Kind of outside.

Measuring the soil.

As we continue to work with this virus and what it means for us and our learning, we’ve been able to be outside a little more often. While we still can’t leave the campus there are some opportunities for us to be learning with and for our environment.

We’ve started to explore our school’s person constructed ecosystems. We’ve been measuring the soil ph, moisture and the light that hits the soil. We’ve used these measurements along with data from species collection to start trying to understand the interconnections between living and non-living things.

So far, it’s been a bit of a stretch for the kids, but I think they are starting to understand ecosystem interconnection and how diversity is important. When we look at our field that barely has grass in some areas, look at the soil and the species diversity we can see that some “ecosystems” are badly damaged and we have to work in that system to make it better.

There hasn’t been a whole lot happening other than that, we’ve been working hard at making sure students have an opportunity to be outside and learn, we’re planning things in class for them to do to connect to their own research projects, it’s just a slow process, or so it feels, but hey, slow learning is good too.

Exploring outside while inside

Exploring the River

I love being outside all day, honestly, it’s amazing. I get to be warm, exploring the different areas of Singapore, and just feel like I am in this place. Sadly, with the coronavirus outbreak, we’ve been forced to stay inside.

That means I have to change some of my programs, which isn’t ideal. The day we heard we had to change I went out to the park and took some videos (like the one above) to have the student experience the river without having to be in the river. With so many videos I was hoping that students could start making connections and exploring the environment.

This happened after some of the classes had been outside, so some kids won’t get to experience this, the videos have helped, but it’s not the same. So as a result we may have to change some of our unit.

It’s interesting how adaptable you have to be in a program like this, even though some things you would think would never have to change, at times they do.

What is a point of view?

Sang Kancil checking out a tree

Two articles this week have really grabbed my attention, well one article and one part of a book.
So, for the book, I’ve been drawn to this idea that a place is where you view the world from. I’m not always human centric, but I do believe I’m a product of where I’m from. If that’s true, then, I guess what helps me become that product, or what enables me to see the world in such a way, and while culture, social settings, power imbalances, environment, and upbringing all play a part, we see the world from a place, and this establises a “point of view”. A point of view is describing how we see the world from our vantage point, our place (Casey, 2013).
I’d never really thought about this before. Where we are from establishes how we see the world, I mean it makes sense when I think about it, but it hadn’t really crossed my mind. So, Casey, although a dense, difficult read, has been helpful (this week anyway).
The second article that really got me thinking this week was more a recording of a conversation between a group of teachers talking about “science” (although I’m not really sure they were ever really talking about science).
Tippins, Hammond and Hutchison (2006) were looking into how immigrant teachers, or transnational teachers kind of taught about science.
The key take aways for me from this article are these ideas of functionalism depends on environment, hybridization of teacher values, and what a globally competent teacher might be.
The first idea, is always kind of in the back of my mind, but was interesting to see in this conversation. As someone who grew up in a more conservative educational context, it is difficult at times to really change into an inquiry based teacher. Deep down we fall back into what we know, what we experienced because that feels comfortable. We need to really address the hows and whys of who we are in order to really get this “new” way of teaching going. In order to do that, maybe we need to think about the different function we play in a different place. This might be way it is difficult for people to change in the same place, we see the same environment, but if we move, we may be able to see a different reason for teaching, a different purpose for our actions, which may help us change. I’m not really sure, but it’s something I need to think about for the dissertation.
However, as we move towards this new place, and this new function, we are kind of a hybrid of cultures and hidden assumptions, we don’t really have a full grasp on what is happening, especially if we are new to a place, so for a time we are in a kind of limbo. We are also changing the system because we are bringing new values into an established system. This article was looking from an American point of view, and as more immigrants came in to be teachers the system was also changing because of mixed and different expectations.
Finally, and very briefly, the authors talk about how we have to change our concept of a globally competent teacher. This is one that has really stuck with me since the concepts of teaching and learning course I just finished. We have assumptions based on who we are and how we we raised or educated. If we move those assumptions might change or develop or be stuck in a hybrid state. But as more and more people move, we need to think a little more clearly about what a “globally competent” person or teacher is. Especially in an international school situation. While the IB has values that are clearly publicized and available, how do we as teacher embody or embrace those values, is it clear as to what those values are?
Both of these readings got me back in the mood for research which is a good step going forward.

Casey, E. (2013). The Fate of Place: A Philosophical History. California: University of California Press.
Tippins, D., Hammond, L., Hutchison, C. (2006). “International teachers negotiating 21st century science classrooms: a question of hybridized identities and pedagogical imaginaries.” Cultural Studies Of Science Education 1: 681-692.

Places establish narratives

These pups were hiding from the rain in Jeju.

I”m struggling through this idea of a conceptual framework right now. What is driving my study, what are my theoretical understandings? Sommerville (2010) talked about the different underpinnings that have defined her work, and the authors who helped her clarify her understanding.

Both of us have been moved by Gruenewald (2003) who challenges us to take part in a place responsive pedagogy. We need to deconstruct and decolonise our relationship with place, we need to know more about how things have developed, where the power lies and try to sort out what that means for us.

This is a challenge to most modern thinking that doesn’t believe or value the idea of a specific or special place. Schooling, Sommerville (2010) argues is the perfect placeless area. Schools want us to be standard, to be normal, to not have outside aspects influence our learning or our thinking. We should be able to apply anything to a global level, without thinking about place specifics. This deeply challenges ecosystems and most systems thinking (from an environmental perspective at least).

For me, so far, this always goes back to love, and how to love. We need to spend time in our places and really get to know them. We need to love them, see how they work and value the places for what they are (not what we want them to be). I’m wondering I guess, how do we get out of that way of thinking, how can we really deconstruct ourselves, is this even possible for international teachers?

Sommerville, M. (2010) A Place Pedagogy for “Global Contemporaneity”. Educational Philosophy and Theory 42(3)

Who is here?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pbarry/3157531802

Our grade 3 students are looking at how migration happens as a result of challenges, risks and opportunities. one of their activities we were working on was interviewing people in Chinatown.

At first the students were hesitant, they were a little shy and they didn’t know what to expect, but it worked out much better than I had anticipated. The adults around Chinatown were really curious about what the kids were up to and many waited in line to be interviewed. We wanted students to feel confident talking to others, but also learn how to collect data with purpose. Their biggest take away was people come from everywhere.

Sometimes when ex-pat students are living in a new country we have a tendency to think everyone is either from the places we are from or a local, this showed us how blurred those lines really were and the students loved it.
After we worked on the interviews we explored some reasons why people may have moved and how things have changed in Singapore over the past 700 years, but the reasons for migration are pretty much the same. It helps tie our present situations to other’s feeling throughout history and now.

Place and immigrant teachers

I’ve been reading over some more papers. And this paper by Elbaz-Luwisch has really intrigued me, she draws on Casey (1994), Orr (1992) and Clandinin and Connelly often, which may be why she intrigues me, but she wants to know more about immigrant teachers and their relationship with place. Not many people are exploring this, and while the teachers she has studied do not work at international schools, I feel they may experience the same sorts of tensions.

Teachers are often asked to represent cultures, or be an active (re) creator of the cultures we live in. However, when people are not “locals” I wonder how we can really focus on, or think about developing a culture we aren’t really a part of? Casey (1994) talks about about the tensions most people feel about not really feeling secure in a space, I wonder more about how people who are transient by nature can really feel at home. If we don’t feel at home, how can we work at developing the culture of the place?

It seems as though this paper suggests by spending more time in a place, any by co-culturing a place we can change it from a location to something more meaningful. I wonder how we can work with teachers to work on this co-construction. We have to remember though that the people in the community also co-construct place, and how they interact with a new person can also shape a person’s sense of place.

There’s a lot going on in this paper, but I really wonder about how we can work with teachers to make more of a sense of place, how do we help new comers feel welcome and share in our stories, how do we make global citizens and teachers more local?

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

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

Orr, David (1992) Place and pedagogy, in: Ecological literacy: education and the transition to a post-modern world (Albany, SUNY Press), 125–131.

Do you think place matters?

This guy wanted the path.

Where we are matters. The places we live influence our identity and our work.
How do we make sense of our places? How do we understand them and our role in them?
In our current globalised world, we may often think of places as interchangeable or
relatively similar; however, each place may be unique and contribute significantly to how
we see ourselves. As we try to make sense of our mobility, how we think about where we
have been, how we think about what we have done, and how we try to rationalize what
we are doing we make connection to who we are, how we do things and the multiple
ways we can make sense of these processes, we may realize everything is happening in a
place. Tuan (1977) understood people to be spatial being, and we developed our ideas of
ourselves as we constructed the meaning of our social and spatial lives. While we try to
understand ourselves we may be able to turn to our place to help us find solutions to both
local and global issues (Relph 2008). A sense of place describes the interactions between
a place and people within a location to bring forth an understanding of reality for an
individual who is in that place (Relph 2008, Tuan 1977). Places teach us how to be in the
world and how the world works, moreover, places make us by shaping our identity and
culture (Gruenewald 2003, 2008). If we understand more about the places we live, we
may be able to make a significant impact on how we live.
According to ISC research, the October 2019 data shows there are 11, 321
international schools, with 559, 000 teachers serving over 5.7 million students with about
51.8 billion dollars involved (www.iscresearch.com). Many of these teachers are from a
place that is different from where they work. If where we are matters than what impact
does this mass migration of teachers have on education? Can students develop a sense of place if teachers are displaced? With so much money going into an international
education, and so many students involved should we be thinking about how teachers feel
in a place and how that influences their identity?

Gruenewald, D. A. (2003). Foundations of Place: A Multidisciplinary Framework for
Place-Conscious Education. American Educational Research Journal, 40(3), 619-
654

Gruenewald, D. A. (2008). The best of both worlds: a critical pedagogy of place.
Environmental Education Research, 14(3), 308-324.

Relph, E. (2008). A pragmatic sense of place. In F. Vanclay (Ed.), Making Sense of
Place. Canberra: National Museum of Australia

Tuan, Y.F. (1977). Space and place: The perspective of experience. Minnesota:
University of Minnesota Press.

Wondering about sense of place at the museum

I took this photo at the NUS museum.

I’ve been in the museum this week, and in the back of my mind is my paper. The links I can see in the paintings, make sense to my understanding of chapter one, but it is so difficult to clearly articulate my thoughts. Below is an attempt at my opening paragraph.

The places where we reside and work influence our professional and personal lives. Where we live can shape how we live. A sense of place describes the interactions and feelings shared between a place, people and a community to bring forth an understanding of reality for an individual who is in that place. Places teach us how to be in the world and how the world works, moreover, places make us by shaping our identity and culture (Gruenewald 2003). Tuan (1977) was instrumental in shaping how we think about sense of place. Over the years other thinkers (Relph, Massey, Greenwood, and many others) have continued to develop this idea and our understanding of this complex concept is continuing to develop. We know that place impacts our identity in multiple ways, but little research is being conducted into how expatriate international school teachers understand.

I guess I’m wondering how to really put it all together, I wonder how to make it clear to others what I want to study, and how I plan to go about it, I’m worried no one really cares or it won’t matter (but I’ll put those thoughts aside for now).

So I guess, how is this connected to the learning going on in the museum? I’m trying to share stories of place, which I read is important. But in this specific museum is a painting of samui women working. Not many people know of the samsui women, not many people know how important they are for shaping our place (and our identity as a nation). So I’m just trying to help our teachers and students learn a little more about where we live.

Thinking about globalised standards

Through our assessment course I’ve been thinking a lot about what global standards create. I’ve been wondering a lot lately about how this impacts our students. Do we really think there is an ideal global person? Do we want people to be the same? Can we really compare people who are so different?

When we have standards that focus on the whole world, or perceived global outcomes or expectations, do we limit teachers, students, learning opportunities?

My hope when focusing on a more local learning context is that we show value for diversity. By focusing on things that are different we can broaden our thought process and maybe create a more interesting world? I don’t know.