A famous literary mouse adventurer, Scholastic’s Geronimo Stilton, dropped by our book fair today, to see how his royalties were faring.
I was just telling author, Sally Odgers, on her Facebook page, a child came into our school’s Scholastic Book Fair last week, totally overwhelmed by choice, but had only $4.00 to spend. Oh dear!
He was going to buy a $4 eraser, but I showed him there was a “Jack Russell: Dog Detective” book on the bargain table for $3. He bought that, plus a $1 eraser.
He immediately recognised that the dog was the same breed as mine, whom I’d once brought in to school – as a teaching aid – during “Dog Week” in literacy lessons. (And he once owned a Jack Russell pup, now that I think of it. It didn’t last long, if I recall correctly.) The next day he was still carrying that book all over the school. Recess, lunchtime, even back into the Book Fair. He’d read it at home, the night before, but he literally “couldn’t put it down”. He’s not “a reader”, so it was a rather special event.
And while I think of it. Why, oh why, when students buy something from a Book Fair, do they feel a burning need to bring the item back to the Fair the next day? Not so stationary stationery.
I think I’ve finally recovered from our Book Fair week; the whole school had directed a lot of energy at our annual Grandparents’ Day. Although my only contact with the grandparents this year was in the crush of the Book Fair, there were numerous events throughout the school, all well attended. Once again many of the staff observed that, these days, most of us are older than the average grandparent of a primary school student. Sigh…
As I was attempting to close up the Book Fair cabinets on Thursday morning, I had a last-minute request from a parent who’d been waiting on an automated payment to be made into her account so she could buy some books. Luckily, I’d mastered the art of EFTPOS this year, although the transaction ate into my morning preparations!
At the exact same time:
* a tech guy arrived to re-image two testy OASIS Enquiry kiosk terminals
* the locksmith turned up to repair both main entry doors to the library (they both jammed at the same time yesterday, effectively locking me out of the Book Fair (my Principal congratulated me on my excellent security practices: every window was also locked tight when he tried to gain entry via the burglars’ route, and…
before the desks and chairs could be restored to their usual arrangement…
* my first class turned up for the morning. Accompanied by a casual relief teacher, clutching English worksheets on procedural texts. Could I help model some recipes?
For the briefest moment, I almost hyperventilated. I wanted to run screaming from the room. (Ah, but we do have a Library Rule: “Please walk in the library”.)
“Yes, of course! I know just the resources we need” I said.
I reached for three big books in close proximity: one with recipes, one with science experiments and one with handicraft procedures. You know, it was the best team-taught, impromptu lesson I’ve done in ages!
Barely settling down in the staff room for coffee, I received a frantic message: the Book Fair men were here for the cabinets! Back to the library. And where was that recharging cord for the EFTPOS machine?
I realised today that I’d actually put together the following little piece last year, and it’s still quite valid.
Murphy’s Laws of School Book Fairs
1. First sale of the day – an 80 cent pencil – will inevitably be countered by a crisp $50 note.
2. If you put a signature on the item’s price sticker at a school book fair, in an attempt to prevent shoplifting, the child will inevitably have a single ten cent coin to pay for a $10 item. Or even a $25 item. (These students have expensive tastes. And a totally unrealistic idea of the value of money. They also believe that if you keep buying items that give you change, you’ll never run out of money.)
3. If a student hands you a bunch of 16 shiny $1 coins, and it looks like he raided Mum’s money box, he probably did. (And why was he so desperate to purchase a personal burglar alarm, anyway?)
4. If someone sees you sneaking a look at the EFTPOS machine manual, they’ll suddenly demand you test it out on their card. (“Please do use the Ready Teller across the road please, these instructions are too obscure, okay?”)
5. Of course, you’re supposed to charge up the EFTPOS machine the night before.
6. Stationery is still way more exciting than books, even on Day 3 of a Book Fair.
7. Tired teachers only make addition errors in front of the parents, not little students, who wouldn’t notice anyway.
8. Today’s grandparents are younger than most of the teachers. (Welcome to the middle ages.) But they are quite generous (Ka-ching! Ka-ching! – sound of cash register).
9. A major computer system changeover shall occur on the same day as the takings of the annual Book Fair must be finalised. It will also be the last day of term, and only one day before a public holiday. (We had to do a set of tasks to prepare for conversion to OASIS Thin Client in 2007 – seems like only yesterday, or decades ago.)
10. The final tearful request for a $1 scented eraser will be announced precisely ten minutes after the van, full of all the cabinets of product, leaves the school grounds. (A prediction: just you see if I’m right.)
If memory serves, I was.
Was it worth it? Sure, why not? Especially with 30% of sales being returned to us in books – some even being just-announced CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) Awards shortlisted titles. But Thursday morning was a great example of a day that some people would see as a string of disasters, but others think of as a typical day in a school library. In some perverse way, it was fun and rewarding.
It’s been frantic at school this week: the annual Book Fair in our school library and today is the culmination, Grandparents’ Day!
I just had to share a wonderful moment from yesterday afternoon. One of the Year 1 students came racing into the library, wild-eyed – just as I was trying to slip away from the Book Fair for a quick lunchtime coffee.
“Mr McLean! Mr McLean!” he exclaimed, “There are some Bad Words out here, under the stairs.”
I’d noticed some chalked arrows on the steps earlier in the day, but I hadn’t thought to investigate further. Crouching down, I could see some choice four-letter words on a support beam of the stairs attached to our portable building.
“Well,” I reflected. “You’ll just have to make sure that you don’t read them until I can get them removed.”
“It’s okay, Mr McLean,” he said, beaming at me. “I can’t read!”
(The funny thing is, he’s quite a talented little reader.) It was just the release I needed towards the end of a tense day, topped off only by numerous parent visitors, getting a sneak preview of the Book Fair stock.
“My kid talks about the library all the time,” several of them said. “He/she just loves coming to this library!”
Yes, enough ego-boo to get me through Grandparents’ Day, I reckon.
There are perhaps only Three States of Being in teacher-librarianship:
* the regular collaborative teaching mode
* a few weeks of stocktake mode – when I literally Zen out, fully absorbed in the appealing (to me) chore of annual stocktaking
* and a few consecutive days of Book Fair mode. (Pass me my money bucket, a pen, point the customers in my direction – and wake me when it’s over.)
In my current school, our Book Fair traditionally falls in the lead-up to (and on) Grandparents’ Day. After getting over the shock that the current crop of grandparents are actually younger than many of the staff members (yours truly included), these special event days have proven very popular – and a major boost to our annual book-buying coffers.
Not all teacher-librarians like the commercial book fairs for schools. I heard someone call them “slavery to the book company”, or they dislike the book selections – but I’ve found commercial book fairs to be very useful and successful.
With book fairs in K-6 schools, I’ve always promoted the selection and purchase of books, for a personal collection, as being a valuable learning experience for the students. Watching them engage with racks and tables of books for sale can be a valuable exercise. Some students have definitely seen book buying (and book reading) practices modelled at home – long before they arrived at school. But there are just as many students who’ll visit the annual Book Fair with a big wad of money, but then try to buy handsful of highly-decorated stationery items – but no book!
Bringing Grandma or Grandpa to the library for a Book Fair brings back some balance into the equation. Grandparents tend to have such a different type of rapport with their grandchildren than the parents do.
Roll on this week’s festivities!
I set the alarm clock for 6.00 am this morning, fully intending to swing past the school, on my way to the railway station to attend the first day of School libraries leading learning, the NSW State Conference of ASLA and the Department of Education and Training. (To my horror, it was still pitch dark outside. My dog looked at me, quite bewildered, and wanted to refuse the only chance he’d have to relieve himself, and I eventually decided to phone in the last-minute instructions to my replacement in the school library. By sheer luck, it wasn’t a heavy teaching load day; much of her day was to be spent policing the preview browsing of the annual Book Fair, which starts in earnest next week.)
I’ve spent many snatches of time over the last month, tinkering with the text and images I intend to use for my talk on Saturday (“Working with wikis”), and I was a little daunted, judging by comments in the organisers’ emails that most of the other presenters were beavering away on PowerPoint presentations, but I had decided to upload my speech notes and dot point headlines to a page on the school library wiki instead. So, unless there’s a power glitch at the conference tomorrow, I can demonstrate the wiki – live – at the same time as I flash up my notes. That’s the idea, anyway. We’ll see. (In fact, I’m tempted to revamp them a little, to incorporate some of today’s ideas – see below; if the notes had been a physical handout I’d printed off during the week, I’d have been stuck!)
Today there were fascinating, insightful and encouraging speeches from Dr Ross J Todd (Keynote, plus “Guided Enquiry: from Information to Knowledge”) and John Callow (“Literacy & Diversity: from Shakespeare to Second Life”), both of whom took their areas of expertise to the next level, with the challenges of Web 2.0 high on the agenda. I know Ross as a lecturer and tutor from my UTS days (retraining as a teacher-librarian in 1990). and then as Scan‘s Research Columns touchstone. John, I’ve known since he visited my previous school as our then-DSP (Disadvantaged Schools Program) literacy advisor, and again through Scan when I commissioned him to write some articles about visual literacy and the then-“new learning environments”. I thoroughly enjoyed their sessions and I am glad that ASLA NSW’s website will have their PowerPoint presentations available to attendees. I did take notes as well, but on paper. With a pen. The old-fashioned way. 😉
I also attended a Judy O’Connell session on “Learning is a multi-modal conversation”, which opened up an enormous number of possibilities, although many of the Web 2.0 facilities Judy uses in her current school are blocked to NSW DET schools by our firewall. If teacher-librarians are yet to come to terms with blogs and wikis, then Facebook, My space, Twitter and Second life are going to be very daunting indeed! Judy also challenged the audience to consider why no one appeared to be: using their mobile phone (to send off live shots of the conference proceedings direct to their blogs); or tapping away on Twitter (on their laptops) while she spoke; or seeing the conference as a live feed to overseas locations. Interestingly, such phenomena has been slow to hit our shores – or at least this conference – and this is clearly the next wave of information-sharing habits which will become status quo for conference audiences verysoonnow.
In fact, a brochure I read a few weeks ago, about an upcoming Australian tour by Jamie McKenzie (of “From Now On” website), actually encourages attendees to bring their laptops to the interactive keynote sessions of that event. Well, I’ll have the school laptop with me tomorrow, for my session, but I’m afraid I hadn’t thought that having my head over its keyboard while Judy and the other speakers delivered their talks today. And I’d actually made an effort to turn off my mobile phone – as a courtesy, I’d thought, to the speakers.) I guess it was a reminder that today’s youth (seemingly) have no trouble doing two or three online tasks at the same time. Judy’s words were certainly food for thought.
What was even more daunting about today’s proceedings was the revelation that studies are showing that students are, in effect, “powering down” when they come to school – not only their Web 2.0 devices, but also their brains. Lots of today’s youth can’t wait till they get home from school so they can start being creative and networky on their Facebook, My space and other online social networking pages. Tapping that moth-to-flame attitude in schools seems to be one of our educators’ current challenges. I eagerly await the arrival of my school’s first interactive whiteboard.
I was part of an afternoon panel, with Ross and Judy and Jan Radford. Our topic was “How do you see Web 2.0 working in Australian schools?”. I was expecting a typical four-people-behind-a-desk arrangement, with general questions at the end. In fact, the four speakers were each given ten minutes at the microphone across the other end of the stage. We were going alphabetically and, with a name like “McLean”, I’m quite used to having a turn towards the middle – in fact, I was set to speak first! Mmmmm. Another challenge.
In my session, I aimed to give a pocket history of my own learning curve, and the recent steepness of that curve as I embraced Web 2.0 ideas – but I hope I was also successful in conveying the energy and excitement that the students’ learning had produced. Ross, by virtue of a surname ending in “T”, went last and he was able to give a wonderful, succinct summary of our reported achievements – and even mentioning a few of my points I’d managed to meander away from. He also offered three important culminating points (which I hastily scrawled down) because they’ll make my Saturday solo session so much stronger.
Essentially, Ross challenged us to:
* have a clear vision for the future of learning we wish to see in our schools, with the teacher-librarian in a leadership role
* build from our own experience, and learn by doing
* chart the learning – ie. demonstrate excellence through evidence-based practice.
Well, I’m off to make sure I have all the clear links I need in my speech for tomorrow – the syllabus outcomes, my pre- and post- mini-survey results, and the great student quotes about their emotional responses to the wiki tasks.
Tomorrow – Day 2! Wish me luck!