Summer of 2018 – Teaching & Learning in the Community… My Dash

This blog will begin by a poem, The Dash Poem by Linda Ellis:

The Dash

I read of a man who stood to speak at a funeral of a friend.  He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars..the house…the cash.  What matters is how we lived and loved and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change?  For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.

To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile…remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?

By Linda Ellis

I heard this poem this summer at EUCAPA a conference I presented at in Worcester and it has stayed with me and prompted me to write this blog. This summer I have had the privilege of being able to work remotely and that afforded me the opportunity to be able to travel. This blog is going to overview some highlights of my trip along important personal learning moments. To begin I will start with my trip to Barcelona.

Barcelona is an amazing place. It is rich with history and I found the city to be extremely progressive in terms of vegan options, feminist marches, recycling, and much more. I loved how everywhere I went I saw people outside, immersed in the Spanish culture of eating, drinking, and socializing in the great outdoors. When I visited the sites with my partner Daniel, we were greatly surprised but thoroughly enjoyed watching people of all ages engaging in pick up sports and activity. We were outside the library and saw children on a school trip strategically throw their bags on the floor making a football pitch and then have a game with a fairly flat football (soccer). I watched in awe as all the students were included – all genders and abilities. I felt a pang of relief knowing the children really are born with an innocence. I pondered with Daniel how western society washes that out of children with individualist notions of competition in our schools.

Picture saying ”we know your capitalist paradise” taken at Park Guell. Interpret as you wish!

After exploring Barcelona I was able to return to my family for the first time in two years!! I was extremely excited to see my grandad. The last time I saw him I was sure it was going to be my last. My grandad has had several strokes, struggles to walk any distance and has dementia. When you ask him how he is, he responds with “surviving” and if he is in pain he adds “only just.” Spending time with my grandad, even though he sporadically remembered who I was, was a significant moment for me. Importantly, how the elderly people are sacred to our society, their knowledge integral and the lessons they can teach us are really special. Secondly, how phenomenal and underpaid people in the social care provision are paid e.g. carers, day care staff, and support staff. My grandad had to go into respite care for a week and after watching the caregivers for a morning my heart ached. They do not get the recognition they rightly deserve in our society in England. They are caring, selfless, and totally overworked.

Picture: me and Edwin, my grandad the day before I left. My heart is very happy.

Catching up with my family and was initially quite strange. I went through a period of thinking how everyone had changed so much and how their lives had moved on. But after a short while of being home I realized how wonderful that was and how we are not static beings in this crazy world – we are dynamic individuals that will adapt and grow daily. I embraced every moment with my family and friends and their differences. It was a great reminder that even within families and communities of similar experiences we are unique. I had many a debate related to politics, education, prisons, housing, and all social service provisions with my family and I can guarantee you we had very different perspectives related to each issue. Amazingly I took this as a teaching opportunity to raise the critical consciousness of my community. This was a unique situation for me because I am used to doing this in a class of pre-service teachers so to be able to engage intellectually with my family/friends and hear them outrightly disagree with me and why was excellent practice for me! My brother who identifies as having aspergers challenged me the most. I loved it. He is incredibly intelligent and hearing him rationalize his ideas actually challenged my own thinking greatly. Overall, my family and friends perspectives and insights taught me a lot about my approach to teaching for critical consciousness and how important it is to ensure we relate to people where they are at. Also to use examples that are culturally relevant. I had a list of examples from the US system but converting it in England took a little more thought!

Picture: myself and my FIVE brothers!

After a short period of time at home, Daniel and I went with my brother [furthest left in the picture] and his girlfriend Faye on an adventure to understand our own cultural roots. Our biological father is Palestinian so we went to Palestine/Israel. Now, I recognize that many of my readers may not know a great deal about the Palestinian conflict and potentially have been influenced by a media narrative. So instead I will tell you the narrative I believe in. Palestine has slowly been eradicated by the Israeli government. The borders of Palestine have been encroached upon since the 1900s and rightly so the Palestinian people are mad. Those that now live in Israeli territory live in segregated communities and villages and typically identify as Muslim. This is a stark contrast to the Israeli people who identify as Jewish. Now this is extremely reductionist but it should be noted that many Palestinians had to become Israeli citizens so that they are allowed to have healthcare, education, and to travel outside of the country.

Picture: Palestine over the years:

I embarked on this journey for a couple of reasons. Firstly, for a very long time I have always identified as white British and never natively half Arab. Since becoming a sociocritical theorist I began to investigate my own social identity and questioned why. I was embarrassed in school to say where I was from. I was scared about being bullied or being seen as different. I now embrace my uniqueness and have come to accept my family history. This has taken several years. I wanted to go on this journey to see/meet my family [living in Israeli territory] and to understand more about my cultural heritage. Secondly, I felt compelled to understand the political situation in more detail and felt the only way to do this was by witnessing it firsthand.

I learnt a great deal on this trip, far too much to write about in one blog so I will highlight my overall learning:

  • There is a serious inhumane, inequitable treatment of Palestinian people in Israel. This reminded me of the African American/caucasian divide in the US.
  • Muslim culture in pockets of Israel suppresses and oppresses women. This was extremely hard as a feminist to watch. I learnt that even if the situation does not agree with you and how in your own culture you would stand up and speak out sometimes this is the worst thing to do. A close person in my family thanked me for keeping my mouth shut and said I did the right thing – this was hard for me! I learnt/was reminded to never compare against religious norms and embrace the uniqueness of alternate cultural norms.
  • Much work needs to be done to educate people on the reality of the country and how gorgeous and amazing the country is. We visited Netanya, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel-Aviv, the Dead Sea, West Bank, and many more villages and sites along the way all of which I have never felt safer or more looked after.
  • The food is insane and extremely inclusive for vegans. My favorite food has always been hummus, falafel, and pita bread YUM!

Picture: Baha’i Gardens in Haifa

Picture: The Western Wall in Jerusalem

The trip to Palestine was in some ways life changing for me, finally everything made more sense. I am thankful for my experiences and I am extremely thankful to the people that made this trip happen. Enlightening would be an understatement and I feel more is needed in a longer blog to unpack this trip a little more!

After Palestine I went to Worcester to present at EUCAPA; my presentation entitled: an immersion project in physical education, transformative pedagogy for community building. I thoroughly enjoyed this conference. It was organized exceptionally. The conference organizers, Andrea Faull and her team were wonderful and had thought of everything. Do look into this conference adapted PE people! It is in Spain next year!!

Next up I went to Scotland and got to see my dear friend Dillon Landi:

Dillon and I met online when I first started my doctoral program when I saw something he posted and it resonated with me. We have been pen pals ever since and speak on a daily basis. It was so lovely to spend some time with him in Scotland and to watch him present. He is going to do great things so watch this space!!

We were in Scotland presenting at the AIESEP conference (international PE conference). Again, this was organized excellently by the team and I was highly impressed at its inclusivity. Most importantly I like the diversity of sessions and the amount of sessions related to politics, equity, inclusion, and social justice issues in PETE. Often I was stuck at to which session to attend – this is a good thing because it means there was a lot of choice. I have to admit I was in admiration at the presentations and meeting people that I have read and cite most frequently throughout my thesis such as Alan Ovens, Laura Azzarito, Justen O’Connor, Mikael Quennerstedt [the list goes on…] and it was great to see friends that I work closely with on a more regular basis in the social justice sector of PETE. This conference had empowering affects on me and made me feel as a critical scholar that I am not alone, I feel rejuvenated to continue the work and advocate for transformative pedagogy and the ideas in my thesis. It made me excited for the future!

Picture: Karen Lambert, Myself, Joanne Hill – one of my favorite pictures that highlights the importance of sisterhood #feminists #mypeople

It is time for me to wrap this blog up and focus my energies on my final semester as a graduate student! I am extremely lucky and privileged to have had the experiences I have this summer – I recognize this but I have much more to do. I must take my teachings with me and share the experiences to enlighten others. I leave you with a few questions.

    How do you teach in your community and what can you learn from your community?
    How can we increase the social justice focus of PETE so that we can have more people advocating for equity and inclusion?
    What professional development are you taking part in to increase your knowledge?
    How can you immerse yourself in difference without leaving your city/state to experience an alternate culture?

What are you doing in your dash?

Have a wonderful beginning to your semester. Reach out to me at any time for more information or any critiques.

Written by Shrehan Lynch – August 24, 2018

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