It has certainly been a strange and very different Christmas this year. We are unable to leave Shanghai so the staff and students of Concordia are stuck here and have tried to make the best of things. We consider ourselves to be very fortunate that we are not under strict lockdown as some places are, and we do have the freedom to move around the city largely without the need for masks.
This year, however, is the first time that the entire school community has remained in Shanghai and whilst it has been hard for many not being able to see family and friends back home or to travel or to have visitors, it has provided an opportunity to socalize and to get to know each other a little better. Folks here rose to this challenge and we found that we have had a whole string of events and social activities ranging from the Joiner-Grice belated wedding reception, to carol singing around one of the larger complexes and open house parties with friends.
One of the events was staged at school on Christmas Eve. It was a family affair with games of Dodgeball in the gym, photo sessions with Santa under the tree and nativity set colouring activities for the little ones. I think that we had about 50+ people present altogether. We all had a meal which comsisted of non-traditional items such as caribbean fish, stir fried rice and spaghetti bolognese (but hey, I wasnt cooking so I’m not complaining!) After the food and before the candlelight celebration there was an open mic session. Here’s where it got interesting. This blog subtitled is ‘The adventures of a school librarian in Asia’ so it is worth mentioning what happened next from a professional point of view. But first, I need to back track a little…
Every school is busy at the end of the winter term with parties, festivities and other celebratory activities. We were no exception and I selected a range of Christmas/winter stories to read. One activitiy which I also prepared was a Story Walk. This was an idea that I had seen online and is popular in the US. I had been working on doing something similar at school for a while. Essentially you need two copies of a book which you chop up then laminate each page in sequence. People can then walk between the posters individually or in groups and read the story. Intended as an outdoor family activity you end by inviting people to use a QR code on a final page to register their comments on the walk and this enables you to see how many have engaged and completed it.
In Shanghai this year our parents are unfortunatey not allowed on campus (which would have been my first choice) and the local by-laws prevented me from attaching the posters to the external school railings (my second choice). So I was left with the option of displayng the posters around the corridors in school and having the children/teachers do the walks.
We had been gifted some paperback copies of books for the Story Walks by one of our local suppliers, Blue Fountain (many thanks). I had worked on a surround design with footprints, logo and numbers so that the pages could be displayed in order. One book which I had was a beautifully illustrated version of Clement Moore’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Knowing how busy teaching colleagues were at this time of year I just put the sheets in the hallway on the 4th floor outside the Fourth Grade classrooms. I mentioned to the teachers that they were there but left it totally optional whether they encouraged the children to engage or not. Without the QR code element I had no idea whether anyone looked at or read the pages at all. For all I knew it had been totally ignored! This was always going to be a possibility but I put the posters up anyway in ‘hope’.
Back to the Open Mic. I had been asked by a colleague in the High School to read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas after the dinner and the coincidence of the choice was not lost on me! All the youngsters were gathered around me and I did a read aloud for them. We used a different version with different pictures but the same text. As I started to read I could hear a voice chanting alongside me for the first half of the poem. When I looked down it was a fourth grade boy. At the end I chatted to him about how he knew the words and he told me that it was from the Story Walk! Not only had he read the posters but he had started to memorize the poem! I was bowled over!
I just love my job when you can make an impact like that on the next generation. Brilliant Christmas present.