to work. I feel like the last couple of readings that I'm plowing through are finally getting to the heart of the matter. ETL504 is called "Teacher Librarian as Leader", and I finally feel like I'm understanding what this subject is getting at. Better late than never. I just hope that I can translate what I'm learning into assignment gold!

Lambert, L. (1998). What is Leadership Capacity? In Building Leadership Capacity in Schools (pp. 1-9). Alexandra: ASCD.

This article adds to the ideas explored in the last one by Hargreaves & Fink. It too, is concerned with how to maintain the momentum of change and improvement in schools beyond the tenure of any particular leader. It too explores the idea of leadership being shared among the school community rather than residing in one person.

Lambert explores the idea that a school must create its own internal responsibility for direction in order to maintain momentum and stay afloat. A significant number of teachers (presumably ideally all of them) should understand and be committed to the shared vision and central work of the school. This understanding will involve more than just knowledge about the innovation or program, but also leadership skills including the ability to capture the imagination of colleagues, negotiate changes and tackle conflicts.

This broadens the traditional concept of leadership into a shared endeavour of a community as they work towards a shared purpose. It is about learning together and creating shared meaning, generating ideas together, reflecting and having conversations. These conversations will lead to plans, strategies, responsibilities and continuous feedback and improvement.

Lambert suggests that it is important to use action research to generate information about how well students are learning. Then it is important to compare beliefs and expectations with the results of the research. This comparison is where a dialogue begins to work out strategies for the implementation of innovations. And once implementation is underway, the talking shouldn't stop. Teachers should continually tie what they are doing in the classroom to the shared purpose of the school.

These conversations can only take place in an environment of trusting relationships.

Now what, you may ask, does the picture at the top of this post have to do with the content?

Hargreaves, A. & Fink, D. (2003). Sustaining Leadership. Phi Delta Kappan, 84(9), 693-700.

"the vast majority of educational change that deepens learning and allows everyone to benefit from it neither spreads nor lasts." (Hargreaves & Fink, 2003, p. 694)

Sad, but true.

What makes educational improvement sustainable?

Sustainable improvement demands committed relationships. It contributes to the growth and the good of everyone. It requires investment in building long-term capacity for improvement, and creates an environment that stimulates ongoing improvement. To make changes that last, improvement must truly foster learning, not merely change schooling. It must be supported by available resources. And it must not negatively affect others.
The question is: How can leaders ensure that changes in their schools are sustainable improvements?
School leaders must make sure that their central focus is on learning. They must maintain this central focus even in the face of competing pressures that pull their attention away from it. Long-term improvement matters more than short-term results, and true learning will be reflected in higher test scores and the like in the future.
The overwhelming demands of leadership can only be met by using everyone's intelligence and skills. Distributed leadership is more than mere delegation. It means creating a culture of initiative where all teachers are encouraged to propose new directions and innovations. Leadership can not rest on the shoulders of the heroic few.
Leaders must make plans to ensure that their improvements do not disappear when they leave. They must put processes and structures in place to ensure some continuity beyond the scope of their own leadership.
I think one of the most important points that this article makes is about the relationship of resources with the sustainability of change. There is no point making grand plans for change if you don't have the available resources for it. There is no point spending all your money on initiating change, if you don't have any money left for ongoing maintainence of it. Any plans for school improvements should be made with the available resources (time, money, staff etc) firmly in the picture.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris

I am a very bad person. I am struggling to complete two uni assignments, offloading my children to my parents to be entertained for the holidays, not doing any housework...but still I manage to read Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris.

Book 6 in the Southern Vampires or Sookie Stackhouse series, and still loving it. From the inside cover notes:

"...Sookie Stackhouse...her cousin Hadley - a consort of the vampire queen of New unexpected heir to Hadley's estate, Sookie discovers the inheritance definitely comes with a risk. Someone doesn't want Sooke looking too deeply into Hadley's past..."

In this instalment, Sookie heads to New Orleans to settle her cousin's estate and meet with the vampire queen to hammer out the details of her attendance at the upcoming vampire summit. What seems like a relatively simple assignment quickly becomes more complicated. Sookie and her date (you'll have to read it to find out who!) are attacked by newly bitten weres after a pleasant night at the theatre. A half demon is killed in Sookie's yard while attempting to deliver a message from the queen's legal representative. And the dead body in Hadley's apartment closet turns out to be not so dead, when he rises for the first time as a newborn vampire as night falls.

I thoroughly enjoyed this episode in the Sookie Stackhouse series. The love interest (read it to find out who!) was satisfying! And I'm loving Amelia, a young witch who becomes friends with Sookie and helps her solve the mystery of the newborn vampire.

I also liked the way Harris wrapped up some loose ends that had been dangling for the last couple of books, like "What brought Bill to Bon Temps?" and "Will the Pelts ever give up looking for Debbie?".

I'm definitely looking forward to the next book All Together Dead. I'll try to wait until my assignments are submitted...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Henri, J. (1994). Thinking leadership: What place vision? School Libraries in Canada, 14, 12-14.

"Vision becomes the life blood of leadership when it is shared." (Henri, 1994, p.12)

"The art of leadership can be seen as the ability to influence people to strive willingly for the attainment of group goals." (Henri, 1994, p.12) Or, to strive willingly to attain the vision.
Thus leadership, in the exercising of influence, involves the use of power.
Henri considers four types of power. Types one (the authority of position) and two (factional self interest) are often preferred because they are uncomplicated and effective in the short term. But it is types three (technical expertise or knowledge) and four (the ability to empower others) which Henri says have long term benefits.
Leaders who are able to identify obstacles to the attainment of the vision, and are able to harness technical expertise to overcome these obstacles, are demonstrating type three power.
Leaders wo are able to shape and focus the motives and goals of group members, and contribute to their personal growth, are demonstrating type four power.
Leaders who employ type three and four power then work through the following steps:
1. Work with the group to develop the vision.
2. Work with the group to overcome short term barriers to the vision.
3. Provides the resources and strategies to enable the group to overcome persisting barriers.
Within schools, the environment is characterised by multiple problems, constant change and often contradictory pressures. In this environment, leaders must work to encourage flexibility so that group members can employ alternative strategies . Leaders should also harness the power of collaborative problem solving.
This last sentence is, I think, an important point. Why have each member of staff work independently, with varying degrees of success, to overcome similar problems. Why not combine energy to work together to solve these problems. Teachers shouldn't be isolated in their classroom trying to work towards a vision that they have little connection with. Instead, teachers should work together to not only define and refine the vision, but work on strategies to work towards it.

Leadership and Strategy

Cheng, Y.C. (2002). Leadership and Strategy. In T. Bush & L. Bell (Eds.) The Principles and Practice of Educational Management (pp.51-69). London: Paul Chapman Publishing.

Today I am working on my ETL504 assignment. I have decided to alternate on the two assignments from day to day. A bit schizophrenic? Maybe so, but it's working for me so far. I don't allow myself to get too bogged down on one or the other, and I avoid having one that is excellent while the other not even started.
The rationale of the 504 assignment is to provide me with an opportunity to document my progress towards the learning objectives of the course, which are primarily concerned with organisational and leadership theory, strategic planning, and communication, collaboration and teamwork.
I have discovered a couple of readings that I have somehow missed along the way, so I'm making sure that I get totally up to date.
Reading 7, Leadership and Strategy, is an overview of leadership theory in the context of educational organisations. Cheng contrasts traditional leadership theories with transformational leadership, strategic leadership, and organisational learning.
Traditional leadership theories focus on management techniques and interpersonal skills. They assume that the goals of an organisation are a given, and encourage leaders to adapt their behaviour to circumstances to work towards these goals.
A transformational perspective sees the leader as not only adapting to circumstances, but transforming them, working to shape organisation members' beliefs, values and attitudes. Organisational goals, rather than being fixed, are seen as ambiguous in a changing environment. The leader is not only focused on goal achievement, but also on goal development and organisational culture building.
See p. 58 for a table that outlines the different domains and dimensions of this kind of leadership, covering everything from "Motivate members to love students and education and have a strong passion to pursue excellence in teaching and learning" to "Interpret the conflicts in a constructive way and value the importance of win-win solution".
Cheng then goes on to discuss the challenges for leaders in a climate of debate over educational quality and reform of educational practice. See p. 61 for a table that summarises different strategies for achieving education quality, including "Encourage participation and promote social interactions and positive classroom and institutional climate" and "Establish a strategic plan for institutional development".
Strategic management in educational organisations is becoming a necessity in a rapidly changing environment. Strategic leadership can be seen as leadership that allows the strategic management process, which keeps the organisation continually improving and developing, to work efficiently.
The changing educational environment is also leading to an emphasis on organisational learning. The essential question is how can leadership facilitate teachers' continuous reflection on actions and learing to improve their teaching and daily practice?
So what have I learned from this reading. It is a very hard task to do leadership well. Like many things, to do just a so-so job is not too hard, but to do it right takes commitment. I wonder how many of these leadership domains and dimensions are intuitive for experienced leaders? They may not be able to articulate exactly what they're doing and why, but I think a lot of Principals are aware of the pressures on schools and teachers, and instinctively know that they have to do more than just say "mush! mush!" and keep everyone's nose to the grindstone. They have to make what happens within schools a meaningful experience for both staff and students.
Stay tuned for more exciting instalments in "the wonderful world of ETL504".

Today I am using this picture of a comet in a desperate attempt to lift my spirits. I'm trying hard to think of all the beauty and wonder in the world.

As you can tell, the resentment of my uni assignments has degenerated further into a blue funk.

So, time to turn it around and practice gratitude and positivity.

1. My wonderful, generous parents are taking my kids to see Up! at the movies today. My parents are always available to my siblings and I, whenever we need them. In fact, they make themselves available even if they're really not. So far this is the third day in a row that they're entertaining my kids for me so that I can work.

2. I have everything I need. This is not just a positive statement of fact, but kind of like a mantra. The more I say it, and remember it, the more it is true for me. I have enough. There is no need for me to grasp or desperately want. I am complete and whole.

3. I will do my best with my uni assignments, and guess what? My best is enough.

Ok, so you've been privvy to the inner workings of my mind for a few minutes. Now I'm ready to get on with my day. What wonderful things will I achieve? What marvellous progress will I make with my assignments?

Hope you enjoy your day.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I'm feeling a bit grumpy today, so have decided to try to cheer myself up with a cute puppy picture! Aaaaawww! Why am I feeling grumpy? I'm starting to resent my uni assignments.

The sun is shining today, and I'm shipping off my children to the caravan park to be entertained by my parents, so I can get on with work. So I'm feeling a little bit resentful of my assignments, which are not cooperating. They are complex, difficult, multi-part affairs, which are difficult to define and even more difficult to complete. Trying to squash all my thoughts, and everything that I'm learning, into the required form is doing my head in.

The assignment forums have been running hot with questions from students and responses from both other students that are trying to be helpful, and the lecturers who sometimes seem just a little bit frustrated by our ignorance! Don't get me wrong, they answer our questions with great patience, I just detect on occasion an undertone of exasperation! We ask all sorts of things, from the the mundane but necessary such as referencing, to the more existential. "What is the purpose of this part of the assignment? You seem to be asking such and such, but I think I'd rather talk about thus and so, which I think better meets the purpose." You guessed it, I am guilty of a few of those more curly questions. But you know what? I actually trying to learn something here, not just pass assignments. (Though I would really, really like to pass as well!)

Anyway, back to work for me. First I will swing by the forum to see if I have any answers yet...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In Praise of the Crockpot

The crockpot, that staple of the 70's kitchen to rival the Margaret Fulton cookbook, is having a major resurgence all over Australia, and especially in my kitchen!
My mother passed on her original 70's model to me a couple of years ago, after my husband mentioned how handy he thought it would be for me to have one! Just imagine, he said helpfully, how wonderful it will be to chop up some vegies, brown some meat, and throw it all in the crockpot early in the morning. Then, he continued, you can get on with your day, and there will be a beautiful meal cooked and ready at dinner time!
I was sceptical at first. Were these helpful comments of my husband's somehow a commentary on my usual habit of throwing together a quick dinner at the end of the day? (Or even not cooking anything, but instead leaving it to him to cook when he got home from work? What sort of terrible wife was I anyway?)
The economic crisis, and a series of Masterchef later, Australia is now in the grip of a "nesting" frenzy, and every supermarket is full of recipe base sachets that are designed for slow cookers. Plus, I have discovered that my crockpot has two settings (low and high), and if I don't get everything in the pot early, it doesn't matter! (I just can't get my head around dinner until at least lunchtime.) On the high setting, my crockpot delivers a lovely tender casserole in only 4 hours. I can do my chopping and browning while watching The View (which shows at 1pm at my place).
As you can tell, I'm a convert! And yesterday, getting home from the second day of the ballet eisteddfod at 7pm, there was nothing like being greeted by the wonderful smell of dinner (sausage hot pot) all ready to serve onto the plates. Yum!
Alana danced beautifully at the eisteddfod. I have ordered some extremely expensive photos (of course cameras and videos are banned inside the auditorium), and will scan them to post here when I get them. She competed in four different solo sections; classical ballet, demi-character, modern/lyrical and contemporary. I know it all sounds like so much mumbo-jumbo to the uninitiated, so I'll do a quick explanation. For classical, think tutus. For demi-character, you dress as a character and your dance tells a story. Modern/lyrical is expressive and emotional, while contemporary is more of a free-for-all and very "So You Think You Can Dance".
I'm now going to get my head back into uni assignment mode. The kids are playing their DS's happily, and I promised them a milkshake when I head up to my local for my caffeine fix.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Zen and the Art of Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

I seem to find myself in one of those mad months when everything is happening at once. My mind is whirling with all the "things to do". I have to stop and force myself to just do one thing at a time.
Today I have been doing the final preparation for Alana's ballet eisteddfod. This has involved doing things that I have absolutely no natural talent for, but I just have to do them because I'm her Mum, and who else is going to them?
  1. Glue individual lash extensions to Alana's eyelashes. Yes, you read that right! Eleven year old girls who compete in ballet eisteddfods do so in full makeup, including false eyelashes.
  2. Sew ribbons on Alana's ballet shoes - with dental floss! Apparently, the wax on the floss makes it easier when sewing, as the floss glides easily through the ballet slipper. Then, when you're done, the warmth of the foot inside the shoe warms and softens the wax so that the ribbons stay sewn on tight. What will they think of next!
  3. Spray paint Alana's ballet shoes to bring back that "brand new pink".

Please don't let me get started on the costumes, hair-do's, music CD's etc that I will be wrangling tomorrow and Monday. I might accidently start to whinge!

Yesterday was the last day of school for the term, I now have the kids at home with me for the next two weeks. Along with Alana's eisteddfod, Josh has a gymnastics competition, Chris and I are attending a nephew's wedding, and we're getting together with some friends that I went to school with and their families for a BBQ. My parents are having a week at a caravan park with a fantastic swimming pool not far from here (great for the kids!), what a pity the forecast is for rain all week! Josh already has one sleepover organised, I have to make time to get together with a friend of mine who I haven't seen for weeks, and I promised Alana that I'd take her and some friends shopping.

And did I mention that I have two more uni assignments due within the next three weeks!!!

One day at a time. One step at a time. One foot in front of the other.

Attitude of gratitude.

Accentuate the positive.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Collaborative Role of the Teacher Librarian in the Provision of Information Services

Whew! What a mouthful. Topic 7 of ETL501 concerns the importance of aligning information services to information needs, using collaboration with teachers to accurately identify these needs. We are focusing mainly on the provision by teacher librarians of mediated and annotated information resources in print and electronic form to teachers and students. Now that schools have websites and intranets, and often school libraries have their own websites, or at least a page or two on the school website and/or intranet, teacher librarians have the perfect platform on which to present information resources.
This can be achieved in a few different ways.
  1. Lists of resources/Dewey numbers can be provided for particular topics.
  2. Online reference sources (databases, encyclopaedies, dictionaries...) can be gathered on one page for easy access.
  3. Lists of links to web sites can be provided for particular topics.
  4. Pathfinders can be written for topics, combining lists of print resources with links to online reference sources and web sites.
  5. Webquests can be written for topics, which take the student on an interactive adventure in which a particular task (the quest) is undertaken.

For the purposes of this subject, we are concentrating on Pathfinders, and have to write one for a topic of our choice as our next assignment.

There are plenty of example pathfinders and webquests (which contain a similar combination of resources) already on the net, as well as websites designed to provide teachers and students with lists of resources by topic. Why re-invent the wheel, when you can get great ideas and links from others? It's just a matter of finding them...I'm now a fairly experienced internet searcher; I know to try different search (or meta-search) engines, use Boolean logic, quotation marks and the like! So I'm finding that I can lose hours and hours hopping from site to site checking out possible resources for my pathfinder. There's so much out there, and you can only really evaluate any resource's usefulness by looking at it. As well as electronic resources, I must include print ones too. I have been trawling through library catalogues and bookstore websites, but often the sort abstract or review provided is just not enough to help me to decide whether or not to list the resource. So I've also been visiting libraries and bookstores in person. Very time-consuming.

A little voice inside me is wondering whether I'm supposed to be so thorough? Is everyone taking pains to make sure that the books and websites that they list are helpful and relevant? At first glance the obvious answer is YES, but I'm not so sure...let me explain...

Topic I have chosen is from the Stage 4 (Years 7 & 8) Science Syllabus, and concerns the water cycle etc. Now I am not a science teacher. We can expect that not a lot of teacher librarians are science teachers. But in completing this assignment, I am educating myself on the water cycle enough that I can make an educated assessment of the value of resources. I need to know what must be covered in order to know whether or not the resource covers it. Now is everyone going to such pains? (Or have they chosen topics that they already know like the back of their hands? Or are they just assuming that their general knowledge is enough?)

I think that this issue raises a very important point about the necessity for collaboration between teachers and teacher librarians. Unless they work together, the results will not be satisfactory. Heaven help the teacher librarian that is creating a pathfinder for Stage 6 (Years 11 & 12) physics students on wave mechanics! They will certainly not have enough time in their day to educate themselves to the point where they can adequately select resources. The teacher's input will be vital.

The problem for me, in terms of this assignment, is that I don't have a science teacher to collaborate with! I think this highlights a bigger problem - that I'm trying to learn how to be a teacher librarian without being in a school (or a library). Challenging! I think it's why I tend to do better with my more theoretical assignments rather than the practical ones. (Either that, or I'm just a bit strange, and prefer thinking about things to actually doing them!)

So, if the teacher is a vital component to the making of a topic specific pathfinder, what does the teacher librarian bring to the table? Firstly, the librarian can make sure that information literacy skills are integrated into the pathfinder. Secondly, the librarian can coordinate pathfinders from all the different subjects and stages in the school, making sure that they have a consistent format, and are easily accessible to students. Thirdly, they can make sure that they regularly check pathfinders for dead links, and update the lists of electronic and print resources as needed.

Live and Learn

Doesn't this lavendar farm look gorgeous? Imagine the smell! I'm burning some lavendar and jasmine in my oil burner at the moment, trying to relax and lift my mood. I've been struggling a bit. This time of year is always busy, it seems from now until Christmas the pressure builds and builds. This year I'm studying as well as the usual business of family life and work, so I'm feeling the pinch.

As usual, when I feel stressed, it only takes one thing to tip me over the edge. Today it was receiving my first assignment results for the semester. Disappointing. Not what I needed today. Now that I've had a chance to think it through, I realise that I took a calculated risk with this assignment. I weighed up several factors, including the fact that it was only worth 30% of my final mark for the subject, and went ahead and submitted it despite knowing that I had strayed from the set task. Foolish? Perhaps so. We have been told to make sure that we read the requirements carefully. Fair enough. But to be honest, I really believed that the assignment I wrote was better than what I would have done by sticking strictly to the task. Being an optimist, I even thought that what I'd written demonstrated original thought and I really hoped that the marker would think it was fantastic! Oh well.

We live and learn. We make mistakes. We get back up and try again. We are not defined by our failures. My next assignments are going to be fabulous (and I'm going to stick to the task definition like glue!).