Issue #66 - The Spaces in Between

Oatmeal Spine

Very, nearly, there.

A busy week of student presentations, last-minute revisions to portfolios, and tweaks to final projects. It is calm in the eye of the storm, I’ve received hardly any emails this week, perhaps a few panicky questions but hardly anything. Everyone is concentrating hard on getting their work completed.

It rained for much of the week and I didn’t mind that so much, and still made an effort to go for a few walks or sit on the porch at the back taking in deep breaths and watching the squirrels chase each other through the trees before heading back to my desk.

I wonder if noticed the Nintendo Game & Watch, the orange one is Donkey Kong, which most of my students knew about, but hadn’t seen in this form. Love the design of these little pocket consoles, I collected a load and they still work fine, even if the quartz is a little faded.

Also a few new artworks, some of mine and also the wrestler by Steve Chapman. I love the aesthetic of Lucha Libre and remember a fascinating talk that I stumbled on by Heather Levi who wrote: “The World of Lucha Libre: Secrets, Revelations and Mexican National Identity” who trained as a luchador as part of her research!


Teaching & Learning

It’s been important to set a few Pomodoro timers so that I step away from the screen and if I’ve gone for a walk or just taken a bit of fresh air, then it’s only natural that I’ve started to reflect on the semester and think about organizing myself in the summer.

We completed our micro-teach presentations in the LangTech course, which is always fun, with lessons in Korean, French, Italian, Spanish, and Bulgarian! много добре! We enjoyed a pandemic-themed scavenger hunt in Spanish, running around the house finding a roll of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, sweat pants (we call these tracky bottoms in the UK). It has been a fun class and have loved every minute and can’t wait to meet every IRL.

On a less than positive note, if truth be told, I haven’t enjoyed the same levels of engagement with my large 50 student class as I have with my smaller group. You might think I would be stating the obvious and perhaps group size is the factor here, and although it has been well attended, as this article suggests, attendance isn’t the same as engagement (via three teaching things).

It has been a bit depressing looking at the jumbotron of black boxes. Only two students regularly put their cameras on and I’m so grateful to them and feel much more of a connection with them. In some sessions I hid participants who had their cameras off, I also hid the self-view and I had five (3 instructors and 2 students) lovely people looking back at me.


Life Lessons

I wrote a load of moany teacher stuff here and thought again and deleted it. Sure we’re tired, the students are tired, our families are tired, our friends are tired, the guys running the sandwich shop are tired, so let’s give ourselves a break.

Instead, here is a lovely hand-made book by Picky Pockets Press which I received earlier in the week. I’m not sure the paper is thick enough for watercolor or even sharpie, so I’ll use the pencil and maybe even drop some words onto those pages. It is exquisitely bound, the yellow is brighter than the photo shows, and the pencil (lovely extra) says “Write and Draw, Everyday.”

Again, these are the best ways to treat yourself, with something that someone made, spent time with, treated with care and attention. I can see it in the maker’s hands as they tuck in the seams, sew the pages, glue to the corners, and wrap the fabric so tightly around the cover and spine.


Lost and Found

A few things that I saw this week, include a resource of interactive activities, it might be a bit late now for this semester, but if you’re planning over the summer then these are definitely worth looking through.

Open offices are perhaps a thing of the past as Google and others help us rethink working spaces of the future (next month). I used to work in a building that resembled the sleek, steel hangers from when the site was an airfield during the second world war. These buildings were pretty big, open-plan, and back then you could watch a common cold spread first to all those sitting directly under the air-conditioning unit and sit helplessly as that cluster of four would become the office super-spreaders, moving among us until everyone had sore throats and snotty noses.

I quite like the idea of a pod, although to be honest if it were just a shed, then I’d be fine, especially if it was a bothy. In multi-user spaces, there is a quite understandable lack of personalization, I know this is something I’d miss - you need spaces where you can spill out, at least I need that, a place for typing and a table where I can paint and draw, a cutting mat and anglepoise lamp.

Scattered on my walls, are photos, posters, stickers, and bits of art. I don’t mind clutter, it’s not that big a deal and occasionally I’ll have a tidy. I recall being asked to complete one of those dreadful discovery color personality things that outed me as some sort of dangerous anti-corporate anarchist because I liked to have a few photos pinned to my noticeboard. Apparently having a picture of the family relaxing at the seaside suggests you couldn’t handle the ugly stuff of business. ugh. I’m glad I don’t work in those places anymore.

Here’s my friend Julian to explain why personality tests don’t work.


Thank you

We’re heading out this weekend, for the first time in months, we’ll be away, accompanying our kid at a soccer tournament, in a team that has really struggled, but also, in a lovely way come together, as a nice bunch of friends. I sat in the car watching the end of practice the other night and it was clear that they were having fun, lots of smiles under the masks and goofing around. Great to see.

I hope they do well, although there is still a gulf in ability, especially when they meet a team that has been together for some time and has a few very talented players. It has been a tough season, but it is a lesson for us all when we talk about the moments, the magic pass, heroic save from the goalkeeper, skillful interplay between players. That’s where you see them learning.

Have a good weekend, take care and rest when you get a moment. Here’s an imaginary voucher for an uninterrupted twenty-minute nap on the couch, you deserve it.