Tag Archives: education
Working with children of all ages has its benefits and hardships. Meet me at the next stop on the blog tour where I share a bit about working with children who have cancer.
Hello and welcome back to the Blast Off with Space Dust Blog Tour. Today’s stop over takes us to the very talented, Nicola Parkinson, the owner of the Orchard Book Club where we are lucky enough to settle for the day.
Click here to visit her page.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour so far. Who is your favourite character in Space Dust? Do let me know.
A child approached my desk at work today and asked a question:
“Did you compete in writing competitions
when you were our age, Mrs D?”
My curiosity as to why he would ask such a question was stalled by my need to flex my credentials, describing writing competitions I had won from a young age and my experience of writing poetry and stories throughout my youth. Watching his expression of surprise and then understanding, I went back to my original response and asked him, why?
He surprised me. He said, “Because we do a lot more writing competitions now, more than before. I thought that it was because of you!”
It took me a moment to think about this. I couldn’t deny the fact that I supported and campaigned for many writing opportunities within the school – it just didn’t occur to me that I was huge part of the influence – or, at least, the children thought so. Being a part of a wonderful literacy team that pushes for children to have these opportunities didn’t necessarily mean that I was the reason for change. Maybe it had always been there, but not so prevalent as we have it now with all the clubs and enrichment days.
One might say I’m over-thinking it, but this child’s answer touched a nerve. You see, I have been fighting a complex for many years. The stigma of who we are when our super-writing coats hang back in our caves while we go out into the real world to fill our coffers has confused me. Am I a writer pretending to be a librarian or am I a librarian pretending to be a writer? Can I call myself a writer if I have not produced a book in that last few years or can I call myself a true librarian working part-time?
All these questions float around and stew…and stew…and stew! The way I identify myself during introductions has changed too. When I first decided to become a fully-fledged writer, I shyly mumbled that I was a wannabe author. After my first book, my shoulders pressed back and I declared my author status to friends and acquaintances. Now that a few years have passed since my last novel, I’m back to being a Librarian – the title of author gathering dust at the back of my cave.
Drawing back to my earlier conversation with said pupil, it dawned on me that I am one in the same person. I am a writer, author, librarian, sad cow who hypothesizes over her silly titles when she has so little time as it is and mother! I’m influencing young minds to read and write and enjoy it. I’m fulfilling all roles, titles, whatever-you-want-to-call-it and it’s okay. I don’t have to be one thing and not acknowledge the other. As long as I stay true to my profession: someone who shares in the experience of the written word, in whatever capacity, I am being true to who I really am. And that pleases me immensely. I am a bona fide writer/librarian!
It’s a trivial thing but something I wanted to share with you. Do you find certain roles/titles waylaid as you plough through life? What’s your take on this subject?
I’m so glad I have an opportunity to write to you after a manic November. As successful as it was, the pace made me question whether I would make it to the end. I did though and am pleased to announce that a high number of the children taking part in the NaNoWriMo Challenge for 2016 met their word targets and surpassed them considerably. Students that participated last year took it upon themselves to really challenge their abilities and their stories have shown what one year’s education can do for them. The plans were stronger and more efficient, their writing was of a higher standard and I’m pleased to say they are actually looking at their edits and correcting them, compared to the tears and tantrums I had to deal with this time last year.
For the younger students, it was a baptism by fire! Some thought it was just another fairy story without a strong middle or a relevant end. After making them sit down and read their stories out to their friends at Library Club, they soon realised that a storyteller has to have much more than pretty pink dresses and matching pink sparkly shoes to make his or her story interesting. It was a fantastic way for them to work on their stories too, as one child found out that her story had a huge gap and mixed characters, a flaw her audience refused to accept. After looking at me with woeful eyes, I suggested she ask her friends to help her fill in the gaps and they gladly skipped off to work the story map again and find a solution to the problem. Hopefully, this will give them the tools to use in class to finish their work in the same way. Check your work, edit out the mistakes and check it again, just in case. They’ll probably detest the sight of me by the end of January next year as I am determined to make them have more responsibility over the stories they submit for the Children’s Anthology.
My youngest writers surprised me. Their determination to finish and be a part of the process was amazing and I’m incredibly proud of them. Once all the stories are edited and checked again for improvements, I will be busy putting them together into the anthology which will be available for the parents to purchase and of course, I will keep a book or two in our school library for the children to read.
The proudest moment I had out of this whole process was when I read a story written by a year 5 student and was blown away by the style and structure of the story. It was a typical zombie story but the style was similar to the horror genre on the market at the moment. I started to get the feeling that maybe, just maybe, she had copied that style and even the storyline. So, I decided to question said writer about how she managed to get such a good script written and who was her inspiration. She shocked me by telling me it came from a story she had read in the Children’s Anthology I created from last year’s writers! Of course, I wracked my brain trying to think of who had written a decent tale of zombies to inspire another writer to such an extent. The real surprise was when she pointed out it was a story written by my daughter called Live or Die! That pretty much made my day. She is currently looking over her story and working ways of improving the end part which wasn’t as strong as the start, but still very good.
From aliens, to many many visits to Candy Land, from princesses with Gobbins under bridges to foxes and witches, the children have created their own special worlds where readers can lose themselves and go on a magical ride, thanks to their hard work and perseverance.
A special thank you to all the parents who take an interest in their children’s writing – you don’t know what a huge impact you are making on your children just by listening to their stories or sparing a moment to help them overcome the monsters and find solutions to how the princess will find her shoes again. These children will have more confidence because of your time and energy in helping them, so thank you.
Making waves into oceans
Setting dreams into motion.
For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you might be aware that I started building a tree earlier this year in the library where I work. Well, with a lot of effort and help from an amazing artist, Nicci, and my daughter, Savi, we finished her. She now resides in her little alcove where we used to have an ICT suite, recumbent against a mural backdrop of a forest filled with dappled light and birch trees. Her branches reach up to the ceiling and give the impression that she has broken through to find the blue sky above.
Some of the teachers and parents smile and nod when I try to explain why I would build a tree in a library and my answer is, why not? We need to motivate our children to read and enjoy books. What better way than bringing in a source of old stories, fairytales, adventures and the paper the books are printed on…a tree! Putting it in such a simple way demeans the principle of Grandmother Tree’s existence. She has created a space where children can laugh and play under the safety of her branches. They cuddle Sir Sid Quirell, the resident squirrel and postman who helps deliver the letters written to children who have re-discovered the art of writing letters to their beloved tree. Grandmother Tree might understand technology, but relies on corresponding through the written word and pictures sent her way by the postbox next to her tree trunk.
The children are waiting to hear her story. They want to know her age and what she has seen in her lifetime, the books she has read and whether or not she has met Dr Who! Their excitement and fervour to write about themselves and their likes and dislikes encourage this old tree to share her tales. When the time comes to comfort a child or calm the storm clouds threatening tantrums, what better way than sitting on the bench near her and discussing their troubles?
As a librarian, I try to encourage children to respect books, read them and return them to the library. With Jabba the Postbox ready to accept returns and Grandmother Tree aware of the children’s efforts to read more, I have more books returning each week than I have had in the past two years running the library. It’s a positive effect that is pleasing to teachers and children alike. It reduces disappointment when they are refused a new book until they return their old one.
Yes, I realise that the novelty of having a tree in the library with slowly taper off. But, as we reach a new season, she will change her leaves, adopt the persona of a snow queen or a cherry blossom as the seasons demand. The carpet will soon turn green and lush with artificial grass so that the children can honestly be swept away from the world when they enter their own magical forest in their school library. Now, who said a librarian’s job is boring!