Roadschooling

We’ve come back to Bundaberg for a week with Nanna, and this is a chance to get stuck into our roadschooling adventure. The enormous challenge at the moment is the absence of wifi. Mum doesn’t have it, and Telstra being the monopolied rip-off merchants they are don’t offer a prepaid service that meets our needs. They also have very interesting methods of calculating data use. How the heck they think I used up 6GB in 1 week checking email, social media and using Google Maps, The End, is beyond me?

Anyway, we’ve made use of the Bundaberg Library, which is a lovely space (today they randomly had a highschool brass band playing) and I’ve finally been able to subscribe to Mathletics. On the road I have also purchased a bunch of workbooks which, given the state of flux we are in puts my mind at rest for the time being. My biggest challenge at the moment is finding a free online curriculum organiser that will help me keep track of things.

Our rough curriculum at the moment is focussed on getting into a routine.

Maths

I’m being very boring with an hour of Maths each day, starting with revision: New Wave Mental Maths (who have helped us uncover some main problem issues), followed by a unit in Nelson Maths. Now we have Mathletics we might focus on that as I think she’ll be more motivated there. I’m still stuck in teacher-mode, worrying about which grade she should be doing, but trying all the time to shift my thinking to the level where she is being challenged, but not being completely overwhelmed.

Language

An hour if we can, letting Matilda choose the language: English, Spanish, Chinese. I added about half an hour of grammar to this today with a Grammar Rules workbook I picked up in the local newsagents (much to her disgust). Once we get to Spain she will focus on Spanish and I will need to keep an eye on English. Chinese is a little more problematic. I think we are going to have to rely on a serendipitous encounter for this.

Units of Inquiry

We’re not doing so well on this as we haven’t had time. We’re focussing on Australia, makes sense as we are here, but although she is discovering a lot of new things (museums, art galleries, rainforest walks), we have not had time to follow it up. She has collected about 3000 brochures and the plan is to put them together into a sort of journal/record of the trip, but this is a bit low on Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Science, Society & Environment, Geography etc

This is a bit annoying as I have to do more work before she can. I’ve decided to check out the ACARA (Australian Curriculum) and Scottish curriculum topics and see what she should cover as these are the most likely curriculums she will end up in for Secondary. I want to try to incorporate these into the UOI as much as possible.

Music

Gah, don’t even speak to me. Only plus is that she is missing it and keen to start learning again when we get to Spain.

All in all, it feels like it’s more work for 1 student than for a class HAHAHA

Advertisements

Moving on #blogjune 21

I’ve been dreaming of leaving this job since about 3 days after I started. I try not to think of anything as a “mistake” (because everything’s a learning experience, right?) but that’s certainly what it felt like here for about…oh, the first 12 months.

Preschool storytime 2016
Action Shot

Yet now, as I sift through work files and school event photos on my laptop and start to Trash and Burn, I have a sudden rush of … feelings.

This is the second-longest job I’ve held. Not necessarily because I have a short attention span – sometimes I’ve moved on in a hurry, but general Life events have also played their part (study, travel, child rearing). My last job before this I stayed 3 years, and it was the first time I left a position because it was the right thing to do, rather than to escape a tyrannical boss or poor working conditions. I was wholly unprepared for how leaving would feel. In the past I had left under cover of darkness, or in such rage against the machine that there was no room for feelings of sadness.

Primary library lesson
Listening intently, which students always do, whenever I speak lolololololololol

Here is a little of the latter, but it has been a long period of my life. And there have been some great moments, and some fantastic people – coworkers, students, random old ayis in the street. It’s also my last school-based teaching job (although, never say never as my teaching college buddy always said). At least by choice. And possibly my last librarian job for a little while. In a few days I will officially be unemployed.

So it’s all a bit emotional. And it will be a bittersweet farewell to China and all who sail in her.

IMG_1863
Not the most inspirational 21st century library environment, but I’ve stared at it every day since August 2014. Incidentally, what is it with me and getting jobs in ugly libraries? (Ayi joining the shot…)

Planning for Europe

Only 11 week to go in China. Ms10 is sick today, so I have spent the morning researching Europe.

We’ll most likely be based in Germany, but I don’t want to commit to study, work or school until we are “on the ground”. To keep things flexible, I intend to “roadschool” Ms 10. We’ve started planning already – we’ll subscribe to Mathletics, continue to use the Chinese language site she uses at her current school, attend German summer camp…the only hard part (for me) is planning a series of integrated research projects that cover as much ground as possible so she’s not behind heading into middle/secondary school, but are also relevant to our travels. Through these projects I plan to teach writing genres, research skills and ICT.

I worked as PYP Librarian at a school in Darwin a few years ago, and after 2 years working in a school using the National Curriculum for England & Wales, I have developed a MASSIVE appreciation for the International Baccalaureate. I’m going to use the chronological history of Europe to give us a direction, but borrow from the IB PYP “Transdisciplinary Themes” (2nd wheel in from the outside of image below) to develop the 4 – 6 consistent elements we will investigate at each step of the timeline.

ib-pyp-illustration
IB Primary Years Programme

I also plan to use their “Transdisciplinary Skills” (now called “Approaches to Learning“) that cover Thinking, Communication, Social, Self-management and Research skills. I feel strong connection with their 5 essential elements that detail what students will learn – a balance between:

  • Knowledge
  • Concepts
  • Skills
  • Attitudes
  • Action

The one thing that I can’t get excited about is the IB learner profile. It’s cheesy, and boring. I work in a school that is pursuing IB DP accreditation, and this part of the IB seems so forced.

I’m not sure how detailed I will get with the planning. I want to escape the miseries of teaching, not do them for fun! There is a great planner online at Footscray School in Victoria that links all the elements of the PYP together in one document. I think I’ll need something organised to keep tabs on what she covers, but to be honest my preference is for her digital “space” (blog, website, tumblr) to reflect that.

You can find out more about the PYP here.

 

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.

#blogjune 5 : travel planning

So far this #blogjune thing is boring the life out of me. I think we must be a little down at the moment. It’s almost the end of the longest school term in history, and as we went to Xi’an very Easter break we haven’t left China since early Feb. I think we have cabin fever.

We wanted (well I had anticipated) that we would do a lot more travelling on weekends – just roll up to the airport and fly wherever the winds took us. Unfortunately the city we are in is actually a satellite of another city, so it can take 2 hours to get to the airport. And you can’t just run out the front and hail a taxi. There’s some fascinating rule where they won’t cross the tunnel or bridge. So you have to figure out a myriad of buses, or book a driver. It sucks if you’re actually on the Qingdao side, at night, in the dark, with a child, and you cannot hail a taxi to get home. The school transport coordinator will book drivers for us, but that’s not always convenient. I’ve tried booking the driver myself but as lovely as he is when he drives us, he never shows up when I message 😒

So we feel like we haven’t really seen much. I am booking flights home for summer and wondering if we should stopover in Shanghai. We’ve been there a few times before, but am thinking we could stay in the French Concession or even on Suzhou for something different. No plans to go to Beijing at all – ugh! Our other options are Guangzhou (done), Shenzhen (done), Hong Kong (expensive & done), Seoul (some kind of flu virus scare there just now), Bali (hmm)…

 

 

The most important place in town

I’m missing public libraries enormously. There were a lot of sensible reasons for moving back to a school library job, but they faded before the end of the first week. I miss my community. I miss working with other staff. I miss my networks, who haven’t really gone far, but I’m just not part of the crowd any more.

One of the those excellent reasons was to find out whether school libraries were my ‘calling’ and I’d just had some negative experiences, or if public libraries were really my niche.

It is well and truly the latter.

One of the things I used to do while I was a student teacher was gaze longingly out of the window (while I should have been planning to teach Shakespeare to Year 10) at parents, cars driving past, bin men, and longing to be “out there” in the real world.

15 years later I find myself once again staring out the window.

The other realisation I have made is that my skills, my abilities, my ‘talents’ if you will, are best suited for public libraries. There are reasons my most recent job (in a public library) was the longest I’ve ever stayed in one workplace. I LIKED IT. I WAS GOOD AT IT.

So, here I am in the 2nd month of a 2 year contract, wondering what an earth I have gotten myself into!

Community Centered: 23 Reasons Why Your Library Is the Most Important Place in Town

Imagination Stations

I love public libraries and at this point I am still slightly hysterical about leaving the public library job I adored to return to school libraries which historically have not always treated me well. There were countless motivations for my decision, but that’s another post.

One of my concerns is that I feel like there’s a huge gap between the work of public and school librarians. I been trying to reconcile myself to the notion that my favourite ideas, tasks and creations may need to be shelved for now. I have been stubbornly toying with the idea that some of them could be adapted, so it was brilliant to stumble on a post at another blog talking about ‘primary centres in the library’ – providing kids with hands-on activities in the school library.

Every school holidays we developed ‘Imagination Stations’ which were set up in all our branch libraries for kids to drop in and do in their own time. They always linked to our holiday theme and I was also developing more purposeful, pedagogical programming whereby we tried to have centres focussing on a range of developmental areas, e.g. Writing, play, verbal skills…

It’s something museums and galleries have been doing for a while and taps neatly into concepts of self directed learning. In their cases it is usually a response to something in their collection so in our public library we tried to incorporate our collection as a focus/stimulus.

On stopover en route to Europe we came across a brilliant ‘imagination station’ at the Singapore Art Museum where people were asked “What would you like to unearth?” The cool thing was adults engaging in the activity as well as kids – and participant creations becoming an artwork in themselves:

20140716-091743-33463172.jpg

20140716-092629-33989217.jpg

20140716-092749-34069755.jpg

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!