Linguistics

Oh, so long since I last published anything here…

To spare anyone who cares the copious details, in short, 2016 has been part best friend, part life coach, part schoolyard bully. Between starting university, husband being made redundant 6 months ago, caring for ailing grandparents and still mothering and working, it’s been quite the year. I doubt I will miss much of 2016 other than to pay it respect for being the year I decided that nurturing my body, soul and spirit as a foundation to meeting the needs of those around me and limiting death bed regrets.

The next few years will be very busy with my little one beginning school and the continuation of the afore mentioned items, so I am considering posting some of my university content for constructive feedback. The hope is that it will develop some resilience in my ability to take criticism, improve my critical thinking and writing, as well as provide a place for discussing various subjects or encourage/inspire others to be brave and life the life they design, not designed by others.

I have enrolled in the summer trimester in an attempt to expedite the degree, Bachelor of Arts: Linguistics and Languages…

Now, without further procrastination, behold, my first forum posting for the trimester…

What is Language? 

The brief from our tutor is in italics below:

The forum for this first module involves some self-reflection. 

Take some time to think about the following questions, and then share your answers in the forum:

– Why are you taking the trouble to learn about language? 

– What do you expect to know by the end of the semester?

– How will you use this knowledge?

I am intrigued by humanity’s proclivity for creativity in every facet of life. Language is an elegant example of such freedom of expression and creativity  we as humans posses within the grammatical and semantic structures we innately learn as children. As Edward Sapir (1921) expressed, “Language is the most massive and inclusive art we know, a mountainous and anonymous work of unconscious generations,” and as an avid reader, music enthusiast and writer/blogger I could not agree more fervently.

The most engaging aspect of Language to me is the symbiotic relationship between linguistics/language as art and also science. Throughout my life I have viewed art and science as opposites ends of a magnetic rod and as two separate magnets, both repelling and attracting dependent upon position of the poles proximity to each other. My hope is that by engaging with this unit I will begin to understand more fully how this interplay functions.

I expect several learning outcomes from this unit. My long term goal is to work in interpretation and translation (French and Japanese to begin with) of which this unit should provide a foundation for. At some point, I would also like to become a published author and so I find myself taking the advice of Irvine Welsh, “I think young writers should get other degrees first, social sciences, arts degrees or even business degrees. What you learn is research skills, a necessity because a lot of writing is about trying to find information.” Ultimately, I am simply curious to know more about one of the cornerstones of humanity.

Black, Adam, 2004, Literary Sparring: An Interview with Irvine Welsh, 3AM Magazine, viewed November 19 2016, <http://www.3ammagazine.com/litarchives/2004/feb/interview_irvine_welsh.html&gt;

Sapir, Edward, 1921, Language: an Introduction to the Study of Speech,  Harcourt, Brace, New York.

edited: 20/11/16 (as per feedback from a faithful friend).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Troll…

Application is pending…

I find out in 8 days whether or not I’ve been accepted. I’m as nervous as I was 16 years ago. The application form defines me as mature age entry. I still feel like I’m a kid and yet I’ve never felt older.

What I’m about to do feels like a troll under a bridge on my journey. That troll was scary and I let it intimidate me. I’m more determined now. I’m a little bit wiser and more thoughtful about my intentions. I have superior reasons for returning- I understand myself and my passions. I want set a standard for my daughter, to know she is in charge of her mind and she can use her emotions instead of them using her. I’m not running away, I’m squaring off.

I want to go back to do and be and say things I had little courage for the first round. Instead of letting my life cower in the undergrowth, I’m trying to grab it by the hand and guide into significance. I’m not sure where I am exactly going, I am simply placing my feet on the ground in determined succession.

University… how I love you and hate you all in one heart beat. You beat me in my uber-youth and I’m going back to beat you this time… if you’re up for the fight… so come on… accept my challenge.

A Case of the Suddenlies

Last year was the most challenging year of my teaching assistant career. Never had so many objects or insults been flung at me in any one academic year. I don’t recall ever having talked so many pre-teens out of such ill decisions. It was a year of survive or thrive. Mostly survive.

Stark in contrast would be a good description of the current year. A change of admin released pressure from staff and the culture is divergent from the oppressive weight of the last. Problems remain, but there is a rhythm emerging and a calm rests albeit thinly upon the students. Relationships with the children are agreeable and progress is slow but constant.

I have settled. Although still on the transfer list I have been content to stay at this school and hoped even that permanency would emerge. I have even thought that being contracted here indefinitely is not the most frustrating circumstance.

Then came a case of ‘The Suddenlies.’

Just last week I received a call from a smaller school just outside the town. A small school in a little satellite community not twenty kilometres from my home. My resumé was sent and interview was had.

I felt it went badly. As per my INFJ brain, questions, answers and discussions were relived and rearranged copiously post-interview. The most expected was an email with feedback stating that I did not answer the questions and more thought would be useful to consider next time an unlikely opportunity may occur.

Now, I find that resignation from my contract is required. Within a fortnight I will be not just a working Mother, but a fuller-time working in a permanent position Mother. I will suddenly be assured that every year I will have the same hours awarded me.

Now, all that frustration and anxiety I felt about my contract has turned to a little mourning. Despite the impetuous nature of the students I have been supporting, I have decided that I will miss them. Perhaps that is as it should be though. Leave while they still adore me.

Testing and Shaming and Conforming, Oh My!

My girl is independent, audacious, assertive and quirky. My mum frequently reminds me that she is the spit of me in my formative years. I am no longer that way.  All the questioning and divergent thinking I would annoy my mother with has been hidden under the layers of state school boredom and conformity. I loved learning but hated education. I still feel that way now.

To send my girl to a state school, or even a private school makes me feel uneasy. She is three and is expected to start kinder next year (not compulsory, but advantageous, apparently). Homeschooling seems the better option but it would mean giving up an income we need and I know that being with my daughter all day everyday would be detrimental to our relationship considering our similar personalities. It has been frustration deciding which is the best choice for our family.

At least it was until I found out about “That hippie school on the hill.”

Really,  it’s an independent state school at the top of the hill that is revolutionary in its approach to learning- at least its revolutionary for Australia.  This means that while it is technically a state school, they are given wider scope to design the curriculum around the ethos and pedagogy within that particular school. This school is certainly counter-cultural especially the conservative, almost outback, ‘city of churches’ in which we reside. In this school the importance of reading and writing and arithmetic is not superlative to innovation, creativity,  and higher order thinking. I couldn’t believe that in the two years we’ve been living here I had not heard of this place. I probably need not tell you that my heart felt hope for the first time in a while, that maybe, my girl would escape the soul sucking experience I had with school.

You see I’ve always thought it odd that we spend the first three years encouraging children to walk and talk and move and think, and then thrust them into an environment where they are forced to sit, be quiet, not talk back and question only at appointed times. Meal and play times are dictated by bells. There are pre-tests, mid terms, end of semester tests. Children are expected to be in school for eight hours a day only to be sent home more work to complete. If a student is unable to conform to all of these things they are seen as having intellectual or behaviour problems. There is an undercurrent of shame in poor grades and countercultural behaviour. Conformity is expected and enforced. This system worked during the industrial revolution I’m sure, but I’m not convinced that in a fluid, digital, global, information overloaded culture it is adequate let alone future minded.

However, in this independent school students are encouraged to think, to deepen their logic and reasoning and self awareness. There are no uniforms. They are encouraged to discuss outcomes in various situations.  Group agreements rather than rules are made to facilitate harmony within the activities they are actually engaged in. There are very few formal tests and grades are of little importance unless the child decides. The children eat when they want to eat. There is no homework. If a child seems to be struggling with something they are learning, the adults guide instead of strictly instructing them. When social difficulties arise for a child and they act out on their peers, the school as a community bands together to support them. Shame has no place in the learning and exploring process there. Parents are encouraged to be as much a part of the school as the teachers themselves. Shaming and conformity have no place within that environment. Basically it looks more like the real world where an individual is responsible for their own direction and productivity.

It seems like Utopia at first look. The principal however is honest in asserting that there is a lot of hard work, patience, tolerance and creative solutions involved in sustaining and improving the school’s environment. He points out the importance of parental involvement and even their questioning of processes as part of the natural dialogue within the school’s culture. He recognises that this is a journey and that there are many more questions than answers to be found in this way of ‘schooling.’

This, however, is what gave me hope. And as we recently enjoyed one of the regular market/open days I instantly connected with their ethos. It recognises the imperfect nature of humanity. Not every child is going to be at the same level in every area. Each child is unique in their talents and interests and yet are just as ‘special’ as anyone else. To have the opportunity to learn self-direction in childhood and the ability to source information and skill with their own initiative seems a greater skill than merely developing  and proving rote memory.

Perhaps that is the idealist in me, but then my girl is too.

The Year’s Beginning and INFJ-ness.

Every January feels the same to me. I find myself feeling like Alice falling through the rabbit hole. It might be just be me and because my birthday is in January but I feel like I am trying to find some terra firma, somewhere for my toes to grip. Another way to describe it might be… like when you jump in an elevator as it begins its descent. This year has been especially different though and for many reasons. I’m properly into my 30’s now. I think I should be further ahead in life than what I am, yet I have no idea what it looks like. I’m more comfortable with my self. I care less about what others think and ache for significance more than anything.

Meme: not mine, but kudos to the one who made it. This is my dialogue.
Meme: not mine, but kudos to the one who made it. This is my dialogue.

My biggest emotional tear is parenthood. All I have ever really wanted is to be a Mum. It took years to have our sweet child. Now, three years into this parenting thing I realise I want so much more than stay at home motherhood.

I feel so blessed to have her; she is my little miracle. She is so much like me, in so many ways that if I mention her antics to my mum, she just laughs at me. My child clings to me some days so badly I want to scream, especially after a big day with my students and just want space from demands. Realistically though, I would be no where near to living my life outside of obsessing over motherhood if i didn’t have her, and that alone makes her the best gift ever.

Occasionally I want another child, but I think it’s due more to the length of time it took to have our girl. I have a larger realisation that really, my family feels complete. Last night I packed up the fews baby items I’ve kept and put them in the garage/yard sale pile. I almost teared up and sighed in relief.  I’m slowly learning to be ok with being Mumma of One and knowing that it is perfectly acceptable.

Then there’s work… I like my work supporting students with disabilities, but there are only so many physical strikes, negotiations and redirections I can take. Five years in an education system I greatly disagree with is all starting to get to me. The main thing keeping me in it is that I am permanent (a rarity) and the hours suit me for now because I needn’t put my child in care for long periods of time. So for the moment I stay.

I’m looking at study again, but can’t settle on what I want. I’m thinking about Interpretation/Translation and seeing if I can work overseas doing something in an organisation that influences change in Human Rights (which should satisfy my desire for travel as well as significance). Also, I am learning French at the moment and would like to learn a few other languages- I’ve always been fascinated by language.

If I could do anything though, I would just paint and write all day for a few months and then travel for a few.  Then there’s that perfectionist streak in me that criticises my work to procrastination so much I’ve not picked up a brush in weeks and writing in this blog, sharing my internal dialogue feels so awkward. I am afraid of being a fake, of realising that all this internal dialogue is quite shameful and frivolous.

Ugh, I feel like my life could be so much more of an adventure and significant. I’d love to afford to travel with the family, occasionally dump them at a museum or something and trundle off on my own for a bit. I just love the excitement of wandering aimlessly watching people, discovering odd shops and architecture.  And then I realise I need to work for that and feel a bit of anxiety all over again.

I realise some of this might seem pretty selfish, but that’s kind of the point. As an INFJ I’m incredibly good at sacrificing my own well-being for the sake of my family and work expectations. I figure that in order to properly nourish those around me I need to first nourish myself. I need to start acting on it….

Which brings me full circle to the weightless, free-falling feeling I get at the beginning of every year. This year has to be different though. After all, time will pass regardless of my indecision, and I just need to get my butt going… INFJ or not.

School

Pregnant. That’s what today was. With possibility and fresh life.

A vast contrast to last year.

Last year I thought two years maternity leave was enough and wanted some external stimulation. Being Mumma is one of my greatest joys, but I needed the rhythm (and money) that work provides naturally.  We’d moved the year before from a city to my Hometown and my transfer papers were sorted.

Within 3 months I got a call.

I went to interview at a primary school, one of the more socio-economically disadvantaged schools. I sat down with my potential HOSES (Head of Special Education) and discussed their needs. It all sounded reasonable during the interview, and then I started my first day.

It was horrible.

The student I was meant to be supporting was much more challenging than the HOSES had made out. If I could go into detail I would, but it’s one of those professional conduct things. It snowballed from day one. I wish I could explain the mess both with the environments the children grow up in and the administration problems at the school.

Some of it would be shocking.

It was so bad one day I let the emotion of it get the better of me. I slammed a door in my kitchen a little too hard. Glass smashed all over the floor. My toddler burst into tears at the shock of the sound and mess. I was disappointed that I had let myself get to that point.

From that day I realised that I had been taking my job as a teaching assistant personally. I think it’s a fallacy that a lot of people in education, health and social services allow themselves. The reality is, these are jobs and professions that although they deal with a large degree of social intimacy with adults and children, it is more important than ever to separate emotions from your performance and role.

Well, I learned that the only way I was going to succeed in that job was to find the middle ground in a paradox of compassion and professionalism. I managed to get there after processing the past failures both in this school, and previous jobs in completely different job sectors. I also decided that I had been through greater stressors previously,  and that if I could make it through the year, I could do almost anything. It also helped that one of the few staff members I had gutted to know was an incredible pessimist, vastly incompatible with the attributes I desire to be.

I had simply decided that difficulties and all, I would find strategies to deal.

I made it through the year.

Over the last few weeks of the year, many changes occurred personally and within the school. New administration was set up for 2015. I realised that I was beginning to enjoy the challenges that come with a population of students who need their teachers to not only teach but encourage them in ways they often were not getting at home. I got invited back again for 2015.

That brings us to today. The first day of school for the teaching/non-teaching staff. Our new principal is in his early thirties, vibrant, humble and fun. The deputy is experienced, old enough to be the principal’s mother. An odd match on paper, but look to be solid in practice. There are many new staff, and still many remain from last year. The new HOSES is delightful. She has a solid reputation in the district.

The atmosphere at the staff meeting was different. Everyone was relaxed. They were animated in their conversations, a pleasant change. The air cautiously reeked of hope that this year would bring the changes that they’d been wanting to make for ages.

So in a word, today was ‘pregnant’ with possibility. It was a good day.and I think I am beginning to like school again.