52% intelligent. 9% modest. More monkey than bear.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Reading, writing and arithmetic are the branches of the learning tree...

The other day, I volunteered to take part in a 'reading in schools' initiative. It's something I've been meaning to do for ages, and a couple of weeks ago I finally got of my arse and did something about it. It will involve going into a local school for an hour a week and spending my time helping and encouraging kids to read. Both of my parents are readers, especially my mother, who got her love of books from her father (and he loved books so much that he actually owned a set of library steps!). Not surprisingly then, I grew up surrounded by books and my very earliest memories are of reading. My mum always says that I never travelled anywhere without a book, and although you can now add an iPod to the list of things that I won't go anywhere without, that's still basically true. I still derive an enormous amount of pleasure and satisfaction from books and I try to read as much as I can every day.

Not everybody is as lucky as I was though, and many kids do not have a book filled childhood or parents who have passed on a love of reading. Basic literacy is a hugely important skill, of course, but it's also a source of great pleasure, and I find it awful to think that children might grow up without an opportunity to discover this for themselves. I'm told that even a little bit of time spent with a kid helping them with their reading can really help them come on in leaps and bounds..... so I'm giving up a bit of my time each week and I hope that some of my enthusiasm and love of books will rub off.

I had my training yesterday afternoon, and although we were shown the types of books we will be reading and given a few tips about what to expect and how to behave, the majority of the time was spent filling in police forms. Of course I totally understand why I need to have my records checked to make sure that I'm a suitable person to work with children... you can't be too careful and all that... but when we were taken through the bit about how we should not touch the children or allow ourselves to be touched and how we must never, under any circumstances, allow ourselves to be alone with any of the children, I felt a bit sad. Apparently this is as much for my own protection as it is for the kids, but I'm not sure that makes me feel much better about it. It's all very sensible and practical, I'm sure, but I still feel saddened that we live in a world where these precautions are necessary at all.


...and because that's all very dull and worthy:

My favourite author: Paul Auster

My favourite book: "A Prayer for Owen Meany" by John Irving

My favourite "classic" author: Alexandre Dumas

My favourite "popular" author: Terry Pratchett

The character from fiction I have been likened to: Holden Caulfield (more than once actually.... I don't really see it myself)

The fictional character I'm actually most like: Eeyore

The book I was told I simply must read as the voice of the narrator was so like me it was uncanny: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (... so of course, I slogged my way though that and totally failed to see that either).

The character from 'Lord of the Rings' I fancy I'm most like: Aragorn

The character from 'Lord of the Rings' I am probably actually most like: Elrond (particularly the really sulky, know-it-all version portrayed by Hugo Weaving in the films)


I'm off to a wedding tomorrow.... so no earworms, I'm afraid (although my head has mainly been filled with "Me and Julio Down By The School Yard" by Paul Simon this week, if you're interested. I heard it in a vintage clothes shop on the Cowley Road in Oxford the other week and I haven't been able to shake it since).

Have a good weekend y'all.

Me? Well, I finally got home from work at about 10.00 this morning, after about 25 hours solid, so....more sleeeeeeeeeeep. Sleep is goooooooood.

Did I actually do or achieve anything in that 25 hours? hmmm.

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  • At 8:31 pm, Blogger Cat said…

    I'm with you on always having a book on the go, and I despair at the levels of basic literacy in some of the students I teach who are all above 18, and all studying HND level courses which are destined to lead them to a career in journalism or PR. Frightening. I had to do an entire lecture on punctuation with a group of second years last week. They refer to me as The Apostrophe Police, which I'm not sure is a term of endearment!

    I'm also with you on the police checks and the like. I know they're necessary and for everyone's protection, but I find it a bit difficult sometimes. The other week, I had a young girl in floods of tears in my office (not because of my punctuation policing!), and it felt completely wrong not to at least pat her on the back or something, but just hand her tissues. Yesterday, I instinctively tucked a boy's label inside his t-shirt as I was standing over him checking his work, then spent the rest of the day fretting I'd over-stepped a boundary.

    I also worry about language - today, I called a young lad "chum" when I was trying to cajole him into doing a presentation in front of a group, and yesterday referred to another student as a "cheeky monkey". On both occasions, I instantly wondered if that would be deemed inappropriate...

    Mind you, they have no such qualms about what's appropriate with me. Last month I was teaching a class on tone/language etc, how it changes to target different markets in advertising, and the boys tried to engage me in a discussion about whether there was ever a good reason to use the "c" word!

  • At 1:34 am, Blogger Crucifer said…

    I sometimes think that is one of the things that has totally destroyed teaching. Underage students can be as rude, obnoxious and/or threatening as they want to be but, because they're minors, its somehow your fault.

    Maybe we should have teachers in white coats, plastic goggles, disposable latex gloves and wearing filter masks. Oh and webcamming the entire class to an independant body.

    Cat: You're the sort of teacher I wish I had when I was growing up. I went to Uni without any clue on how to write a proper essay. I spent about 2 weeks in remedial classes with a patient Uni teacher before I realised that my High School had basically shirked any responsibility in my education.

  • At 10:24 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Swissy, Blogger just made future date posting available (finally catching up with Wordpress).

  • At 1:41 pm, Blogger Lisa Rullsenberg said…

    Cat - I'm with you on the apostraphe police concept! But it is so hard to run through these things at degree level with students.

    In response to both you and ST, I probably try and behave as appropriate to each individual student. You have to follow your instinct as well as legislation.

  • At 10:49 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think your participation in the reading programme is just brilliant. I can remember all the teachers and "lay-people" that read to me at school very vividly.

    Thanks for doing it.

    What checks do they do exactly? I mean, are they looking for specific convictions? I realise they are intended to protect the children, but I wonder how useful such checks really are...


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