Friday, 7 July 2017

Blurring the Lines

Some people in education maintain that we need work-life balance. I understand this concept if one doesn't feel in control of their workload or environment or has to ‘stick it out’ for various reasons. However, the lines between my work and play were blurred many years ago and I make no apologies for this. My teaching experiences started in 2007, so compared to some, I don't have decades of experience. I've even been told that I'm still early in my career so my enthusiasm and passion is to be expected. Honestly, I may be naive but right now, combining my professional and personal lives works for me. Since returning back to Australia 7 years ago, many of my educator friends have simply become my friends. 


This trip was planned so I could visit England to spend time with my daughter. She is working at a school in Crawley but her holidays begin two weeks after our holidays start. Arriving on a Sunday morning, I was given a tour of her school as all students were away. My daughter is on a gap year and plans to study psychology when she returns to Australia next year. We now talk about teaching and education on another level. 

On Monday I made my way from Crawley to Walthamstow by train & the Tube as I planned to stay at my cousin's place for the week. I downloaded the 'Citymapper' app and felt confident with my ability to go anywhere in London. I remembered how difficult the system was twenty years ago. You had to plan, look at train lines, times, platform numbers, transfers… now it's so easy. I can be spontaneous which I love. That's my favourite way of travelling. Nothing too planned and organised as sometimes you miss out on opportunities that arise. While I hadn't seen my cousin for twenty years (my last visit to London) we had some good conversations (he is a psychoanalyst). When I arrived, he took me to lunch at a Turkish restaurant, which was a new experience for me. That night we ate, laughed and caught up.

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On Tuesday I headed off to the British Museum and British Library. No matter where I am or what I am learning about, I always look at it from an educator's perspective. Viewing the ball rolling clock I thought of various ways it could be used to engage students, peak their curiosity or be the provocation n maths, history or English. That evening, I met with Christian van Niewenburgh and we talked about our regular topics of coaching, education, professional learning and my doctorate but we also talked about our families. Professional conversations can meander into personal life as often they intertwine. 

Wednesday evening I was invited to ‘Learning to Thrive’ hosted by the Innovation Unit with Valerie Hannon and others. It began with a diverse panel who each presented for 10 minutes. Following this was a Q & A and finally a group conversation based on certain topics or case studies. This format worked! I heard from education journalists, academics, researchers etc…it was a very diverse group but a group with the same vision. We need to work together to create any change. Some concepts discussed were determining purpose and focus, while seeing the value of creating structures so more can contribute to society through social agency. 


Thursday I found myself at ‘Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill’ with David Price. This is something I would not normally attend but I decided I would take every opportunity offered on this trip. Audra McDonald was amazing as Billie Holiday. As I sat and listened, I thought of my dad and how much he would have enjoyed being there. As Londoners do, David and I had a cup of tea afterwards and chatted about the show and David provided some insight into my trip to Ireland. 

He also suggested a walk around Covent Gardens before meeting up with Vivienne Porritt from #WomenEd. Vivienne and I talked for hours over dinner proving to me that the connections you make on Twitter can be the start of some wonderful professional relationships and friendships. I shared some thoughts about the professional learning process, only to have Vivienne not only agree but offering evidence to support my ideas. We both agreed that the work of Tom Guskey is an untapped resource when evaluating professional learning.

Friday I had the boring task of washing, so I began reflecting on my week with this blog post. Later, my cousin and I went to the Tate Modern and I found myself spending most of my time observing the photographs 'From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried' 1995-6 by American artist Carrie Mae Weems (highly personal history of the African American experience). We then walked along the River Thames and met a friend in Soho. It was Friday afternoon and the pubs were overflowing with people standing and drinking outside the pubs. The energy in the streets, bars, restaurants was amazing. We then dined in China town and soaked up the positive atmosphere I’ve found in London. 


On June 14, a fire broke out just after midnight in Grenfell Tower, a 24-story public housing project. On Saturday, I viewed the shell of that building. I stood with others, speechless. Looking at the posted notices of people missing, lost pets, flowers laid, and the notes of love and sadness. We stood in silence. From the site, my cousin dropped me off to my hotel in Bayswater, where I was meeting my eldest children. Being tourists with my children was wonderful, hilarious and exhausting but as they are both are online, I will not share our memorable moments (boundaries & respect).

Later that weekend I received a response from the University of Melbourne that my application for a Doctorate of Education was unsuccessful. I had been waiting six months, hoping to transfer my work from University of Wollongong to Melbourne. I advised my proposed Melbourne advisors and they too were disappointed. While this research is important to me, I was reminded this week of keeping things in perspective. I may have to find another path to research coaching and education, but my network of family and friends continue to support me. I may blur the lines of work and play, but I think because of this, I am encouraged by others to move forward. It was recently announced that I have been elected as one of the ACEL executives for NSW. I am very humbled by the continued support of others.


                                    Closed doors, 
open windows...
@stringer_andrea