Tuesday, June 28, 2005

AATE Conference

I haven't posted for a while but I have been head down into my masters (and a few other things)and haven't given it a thought. I will get better at this- in time.
I fly out tomorrow to attend the AATE conference in Queensland (after a spot of beach combing and writing). I'll blog all about it when I return in about a week (I promise).

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The French Lieutenant's Woman

The French Lieutenant's Woman

I have decided that I can use this blog to also write about my Masters research, since this is an important aspect of my ‘teaching identity’, anyway. I am currently in the process of completing a Master of Arts (Creative Writing) at Monash University. It will be interesting to see if blogging about my masters begins to shape my writing process in any way.

Until now, I have held my cards pretty close to my chest in relation to my Masters- I don’t like to talk about it much, with people other than ‘kindred spirits’ anyway, because any discussion ends up feeling quite inadequate:

“So, you’re doing a masters, wow, that must be a lot of work. How many classes do you have to go to? None? Oh, good, that’s not too bad then. And half of your thesis is fiction? So you just have to write a few stories? Cool! So what’s your thesis about, anyway?”

And that’s when I have to draw a deep breath and try to ‘sum up’ in a concise and effective manner two years of research and writing. It always ends up sounding, to my ears at least, kind of lame and inadequate even though I know that it’s not that at all. I really hate the question, “What is your Masters about?” And yet, I still ask other people who I know are studying similar questions. I should know better.

Anyway, I’m just about to start reading The French Lieutenant’s Woman, by John Fowles. Has anyone read it? According to my masters supervisor it’s a travesty that I haven’t read it before now. I was urged to read it by two different people, in two different conversations, for two completely different reasons, so I guess I’d better get on with it! One of them was my supervisor, Chandani Lokuge, and the other the brilliant Jennifer Strauss.

One of my stories centres around the image of a woman looking out to sea (three women, actually, for different reasons) which is of course the central image in Fowles’ novel. The image took flight in my story quite serendipitously, which is always interesting, but has therefore added to my reading list! John Fowles has described the way that his novel ‘grew’ around this image:

“The novel I am writing at the moment… started four or five months ago with a visual image. A woman stands at the end of a deserted quay and stares out to sea. That was all. This image rose in my mind one morning when I was still half-asleep… The woman had no face, no particular degree of sexuality. But she was Victorian; and since I always saw her in the same static long shot, with her back turned, she represented a reproach to the Victorian age. An outcast. I didn’t know her crime, but I wished to protect her. That is, I began to fall in love with her.”

-“Notes on an Unfinished Novel”, John Fowles

Ooh, now I’m intrigued. I’d better start reading. The opening chapter bodes well:

“But where the telescopist would have been at sea himself was with the other figure on that sombre, curving mole. It stood right at the seawardmost end, apparently leaning against an old cannon-barrel up-ended as a bollard. Its clothes were black. The wind moved them, but the figure stood motionless, staring, staring out to sea, more like a living memorial to the drowned, a figure from myth, than any fragment of the petty provincial day…”

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Pre-VIT Outfit

Another reason for starting this blog relates to 'the circle' of fellow bloggers as specified in my links bar. These colleagues of mine are other early career teachers, in other schools in Victoria, who have been blogging about their teaching experiences for a while now, and, well, I didn't want to miss out any more!

Apart from being another type of learning community that I can now be involved in, who knows where else this could lead? We could be on the brink of starting a minor revolution in the English teaching profession! (Hey, I'm allowed to dream, right?) SB, M and Darce are writing some amazing, thought-provoking stuff that isn't just benefitting them, but also their readers, and hopefully we can find some ways of getting that readership to grow- an anonymous and mysterious note in a VATE newsletter, SB??

I've been doing some reading about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood lately, and, I must say, I find the parallels between the PRB and 'the circle' to be quite uncanny! The PRB came about because a group of young artists were dissatisfied by the state of the artistic community at the time, particularly in the artistic schools where they studied. As they saw it, Art was being taught in too rigid and stylised a manner, with no scope for individual expression or original ideas. Lucinda Hawksley (2004) writes that they "also objected strongly to the use of boring, sombre colour palettes. They wanted to paint vibrantly coloured works that would mean something to the viewer, subjects that would provoke the imagination and cause discussion". Hmm... Interesting...

The group basically pinned the blame on Raphael for the rigid codes that existed at the time within the British artistic establishment (hence their name). The PRB were also well practiced in subversion, and signed each work of art with the letters 'PRB". No one knew what it meant, until good old Dante Rossetti shot his mouth off and let the cat out of the bag. Suffice to say that the rest of the art community were scandalised, and that's when the persecution of the PRB began. Oh d-d-dear, perhaps it's not such a good analogy!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

An Identity Of One's Own

Why am I doing this? Why have I finally given in, after resisting for so long?

I have been fighting the urge to begin a ‘blog of my very own’ for some time now. I will be using this blog to ‘reflect’ on my experiences as an early career teacher, but I have already managed to carve out a number of places for me to reflect on and learn from my teaching experiences. In fact, I would go so far to say that if there is one thing that I have actually managed to succeed at since I started my career as an English teacher last year, it’s reflection! So, the question remains… why start this blog??

Well, I attended a lecture at Monash Uni the other day with a good friend of mine (SB) about blogs, and it got me thinking. One of the points that the visiting lecturer, James Farmer, raised was in relation to the notion of ‘identity’, or ‘digital identity’ to be precise. He said that blogs allow individuals greater control over presenting (and developing, I guess) an identity online than, say, a bulletin or discussion board. In some ways, this sense of autonomy seems quite superficial, like choosing a template, or an image, that represents ‘you’. (With a list of 15 or so templates to choose from this seems to be about as accurate a way of representing yourself as referring to your star sign, unless you’re a html guru, but whatever). Anyway, I thought it would be an interesting experiment to see how I would go about presenting my own identity ‘online’. I guess the process has already started- I certainly spent a lot of time agonising over what I was going to write about in my first post! After all, it may suggest some sense of direction that this blog might take, and besides, first impressions do matter to some! Of course, one of the most interesting things about ‘digital publishing’ (to me, at least) is that the author can modify, delete, or rewrite a post at any time, even after the reader has had an opportunity to interact with it. At the very least, this seems to suggest that any creation of an ‘identity’ on this digital page will be tentative, at best, and perhaps fleeting. This could be interesting…

So, the first decision that I had to make when I constructed this blog was to decide what to call it (after selecting my favourite template, of course, which I can change at any time, apparently). A title… something at least remotely relevant… something pithy… catchy… something that ‘represents’ me… and so, after much deliberation, I settled on…

‘An Identity of One’s Own’

Catchy? Maybe not. ‘Pithy’, yes… at least to me. As an early career teacher I’ve been preoccupied with trying to figure out what my ‘teaching identity’ actually is, and what I want it to be, and this blog will be yet another way for me to attempt to reach some understandings about that. My ‘own’ identity is important to stress, as last year I went through the process of having an identity foisted upon me by the VIT (Victorian Institute of Teaching). So this blog will also function as an attempt to ‘subvert’ the notion of identity as understood by the VIT.

So yeah, I think the title is appropriate (a thinly veiled reference to Virginia Woolf never goes astray, either). There are some tensions there, too- an identity vs. multiple identities, for instance- but that’s okay, tensions are what keep things interesting.

Don’t get too attached to the title, though… it could change at any time!

Okay, that’s it for now… first post down… how many to go?

How am I doing so far?!