Monday, March 25, 2019

Singapore Sunshine: Meet-ups and Reunions

Apart from an enjoyable workshop in Singapore last week, meeting new friends, visiting libraries and conversing with librarians from different International Baccalaureate (IB) schools in the Asia Pacific, I had a wonderful time meeting storytellers and a Filipino Librarian there. Plus, I got lost and found myself being adopted by a Filipino family for 30 minutes.

Here is how it all went.

Sheila Wee of the Singapore Association of Storytellers couldn't make it to our meet up in her place. I was supposed to visit her and join in the weekly story circle of the group hosted by a member. But, she set-up Panna Kintalil and Swee Yean to meet me. We had dinner at a mall in Tong Baru and for an hour and a half, touched based, shared life stories and compared notes on the status of storytelling in our respective countries.

I was impressed at the political will and the effort that the association has taken in promoting and advocating storytelling. They have professionalized the art form and defined that reading aloud is not storytelling. Definitely, I will be back in Singapore to join them in another storytelling event or festival. This I promised myself.

I planned to meet a librarian friend who works in the National Gallery, but our schedules just did not allow it. Instead, I found myself en route to the National Gallery on my last night in Singapore to have dinner with Von Totanes, the Filipino Librarian. Von is on leave and having a good time. Who would have thought we would meet in Singapore in all places? Apparently, the country holds a special place in our hearts but, for different reasons.

An hour early, before meeting Von, I actually got off on the wrong bus stop. The family waiting at the same stop I got off at went up to me and asked if I am a Filipino. I said yes and I knew they were too. Glorian and Miguel, with their daughter helped me find my way to the correct train station. We had a good chat about life back home, the high cost of living in Singapore and reasons to go back and visit the country and the motherland once in a while. We were the only ones talking in loud voices in the bus. Of course, they brought me to Orchard Road where I could get good bargains for pasalubongs and sent me off to the right train station. 

Some plans do not always go as expected. But the journey turned out to be insightful and life affirming as well.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Alternative Class Days: Bending Earth Day 2-3

On day 2 and 3 of Bending Earth, we learned about Philippine Pottery, got our hands on terra cotta and stoneware, sculpted and hand built figures and pots, and realised the difficulty of making an ocarina.

Maui Melencio once again taught us the value of clay and the importance of earth. Coaching students to balance their mixes of water and earth along the way, she encouraged them to be patient and to listen to their clay. During the painting session of the pots and sculptures, she explained the delicate process of glazing and firing, emphasising what EJ Espiritu told us in Day 1. 

In the two day hands on workshop, students were asked to research on Philippine Pottery. They found out meaning of clay and the different pots pre-Colonial Filipinos used. I found out that in Iguig, Cagayan there is a town whose industry is chiefly reliant on clay and pottery. Pottery is a common industry in the Philippines from Luzon, Visayas to Mindanao but there is a need to support local potters to innovate and bring back their cultural identity into pottery and ceramics. This gives me another good reason to visit my father’s hometown. 

On a personal level, I learned something new from Maui Melencio last week. How clay remembers the touch of the potter’s hand. When the pot or the sculpture is fired in the kiln, it leans or curves one way or the other. How connected we are to the elements! Indeed, we are spiritual beings and yet, we surround ourselves with synthetic things. I heed the call of the elements.

Earth. Water. Air. Fire.  Uncle Iroh lives! 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Alternative Class Days 2019: Bending Earth

From March 20, 21 and 22, 2019, the Academy is up and about for Alternative Class Days (ACD). This has been around as far back as I can remember. We are having nine ACD Classes or Sessions and one of them is Pottery. It is the same ACD Class I championed last year. Following the same format, what changed this year is a visit to the Cornerstone Pottery Farm in Silang, Cavite. There we met EJ Espiritu, potter and owner of Cornerstone Pottery Farm. Coming from a manufacturing and production background, his orientation and tour revolved on the process, the business and the chemistry behind pottery and ceramic art. 

The entire process still blows me away. From mixing clay to forming it, air drying to glazing, firing for 10 to 12 hours long only to discover the many mistakes and rejected pots and ceramics at the end of it all. Patience and perseverance are two qualities a potter must possess, apart from discipline and a sense of order. The highlight of the tour was EJ Espiritu’s demonstration at the electric wheel. Placing a mound of clay, he emphasised the importance of balance and centering. I felt a tug at my heart strings. It has been three months since I last held clay. 

Our students were impressed at his use of the wheel. He was steady, firm but gentle. He said it took him a while to learn how to effectively use it. Finding a sense of peace within made the process of using a wheel a bit easier to handle and to manipulate a material such as clay. We ended the visit by buying ceramic and pots from his shop. As a souvenir, I bought a simple bird chime. I love it!

On day 2 and 3, we will meet Maui Melencio for the hand building and sculpting workshop on campus.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Singapore Sunshine Day 4: IBAP Librarians Workshop Academic Honesty

On my fourth day in Singapore and the last day of the IBAP Workshop, we had the opportunity to have a round table discussion with Extended Essay (EE) Supervisors attending the IBAP EE Role of the Supervisor Workshop.It became a session of sharing of best practices and teaching techniques that work. I shared how, as a librarian, I would help students identify the keywords in their research question and use them as strategies in searching, locating, accessing and understanding information and its sources. The teachers found this an interesting technique. Happy to help! That’s why librarians are placed at the core of the Diploma Program (DP).

Concerns on time, academic work loads of students and self-management in the DP surfaced too. There is just too much content to handle in such a short time. While structures and mechanisms are in place, teachers are left tired and spent as much as their students. I am not alone then. The challenge of teaching is always the pressure to keep up or to be abreast with the way students learn and live. Teachers grow old, but their students are always young.

Another interesting session on the last day of the workshop was the session on Academic Honesty. My workshop leader had us do practical activities to teach the skills. We also had a group presentation that simulated a 10 minute presentation to teachers about Academic Honesty. We ended the day with the  writing of our action plans.

I appreciate attending this IBAP Librarians Workshop as it gave me a clearer direction to set new goals for the library. I went home with an action plan and with a readiness to face the changes necessary to update and upgrade our library services and programs.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Singapore Sunshine Day 3: IBAP Workshop for Librarians 2

The sessions on the second day of the International Baccalaureate Asia Pacific (IBAP) workshop were all about Inquiry, Approaches to Teaching amd Learning (ATL) the DP Core namely Theory of Knowledge (TOK) Extended Essay (EE), and Community Action Service (CAS), and a visit to the libraries of the Canadian International School. Imam Ragab, our workshop leader, connected the ATLs and the DP Core to library services and functions that cater and support the DP curriculum. We read a lot of IB documents, discussed current library practices in our schools that support the DP, unpacked the EE criteria and accessed MyIB, the IB portal for all authorised schools and IB applicant schools.

During the session in accessing documents in MyIB, we were made to skim and scan pertinent documents to the ATLs and the DP Core. I had a review of my role as EE Coordinator this year. I told my workshop leader how, as a librarian coordinating the EE, I would get derailed from the expected roles I am meant to play. 80% of my efforts go to administration and procedural functions. To this, my workshop leader gave me an empathetic smile in recognition of my frustration.

I mean to do something about this sooner or later. There has to be a balance between running a program and teaching skills so students can meet the requirements and standards of the program. 

The day ended with a visit to the CIS libraries which lifted my spirits. The smell of books reminded me of the Children’s Media Center of the International School Manila. Ah, memory of my childhood! 

The librarians who welcomed us, were warm and friendly. Lisa Miller, the Library Coordinator shared valuable experiences in teaching research skills. What I found common to their experience with ours is the ladder approach to skills instruction. In each grade level beginning in 7th grade, a research skill is put into focus for instruction. For example, search strategies are taught alongside extracting information, concepts and content from sources as applied to tasks in different subjects. In 8th grade till 9th, focus on skills like evaluation of sources, in-text citations, knowing the right sources to use in a research paper, following a process of inquiry are mapped until the DP. The expected output from students in the EE is 4,000 word essay with a focused research question and evidences to back it up. Imagine the skills a 17 year old would need to learn and apply at the same time. The key is to prepare them early and nip the problem in the bud.

The Bulletin Board at the Canadian International School promotes the Extended Essay a a journey.

Research is a big concept that involves global and unitary skills. To teach it, a knowledge of its parts and the micro skills of research helps the teacher or the librarian make students understand them better. Teachers must recognise the support librarians can offer them and librarians must listen to teachers and students to be able to provide this support in very complicated and cognitive tasks.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Singapore Sunshine Day 2: IBAP Librarians Workshop 1

The first day of the International Baccaluareate Asia Pacific (IBAP) Librarians Workshop kicked off yesterday. This workshop is one of the many IB workshops happening simultaneously at the Canadian International School in Jurong, Songapore. There are 800 delegates from IB schools all over the world. In the librarians workshop, we are only 16 people and our workshop leader.

Day 1 was spent with knowing the fundamental IB terms, concepts and approaches to teaching and learning. The highlight of the day was a trip to the Jurong Regional Public Library. One of my takeaways in the workshop is this sentence I read in one of the IB documents, Knowledge will lead to caring and caring will lead to action (Ragab, 24). It sums up the wholistic philosophy in teaching and the experiential benefits of constructive learning.

Another important concept that struck me is "international mindedness". I have heard this before from our academic coordinators, but it was only in the workshop where in I had a clear view of it. It helped that I had group mates to discuss this concept. At the end of the activity, we were asked to define it as we understood it. We said that, International mindedness involves multicultural thinking patterns where in a person perceives himself/herself as a global citizen.

The field trip in Jurong Regional Library was an enjoyable one for me because, I saw many literacy programs for kids and teens being implemented by the library staff. Clearly, the library is a community center because the programs involve parents in the reading development of their kids as well as people from different demographics in Jurong. Outside the book depository, a mother and her child were returning books while a younger child looks on. In the Yound Adult section, there is a CHILLAX Zone, a stage for performances, an exhibit area and bulletin boards and display areas for teens to post their book reviews. In the magazine section, the elderly read quietly while few listen to audio books. While the availability of non-fiction books is not very visible, the library has a strong belief in community involvement and literacy development.

How I wish all our public libraries in the Philippines are like this. But, we have to deal with what life has to offer. And it's like dancing the cha-cha.

There are many challenges for Filipino Librarians to make the library system a sturdy one. With the rise of many non-government organizations and local government units with successful barangay and city libraries, perhaps the leaders in the public library system in the country can share these stories especially to schools and learning communities. This month is Public Library Awareness Month. How apt is this visit to Jurong and these ideas, thoughts coming into mind. On a positive note, I will do what I can and live life, one day at a time.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Singapore Sunshine

I flew in Singapore this morning along with three colleagues from the Beacon Academy. We are here for four days to attend the International Baccalaureate Asia Pacific (IBAP) Workshop at the Canadian International School. I will attend the librarians workshop while my three colleagues will attend their respective teachers sessions.

This is my second time in Singapore. I was here back in 2002 for the Storytelling Congress.

That experience was life changing. It was then that I realised the difference between reading aloud and storytelling. And so, while preparing for the trip a few weeks before the flight, I got in touch with Sheila Wee of the Storytellers Association Singapore (SAS) to touch base with her. She has been very active in the storytelling movement here and was a mover during the early years of the SAS.

Sadly, the meet-up didn’t push through. But Sheile made sure, I will be taken good care of . So she encouraged Swee Yean and Panna Kantilal to meet me for dinner instead. 

We did. It was like meeting old friends when in fact, it was my first time to personally meet Swee and meet Panna after seventeen long years! This is how things go with storytellers. More on the details of our conversation in upcoming posts.

Needless to say, this state city with its stringent rules, welcomed me once more with smiles and sunshine!

Recreational and Intentional Reading: The Library's Role

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