Archives for the month of: November, 2011

One of the lovely things about eating in Brazil is that most places are designed for sharing. Here, you find buffets, rodizios, eat all you can, plates for two, shared appetizers. You rarely have a plate of food which you just eat yourself.

I am learning to share other things too. When you move abroad and work in an International School the different sections of your life become intertwined. All the carefully separated sections of work, home, social life are melded in to one seamless whole. There isn´t anywhere to hide. In the UK, I had developed a set of different personalities, and even names, to compartmentalise my life. What has surprised me about moving is that I don´t feel the need to separate myself as much. The Luci they see at work is the same Luci they see out; my friends are my work colleagues, my support networks are all closely linked. I was worried about this before I left. I enjoyed having my different lives; I liked not mixing them together. The different parts of me were shared with different people. So who am I now? I´ve exposed my core self, I can´t hide under all the layers anymore.

So, I wrote a blog. I wrote a blog and I sent it out in to the world. Some people read it; some people commented on it, some people ignored it. The thought of posting that blog filled me with fear. I felt foolish and exposed. I nearly didn´t do it. I was able to write the blog and feel comfortable about taking that risk, about putting myself on display because of the move to Brazil. The experiences I share on my social networks, electronic mails and texts have been the same for all my groups of friends, especially in these first few months. The pleasure of the new experience is equalising, I want to share it with everyone.

One of my social networks has given me access to the work of talented and creative people who share their thoughts, writing, pain and pleasures. I have been amazed and impressed by the things people will put out there for strangers to read. Gut wrenchingly painful accounts of horrific events, written so beautifully and with such subtlety and grace. These people inspired me too. You can feel the connections they make through the sharing, the power that comes from not being afraid. To stand up share and say this is me.

I also wrote and published the blog because I was thinking about the expectations had of the pupils in my classroom. I constantly ask that they take risks, share thoughts, opinions, writings, and readings. I would support them in doing it but I wanted them to feel that my classroom was a safe place to speak, to read, to make mistakes, to share ideas, to debate, discuss and disagree. If I wanted my pupils to take risks why was I so unwilling to risk sharing my thoughts with the world. If I was not willing to take a risk, share my work, why was I asking them to do what I was afraid to?

So, I wrote a blog. I wrote a blog and I shared it with my small world. My small world which was being pulled closer together by my removal from it, my move gave me the courage to put myself out for dissection. The people I read online made me feel braver to share even just my rambling thoughts on education. Sharing brings us closer together, we mustn´t be afraid to share.

I have recently moved to the city of Sao Paulo. This is not a place made up of straight lines or direct routes. It is confusing and chaotic. There is a complex set of one way streets, no left turns, wrong turns and diversions. Just when I think I know which way I am going, I end up somewhere else. This can be confusing and sometimes scary when the taxi takes you along an unfamiliar street. So far I have always found my way to the right destination. Plus, along the way I have been introduced to the sights of the city. Within the random chaos of the roads there are worlds to discover. Turn a corner and see some graffiti, another turn and a huge pink and blue stripped building appears in front of you. A bar spilling out on to the street packed with people talking and drinking, a restaurant with crisp white table cloths and sparkling glassware. A tiny art galley down a side street, a musician playing in a shop doorway, someone lying in the street, a clown performing to stopped traffic, a very tall man with a very small dog, the body of a brightly coloured bird. Yesterday I passed an open garage door to see a man lovingly working on the chassis of two tiny helicopters. These are not the sights I used to see in Brighton. When you take yourself somewhere new and place yourself in a different situation you see things that you may never have noticed if you had stuck to the same route, the same life, the same path. Taking a different route can lead you to new adventures and new sights, but you have to be ready to look for them. Most education systems are not set up to allow us to get lost, to discover new things, to follow a different route. Curriculums and syllabus are arranged in a linear plans. Teachers can see their job as dragging their pupils along a carefully planned path. How can we find a way to let the students, and ourselves, spend some time getting lost? Is there space or time to explore the streets around the subject? The best teachers I know are naturally inquisitive, interested people. They have a thirst and desire for knowledge which is shared with their pupils. Does the system allow us to take a voyage of discovery together? Do we get a chance to stop and admire the view? I believe our role should only partly be fuelled by the constraints of the syllabus, the demands of the system. The criteria used to judge success is so focused on the end product that we have no chance to take pleasure in the journey. How sad that the young people we work with have no time to stop and take pleasure in the processes of discovery. Watch a baby or toddler exploring the world, they don´t always take the most direct route, they touch, taste, feel and experience everything in their path. I am advocating finding space in the classroom to let the pupils find their own routes. I had to change my own practice. My work in SEN, my work with disaffected pupils had made me so controlling of everything that happened in my classroom. I wasn’t just holding their hands I was leading them step by step. I wasn´t giving them a chance to trip, fall, lose their way, turn the corner and find the garage with the two helicopters. I watched a music teacher step back from his class week after week. The pupils were working in groups, arguing, falling out, threatening to leave, falling in love, falling out of love, getting frustrated, leading, following and crying but in amongst all this, moments of true collaborative creativity were happening. By allowing the pupils time and space to find their own route they learnt so much more along the way. I had to learn to step back from my classes, to let them get lost, to be there to support, to share my map, my directions, but only if they needed them. In Sao Paulo I am slowly getting to know the roads I travel, the routes I follow. It is starting to get more familiar. I am beginning to feel less lost. But as I find my way I am trying to make sure my eyes are open to what is around me. To continue to notice the details, to sometimes allow myself to still get lost.

Response to an article in ‘Elle’ Magazine.

I read with interest your opinion piece entitled ‘Feminism: did we really get it all?’ I resent the implication (that reeks of male post-feminist posturing) that having it all has become a burden. Firstly, what does ‘all’ even mean? When did we get it all? How would we know when we have reached that, mythical point? When can we say, I have it all now, so I’ll stop? Of course we don’t have it all, I doubt anyone ever will. That is the beauty of this existence , we continually grow and change and so do our priorities and goals.

Secondly, the idea that in wanting ‘it all’ women have some how become over burdened, that we work too had, and that we have too much to do. That is our punishment for being greedy feminists and wanting what men had. Now we have it, poor weak females, we can’t handle it. This idea that western women are struggling under the crushing weight of families, work, and trying to stay healthy, fit, beautiful and young. This is not imposed from outside, this is a self created situation. To lament the burden of this lifestyle is offensive. Do you think the Congolese women who were raped; who you were reading about on the way to your yoga class, would feel overwhelmed by the demands of the western middle class female lifestyle? Complaining about others demands on us, the hideous female martyr stance which disempowers women by setting us up as victims, powerless in our selflessness. The universal mother, here to care for others, at the expense of your own self. I don’t buy it.

We need to recognise that these pressures are imposed by our own decisions and choices. You say ‘Even if my life is too swollen, more men I know have lives that are too small’. Actually I admire the ability to only engage in what you want to; to take on only the responsibilities you enjoy and find fulfilling. Yes, this might sometimes mean that people are selfish and that they may run from responsibilities that they should stand up for and fight for. I respect the right of people to search for and create their own reality, to be true to their internal desires and dreams. I am tired of people who do things they hate, because they think they should, or because they are afraid of the world’s judgements on them if they don’t. Get married, have babies, sculpt your body, do any of those things as long as you want them and they make you happy.

I may be fat and selfish but I don’t punish myself with guilt at every missed gym appointment or piece of cheese eaten or glass of wine drunk. I wasted too long doing that and it has been blissful to leave it all behind.
Life is beautiful, take pleasure in every bite, gorge and enjoy every mouthful. Don’t spend your time waiting for others to see your sacrifices, waiting for an outside vindication of your hard work. Empowering women, feminism, to me these are terms which refer to finding internal strength and battling the pressure to be ‘something’ or ‘someone’ we don’t want to be just because we think we should. I don’t want it all; I want the freedom to be myself because for me that is everything.

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