Thursday, August 06, 2020

Of Things In 2020!

I see the last time I posted was about my first day as a volunteer, way back in 2018! 

Time to talk about what has happened since. I continued with the volunteering with the Ardoch Youth Foundation, at a primary school in Melbourne’s disadvantaged western suburbs, which invited me to be a guest speaker in Book Week that year.

I have to say that for a school with no real library - just a small niche for the younger kids at lunchtime, with older books and staffed by an aide - it did very well for Book Week. Every class decorated its classroom and the area outside, with something related to the theme(In 2018 that was Charlie And The Chocolate Factory) There was a competition for best classroom. The staff, including non teachers, dressed as Oompa Loompas. There was the usual costume competition and parade. As I recall, Twitter parents were complaining bitterly about having to do costumes for their children, and how their child was going to be shamed without a costume. Yet I saw some kids without costumes quite cheerfully joining the parade and the rest in basic cosplay stuff. Very basic, most of them! They were all enjoying themselves.

The winners of that year’s Children’s Book Council Awards was announced to the school. Apparently they got to vote their own winners as well.

I was delighted to meet a young mother who had been a student at my school calling out to me,”Hi, Miss, remember me?” and saying to her child, “Look, darling, it’s Mummy’s teacher!”

I also met a young lady whose older sister had been one of my favourite library users(that one went off to a private school on a scholarship). Zebib was an EAL student, but her younger sister now spoke with an Australian accent. 

Last year I worked with a Year 5 and Prep. The Year 5 kids were the same ones I had worked with in 2018, though different teachers. This year I was slotted in with Year 1, who were in Prep last year. 

We got a just few weeks together until the plague began...

I have tried to keep going this year, with Zoom professional development sessions run by Ardoch and VIT, but just not the same. I volunteered for Literacy buddies, in which you exchange letters with children at disadvantaged schools. At first, this was possible because the school was a regional one not affected by the total lockdowns. We couldn’t visit, but we could scan and email handwritten letters. I’ve benefited from this before, when I was teaching, so I know how it works. 

I remember last time I did it,with my EAL class, we had two guests from a sister school in Taiwan on a day when the kids were writing letters to their a Big Buddies. So I got our guests to sit with regular students and write a short letter themselves saying something like “Hi, I’m visiting Australia, so I thought I’d write to you...” That meant those Literacy Buddies got an extra letter. 

Anyway, we wrote our first letters to our virtual Little Buddies and were about to receive another one when the second lockdown happened. Not sure what is happening now,though I hope my two Little Buddies did receive and enjoy my letters before they, too, were locked down. If there is a way to keep it going from home, I hope they do, because it would be special for the kids to get this at home. 

I am so missing Year 1 and the staff at that school! 

A few days ago, I got an email from my lovely publisher Paul Collins of Ford Street Publishing, who has been very good to me. He asked if I could recommend any schools, including my old secondary school, to get a part of a grant he received to give a free virtual author visit and a box of books. He had three left to offer. 

My own school was not much use; there was no library left to organise it and the literacy teacher had other things on his mind - plus the junior campuses had moved to new buildings. Too much going on! 

So I suggested the school where I volunteer in better times, where the literacy teacher is an honorary librarian. She was thrilled to bits and decided that Year 2 would benefit. I assume that she will be in touch with the school’s IT person to organise something that lets the kids watch from home. 

As there were still two spots left, I contacted the man from Ardoch who looks after the western suburbs. He organised two other schools to benefit from this. 

It’s good to know nice things can still happen even in this time. 

How are you going in this time of stress, readers? Anything nice to share? 

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