The mystery of identity

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How much do we choose to reveal?

This hauntingly beautiful creature gave me a bit of a fright last summer on a trip to Australia – Don’t worry, there was a fence and I was also assured that she had long ago lost her appetite for tourists. Apparently iPhones and loud clothes are quite hard to digest. The encounter did get me thinking, though, of the role of a teacher in knowing their learners.

The image reminds me of our first contact with our new, fellow learners. They invariably choose to reveal small parts of their identities to us and we, likewise, choose to reveal a select smattering of who we are, to them. Our intentions are also hidden beneath the surface, assumed, rarely stated. As education tries to shift to place the learner at the centre of the educational process, the development of an understanding of the learner as an individual is no longer just a nice byproduct of the teaching and learning process, it has become the driving force behind it, the starting point for all learning journeys in an inclusive, differentiated classroom.

In recognition of the complexity of individual identities, particularly given the delicate and fluid nature of our self-awareness, the three following questions can be helpful when trying to critically piece together the puzzles of student identity in the classroom:

  • What is revealed? (The identity)
  • What is the origin of my interpretation? (The critique)
  • Why has this piece been revealed? (The intention)
  • How do we know the truth? (The caution)

Above all, keep challenging those assumptions and searching for the missing pieces.


Procrastination and the magic of ‘otherness’

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Look at your reading selection. These happened to be sitting on my desk as I was writing. It’s an indication of the range of different directions that your brain is pushing you. 

Today, I realized how much fun you can have searching for ‘procrastination’ images  on Google. It’s funny how an afternoon can get away from you like that. I have finally started to write this post about procrastination and the fact that I am actually writing it suggests that I may have something useful to say on the topic.

The secret lies in the mysterious otherness quality that is attached to tasks which we are occupied by in place of the important one(s) we are avoiding.  By definition, we must be doing something ‘other’ at these times. Interestingly, even the most mundane task such as cleaning your room can take on that special otherness quality.  As long as it has been tainted by otherness, any task is worthy of our complete attention, for prolonged periods of time. Why not focus our otherness inspired attention on different types of creative pursuits?

This otherness quality is a product of a creative mind searching for distraction.  It is our creative spirit that makes us search for this distraction, so feed it, don’t fight it. Plan for it, don’t be consumed by it. Surely, we can use otherness to our advantage. In my experience, our brains seek change, different types of activity, different types of thinking. If your brain is seeking change, feed it. Create a list of varied options focused on your creative pursuits. Let your shifts in focus be productive. Control them. Using writing as an example, whether you’re working on a blog or a book, write a couple and bounce back and forth, shift between genres, audiences and pace. For non-fiction, shift between the practical and the theoretical (Yes, that is for you @amyburvall). There will be times when your brain will rebel against one and the magical otherness will taint the other with such a sweetness that you will be unable to resist. Later, you will bounce back, as otherness is a fickle task-master. Yes, revel in the magic of otherness, one of life’s most overlooked miracles.