A return to university…full time

Last year much of my time was taken up with a combination of university studies (part time) and full time work which included the introduction of play based learning into our junior school programme, an reintroduction to the importance of communication with parents (particularly when implementing change) & acting on these communications and discussions, and the completion of tukutuku panels for our school. 

This year I have been fortunate enough to gain a scholarship enabling me to study full time and still have my job at the end of it! I embarked on these studies a few days ago in summer school. It has been a challenge. I am a long way from home and  from much of the comforting familiarity of home. On the other hand, I am in the same country, speak the same language, am doing some challenging work with some awesome people and did enough work ahead of time to keep my head above water. 

The academic work is challenging (more on the work in another post), but my biggest struggle has been finding my identity within this context. Who I am, how I respond to others, habits…all these things have become so obvious as I have been faced with moving into a world where I do not know everybody. The roles I have taken on in my day to day practice back home are magnified. While my core identity has not changed, how I interact has. Rather than being the loud, rambling one who plays the fool to put others at ease, I find myself sitting back and watching. I become frustrated because the power structures and dynamics of those I interact with are not clear to me – I cannot see a role that I need to slide into. Yet I do not think that that is expected here (and perhaps it is not back home either). 

As I continue to reflect on power structures and my existence within this society I find myself wondering why. At times I feel my faith completely marginalised by the nature of discussion and what is considered true and valid in today’s institutions. Yet this is not deliberate, nor is the course of research methodologies delving into this – Christianity came up during a colonisation discussion;  A discussion on truth and what is fact came up with ‘science is right’ as a passing comment. Nobody said anything when I positioned myself as a Pakeha, small town practising Christian in one discussion. Within this learning environment everyone is accepted, as is their right to be who they are, so it certainly not a slight on any of the others. So indeed, is this questioning not just the nature of the world that we all live in? I thought it would be over since I’ve been through it as a teenager! Aren’t we meant to outgrow that?

This discomfort and level of challenge is a great opportunity for me simply because I have to learn, I have to move well outside my comfort zone and I have to experience what it must be like (in part) to not simply live as one of the dominant groups (even though I really am a part of that group in general). If this is what it is like to be marginalised for a few moments at a time by well meaning people having an honest and hearty discussion, what must it be like to exist outside of the dominant groups – as a minority in which this is a daily occurrence?

For me this year is not just about academics, but about growth and n opportunity to face some of my greatest challenges – interacting with people in an unfamiliar context and having to question the core of my being. Some of this is a necessity, other aspects just an outcome of the nature of university which seeks to get you to see through different eyes as you learn. 

I had intended to detail this learning in this post, but it would appear that I had concepts that needed exploring. I look forward to returning in another post to detail some of this learning which has implications for teaching inquiry.

I wil leave you with two questions from class the other day…

What is truth? What is fact?

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