Toa Payoh and looking into community

This week we have been exploring Toa Payoh. I feel like I have more time (although I’m sure I’m missing something), so I’ve been more able to work on telling stories.

Toa Payoh is a really interesting place, and the history is worth looking into. The old Kampong was a tightly knit community (even the secret society gangs) and the people seemed to put pressure on the government to not close down their home. The government really wanted to develop the country and Toa Payoh was the one of the starting communities. There was some tension, and I thought the story of Sang Kancil and the Tiger king was a good way to illustrate how folk tales have showed us different ways to overcome some problems.

Sometimes with hard leaders we can show them a different problem to focus on, by giving them a different, “bigger” problem. If we are being (re)located then how can we deal with that? What do we have to do to keep our communities tight (and maybe make them tighter)?

Anyway, this was the first one where parents have really came up to me afterwards and said thanks. They learned a lot and didn’t know a lot about the places they were. So this has been my best outing so far.

Why aren’t they getting this?

I was reflecting on where we were in the dissertation process, and more specifically about my epistemology this week. While reading Davis and Sumara’s article. “Why aren’t they getting this”. So far in my studies, Place, being and resonance was one of my favourite reads. I’ve talked about it before, and I’ve read it more than once. I just find the ideas really resonate with me.  

“Ecohermeneutics means imploying language and attentive disciplines in education to remediate our “hyperseparation” from nourishing interconnections with the rest of life on the planet” (Derby, location 563). 

I’ve thought more about the importance of words, and the importance of communication more than anything during this doctoral journey so far. Some things from Davis and Sumara’s article really resonated with me. If we don’t use a common language, and a language that we all have a common understanding about, then as educators we can’t use the same types of learning and teaching. We need to have the same understanding of how to use the words around our practice, and the importance of contributing to the shared identity of our classrooms.

“Also, we wanted to learn more about how to help experienced teachers interpret current and new teaching methods in relation to theories of learning suggested by recent scholarly work” (Davis & Sumara, p. 123). As “experienced” teachers we feel we know the ground, while theorists only know ideas. We “live” in a different world and have a different way of communicating (which is why this program is kind of interesting). What we are really changing is the ontological idea of a teacher, not really what the teacher does. If we can’t all fully believe (as a society I guess) that the end of year test isn’t important, then it is always a teachers job to help students reach success, which might be that test.  So if success isn’t clear, if the learning path isn’t clearly understood by everyone, I wonder how we, as teachers, can ever really get it?

Constructivism is the lens that the researchers are looking through but I feel like the real problem “Why aren’t they getting it” goes beyond the idea of constructivism, why is it so hard for us to really understand who we are, why is it so hard for us to change our way of being? It’s not really about getting the knowledge, maybe it’s more about us “restructuring” our way of thinking, changing it up and not being afraid to take some things down or grow in different ways. 

Brent Davis & Dennis Sumara (2003) Why Aren’t They Getting This? Working through the regressive myths of constructivist pedagogy, Teaching Education, 14:2, 123-140, DOI: 10.1080/1047621032000092922

Derby, M (2015) Place Being Resonance, Peter Lang, New York

Exploring Telok Ayer

My new job involves me working outside and looking more out our community. This week we are in Telok Ayer. A friend set up the program and he has made it very easy to build upon. When we spend time looking at Telok Ayer, I am trying to starting developing a sense of place.

One important aspect of developing a sense of place according to Raffan (1993) is getting to know the names of places (although I’m not an elder, I do know some of the stories). We talked about how based on the names of places we can see how Singapore has changed. Although our physical geography can change based on our interactions with our place, our place names often stay the same. By knowing our places and their names we can start building deeper connections to our community.

After discovering more about place names, we looked into the places around our community and the people who lived there. It’s been two days, and four classes, but a very interesting experience so far.

Raffan, J. (1993). The Experience of Place: Exploring Land as Teacher. ERIC Online, 16(1), 39-45

Strengths and Weaknesses

Our first PD of the year is talking about our strengths and weaknesses. It’s always interesting to start off a year this way. There are some tensions and worries from teachers about saying something they don’t want to in front of new colleagues. It really got me thinking about the importance of community building.

While talking to one of the teachers who has to lead one session we discussed how to support such a community. One of their goals is to make sure that teachers area working with each other in classes to achieve personal goals. If we prepare this meeting well, we can make sure that everyone on our team knows how we want to grow, that way when we enter into a classroom we can use that language and those ideas to guide our conversations.

Here’s hoping.

Starting Open Minds

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It is the first week back with all the teachers, the new students are getting the tours and I’m in a new program (well new for me). The previous person was great, super organised, and everyone really enjoyed him. He happily passed the well organised program over to me, so steps are pretty easy to follow, but I have to slowly make it my own.

It’s interesting going through someone’s drive or organisational structure. It’s good to get an insight into how different people organise themselves and think about things. It is sometimes frustrating when you want something to be there, and it just isn’t though.

So anyway, trying to get back into writing this year because I’m not in class as often, the way the program works is I’m outside almost everyday, so getting into a new routine and trying to figure things out.

Should be fun.

How does diversity work at school?

What diversity are we hardwired to see?

I had a really interesting talk with my dissertation supervisor yesterday. We were talking (when we weren’t talking about my paper) about this idea of diversity in school. Her argument was that diversity in our local context is usually seen by teachers as academic readiness. So if you asked a local teacher about diversity in class, they would talk about how prepared a student was to take a new test, how academically ready they were and how they taught through differentiation.

They got me thinking about a couple of things. The first was an article I read recently. “What can diversity possibly mean when school curriculum is unabashedly standardized and managed as official knowledge? What becomes of diversity when schools isolate – by law and often by lock, key and sometimes barbed wire – teachers and learners from the wider community of which school are only a small and homogenous part? ” (Gruenewald 2010, p.142). Can we really only talk about diversity when we create a world where there is only one answer, one community, one solid identity.

This connected, through Gruenewald, how important sense of place is, and also how important diversity is in creating a sense of place. Place can create a shared identity, especially when looking at this through a human perspective. However, millions of living things take part in the development of most places. We need these things, they help form and shape where and who we are.

So I guess what I’m wondering is how do you see diversity in your school? Are you wondering about academic readiness, economic diversity, cultural diversity, religious diversity, social diversity, what other things do you see? And how do you teach for or to those different groups.

Gruenewald, D. A. (2010). Place Based Education: Grounding Culturally Responsive Teaching in Geographical Diversity In D. A. Gruenwald, Smith, G.A. (Ed.), Place Based Education in The Global Age: Local Diversity. New York, New York: Routledge.

Taking time

Looking for some food

I’ve been re-reading some of the papers for my literature review, specifically ones that might help me more when I take my new position next year. This quotation seemed to fit well with where I want the program to go. “Teachers determined that extended time was required to experience the place, to value it, and to harbour the disposition to teach about it; they learned in- depth content from spending time on-site, and they learned skills to extract knowledge from site through reading the landscape.” (Morris 2017)

From what I’ve read so far (and it seems like a lot) time helps people understand, helps them develop curiosity and drives them into a deeper relationship with the land. I’ve taken half the kids to the hawker center down the street, we’ve had some interesting conversations and this week we are formalising some of our primary source feedback. But for the second half, I think I’m going to take them to the other side of the school. Across the road a new park has been developed, I think this is a great time for us to think about the “What happened, what’s happening, what should happen?” set of questions. So today we are going to spend a significant (I hope the rain holds off) amount of time pondering these questions.

Ronald V. Morris (2017) Five Star Teacher: In-Service on the Move, The Social Studies, 108:5, 175-191, DOI: 10.1080/00377996.2017.1342159