Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Year 12- starting fresh (100 words- 3)

Today, we had our first Year 12 English Teachers meeting for the year. It was long (new course means lots to talk about), and mostly positive, although my brain felt completely fried by the end of it. The transition into the new course is going to be very interesting, I think. The increased emphasis given to multiple readings and textual construction in the new study design will be quite challenging for some teachers, who do not already make this an explicit part of their teaching. There is plenty that I really like about the new course- this being one of them- as well as Area of Study 2- Creating and Presenting. In spite of the set text list and the incredibly frustrating fact that this component of the course will be assessed on the external exam (the area of study that it has replaced- writing for different purposes and audiences- wasn't really), there is still so much scope and so many rich possibilities. Our context (there are four to choose from) is 'The Imaginative Landscape' and I am already looking at landscapes and textual landscapes differently- simply because I am thinking about how I will approach this part of the course. It will be a different experience again once I get into it with my students.

Luckily, I have another day of planning tomorrow before the students return (I really need it). My Year 10's are starting off with 'The Truman Show' which I haven't taught before, and which I am very keen to approach 'differently' if I can. I am tossing around using the film to look at how writers/creators shape human experience into a narrative- how even the stories that we tell our friends are constructed around familiar notions of narrative. I am thinking about trying to get a lot of raw material together, and then getting students to work on editing the material into a tight little narrative. I am keen to use the webcams that we brought last year, too. Just haven't quite figured out the 'how' yet. Any ideas?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Shared Writing (100 words- 2)

During these holidays I have completed (started) at least one productive project. I am co-writing a paper with GP and BD about literature classrooms and poetry (keeping it very broad here). I really enjoy the collaborative writing process, although the enjoyment does come coupled with a fair amount of anxiety, especially if you are writing with two people that you respect as much as I respect GP and BD. The anxiety shouldn't really exist, because I have a huge amount of trust in these two people, but the desire not to disappoint can lead to some fairly substantial periods of writer's block and crappy writing before some decent words finally start to ffflllooowww...

Here is some text that didn't make it (obvious when you read it):

The writing that I am supposedly ‘responsible’ for appears to begin here, but that isn’t really the case. It germinated in informal emails; individual, reflective blogposts; and face-to-face conversations- with both my co-writers… and others. During one of these face-to-face meetings with my co-writers, I was charged with the responsibility of beginning the text that would eventually form this paper. I will admit to feeling over-awed by the task. During the meeting I found myself trying to clamber for a little stretch of comfortable ground- which to me was the ground inhabited by my co-writers, two brilliant researchers whom I wholly respect and wanted to please. As the conversation meandered along, seeking out glimmering possibilities for the paper, I confess that on the tip of my tongue was the plea, ‘just tell me what you want me to write!’

Here I was, little NB, early career teacher, endeavouring to keep up with an Associate Professor and a Senior Lecturer. Often, the tensions in collaborative writing of this nature remain hidden, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

Already, now that I have delivered some text and received some encouraging feedback, I am feeling much more comfortable- excited, actually- about it. It's such a strange process, collaborative writing, even stranger than the process of writing on your own. A direction will germinate in a conversation, and then someone, in this instance myself, will head back to their study and crank out some text, which may bear some resemblance to the initial direction but not much. And then that text, paragraphs that are born of spoken words/shared words/old words/new words/others' words will disappear into someone else's brain for a while and will change, grow and emerge again. And in the meantime there has been more thinking/writing/talking/listening which will colour this new collection of words momentarily, before the process begins again with another writer in their study. The result, at the end, (at least for me), is that you think and write differently than you did before you started. And maybe some readers- who haven't been privy to the head-scratching agony of the writing- will too.

And that's how words enable change.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

100 words (1)

I am going to see if I can write one hundred words on this blog, every day for a month. I am going to see if I can re-form a writing habit through sheer will power. When I have written on this blog in the past, it has mostly been the result of some careful thought, reflection and planning. This won't be the case if I am writing every day, because I won't have the time to think too much about it. I'll just have to see what happens...

On Thursday, my students will be back at school. It's a scary thought at the moment- I don't feel close to having my head around what I'm teaching yet, even though I didn't have a Masters thesis to complete this Summer. It feels as though there is so much still to do that the preparation that I am doing feels fragmented and hotchpotch. I am teaching four classes- two Year 10 English classes, Year 12 English and Year 12 Literature. It's feeling bittersweet- more bitter than sweet- because I have let go of the two courses that have been my babies for the past couple of years- Year 10 Literature and Year 11 Literature- in order to teach Year 12 Lit for the first time. Swapping freedom and autonomy for significant pressure and a big fat external exam isn't feeling like a fair trade at the moment. I know that I shouldn't get so attached to 'my' courses, because they're not 'mine' to start with, but I can't help wondering where they will head and what may be lost.

I am looking forward to continuing with my ICT Consultant gig. I'm going to get the ball rolling on the subversive underground resistance movement (aka ICT policy committee) that emerged during Scott's visit to my school last year, hopefully in the first couple of weeks of the term, whilst us teachers are still relatively bright-eyed and energetic. The teachers are back in town....
Is that 100 words? Probably.

Extract from a travel journal

...in the darkness a flame flares- fishermen offering a prayer to the sea god before heading out to cast their nets. A boy rushes the torch to the water's edge, holding it aloft flickering water before quenching it beneath the surface. The fishermen's prayers must have become more fervent in recent years.
Darkness falls, the electric lights on distant fishing boats are piercing. A string of electric stars on the horizon. Walking home, grasshoppers sing and geckoes scuttle past our luminous toes....