Ecological Identity

I think, this is one of the more important books I’ve picked up this year. It deeply resonates with me, much like Place, Being and Resonance.  But for a different reason. This book has helped me come more to terms with my identity. I feel more comfortable with who I am, and why I am.  Place being and resonance, allowed me to move more into who I want to be, but this book allows me to question about the who and why of my identity. 

I am going to incorporate some of these ideas into my dissertation, specifically the mapping, but I want to see what I can do with the students. What can I ask fo them to understand more about how they relate to the environment. 

I haven’t finished this book yet, I hope to soon, but with end of term, report cards, life happening it’s hard to actually get into the thick of it, and figure out if they can see where they come from. 

I understand, in part, that we are a product of place, community and our actions, I understand, in part, that these things work together.  So far this book has helped me better understand how those three aspects interact to form and reform my identity. 

Reporting for learning

 Some rights reserved by zgware

It’s report time (hooray!).  At our school, we are always trying to make reports better for learning. At times this can make things a little more difficult for teachers, but we’re always hoping for the best for learning.

So, I am wondering about how are reports really helping students succeed.  The PD I’m getting and the books I’m reading suggest descriptive feedback is one of the best ways we can help students grow.  If this is true, does the mark really matter? And who does the mark matter for?  I understand that we need to have something standardised so students can go to other schools, university, etc.  so I guess when does the mark matter, and how do we best communicate it? 

Just some random thoughts before reports. 

Learning Community

In our school garden

The enhanced PYP moves towards action for the learner and this new focus or (re)newed focus on the importance of the learning community.  I guess the easy connections are parents, other people within the school, and maybe even experts from outside our school but somewhat connected to our school community.  

I’ve been thinking more about how our community should involve the more than human world (a phrase I love from Place, Being and Resonance). This idea that we don’t really go out and treat our place as a community, what do the little lizards have to teach us, what about the ants, the leaves, anything? If we want students to love our land we have to know it, but maybe before we know it we have to acknowledge it’s a part of our community.  

There’s been a lot of reading, reporting, new role wondering this past week and I really think that this idea is one I have to think seriously about how to incorporate into the rest of the year.  

What comes first?

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This feels like me all week

I’ve been reading a lot and this is my favourite sentence recently “What if local knowledge – which in Geertz’s appropriately pleonastic locution, “presents locally to locals a local turn of mind (1983:12) – precedes the knowledge of space?” (Casey, 1996, p. 16).  I think it’s hilarious that someone who is very wordy talks about another person’s wordiness.  But more than that it got me really thinking of what comes first.  Space, or place?

And why does one come first? Can we know the general without knowing the specific? Do we need to know a bunch of things before we can go deep? Or do we need something that isn’t abstract first?  Casey argues (I think anyway) that we need to understand our place first, and place should be a priority.  I happen (right now) to agree.

So, what does this mean for teaching, does general happen before specific? Do we do the hands on thing first because we need that to know the general (again I think so)?  But when do we do this outside? When do we dig deep in to our place (especially in an international school)?

We’ve been doing open minds this week, getting out into our city and exploring what it means to be here.  We looked at China town and really started to wonder what objects might define us as a place.  What is happening around us? Who is here? Why are these things here?  The questions were great, and I think the students are feeling more connected  (they asked for my Sang Cancil stories anyway, so they hopefully are becoming more connected to where they are).

So even though we may want students to know specific content standards, or general concept ideas, how can we really make things meaningful? What comes first?

Casey, E. (1996). How to get from space to place in a fairly short stretch of time phenomenological prolegomena. In K. Basso, H. (Ed.), Sense of Place. U.S.A.: School of American Research.

Giving something a name

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Sitting in our outdoor discovery centre

I’ve been reading about different ways to develop a sense of place, and feel more connected to the land.  One of the ways both Basso and Raffan talk about, especially when looking at indigenous nations, is how we name places. When we name things we build our relationship with them, we define how to use them, and we create a way to interact with the place.

I’ve been thinking about how I’ve changed one of my classroom practices since last year.  Last year, one of the first things we did as a class is name ourselves.  How do we want to be called.  I have two classes this year, and I had planned on doing it in our new unit, but I think I missed an early opportunity.

There’s two ways for me to think about this.  One is that, we could have taken an early opportunity to define ourselves, and how we work together. We could have started naming and identifying ourselves as a group in order to really think about how we work with the place around us.  The other is that now that we know more about us, and how we work together we can maybe come up with a more informed and relevant name.

I suppose though, I know now that we need to name ourselves, we need to name our team, and we need to think about the places we inhabit.  I’ve been working more on talking about the Sang Cancil stories. The Little Mouse Deer, who is much like Briar Rabbit.  The students are really liking them, they connect and think Sang Cancil is funny, they are asking more questions about who the leaders were in the past, and making guesses about important other creatures in the jungle. It’s more surprising than I thought.

It’s been a good journey so far, knowing more about our place, and starting to make connections.  The kids even went out in the rain yesterday.  Fun times.

Basso, K., H. (1996). Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language among the Western Apache. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Raffan, J. (1993). The Experience of Place: Exploring Land as Teacher. ERIC Online, 16(1), 39-45.

Place based education as service learning

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One of my favourites (if you can’t tell by how loved it looks).

When we talk about the importance of place, especially when you put educators or teachers in the search terms, we often get information on place based education.  We’ve been really trying to connect to our community lately and I’ve revisited this book in order to look how to make some meaningful connections.

One of my big take aways, especially as a member of an international community, is that community based education helps us to become a member of a community rather than an observer of that community.

As international students and teachers it is easy to get lost in developing a sense of place. It is easy for us to cling to our old identities and stay in our same ways.  However, when we move to get out of the community, when we try to get ties to our new place, we change a little who we are.  We stop being passive observers of a culture and start becoming members and co-creators of a community.

Previously we’ve tried (unsuccessfully) to bring HDB community garden members into our garden.  We start by building community (at least my thought at the time was) by opening our doors, bringing people in, and then working together.  However, we moved from that to go to their garden. How are they doing it, what can we learn, how can we help?

I think it goes back to this idea of listening, and this idea of watching systems. When we really understand something, when we try to be a part of it (rather than trying to insert our views right away, we can make a bigger difference in ourselves and then the community.

So, if we can start building on our service learning, and really try to develop a place based curriculum. I wonder how effective we could be in transforming ourselves into members of the community.

Is anyone in an international school doing this really effectively? Care to share some ideas?

Separate but together

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I’ve been thinking about this idea this week, not only in my doctoral journey, but often times as a teacher we represent more than one, but often we’re just on our own.  A classroom sometimes can feel isolated, like we’re in our own cage beside people also in their own cages. I’ve been wondering how to work with the people outside of our small little community to make a bigger difference.

As a class I think we’re more free range than most, we’re outside almost every day, we’re getting dirty, we’re learning lots in different spaces, but we’re still kind of doing that on our own.  How can we break out of this cage and do more than just be with us, how do we start mixing with the other classes and maybe make a bigger difference?