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)

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.

What does a right to education mean?

One of our readings this week focused on the right to education for all children. When people, especially teachers in international schools think of this as a target we definitely hit. However, this reading unpacked some of the deeper understandings of what it means to guarantee education as a human right.

 Article 12 (1) of the UNCRC states that: 

“States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.” 

Welty and Lundy (2013) unpack this further looking at different domains of space, voice, audience and influence.

When we are giving space to children to learn, Welty and Lundy (2013) argue that we need to ask students what matters to them, we also need to ask if they want to participate in activities. At times as teachers we need to ensure that we are not marginalising or alienating students. Although (I hope) no teachers intentionally alienate students, I wonder how often in international schools we do this by seeing things from only our perspective. I know that I have not often asked wether or not students want to participate in an activity or feel like they shouldn’t participate.

From an assessment point of view, I wonder how often we limit students’ ability to share their voice. Do we only accept one form of assessment, do we encourage students to show diverse ways of knowing (writing, oral presentations, art works) or do we make all students submit their learning in the same way?

For audience and influence, Welty and Lundy (2013) look at how we don’t often give students an appropriate audience. Often our audience is the teacher or their classmates, we don’t have them present to someone who has the power to make decisions.

This was a really engaging, and short article. The most powerful bit for me was that we are not just preventing students from a pedagogically sound way of learning, we are breaking a binding agreement by not including student voice. Such an interesting thing to think about.

E. Welty and L. Lundy (2013), “A children’s rights-based approach to involving children in decision making”, JCOM 12(03): C02.  

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?