What comes first?

7ea995e6-0d99-4455-ac17-1a5021f2780c
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

N3x+6Ga2SqGrkGpWifAkzQ
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

IMG_4678
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

IMG_4337

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?

 

Place or placelessness

FZr6JsuAT8mYiHNusS8lWA
Me and my mom standing by a lake

As I’m exploring this idea of a sense of place and how to develop a sense of place the opposite comes into the research as well.  When we think about globalization and how it fosters this idea of placelessness I wonder about how we can really combat this idea.

Society tells us to rely on this idea of individualism, that we are important that our needs should come first. When we are abroad we see the same stores, we can buy the same food almost everywhere, it seems like everything we want is everywhere we want it. I wonder if this takes us away from the idea of the importance of place. Because everything is interchangeable places might lose their value.

We need to take time in a place, we need to build a relationship with the things in that place (human and more than human). By building these relationships we can start to combat this individualism and globalisation. We need to take time in a place, we need to slow down and we need to pay attention to place.

Asking questions

 

IMG_3928
This is how I felt today

First day back after two weeks of holidays, most of it went pretty well. The work with the kids was pretty amazing. We talked about the power of stories and metaphor. We did some math games and learned how to connect our order of operations into something meaningful (I hope).

Everyday I’m reading, mostly about doctorate stuff but I go back to Give and Take by Adam Grant as much as possible (sadly not that often). The part I read today was discussing this idea that being powerless can be a powerful negotiating tool.  When we go in asking questions like, “How would you do this?” or “What would you do in this situation?” it can put us in a powerless position. But most of the time, especially if we are a giver and well respected in our work community, it can reap large rewards.

Most of the time we try to pretend like we know something or have some sort of power. When interacting with others we try to show how we deserve something or argue about our importance to our institution, but if we really just ask and try to learn I think we can maybe go further with both our relationships and our actual understanding of how to do our job better.

How do we position ourselves to be better at asking for help? When and how could this backfire? What do we need to be actual givers? I had a lot of questions today.

 

Place responsive

fullsizeoutput_34d4

For all of the reading I do, I feel like I resonate most with David Greenwood. Happily, he’s even offered to help me with some of my work in the future.

What I think is important for us as teachers and people is to be place-responsive. We need to love the land in order to do anything with it, or for it. We need to develop a love of the land (based on significant life experiences most likely) in order to really listen and really respond for the best of the system, not just the best for our economic situation.

Developing these relationships should empower people to act on their own, based on where they are. We should not have to wait for government, or business to direct our actions, we need to know more about who we are as people and how we relate to the land, and then we will take the action on our own.

So, other than magic spots, or sit spots with our kids, how can we really foster this love of place with our students? What are we doing to make sure our students are in touch with their land, their place, and who they are?

Gruenewald, D. A. (2008). The best of both worlds: a critical pedagogy of place. Environmental Education Research, 14(3).