Waking up

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Last night I watched the movie Pleasantville and was more than pleasantly surprised to find a movie about people living in a monotone world, struggling with the process of waking up (seeing and becoming colour). It took me a while to realise that’s what it was about – it does take me a while to wake up to things sometimes.

pleasantville_covering upThis still from the movie represents a moment when a woman begins to wake up (she is becoming coloured) and is scared of the consequences of being seen to be different by others whose views are considered more ‘acceptable’. Realising she is not yet ready to embrace an openly vibrant life, her beautiful son helps her to ‘cover up’ with makeup, until she is ready to stand up and claim her new perspective on the world.

This got me reflecting on a magnificent piece of writing I was fortunate to find recently. Heather Plett had come to my attention through a thought piece she did a while back on holding space, and her latest piece speaks to me deeply about the experience and ongoing work of my life. I’m fortunate to be in a position to be supporting teachers and pre-service teachers as they undertake undergraduate and post-graduate professional development. We speak a lot about education for social justice – about the ways in which we can cultivate learning spaces for our students that foster transformed perspectives  on oneself and one’s place in life. It’s all about living in an awakened state.

Additionally this week, I received news that one of my academic heroes passed away recently. Patricia Cranton’s work has been a joy and an inspiration to me, focussing as it has on authentic teaching in transformative learning spaces. The notion of providing the right conditions for students to ‘wake up’ is central.

So for whatever way it might speak to you, I am passing this on to you.

In waking up to the exquisite colours that are ours to embrace, we are also wakened to bitter and often dark truths – about the world around us, and about ourselves. But it is part of waking up to life. Darkness is as much a part of life as light and colour. It just is. And once we make friends with the dark spaces in ourselves …

… it is no longer threatening to stand by those
who are also waking up …

 

Waking up is hard to do

Waking up is hard to do.

First, you wake up to your own oppression,
to the ways you’ve been silenced,
to the many little stories you carry about why
your words are worth less than those who
benefit most from the old story.

You wake up to the truth that
your view of yourself wasn’t only constructed by you.
It was shaped for a purpose – to keep you small,
to keep you silent.

Then you wake up to your own anger,
to the fierce determination not to obey,
not to listen to the stories,
not to stay small.

But then, one day later on,
after you’ve learned to speak,
there’s another awakening.
You wake up to the fact that
your frustration taught you to adapt rather than to rise above.
You shape-shifted to be more like them,
to work in their hallways of power,
to survive in a world that didn’t want your voice.
You became one of them to be heard by them.

Then your anger wakes up once again,
and you have a new determination.
This time, you speak with your true voice
whether or not it is heard.
You begin to live in the centre of your true life
whether or not it is acceptable to them.
You risk dismissal and disdain
because you are no longer willing to go back to sleep.

But then, one day later on,
you realize that there is something else going on,
and this will require yet another awakening.
This will require that you look with more clear eyes
and speak with an even more clear voice.

You begin to wake up to other people’s narrative,
other people’s oppression, other people’s silence.
You begin to see that those whose skin
is different from yours,
whose gender and love is different from yours,
are waking up too,
and their waking up is asking you to be uncomfortable.

Their waking up
is asking you to look more clearly and unblinkingly
at your own life.
Then you begin to wake up to your own privilege,
to the ways that you have benefitted from their oppression.
You begin to wake up to the pain in them,
and you begin to hear the cries of the silenced,
“we want to be heard too!”

This waking up is the hardest,
and you want to ignore it,
to resist it, to deny what you now see.
You want to return to your own narrative,
to your own uprising,
because in that you can feel victorious and liberated.
In that, you don’t have to face the truth
that maybe you, even you, are holding the keys
to someone else’s chains.

But finally, you can deny it no longer.
Your awakened eyes see that you are only truly free
if they are free too.

And so you wake up,
and you face the hard truths.
And you feel the hurt
when your micro-aggressions,
and white fragility are pointed out.
And you do the hard work to peer with unwavering eyes
on yourself,
and to see both the shadow and the light,
and the space in between.

And when you are awake,
you begin to see it all,
and you can’t look away.
And finally you see,
that when you are truly awake
and truly honest about your place in the world,
it is no longer threatening to stand by those
who are also waking up.

And your anger burns anew.
And your fierce determination rises up once again.
And this time, your love is big enough,
to hold their hurt along with your own.
And this time, your voice is strong enough,
to speak their truth along with your own.
And this time, your courage is deep enough,
to let them speak a truth that is
different from your own.

 

It’s been a while …

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As for everyone I know, 2015 has personally been a period of intense growth and challenge.

The year’s passage has seen me blessed with rich opportunities to develop and extend myself personally and professionally, surrounded by incredible people who have come into my life to facilitate and support this process.

I have had my ‘shoulder to the wheel’ for a great part of the year as I negotiated entry into teaching at Monash University; new projects at my beloved Sandybeach Centre; greater participation in my professional networks across the globe, and attending to my too often ignored PhD research and writing.

I can say with gratitude that I have survived, and am now blessed to be back at Tootgarook on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula for a time of regeneration.

In the company of my precious family and friends I get to breathe again … to inhale the beauty of this time and place, and to reflect on a way forward that honours and builds on all that has come before. I get to imagine and set into place the enactment of each day’s learning that urges me to live more authentically, to connect more deeply with my world … to live each moment in love.

At this sacred time of year across so many cultures, I have this morning became aware of Disturbed’s haunting cover version of Simon and Garfunkle’s ‘Sounds of Silence’. It resonates deeply with the silent space of solitude in which I currently rest, as I await the collaborative, joyful celebration of the love of my family and friends.

I am reminded however, that our family have infinite choices about how and where we spend our time together, how we celebrate our love for and commitment to each other.

This is not the reality for too many of our global family. Too many live in unimaginable deprivation of freedom. Too many struggle to survive emotionally and financially each day. Through no fault of their own, too many are being unlawfully detained and are being denied their basic human rights.

So as I give thanks for the love, joy and abundance of my own life, I reflect on the words of Martin Luther King Jnr as they intersect with this haunting song. As I celebrate the gift of love and life with my family and friends, I consider the gift of people like Martin Luther who had the courage to speak up and speak out in the deafening silence … and consider how I might find that courage in myself.

My love to you and yours as you celebrate.

 

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Martin Luther King Jnr.

 

Invitation to participate in a PhD research study

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Startup Stock PhotosMy PhD research project is finally ready to start collecting data from teachers in the VET sector! This might not relate to you, but feel free to pass it on to someone you think might be interested …

Have you completed a Vocational Education and Training (VET) teaching diploma program any time since 2006? This might include:

  • 21697VIC Diploma of Vocational Education and Training Practice
  • TAA50104 Diploma of Training and Assessment
  • TAE50111 Diploma of Vocational Education and Training
  • TAE50211 Diploma of Training Design and Development

Did undertaking this contribute in any way to a transformed perspective of yourself as a learner, of learning more broadly, or to changes in your learning and teaching practice?

My name is Jennifer Miles and I am conducting a research project towards a PhD in Education at Monash University. I am seeking participants who are interested in contributing to a study that will explore the ways in which undertaking a VET diploma program (teaching) encouraged them to reflect on their identity as a learner and as a teacher, and to consider any consequent transformed perspectives on learning and teaching practice that emerged during or since undertaking the diploma.

The study involves two levels of participation, and you can choose one or both. You might decide just to complete the online survey, or to also participate in the in-depth interview process.

If you are interested, please follow the link and read the Explanatory Statement for full details, and at the end if this you will be asked if you wish to proceed with the survey

http://monasheducation.az1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_cwnbmtcoynsnoGx

If you know of someone else who might be interested, please pass the message and link on to them. Thank you for your consideration!