Final week #blogjune 20

Last week at school. Racing to get my bi-annual report done before Friday, book my tickets for our 2 week train jaunt around China, pack our bags, prepare gifts, clean the house, finish updating the Library policy, clear my desk…

And I get this page:

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 12.02.51 pm.png

What do you think the Chinese Government have against infographics? Every single site seems to be blocked. I’m even trying with the VPN on (which we are not supposed to use at school) and it still won’t load. *cry cry cry*

At least I have an outline for my bi-annual report – I’m borrowing the headings from my Library Policy, which I think is a stroke of genius but is more likely biting off more than I can chew (a particular skill of mine):

Library Mission, Aims, Goals etc

  • community profile

Library Services

  • Teaching and learning (or curriculum)
    • Overview
    • Library orientation
    • Collaborative teaching
    • Development of resources
    • professional development/training
  • Reader Services
    • Book Week
    • Panda Book Awards
    • Displays
    • Book talks, discussions, book groups
    • Reading lists
    • Classroom support e.g. guided reading
  • Tech support
    • ICT lab
    • laptop / ipad loans
    • Library website
    • Recommended sites and tools
    • Training
  • Use of library space
    • Bookings

Collection development

  • Collection snapshot
    • new books
    • new collections (home language, graphic novel)
    • new digital resources

Circulation

  • circ stats e.g. top 10 primary, top 10 secondary
  • top borrowing homerooms

Staffing

  • Snapshot
  • Professional development and training attended

Evaluation and Goals – moving forward

  • Library services
  • Collection
  • Circulation
  • Staffing

Can I finish for this for Friday?? If not, I will blame the internet 🙂

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“Staff quarter handbook” and other mysteries of Life #blogjune 19

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How I feel about packing…

There is a funny set up here where the school is divided down the middle, with “academic” staff on one side, and “everyone else” on the other. While the Principals have authority over the ‘academic’ side of things, there is Someone Else who is in charge of the rest. This department is ironically known as: “Support Division”.

The first thing teachers learn is that staff in this division are never, ever, ever at fault. If the shifu (handyman) sets up the entire Assembly hall for an activity that occurs a month from now instead of your major event that takes place in an hour, this is your fault. If the purchasing person orders a CD version of a book (in a school without CD players), this is also your fault. And if you ever want anything to get done, you must play along with this farce, because when I said they are in charge of everything not academic – I meant everything: broken door handles, blocked toilets, drinking water, air filters, purchasing, security, visas, lifting heavy things, your salary…

They also manage foreign teacher apartments, so you may see where I am going with this? Fall out with them over the CD incident mentioned above, and you may find that when your fuse box blows up and you’re sitting in darkness they suddenly can’t hear their phones.

Saying that, there are staff in this department who have gone above and beyond to help us out, (dropped my bankcard down a toilet, dropped my electricity card in the middle of a busy road) and for that we are very grateful. I still think the school should consider making everybody happy by employing a staff member to act as “foreign staff liaison”.

Anyway, I’ve been searching for the staff apartment “exit procedure” for a while, and have finally received a reply that refers me to a handbook that – as far as I can make out – doesn’t exist. I hope this reflects the amount of effort they put into inventory of the apartment when we leave!

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I’m hoping if the inspection person notices the change in toaster they will consider it an upgrade…

Paper in the Monkey year

We’ve had a hectic month. Given the crazy flight costs and that I am potentially unemployed come July, I decided to stay closer to home for out Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) holiday, and had thought we might do a short trip to Seoul to explore their hanji paper in the middle. Fortunately I didn’t book any flights, as we both came down with a shocking flu. One of the worst I can remember. We were bedridden for 4 days straight, which the locals celebrated by releasing tones of fireworks, from around 6am until 10 at night. When we finally recovered we were able to stagger into the city for a couple nights in fancy hotels, but our plans of heading to Korea faded.

Around the same time I’ve received disheartening responses from every university in Australia where I’d hoped to enrol in a research degree. Tasmania never replied, despite multiple attempts. CDU sent me a copy/paste of their website, telling me to identify a supervisor, which would be fine if they put any identifying information about staff online! Not even an email address…

University of Newcastle were the most promising, and I received a lot of advice and direction, AND they have an onsite paper mill.  However the artistic lecturer I found was not qualified to be sole supervisor, and although half a dozen others expressed interest in the project, none of them felt qualified to take me on as a candidate. The art lecturer also indicated that I should gain more practical experience, and I feel this may have influenced the rejections. He is right, so I have decided I should focus on this for now, and come back to the research at a later date.

The problem is, I live in a backwater in China. I can’t find supplies here to create a home studio. I have the blender and frames, felt and etceteras, but cannot find the mesh. Intensely frustrating. So far the onlmy practical experience I’ve had were two goes at elephant poo paper parks in Thalamd. It was fantastic, and I’m so desperate to get started on making all my mistakes so I can be closer to being an expert craftsman, it kills me! I’m hoping the upcoming Easter break will provide an opportunity. I’m looking at washi paper in Japan, hanji in Korea, Thailamd again, or visiting the Miao or Dai ethnic groups in south China.

News: International School Librarians recruitment season is beginning…

9/10/15 –  Fall is the beginning of the recruitment season for international school librarians which, by far, offer the most opportunities for overseas work and living for librarians. If you have experience in this area or think you might enjoy this for a few years in order to gain international experience it is possible to […]

https://sarahpgibson.wordpress.com/2015/09/11/news-international-school-librarians-recruitment-season-is-beginning/

Fall

Too many Americans at our school this year. I’m starting to pronounce things with a twang. My daily blog posting is out of this world. Perhaps monthly would be a better aim?

dole queue

Apparently it’s recruiting season for international schools. A few of the other staff are in a flurry of CV writing and awkwardly asking SMT for references. I’m not sure what I’m doing. I’ve never had to worry about it before. My jobs have always come along when I needed them. I think qualified and experienced Teacher Librarians are a rarity.

Other teachers have registered with Search Associates and ISS and are heading off to job fairs. Kinda wish there was such a thing as an international librarian job fair. Not just school libraries, but all libraries. Imagine!
This time last year I was yearning to be back in public libraries. Now, I’m no longer 100%. I still miss them and miss loving going to work each day (wondrous feeling), but I’m also curious about what library life might be like if I actually worked at a decent school – one with a state of the art library, well resourced, a workable budget, technology in the library – and maybe even another librarian on campus.

Part of me is also curious to see where I could end up.

Library life

Despite (unbelievably) still feeling queasy, this week was definitely a lot easier to live through than last!  Travelled to Qingdao side to catch up with some of the other new staff on the weekend and I managed to eat western food, even though I was sweating just putting it into my mouth.  I actually shared a meal with one of the other ladies – at least we’d both go down together!

My new library
My new library

Spent the week getting to know my library – and upsetting the apple cart!  Shifted shelves and furniture, much to the consternation of Chinese staff.  Interestingly each time I requested something be moved, they would phone my Chinese co-librarian to check.  I think I am starting to get a feel for how things work around here…

Library ICT room
Library ICT room

They have moved the ICT lab (I know, a lab? In 2014?  Interesting…) up to the 4th floor so the old lab has become part of the library.  For structural reasons it is still a separate room, and due to cabling issues all the computers will stay in that room.  I have a lot of misgivings about this (lets not build walls between  print and digital) but this is how it stands.  I got all excited to see a guy in there ripping up the floor (thinking it would be replaced with carpet so it genuinely looked like part of the library), but alas, it was replaced with the old floor.

I am going to have to get involved in cataloguing here, which I have not had to deal with in too much depth for 3 years.  In some ways, I enjoy it, but there are so many other things I am better at in the library that I tend to let it slide.  However the other staff do not have any library training (and there has not been anyone in this library with training) so there are some big issues that we need to sort out.

Starting with the fact that the collection code for all the books is “LB” – for “Library Book”.

Eeek.

Death in the pot

I have lived in China before – in Ningbo, south of Shanghai – also working as a Teacher Librarian in an international school.  This experience was only short-lived – about 5 months – for reasons I may rant about one day!  Ms 8 was only 4 at the time and she had a terrible case of food poisoning/gastro, but I was lucky enough to have it only mildly after eating a turkey and cranberry sandwich from Starbucks.  This is one of the (many) reasons I dislike that chain.

Devil's Diner
Devil’s Dinner

Anyway, I am just catching up on life after being knocked out by the worst, the most crippling, the foulest bout of food poisoning I have ever had in my life.  In fact I think it is probably the sickest I have ever been in my life.  And ironically WESTERN food again!  Pork schnitzel to be precise.  Can’t even think about it without gagging!  I missed the first 2 days of teacher in-service (we had a whole 7 days dedicated to this, which was nice), and finally dragged myself in on the Wednesday through a monsoon (water a foot deep running along the street – fairly unpleasant) only to be barred from the library because teachers are not allowed keys.

I got a key in the end, but it was a fairly crappy start given that we were both drenched and I was still retching every time a new smell passed my nose.  Appalling week, but it was good to start to get my head around things.

School and one week down

We have survived our first week.  Luckily we ran into someone from school’s HR as we were walking out the gate to the beach yesterday as turns out she had all the other new teachers on a bus to take us for phone and bank setup.  Heads up would’ve been good!!

Feeling a lot more connected now I have a Chinese mobile, but apparently the one the school have arranged for us has really crap data (we checked, it does) but we have to wait a month before we can get another SIM.  Mine seems to text and slooooowwwlly surf the web, but it won’t call certain numbers.

New staff induction for the second half of the week.  The school has been here since 2006 but this building was only constructed in 2011.  The school has gone “up a level” each year – this year we are up to level 4 and there are 2 more above that.

School playground, looking down to local school
School playground, looking down to local school

Got my first glimpse of my library, and me my new assistant, who it turns out is not my assistant (although she would fit this description in Australia) but is actually the “Senior Librarian” while I am the “School Librarian” or “Teacher Librarian”.  A little…interesting, but we shall just roll with that for the time being.

3 new expat teachers and their groceries
3 new expat teachers and their groceries

Have had dinner out a lot so far as we still haven’t quite got all we need to cook at home, despite the nearest supermarkets being a lot better than what we had access to locally in Ningbo.

So glad we don’t have to sit on a bus for an hour to get to a decent shop, although it sounds like a lot of the clothing stores are on the Qingdao side.

Had street BBQ with a few of the teachers the other night – great food and nobody got sick, hooray!

Street BBQ - amazing
Street BBQ – amazing
Street BBQ - literally in the street
Street BBQ – literally in the street
Street BBQ - the hot fridge
Street BBQ – the hot fridge

 

Agencies – or hunting international school jobs

Whether travel or teaching, I’ve never really had much luck with agencies.  I have registered with a few over the years – from teaching in the UK to Manpower in NZ (when we were so hungry we were growing food from scraps).  I’ve found them all like this to begin with:

Friendly Teacher Recruiter
Friendly Teacher Recruiter

But more “this” after about week 3:

Leanne will get back to you...
Leanne will get back to you…

Last time I was looking jobs in Asia I started with Teach Anywhere.  I had previously been in touch with them re: teaching in the UK and should’ve known better.  They’re very keen to sign you up, but once they realised my CV was less than ordinary they became very hard to contact.  They also seem to be incapable of understanding that my interest in librarian jobs meant *gasp* I was looking for a librarian job!  I kept getting interviews (literally principals phoning me) without notice, or for jobs I had told my Teach Anywhere recruiter I was not interested in.  Not surprisingly the recruiter became less friendly.

I found that although their website doesn’t publish names of schools, it is relatively easy to figure them out.  I also made a list of major cities and started googling: “CITY + teacher librarian + jobs”.  Using these masterful techniques I found a librarian job on a school’s website and contacted the principal.  He happened to be on holiday about an hour away, met me for coffee and offered me the job.  Interestingly he had paid to register the job with Teach Anywhere and been told they had nobody available (!)

That said, I am considering a proper agency this time.  Back in 2009 I had no library experience and was working part-time in a rubbish tip.  I had nothing to lose.  I also had no idea how much I loved being a librarian.  I think it’s reasonable to expect a school who can afford to pay to recruit staff should be able to pay to look after them.  Not always the case, but if you’re going to use a free agency you may just get what you pay for.

A friend from Darwin recommended Search Associates and managed to get jobs through them in top schools in Indonesia, China and Cambodia.  She also has a lot more solid teaching history than I do, so may have done just as well without the agency.  And she still had issues with jobs, so it’s not a guarantee there won’t be a crazy staff…

Other agencies I’ve heard recommended include TIC Recruitment and ISS.  It cost my mate about $250 to register with Search Associates, which gave her access to job listings, a dedicated recruiter, an online profile and admission to job fairs.

Still undecided so I’m off to google…:)

On the road again…

If you had told me a year ago that I’d be on the cusp of accepting a Librarian job at an international school in China I would have thought you mad.  Yet here I am.lanterns in street

I have had two interviews in the past fortnight, unintentionally in the same city.  Both are great roles – the first qualified librarian for each school.  One has an ESL teaching element (not a terrible idea) and the other is librarian.

Having learned the hard way I made it as clear as I could in both interviews that libraries are my passion and the idea of being forced out of the library to teach in a classroom was Not Cool (plenty of other posts on that and when I finally tidy all my blogs into one place I’ll put a link).  Who am I kidding I will NEVER be that organised 🙂

Anyway, to my delight both principals understood completely and are interested in me because of my library background.  The second went on to say the current teacher in the library was not library qualified and desperate to get back to the classroom, so he was really looking for a librarian.

Now the tricky part of weighing up each position.

School 1

Pros

  • small
  • American
  • Montessori
  • younger principal, seems very easy-going and potentially easy to get along with; passionate about the school and what they are trying to achieve
  • IB accreditation happening this year
  • I have been offered a contract

Cons

  • small, which means they are the Wild Card – there is a chance they could be as disorganised as Ningbo
  • salary is lower than when I worked in Ningbo, 4 years ago before Masters and any library experience. Although salary is not top of my priorities, it is awfully disappointing to move down the pay ladder.
  • ESL classes – 10 periods per week. They have not indicated the format these will take, but it is already up to 10 hours away from the library each week – it is a slippery slope.

I agonised over the awful “please reconsider pay” email, but it had to be done. To his credit the principal seems to have pulled as many strings as he can to increase the pay, but it is still below my Ningbo earnings.

School 2

Pros

  • smallish
  • part of an education foundation who have schools across China. This means a ready network of other librarians, and potential for the future in terms of a reference and possible future jobs
  • this also indicates they will have a better payscale. The principal noted teachers are paid the same whether in Shanghai or Qingdao. I imagine they would struggle to appoint teachers to their Shanghai school if there were offering the same or less than School 1
  • full-time library role, no teaching
  • they are specifically looking for somebody to develop the library curriculum, and improve the use of the library as a teaching space, including already having an extension earmarked
  • Apple school. I am not sure how the Apple Educator program works in China, but this is something I have had my eye on for a while; it means my networks with apple educators in Australia could be put to use – getting them over to offer PD
  • Professional development: the school advertise this as a selling point for teachers and TBH I believe this school is far more likely to have the resources to support PD than School 1

Cons

  • Well I haven’t seen the library of School 1 but the School 2 library did look really small considering it is a primary and secondary library for potentially 800 students; saying that, the principal did mention an extension (which sounds like it will be an IT room)
  • Although the principal was great, I get the sense he will not be as laid back as the principal at School 1.  I know I work better when I am given a bit of freedom, so this is a slight concern
  • At this point I still have 3 steps to go in the recruitment process, although apparently I am the best candidate ‘so far’

It is a very difficult decision.  I think I am leaning towards School 2, predominantly because the role is entirely in the library – after my previous experiences I have learned anything less does not work out well in the end!