Thursday, November 3, 2016

Losing bearings...

There is something immensely reassuring about recognisable ritual.

We take our bearings from those around us.

"Oh I wish I had such bearing..."

Belonging anchors us.

We play the ferryman, going from port to port, paying little attention to the sea, our eyes fixed on the destination.

For those who would set sail into the unknown, we are plagued by dreams of sea-monsters, wrecks, mutinies, being forced to walk the plank.

Look, I really shouldn't be here with you writing this, but bear with me, you, you have been pressganged as a member of this crew.

There are moments when I think to myself:

"Simon, you haven't got a bloody clue what you are playing at."

At moments such as these, I gaze back longingly to dry docks.

"What the hell are you playing at?"

I am lost in a bloody ocean of uncertainty - actually a classroom.
(or The open space as one colleague named it today.)

Actually that is in itself unusual if I think about it.

In most classrooms who do you see apart from the students?

Today, I spoke with teachers and students and they all seemed to be rather the same like me...a bit lost.

I started off the day with emails to teachers in France and the UK, Facebook messages to students, a Twitter DM to a colleague in Poland.

I find myself a node in networks involved in

  • Online/offline learning across various online/offline CLAVIER spaces.
  • Learning projects between three departments in France and the UK.
  • Organisation of trips between France and the UK and between France and Poland.
  • Connecting people to existing online and offline communities/individuals.

The students arrived for the afternoon "class".

Four students were talking of their trip to Amsterdam and their plans to write about it in their blog.

One student was asking for advice to learn about working as a teacher in the USA.

Another one was working on a project in schools to reduce sendentarity and thereby obesity while munching crisps and a chocolate bar.

Another one had been communicating with a friend in Nepal that I had enabled him to meet.

He, the friend in Nepal,  had shared the work of his association which builds schools and works for peace.

He, the student, seemed to be contemplating while watching magic trick demonstrations on Youtube.

If I hadn't spoken to him, I would never have guessed.

Another group were in agitated conversation - in English (one was playing some video game on his phone) about the interest of a steady relationship over a new, exciting one.

Oh, the moral issues raised!

One of the students mentioned that he had really enjoyed working on his English the day before at home.

He was busy playing video games on his phone.

Another student was struggling with a request of doing a video-conference with a person that I had introduced her to in London.

She preferred chat, she dreaded being seen to be speaking.

She added her name to a list to meet up with some Polish students for tutoring.

Losing bearings...

That is not how classes used to be.

There used to be a list of objectives, a series of planned activities, everything was concentrated in the classroom.

There was even a course book with answers.

Everybody used to be doing the same thing at the same time, like so many scribes in a monastery.

The door used to be closed.

No other teachers wandered in.

I used to address everybody from a distance.

TEACHER to STUDENT and things were clear.

Now everybody is doing their own thing.

I seem to spend a good deal of time in real dialogue with real people.

Frankly, at times, I am all at sea, I honestly find that I am losing my bearings.

I had the feeling today, that there was something missing - that feeling of community.

I am not sure that I feel comfortable with what feels like atomised groups.

I instinctively feel there needed to be more cohesion.

Maybe that is just nostalgia?  Maybe that is just insecurity?

Maybe my perspective is not helplful, maybe I needed to try and get a different view?

Maybe I need to include here a link to another post which concerned the same group of students, where there was indeed a clear sense of community - perhaps again that was entirely dependent on my perspective, on where I was standing?

An Indian Summer.

I wonder an instant:  "Whose community?"

I think to myself: "You must trust yourself Simon."

I think back to the Talking Heads.

Well we know where we're going
But we don't know where we've been
And we know what we're knowing
But we can't say what we've seen
And we're not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out

I think "Nah..."

I think of the fucking absurdity of much which is recognisable ritual of education.

That Talking Heads song suits my dark humour.

Yes, we're on the road to nowhere.

I much prefer song and surprise and magic tricks to sexy stats and graphs,  quack science and ....drear.

Drear...the doldrums...wasn't that what motivated the fucking voyage?

"Sod it, Sail on, Simon into the unknown."


Meanwhile there are people discussing stuff on the other side of the planet.

How did it happen that I listen to them?

They are mostly in some state of America for Christ Sake.

I wouldn't be able to point to it on a map.

Why should I care about these people?

Isn't TV enough?

I never used to be learning along with a crowd of people all over the place.

Whatever happened to the good old days?

Over the past couple of days, I have dropped in to listen to a few conversations.

There are number of scenes which marked me and pop up here haphazardly.

1) Open exploration and clear destinations.

There was a conversation with George Station and some students about freedom.

It came in the Virtually Connecting Session below.

"Do you like freedom, or do you prefer clear outcomes?" was the question I retained.

I find myself nodding, yes that is a recognisable situation.

What to do when you are the only weird teacher in the students educational lives?

Do we just abandon our difference and conform?

What do we do about drowning - learners and learner teachers?

How do you differentiate drowning learners from those who are simply treading water?

There are enormous issues of trust and no doubt questions of ethics.

We need to question ourselves as to the courses we chart.

I think back to a comment of Frances Bell et al and the ethics of pedagogical experimentation...

We need to wonder whether it's reasonable or ethical to prepare people for high seas navigation when some are just wanting a pedalo to spin around the pond...

As learner/educators we need to trust ourselves when out in an ocean, far from recognisable land.

We need to trust learners to learn while being all at sea.

We need to reflect on what we consider to be the most important means to assess direction.

We need to reflect on appropriate means to share our presence as more experienced navigators.

How and when do we signal existing trade routes, or known reefs?

2) Mentoring and storytelling.

I have to admit to feeling nostalgia on watching Dave Cormier's video on mentoring and storytelling.

I miss rhizo-stories around the camp-fire.

What I appreciated was his willingness to document failure in his attempts to improve undergraduate integration and orientation at his university.

I myself enjoy narrating stories of epic adventures from which we gain much learning however rough the journey.

It is always easier to talk about such epics with bravado after a little while...

Immediately, this connected with my interest in story, culture, change, and learning.

I tweeted

I fell upon this tweet of Dave Cormier a while later:

I hear myself say:

"Why the fuck is he always going on about Odyssey?"

Whose stories?

Education, it seems to me at this instant is a ritualised story of power.

I wonder whose stories are dominant in our classrooms, our institutions?

I wonder whose perspectives carry the most weight?

I wonder about a remark made during a conversation at #opened16 about the absence of students.

I wonder how we are to imagine a new education which is really open to newly heard, newly entangled stories.

I wonder about how culture is woven from stories.

I wonder an instant about enlightenment.

“Enlightenment is man's release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man's inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! 'Have courage to use your own reason!'- that is the motto of enlightenment.”
― Immanuel KantAn Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?

I wonder if reason is enough?

I wonder whose reason is enough?

I wonder if reason alone is ever ethical?

What is it I have been reading recently about science and the humanities?

I think about some of the conversations that I have had recently with students.

I rather think that they are less concerned with reason and more with the soul.

Can education be ethical if reason is divorced from soul?

Where the hell am I heading?

"Maybe I should just settle for not knowing. Maybe it's just good to know that you're not the only one who doesn't know.” 

― Bryan Lee O'MalleyLost at Sea

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