with grace he goes

By robynjay On January 28th, 2016

Today my beloved Steph leaves his workplace of 16 years for the last time. To those who matter, he will be remembered for his intelligence, energy, unending support, innovation and skills. Those that matter grieve the loss. It is of course not (only) about technical assistance. It’s about providing informed advice and guidance, patiently, generously, at any hour. It’s about designing effective learner-centred solutions to the issues and challenges that appear, often with little warning. Looking from the outside in, the programs Steph led were cutting edge; the organisation as a result, was seen to be a leader in the elearning field.

Despite this, he is ‘unsuitable’ for the reformed institution he has dedicated the bulk of his working life to. The fact that he is a ‘deep thinker’ is now seen as a liability.  Somewhere along the track, someone decided Steph was an IT guy; the person who managed platforms and upgrades. How did they get it so wrong?

He has no role in a space of vacuous agendas, stilettos and gym jocks. Few of the ‘old guard’ do. The Whitlam generation of educators that fought for innovative, learner-centred, service-focussed, life-long public education, driven by social justice and learner centred design, is either retiring, resigning or being retrenched. This brave new world of enterprise, business growth, efficiency, performance, risk management, competition,  and operating models has little regard for the values we hold dear.

Sometimes it’s best to just walk away; he will do this with grace and humility. When the pain has passed I’ll see this man’s spirit revived; I am certain of that. His skill and passion will find new avenues; his qualities will be valued. They know not what they do.

Steph at beach

common threads

By robynjay On May 24th, 2012

I’m not sure that I can remember the last time I conversed solidly for 2 days about things that matter. Not work things, life things.
It was a gathering of intelligent minds, varied lives and experiences with common threads: social justice, a desire for change, care for our environment and humanity, equity.

It grew from an increasing awareness that good people were butting heads with systems, values, leaderless bureaucracies, complacency etc. I’ve watched inspired innovators lose their ‘fire’ and burn out. I’ve watched the results of what I call the ‘shit floats’ syndrome: uninspired, conservative thinkers, rising to management ranks recruited by higher level bureaucrats who don’t want their own thinking questioned.

It struck me that we fight this within our own sectors and industries and areas of life but there is little opportunity to move beyond this and to look at the underlying issues, and the common threads that link us regardless of circumstance.

So we gathered, 8 of us, around a table with sustenance, heaters, blankets, and despite not knowing everyone well, a strong unspoken sense of trust and respect. The conversation pretty much flowed freely around areas of concern: the media, education, politics, environment/sustainability, change. The organisers among us brought us back to ground from time to time for refocus and direction, and I attempted to capture the essence of discussions with sketchbook and pens.

Many of us were self-described introverts so the size of the group and the ability to drop in and out was important.

A few of us began the weekend with 2 sessions at the Sydney Writers Festival – one on ‘D.I.Y.’ and one on Resistance -and the ideas raised were remarkably relevant for the weekend as a whole. Day 1 ended with a long walk and a chance to connect 1:1

We didn’t save the world but we did leave with a sense of connection and support that will continue. Michael summed it up well in a post-gathering message:
“The moment I left our little gathering on Sunday I had the feeling that we had just done something amazing. A group of people had spent the best part of 2 days just talking about what concerns us – without time constraints or a goal in mind. An aberration in this speedy world.”

in absentia

By robynjay On January 5th, 2012

I’ve been pondering Harriet’s post If you’re not present, you’re absent over at her Technology Twitter blog.

In the post she describes a period of creative reinvention – a ‘rich and a valuable time, productive and exciting, if challenging and complex’ ; one in which she shut off from her networks for personal reflection.
She says:

The creative process is wonderful – at the end.  In the middle I found it complex and contradictory.  My  online networks felt too public a place to expose such fragile thinking.  Do online spaces in their ephemeral nature provide pressure to present finished thought?  Is it really ok to be fragmented and indecisive?’

Perhaps with the exception of Twitter (which still can be archived and curated), I don’t think online spaces ARE ephemeral. That’s the problem. These are not fleeting remarks; they are there for good. They can expose mistakes, foolishness, naivety and raw emotions.

The public transparent nature of contributing online, which ever media it might be, scares most people. There’s a big difference between scribbling in a journal and posting to a blog. There’s a big difference in confiding semi-formulated ideas with a person you trust, or with yourself, and sharing them with the world or even an extended network. Gauging what to share online, when and with who is in itself a digital literacy skill I think. It will vary from person to person according to the issue, thickness of skin, and personal space needs but I’d certainly respect anyone’s right to withdraw at a time when intense personal reflection and introspection is needed.

Perhaps what we can share is metacognitive. Not the details as such, but an understanding of the strategies and processes. We DO need to encourage wacky creative thoughts, lateral thinking, risk-taking, and change. The final product often fails to illustrate the rich, turbulent and harried nature of the creative process but it is often after the process is complete and a result is evident that the significant moments along the way become evident. We do not, for example, see the working sketches of great artists before the final work is published.

From a personal perspective, whether I’m formulating creative projects or pondering life directions, I do most of it in private. When the change or project is substantial it will become all consuming. Shutting down to enable focused attention is a coping strategy and one to be acknowledged.

Best wishes with your new directions Harriet. I look forward to seeing the outcomes of your deliberations when and if you are ready to share them 🙂

[CC FlickR image by Invisible Lens]

give me a child …

By robynjay On March 4th, 2011

I wonder how many primary school teachers retire surrounded by their now adult students? 27 year old son #1 traveled for 6 hours today to farewell his primary school teacher along with a number of his peers. Extraordinary really.

Deborah Brown has been teacher/principal of Afterlee School for something like 26 years. We moved into the community there in 1985 and like many others who bought in when the land was still relatively cheap, did so in search of a healthy, sustainable place to raise kids. Like many others we were poor but happy, growing food, kids, and a productive community of like-minded people. Central to the community was Afterlee School which for most of its life has had one teacher. Deborah both lived and worked in the community itself and her son was one of my boys friends.

The kids benefited from Deborah’s creativity and her partner Rodney’s IT skills. They created and learned in a small mixed-age group, working at their own level and from each other. Parents were always present, encouraged to be part of their kids education; sharing their talents with the kids via activity afternoons. I was lucky enough to do a bit of casual teaching there and we had some great times with paper, clips, tape etc exploring science challenges etc.

What I see now are a bunch of confident, sociable, creative, self-reliant and determined young adults. Schooling experiences are not everything but I am quite certain that the years my children spent in Deborah’s care have helped make them what they are today. Their presence at her farewell is testament to their respect and fondness for her, and their positive recollections of their earliest years of learning.

Thank you Deborah. I wish you many relaxing years up to your elbows in creative pursuits, travel and family.

[CC Flickr image shared by robynejay]


By robynjay On January 5th, 2010

I have to say that one of the good things that happened work-wise in 2009 was connecting with Mike Bogle. In an environment where few are on the same wave length, Mike’s enthusiasm was a breath of fresh air.

2009 was a hard year for him; I could sense that. His skills and passions were not well used, and he was pushed into roles that almost seemed a punishment for someone passionate about open education and new and emerging technologies. So Mike’s post today is not a surprise. It’s amazing how breaks give us time to stop and reflect.

My response?
People burn out. They burn out when potential and ideas are ignored, when ideals fail to become reality, when you see those you love being affected by it, when what you believe in and your soul are eroded. Sometimes you’ve just got to move on; there’s only so much fighting you can do. Been there, done that. But the risk of doing so is that you lose connection with your community, those that provide affirmation and succor.

Nancy White’s recent discussions around network vs community made me realise that I have indeed lost this myself. I have friends I value who share my interests and views, I operate within groups (I wouldn’t call them teams) and I’m part of a range of dispersed networks. But communities, I think, are about specific shared goals and sense of purpose, striving towards the resolution of an issue or completion of a project. They are also about shared interests and values, values that act as a driving force. Without community it feels a little looking in at a party through a window, you know you’re welcome to attend but you also know that you don’t belong. I’ll follow up a little on this at a later date.

So Mike, take the break you need, follow your heart, try something new but position yourself within a community to rejuvenate and affirm what you are most passionate about. Rekindle the fire.