Category Archives: Secondary School libraries

Curriculum Development: Advising Students Against Plagiarism — Stephen’s Lighthouse

Curriculum Development: Advising Students Against Plagiarism Curriculum Development: Advising Students Against Plagiarism “With knowledge at their fingertips online, as well as hundreds of essay writing services, college students are often tempted to plagiarize. Teachers need to educate their students on the dangers of plagiarism to their college education, their integrity, and their future careers. Teachers…

via Curriculum Development: Advising Students Against Plagiarism — Stephen’s Lighthouse


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Social media in schools

Here are some interesting viewpoints on social media in schools.
Interesting. Just wondering if it would work in all cultures.

On the Distance Learning front…
I’ve been reading a lot for essay purposes… just two left! Woohoo! I’ve had essay-glut-syndrome… My brain does not want to cooperate anymore.
I haven’t visited the school this last month. I did give them a copy of the SWOT and a copy of my ‘way forward’ planning for the library. I’ve had ZERO comment/feedback, which leads me to think they are not impressed. Wonder what my lecturer’s opinion will be. Gulp. I know I’m making myself horribly vulnerable, but…watch this space for feedback on that issue.

Incidentally, I recommended blocking Facebook access on the library computers… It’s just so obvious why the Yr 12s and 13s prefer the PCs facing the wall! *thinks bad setup*

On other news…
My two Aspies (hubby and son) came home with a puppy 3 weeks ago, much to my horror at first…but it was love at first sight for all of us, and there you are…an instant, unasked-for, unplanned, edition to our family.

Of course all disciplining/feeding/control of said pup falls in my quarter! Sigh! And all while I chase those darned deadlines and really, really, need to concentrate! Oh well, ‘concentrate’ has been out the window! I plod on, counting down to November – the month of bliss – when my studies will be over!
Needless to say he is so adorable, feels the love, and therefore rules the roost!
Till next time…


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Filed under Distance learning, Secondary School libraries, The joys of learning at 50+

The SWOT analysis, SSR and an Asperger’s challenge

A month ago I shuddered when we were assigned the academic portfolio tasks. I thought, Me? Do a SWOT analysis? You’ve got to be kidding.  Two days ago I handed the completed SWOT over to the school, just for their info. Oh my word! *sighs*  It might not sound like a big thing to anyone out there, who may read this, but it was for me.  A personal achievement; proof of academic growth and professional confidence.  Woohoo! I feel good.  Now on to the ‘strategic planning for the way ahead’.  Okay.  Gulp. I can do this!

Not to say that all that is in the SWOT will make for happy reading…but that’s ok with me, because truth be told, the media centre of this particular school is stuck in the 60s!  While I spent the morning there, I had an opportunity to watch yet another (extremely) painful lesson of ‘silent reading’ for 30 minutes.  I place this in inverted commas because those Year 7s did NOT read! They stared blankly into space, laid on their arms, with some staring at the same page for the full lesson.  {You see, hidden in the stacks, it’s easy for me to observe these goings-on.} The teacher duly proceeded to mark classwork, and only when he heard a whisper did he seem to surface, separated one boy from the group and resumed his marking. The boy fumingly brooded for the rest of the lesson!  I had to wonder what was going on in this boy’s mind. For him it was a dreary 30 minutes – punishment, boring and useless. This was a missed opportunity to bring enthusiasm and discovery into a very dull mind.

I was just reading an article by Siah and Kwok (2010:168) on SSR (sustained silent reading) and discovered that it was a programme proposed and implemented in the 60s and 70s. Well, in my opinion, THAT IS WHERE IT BELONGS!  But then, some say there are those who appreciate and benefit from it. Really?! Maybe those from privileged or professional families, where parents are academically minded; or where parents are readers, engaged with their children – reading WITH them, reading TO them.  Perhaps my loathing of SSR is because I’ve only had opportunity to witness it here, in a non-reading culture. It does not work here. 

What’s that I hear? Teacher’s tired?  Oh, right, the last day of the week is a challenge? It’s a lesson ‘off’ for the teacher!  A chance to catch up on marking perhaps? A chance to gossip with the librarian?  Or rather, a chance to show how well you can punish, or embarrass, the individual who hates reading. 

Talking of hating reading…a statistic I saw last week, claimed that 1 in 50 children are being diagnosed with Autism/Asperger’s Disorder (no, it’s NOT a disease). Do teachers know the symptoms?  Would they know when they are confronted with a child with Asperger’s?  I think not.  Mainstream teachers are not supposed to encounter special needs. Yet they are! In increasing numbers!  With that rate of diagnosis, they’re in almost every other class, and counting those who are undiagnosed, you can bet your bottom dollar – they’re in every class today!  And, dear librarians, they’re in your library every day. And for the most part, they hate reading.

What qualifies me to talk so knowingly about Autism/Asperger’s?  Well, you see, our son was diagnosed only 18 months ago, at the age of 28!  All his life he was different. Normal, yet different!  He was odd. On another planet. (Aren’t we all, say the wise-cracks.) All his life he battled at school.  Hated reading, hated speaking.  Played differently, couldn’t cope with theory. Quietly observed life go on around him, with a question mark all over his face, wanting to be out, flying on his bike… Whenever we followed advice to take him for a diagnosis, there was none.  He’ll come by, they said.  He’s a late developer, they countered.  It’s neurological…speech dyslexia! Abused! said one. Naughty! said another. And finally, at the age of 18, an esteemed educational psychologist in Johannesburg told us, in front of our son, that he would not be worth anything! “Useless. Put him back in school so he can learn something!” said the man.  You see, I had refused to give up on my son, years back, and we had taken up home schooling.  (The method we followed worked very well with him, and he finished Year 12.  But that’s another story, for another day.)  This ‘professional’ only saw the word “home schooled” and was blinded by bias against it. He did not look deeper, to see the person he was testing.  He did not look into my son’s soul.  (Incidentally, my daughter was also home schooled throughout high school, and today she is a qualified primary school teacher.  A very successful one!)

Home-schooling days 2004

Home-schooling days 2004

Back to Asperger’s.  You see, no two people with autism are alike.  And with Asperger’s, some on the higher end of the spectrum are diagnosed only into their twenties, because they have learned to mask and hide the disorder, by means of coping mechanisms.  Suddenly, when they are supposed to be able to do certain things, take part in certain activities, arrange their business, hold a relationship, hold down a job – life suddenly becomes unstuck, and they cannot cope.  This is what happened to my son.  Once he lost his job, it all became clear in the year thereafter.  Asperger’s was confirmed.  If only we had known. If only specialists/teachers/doctors in South Africa during the 80s and 90s had been able to diagnose this.  But they couldn’t, didn’t.  My challenge to you, whoever you may be, is to inform yourself on Asperger’s.  Know what it is.  Sooner or later, you will encounter it.  Could be you’re already dealing with someone who has this disorder, and you don’t know why he/she is so damn frustrating.

Because we didn’t know, we sent him on to college, expected him to do what he could to build a career.  When he failed at one thing, he tried another.  After years of heartache, expenses, struggles and pain, he finally attained a Commercial Photographer’s Certificate!  His talent blossomed. Today he is a wonderful landscape photographer, brilliant at post production, without a job and an income, but attempting to build a Freelancing business. Gus 2012 
Certainly not useless! (Asperger’s people usually have a higher than average IQ.)  After 8 years of trying to ‘make it out there’, he has moved back in with us as he can’t live alone.  However, he is a person in his own right, living life to the fullest that he possibly can.  Not disabled, differently abled!

Moral of this rather lengthy post … look into a student’s eyes and see who is there.  Find what triggers his/her excitement and develop it. Connect. Information is for everyone…not only for the cooperative, obedient, few. Oh, and avoid SSR!


Aspienaut – Wired Differently.

Siah, P & Kwok, W. 2010. The value of reading and the effectiveness of sustained silent reading. The Clearing House 83:168–174.

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Filed under Secondary School libraries, Student librarian, The joys of learning at 50+

What makes amazing?

This week’s post…? Suffice to say that I cannot stop thinking about that Portfolio waiting to be put together, but what’s good is, it’s becoming a little less daunting!
I have this desire to see the school’s library transformed, become amazing – because of what the SWOT report will deliver, because of what my research (gulp) will prove…or because of recommendations made. Ultimately, because of this passion inside me, of knowing that libraries are meant for so much more – uplifting and serving the community in more ways than we can imagine!
Fittingly, I noticed a tweet this morning, where someone had posted a Vimeo presentation by R D Lankes on “The Bad, The Good, and The Great.” (Given, no less, from the chemo therapy room! Talk about amazing!) Viewing the presentation by this remarkable mind, I’m going “Yes, yes, yes!” I hear him say that libraries are of the community…it’s all about community! Community building.

I’m really hoping I can translate this into the school situation, so that I make sense. That’s my mission over the next few months, aside from tackling cataloging, classification, subject organisation, “user” (the term Lankes hates so much!) services, and the political economy of Information (ugh!).
I’m eating, breathing, sleeping, dreaming library services and librarianship right now; loaded with info, yet trying to find the words…

There’s a community right here, worse off for not having access to amazing! 10,000 books in a school library, don’t make amazing. It’s what 1 valid, relevant, item, 1 community contact, 1 link, 1 article can do for 1 person’s need – that makes ‘amazing’! 1 person becomes 2, and 2 become 20, and so on. And soon the community is amazing, because 1 library served, truly served, 1 person.

Lankes says: “Great libraries build communities”.
Dare I say a great library builds an amazing community?

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The shrieking shrew and other issues – a rant!

I’m burning with passion to write this post.  I visited the secondary school library yesterday, mainly to interview the librarian, or Learning Resource Centre Manager, which is the title that has been invested upon her. I came away alternately saddened, angry, and frustrated, that an opportunity to have a fully operational library has gone so horribly wrong.

Firstly, the school has no staff room.  In the ‘old days’ as they were referred to, staff met for a quick before-school meet in the library.  Now they meet for 15 mins on the first day of the week, in the hall.  A mid-week 15 min meet-up for primary and secondary teachers in their respective groups happens as well, but otherwise very little chance for teachers to make longer contact.   This to me seems like a group of teachers not fully connected, and not least with the library facility, since there is no encouragement at all to pop in and see what is on offer.  In fact, the senior management of the school declined to answer any questions I had regarding the library as they felt “unequipped to answer”, not knowing what happens in the library.  I could cry!

To add to this, the school operates outdated library management software, and only for the librarian!  No-one has had training on it, no-one is prepared to pay for training on it, which I believe, is hugely expensive and via Skype.  The only person that has access to the catalogue therefore, is the librarian, because the technology capacity of the school (in one of the richest countries in the world), is so dodgy, that it takes a full 5 mins just to open a WORD document!

The librarian is frustrated, having never been given a proper job description, neither recognised as librarian nor teacher.  No-one in management seems particularly interested in her job, nor her library.  She has a host of responsibilities, with only a few of them pertaining to managing the library.  She is doing spine labelling by hand! Typing little pieces of paper, cutting them out into squares, and attaching them with scotch tape. One of her tasks is to provide tea/coffee to surrounding class teachers, because with no staff room, and nowhere to gather, if you’re located next to the library why not pop in there for a chat and coffee?, even if there is another lesson going on!

Talking about lessons in the library…why, oh why, take a bunch of Year 7 boys into a library, shout like a shrew for them to “get a library book to read – quickly, and sit down.” They then proceed to have 40 WASTED mins pretending to read from a book, grabbed from anywhere on the shelves, in which they have zero or very little interest; they are sniggering, whispering, fidgeting, doodling, staring blankly – everything except READING!!! And when the period is over the shrieking shrew tells them to “put the books back where you found them!”.  Well, besides the fact that they don’t have a cooking clue where they took the book from, they also just want to get out of there as fast as possible and into the next class/break time.  The books land up anywhere – anatomy with fiction, insects with volcanoes, and fiction scattered anywhere in-between.

During this supposedly silent reading, the teacher shows no interest in what the students are reading, and proceeds to gossip with the librarian, enjoying a freshly-made cup of coffee!  I want to froth at the mouth when she shouts out “SHHHHHHH! [wholly unacceptable in this multi-cultural society] A library is supposed to be a quiet place!”

Well, OK, relatively quiet, I’ll concede, but not in the way she defines it! Those kids will never willingly set foot in a library, guaranteed!  And when they get to college, their remote memories of secondary school’s ‘forced’ reading will come flooding back and they will sidestep the flippin’ library and resort to Google! No wonder Google is doing so well… we the librarians, teachers, parents, educators, professionals, have failed to make the library a ‘want-to-go-to’ place, especially in a school.

The budget is supposedly sufficient – for what?  There is no mention-worthy technology present.  Twelve computers that are dreadfully slow, a scanner linked to one computer, and one printer that works.  No e-resources subscribed to (not even Encyclopaedia Britannica), no electronic catalogue, few current print resources, dodgy furniture, no mention of the library on the school’s website….I could rant on and on!

So, I have to do the SWOT analysis.  Yes, it’s easy to identify problems, potential, threats, (few strengths at this moment in time) – but inside I’m so sad.  Sad that yet another year will go by and those learners will have no support, no idea of how to approach a library for learning, no clue how to find resources, no clue how to make full use of information and teachers that are forcing their multi-cultural class to pick up a book and READ! I cannot see that strategy work….you have to make them WANT to read.

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