11 March 2017

Relaunching Scholastic Book Club at East-West

Back in December 2016, after receiving approval from the school admin team, I enquired about re-introducing Scholastic Book Clubs at East-West. A lovely lady in the UK contacted me, we set up an account, and our first flyers were sent by DHL in early January 2017. On 26th January 2017 packages of forms, envelopes, and covering notes were distributed to staff with the hope that they would get their students excited about being able to order books. Orders came in over the next week, and on 8th February I got all the orders entered into the computer. A total of 257 items were ordered, over $2,500 worth of books. We then received 20% of the value in rewards and I was able to order 17 books/packs for the school library/teacher resource area. It took a little while to work out our payment processes, but it eventually went quite smoothly, and the order was processed.

Meanwhile Scholastic changed shipping companies, and that was definitely a learning experience. DHL had previously handled the whole process and delivered books to the school door, with no hassles over customs or anything like that. We'd heard from at least two schools that their orders were coming through very reliably with no hassles. First there was a delay in the warehouse due to the change over. Scholastic staff were quick to respond to my enquiries and very helpful. Eventually our shipment went out on 22nd February with the new shipping company. That same morning I get a distressed message from a colleague at another International School saying she had received a quote for over $500 to have her order (similar in size to ours) cleared through customs. I quickly contacted Scholastic and they said the orders were shipped in such a way that we shouldn't have to pay that but to let them know if there were any problems. We got a tracking number and that enabled us to see where the boxes were. They moved fairly rapidly from the UK to Singapore (via Germany and China), arriving in Singapore less than 36 hours after leaving the UK. They stayed in Singapore for 4 days before finally arriving in Phnom Penh on Tuesday 28th February. We were notified of their arrival and advised that we would need to arrange customs clearance through another company since the shipping company handling our delivery didn't do that. The shipping company delivered a packet of photocopied forms to our office and then marked the delivery in their tracking system as "delivered".

Meanwhile we'd been keeping the lines of communication open between us and Scholastic and been told that we would have to pay the customs clearance since it couldn't be invoiced directly to Scholastic in the UK. Scholastic assured me they would cover those costs, even though we were going to have to pay them up front. We went ahead and got another company involved and they said it should take about 3 days to get the shipment cleared through customs and delivered to us. Then we struck another problem. The packages were addressed to me using my initial and surname, but to get them through customs a copy of my passport was required. As you might imagine my passport has my full name on it and the staff at the shipping company said that because the names were "different" it could be a problem. Thankfully customs did accept our documentation and at 7pm last night 10 boxes of books were delivered to the school. Now, as you can imagine there aren't many people around at school at 7pm, and on this occasion there were even less than usual since some staff had gone away to attend a wedding. Once again God provided. Unbeknown to me until about 6pm, a High School "sleepover" was happening at school last night. Not looking forward to carrying 10 boxes upstairs myself, I thought I'd see if I could enlist some help from the high school students attending. At 7pm, when I got the phone call saying the truck was at the school, the teacher supervising rounded up 9 boys as well as carrying a box himself, leaving me with nothing to carry up the stairs to the 4th floor except myself. A big thank you to the Grade 10 boys and their supervising teacher. 😊
The boxes as they were when they arrived in my classroom.
So now I could finally get down to the fun stuff. Yes, I got to open and unpack all ten boxes of brand new books. Those who know me well will know how much please that brought. It was fun! I was glad I'd asked the boys to bring our "backpack" table into the classroom. By the time I'd finished all the tables in my classroom were covered in books and I'd had to rearrange a few other shelves to get some extra space as well. Here they are.

Having done that, I settled down to complete one more job before heading home for some rest. There were 270 plus items that needed to be checked off against the packing slip to make sure none had gone missing along the way (when you look closely at some of the boxes you'll understand why I needed to do that. I almost managed my 10,000 steps yesterday as I covered a lot of ground tracking down titles. Happily everything was there. 👍 At that point I called it a night, turned off the lights, locked up the classroom and headed for home.

This morning I undertook the first stage of the distribution process, matching the books to the individual student orders. Scholastic made this much easier for me by providing a series of "bookmarks" which each listed up to five items that a student had ordered. These were much easier to read than the original order forms, and four hours later I had finally finished. I've already delivered one batch to a classroom (I noticed a teacher in his room when I went past to go to the bathroom so I dropped off the books for both his class and the other class at that grade level since I was running out of boxes).Here's the rest of them, ready to go out on Monday morning. There are going to be some very excited students on Monday morning!

Next, I want to share what the school has gained from our efforts. Scholastic Books offer us 20% of the value of the books purchased as a reward for our school. With that 20% plus a donation from one family I have been able to get 41 hardcover books, and 79 paperback books for our school library and teacher resource room. I have no doubt these will be received with great excitement in the library.
Finally, my classroom library is getting some new books as well. The Science Vocabulary Readers have been purchased with one of our upcoming IPC units in mind, a couple relate to a unit we've already done, and others just looked good. I could easily have spent more, but I set myself a limit and this is what I got within my budget. I confess I've already read the National Geographic "Ape Escapes" book from cover to cover and it is good.

The other good news we've received in the last few days is that Scholastic are returning to DHL for shipping to Cambodia! That means we'll be doing it all over again, although hopefully with a few less hassles. The first time of doing anything is always a challenge, but in this case I think it has been worth it. Thanks to all those who've helped, supported and encouraged through this "first" and to those who prayed those books through.