Friday, October 10, 2014

Ashley Spires' The Most Magnificent Thing and other book treasures

I have been longing to write about picture books, but I was so upset about the teachers' strike that started in June and didn't end until late September, it was hard to write about anything else.

The strike is over, if not the issues so I am finally going to  write about picture books.

The last Sunday in September,  I went to Word on the Street, a fun event that takes place in major cities across Canada to celebrate reading.  There are lots of books, and authors reading books, and you can make books etc.  When I skimmed down the list of authors, I was pleased to discover Ashley Spires was speaking.  I fell in love with Ashley's book, Penguin and the Cupcake, when I was a consultant and there was a lovely little children's bookstore near me, on Main Street. called Once Upon A Huckleberry, and I was able to hear her speak there.  She just seemed so creative and fun.  I loved the finger puppets she made that went with her book.

Ashley moved to Saskatchewan, the store closed, and I became a grade six/seven teacher, but I still loved her books.  So it was great to see her again  at Word on the Street and to find out about her latest books.  And I was also please to find out that she was living in the Lower Mainland again.

She spoke mainly about two of her newest books Sunday.  The first was The Most Magificent Thing.  She was inspired to write this book having seen children at schools frustrated by their drawing so she wanted to help kids to realize that you don't have to create perfection.  It's a delightful book as the girl tries to create something magnificent but is not satisfied with each creation though in the end a use is found for all her creations.  To hear a bit more about this book and the hackable books she gave away at this presentation as well, just check out this video.

The book even inspired  the Property Brothers!

She also  talked about her popular graphic novel series Binky the Space Cat, the astronaut who never actually leaves home and her plans for a new series.

The other new book she shared was Edie's Ensembles.  Edie is so busy creating incredible outfits that she kind of forgets about her best friend.  And she gave out paper dolls of Edie with some of her ensembles!  She has plans for a sequel about Edie's friend, Andrew.

I just love Ashley's creativity, and I have been after my friends to arrange school visits!  For contact information just check her website.

Just a note- I have often used picture books with intermediate students, sometimes as a model for their own picture book writing or as part of a theme.  I think The Magnicent Thing Could be used in a variety of ways!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

How one family baked to help local teachers!

I have read so many wonderful stories during the very long teachers'  strike that just ended.  It was as if there were sparks of light in the darkness.  This was one of my favourite stories from BC Voters Supporting BC Teachers and Public Education.  I am quoting Brooke Vasconseles and using her name only with her permission that this may inspire others to support/affect change.  Her note is addressed to teachers.

"Whatever you choose to vote today, you have my support completely. My 3 kids and I wanted to show appreciation for your efforts and support for your hardship fund and I wanted to let you guys know how it went. 

We offered to bake and sell some chocolate chip cookies as a fundraiser and the response was overwhelming. We spent a week in the kitchen and sold over 700 cookies! I wrote a cheque for $581 yesterday and we dropped it at our local Teachers Association office for deposit into the hardship fund. 

I have been awakened to the state of our public school system and the efforts of the teachers in it to provide my kids with the education that they deserve.

 I won't stop at baking cookies. I hope that this page remains open and continues to unify us in our efforts to better the conditions for our teachers and children. In short: thank you, thank you, thank you."
When I told a friend that it had been hard on teachers not being paid for five weeks plus, she answered that since they were on strike no wonder they were not paid.  I assured her that no teacher I knew would sooner be on a picket line than in a classroom teaching, but they felt that this was what they had to do.  Thanks to people like Brooke who really empathized and were patient, and supportive! 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Teachers, how do I love thee?

This room was much more crowded when it contained 31 students
Another voice of a BC parent, NIcole Sims
"Teachers, how do I love thee? And all the staff, and hard-working PAC members, I love you, too. You've all worked so hard to give our children the best experience they can have, the best education money can't buy. But you've also kept us, the majority of parents, in the dark about how budget cuts are impacting our schools.
Please stop it.
I suggest that it's time to keep records of all that's not going well in our system, and to point out where the blame lies. No money for the hydro bill or seismic upgrading? Broken desks and windows, but no budget for repairs? Rats in basement? Fly infestations? Decrepit playgrounds? No paper in the supply cupboards? British Columbians need to know.
Find someone at each school to take photos, keeps tabs, collect information about all of these short-comings. Send it to all MLAs, the Minister of Education, the Premier, and all the media. Spread that information all over social media.
British Columbians need to know. They will care, they will help, but they need to find out about it!"

This was a post in BC Voters Supporting BC Public Education and Teachers Facebook group and it was followed by many comments. Teachers spoke of freezing cold classrooms, classes held in public buildings etc. By now many of you heard how teachers have bought their own supplies because there was not enough money for them in the school. As funding has been reduced parents are often expected to supply more as well.  I can still see boxes of Kleenex in cupboards that some teachers would collect from each student at the beginning of the year.  That was something I personally bought myself on a regular basis-I didn't have room for 31 boxes of Kleenex anywhere in my classroom!

Many classrooms are full of teacher owned resources. I tried to give up spending my own money but it was difficult. When I retired instead of a gift from people who attended my party I chose to have money donated to a charity my class had supported, Room to Read, and our school library because library budgets have been being cut for years.

As far as working and learning conditions I personally have taught in too hot classrooms, too small classrooms, and too cold classrooms. I taught in a portable where the outdoor stairs flooded regularly and I was sure there was mold, and it was destroyed the following year so I guess I was right.
I sometimes think teachers are a little crazy, they love teaching and do it despite it being a poorly paid profession and they often have to provide their own tools. Anyway a lot of parents because of this strike and online discussions have " woken up" and won't be afraid to continue to put pressure on the government and ensure that local trustees and MLA's truly care about and advocate for public education.