Thursday, October 30, 2008

Michele Farquharson's Diane Poole Award Acceptance Speech

In Circulation: 2008 October 28

"BCTLA Executive and colleagues,

In anticipation of today, I wanted to put together something special that would show how grateful I am for this award. I read a lot of speeches! And I found some lines that I liked from a speech by Harrison Ford. He said, 'I have written two speeches for today, a long one and a short one. My short speech is...thank you. And it looks like there might be enough time for the long one as well. Thank you...very much!'

Thank you very much for this incredible honour.

I am very grateful and humbled at being the recipient of the Diana Poole Award. I truly feel that I am accepting this award on behalf all members of the BCTLA, because collectively, we support and foster each other to be exemplary teacher-librarians.

A perfect example of this is Vancouver’s Teacher-Librarian Consultant, Moira Ekdahl, who, I would like to say encourages us to become involved, but for those who know Moira, a more appropriate word is pushes us to be involved, at all levels of professionalism. Pat Parungao, Liz Austrom, and Ken Haycock have helped raise the bar and assist us so that we can be the very best we can. Throughout B.C., we all know “the” Moiras, and “the” Pats, and “the” Kens, many that are here today, that encourage and push us to be our very best. Aren’t we lucky!

What better job could there be—where you work collaboratively with other professionals, learning from each other, to give children tools, skills, processes that allow and encourage them become critical thinkers and future learners. At the same time we instill in them, a love of reading and learning.

As teachers we are innovators. You know we all have those eight or nine lessons that we love to teach. I love showing the male pregnancy website and the follow-up YouTube to teach critical evaluation of the Internet. I enjoy using swamp slugs for the younger grades, but my all time favourite is the urine test, and use it whenever I can—works for secondary and elementary. When I use it I always feel innovative and creative.

However, a teacher that I was working with, was truly the innovator. We had forty-five Grade 7s that were studying archaeology and investigating the various tests that people would do at an archaeology site. Mark and I had planned to do the urine test. He was going to bring in the doctored specimen bottle, filled with the yellow food colouring and water and I would demonstrate the taste test. As the students were finishing up the various tests on rocks and fossils, I motioned to Mark to hand me the specimen bottle. He hits his forehead and runs out of the library. I think he’s forgotten it and carry on explaining to the students that some of the tests that archaeologists do, like carbon dating, use elaborate machinery, but sometimes the best tests are the simple ones. For example, think of diabetes. Does anyone know what diabetes is? Someone gave the answer that it is when we have too much sugar. Mark wasn’t back, so we did a think, pair and share for the tests we could do for diabetes. Sure enough, they came up with check the sugar content in blood and the urine and I suggest that we could taste the urine to determine how much sugar there might be in it. Almost on cue Mark walks in. Then as if in slow motion he handed me the container. I saw it wasn’t clear the way food colouring and water should be and as it reached my hand—it was warm. But with the urine test you actually stir with your index finger but lick the middle finger and continue until one of the student spots it. The punch line is: the most important thing you need for any test or science experiment, is a keen sense of observation.

I was washing up my hands as the students left and Mark rushed over and said, 'I’m sorry, Michele, I forgot the sample and couldn’t find food colouring so I rushed to the staffroom and used mustard powder and hot water'.

Our role as teacher-librarian requires us to be innovative and to be advocates for what we do. I am fortunate to have a long standing affiliation with the journal Teacher-Librarian. Recently, each member of the advisory board was asked to write a report on support for the role of teacher-librarians. It is heartening to review the research that so clearly supports quality library programs. It is interesting to note the emphasis that is being placed on technology. Keith Curry Lance and others have conducted dozens of studies in various states and concludes that when library conditions are optimal, which includes being adequately staffed, stocked and funded, and CPPT is happening and the library program embraces networked information technology, reading scores can improve by 10-18%. Similar findings in Canada are supported by the Haycock Report and the OLA research in 2006.

I am now re-reading Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat which talks about globalization and how governments and societies can, and must, adapt. It was a wake-up call for me and what I should do as a teacher-librarian. It made me appreciate my job and how we are enabling our students. I think now, more than ever before, we must be lateral thinkers and innovators. I like this quote from Edward de Bono.

'You cannot look in a new direction by looking harder in the same direction'.

These are exciting times. They call on us to once again take a leadership role, be lateral thinkers and innovators. Thank you again for this wonderful award. I would like to read and leave you with this story that I think illustrates how teacher-librarians are lateral thinkers.

A Vancouver teacher-librarian, who was going to teach in Japan for a year, walks into a bank in the heart of downtown Vancouver and asks for a $100 loan. She offers her car as collateral and the bank manager approves the loan. A year later, the TL comes back, repays the loan and the 10% interest and is ready to collect her car. Finally, the puzzled bank manager dares to ask her: 'Excuse me, madam, could you tell me: did you really need that $100 so badly? In order to get the money, you left your luxury car with us for a whole year!' The TL replied, 'That's simple; where else in Vancouver can I find such a great parking spot for just $10 a year?'"

Michele Farquharson, Teacher-Librarian, Kerrisdale Elementary, Vancouver
2008 Diana Poole Award of Merit