Tutor groups

Dreamt Neneh Cherry had opened a bar on Serifos and was blocking my commute to work. It was quite stressful and it woke me up. If I was still in therapy I could take it to my next session, but I’ll have to unravel this all on my own.

I gather all my memories of Neneh Cherry. 1991: ‘Buffalo Stance’ video clip; 1992: I borrow and never return the tape of ‘Raw Like Sushi’ from a friend who had himself stolen it from a record shop; ‘Man Child’ video clip. Fast forward to 2015: Neneh Cherry is on a cooking programme on TV. And finally, 2020: I see an article in the Guardian celebrating 30 years since the release of ‘Raw Like Sushi’.

This isn’t going anywhere, so I wonder if there is a racial context to my dream. I must return to this later.

Gone to LCC for some small group learning which I must say, I prefer to large group learning. We all take turns introducing ourselves, and then draw each other without looking. It’s an ice breaker apparently, which is something I’ve never done with my students. This reminds me of the RCA ice breaker which consisted of an alcohol-stocked Thames boat trip, where everyone got hammered. It sort of worked, as there was a lot to talk about the next day.

I do a good drawing of Jay as I never lift the pen of the page and get a ‘wow’ from the group. In fact everyone who gets a wow hasn’t lifted their pen off the page. I haven’t been through art school for nothing, you know. Jay does one of me, but I think he’s focused on my facial hair too much. Either that or it’s time I shave.

I’ve decided to write everyone’s first name down, so even if I don’t know who is who, I will know who is not who: Uli, Jasminka, Jay, Simon, Judith, Linette, Steph, Sabrina. 

It’s great to see what everyone else is doing. There is another graphic designer called Simon who shows a book called ‘Thoughtless Acts’ by Jane Fulton Suri who photographed unintentional ‘design’ moments. I am both interested and slightly jealous of this book as it sounds like my photos, one of which includes a dog using a building as a pillow. I must see this book.

Judith shares a story of her primary school teacher who didn’t seem to like children, had anger management issues but who inspired her as he drew during the class, and in those moments, he was very fun to be with, and his love of drawing was contagious. This makes me think how we’re always talking about students’ well being, but if we’re miserable then it’s pretty unlikely we’ll be any good, no matter how many PgCerts we do. 

Today, Emily has asked us to bring something we want to discuss, and she puts us in related groups. I’m with Jasminka and Jay. Jay teaches practical based learning at LCF. Jasminka teaches at CSM and has recently started painting. She’s not sure if she’s an artist yet. I’m also not sure what I am, so I empathise. We’re discussing technique, which Jasminka and I suggest is secondary to idea development – if you start doing things too soon, you risk getting attached to an outcome which may have no idea or little potential. Jay believes technique is necessary as an understanding of what is possible though. He is very calm and softly spoken and his argument is quite convincing. 

Jasminka, Jay and I start listing the benefits of technique-based learning with appear on the interactive screen: “learning skills, avoiding over-thinking, avoid over-planning, improving understanding of time and limitations, learning through iterations, and influencing thought.”

All in all, we conclude that technique is valuable, which is not what I thought when we started the conversation. This suggests I’ve learnt something already, even though I think it has something to do with Jay’s voice which gives him a convincing, wise quality.

I read out our thoughts to the other groups. Simon the graphic designer, agrees to the benefits of technique but only to a certain extent. He wonders whether an emphasis on doing things earlier means a student can get attached to an outcome too soon. I find myself agreeing with Simon, which isn’t surprising considering that’s what I thought five minutes ago. 

Now I’m wondering if I did indeed learn anything at all, or if I’m just agreeing with everyone. Simon also has a calm demeanour which for some reason convinces me that he is right. Jasminka and I seem to be more impulsive somehow. This may be an idea for a teaching group: calm softly-spoken people in one group vs impulsive talkative people in the other. Do that for a year, then compare the students’ work.

Anyway, no-one else has worked out how to make their answers appear on the screen, or they haven’t bothered, so I’ve completely forgotten what they were discussing and it won’t make my blog.

As we leave, I realise that the pamphlet I forgot on Induction Day is a zine about decolonising the curriculum, so I feel slightly guilty I left it behind. Emily has brought a few in today, so I compensate by taking two.

On my way back I remember Matt who responded to my job applications last year by wondering if that college really needed another white, middle-class male.

Then I think of Neneh Cherry again. I think I’m ready for a psychoanalytic reading of my dream: As a white, middle-class male I am feeling that BAME attainment (represented by Neneh Cherry’s bar in my dream) is threatening my chances of getting a teaching job (represented by the obstruction to my commute to work), that’s why the zine didn’t register and why I left it behind. Also, in my dream, I am on Serifos, which is a Greek island. It occurs to me that I am a Greek island in that I am a Greek in a foreign country, but also a Greek in the UK, so I am a Greek (on an) island. 

I am quite happy with this reading considering I’m not a therapist. All the bits fit nicely, which is what I like. Although it also suggests a somewhat defensive response to BAME attainment which isn’t very positive.