Asynchronous discussion

I’m on my mother’s balcony in Athens working on the Asynchronous Discussion task, which is our final task before the summer break. It occurs to me I may already be on my summer break as I’m in Greece and it’s 38 degrees, but it doesn’t feel like it somehow, having to complete my Asynchronous Discussion being only one of the reasons. Another one is that the neighbours cats use my mother’s front garden as a toilet. I’ve just thrown a glass of water on one of them who has jumped onto a fence from where he is staring at me in bewilderment. I suppose I don’t really live here, so I don’t have to right to dictate his toilet habits.

Lindsay has put us into groups. We have to upload a resource along with questions for each other to discuss ‘asynchronously’. I am in Cohort A, Group A4, with Samiya and Dimitrios which is slightly unfortunate as I’d already watched a short video posted by Linett which I was going to write about… now it turns out I have more to read still. An asynchronous discussion is, I realise, a discussion where participants talk at different times, something that seems to be rather integral to this task.

Samiya has posted an article “Multicultural Art Education: Challenges, Pedagogy, and Teacher Preparation” and asked us to answer the following questions: “Should we expect educators within higher education to be culturally competent in the art classroom?” (which feels like it should be a ‘yes’) and “How could you include a multicultural perspective in the already existing curriculum you teach?” (to which I don’t really know the answer). 

I click on the link and go to Academia.edu which reminds me I have a profile there. I have the options to download the text via Google (which slightly annoys me) and Facebook (which seems rather inappropriate). I also see an option to download via email so I click it but nothing happens. I spend a few minutes clicking on everything including Google and Facebook but nothing happens. Then a green download button appears from the top right of my screen which seems heaven-sent so I click it. I now notice there are little wheels going around but still nothing happens. I am convinced this is something to do with Safari so I decide to try Firefox. Unfortunately, Firefox doesn’t have all my passwords so I access those first then copy-paste them into the new browser window. The ‘download’ buttons still remain inactive but in Firefox I am now looking at a small photograph of Kimberly Johnson Rutledge which feels like something. I find out she has written two papers in total, neither of which I can access. This is probably what Lindsay was referring to when she told us the aims of this task is “for you to experience the delights (and limitations/frustrations) of discussion forums on institutional VLEs like Moodle.” I look up VLE on my Apple dictionary and find out it is a South African word for a shallow natural pool of water, but is spelt ‘vlei’ with an ‘i’ so I gather I’m looking at the wrong word. Lindsay’s VLE seem like initials. I am tempted to go with Visiting Lecturer Experience which is alsmost certainly wrong but at least has an academic context. I am now confident that I have experienced the frustrations and limitations of this task, so I leave Samiya’s text and reluctantly move onto Dimitrio’s which is 23 pages long and is entitled “An Approach to Teaching Digital Interactive Performance” by Rodica Mocan.

Dimitrios introduces the text by writing: “Mocan suggests an approach to teaching digital interactive performance (theory and practice) by developing an interdisciplinary heutagogical framework offering the learner a practical and collaborative approach that leads to innovation.” I consider looking up “heutagogical” but it sounds Greek so I feel justified to carry on. Then I decide I should look it up on Apple dictionary which finds no entries for it. 

I glance down to his questions: “How can we create teaching sessions (lectures and workshops) that attract students from diverse disciplines and build interdisciplinary teams?”. I don’t know. “How can we attract students with experience or interest in different artistic and technical disciplines (music, performing arts, 3D design, media, communication and computer science) to collaborate on a final product (a performance on stage) ?” Again, I don’t know, but this second question sounds rather interesting as I like the idea of collaborations from different disciplines. 

Now I’m looking at his first question and realise it’s related to the second, but I was rather thrown by his use of the word ‘interdisciplinary’. 

All this thinking reminds me that I am somewhat annoyed that neither Samiya or Dimitrios have acknowledged my text and questions which I must say, were posted way earlier. For the text, I dug out a good one from the PgCert elective, ‘Be for Real’ by Stephen Wright (published on northwesteastwestsouth.net).

I quote:

“… anything can change its ontological status at the snap of a performative finger, upheld by the presence of the frame, however broad. Yet that frame, like any frame, is also a limitation… a limitation, above all, to art’s transformative potential. When we say, unaware that the frame is in place, we didn’t “even” know something was art, the adverb is very telling: in order for something to be perceived as art, it must be framed as such; more importantly, the more distinctly framed, the more incisive it is considered to be. This is a highly dubious claim, however, for we can just as easily say, once we are aware of the frame’s invisible but powerful presence, that it is
“just” art. There too, the adverb is revealing: just art, not the potentially more transformatory, corrosive, even censorship-deserving real thing.”

Dimitrios has commented on my text: “I feel that framing is important as it also sets limitations that often help creativity.” 

Accident

I’ve come to the studio to send a job to print and write an accompanying email, but forgot Jemima is preparing for a photoshoot today. She is drilling a large 2×2,4 m frame of wood together which is pretty noisy but she assures me she’s almost done. Then the drilling stops and she says ‘Oh-oh’. 

I go over to see if she’s OK and it appears she has drilled a long screw through the wooden frame and into her thumb. We both stare at it for a while. The screw is disappearing into her thumb and is visible as light grey inside her thumb for a few millimetres then just continues and the thumb is pink again. I can’t tell how deep it’s gone but it seems to be properly wedged in there. 

I’m walking backwards and forwards within the room which I take as a sign that I haven’t the slightest idea what to do. I wonder where the information is stored in my brain for such emergency situations, but there seems to be none. Then I wonder where the information is stored in Jemima’s brain but there doesn’t seem to be any there either. 

I decide to think logically. I explain to Jemima that she has screwed something into her thumb, so perhaps she should unscrew it. Jemima is exclusively looking at her thumb but seems to be registering what I say. She now appears to be going along with my suggestion as she points the drill towards the screw once more. I am very keen to know if she has set it to unscrew rather than screw and she nods. She then applies it to the screw and lets out a howl which suggests it may not have been such a good idea after all. I try to visualise the screw working its way backwards along a fleshy groove but can’t figure out the mechanics. However, it still makes sense to me and I wonder if she should give it another go.

Jemima would rather I fetch the first aid kit which is under the sink but which I can’t find. She’s also calling her boyfriend with her right hand which is free. He seems to be uncontactable since he is on site on a job, so “he’s no fucking use” to her there as she explains to the lady on the phone.

I’m suggesting we call an ambulance but Jemima responds with ‘Why am I so fucking stupid?’ so I don’t really get an answer. Now I’m back at the sink looking for the first aid kit which Jemima assures me is there. She can’t really show me herself as she’s attached to a 2×2,4 m frame of wood so I must find it on my own. I’m down on all fours starting at pots and pans until she says it’s blue so I yank out the first blue thing I see. I think it breaks as I open it cause some plastic bits fly in the air. Now I’m staring at some band aid inside which doesn’t seem sufficient. There are also some alcohol wipes so I open one and hand it to Jemima who looks at it. I don’t think she’s thought this through. 

I suggest we call an ambulance and ask if she knows the emergency number, which I still don’t know despite having lived in the UK since 1992. I must learn the emergency number. However Jemima disagrees so I respond by walking around the studio instead. I go to the sink then remember I’ve already found the first aid box. I then go to the first aid box, then remember there’s nothing useful in there. Then I go to my desk and remember I’ve almost finished my email, but it’s not really the time to send it.

Jemima has a brainwave. She’s decided she’s going to cut her thumb out of the screw with a scalpel which I must admit hadn’t occurred to me. I hand her a scalpel while saying ‘Are you sure?’ She takes it and starts cutting into her thumb while I repeat ‘Are you sure?’ several times. Eventually she stops, which is a relief.

Jemima is now going through the tools within her reach without making her intentions quite clear. She looks rather desperate. She has taken a saw and placed it between the wood and her thumb. She explains she’d prefer to go to A&E with a screw coming out of her thumb rather than a beam of wood which seems fair enough. She also seems to think she can drive there which I am struggling to visualise so I offer to drive her instead.

I offer to saw the screw off and she agrees. I apply fast, short strokes in an effort to get it done swiftly. Although I am expending a considerable amount of energy the screw doesn’t seem to be getting cut, so I go faster. It appears this has made the screw burn into Jemima’s thumb so she asks me to stop, in quite a polite way considering the circumstances.

Another brainwave. Jemima suggests I saw the plank of wood off at either side of the screw which seems very sensible not least because the frame will have to be considerably reduced in size for her to get past the studio door. Finally we have progress. I saw the wood at both ends which in retrospect seems like the obvious solution: it is a softer material than the metal screw, and certainly less painful than cutting Jemima’s thumb open. She sits down with the screw and short bit of wood attached to her thumb. It looks like she’s holding it, only I know she isn’t which makes me feel slightly nauseous. 

Now Jemima is asking for a banana and some water, both of which I can provide. Her boyfriend calls which is a relief as Jemima tells me he knows about such things. He asks to see the screw, then says ‘Who’s that?’ when he sees me in the background. Jemima says ‘Billy’ but I feel we are drifting off topic here. He then looks at the thumb and says ‘Oh yes’. He suggests Jemima doesn’t look at it, which I decide to put into practice for myself. Jemima’s now hung up and is calling an Uber as she decides taking her car might be difficult because of the parking. I will accompany her to the hospital while her boyfriend makes his way there. I hand Jemima some paracetamol which she looks at.

Uber’s on its way. I get my jacket and gather Jemima’s things then go to my email and type ‘Many thanks, Billy’ and press ‘Send’. Probably a good thing as I would have spent half the day on that email otherwise. Our Uber’s outside already so we set off. We drive towards Kings Hospital very slowly then Jemima gets a call from her Uber driver which is confusing as our driver is not on the phone. But it turns out he’s not our Uber driver, our Uber driver is waiting for us at the studio. It occurs to me we’ve just walked into a stranger’s car who is now taking us somewhere. Where is he taking us? I feel a slight chill run down my neck but our driver seems too lethargic to be a serial killer. Now he’s turning around very slowly, I reckon we’re safe. It turns out we’re in someone else’s Uber and they are in our Uber which shouldn’t be a problem as we both have Ubers, but there’s not much time to debate this so we’re heading back. Admittedly, this hasn’t started well. 

We get back and Jemima walks straight out of one Uber into the other. She doesn’t say a word, which is fair enough, but I decide to smile to the person whose Uber we were in, who for some reason, doesn’t smile back. 

I try to think of how to keep the conversation going but am not coming up with much. I suggest to Jemima that the wood attached to her thumb looks rather comical. She explains she would agree if it wasn’t hurting so much, so perhaps it’s a joke we can share later.

Anyway, Jemima is now swallowing the paracetamol and talking about the rescue dog she’ll get. That keeps our minds off the thumb for a while and I can pretend she’s just holding a piece of wood as the thumb’s behind it, so I can’t see it. 

We get to the hospital and queue at ‘Emergency Assessment’ which seems heaven-sent. What on earth did people do before hospitals? Jemima’s boyfriend calls, he’s around the corner. Jemima thanks me, so I head off leaving her with the wood still attached which is a bit unsettling as I would have liked to see it come out. Anyway, Jemima is curiously upbeat, probably relieved she doesn’t have to rely on me for emergency help anymore.

I later text her and receive confirmation the screw is no longer in her thumb which makes me feel better. I want to ask if they did indeed unscrew it, but decide it may be a question for another day. Boz, who I am drinking beers with, explains you should never remove an object which is wedged in, as it stems the flow of blood. That’s why cowboys cut the arrows in films. Anyway, this will certainly stay with me, although I’m not sure exactly what I’ve learnt.

At the very least, I should learn the emergency number. I google it, it is 999.

Coronavirus

I am doing my first Coronavirus shop. It’s Sunday noon and I’ve never seen Sainsbury’s this busy, there are no baskets, some food shelves are empty, the queues are going up the aisles. Apparently the toilet paper panic which gripped Australia has spread to the UK, so Sainsbury’s has made a statement by placing three pallets of toilet roll by the entrance. Everything is under control.

There is a middle-aged man who looks Chinese, wandering around the isles looking rather overwhelmed. It seems symbolic somehow. He has chosen to take a trolley but only has a single bottle of milk in it. I can’t tell if the other items he wants are all sold out, or if he just couldn’t find a smaller basket. 

I decide there’s no need for toilet paper as there seems to be loads of it. I start my shop: a one-litre bottle of Fairy liquid, two cartons of Soy milk, a carton of goat milk, apples and the last packet of rice on the shelf. There is no spaghetti left. There’s a woman taking a photograph of the empty pasta shelf which seems quite fun. But then her partner asks how they’re doing for rice and she say’s ‘we’re running out’ and looks more concerned.

I decide I should treat myself today because there’s a Coronavirus epidemic, so I get a family-sized packet of marshmallows. I then get some Parmigiano Regiano and a bottle of wine. 

I have now joined one of the long queues that disappear up the aisle. The queue from the self-checkouts to the far left of the store has reached the other end, so now spans the entire length of Sainsbury’s. As the self-checkout shoppers’ queue overlaps with ours we exchange irritable smiles. 

We all just stand there, occasionally taking a decisive step forwards when space clears. As we progress past the ice creams I push my basket forwards with my left foot while opening the freezer and taking one of the last remaining Haagen Dazs Salted Caramels. The woman behind me has done just the same. We may be staring ahead expressionless but we certainly know what’s going on. 

The Chinese looking man is queuing to my right and seems more relaxed now. I look at his basket which still has the milk, plus a large jar of instant coffee and a cabbage. Not much fun, but he seems pleased.

My boot

I’m seeing Madonna live on Thursday. I’ve been reminded of this as Clare is playing her latest album, Madame X, yet again so as to familiarise me with it. It’s not optional so I’m hearing it, plus I’m driving so there’s not much I can do about it.

Clare’s normally quite a cautious co-driver but now Madonna is blaring out the speakers which is distracting to say the least. Clare occasionally interjects with “It’s orange!” or “Mind the pavement!” but apart from that I’m allowed to drive and enjoy Madame X uninterupred. Clare informs me that Madonna has a big gay following which I know because she’s already told me about five times, plus it was on a BBC documentary I was made to watch last night. Now we’re on track 6 and Madonna starts by singing “I will be gay, if the gays are burned” It’s one of her slow, politically-charged songs. Now she’s “an Israeli, if Israelis are incarcerated” which Clare tells me she replaces for “Palestinians” when she sings it live. That sets off a thought in my mind but it doesn’t go anywhere, so I let it go.

While Madonna has been progressing in her international solidarity ballad moving from “gay” to “poor” to “Native Indian”, I press the button that locks the boot of my car as I remember I have my bag with my passport there and am paranoid someone will just open the boot and take it. Now Clare is asking me to guess how much she paid for our Madonna tickets which I don’t care to do as I fear it will lead to me being asked to contribute. Instead I wonder what caused my left arm to reach out like that and lock the boot at that precise moment. I usually remember to press the lock button at red traffic lights while the car is stationary, but I managed this in a flash, while driving.

I work my way backwards and connect it to the moment Clare told me about our front row seats and Madonna’s gay following, after which I visualised myself in a concert full of gay men behind me, who for some reason all had facial hair. At that precise moment my left arm reached out and pressed the button locking my boot, suggesting I was concerned someone behind me might gain access to it, which in retrospect seems homoerotic to say the least. 

This is now setting off a stream of thoughts which I’m unable to contain: Why do I usually think of my boot being accessed at red traffic lights? A forbidden pleasure perhaps? Why did I imagine gay men with beards? Is it that I have a beard? Also, my boot is behind me and right now it is sounding a lot like my booty. I never thought of ‘boot’ sounding like ‘booty’ before, but then again I have never thought of myself as having a booty.

Madonna’s at the chorus now. She sings “I know what I am, and I know what I’m not” which is beginning to sound rather profound. Maybe I’ve misunderstood her. Maybe this is why she has a large gay following, because she understands the multiple facets of human sexuality and speaks to us all. Maybe she is speaking to me – but what is she saying? This is too much to work out while driving. Plus I may be overthinking it, as all the years of psychotherapy can backfire sometimes – but even ‘backfire’ seems sexually loaded now. 

Anyway, I’m driving, so I won’t unlock my boot because my passport is there, which is too precious to be stolen by a stranger at a red traffic light. Or perhaps, I won’t unlock my booty because my heterosexual identity is there, which is too precious to be stolen by a gay man in a moment of forbidden pleasure.

Well that’s cleared things up. Thank you Madonna.

Sainsbury’s superstore

Woke up to gale force winds and rain today, before heading down to Walton-on-Thames to visit Clare’s dad Mike. It all feels pretty bleak but I also have to go to Sainsbury’s Walton for shopping, so it might get worse still.

I need peppercorns and cloves for the gammon I’m cooking, paracetamol for Clare’s headache and a 70% cocoa dark chocolate which I decide I deserve for having made the trip in such punishing conditions and offering to cook some gammon. I head to the large Sainsbury’s which thankfully is open, despite it being 10:30 in the morning, and a Sunday.

I have noticed that suburban super markets are always enormous and Sainsbury’s Walton is no exception. It takes over 10 minutes to gather my four items, then I head back through a whole aisle of Frazzles before reaching the checkouts. For some reason the checkouts are closed, so I head to the self checkouts but they’re closed too. 

I stop a young employee who must have just started his shift but who already looks tired. Where, does he know, do I pay for these items? Nowhere yet, he explains, as Sainsbury’s Walton isn’t open for shopping, but merely for browsing. I suggest that allowing access to customers implies the store is open, but he explains that the store is indeed open, just not for shopping, it is open for browsing.

I am struggling with this concept, but it seems the locals are familiar with it. They have all collected items in their shopping trolleys through a process of browsing, and are silently moving towards the closed cashiers. When they reach their cashier of choice, they wait in silence for it to start working. I can’t decide if they are browsing or shopping now, it appears to be neither. But everyone is completely still which is slightly eerie. I wonder if I should leave Sainsbury’s Walton but realise I can’t, as I must purchase peppercorns and cloves for my gammon, paracetamol for Clare’s headache, and a 70% cocoa dark chocolate bar for myself. 

I decide it’s best to go to a checkout with a regular human despite them having a longer queue. Everyone seems to be still there too, but the cashier is talking to the woman at the front of the queue so her mouth is moving. The man behind her is not taking part in the conversation but looking at his phone instead. I join the queue behind him and look at my phone. We have 8 mins till 11:00. It’s a bit like waiting for the bus, I decide. 

Eventually, the cashier says “There we go” and everyone laughs. The conveyor belt starts, it’s 11:00. It feels quite strange this, like we’ve taken a short break from life. The conveyor belt is moving along wonderfully now, and we are all arranging our various items on it, as if in celebration. I must remember never to come to Sainsbury’s before 11:00 on a Sunday.

On the way back I go past a pet shop van with an image of two dogs peering out of what appears to be a hole punctured in the back of the van itself. It’s slightly disturbing as it implies they’re trying to break free from the van, which in turn implies the van is a prison. I wonder what the pet shop had in mind when they commissioned this.

Or maybe it’s not a pet shop but an animal rescue organisation, that is a possibility. If that’s the case, the dogs are waiting to be rescued which is equally disturbing. Either that, or they are quite happy where they, are and are just browsing, I can’t decide.

Type + image

Giving my lecture on ‘Type and Image’ to a class of 70 engineering students today, as part of their Graphic Design module. I suspect that they want to hear about grids and typefaces so I have decided to challenge them a little.

I kick off with Magritte’s ‘The Treachery of Images’ (This is not a Pipe), which is a classic if you’re going to give a talk on type and image. I know they are practically minded so I suggest they note the use of typeface. I work my way through the Margritte section of the talk and check the vibe in the room. The student nearest to me has hung his head and is staring, slightly melancholically, at the grey-blue carpet. I wonder if that’s because he’s tired or whether he’s sensed what’s to come.

Right at the front, several students have decided to sit on the chairs as they were placed when they arrived. This means they are all facing the wrong direction as the talk is taking place behind them, but rather than turning their chairs around they have decided to turn their necks as far as they can. I can’t decide if this is some form of protest or if they can’t be bothered to turn around. It definitely looks uncomfortable.

The talk is now flying along, only it doesn’t feel like it. I’m onto Martin Creed and playing ‘Thinking/Not Thinking’. I hear some laughs which give me hope that at least some people are enjoying this, but I can’t decide if they are ‘this is funny’ or ‘this is shit’ laughs. 

I’m also noticing that all the work in my talk has been done almost exclusively by white men. Not that anyone in the class seems to be noticing though, they’re probably wandering why on earth they are listening to music and being quoted Gene Wilder. It all connects but I’m not feeling it somehow.

This must be how stand up comedians feel if they start the whole show off key, and nothing quite works… I’m arriving at Joseph Kosuth which is pretty dry, so I need to turn this around. I feel I am working my way into my talk more, which I’ve achieved by not focusing on my audience who seem mostly detached. I make a lovely bridge from an Alfred Hitchcock quote to the opening credit sequence of ‘David Brent: Life on the Road’. I look up in need of some positive feedback and realise I must start working my way towards the middle of the talk where I speak of grids, fonts, and typesetting.

Now, I’m on damage limitation: a 6-minute John Smith video ‘The Girl Chewing Gum’ –skip. Woody Allen’s subtitle scene from ‘Annie Hall’ –skip. ‘Creature Comforts’ why did I put that in? –skip. –no, play it in full, let’s entertain them at least.

OK, I’ve finally reached the bit about grids, fonts, typesetting, and I’m playing my short movie about Akzidenz-Grotesk, Haas Grotesk, Helvetica, Univers and Unica. I’ve won them back it seems, they’re here in the room once more, listening to my talk. The guys sitting backwards are curiously still sitting backwards though, looking at the screen that way. They look engaged, and I wonder if they’ve forgotten they are actually sitting the wrong way round.

The talk ends, so that worked out after all. Ben approaches me to congratulate me on the talk, which he always does, but he also always adds a passive aggressive comment afterwards. He says “Thank you … that second part of the talk was really helpful.” I knew this was coming, so I just leave it to linger for a moment which seems to unsettle him and he gets fidgety. He adds “The first part was also helpful!…” to which I respond ‘Great!’ and he responds “…I guess”. He seems both apologetic and happy after this, and walks off.

I promise myself I’ll never show Magritte to engineering students ever again, at least not in their final year. I ask if they have any questions and they want to know if the laser-printer prints double-sided, and how the ring-binder works. I had no idea we even had one.

Teacher observation

Up to CSM to observe Jasminka teaching on the MA Applied Imagination course, which is a bit like Graphic Design only they don’t have to make anything themselves. The class starts with a briefing during which a tutor confusingly speaks of 2D printing facilities, then we separate into groups of five. 

Jasminka sits at the head of the table, with two student at either side. I am trying to follow the instructions we received which specify I must place myself where I am “able to see both the teacher and the student(s), and out of their direct eyeline”. I soon realise this is physically impossible so I sit opposite Jasminka at the other end of the table, but further back and off centre where I can partially hide behind a student. This seems like a solution but the group is now out of my direct eyeline, whereas I am very much in theirs. The only person who definitely can’t see me is the student closest to me who seems slightly unsettled, as he is often turning his head to look back at me.

The instructions stress I must “avoid participating in the session as this would change the focus of the activity and reduce the capacity for observation” but I wonder if this extends to explaining why I’m sitting here. My discreet distance from the desk, also means I have to rest my computer on my knees and am very self conscious of my flapping legs. 

Jasminka starts by outlining what the groups did last time, and then going through everything that they will do in class today. This seems to be standard academic practice as it is usually done in our PgCert classes after which they also ask us if we have any questions. I never do. I suppose it provides clarity but I find myself switching off. 

I can’t tell if the students are switching off or not, as they’re all on their phones. There’s no way of telling whether they are bringing up some important project PDF to discuss or just scrolling through their Instagram feed, they are completely expressionless. But it’s a relief to see other people’s students do this, so I know it’s not only me. 

Apart from arriving in time, the instructions also explain that however interesting the class is, I must try not to focus so much on the content of the session, but on what the students are doing and what the teacher is doing to enable this. I make my first observation: “Not use mobile phones?” I add a question mark as I’m still not sure their phones are work related or not. 

The project topic is ‘Obsolesence and Transformation’ and sounds good. The group have decided to look at greeting cards which are going obsolete, although after further discussion the group casts doubt on their own assumption and conclude greeting cards are thriving in weddings, funerals, birthdays, and especially in China where people make their own greeting cards. 

Now they are moving on, discussing how it’s nicer to receive a card than get an email. Jasminka summarises this using the words ‘electronic’ and ‘physical’ which I like. I make another note. 

As I type on my laptop I wonder if I am participating in the class this way, since there is a flurry of keyboard activity after someone speaks, so it’s also a bit like I’m approving or disapproving what’s been said. I become quite self conscious as I’m particularly active after Jasminka speaks and she occasionally glances up. I want to smile at her, but that would be inappropriate as she looks quite serious. Plus she’s teaching a class not looking for confirmation from me. I wish we had more instructions on these observer-observee dynamics, rather than just suggesting I make myself invisible. 

Jasminka seems concerned that the group hasn’t come far enough and the presentation is next week. Everyone is very quiet. I write “Does it help to tell them the truth? They seem demoralised.” I wonder if there is a positive spin you can put on such things. Rather than “You haven’t done any work” can it be “What will you do for next week?” or something like that. I write this in my notes too.

I’m trying to remember if I was ever motivated by a tutor telling me I hadn’t done much work but I can’t remember. I decide that my feedback to Jasminka will be in the form of questions, as I really don’t have any answers for her. 

That’s taken off the pressure so now I’m flying ahead. “Is it better if there is a single laptop they can refer to, so they don’t all use their phones?” I then realise it would be a nightmare with login issues and USB sticks but I keep the question there anyway, as it’s part of my observations now.

Now the students are stalling and have returned to the brief which they no longer understand. They have to produce a film and a poster, but they have many questions including “What is the purpose of the film and the poster?” and “Which one do we do first?”. 

I realise students often question the brief late in the process, and I wonder now if this is a way of handing responsibility back to the tutor, by asking what they are ‘supposed to do’. It feels like hard work for Jasminka though, as they have joined forces and she is also being observed by me, so I feel a bit sorry for her. I want to smile at her but she’s looking at the brief, quite intensely now. 

Jasminka looks up and calmly explains that the video comes first as it provides background, then the poster grows out of it as it delivers the message. It is so short and to the point that nobody has any questions now. It would appear she has successfully handed responsibility back to students, as the conversation resumes. Now I’ve gone from feeling sorry for her to feeling sorry for myself about how I would have handled this situation. Not well, I decide.

This seems to be affecting my notes as I write something then add “I don’t know, of course, just wondering.” in case Jasminka takes my feedback seriously.

The student closest to me, who I am using to obscure myself from the group, has a tic of zooming in and out of windows on his laptop which is grating on me. He is doing this continually and it seems to get faster when someone else talks.

I start to wonder if there is an underlying sexual nature to it as there is a powerful thrusting motion involved and he has definitely built up a rhythm. He is also facing four women. Anyway, I am not supposed to make my presence felt but wonder if I can ask him to stop, as it’s making me nauseous.

One student has an idea, where she suggests doing a post box, only the other way round, one where you take a greeting card out of it, not put one in. I don’t fully understand it, but it turns out she doesn’t either, so it’s OK. Jasminka is now telling the group to be realistic with regards to their expectations, which is a relief as I have no idea how they plan to do everything they’re talking about.

There seems to be some good energy now. Three of the students have found a consensus with an idea that involves a typewriter and they are quite excited about it. I’m not sure what the idea is, but I remember I mustn’t focus on the content, but on what the students are doing and what the teacher is doing to enable this. It would appear that the students are actually having an idea, and the tutor is helping them by letting them have it.

The fourth student is not taking part in the typewriter discussion and is showing Jasminka her mobile phone instead, which suggests she’s using it for work after all. Jasminka shares this idea as it involves copywriting and the group seem positive, perhaps because they hadn’t yet considered what they’d be typing on their typewriter. Either way, it appears the ideas are complimentary.

The guy closest to me is now looking at second-hand typewriters on ebay, there is definitely a buzz. Jasminka takes advantage of this moment and calls for a break – a masterstroke. I sometimes carry on talking through a tutorial’s peak, only to see it go back down again, so I must learn to incorporate breaks into my teaching more. 

This concludes my teacher observation session so Jasminka and I go for a coffee to discuss the class. I offer her my observations, suggestions and questions, and don’t ask if she’s Greek despite the fact she has a Greeks-sounding surname. On my way out, I go past a new art installation at CSM which looks like McDonald’s although I’m sure it’s got nothing to do with it.

IT

Found out my application for a teaching post at Camberwell never went through due to a technical glitch. The interviews have already taken place and the posts allocated, so it’s too late to do anything about it. I haven’t hear back from IT yet, but when I send them a passive aggressive email I receive a prompt, passive aggressive response, so at least I know they’re there.

I am later compelled to re-read my email which thanks me for my “good, kind efforts to make an application”. I sense this exchange has the potential of growing into a long affair which we’d probably both enjoy in a slightly negative way. There is undoubtedly something creative about it, but I think I have to let it go.

Brexit today.

Thoughtless acts

Visited Camberwell library for a copy of ‘Thoughtless Acts’ by Jane Fulton Suri, which Simon introduced at last week’s PgCert. It turns out I can’t borrow it though as it’s out of print and presumably too valuable to loan. Then I remember my free tutor pass, so I photocopy the whole thing instead.

At the FdA office I show my new printouts to Angela who asks me for a cup of tea. On my way to the kitchen I use my laptop to carry my laptop charger, my jar of teabags, Angela’s Habitat mug with some leftover tea in it, and a tub of Sainsbury’s ‘Taste the Difference’ Belgian Chocolate Rocky Road Mini Bites which I bought earlier to help me through marking. It occurs to me I have performed a ‘thoughtless act’ by using my laptop as a tray, so I take this photograph for my PgCert blog.

Wow

I am reading ‘Wow: The power of objects in object-based learning and teaching’ by Dr Kirsten Hardie in preparation for my micro teaching session in a few weeks time. Hardie mentions that learners are encouraged “to discuss, debate and evaluate their ideas, opinions and the facts” which sounds like a good idea for my session. 

I will also observe Jasminka teaching at CSM and she’ll be sending me some forms to read. I know this because she emailed to let me know she’ll be late in sending the completed forms to me, and I had no idea what she was talking about. It appears I’ve somehow missed a massive chunk of information along the line which is worrying.Jasminka seems to have a Greek surname which I want to ask her about, although it is none of my business. 

Back to ‘Wow: The power of objects in object-based learning and teaching’. Dr Kirsten Hardie carries on to say that despite the fact she encourages students to discuss, debate and evaluate she is mindful “that an unstructured discussion can often turn into a rambling sequence of anecdotes.” 

This reminds me of the feedback I received after my interview at LCC. Apparently I came across well but had to be brought back to the question too many times for their linking. Dr Kirsten Hardie is right, I must introduce structure and learn to keep my observations ‘on topic’ otherwise I’ll never get another teaching job, or indeed get this PgCert done.