Anne de Graaf's blog: International-Intrigue-Injustice

21 July 2012

Pedagogical geek

Filed under: Thin and Thick Places,Words by Others — annedegraaf @ 12:52 pm

I’ve recently discovered a new facet to my personality. Although I draw the line at wearing four different colored pens in my shirt pocket, I do seem to have certain characteristics that place me into a geek category. I’ve found I actually enjoy the whole educational world of assessment, syllabi, curriculum design, and learning outcomes. I seem to be able to entertain myself for hours with talk of rubrics as a tool for grading.

In May I flew to the mother ship of our university, in St. Louis, Missouri (or misery as my husband likes to pronounce it), and spent several days happily discussing general education objectives. I totally lost myself bouncing around ideas about such things as best practices with a roomful of instructors from all over the world.

But it was in Scotland a year ago, when I took some education modules at St Andrews, that I learned about the (what I think is very) exciting concept called threshold learning. And this is (so far) the most intriguing educational idea I’ve stumbled upon along this latest path in an unknown garden. Threshold learning is when we bring students to the edge of what they know, or what they think they know, or what they think they should know, and inspire them, or give them the courage to explore further, learn something new, seek out the unknown, to jump off the edge and trust.

I liken it to the phrase supposedly written on the Old World maps that the explorers used: Beyond this place, there be dragons! I checked into this and it turns out dragons were out of fashion by the time the 17th century rolled around and mapmakers added text to their charts. So actually, the warning wasn’t printed on ancient maps. I did find one consolation though, the Ottoman Admiral Piri Re’is (1513) refers to the Atlantic depths on his map with the words: “Here are monsters – all harmless souls.”

Learning how to learn: welcome to the New World.

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10 July 2012

With you

Filed under: PhD: South Africa!,Thin and Thick Places,Words by Others — annedegraaf @ 4:00 pm

March. April. May. June. Last week I sent 7 packages to friends in South Africa. I wrote letters. I remembered the warmth and sunshine in our own summer, and I was able to pick up the journals with notes from over 100 interviews. My field work has waited for me four months as I taught and did what needed to be done at the university where I work. But now, this summer, I’m back in PhD mode and that means reading articles and books, typing up interview notes, and watching the themes in the research emerge like images in a darkroom tray.

This painting is called “Women in Motion,” and it is by Lesley Charnock of Cape Town. I brought it home with me and after months of waiting, it is framed and ready to be hung in our home. A woman in motion, that’s me. I’ve already booked my next plane ticket to South Africa. Must go back. Must breathe.

Have had the student BBQ, when my home world and school world merged. Quote of the evening: “Vodka, Miss–kudos!” That after my sweet husband made blinis and served caviar and vodka for my Russian students.

If summer is overdosing in the U.S., it seems to have forgotten northern Europe. Still gray and raining here.

Feel in a holding pattern. Writing. Reading. Remembering. What’s a PhD? It’s just a PhD, my supervisor told me the last time I saw her. What you have here is a book. Write just the PhD first. Filters: youth, narrative, agency.

Taught human rights theories last term, all about agency. Searching. Listening. Listening still.

End of August I start teaching again: Critical thinking–so happy to have the privilege to stretch young minds. Why? How do you know that? What is not being said?

I hear the wind and smell lavender. Rondebosch. I taste honey. Free State. Do you remember my questions? Stellenbosch. The neighbor’s child cries. Fish Hoek. My fingers tapping on the keys. Cape Flats. Young eyes hoping.

because of you
this country no longer lies
between us but within

it breathes becalmed
after being wounded
in its wondrous throat

in the cradle of my skull
it sings, it ignites
my tongue, my inner ear, the cavity of heart
shudders towards the outline
new in soft intimate clicks and gutturals

of my soul the retina learns to expand
daily because by a thousand stories
I was scorched

a new skin.

I am changed for ever.  I want to say:
forgive me
forgive me
forgive me

You whom I have wronged, please
take me

with you.
-Antjie Krog, Country of my Skull

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