Thursday, 25 June 2009

Off The Wall

Full day. I ran a staff training to try and explore the way undergraduates experience their first two years. I think the staff, as much as our students have a tendency towards kinesthetic learning styles so rather than sitting round tables I marked out the theatre to create four rooms, each one representing a semester in the first and second year. In each area I put tables covered in paper to represent the modules the students take and then I asked my colleagues to move from room to room scribbling on each table the things that they thought students should be learning at each stage. I also gave out coloured chalk and encouraged to scrawl any ideas we had about how students feel at each stage of their education. I like this kind of creative problem solving... with more time we'd have made compilation tapes to represent each phase, or cooked a meal to discover the flavours of each stage, it would also have been good to bring in the student reps - but I suspect this might have been a bridge to far for this first session.

There was some nervousness at first but soon we were rushing between rooms, cross referencing content from each module. Seeing where the gaps are, realising where we're making things too easy and understanding how dangerous some of the assumptions we make about students can be. Many of September's intake will have been born in 1991 and it's hard to measure the cultural capital they bring. By the end the space was desecrated with colourful graffiti, opinion, debate and some really exciting new ideas to influence the curriculum with.

In the afternoon we opened up for discussion and tried to put up some ideas of stage posts for the end of each semester. What do we expect students to be in command of? By five our brains were fuzzy, but we were much more aware of the expectation we're putting on the students.

Went onto a really positive meeting with Molly and Orode from Richmond Theatre, reviewing our partnership over the last year and discussing more possibilities for the future. Molly is off to New Zealand in November, but has ensured that the job description for her replacement includes a commitment to keep working with us. Much relief at this. I'm also hoping that Orode will come in and pick up the modules that Molly would have taught. At the moment continuity is very important.

I got home just as news of Michael Jackson was beginning to break on the radio. It's odd when an icon dies unexpectedly and somehow morbidly compelling. The press coverage was blanket, total and frenetic; I stayed tuned in for most of the night. Jackson lost the plot in the second half of his life, tried to become monumental in a quasi-religious way. He couldn't find a way to intelligently reinvent himself past thirty and I guess in the end he'll be seen as a modern tragedy, a symbol of a nightmarish form of infantilism

...but wouldn't life be so much poorer without songs like The Love You Save and I Want You Back. As tunes they're supreme. They rise, arch, take you sky high only to tuck you back in on yourself. I turn the radio up whenever I hear the opening cords. It's like a long lost love turning up unannounced with bottles of champagne. Exciting and familiar all at once.

'I just can't ...I just can't... I just can't control my feet.'

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