I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for over a year now. Being a primary school teacher librarian is the best! I’m teaching stage three mostly so I’m using all my high school training to bring big ideas into the classroom. I sometimes feel like I might be over stretching the kids but so many rise to the challenge and produce amazing work that I figure I’ll just keep giving them challenges and they will keep on reaching higher.
Year 6 looked at critical literacy this year, which could be a very dry subject but starting with Shel Silverstein’s beautifully simple picture book The Giving Tree and moving through the news media, politics and on to social media made it more relevant and engaging. Trying to get the kids to recognise the importance of thinking about what they read, hear and view was sometimes difficult but what a privilege to be able to implant some of these ideas in their heads before they enter the social media maze and the minefield of news and politics! Hopefully some of it will stick and they will become intelligent consumers of information.
Year 5 produced short films for their own short film festival. I gave them the tools, invited a friend who produces films to speak to them and sent them off to complete the project. I know that usual practice is to scaffold every step of the process, and I understand this would have led to more success across the board. I know that if I had assisted in the writing, casting, directing, filming and editing we would have created 4 films with solid story-lines and more perfect angles. What we ended up with were amateur films, some unfinished and unedited, one that became a trailer due to the fact that the class couldn’t co-operate enough to film the required scenes. For me, what was important was that they made decisions independent of their teacher and created something they could take full ownership of and know that every bit was their work.
The point of the exercise, as it always should be, was learning. The students wrote reflections about the project and all but one (who found it all boring because she didn’t get to be in the production team. Note to self: next time more involvement from the whole class!) managed to see the good and the bad and learnt so much about what goes into making a 3 -5 minute film. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted them to fail and to see why they failed. I wanted them to see that failure is always a possibility and always a learning experience. I’m not the teacher who ‘fixes’ the kids’ art with a little outlining here or carefully cuts out their shapes. In adult life we don’t get someone who jumps in to fix our mistakes, we have to find solutions and we have to learn to move on from setbacks.
I had my friend Shane, a filmmaker, give a masterclass before we started and also give awards on the festival day. He asked me, ‘Can I be honest or is it every child wins a prize?’ Sadly these days the latter is often the case. I asked him to be honest and he presented 3 out of 4 awards to the same class. He also gave positive and negative feedback which I presented to each class. Nobody burst into tears because they didn’t win a prize. Everybody enjoyed the day. Next time, I will do things differently as we had time and space issues but I will definitely repeat this exercise. The teachers have suggested it could become a bigger competition for all of primary. Hmmmm, now that could be interesting!