“Oh, teacher librarian? So, what do you do? (Awkward silence) I guess you teach library lessons.”
Even when you think that you and your colleagues have demonstrated to your school community what you actually do and are capable of doing, there will be the unexpected and totally surprising (not in a good way) comment which reminds me that we are partially stuck in people’s outdated perception of who we are and what we do. Is it because we all remain isolated in our silo-esque faculties in our schools, or that we are so busy trying to keep up with everything that we don’t have the time or headspace to even imagine what other educators are doing? And partially because, even as I sit at my computer researching and curating resources for teachers/students, a teacher will come in and ask me to photocopy something, and in his head, I am the person who assists him with menial chores – and cheerfully, because I love my job.
As a sort of creative therapy for my frustration, I made this very tongue-in-cheek slideshow. Hope you enjoy it. Just a bit of fun; hope nobody is offended by it.
Susan Watson cracked me up with her comic, The Systems of Comics. She is very clever and funny.
That’s too small to read but you can see the original here. Terry must have made hundreds of these. Here’s one. I decided to try and make my own. It is the first in a series of Personal Conversations at Melbourne High School.
I have a plan for this series and also for another to give our students voice. I’ve already asked some of our students for help. This should be fun.
And the Bigger (AlmostEvil) Plan is to infiltrate learning spaces in my school like a stealthy villain. One of my recent posts expressed frustration about the school system which resists reform and may have to be levelled first in order to be rebuilt. After reading Terry’s comment
I think I am done with reform as a way of re-thinking. I put a lot more faith in kind subversion, asking forgiveness and not permission, under the radar, subrosa, authentic learning.
I decided to act on an unformed idea I’d had nagging me for a while.
Taking the library out to the school is not a new idea but I think I need to up the ante with it. My new, as yet embryonic, idea is to hack the staffroom in a surprising way. Something along the lines of setting up a small and changeable pop-up shop/library when nobody’s looking. For example, mark the space somehow with a few artifacts, then leave things that beg to be played with and change these regularly. Some ideas so far: puzzles, gorgeous design pages for colouring in, quirky articles – and comics! Like this one. So I envisage leaving one comic per series and updating regularly. Series like ‘Professional conversations at MHS’ and ‘Student conversations at MHS’, and so on.
I’m trying a soft approach to hacking the school system. If, as I’ve said in a previous post, teacher librarians find it challenging to collaborate with teachers because teachers are driven to keep up with the curriculum, then we can entice them, seduce them in a way, with curriculum-irrelevant playful things that help them slow down, make things, laugh, and take a break from the system. Why not? My aim is to distract teachers, disrupt their single focus so that they might be more open to joining me in collaborative play in class.
And if that’s too ambitious, at least their (mis-)perception of teacher librarians (another blog post) might be popped like a giant bubble containing nothing but air. And that created space is something I will try to inhabit.
All ideas for a soft hack of learning spaces will be taken seriously and collected in a special container.
Here’s the final version of the play (although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Google doc version continues to evolve).
My THANK YOU: My original story, Mr X loses his battle for objectivity, has been stormed, hacked and now exists as an evolved creation belonging to those playing and learning in the rhizome (#rhizo15). It is no longer mine and that’s a fantastic thing, something I’m excited about. Thank you, everyone, for the experience – in particular to Kevin for putting together the audio files – but also to those contributing voices, to the voices in the chat comments for the evolving Google doc, to those on Twitter and other social media platforms, to the creative people designing promos, and anyone else I’ve forgotten. I know it sounds as if I’m accepting an Oscar (haha) but I really do want to thank all of you for the fun we’ve had together.
#Rhizoradio presents a radio play courtesy of the #rhizo15 community:
Ms Y1: Good afternoon. Please take a seat. Mr Arborescent will be with you shortly.
Me0: Thank you.
Inner Voice1: I take a seat and settle into the chair which is terribly uncomfortable. I am too large for the chair and always have been, but I’ve accepted it with the appropriate …
Ms Y2: So, Mr Arborescent will see you now. I assume you’ve brought your papers.
Me1: Er – papers?
Ms Y3: Yes, your CV, your references, your learning objectives.
Ms Y4:Never mind. Please go down the corridor. It’s the first red door after blue one…
Me3: Er – thank you.
Inner Voice2: I walk until I find the door. I knock twice.)
Me4: (mumbling to self, wandering hallways) How come there are so many doors here?
(knock on the door followed by sound of door squeaking open)
Mr Arborescent1: Come in, please. I would like to introduce you to Dr. Certain and Ms. KnowItAll
Inner Voice3: I enter the room. Mr Arborescent is sitting behind a large wooden desk, studying me. The two other committee members on either side of him.
Mr Arborescent2: Please, sit down.
Inner Voice4 My Thoughts (in my head)Narrator: I do.
Mr Arborescent3: So, you’re applying for the rest of your life, are you?
Ms. KnowItAll1: (interrupting) She IS.
Mr Arborescent4: You realise that you’re one of many millions of applicants – all wanting to keep learning for the rest of their lives, don’t you?
Me6: Yes. I understand. But you know, I myself am multiple…
Mr Arborescent5: (interrupts) Show me your learning objectives, please.
Me7: Well…I – um…
Dr. Certain1: This is outrageous!
Mr Arborescent6: (sighs) You do have learning objectives, don’t you? I hope you are not wasting my time.
Me8: N-not exactly.
Mr Arborescent7: Well how exactly do you intend to get through life without objectives? How will you know where you are going? How will you know when you get there? What data will you use?
Dr. Certain2: One cannot get through life without knowing where one is going. Where one is going is far more important than where one is. I certainly know where I’m going, where I came from, where my children will go.
Inner Voice5: Arborescent’s brow is seriously furrowed.
Me9: Actually – I don’t have objectives but –
Mr Arborescent8: You realise that we are talking about the rest of your life, don’t you? This is no laughing matter.
Me10: Well – if I could explain. I don’t, as you’ve said, have learning objectives for the rest of my life but what I do have is learning subjectives.
Inner Voice6: The room is silent. Uncomfortably silent.
Mr Arborescent9: I’m not sure what you’re playing at, but as I’ve already said, there are millions of people applying for this privilege. You’ve come here completely unprepared.
Me11: If I could just explain – I think you will understand that it’s possible to continue learning through life with learning subjectives in place of objectives.
Inner Voice7: Mr Arborescent lowered his thick rimmed glasses and peered intensely and unpleasantly at me.
Inner Voice8: I continued before he could speak.
Me12: You see, subjectives are a type of objective … only seen from a different perspective.
Mr Arborescent10: A different perspective! Please explain. (eye rolling) (to himself): Oh, you educators and your theories of learning …
Dr. Certain3: There is only one perspective: the RIGHT one!
Me13 (ignoring Dr. Certain): Well, with objectives you start from the end and work backwards whereas with subjectives you are free to move any which way and even simultaneously. Subjectives are based on learners’ needs, not dictated as in the objectives… There’s freedom in the journey.
Inner Voice9: Their looks of contempt did not deter me. In fact, they spurred me on. I realized, I had to make them understand.
Me14: You see, I’ve developed an allergy to things which support objectives. Things like preconceived ideas, data entered carefully into spreadsheets, dot points, meta-metrics, the narrow suffocating strangulation of finite theories, that sort of thing. I have an aversion to these things and I become so ill that I am unable to function.
Mr Arborescent11: I’m not sure our health insurance policy covers such sickness. The government plan only goes so far.
(Ms. KnowItAll adds over Arborescent: Oh, it won’t cover this, I can tell you!)
However, Go on… How would you measure, report your learning? Reveal your rubrics! What kind of standards are you following? Aversion is no justification…
Me15: Neither is measurement! We need to put learning at the center of our…er learning, not measurement and accountability you know. It’s my own learning here and i reserve the right to direct it however I see fit! It is my human right…
Dr. Certain4: Impossible! We will tell you what you need to know! Learning must be visible!
Inner Voice10: Arborescent’s eyes narrowed, and he started tapping a pencil on his desk. he seemed sort of annoyed at me.
Mr. Arborescent12: go on…
Inner Voice11: I swallowed.
Me16: (whispering in Egyptian Arabic: w ba3dein ba2aaa)
Me17: I need to approach life in a less organised, predetermined way. I need to include the way I feel, for example, in the way I understand life. I need to include questions and doubts in the way I make sense of things, I need mood changes and I also need to be able to synthesize seemingly illogical things into a new way of seeing. I need to follow – what I refer to as learning subjectives.
Mr Arborescent13 (all simultaneously): Preposterous! Absolutely preposterous. We need data! Not whimsy feelings! What is this? Some kind of therapy session?
Ms. KnowItAll2: She is completely unsuitable! No idea what she needs to learn.
Dr. Certain5: If we allow this, we invite chaos. Then where will we be? People learning anything?!! Outrageous! There are things everyone MUST know!
Inner Voice12: Their outbursts moved the large desk forward and Arborescent’s four generation family photos fell down with a crash.
Mr. Arborescent14: Now look what you’ve done!
Dr. Certain6: I saw this coming. Chaos, I tell you.
Me18: you do know that by accepting me, you are accepting multiples, right?
Mr. Arborescent15: Who said we were accepting you?
Ms. KnowItAll3: Certainly not I!
Me19: Although I appear as one person to you, I am a multiplicity. Because I am embracing my subjectivity, you will have access to all of the open aspects of my identity and influences beyond my person. Didn’t you notice the different voices, accents and languages used throughout this discussion?
MrA – What you are telling me is that you are rejecting MY good common sense and traditional values and insisting on this groundless faith in what can only be described as blasphemous nonsense. This is a NON-SENSE! Do you hear me?! You will not be able to go through lifelong learning clinging to these asinine beliefs. Get out! All of you!
Inner Voice13: There was only one thing to do. I wasted no time. In my mind I drew a cage around this dreadful man and his colleagues and locked them in. Tossed the key. Walked away. Their ranting and raving were repulsive. I transformed it into the sound of crashing waves and let it wash away from me, to become nothing in the infinite sea. I left them there in their salt water turbulence, thrashing at the iron bars. They were now but molluscs, doomed to forage in the mud amongst rhizomatic sea grasses for eternity. I had more important things to do. I had a subjective life to lead and I was quite willing and even pleased to not know exactly where I was going.
Inner Voice14: So I started talking to my multiple selves.
MeA: we don’t need them! We don’t need no certified learning! We don’t need no thought control! They don’t even get our weltanschauung. We will continue without them.
MeB: or interdependently! Let’s make our own organization. Our own rhizome. Divide & conquer!
MeC: and wait, to have impact, we need to challenge authority, to break down the institutional structures so more people can benefit from our idea of subjectives and so we can liberate them from these neoliberal chains. This is idtihad. That’s oppression in Arabic. It is zulm. Injustice in Arabic, though it has a much stronger connotation in Arabic.
MeD: i don’t know what you’re talking about, I just wanna have fun with my learning. Let’s write a song or write a play…
Me20: or we could just lead our subjective life, create our own space… We might need to wander a bit to find it.
MeB: exactly! I guess it can be a space not an organization… I don’t think we can convert him. He is too far gone … (sounds of ranting still in the background)
Me21: Learning is natural and intrinsic… Like a rhizome, like a phoenix.. Her defasında küllerimden doğarım… learning is actually rising from the ashes… I don’t need any objectives, I only need my subjectives to reborn and start a new cycle of learning…
MeC: and we need to think of ways of liberating the oppressor. We need to fight for other people’s rights… Subvert the system, cause a revolution, plant the seed, nurture the ideas, rewild ourselves without becoming the next oppressors!
MeF: yeah right, like that worked for Egypt…
MeB: Tell me why we wanted that job again?
MeC: I don’t even remember anymore. What a learning experience this has been!
MeG: Hey! You lot are so noisy! I am trying to sleep here! Jeesh. Haud yer wheesht!
MeH: (tentative hesitant self) 爸爸常说 忍一时风平浪静，退一步海阔天空. 怎么办?Should I try to negotiate in this potential zone of change? But these folks are resistant to any new ideas …
MeI: Ils refusent de comprendre! Les abandonner déjà!
Inner Voice15: And so from that moment it continued, with A caged and continuing to splutter in the sea, in a mind, I stood up, breathed deeply, and turned to leave those four walls and walk into the rest of my life. I moved out of the room, slammed the door behind and me and the company sign fell to the floor with a crash. I picked it up and read “Peachson Advanced Testing Systems” and tossed the sign into the trash can. I had better things to do with my life, anyway.
Me22: I did get that job, and I get it again and again every day. It’s only when I forget the contract I made with myself that day – the subjectives, and get mixed up with too many objectives – that I sometimes see Arborescence rear its head (still in the cage though – haha!). Fortunately I have some pretty good friends and co-learners who remind me that the book hasn’t been written yet; we just keep writing.
Apart from wasting (no! it’s not wasting; but it does eat up time) on these quirky little groups, I do believe that a little ingenuity in conjunction with these groups will lead to some interesting classroom projects.
Jenny Luca tagged me to participate in a meme. The idea of this meme is to share seven things that your readers might not know about you.
Here are my seven things:
1. My grandmother’s cousin was the well known pianist, Sviatoslav Richter. My grandmother held a childhood grudge against him since the time that he told her that people who weren’t musical shouldn’t exist.
2. I worked temporarily for a pneumatic tool company, translating engineering texts from German into English and vice versa. I had no idea about engineering jargon – not in German or English.
3. English is my second language. My first language was Russian. I went to preschool (Kindergarten in those days in Melbourne) with only a few words of English: please, thankyou, yes, no and toilet.
4. In primary school, I made my best friend act out Brere Rabbit with me every Monday for 4 years. I was always Brere Rabbit, she was always Brere Fox and my sister had to be Tar Baby.
5. I used to think if I concentrated hard enough I could go through the mirror into another world. I still wish I believed that.
6. I really love things that sparkle. This is embarrassing so you won’t see any evidence of this around the house or on my person. Hang on, let me check…
7. I have some sort of spatial disability. I lose all sense of direction when I go backwards from somewhere. If I come out of a shop, I always end up going back the way I came.
I tag the following people and apologize in advance if they’ve been tagged by someone already:
The goal of The OEDILF, our online limerictionary, is to write at least one limerick for each and every meaning of each and every word in the English language. Our best limericks will clearly define their words in a humorous or interesting way, although some may provide more entertainment than definition, or vice versa.
Look up a word, browse by author or topic/genre, or join the project to submit original limericks.
And some background is included: In Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1968 film, 2001, a Space Odyssey, an astronaut, Dave, was famously locked out of the spaceship by a malfunctioning computer named Hal. If Dave had not succeeded in getting back onto the ship, he would have died when he ran out of air.
Lots of possibilties with this dictionary, both educational and recreational. For the sake of holidays I’ll abstain from the usual heavy-handed instructions.
One more under ‘ballet’
Her willowy arms flutter slightly,
Her feathered white head drops down lightly. Alas for Odette,
Men who love soon forget.
Thus, she’s dying in Swan Lake once nightly.
The project started out as a bit of fun – it ended up that way too. We thought we would make a collaborative video in a similar style to the Where the hell is Matt video that is wildly popular on YouTube. By having a collaborative dance video we were able to transcend cultural and language barriers as everyone loves to move and dance- it is pretty universal.
Allanah collaborated with schools across New Zealand, as well as Canada, Bangkok and the United Kingdom. She talks about her process on the Time 4 Celebration site.
Why does this kind of thing make me stop in my tracks? Allanah said that she did it for a bit of fun. She also said that it transcended cultural and language barriers since dance is universal. I think it’s a simple example of what makes us human – just getting together and enjoying each other. The fact that there are things like dance or music that we can share across cultures gives me a clue about engagement in schools. It just takes a simple thing, a happening, celebration – as long as it brings us together as a group and gives us a sense of belonging. Great things can come from this.
I like Allanah’s blog title: Life is not a race to be first finished.
It shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t be aiming for good marks in a test. It shouldn’t be focussing solely on a result. It’s about enjoying the process and sharing it with others. I love the idea of creating online learning spaces to support, connect, share and celebrate. Learning shouldn’t be a lonely road. Not a journey kept to yourself. Never an experience without good fun.
I’ve been privileged to do some collaborative teaching with Maria Toomey in her English classes at school. Maria understands this instinctively. Understands and lives this. What her students learn in class they do with a sense of being valued as part of the group. She teaches the whole person, and gives of herself in the same way. She and the boys come together to think, discuss, review, display and celebrate. She shows them the value of learning beyond academic content, and they will remember her beyond the classroom.
By the way, do yourself a favour and read some of Matt’s dancers’ comments here. You can also get a Google Earth tour of some of Matt’s favourite places around the world. I loved this.
I found this on Futility Closet – Dick Termes paints murals on spheres with a special 6-point perspective. The idea is that, as you watch the scene rotating, you imagine it to be painted on a concave interior. Two things happen: the spin reverses direction and suddenly you’re inside the painting.