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The ‘R’ word: Rural

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Simone White (2015) of Monash University has argued in “Extending the knowledge base for (Rural) Teacher Educators” that we need to move away from the ‘unhelpful  rural-urban binaries’ that we so often get caught up in. Instead we need to make the rural not a secondary add in, but an integral ‘activist, generative and transformative response for teacher education.’

This has given me cause to reflect on that key word that I trip over in my research title, every time. It has become a little like the ‘dirty’ word in conversation around research, writing and PhD in an EDU space.

“Oh, rural,” they gasp.

“Mmm. Rural.”

“Yes, rural. Ahem.”

The R word has become for me what I encountered with the F word back int he 90s. It meant different things to different people.  It was easier to react to the negative, common perceptions of the word than to understand how to apply and live it. The F word, feminism was being reformed and refashioned by Gen Xs everywhere. Whilst it is  still central to my thinking and reasoning, the R word is demanding  more of my attention.

So let me be clear.

I grew up in a rural place.

I actively left the rural place.

I found my way back to a rural space, for pragmatic reasons.

The rural space has defined, challenged and changed me. It has isolated parts of who I am and placed restraints on who I might be, but it has enhanced and enabled me to find myself.

The ‘R’ word has made me see more clearly.

 

 

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Education, Teaching

Clouds Three Ways

img_8520There is not just one way. One way to see, read, view.

One of the goals of teaching and learning is to help each other identify different ways of viewing the world around us, developing our skills of critical thinking and being able to share ideas in a meaningful, clear and relevant way.

As a researcher who has immersed herself in the classroom this semester, I am acutely aware that there is more than one way to see, read and view.

The English classroom is a special place. We discuss big issues, heart issues, personal issues. This term it has been about growing up, racism, discrimination, self discovery.

As the academic year draws to an end and I farewell students I hope they can see things at least three ways. How about you?

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coaching, Women and Leadership

Change

 

 “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw.

Change is hard. It challenges us. It threatens our existence as we know it.

Sometimes it is easier to hold onto what we know then to be open to a new way, a new life, a new way of being. Change requires us to know who we are.

As teachers this requires an honest reflection on the personal and the professional. It requires an understanding of the professional context in which we operate and the personal demands of our situation.

If we want to grow and develop in our role as educator and leader, if we want to progress as husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend we need to change. We need to reflect. Coaching can unlock these changes and it can support that journey of change.

As George Bernard Shaw says progress is dependent upon change. What are you going to change this term? #growth #coaching #changeispossible

 

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research, Storytelling, Writing

Justification

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image:pexels.com

Many of us seek justification, to explain and support our decision making. Some good and some not so good.How do I justify the fact that I make time for this blog when there is so much to do? When teaching and learning demands overwhelm, when research deadlines loom?

Naomi Barnes has articulated my concerns in her blog post on EduResearch Matters for AARE. Her blog post was a breath of fresh air, a reminder of writing for writing’s sake. Barnes argues that writing is an important part of her scholarship and research.

I would suggest that I write to refine my ideas. I am constantly surprised how much I discover about my own thinking as I write. It is a space to reflect, to connect the dots, to question and highlight. My inspiration may be academic, it may be data but more often than not it is a random encounter with an image, a tweet, a piece of music, something I saw on my walk, something a student has said. It is this beautiful connection between the personal and the professional, the very identity that my research is interrogating.

So thank you Naomi Barnes. May many more PhD students come to revel in the pure delight of blogging and unearthing new ideas.

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identity, research, Women and Leadership

Reflective Practice

img_8170Many women educators who aspire to be leaders struggle with self doubt and an imposter syndrome. A recent study by Zoe Kinias and Jessica Sim suggests that there is a simple exercise that may support women and actually help them tackle the doubt that plagues their entry beyond the ‘glass ceiling’.

Kinias and Sim argue that a simple reflection exercise on core values can transform performance in a competitive setting.

My response to this data is to connect this idea to my own research and question whether reflection would support a women building her leadership capacity in education.

According to Kinias:

The transition into a new organization or role can be critical for people’s identities, which can substantively shift the trajectory of their experience…… Thus reflecting on values bolstered participants’ resiliency against the potential threat to their self-worth that resulted from being a woman.

As educators we know that reflective practice is powerful and a vital part of our professional learning. We can enjoy that practice via a coaching conversation, team collaboration or individual reflection in a journal or the like. So why are we surprised?

In the busyness of this teaching life we often fail to make time to reflect on our core values and return to the essential tenants of our beliefs. We need people to encourage us to have reflective conversations, to drive our thinking back to what matters most. In the absence of a coach or critical friend I would argue that a blog can be a therapeutic means to reflect and make sense of my own professional and personal identity.

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identity, Women and Leadership

Focus

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Let’s face it. It is H.A.R.D. to focus.

As a researcher you would think the task is clear – read, write, research, read again. But there are  multiple distraction every single time I sit down at my desk. And that is if and when I get to my desk. It is not uncommon for a research Ed student to be older, juggling work and family commitments.  The question how we focus is relevant, but I suspect it is one we avoid.

If I where honest I allow a range of other distractions to compete with my research time. Email, social media, requests from my children, the beep of the washing machine, a to do list for work. The experts suggest that each time I look away, it takes me 23 minutes to refocus , to return to where I was before I responded to the “ting” of love via my email box. This new reality has forced me to reassess not only how I work but why I work in the way I do.

Can I multitask? Can I successfully write that methodology chapter whilst crossing of my to do list, planning a school concert costume and answering work emails? The answer is no. Here are some productivity and focus tips that I have found meaningful:

  1. Busyness is not productivity. Busyness is like junk food, it does nothing good, but offer a quick fix.
  2. Freedom to be really productive means that I should allow spontaneity in my schedule.
  3. Delegate more of the tasks on my to do list. If someone else can do it or offers help, let them.
  4. Schedule in me time, the “Alone Zone”, the space to do Deep Work, just like you would schedule a doctor’s appointment.
  5. Take care of yourself. You cannot focus when you are sleep deprived, stressed, eating poorly and have not stepped into the outdoors for weeks.

Focus requires commitment and practice. Regular reflection on my ability to focus and see the next day, week and term clearly is vital for my work. So here’s to more FOCUS for you and for me.

 

 

 

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identity, Phd Candidature, Professional Learning Networks, research, Women and Leadership

Hope

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This teacher life is a crazy one. Each day we turn up to school, put on our teacher face and work hard to inspire our students. We juggle multiple balls each lesson, as we attempt to convey a clear learning focus, communicate the big learning idea, manage complex class dynamics, motivate reluctant learners, differentiate our program and all the while smiling. Because we love it.

My recent re-entry into the classroom has reminded me of the hope that each teacher nurtures, quietly inside. Hope that we can  make a difference. Hope to support young people on their learning journey. Hope that they will understand. Hope that they will grow in independence and knowledge. Hope that will unlock something and that it will usher in a lifetime of learning.

But this hope that each teacher holds onto is fragile. We are vulnerable to sickness, loss and grief. Our personal life continually  drags this hope through the muddy trenches. We dust off hope and wipe it down, as we front up to a new class, a new day.

I am experiencing that delicate balance between personal and professional identity on a daily basis. I am observing colleagues around me who are clearly fighting their own disappointments and battles while simultaneously working hard to help the battles of numerous young people.

More than once I have recalled my PhD research and the nature of my data collection. Earlier this year I interviewed 12 women who hold leaderships positions in education. These conversations sparked deeper, ongoing reflection. This was then followed up by a series of email exchanges over the course of a term. Each email invited the women to reflect again about their leadership style, experiences and how professional learning has shaped their journey. I now ask the question – how did they do it? How did they find the energy, the time and the focus in the midst of a very busy school term to stop, reflect and ‘talk’ to me.

How did the interview questions impact that hope that each of us holds close?

I am now considering the impact of relationships, structures of support and connection and the way they influence our sense of self, shape our identity and grow our hope in our profession. The question is do you have those relationships, that professional learning network, the personal support of partner, family or friend to walk you through the trenches of this teaching life?

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