Waiting for the worms

I’m at school, it is 6:15 pm and it’s the night of parent/teacher interviews. The night finishes at 8pm. It’s cold, windy and dark, with the look of imminent rain. The weather is keeping the parents mostly at bay. I should write reports, but I’m not. I would be planning my beloved’s anniversary/birthday gift but I’m without a phone or wallet.

My coffee is cold, that’s annoying. The deputy principal pops in for a chat about literacy. I’m interested but I think he’s just touching base. We have a giggle about a mutual college who is being stubborn and difficult again. He leaves and I’m thinking I should visit the toilet. Talk to other teachers.

No insights, no realizations. Just the mundane tasks of everyday living.

Singing in reverse

Teaching is a funny game. In truth, it’s a bit like gardening; the secret is in the preparation. Good soil, the right fertilisers, and a consideration of the plants allow a gardener to have an entire garden that thrives. If you were to ignore these things and plant anywhere on unimproved soil, you get substandard results.

Teaching is a funny game. In truth, it’s a bit like gardening; the secret is in the preparation. Good soil, the right fertilisers, and a consideration of the plants allow a gardener to have an entire garden that thrives. If you were to ignore these things and plant anywhere on unimproved soil, you get substandard results.

My friend Shane taught me that in gardening, soil preparation is the first key of gardening. Plant placement is second, and regular care is the third. A classroom is similar. Too many teachers spend too little time on preparation, and then spend enormous amounts of time on placement (and replacement) and care of the classroom.

A well planned lesson should almost run itself. Engaged students persist in an activity because they care about the overarching ideas and know that they are working towards a meaningful goal. They know that the assessment will actually test them and that their learning will be held accountable.

So we start with the goal in mind. We then create assessment that tests these learning goals, and from that we plan our lessons. It sounds easy but so does being a pilot when you describe it as “Take off, fly in the right direction, and then land your plane”.

I’m hoping that my school’s English curriculum develops some more rigour and also some more innovative approaches towards teaching literacy and literature as we go through this process of planning.  I remain hopeful!

A manifesto for the burnt out generation

We have been hollowed out by all those who have gone before us; the lofty ideals of our predecessors have turned to flame then ash. There is no hidden land for us to discover, no internal spark, everything that is in the world now is naught but smoke and mirrors.

We must stop looking for ourselves and decide who we shall be instead. We decide to be the best, the most truthful, skillful, aesthetic and ethical.

We have been hollowed out by all those who have gone before us; the lofty ideals of our predecessors have turned to flame then ash. There is no hidden land for us to discover, no internal spark, everything that is in the world now is naught but smoke and mirrors.

We must stop looking for ourselves and decide who we shall be instead. We decide to be the best, the most truthful, skillful, aesthetic and ethical.

On Art

Good art reveals a truth, is skillful in its execution, or is pleasing to the senses, and is ethical. Great art is all four. Michelangelo’s “David” told us something about dicks; the “Mona Lisa” showed us something about feminine mystique. Andy Warhol told us something about mass production, and Damien Hurst is telling us something about society. Art, music, drama, literature, each one is bound by those four principles.

On Architecture

Good architecture is like good art that people live in. It should embody the zeitgeist. It should be friendly to people, it should undo the damage of our predecessors. Stop looking for yourself, who do you want to be? Now say it in bricks and mortar! This is not an advertisement for conspicuous consumption. Do you want to be honest, truthful, with something meaningful to say? What does your built environment say then? Don’t discover it, decide it.

Materials should be used in the best possible way. The environment must be used in the best possible way. Buildings should not be retreats from the environment, but part of it. A Swiss lodge in an Australian suburb is a lie. Track housing and McMansions without infrastructure are unethical, not to mention aesthetically displeasing.

Good architecture is honest about the needs of people who dwell within. Humans with the need to privacy, and the need to socialize. Humans are tool using animals, but that doesn’t mean we need to be tools or animals. Good architecture enables a community to form, it lets people feel safe without putting them in fortresses. Good architecture doesn’t pretend to be “natural” when it isn’t, it doesn’t try to be alien when it’s not. Good architecture is honest, well made, and reveals something about how we connect to each other and the world beyond the walls of our abode.

On Media

Mass media is what interrupts the adverts. Mass media is an accidental poison. Mass media twists the truth to make us feel unsafe and un-whole. The mass media gives birth to a floating anxiety that something nameless and terrible has infected our world and we are vulnerable. Advertising, the conjoined twin of mass media, then gives a false name to our fears and offers us the wrong antidote. Terrorism, gang warfare, an endless sea of crime, you would be happier if you were slimmer, buy our frozen meals/drugs/false hopes.

The mass media is a cancer that feeds on attention. Let it wither and die in the cold, the dark, and the silence. Decide what you need to know. If you cannot find the news you need, create it.

On Capitalism

In its ideal form, capitalism eliminated waste. In its actual form capitalism spreads like a cancer, eliminating quality, as it sprays ugly, unethical “commodities” across the world. Capitalism lies when it says it is a liberator. Only people can eliminate slavery. Slaves swapping chains will always be slaves. Any cell can become cancerous, but they don’t because they are regulated. Markets must be regulated with an eye on the common good, because ultimately looking after people is more ethical than protecting a system of trade. “Trickle down” economics is a lie. The “unseen hand” of the market is a lie, and a poor substitute for an interventionist god.

Exchange must be honest, not only about the goods, but their production and the relationship of the seller to the buyer. Exchange cannot support inferior goods, or goods that fake a relationship to the consumer, artificial flavors, boy bands, and nostalgia, I’m looking at you.

On the Future

Stop looking. Start deciding. The world is full of followers, decide on a destination and take people there with you. You can’t change the world but you can change your circumstances, if only a fraction, and by fractions we shall change it all, into a world that is truthful, skillful, ethical and pleasing.