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 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.

Place responsive

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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).

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

 

Life takes place

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Deep into research right now, getting deeper into sense of place (which is sadly stopping me from doing my lit review).

I guess what I’m wondering now, and it’s not something I’ve deeply thought about before, is how do we really build a sense of place (and is it worth it). I’ve thought of some ideas before but haven’t really applied any research to it, or any sort of methodology.

The whole researching world is getting a little more complicated, this idea of transitioning between just someone who is, and someone who researches and creates is pretty difficult.

So, this week is mostly reading, next week is mostly writing. Meeting once more next week to make sure I’m on track and then I really write the paper.

I guess, my biggest idea now is what is sense of place really all about, why does it matter, and who creates it.

Need a recharge

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Almost time for our first break. This last week feels especially long, and I’ve been wondering why.

One of the books I’ve been reading lately is the Handbook of Nature Study. There are a bunch of interesting quotations, here’s one:Screen Shot 2018-10-02 at 8.09.10 PM

I’m not really saying I feel like I know everything, but I wonder if I’ve been actually wondering anything lately. One of the ways I can refresh is just by reinstating my wonder, trying to be excited again.  The book goes further to suggest that by spending unstructured time outside, we will be more refreshed.

Often as teachers we think seeing friends, going out, getting things done are important on our weekends, and they are. However, we need to spend some time just outside, looking, observing and getting ready to wonder again.

As our first break comes up, I’m going to take some time to get out and explore.