Wednesday, April 13, 2011

School's In

The last few months have been an education. Or more accurately, they have been an experiment in education. At some point late last year I got the notion that the abandoned/thwarted ambition of my teen years of teaching secondary English and Art needed to be rekindled. I made enquiries with the Arts/Social Sciences/Education faculties of numerous universities, applied to 4, got offered places by 3, rejected any distance/online program as inappropriate for learning to teach actual live adolescents and enrolled in the Graduate Diploma in Education at the University of NSW.

My first day was at the height of the late February humidity. At about 10 am I wedged my Magna in between 2 other cars in the only remaining space in St Peters in a narrow street outside a council works depot I never knew existed and walked to the bus stop. Despite an ice cold bus ride to Kensington the weather was so muggy my hair didn't dry all that day. Also, despite wearing my Dr Martens adjustable air cushioned sole sandals, I got blisters. I didn't get a chance to have coffee until after midday and when I did, it and the accompanying sandwich were 30% dearer than they are in Haymarket where I work. My daughter's school counsellor rang me on my way to afternoon lectures. I heard the words 'scaffolding' and 'focci' more times in 24 hours than I had heard them in the preceding 53 years. By 7 pm when my day concluded, I had severe misgivings about the choice I had made. I was a good 25 years older than even the oldest of my fellow students, and about 15 years older than most of my lecturers. None of my peers seemed to be trying to work while studying (except maybe as casual waiters). The lecture on adolescent cognition and identity completely replicated my discoveries as a parent and from reading Barbara Strauch's Why Are They So Weird? What's Really Going on in a Teenager's Brain. The compulsory 6 weeks of prac teaching would put the kybosh on plans for my husband's 60th and my sister's 50th! You get my drift.

That night I became convinced I had made a mistake. I had a sleepless night unlike any I had experienced for ages. I got up at 3 am to look on the UNSW's website to see what other courses I could do via the School of Education. By dawn I had a plan. I would see if I could transfer to the Masters of Educational Leadership - a course that described itself as suitable for someone working in the educational field in a school or 'other organisation'. To cut to the chase, I un-enrolled in all my learn to be a teacher subjects and am now 7 weeks into 'Evaluation of Educational Programs' and 'Leadership Theories & Practice'. In these classes I am only 20 years older than the oldest of my peers, only about 15 years older than one of my lecturers and only about 5 years older than the other. I have heard the words 'scaffolding' and 'focci' a mere once each, but do feel a little over exposed to words and concepts such as 'efficacy', 'triangulation', 'outputs' vs 'outcomes', 'rigour', 'robustness' and 'validity'. I can apply what I am learning to my work without too much of a stretch but am constantly struck by the gulf between the ideas of evaluation and leadership refined and pored over in academic discourse and the rough and ready practices of the state public sector. I find the level of detail you are required to absorb and regurgitate to prove you can do something to a university standard at odds with what my commonsense and my many years of experience tells me will work.

I have just handed in my first 2 assignments and am yet to find out how I went. (Thinks: hope my lecturers don't dicover my blog). I am enjoying exercising my brain and the extra time with my family and at the pool that part-time work affords me. I do a fraction of the reading set because it is distressingly serious and boring and I don't want to sit down for as many hours a week as work, lectures and doing ALL the reading would require. I am already rethinking whether I want to persevere with the Masters Ed at UNSW or to see if I can transfer to UTS's Master of Adult Ed in 2nd semester. It looks as if I may be terminally dilettantish and restless but I will have to design a logic model describing the sequences of my behaviour identifying expected short, medium and long term outputs and design an intervention to test whether these in fact contribute to a desired outcome if I am to expect to be published in any reputable journal. Thank god for me blog!


Ferry said...

Yes, thanks for your blog. We must discuss this in more detail soon. I'm thinking of starting a masters too... maybe we could split the reading!

Alice said...

Am a little unclear about where to go with my studies. Missed out on 6 months as acting manager today. Maybe I should just give myself over to blogging, friends and family.