Stories in Places

Sharing our stories.

We’ve been talking a lot about leadership in our class. How do we become leaders, what does that mean, and how do we move knowing we have this responsibility?

Part of this is looking for problems, and I wonder if we find problems in the stories we tell. This week we’re looking at the problems we can find in stories, and then seeing how that applies to how we can find problems in real life. Moving from there we can use the human (or empathy) centred design cycle to work on solving problems for all those involved.

I’m going to see how this goes, but I think it will have roots based on how we identify with where we are. Already I’ve had some students think that their problems live outside of the community and are looking overseas, but I think we need to pay more attention to the stories here in order to fully understand what’s happening in our place.

We’ll see how it turns out.

Where do we find joy in our work?

I was struck by this quotation earlier this week, “Nothing in the world can make up for the loss of joy in one’s work” (Weil 1952, p.81)

This quotation, I think, is talking about how just the system of working has taken away our intrinsic opportunity to take joy from what we do. We are compensated in other ways. These ways may bring some sort of joy, but Weil seems to be arguing that not many of us (and this was in the fifties) takes joy from the actual work we do.

As a teacher, I might have to disagree. I love my work, well most of it, there are some significant aspects of my job that don’t “spark joy”. However the main thought is the same when attending meetings, or going through PD. I often wonder, where is the joy in what we do, how often are we satisfied with the idea that we did the best we could?

I know that teaching is hard, and almost every day we fail someone or something in some small way. We can’t be perfect at this, but we can work towards mastery, and I hope we can find joy in our work. For me, I love the daily interactions I have with the students, I love learning more about them and what they know. I am so proud when I watch them move from understanding to understanding and start to link ideas together and make connections to their world. I often find joy every day, and I hope the people around me do as well.

So then I started thinking about this from a different perspective. Do the kids find joy in their work every day? Are they proud with just doing something the best they can or are they also looking for some extrinsic reward? Do the grades really matter to them, or is the feedback good enough? I know sometimes my students appear to be less than joyous throughout the day, so how do we work on that? What do we do?

I’m not sure I have answers, like most of my wonderings, just wondering if anyone has any thoughts? What actions they take? Do we all find joy in what we do?

Developing good questions

When I think about all the things I don’t know, I picture water

I just finished another paper, a huge one, one where I don’t feel comfortable with the writing, or the research. Hooray right? Anyway, it got me thinking how important a quality research question was.

In class, we often talk about think and thin questions. How do we get a question that answers facts and stimulates thinking? I was watching a library lesson today where they were going over their questions, and the students really wanted to get to the research. They were rushing through the questions (and many of them didn’t make sense). So I wondered how often I did that in my life, wanted to find a question to answer a quick problem, and not address a deeper underlying issue. I feel like the paper got away from me because I was trying to write a paper, not wonder about a problem.

So how do we take the time to question? What does that involve? How do we know if it’s good?

This unit for us is about leadership, we need to think deeply about how leaders in our community influence change, and we are first looking at what are the qualities of a leader and who these people really are. Is who we are important for change? Can anyone create change? We’re hoping to take a different approach this year. Instead of looking at governments and government systems, who are the people that disrupt what is happening? How did the find the questions to start those disruptions? How do they know something is wrong? What can we do to think about the problems in our community? How do we question what we’re living?

Hopefully it works.

Is place static?

I had a really interesting talk last week with Bill Greene, who came to visit our university. He studies place, which is great for me, from a different perspective than I do.

My biggest take away from the day was this concept that at times we make place static. A lot of the idea of place is socially constructed, and some of it is from our memory (either collective or individual). So this is where we based some of our discussion.

My big wondering was, how often to I make place static. If most of my deep connection to a place is from a memory is it possible that the place still exists? How can I keep an idea or memory as well as keep options open for change? What is important for us to think about when remembering a place?

My wondering about this came as I was returning to Cambodia (a special place for me). I lived there for three years, and I had strong connection to specific places in that area. Things change, especially in developing countries, and a lot of the things are no longer the same. I noticed my feelings about the place haven’t really changed, even though how I acted in those places have (mostly because some of those places don’t exist anymore). I also noticed that I didn’t want to return to some places, even though they did exist because I wasn’t acting the same way, or I wasn’t completely that person anymore? I’m not really sure but it was interesting to think about. I did love going back, I loved the weather and the animals and knowing some of where I am, but still having the ability to see how the place has changed, but maybe not my sense of place (although I am glad I left).

It’s been a long time since I wrote here, hopefully that will improve.

Trying something new

For my New Media Literacy Class, I tried to make a video based on my story regarding sense of place and new media. It was a total challenge to try to make it short, and somehow relevant, as well as a story. I used clips which was better than I thought it would be, I’m going to try to use it for our leadership unit.

Asking Students about Sense of Place

photo by @peapilot

So, I have a presentation about how to connect to place next week. I will be talking to Grade 6 students about how to eventually take action, but how to be aware, and know a place before we take action. Before I really started putting together this presentation I asked my kids what they thought about what I was going to get into.

The major themes I want to get into are connection and isolation. The main things they wanted me to show and talk about are where are you (and how do you know) and what is around you (like animals and things like this).

I want to explore the tension between technology and the environment and how technology can connect and isolate. For instance, something like skype (I’m about to talk to my parents soon) connects me (seemingly) to my home, my home community and my life in Canada. However, sometimes, it can be isolating. Since Singapore could be almost any city (most major cities have similarities) could my instant connection to my old place, make it harder to connect to my new place (because I can easily leave using technology). There are a ton of apps that show us how things are around us too. Citizen science has taken us pretty far.

One of the talks that really got me going was is google maps isolating? Now we use maps that are so individual they have the opportunity to isolate from place, they only help us navigate to places. We don’t have to know a place, we don’t have to pay attention to the land or to signs, we just have to listen to when to turn.

I think that I can prepare some materials now.

Mapping and a sense of place

http://Attribution Some rights reserved by jmettraux

I was reading this article on how mapping can help us better understand how people relate to space the other day. I’m trying hard to look for more quantitative methodologies when I’m doing my review. Right now I’m taking a quantitative class, and it really pushes me, so I want to see how people approach this idea of sense of place from a quantitative perspective.

I’m not sure the research really pushed my thinking further, but it was good to have more evidence that supported where I was going and what I was thinking.

Most interestingly, perhaps, is this idea that the closer people are to the environment, the less likely they perceive the government as willing or capable of helping.

One of the lines that really resonated with me from this reading was “ Where the attitude variables were concerned, on average, respondents tended not to trust the water authority or technology to solve stormwater pollution; felt that paying additional sums of money to fix the problem was more unfair than fair; and were pro-environmentally disposed.” (Jorgensen & Stedman, 2011) 

This idea really reminded me of Edward Abbey and the Monkey Wrench Gang. It seems like the more you believe in the Earth and the systems that work within it, the less likely we see hope coming from people being able to organise support or care for the Earth.

Maybe it was just a one off thing, but really got me thinking this week.

Jorgensen, B. S., & Stedman, R. C. (2011). Measuring the spatial component of sense of place: a methodology for research on the spatial dynamics of psychological experiences of places. Environment & Planning B: Planning & Design38(5), 795–81