The first sip

I am reblogging this from my university’s learning and teaching blog. The poem will be familiar to regular readers of this blog (but well worth reading again). Future posts will be new content, but it seemed fitting to start from the first sip. And I want to share the artwork created by my talented colleague Fidel Fernando.

Welcome to a new regular feature Over a cuppa: prompts to reflect on learning and teaching. Once a week during Session 1 and Session 2 we will publish a short post (250 to 300 words) which prompts you to reflect on your learning and teaching during the time it takes to make and drink a cuppa.

One of the most well-known models for reflective practice comes from the work on Donald Schön in The Reflective Practitioner (1983), which was based on his university teaching in urban planning and his students’ experience of fieldwork. Schön describes reflection as a process whereby individuals try to understand “some puzzling or troubling or interesting phenomenon” while questioning “the understandings which have been implicit in [their] actions, understandings which [they] surface, criticize, restructure, and embody in further action”(Schön, 1983, p.50). Schön developed a neat binary which offers a useful starting point: reflection-in-action (occurs in the moment) and reflection-on-action (after the event). Subsequent reflective practitioners have added reflection-for-action (future-oriented) (Killion & Todnem, 1991).

Reflection is a learned skill and an ongoing process. The focus of these posts will be your practice as a teacher, rather than your students’ experiences of reflection for learning (although, as you will see, the two are interconnected). These guided activities will be linked to scholarly literature and practical resources, and aligned with Macquarie’s Professional Learning and Capability Enhancement (PLaCE) Framework.

PLaCE level of competence (Reflective practice)PLaCE Capability
FoundationalR1.1 Articulate the principles of, approaches to, and the values of, reflective practice.
ProficientR1.2 Reflect on own teaching, learning support and/or curriculum/assessment design practices.
R1.3 Explain actions taken in response to reflection on, and in, practice.
AccomplishedR1.4 Engage in sustained reflection on own educational practices and critique actions taken in response.
Highly AccomplishedR1.5 Implement strategies to promote a culture that values reflective practice.
ExpertR1.6 Develop and support the strategic and systematic embedding of reflexivity into educational practice.

Reflection and feedback on practice from the Professional Learning and Capability Enhancement (PLaCE) Framework

For now, I will leave you with a poem that struck a chord for the awkwardness of being new to teaching, the power of poetry in the classroom and the importance of reflection.

School of Embodied Poetics by Nina Pick

When I first started teaching, I thought
my students could see my heart on my sleeve.
I thought they could read the footnotes of
a body splayed open as a book.
I felt embarrassed to have such a
visible heart; there was something shameful about
the whole goopy mess, its ungovernable pulsations,
its lightening blush. It seemed none of my students
had a heart like mine; their hearts were bundled
in their baggy sweatshirts like a packed lunch.
I stood up there on the first day and
dug my hands into my pockets, thinking I
could hide my heart and its waywardness.
I slumped my shoulders, faced
the blackboard, shouted from
behind the projection screen.
But wherever I stood, my heart sparked
like a disco ball, doing
its unmistakable kaleidoscope dance.
I went to my supervisor: I’m so
embarrassed, I said. I think my students
are judging me harshly. They’ve probably
never seen such a heart before.
She shuffled papers, looked at
the results of my classroom observation.
She said, Well, the best you can do
is be a role model. Maybe they’ve never had the chance
to learn about the heart. Try teaching it
the same way you teach grammar.
So I went back to class, and returned to
the living pulse of the text:
I glimpsed the luminous globe behind
the poem’s dark ribs, felt its warmth streaming
through form, through syntax, through meter’s
tangled orchard. I saw the poem as a latticework
interwoven with sun. Each sentence was
parsed by the light.
On the desks we drummed
the heartbeat of the iambs. My heart led an
orchestra of small flowers.

Killion, J., & Todnem, G. (1991). A process of personal theory building. Educational Leadership, 48(6), 14–17.

Pick, Nina. (2013) ‘School of Embodied Poetics’ in This Assignment is so Gay: LGBTIQ poets on the art of teaching, ed. Megan Volpert. Little Rock: Sibling Rivalry Press.

Schön, D. A. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner. New York: Basic Books.

Next week: The second sip: ‘Put on your ‘teaching cloak’.

Return to campus

I am back on campus two days per week, surprised at the way being here has lifted my spirits. I am in a new role (a return to academic development), in a new office (one building along), meeting some colleagues in person for the first time. My office plants have miraculously survived. Today I arrived early and enjoyed a coffee in the winter sun, while reading poetry from Kathleen Quinlan’s (2016) collection How Higher Education Feels. This poem, first published in This is so gay: LGBTIQ poets on the art of teaching (2013) struck a chord for the awkwardness of being new to teaching, and the power of poetry in the classroom:

School of Embodied Poetics by Nina Pick

When I first started teaching, I thought
my students could see my heart on my sleeve.
I thought they could read the footnotes of
a body splayed open as a book.
I felt embarrassed to have such a
visible heart; there was something shameful about
the whole goopy mess, its ungovernable pulsations,
its lightening blush. It seemed none of my students
had a heart like mine; their hearts were bundled
in their baggy sweatshirts like a packed lunch.
I stood up there on the first day and
dug my hands into my pockets, thinking I
could hide my heart and its waywardness.
I slumped my shoulders, faced
the blackboard, shouted from
behind the projection screen.
But wherever I stood, my heart sparked
like a disco ball, doing
its unmistakable kaleidoscope dance.
I went to my supervisor: I’m so
embarrassed, I said. I think my students
are judging me harshly. They’ve probably
never seen such a heart before.
She shuffled papers, looked at
the results of my classroom observation.
She said, Well, the best you can do
is be a role model. Maybe they’ve never had the chance
to learn about the heart. Try teaching it
the same way you teach grammar.
So I went back to class, and returned to
the living pulse of the text:
I glimpsed the luminous globe behind
the poem’s dark ribs, felt its warmth streaming
through form, through syntax, through meter’s
tangled orchard. I saw the poem as a latticework
interwoven with sun. Each sentence was
parsed by the light.
On the desks we drummed
the heartbeat of the iambs. My heart led an
orchestra of small flowers.

And here is the author reading it:
Nina Pick · School of Embodied Poetics, Audio Recording

IMG_3928

Look up

Walking up to school this morning, my son said ‘I love the sky’. You can see why:

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It’s the beginning of spring on this side of the world, and Sydney celebrates with days in the mid 20s. Members of the Cloud Appreciation Society would have found little joy this morning. After a week of rain, it’s nothing but blue skies.

I was thinking about this moment of looking upwards together while reading The Taylorisation of Time: An effective strategy in the struggle to ‘manage’ work and life? from the Annals of Leisure Research.

Pat Thomson recently blogged about ideas for keeping a reading journal on the last thing you read, a reading that has stayed with you, something written really well and something in the media that speaks to your research. Her twenty questions include:

  • What’s the first thing you remember about this text? Write a sentence.
  • Did the text give you an idea? Write a sentence.
  • Does this book or paper connect with something else that you’ve read? Write a sentence.
  • How does this writing differ from other things you’ve read? Write a sentence.

The Taylorisation of Time uses data from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Women’s Health, a longitudinal survey of over 57,000 women in three age cohorts (18-23, 45-50 and 70-75) which began in 1996 (another 17,000 women aged 18-23 were recruited to form a new cohort in 2012/13). I also read two other articles that draw on the same data set: ‘‘Melt Down’: Young women’s talk of time and its implications for health, wellbeing and identity in late modernity’ and ‘Time Pressure, Satisfaction with Leisure, and Health Among Australian Women’.

The outcome of asking women about their time is not surprising: a lot of Australian women feel pressured and anxious about competing demands. Middle-aged mothers of pre-school children who are working full-time are the most likely to describe themselves as “frequently rushed”.

  • “I feel totally out of control most of the time. I feel … that life is a rollercoaster and you just get on there and you just do it.”
  • “The most high pressured time of the day is trying to get out the door in the morning. Work is fine; the rest of my life is totally chaotic. Work has its routines, family life is unpredictable.”
  • “Between chauffeuring them to and from school on the way to work … I’m supposed to have a life which doesn’t exist”
  • “We’re trying to be perfect. Like, I feel guilty if my kids don’t get a proper meal.”
  • “I think with work … your children are treated like a commodity … a package you drop off at school, but there is no provision for the package losing a shoe, or getting sick, feeling like a cuddle, dawdling over breakfast…”

For all that everyone has the same quantity (1440 minutes a day), time pressure differentiates based on individual, cultural and political moderators (gender, age, employment and caring responsibilities being obvious examples).

The ‘Taylorisation’ of the title refers to scientific management of efficient workflows for productivity applied to family life. Think precise calendars, lists of tasks, household routines, rosters or timetables, and rewards or incentives. This work is overseen by a ‘time and motion’ expert who manages the temporal portfolios of individual family members. Sound familiar?

There were interesting insights, notably:

The ‘time budget’ mentality may exacerbate rather than alleviate stress and the flawed nature of the ‘time and motion’ approach is further exposed in the mismatch of children’s temporal rhythms to those of adults.

Reading this article, I was reminded of a poem by Rosemary Dobson (Australian poet, 1920-2012) we read in high school:

Cock Crow

Wanting to be myself, alone,
Between the lit house and the town
I took the road, and at the bridge
Turned back and walked the way I’d come.

Three times I took that lonely stretch,
Three times the dark trees closed me round,
The night absolved me of my bonds;
Only my footsteps held the ground.

My mother and my daughter slept,
One life behind and one before,
And I that stood between denied
Their needs in shutting-to the door.

And walking up and down the road
Knew myself, separate and alone,
Cut off from human cries, from pain,
And love that grows about the bone.

Too brief illusion! Thrice for me
I heard the cock crow on the hill,
And turned the handle of the door
Thinking I knew his meaning well.

As a group of 15 year olds who had rarely subjugated our needs in service of others, we had little insight into the brief respite described in this poem.

This week, I want to experience more moments of sky-gazing interruption.

If you are not quite there, you may want to align your leisure activities with academia in some way. For example, watch The Bachelor (now popular with academics thanks to a hunky astrophysicist) or read some novels featuring academic characters (I’ve just added Dear Committee Members to my reading list).

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I can also recommend the ABC’s comedy series Utopia, set in the office of the government’s National Building Authority. A word of warning: watching the inner working of bureaucracy can be uncomfortably familiar.