What Could (Not Should) This Masters Mean To Me?
I have stopped trying to separate the learning from EDCI 515 and EDCI 568. The learning is so deep and the conversations with guests, colleagues and new friends so engaging that my own cognitive load is overwhelmed by trying to keep it all separated. So from now on I will share my thoughts and hope that I can keep the thread between the two spaces together.
I was impacted most by five ideas people shared this week. Those ideas were the discussion of the use of the word should in our blogs, Dr. Pete describing the change she has seen over 40 years, what the character Malmberg from the film Kitchen Stories represents for me, our conversation with Trevor MacKenzie, and our discussion with Jeff Hopkins from PSII. These five ideas have brought what I want my Masters to be about into even more stark relief.
Learning is About Personal Growth
When thinking about writing and blogs, I was reminded that:
- Writing is a craft.
- I am still learning this craft.
- Apparently, I will not ever stop learning this craft.
- I, as an educator, really struggle with the idea that I’m still learning to write.
- Thank goodness for the rich conversations in our class, which in two short weeks have built a supportive learning community that helps each other.
Of the many ways we discussed to improve our blog posts, three resonated with me the most. The advice to move from the passive tense to the active tense in my writing is something I have heard before. Wait! That would sound better as: I could move to the active tense when writing. Which brings me to the second piece of advice, to keep to the word limit. When I started as an undergrad way back when, I actually thought that the feedback “Too Narrative!” on my essays was a complement. Since then, I have tried to get to the point, Interestingly, active tense helps with this too.
The most important reminder for me is to replace should with could. I was fortunate to be introduced to the fantastic and hilarious Shelly Moore during the last school year. The phrase, “Don’t should on me!”, came from one of her conversations with staff. It started to become part of the vernacular with a few people who had attended the session, and for me, a moment of pause whenever I hear myself say the word. In fairness to the word should, there are uses that are more benign than the obligatory, corrective or critical ways it can be used in conversation. Example could include the helpful “You should avoid stepping on that banana peel.” or the somewhat affected “Should you see them, please say hello!” However, should is usually reserved for corrective language, which is needed in certain situations but can be overused. Shelly Moore can speak eloquently to the reasons why we need to reserve the word should for situations when it is truly necessary in speaking to children. As a writer, colleague and human being, substituting the word could for should offers a little hope and encouragement for a better, brighter future.
How Could We Make Lasting Change Together?
Of all of the important wisdom Dr. Pete shared when speaking about de-colonizing methodologies, one idea resonated most with my own experience. Dr. Pete said that BC has had inclusion of indigenous content for 40 years with little change over that time. I was reminded of a conversation I shared with an indigenous educator who had been working with students for about the same 40 years. He told me a story about an elder who was working with the school district trying to collaborate to achieve better outcomes for indigenous students, and who had told him 30 years ago that outcomes would be improved for indigenous learners in 15 years. As we stood there speaking 15 years after that, some things have improved, but much has not. Dr. Pete challenged us see how it was going to take settlers to engage in understanding as an act of reciprocity. I have been fortunate to have shared many experiences of indigenous groups taking the first steps towards reciprocity and reconciliation, extending a hand in friendship and courageously offering to build a new future together. I am committed to being part of that change.
Malmberg, TIEGrad and the Four R’s
Oddly, I am most impacted by what the Malmberg character from the film Kitchen Stories represents. One reason it feels odd is because, were not for the character Grant and his behaviour, Malmberg would be the least likeable character in the film. Swedish scientists run a study on Norwegian men in an effort to first understand their patterns of behaviour in the kitchen in the hope of eventually making them more logically oriented, efficient and effective in their own homes. This research is supposedly preceded by work done to bring the same patronizing benefits to the Swedish housewives.
For me, Malmberg is the most pivotal character because he represents the system, which is any bureaucracy that on paper looks and acts one way and functions in a completely different way. He is the antagonist who always shows up at the worst possible time to insert the should perspective. The research should be done the way I designed it. The researcher (Folke) should behave appropriately and distance himself from the researched (Isak) who should go on about their business. And I should be the one who gives the findings to the reader (Dr. Ljungberg) wants and will give it to them. The ironic twist at the end is that the actual data that had the greatest impact from the study was what actually happened and not from the results that Malmberg tried to should into reality.
This made me wonder how these characters might contribute to our class if they joined our discussions using the lens of the 4 R’s of research.
The Research: I think Malmberg would struggle with a more modern perspective. He best represents why we needed to move away from strictly data and numerically driven research to a more contextualized form of research. The scenes of Swedish scientists trying to force the somewhat random kitchen behaviours of scientific housewives to create the more logical data driven kitchen is one of the most subtly humorous moments of the film. The real focus of the research for Malmberg has little to do with discovery. Early in the film, he makes a point of saying that he has not yet received his PhD. From his perspective successful research meant that the project proceed as planned and without compromising the quantitative results for what actually might be novel research. If Malmberg joined us in class, I feel like his perspective might seem dated among our conversations about the methods and benefits of qualitative research.
The Researcher: If Folke joined us in class, I’m sure he would have connected with our conversation with Trevor Mackenzie supporting inquiry and social media. The arc of Folke’s growth as a character in the film represents the struggle of trying to make a past practice fit a modern context. As Folke tries to start his work, he is confronted by the difficulty of the task. The structured hierarchy that his research method and methodology represent is similar to the industrial model of education. The elevated chair in the kitchen and the lectern on a stage at the front of the class both have a strangely isolating quality and make a clear statement about the hierarchy of knowledge. Folke is like many teachers, who want to come down from the chair and change the dynamic and engage in the learning with their students. Mackenzie’s vision of a challenging, more student directed, teacher engaged classroom would have appealed to Folke.
The Researched: If Isak joined our class, I think he would have really enjoyed meeting with Jeff Hopkins from PSII. His character represents many of the students who would benefit from the conditions for learning that exist at PSII. Like many students who appear withdrawn, Isak lives in an isolated world among others, with a hidden trauma and hidden talents. His true character and intelligence is only revealed as his curiosity is channeled into a research project about research. Hopkin’s enthusiasm for his students, and his unrelenting commitment to ensure that the environment at PSII brings out the best in his students, motivates students like Isak in their passion for learning.
The Reader: Me. I am in class and I now see everything through the prism that all of these guests, experiences and new friendships have provided. What I have learned about my masters is that in some way I want to tie together assessment that looks like what Shelley Moore describes, work that respectfully incorporates indigenous ways on knowing, and a topic that represents a modern view of scholarship and that incorporates the exciting vision of inquiry based learning.