A really interesting Creative Thinking session with Level 2 this afternoon looking at the way in which we, as a department, create experience both for ourselves as a community and also for the audiences, guests and visitors who we host.
It was good after a term of looking carefully at student entitlement and listening to a series of dissatisfactions to switch tack for an afternoon and begin to explore responsibility and vision. Sometimes I wonder at what level staff and students engage with work. Do they see themselves as individuals focused on their job or degree? Is the ownership broader? Do we work as pathway companies or year groups? Or is it possible to feel part of a department?
As often happens the reactionary part of the debate frames our own identity in opposition to something else and it seems to me that the narrower the parameter in which we think, the more parochial and tribal we risk becoming. I get a little depressed when I hear year groups complaining about each other or pathways belittling each other's work. It seems self-destructive and a little cowardly in so much as it avoids the bigger picture of how to improve and expand the quality of the work throughout the department.
This afternoon though, working in cross pathway groups, the students had half an hour to design their ideal department. Freed from space, time and budget restrictions, the ideas were refreshing and wonderful - Drama domes, tree houses, community allotments, jam rooms to make music in, a huge programme of community interaction, trampolines etc etc. The exercise really reinforced the idea that for good work to take place the envionment in which we work must offer the opportunity fo positive encounters, whether it be with each other, with the texts we look at or the ideas that we have.
In the discussions afterwards there was a clear sense of belief in the concept of a department as well as a desire to engage with its construction and maintenance. The next question is how to successfully harness the energy, ideas and momentum. The starting point might be to make sure we're all more or less on the same side?