Posts Tagged ‘learning’

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No more libraries???

May 19, 2011

I never thought it would happen, but apparently the days of the school library may be numbered.

On the surface, the idea seems absurd. Schools are places of learning. Having a huge collection of books in one place is an excellent way to facilitate learning. Therefore, leaving aside the issues of getting kids to enjoy reading (which I’ll get to in a second), it would seem a matter of practicality to equip schools with libraries.

Yes, technology is changing. We rely more on the Internet for research, and last I heard, Amazon was selling more e-books than actual print-and-paper books. However, that does not subtract from the importance of books as a research source. Do me a favour. The next time a set of encyclopediae is handy, look up a topic of your choosing. Then, boot up your computer, access the Internet, and search for the same topic. I’m willing to bet you’ll end up on Wikipedia.

I’m also willing to bet that it took much less time to simply open a book. Then, since I’m such a gamblin’ soul, I will make one final bet that the information in your print encyclopedia was reviewed and fact-checked, making it more reliable than the encyclopedia that “anyone can edit.”

And this is just looking at libraries from a purely academic point of view. These are school libraries on the chopping block. School libraries are instrumental in exposing kids to books and making the world of reading an accessible one. I cannot count the hours I spent in my elementary school library, devouring books that I found on my own as I perused the shelves, as well as those the librarian recommended to me. The Call of the Wild. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. From the Earth to the Moon. The Chronicles of Narnia. Sherlock Holmes. Ancient Myths and Legends. The War of the Worlds. Watership Down. Redwall. Silver Chief. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. The Hobbit.

Notice, if you will, the presence of a lot of “older” books: Verne, Wells, London. While my school library certainly had books for a younger audience, it also carried the classics. So, when you read everything of interest in the “little kid” section, you naturally moved on to some literature that, in hindsight, was extremely good preparation for the rest of my schooling, as well as my current writing.

I don’t know that it would have been possible in a public library. Don’t get me wrong, I love public libraries too, but… many of them are a lot bigger. The librarians don’t often know you as personally, and can’t always provide that individualized recommendation. They can’t say, “It’s about a magical land, with a wicked queen and a lion who saves the day. It may be a little scary, but I think you’ll like it.”

Too often, we hear news stories about how kids don’t read, kids don’t use their imagination, kids don’t have any attention span anymore because they’re too hooked in to TV and video games. Growing up, my home was well-stocked with books because my parents were huge readers. But not every child is so fortunate. Nor does every child have a public library that’s close and easily accessed (which is a tragedy too).

And yet, if you give kids the opportunity to explore books freely and comfortably, they will eventually find something that makes their imaginations soar. Then you have a reader for life.

Reading is like drinking seawater. The more you drink, the thirstier you become.

Keep them thirsting for more.

-Arvik

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People-Watching

May 10, 2011

I continue to muddle along at the restaurant. On my last “training day,” I was paired with a server who actually took the time to walk me through things step-by-step, gave me opportunities for “dry runs” (i.e. practicing clearing and resetting an empty table in the back), and gave me her number to call if I got overwhelmed on my first solo shift.

Cue a huge sigh of relief.

With parts of my brain able to focus on things other than stressfearstresspanicstressohGodno, I found myself actually enjoying the work. Admittedly, last night was frighteningly slow, but I wasn’t complaining. In fact, I realized that working in a restaurant may “feed” into my writing.

People have always fascinated me. Who they are, why they act the way they do, what they’re thinking, what their lives are like. I’m the person that “reads” on the subway while secretly composing stories about the other passengers. Not in a creepy way, mind you. Just in a curious, playful way.

Restaurants are even better for that than subways.

Obviously, it’s not terribly polite to eavesdrop on your diners. Still, inevitably, you pick up scraps here and there. That’s actually better from a writing perspective, because you have to fill in the gaps yourself, thereby flexing your creative muscle and avoiding possible libel charges. Even if you don’t actually interact with a diner directly,  the mere sight of someone can spark something.

That’s particularly true of this restaurant, which sits at the junction between a few very different neighbourhoods. It’s within walking distance of the office tower crowd, the urban hippies, the university, a slightly “gritty” part of town, and Chinatown.

We attract a mix.

I have seen beautifully coiffed, older people who come in alone and savour every bite. I’ve seen couples gazing at each other across the tables. I’ve met the “regulars,” two middle-aged women who have a glass of wine and a long “girl-chat” every night after work.  

So much human experience. So many slices of life.

I may actually have another job offer at hand. But if it doesn’t work out… well, I have a feeling I’ll be all right here.

-Arvik

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Sharp Learning Curve Ahead

May 8, 2011

I like learning. Really, I do… Mostly when it involves books. And privacy. When I run off the rails of a sharp learning curve, it’s much better if not many people are around to stare at the flaming wreckage.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work that way.

Today was my second training day at my new job in a restaurant. Now, I’ve never waitressed before, and I don’t eat out a whole lot. Lots to learn? Oh my heavens, yes.

See, the first day actually went better. It wasn’t too crowded, and I followed the “real” server like a puppy, fetching and carrying and beaming when I did something right.

Today was different.

To start, it was much, much busier. There was a party of ten, and most other tables were filled. To make things even more hectic, this little bistro only has ONE server on at a time. You read that right. ONE. One to grab more dishes, serve, reset, bus, and train me.

Stress rose rather quickly.

Since it was so busy, my training devolved into crash courses. I thought it was okay at first, still glowing with confidence from the day before.

Then I broke a glass.

In front of my boss.

He was really nice about it, helped me clean it up, and told me not to worry about it. Which was good, since I was ready to cry.

Little did I know, things would get worse.

Apparently, I’d screwed up about half the credit card payments that night. And in today’s plastic world, that’s a lot of payments. They fixed it in the end, but it involved several phone calls, including one to the credit card company, a lot of impatient customers, and a tip pool that was certainly fudged.

All my fault.

I think the only reason the server on duty didn’t strangle me is because my scrawniness and wide-eyed innocence makes me look like I should be in high school.

Basically, I crawled home about ready to die. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to manage when it’s just me on the floor. I think I could be a busgirl or assistant, but a full server? I don’t know.

This is the part of the post where I would normally say, “But it’ll be okay, because I have a positive attitude and I’ll work hard!”

Maybe it’ll be okay. Hopefully.

I’m afraid. I am so afraid for when I’m working the floor alone. There’s one more training day, and that’s it.

Agents’ and editors’ rejection slips don’t look so bad now!

Arvik