This is what I thought yesterday. Some days are harder than others in this place. Some days I feel my difference even more keenly than I had imagined. Instead of returning to find that these people, ‘my people’ are just like me, I find myself at odds with them and with myself. I have changed, transmogrified, altered and in that altering I have become something different, something other.
Teachers, who once saw me as ‘one of them’, now see me as something different. I am with them, I am like them, but I don’t think they regard me as ‘one of them’ any more. Maybe it is me though and maybe I don’t see myself as one of them either. It is in the moments with my LOTE colleagues that I feel most like a teacher, in the ebb and flow of good natured conversation about teaching and learning and classrooms and kids. The conversation washes over and around me and I feel happy to be here with them. With my PSTs and two teachers in a classroom working on a curriculum design project about sustainability, the air is full of possibility, of growth, of change and of innovation.
At other times in the school day I feel trapped, constrained by structure, bound by rules, and regarded with suspicion by some in leadership positions. Some still wonder why I am here. Some don’t understand what would drive an academic to return to school. Some regard it as some sort of failure on my behalf, one questioned if I ‘couldn’t hack it at uni’. Another questions ‘what do you teach them at uni?’ before going on to complain about what they see as the failings of the teacher education system. Another writes a policy that is at odds with all I know about education and I find my views and assumptions challenged in multiple ways. In arguing against it I set myself apart, I reinforce my difference. I am conscious of not wanting to take on the role of ‘university expert’ (for I am not), but I am torn by seeing things that are rushed and I cannot help but speak out. The cycle and circle continues to spiral and I stand in the centre, questioning the use of it.
This is good for me. This is the hard, sharp edge of what it means to be a teacher and to be a researcher at the same time, to be thinking about our education systems and what we are seeking to achieve. I don’t know everything about teaching and learning, I know a tiny bit about a tiny field and sometimes that knowledge seems as small as a grain of sand. I try and use this knowledge though to test it against practice, to test it against the world, to compare, to contrast, to filter, and to understand. In my head are voices, voices captured in research papers from across the globe. I hear them speak, their words, their messages and I try and process them and think of what it means for me as a teacher, a learner and a researcher. Some days these bump up hard against my practice and against the ideas of teachers in schools. Some days this bumping feels like a collision that throws me off balance and out of kilter. The collisions make me think again about how best to go about change, about how to transform a system from within and how to work with people to do this.
Today I don’t have the answers, just the questions. Like the whispering wall in the Barossa Valley, I stand at one end asking questions and you can hear them clearly at the other end of the wall. One day I hope to whisper to you some answers.