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?

 

Place or placelessness

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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.

Being across homes.

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Looking for a new home

Just finished re-reading “Being Across Homes” it explores this idea of how we are different people in different places. As an international educator I feel like I have many different homes.  The place my parents consider home is in Ontario, my home is now in Singapore, but a place that will always sort of be home is Phnom Penh (pictured above). While all those places played a vital role in shaping who I am, and who I was, but I feel like each place I was also a somewhat different person.

A lot of the article talks about how community shapes us by giving us social clues, or opportunities to be who we are, or become who we are supposed to become. The people around us help mold us and help give us clues on how to act, and we respond differently to these cues in the different places we are in.  While much of this did not delve deeply into how places shapes us as people, it did talk a lot about how we are different people in different places.

From this idea I was wondering about the importance of a true self, or most true self.  Is there a person we are “supposed” to be, or static kind of true who we are? Or do the places and people around us continue to shape us and help us grow.  From what I read, fundamentally we have specific characteristics, but can we actually embody other forms of action based on where we are and who is around us?

 

Hubard, O. (2011). Being across Homes. Teachers College Record, 113(6), 1255-1274.

We are less and less connected

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In Wadi Rum with some Bedouin 

 

I think I’m going to try to focus on an article every once in awhile and write a small reflection on it. That might help me with both the idea of writing, and the process of researching. Happy days for sure.

There is a wondering in some of the literature about if a sense of place is important any more (or I guess if it ever was). One of the points that really popped out at me today was this idea that as international school teachers most of us are preoccupied with what a place can give us (reputation, pd, pay, location, etc.) so when we are looking for a place to live, we’re not really looking for a place to live, we’re looking for a place that meets our economic and social needs first.  The culture of a place isn’t always our first priority. However, most of what we are asked to do (maybe in the hidden curriculum) is pass along values and culture.

There seems to be a tension in these two areas, we’re being asked to represent some culture we come from without really caring about the culture we are going to. We need to be aware of who we are, but not in relationship to a place, rather who we are in general. It seems a little neo-colonial at times.

How do we really belong to a place if we don’t ask questions about that place, or try to fit into that place? How do we connect when we aren’t really listening?

If “(Place has) power to direct and stabilize us, to memorialize and identify us, to tell us who and what we are in terms of where we are (as well as where we are not).” (Casey, 1993, p. xv) Then how are we interacting with that power, and what does that mean for our future as teachers?

 

Casey, E. (1993) Getting back into place: toward a renewed understanding of the place-world (Bloomington, Indiana University Press).

Freema Elbaz‐Luwisch (2004) Immigrant teachers: stories of self and place, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 17:3, 387-414, DOI: 10.1080/0951839042000204634

 

Trying to write

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 Some rights reserved by M Prince Photography

So far my research has been going alright, I’ve thought of some interesting thoughts related to what I’m reading, and I think (for now anyway), that I’m on the “right” path.

So, that means I have to write, and this part is always a struggle. One of the main reasons I wanted to blog early on is to get in the habit of writing. When you get into the habit of something it becomes easier, it makes more sense, and things flow a little better when they have to. So, now I’m wondering if I have to try to up the output of this blog.  Not really for something worth writing, more for just the process. I’m not sure if this is a good idea, or a bad idea, or just an indifferent idea, but it’s something that often comes up in my thoughts.

One of the interesting ideas that hit me this week was, we are actually nothing without place, as in we would not exist.  I guess to be more technical, we are nothing without a space, which we develop into a place. But we need a place to survive, and that place, very likely does shape us (more than just socially, and we do more than just shape it) we are dependant on that place. I know that some of the literature goes into this at different points. But it never actually hit me before that we need place. Places (from the research I’ve done so far, and I’m not sure how we could get it from a human point of view) don’t need us. We might help shape our perception of that place, but I’m sure that a space will exist without humans (and if it doesn’t I guess I’ll never know).

Anyway, trying to write, trying to think, trying to sort out the thought process.