Category Archives: Going within

Pondering the rhythms and rhymes of life

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Mountain road sunset.jpegI am in the midst of bringing my thesis to life… drawing together and making sense of the collage of sometimes disparate discoveries and ruminations on theorising and practicing education. I am most interested in identifying the conditions that foster transformed perspectives on life, living and learning, in this case within the learning spaces of teacher professional development in Vocational Education and Training (VET).

I have been fortunate to find myself supported by a wise coach (and dear friend) who is helping me navigate the ‘road home’ for my thesis. We have been exploring the key values that underpin this journey to completion, and have both been intrigued by my resistances to certain terms… ‘structure’ and ‘discipline’ to name two. We are exploring the origins of my seemingly irrational response to their inclusion in my positive language bank, and considering ways I might reframe my perception of their value.

As I ponder my responses, I have this morning come across intriguing reflections from Michel Alhadeff-Jones, a fellow member of the international transformative learning community with whom I connect. In a recent blog post, Michel explores the time-related tensions that exist in our fast-paced world, most particularly related to the outcomes-driven world of education. In his article he reflects on the inclusion of Twitter and other social media platforms in our academic and personal lives, and the dichotomous impact they bring to bear… the delights of opening to new ways of seeing and engaging with the world, against the tensions and intrusions into the natural rhythms and rhymes of self:

I am experiencing mixed feelings that seem to be quite common nowadays: the excitement of discovering new people (but not necessary new ideas) and the depressing feeling that keeping up with the pace of social media runs against other rhythms of my life (e.g., the pace of family, intellectual and working lives) … to try to keep this tension alive and to question the deeper meanings it carries. On one hand, the need for novelty, fresh insights, connections and the excitement of instantaneous connections; on the other hand, the need to consolidate what is already there, to preserve oneself, and to embrace the duration of long term perspective and lifelong development.’

The problem is not so much about choosing between one or the other. The issue would be rather to learn how to regulate between openness and closure, instantaneity and duration, excitement and boredom, etc. Those are interesting “motifs de dualité” (Bachelard, 1950) that are constitutive of the everyday rhythms of our lives (sometimes we feel the need to be connected or stimulated, other times we prefer to remain on our own or quiet).

Alhadeff-Jones 2017

Michel’s rich musings have struck a chord for me related to the broader concept of creating honouring spaces for learning… a key inclusion in my PhD thesis… that connects with notions of time explored previously in my Masters:

Just as Rogers (1961) ponders the process of enabling and establishing a relationship that provides the groundwork in which the individual can cultivate their personal growth, the aim of my study was to examine the ways in which undertaking the quietly reflective process of telling the stories of one’s life might foster future growth and productivity. These same analogies relating to the idea of cultivation can be seen in M. Scott Peck’s conceptualisation of education:

“Education is derived from the Latin ‘educare’, literally translated as ‘to bring out of’ or ‘to lead forth.’ Therefore when we educate people, if we use the word seriously, we do not stuff something new into their minds; rather we lead this something out of them; we bring it forth from the unconscious into their awareness. They were the possessors of the knowledge all along.” (Peck, 1978)

To illustrate how this ‘something’ might be enabled to be led forth from our learners, I will return to the notion … of providing the ‘space’ for this process to unfold, and link it the Socratic notion of the educator as midwife. In supporting the ‘birth’ of this ‘something’ that lies within each of our learners, we also need to consider the quality of time required for them to inhabit the ‘space’ most effectively, as creating space for something doesn’t necessarily mean it will emerge. Rämo explores the Greek bifurcation of the concept of time, as it relates to the notions of chronos and kairos, (Ramo, 1999). He highlights that where chronos refers to ‘the concept of time as change, measure, and serial order’, the quantifiable, measurable aspects of passing time according to the clock in a neutral, absolute sense, the kairos notion of time relates to the ‘right or opportune time to do something’. He gives as an example a farmer’s ‘kairic’ or intuitive sense of the right moment to sow and harvest, adding that it is tied to the self-determination of the individual. Smith (1969) identifies three aspects present within the concept of kairos – the right time, a time of tension that calls for a decision, and an opportunity to accomplish some purpose. Jaques (1982) and philosopher Ramírez (1995) also stress kairos as episodes of intentions and goals, while Hammond (2007) proposes that in Hellenistic Greece, kairos denoted a time in which something could happen. He proposes a fitting or opportune time – a ‘season’, a time for ‘something’. Aristotle (cited in Ramos (1999, p312)) suggests ‘What happens at the right time (Kairos – season) is good’ and the Oxford English Dictionary (Simpson, Weiner, & Press., 1989), defines Kairos as ‘Fullness of time, the propitious moment for the performance of an action or the coming into being of a new state.’ (Miles, 2010)

So interestingly, as I contemplate these resistances to ‘structure’ and ‘discipline’, I find myself returning to the roots of my original inquiry, commenced over a decade ago. Whether I consider the tensions inherent in deciding whether to be present and active in social media as an academic; the process of supporting my learners as they unpack and critique their uncontested assumptions, or the impact of the structure and discipline required to be productive and successful in my goal of completing my thesis… I have deepest knowing that fertile space must always be available for the dreaming and emergence of creativity, self-expression and previously unimagined possibilities. Fertile space inhabited by Kairos time, where ‘the coming into being of a new state’ is able to unfold.

I am reminded of Leunig’s eloquent musings:

Let it go,
Let it out,
Let it all unravel,
Let it free
And it will be
A path on which to travel.

Leunig (2017)

Perhaps it lies somewhere on the road between these…that one might ‘structure’ and be ‘disciplined’ in creating and inhabiting these fertile oases in the midst of an otherwise organised space. It is certainly something worthy of deep reflection… in Kairos time…

References

Alhadeff-Jones, M. (2017a). Time and the rhythms of emancipatory education. Rethinking the temporal complexity of self and society. London: Routledge.

Alhadeff-Jones, M. (2017b). Twitter and the experience of temporal neurosis. Retrieved from http://alhadeffjones.com/blog-autoethnography-of-a-rhythmanalyst/

Hammond, J. (2007). Living on and off the clock: Some thoughts on time management. Retrieved from www.smcm.edu/rivergazette/_assets/PDF/may07/may07/reeveschair.pdf

Jaques, E. (1982). The form of time. New York: Crane, Russak.

Joss, R. (2007). It’s not about you. Retrieved from http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/news/research/joss_you.html

Leunig, M. (2017) Let it go. Retrieved from http://www.leunig.com.au/works/poems

Miles, J. K. 2010 Restor(y)ing lives: Autobiographical reflection and perspective transformation in adults returning to study. (Master’s thesis) Monash University. Clayton.

Peck, S. M. (1978). The road less travelled. New York: Touchstone.

Ramo, H. (1999). An Aristotelian Human Time-Space Manifold: From Chronochora to Kairotopos. Time & Society, 8(2-3), 309-328.

Ramírez, J. L. (1995). Skapande Mening: En begreppsgenealogisk undersökning om rationalitet, vetenskap och planering [Creative Meaning: A Contribution to a Human-Scientific Theory of Action]. Stockholm: NORDPLAN.

Rogers, C. R. (1961). On becoming a person; a therapist’s view of psychotherapy. New York: University of Chicago Press.

Simpson, J. A., Weiner, E. S. C. (1989). The Oxford English dictionary (2nd ed.). Oxford and New York: Clarendon Press; Oxford University Press.

Smith, J. E. (1969). Time, times and the ‘right time’. The Monist, 53(1), 1-13.

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Trying to understand …

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peace1A friend of mine tagged me in her Facebook post today, a comment about a protest she had passed by in the city that relates to the current turmoil in the Middle East. It’s such a drawn out state of affairs, one that I’m only just beginning to consciously notice. My friend’s comment prompted me to fossick through Google to uncover information that might help me gain more insight into something that is for me a minimally understood happening.

My perspectives on the world, and my connection to all that goes on within it are only beginning to open, and I struggle with my ignorance. Related to the current conflict in the Middle-East and other regions that are such a common feature of today’s global climate, I find myself at various times devastated, angry, irritated, frustrated, judging, impatient, scared of what the future might hold … the list of my useless responses goes on as I attempt to fathom the seemingly interminable turmoil and absolute disregard for human rights and dignity that is present on a daily basis.

I am not a lover of conflict, most happy to find a way around discord … sometimes to great effect through a flexible approach that endeavors to honor the unique perspectives of all parties, but too often with an aim of keeping the peace. Keeping the peace in a way that sometimes fails to contest and unpack reigning assumptions, or renegotiate and promote new ways of seeing and feeling, thinking and acting.

There continues to be such injustice in the world related to people with power trying to take from others/oppress those with minimal power or influence, and it is too easy to be lulled into complacency and a closed heart and mind by the numbing voices that saturate our mainstream media, in a society that too easily perpetuates the status-quo.

The work I draw on in my education focused PhD inquiry speaks about the disorienting dilemmas we can face in our passage through learning about life, and our responses to newly perceived and understood phenomena. As I turn my attention to these conflicts across our globe I am being challenged to sit with something that is horrifying and inconceivable to my limited perspective and life-experience, and in spite of my naivety and discomfort with such confronting realities, to open to new ways of seeing what has existed all along.

Malcolm X is reputed to have said ‘If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing’, and while sometimes I find it hard to differentiate the oppressed from the oppressors, I am reminded today … through listening with my eyes and ears and heart … that hearts closed by fear and anger will not bring about sustainable change. True understanding and resolution can only be achieved through open hearts and the provision of safe spaces where compassionate insight, mutual respect and understanding can be seeded and cultivated.

So as I open my own heart to new perspectives and the possibilities for my role in this change, I’ll quote another Facebook gem from today (Facebook is the font of all wisdom you know) …

Building walls in fear of loss does nothing to protect you from future harm, it only robs you of present joy. Tear the walls down

Cynthia Occelli

The secret to a good life

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According to Scott-Peck in ‘The road less travelled’ (1979), education comes from the word ‘educare’, meaning to ‘bring out from within’ or to ‘lead forth’. The art of teaching then, much like Socrates’ allusion to teachers as mid-wives (Plato’s Theaetetus), might be seen as concerned with drawing out what is already contained within the learner, bringing it into their conscious awareness.

In my experience, rather than trying to shovel information into people, the practice of learning and teaching should always be learner-focussed, most often achieved through facilitating a social ‘space’ where learners are given permission to go on a quest – an adventure of personal discovery into the self.

This space of learning can transpire through a social, collaborative process where individuals share and critique their own assumptions, experiences and perspectives of personal learning and knowing. Through this often disorienting quest to uncover/discover/rediscover the truths and strengths that lie within, individuals can begin to find new ways of seeing themselves and the world around them, and begin to consider the rich opportunities they have to engage with and impact on this newly perceived world. For me, mine is a process of supporting the ‘restorying’ of learners’ perspectives on what they see as possible for them in life. As an ‘educator’ of adults returning to study, I find the greatest satisfaction in supporting these transformations of self and potential.

Today, as I’ve been continuing my own PhD learning quest, pursuing a greater understanding of how we can best support teachers in their own transformative journeys of learning, I have come across an article from the Gallup Blog, the company that provides us with a myriad of statistics on all manner of fascinating stuff. The article is entitled ‘Teaching may be the secret to a good life, and in it, Brandon Busteed, Executive (Director of Gallup Education) and Dr. Shane Lopez (Gallup Senior Scientist) discuss their findings about the satisfaction rates of teachers in America.

Even while identifying the second highest levels of stress of all fourteen vocational areas surveyed, teachers rate the second highest level against emotional health and wellbeing. Though not perceived as a vocation pursued for financial gain, teachers surveyed responded that they get to “use their strengths and do what they do best every day”, and are most likely to report experiencing happiness and enjoyment (Busteed and Lopez, 2013).

This leads Busteed and Lopez to propose that as the title suggests, a career of teaching may well be the secret to a good life. They reflect on the benefits of working in such a richly rewarding vocation, and consider the value of great teachers in our lives … those who have inspired and encouraged us in pursuit of our sometimes lofty dreams, urging us to reach ever higher as the experience of life crafts us into the truest expression of ourselves.

I am not alone in knowing that the value of great teachers is true in many contexts. Those who have had the privilege and challenge of raising children and those who mentor, coach and lead with gentle strength each day in their work, sport and recreational lives may well have inspired and experienced the same richly rewarding outcomes.

So thank you to the educators in all contexts who continue to inspire and encourage us on our journey to the fullest expression of ourselves. May they realise the grandest of lives.

 

Busteed, B & Lopez, S. (2013) Teaching may well be the secret to a good life.  The Gallup Blog. http://thegallupblog.gallup.com/2013/03/teaching-may-be-secret-to-good-life.html

Peck, S. M. (1978). The road less travelled. New York: Touchstone.

Plato (circa 257 BC). Theaetetus Translated by Cornford, F. M. (1930) pp148e-151d. http://www.phy.ilstu.edu/pte/310content/philosophy/midwife.html