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. 

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.

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?

 

Asking questions

 

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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.

 

How is it connected?

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As a class we’ve been looking at connection in our brain unit. Last night was our parent curriculum night. I’m a team lead with seven new teachers on my team (including myself).

So I’ve been thinking a lot about how to support my learners, my parents and my colleagues and wondering how all of these things are connected.

I’m not sure, but it seems like in previous years I’ve been pushing myself to help in some way, or be present or be something. This year I’m trying (rather unsuccessfully) to listen and just make sure other people are heard.

Parents want the best for their kids (so do I, but it’s not really about me), so last night I tried to listen, and be available for the real worries the parents feel. I tried to support my team by acknowledging and listening about stressful situations, because they are real and time consuming and at times encompassing. I try to listen to what my students are actually saying, to see how they see connections, without me trying to put too much of my voice in their work.

I think a lot of teaching is about making others better, not really taking part in the process, but encouraging and suggesting and at times teaching specific skills, but only when the students really ask, and really need the help.

I think it’s probably the same with parents and team mates, the more I work on making them better (and the better they want to be, not necessarily the better I want them to be) the more likely they will achieve success.

It’s hard though. Stepping back, removing my self and trying to just focus on other’s needs.  It’s hard not to take some things personally, it’s hard to just get things done on my own, my work, my study, my life. But I think it will become easier, at least that’s my hope.

First week

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Wow, the beginning of the school year flew by.  The first week is over (almost) and the real fun is just starting.

This week I tried to focus on making good relationships, with my team and my kids. I really believe that this will set the whole year up for success. If we trust each other and believe in each other we can work things out together and with each other in mind.

Maybe more cynically I’ve been reading and listening about how people make decisions, and for good or ill, we make them based on our identity and usually our identity revolving how we see ourselves in a group.

If this is true then we need to make sure our group feels cohesive. We need to make sure we feel united so our decisions reflect how we can best work together. We’ll see how it goes, but it’s been a good start.