Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Back in the classroom...

I've been neglecting this blog terribly of late which is a shame because I want it to be a dynamic, intriguing, metamorphising space. I just haven't been feeling inspired enough to do anything about it, or rather any flashes of inspiration that I do have are being fed into other writing spaces. I want to do something about it though, so hopefully soon I will want it enough to actually do it. I should just write, rather than wait for the writing to happen. So...
I'm back in the classroom this week and it's fantastic. Ironically, I'm teaching more English classes this week while doing CRT work than I was last year with my own classes! Bizarre. My school has been really good about giving me mostly English classes, which is great for me because I get to do some real teaching and good for the students because they still get to spend time with someone who is keen to explore words with them, even though their 'real' teacher isn't there. So, I've been reading stories aloud with all the voices, teaching short story structure using The Simpsons, playing with Bruce Dawe and falling in love with "Katrina", talking with students about their favourite songs and chatting about writing folio ideas and Indiana Jones. Fun stuff.
I've spent a couple of days teaching in our new year 9 campus, a converted rope factory of all things, down the road from our senior campus. It's really beginning to grow on me, there's something wonderfully authentic about this learning space that has undergone its own metamorphosis from workplace to school ground. Industry leaving behind an empty space for learning. There are classes in magical sounding places like 'the ballroom' and students 'drop everything and read' below shady trees. It is a place of spaces, like the huge, echoing, musty hall that no one has decided what to do with yet, so at the moment the students use it to play cricket at lunchtime, hitting balls high into the rafters and sending them ricocheting from wall to wall. They couldn't possibly hurt a space like this, all they do is add to its history. I taught in the main hall, an enormous space without dividing walls, while another class carried on about 20 metres along the space. The kids were great. The walls are bright colours. The ancient wooden floorboards gleam. I like this place. It's not a fairy tale, but I like the spaces.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


I am attending the International Digital Storytelling Conference at ACMI over this weekend, so I will try to share my interpretation of some moments from it in the next few entries.

John O'Neal (playwright/actor/activist- amongst other things) opened the conference with tears and laughter in his voice. He spoke of many things that stirred me, particularly about the role of art and artists in activism and social change. Our stories are far richer than our arguments, he said. They reveal to us things that we don't even know ourselves.

In the classroom (and beyond), especially over the last twelve months, I have found myself particularly focused on helping students to be critically aware of the messages that bombard them- in advertising, in online environments, in written texts, in visuals, in moving pictures. I have encouraged them to be resistant readers, and to consider texts from other points of view. To resist the accepted lure, the hook, of the art that surrounds them.

This is important.

What I haven't consciously done in a while is to consider this notion from the other side- as a producer of text/art, rather than a consumer of text/art. John O'Neal spoke of the insidious power of art- the way that it achieves its impact on us beneath the level of our logical minds. Such art can have an impact on the way we think, without us necessarily being aware of it. This is how art has the potential to change- change us, change our society.

I want to be a producer of texts that hold this insidious power. Not only that, I want my students to not only be aware of text/art's potential for change, but to be able to use it to dessiminate their own messages.

Walking back to my car beneath swaying red lanterns, I seared with the importance of this.