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Last week, I flew out from Los Angeles to New York to attend the annual Dusty animation screening at the School of Visual Arts. I watched forty thesis films from this year’s graduating class—a very solid year, I might add—and witnessed many of the students experience pre-show jitters and post-show relief. It was a fun night getting to see a lot of my old classmates, friends and teachers again, but most importantly it made me reflect on my own experiences since my own thesis screening two years ago.
While graduation was a big deal, the thesis screening was really the big night for us. The films we put a year’s worth of blood, sweat and tears into were going to be shown in front of an audience on the big screen, and for most of us, that was a completely new experience. Some of us felt that our thesis films were like big flashy business cards or “HIRE ME” signs, so if there were any industry people in the audience that night, it just might be the ticket to having a job lined up after graduation.
A few days later at the Dusty Awards ceremony, my film ended up winning the Outstanding Traditional Animation award (tied with my friend Zach Bellissimo’s Blenderstein, which was featured here on Cartoon Brew), so in a way I felt validated that I was a decent enough animator to go out and make a living after I left school.
There were times that I felt my future was uncertain, and that having a career in this field might not work out for me.
But after college, the excitement of working as a professional animator gradually began to fade. I went through many ups and downs (mostly downs). I had long periods of busy work, and even longer periods of unemployment. And some of the jobs I had, while keeping me busy, barely supported me. There were times that I felt my future was uncertain, and that having a career in this field might not work out for me. I became disenchanted with the medium, felt emasculated by my peers and started falling into a depression. And seeing a lot of my friends and classmates in equally dire straights filled me with even more trepidation about my career path.
After dealing with this for over a year, I finally made a very big decision to pull up stakes, leave New York and move to LA. It was risky because I didn’t have a job lined up for me when I came out here. Luckily I had friends who found a place for me to live and I got a job in the industry almost immediately upon arrival. Even though I’ve been in LA for only three months, I consider it the best decision I’ve ever made. I feel like I’m in an environment where creativity and appreciation for the craft is never-ending, and I’m the happiest I’ve been since I graduated two years ago.
Be hopeful, hone your craft, push yourself out there, and eventually you will find your place.
And being back at the SVA Theatre watching these incredibly talented young animators go through the same reactions and emotions filled me with both excitement and concern. These students, as well as the hundreds upon hundreds of other graduates coming out of animation schools all over the country, will be put through the same paces as myself. After graduation, that safety net of college life is gone, and despite what your professors or friends tell you, nothing can really prepare you for what happens after you graduate. But the important thing that I want to express to these soon-to-be professional animators is to be hopeful, hone your craft, push yourself out there, and eventually you will find your place.
Don’t let ANYONE or ANYTHING disenchant you. Everybody goes through these motions at one time or another after leaving school. Some of you might have jobs lined up right after school, and some of you might have to wait a little longer. It’s a very scary thing to go through, but it’s all part of the experience. You appreciate things more when you experience the bad alongside the good. It’s something you learn from, and carry with you for the rest of your life. Never wait for opportunities to come along, but instead seek them out. It’s different for everyone. I had to move from one coast to the other to find what I wanted, and I’m glad I did. Keep doing personal work, develop your skills up and surround yourself with people who love and support you and what you do. If you do that, everything will be okay.
With that, I want to congratulate and wish the best of luck to all the recent and soon-to-be graduating animation students. Don’t let employment statistics fool you. The world is chock full of opportunities waiting for you to snatch up. So go out there and keep this industry alive and thriving!
Even if you don’t work in a school media center, I’m guessing your life still tends to run on an academic schedule when you work with teens. So welcome to the new school year! Here’s what I think might be interesting, useful, or intriguing to you and your patrons this month.
If your teens are interested in what’s new in the going green movement, have them look more globally to see what’s going on. In coastal Ecuador, young people from farming families are heading up efforts to save, cultivate, and redistribute heirloom seeds to revitalize the environment and help farmers prosper. Part of an organization called FOCCAHL, 20-year-old Cesar Guale Vasquez travels throughout nearby areas collecting seeds from farmers and also hosts swapping events so that farmers can trade seeds with each other in order to have more vibrant and diverse crops. Now take that for inspiration and add to it your own library’s resources on climate change, farming, and nutrition and plan an interesting program that combines science with activism and see what your advisory board wants to do with it. Many libraries now are creating their own seed libraries, and whether they’re for wildflowers or corn, they can be a great way to bring communities together, get young people to work with older people, and freshen up your local environment while doing your small part to keep the world cleaner and greener.
Matthews, J. (2012). Ecuador’s seed savior. World Ark, May 2012: 10-15.
At the beginning of the school year, many teens are interested in refining or experimenting with their personal style. There is generally no shortage of mainstream fashion and beauty advice in the magazines and books you have in your collection already, but there might be a population you’re missing, and they’re getting bigger and more vocal. While the natural hair trend has been growing for years, the recent O Magazine cover presenting Oprah Winfrey with her hair relaxer-free has sparked a lot of talk. The social news web is blowing up with discussions of hegemony (the prevalence of hair relaxers in the African American community has been linked to unrealistic standards of white beauty), harassment (nearly everyone with natural curls, regardless of race, has experienced strangers touching their hair without asking first), and self image (who decides what’s beautiful, and is it more important to do what you think is pretty on you or to make a political statement with your hair?). Take a look at the reports of the Oprah cover at Sociological Images and Jezebel (it’s worth taking a look at the comments, too, but they’re probably NSFW and can get heated), and then consider hosting a discussion club or making a display of books on beauty. If you’re not sure where to start, I suggest Naturally Curly, one of the premiere websites (with social components, news, and shopping) for natural hair of all textures.
STEM, STEM, STEM. Everybody wants students to engage with science, technology, engineering and math. Federal money is pumped into it. Grants support it. But do teens and tweens care for it? In a study of middle school students, researchers analyzed both boys’ and girls’ wishful identification with scientists on television shows to see what factors influenced positive feelings (possibly indicating an interest in pursuing a science career or hobby). They found that boys were more likely to identify with male scientists and girls with female scientists, which is unsurprising. What was more interesting is that the genre of the television show affected the positive feelings. Scientist characters on dramas were more likely to elicit wishful identification than those on cartoons or educational programs. What can you do with this information? Plenty. For your next film screening, try a drama or documentary that presents scientists in a good light, like Cool It, And the Band Played On, or Einstein and Eddington. If you want to take a crack at those who think that being good at science or math makes you a loser, connect STEM with the things teens already love, like working out, YouTube, and the Web by taking a look at the 35 fittest people in tech, videos by Vi Hart, who turns mathematical concepts and history into snarky audiovisual narratives, or how-tos at Lifehacker.
Steinke, J., et al. (2011). Gender Differences in Adolescents’ Wishful Identification With Scientist Characters on Television. Science Communication, 34(2): 163-199.
Whether you’re in library school or you’ve been working for years, you might find Hack Library School’s new starter kit series interesting, especially their post on services to children. Anyone want to volunteer to write the starter kit for youth services? On a related note, Teen Librarian Toolbox has a post on what to do about all that stuff they don’t teach you in library school (I’m taking notes).
If you’ve been trying to find a way to collaborate with nearby schools, see if you can get an advisory group to have a meeting with local teachers (it might be a good idea to make sure that the teachers are not teachers of the teens in your group so as to encourage openness and honesty) and start a dialogue. The topic? Standardized tests. Students may feel like teachers are against them, while teachers probably feel as if it’s administrators who are forcing them to be uncreative. So how do you get all sides to understand each other when schools are still tied to federal standards? For background information, try the journal Rethinking Schools‘ spring 2012 issue, which featured a special section on standardized tests. After a good discussion, maybe everyone can take fun “standardized tests” on personality types, books, or any other fun topics. Then see if students, teachers, and you can work together and form some sort of coalition that bridges the gaps between inside- and outside-of-school education, engagement, and issues. Start a collaborative blog. Take turns hosting book clubs at different places that feel like home to the different stakeholders in your group. What might be an interesting year-long project is to get everyone in the group to develop their ultimate standardized test to replace the ones they’re taking or proctoring in school. What skills do teachers and students think are most important to have before leaving the K-12 system? What topics do people in the real world need to know? Is it better to test knowledge orally? With essays? With student-led, student-designed creative projects? With their perspectives and your skills with information seeking, along with your vast collections, you should be able to create a really interesting partnership. And if you need more inspiration, check out these roundups of education blogs by both students and teachers, both here and here.
What are your plans for this upcoming academic year? As always, your questions, comments and suggestions are welcomed and encouraged!
I have no teaching qualifications. I'm not an educational expert. But simply through being a children’s writer (and in addition, a parent) I’ve been drawn into taking an interest in the latest raft of proposals about our children’s education. It started with a phone call from my local radio station, BBC Radio Leeds. What did I think about children learning poetry by heart, they asked. Huh? Was my highly articulate reply. The truth was I didn’t have a worked out opinion, but learning poetry by heart is one of the proposals in the new Gove paper on primary education, and so (the radio station reckoned, not unreasonably) as a children’s writer, and one who regularly goes into schools, I really ought to have a view. So, I read the proposals. I went on air. And I’ve been stunned by the conviction – almost vitriol – that seems to characterise the debate. Learning poetry was an essential art, inducting children into the rhythm of the language, giving them discipline and the lasting gift of verse that their grandparents enjoyed, one side thundered. Drilling kids in poetry was a regressive step, designed to humiliate them, and destroy their love of learning, thundered the other. The trouble is, as with most educational debates, it never seems to me as cut and dried as the opposing camps suggest. It could be a good idea. But a lot depends on the way it’s done. Around the same time, the Children’s Laureate, Michael Rosen, was circulating a petition for children’s writers to sign, condemning the provisions on phonics in the same government document. (Read the petition here.) Once more, I felt uncomfortable. Rosen is one of the most articulate critics of Gove’s approach to education in general. But...my own impression is that phonics can be helpful. I doubt that - as Rosen sometimes seems to imply – exposure to storytelling and being surrounded by books is enough to get kids reading. Not at first. I’ve watched my own child learn to read. I’ve talked to other parents. And I’ve talked to dyslexia tutors, who often advocate a structured approach. Above all, as a writer, I’ve visited plenty of primary schools, and met the children who are struggling to read at a level appropriate to their age. That’s desperately sad. It’s left me feeling that, as a children’s writer, I’m not confident to weigh in on reading methodologies. The important thing is not ideology, but what works. I’d like others to make that decision, based on the very best evidence out there. (Not an easy task I know.) Where I DO have a strong conviction, and where I strongly agree with Michael Rosen’s petition, is on the importance of reading for pleasure. Once children have mastered the basics of reading – by whatever methodology – they need to enjoy it. Otherwise they won’t read. And they must, if they are to become truly literate, educated people, capable of understanding the world around them – the world that lies beyond their own narrow experience. As many people, including Michael Rosen and the Society of Authors, have pointed out, it is scandalous that the government, which is so ready to impose targets and objectives generally, is prepared to give no more than lip-service to the idea of “reading for pleasure”. The government acknowledges the vast body of research supporting its importance. Every school should be encouraging it, they say. Yet none of the concrete measures needed to encourage it are in place. What is needed? It’s simple really.
Every school should have a library. Schools make space for computers – but books are far cheaper, and what children need if they are going to read is books.
Every school should have a librarian.Somebody on the staff of every school should have the job of understanding which children’s books are out there, choosing the stock, and guiding the children to the books that might interest them. That also means they need the budget and the training. It shouldn’t depend on luck – that there is somebody on the teaching team that has that special interest – as it does at the moment.
It would make such a huge difference. It really would. So, I say forget about the ideology. The arguments about whether six year olds should be reciting Longfellow, or following whichever brand of phonics. GET THE BOOKS TO THE CHILDREN It’s not rocket science. It’s something surely on which we can all agree. Emma's web-site Emma's latest book is Wolfie.
A while ago, I was tidying up after a school event. The librarian had already started her next class, which, I quickly surmised, was the annual “tell them about copyright and plagiarism” lesson for new senior school pupils. Hooray! So, I listened in.
After explaining something about copyright and plagiarism, she gave the reasons why they shouldn’t break the laws. Well, she gave two reasons.
You might get caught plagiarizing in an exam or coursework and then you could be disqualified.
You are committing a crime and if you get caught you could get a criminal record and/or pay other penalties.
These reasons, though true, are neither the whole truth, nor the most important truths, nor the arguments most likely to convince. We (people in general) are not very good at risk analysis. These risks seem far off and unlikely and once we observe that in fact it’s very possible to break copyright over and over again and not get caught, the argument loses all power.
Here are some better reasons (which she may have given after I'd left):
If you break copyright laws, you are stealing; in doing so you are directly hurting individual, real people, most often people who really can’t afford to be victims of your theft. (When people hear specific stories of hardship, this is powerful, and most young people care deeply about such things. In fact, it’s my belief that most people of any age care, and those who don’t are perhaps unreachable anyway. Some people will steal and hurt whatever we do or say.)
If you download illegally, you are also putting money into the rapacious pockets of large corporations. (Most people don’t particularly like the thought of benefiting huge companies while harming individuals.)
If you wrote something and discovered that, although you were making no money from it, someone else was, how would you feel? How would you feel if that happened over and over again, and you remained poor while the people stealing it grew richer and lazier? (The “imagine if it were you” argument is a strong one.)
I’ve been thinking (and talking!) about copyright and its effects recently, and I’d like to draw your attention to some things.
1. ALCS have produced some wonderful classroom resources for primary and secondary pupils, which outline the issues in useful and clear ways. Consider pointing teachers in their direction?
2. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 27, para 2: “Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author." Just in case anyone thinks we don't have any moral authority to protect our work.
3. You might be interested in the story in Der Spiegel of what happened when Julia Schramm, of Germany's Pirate Party, which campaigns on an anti-copyright platform, discovered that her book was available on an illegal download site. When she sold publishing rights to Random House, what did she think that meant, if she doesn't agree with copyright anyway and allegedly regards Intellectual Property as "disgusting"? Surely a better course of action for her would have been to self-publish or crowd-fund the project, then assigning a Creative Commons Licence?
4. What about TrafficPaymaster, the "scraping" software sold by HowToCorp? Do read this Guardian article. It makes the point that HowToCorp was founded by Grant Shapps, now chairman of the Tory party. He handed the company over to his wife, but I'm guessing there's one member of the Government who just may not be on our side in the copyright argument. I do hope I'm wrong.
5. And companies that profit from illegal download sites? Danuta Kean explains it brilliantly here. Please read her full piece but these were some points that stuck out for me:
That the illegal filesharing sites iFile.it and Library.nu are alleged to have made $11m from ebook downloads.
That "BitTorrent –the technology of choice for illegal filesharing – is estimated to account for 18% of global Internet traffic."
That when the FBI indicted seven executives of the file-sharing site Megaupload, those executives, including Kim Dotcom (!), had allegedly earned $175m from the site. In 2010 Dotcom took home $42m.
(Quoted with Danuta's permission...)
6. Here is another online article, the Trichordist’s Letter to Emily White, including a personal story of the negative effect on a writer. As Danuta and the Trichordist both argue, it’s not just the file-sharing sites but the companies that sell the hardware to both parties in the transaction; the sites that profit from advertising (Google, ebay, Facebook etc); and the finance companies that provide the money-handling facilities when people sign up for premium subscriptions, for example. It seems as if everyone benefits except the creator.
That’s the point: I don’t believe I have a right to earn a living from my writing. What I do believe is that if anyone is going to earn anything from my writing, that person should be me. Not only me, but me foremost, me in control. That's what copyright means. It doesn't mean greedy, rapacious miserliness. It means being able to share in the results of our own creativity, talent and hard work.
And this is important for young people to realise because they, too, are creators. One day, many of them will try to make a career in a creative industry, not only to pay their bills but to contribute to the culture of their time. What will that be like if in the meantime they and we have allowed the Cult of Free to hold sway so that paying the bills is not only difficult but impossible? Creative people must eat, too.
Some people disagree with the whole idea of copyright protection. Fine. Disagree away. I'm telling you why I support it. And why I want young people to know the score. Then they can decide.
Okay, that doesn’t look very exciting written down, but I think it is. I’ve signed up for a new scheme, the brainchild of Tim Redgrave, head teacher at Ysgol Esgob Morgan in St Asaph, North Wales. The idea is that a school adopts an author as Patron of Reading, to develop a relationship with the school and its pupils and to foster and promote a culture of reading.
The idea came to Tim following a hugely successful visit by my friend Helena Pielichaty. This doesn’t surprise me at all; I’ve had to spend a ridiculous amount of time this week alone telling my daughter to put down that blimmin’ Girls FC book and get dressed/have your breakfast/brush your teeth/get in the car.
Anyone who knows anything about my views on education knows how important I think reading for pleasure is. It’s the key; there’s so much more evidence to support its foundational role than just about anything else. So I’m delighted to be part of this scheme. I could witter on about it for pages & pages, but I think instead I’m going to direct you to Helena’s blog, where she explains the whole thing. Please take a look - you'll be inspired!
And if you’re a teacher or school librarian looking for ways to promote reading for pleasure, or an author wanting to get involved, please contact Tim via the link on this page to add your name to the list of potential patrons!
In the wake of another national tragedy, it is more apparent than ever that our schools must embrace a stronger role in supporting the mental health of our youth by developing trauma-sensitive schools. The mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that killed several staff and 20 elementary school students came less than two months after Hurricane Sandy, a storm that brought devastation and displacement to tens of thousands of people in the Northeast. Both events offer stark reminders of the acute stress our students may face when experiencing cataclysmic events. However, even in the absence of such tragedies, many of our nation’s children are in chronic distress.
Despite our collective efforts, youth continue to have adverse and traumatic experiences, such as chronic child maltreatment, domestic and community violence, homelessness, natural disasters, parental substance abuse, death of a loved one, and the list goes on. These experiences can significantly undermine the ability to learn, form relationships, and manage emotions and behavior; all critical components of succeeding in school and in life. To improve our country’s education system, we must first address these barriers to progress; and schools remain the most logical place to do it.
As a school psychologist, I have had the privilege of working with students, parents, and fellow educators to help students learn, develop, and grow in a healthy environment. I have also had the challenge of identifying the mental health problems that impede learning where all too often, the initial question is, “What’s wrong with you?” rather than “What happened to you?” or “How can we help?” Some believe that schools are in the business of educating, not mental health. On the contrary, supporting student mental health is a pre-requisite to learning, not an afterthought.
Interestingly, while only a fraction of kids who need mental health care actually receive it, 70-80% of those that do receive it get it at school. Schools often have a cadre of health and mental health supports available. For example, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the NYC Department of Education mobilized their staff with an all hands on deck approach. However, even with the most talented and ambitious group of mental health professionals in a school system, it’s unlikely that they can provide the full range of mental health supports to every student in need. A main challenge is first identifying students in need when a stressor is not as obvious as a hurricane or a school shooting. Moreover, some symptoms of childhood trauma may not fully manifest until adolescence, at a time where some may view that behavior as an unrelated outcome of that early experience.
Trauma-sensitive classrooms and schools provide an environment where all adults in the building have an awareness and sensitivity to the potential impact of trauma and adverse experiences on students’ lives. The initial thinking behind low academic performance or bad behavior is not automatically that the student is willfully disobedient, unmotivated, and unintelligent. Trauma-sensitive schools are places where all youth feel safe, connected, and supported — not just the youth who don’t need mental health care or those that need it most. Trauma-sensitive schools augment and supplement the herculean efforts of the school-based mental health professionals and in a sense, provide a continuous and universal mental health intervention system.
Creating trauma-sensitive schools requires a great deal of commitment. First, we know that most, if not all, teacher preparation programs don’t include training to prepare teachers to identify, teach, and support traumatized students. This is a problem, particularly given the demands on teacher preparation programs, and teachers themselves. The duties of a teacher are added on with regularity, and rarely removed. Therefore, we must infuse some content on the impacts of trauma and mental health on learning throughout teacher preparation and professional development programs.
Second, we must leverage the existing mental health professionals that exist in schools, including school psychologists, school counselors, school social workers, school nurses, and other school-based mental health providers. Utilizing them more effectively could include more regular consultation with teachers and administrators on developing trauma-sensitive strategies and perspectives. These individuals can also provide in-services to staff at no additional cost. Meeting this demand also means properly funding enough positions to provide these services along with the intensive direct services to students in need.
Many of our kids are in distress, and our schools remain our frontline opportunity to support them.
Eric Rossen is the co-editor of Supporting and Educating Traumatized Students: A Guide for School-Based Professionals with Robert Hull. Eric Rossen, Ph.D., is a nationally certified school psychologist and licensed psychologist in Maryland. He currently serves as Director of Professional Development and Standards at the National Association of School Psychologists. Robert Hull, Ed.S., MHS, is a school psychologist in Prince George’s County Public Schools, Maryland, serves on the faculty at the University of Missouri, and holds a position as adjunct faculty at Goucher College.
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The talk of the town this morning is this friggin’ brilliant short – The Reward – an epic “hero’s journey” in nine minutes (take that, Peter Jackson). This graduation film was directed by Mikkel Mainz and Kenneth Ladekjaer (and their team: Glenn August, Jonas Andreassen, Josefine Hannibal, Karen Bennetzen, Ole Christian Loken, Paolo Giandoso and Tanja Nielsen) at Denmark’s Animation Workshop.
Animator/teacher Mike Nguyen (Iron Giant) recently forwarded this and links to five other great films and trailers from this year’s graduating class. Mike gives a a 2-3 week workshop on character animation to first year students. (Mike is currently based in Korea, teaching traditional animation there).
Go to the link to explore further work from this outstanding school. Below I’ve embed a few of my other favorites.
Under The Fold (Director: Bo Juhl Nielson)
Memoria (Director: Elisabit Yr Atladottir)
The Odd Sound Out (Directors: Pernille Sihm, Ida Maria Schouw Andreasen)
I just had the most amazing school visit! Do you remember my Futures for Comics brainstorming blog post about comics festivals in schools? Well, I went to Green Lane Primary School in Surrey and they did something similar! For their Arts Week, teacher Lee Christy chose a writer-illustrator - me! - and each class studied one of my books and created narrative artwork inspired by the books.
When kids ask me how to get books published, I always advise them not to wait until they're grown up, or in art college, to start making books, but to start making them now, in effect, self-publishing. So it was brilliant to see the Green Lane kids doing just that! Year 5 focused on Morris the Mankiest Monster, creating books about their own monsters, also in rhyme, and describing where their monster lives and its personal habits, like writer Giles Andreae did with Morris.
They even included things like endpapers and a back blurb and price, I was impressed. Here's one:
I got such a kick out of this war comic based on Vern and Lettuce, called Major and Ryan. Here's the cover design:
Then the comics inside:
Each class photocopied the comics and put them together into an anthology, as well as having each comic displayed individually:
Year 4 made clay monsters:
Here are some of their monster drawings. The teachers also did some clever things with printing out pictures of Morris from the book and putting them on a grid, having different kids draw a quarter of Morris, so they'd look more carefully at how he's constructed.
A lot of the monsters looked very striking, as good as anything grown-up illustrators might create!
Another clever idea was to give the kids half of Morris, then have them draw the other half:
Here are some fab monsters with dangly legs by Year 3:
The story text doesn't mention sea creatures, but I've drawn tentacles sticking out from the waves, and the teacher jumped on that detail to have the children create their own sea monsters and compiling them into Princess Spaghetti's Book of Sea Monsters. How cool is that!
Some sea monsters:
And Princess Spaghetti with real spaghetti hair!
The teacher even used the characters to help with vocabulary words, written on accordion legs they made:
Last, but not least, Reception class focused on the aliens in You Can't Eat a Princess! They made awesome looking paint blobs and stuck googly eyes on them to make them come alive.
I'd quite like to do this, actually. These came out beautifully.
This group did some writing, too!
I was overwhelmed, almost to tears, by how hard the teachers had worked to think up interesting ways to use the books, and walk their kids through the projects step by step; the work showed the great deal of thought and effort that the kids put into them. I think this must be the best school visit I've ever had, the kids knew so much about my books and me before I arrived that I was able to do much more with them than other visits, where the kids haven't been prepped as much. Thank you so much to the teachers and this team who helped me during the day: Deputy Head Alison Reed, Literacy Co-ordinator Rachael Crook and teacher Lee Christy. You people are amazing!
I'll include a few more things the kids created, just because they're so fabulous. Starting with Reginald the Roodest Monster. I love that he "lives in a house made of go-away signs".
Here's Scrbby the Scaredest Monster
Chili the Cheekiest Monster
Louis the Laziest Monster
Thanks so much, Green Lane Primary! You guys totally rock.
I had the pleasure of teaching writing workshops at Downey Elementary School in Westwood, MA, recently.
It was one of the best experiences I've ever had in a school.
The excitement in the air was palpable.
I was greeted by this:
When I signed in in the front office, the receptionist told me how excited the school was about my visit.
The parent volunteer was busily working on the many, many book orders they had.
The teachers were friendly, enthusiastic and 100% engaged in the workshops.
The principal was ever-present throughout the school, smiling and calling each child by name.
The media specialist was welcoming (and happily rearranged her schedule to accommodate my issues with that darn blizzard we had), displayed my books throughout the library and had made sure they were available for all classes.
And the students? Well, they could NOT have been more prepared, more enthusiastic, more respectful, or more friendly. They put 100% effort into the workshops. And one thing I loved: if a student read a particularly good piece of writing, the others complimented him/her and occasionally even clapped.
They sent me this the night before the Show, Don't Tell workshop to show me how they couldn't wait for my visit the next day.
I loved hearing about and seeing how the students had prepared for my visit and used my books for projects.
One class made a display of various elements that they were "tracking" as they read my books.
Here are some of them:
I am tracking to try to find 4 little clues that the author is scattering into the story to help me solve the mystery.
I'm tracking 8 examples of repetition in the story. [AND] I am tracking examples of where the 2 plots might connect.
I am tracking examples of how the 2 main characters' traits change throughout the story.
I am tracking similes in The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis.
I am tracking the author's use of onomatopoeia and I'm finding 10 examples of it throughout the story.
I'm tracking 5-6 distractions that get in the way of solving the problem.
I am tracking how the main character's motivation to steal the dog increases because of the different events. I will have 4-5 examples.
I'm tracking how the author is showing something about herself through the story.
Aren't those great?!
Those teachers were great.
Those students were great.
I love seeing how those two things go hand in hand.
And how can you not love a teacher who looks like this on Crazy Hair Day? Thank you, Ms. Carbone and all the teachers at Downey.
This week I went on my first-ever trip to Switzerland! I used to pride myself on travelling lightly, just a tiny rucksack, but I never used to travel around foreign cities wearing big hats or dressed as a pirate. Some of the morning commuters on the Geneva trams looked a bit surprised.
It's a beautiful school. There are lots of International Schools all over the world, but this one was the first.
I always wanted a job that would let me travel to cool places! I liked this comics panel that one of the children there drew: 'I knew this day would come.' 'Never! Well, maybe in your dreams.' ...Ace!
When I was little, we only ever got to have those mini boxes of sugar cereals when we were on holiday.
I got to do lots and lots of drawing! Not careful, well-thought-out pictures, just fun, fast, scrappy stuff that the kids thought up. The first day was a comics day, so I didn't dress up as a pirate. (But I still wore a fancy hat. It's worth it to see the kids' eyes go round in the stairwells and the people in the staff room doing double-takes.)
Photo by Susan Boller
Here's one of our comics. Kids suddenly come up with loads of ideas when a story is fart-themed.
The second day I did a big pirate assembly for the younger kids, and it was very boisterous, in a good way, with lots of kids giving me their best ARRRRRs.
Photo by Susan Boller
Here's the pirate captain they helped me draw. As always, a paragon of good hygiene and taste. That's the head librarian at the top, Marie-Pierre Preece (or 'MP', as she prefers to be called) and assistant librarian Susan Boller.
Oh, and some more comics!
A couple of comics were even more rude, and MP asked me to tone it down a bit, so they could still post them up for parents to see. It's always a conundrum: do you have kids make stuff that will look good on the bulletin boards, or do you let them revel in total rudeness and think they're being terribly naughty, without realising that they're actually teaching themselves to read and write? It's a fine balance. Here's the picture I drew in the library guest book.
The guest book had lots of other illustrious names in it! Here are entries by Nicholas Allen (I love his book The Queen's Knickers, former Children's Laureate
Last Thursday, I gave my new-model pirate hat an outing, to Oxford Bookfeast at the Pitt Rivers Museum and University Museum of Natural History. Now, I've always wanted to visit the Pitt Rivers, ever since I heard it's where Philip Pullman based the scenes from His Dark Materials where Lyra examines the trepanned skulls. And then I started seeing friends' photos popping up of shrunken heads and, well, you can't really not look, can you?
But it somehow didn't happen; I must've gone to Oxford twenty times last year, but I was always catching later trains to miss rush hour rail ticket prices, and by the time my Oxford meetings were finished, it was always just about museum closing time. But, at last! there I was. And it was a flying visit, but look at the beautiful architecture in the Natural History Museum! The delicate ceiling structure almost looks like it's made of dinosaur bones, I felt like I was inside the rib cage of a wonderful prehistoric beast. I didn't have much time. And fortunately the guard didn't mind me running up to him and asking, Please, sir, can you tell me where to find the shrunken heads?
And the guard did better than that; he instantly sussed what kind of visitor I was and gave me a whirlwind tour of the weirder aspects of the museum. Running me past the trepanned skulls, he showed me the shrunken heads (assuring me that the people had died of natural causes first, not been killed for their heads). Then he whipped open these cabinets to show me all sorts of voodoo dolls. I think he said that the white one in the bottom shelf was a health doll, designed to help people remotely with medical conditions, not hurt them. Like acupuncture by proxy.
More shrunken heads. One of my Bookfeast helpers looked slighty wary when I mentioned these; she said that the museum is a bit sensitive about them and wants to see them repatriated and buried. But she also mentioned that illustrator Ted Dewan says they'll only get rid of them if they take his head, too. Hurrah! I want to watch the showdown. But I do hope they keep the heads.
Another wonderful curio: a witch in a bottle. The guide said that they're not sure if there really is a witch in there, but they're not going to open it to find out. I really need to spend a week looking and drawing in this museum, not just fifteen minutes running around. If I ever get stuck for story ideas, I know just where to go. What a marvelous place.
And here's my pirate event! Bookfeast really packed in the kids, I think there were at least six schools represented. I read them You Can't Scare a Princess! (with lots of communal ARRR-ing) and showed them how I go about turning three sheets of paper with typed-out words on it into an illustrated book. Then we all together drew a picture of Captain Waffle, and then I set the kids off designing their own pirates, who are looking for their own unique versions of treasure. I do hope they go away and make stories about their pirates.
Last weekend we broke the story about Mike Tracy, a veteran teacher at the Art Institute of California—Orange County who is being threatened with termination by the school’s management because he refused to force his students to buy E-textbooks that he felt were unnecessary. Since we published the story, we’ve learned that the E-textbook controversy extends far beyond Mike Tracy’s plight and affects teachers and students at many of The Art Institutes schools.
There are over fifty Art Institutes colleges in the United States, all owned by Education Management Corporation (EDMC). The art school chain has begun the process of switching all its schools to an E-book system called Digital Bookshelf. The switch to E-textbooks has met resistance at multiple schools, including Art Institute of Philadelphia. That school’s Faculty Federation complained about EDMC’s E-textbook policy a few months ago:
“EDMC continues to insist on e-books only and wants sole discretion over what e-books are used, compromising faculty independence and expertise in choosing best resources for class.”
To understand how EDMC’s “Digital Bookshelf” works, here’s a downloadable PDF explaining the system for their online courses. In this case, the Art Institute online program charges a “digital resource fee” of between $50-$75 for each class. In return, students receive a temporary copy of an e-textbook. In many cases, printed versions of the books can be purchased for a lower price, but according to the school, “If you choose to purchase a printed copy of a textbook that is available through Digital Bookshelf, you will be responsible for both the Digital Resource Fee and the cost of the textbook.”
That means every student enrolled at the Art Institutes is required to use EDMC’s Digital Bookshelf system. Not only that, but the Digital Bookshelf system isn’t open to every publisher, but only to those publishers who have signed a deal with EDMC’s E-book technology vendor, Vital Source. That means Art Institute students have to buy all their E-books from a single book distributor.
In the case of teacher Mike Tracy, he was being forced to choose a random E-textbook that he felt was unnecessary for his students. But there’s a flipside to the story. Sometimes a teacher at one of the Art Institute schools may want to use a particular E-textbook, but they can’t because it hasn’t been acquired by EDMC’s vendor, VitalSource.
Ed Hooks, author of the popular animation textbook Acting for Animators, explained to Cartoon Brew how his book is no longer available to Art Institutes students, even though his book is widely available in both print AND as an E-textbook, and is highly demanded by Art Institutes teachers:
My book Acting for Animators was published late last year in a revised
Great news! Thanks to a group of very talented final year film students from the University of Northampton you can hear the story behind the creation of the world’s only underground club for kids – Secret Seed Society.
Behind the scenes Secret Seed Society HQ
Stumbling Goat Productions went behind the scenes of Secret Seed Publications to see a Social Enterprise in action. With the help of Bright Horizons Nursery and Caroline Chisholm School, they were also able to follow the team spread their love for vegetables through gardening projects and their interactive theatre production ‘What’s the Big Secret?’. We all had lots of fun filming together, especially the children who became film stars for the day!