Maybe pebbles, not stones is the correct image. But I’d hate to change someone’s line about me without their permission. Pebbles, like stones, are smooth and well-worn yet they are smaller. They perhaps are more worn down by time and the elements and this may be what accounts for the minimal impact they can do if thrown. I think I’m a pebble thrower, not a stone thrower – after all the latter conjures images of death, both humourous (Monty Python’s Life of Brian) and tragic (the story of Ukrainian beauty Katya Koren) and to be honest, I’d like to distance myself from both.
Labels abound on twitter and the edu blogosphere that attempt to describe the behaviours and attitudes of teachers who are fed up with the current state of education: edupunk, agitator, provocateur, radical, reformer, innovator, disruptor, instigator. Perhaps you have included one or more of these in your bio at some point. Ultimately those people who claim this label, or have it thrust upon them, have very good intentions for education and educational change. Sometimes working *within* a system – and its accompanying policies – is just ineffectual. Sometimes working outside of the system (and voicing this decision to work outside) can yield beautiful things for those inside … and sometimes you just get labelled the anti-social, grumpy freak.
As someone who has been heavily influenced by individuals who can easily be described using the list above, I have increasingly found myself outside of systems and communities … even the community to which I was one of the most steadfast members: twitter. Why? I can’t explain it entirely, perhaps my reading up on the Romantics is making me elect a solitary state of mind, a desire to reconnect with my own thoughts about education, free from the constant barrage of ideas and information that twitter provides. There is a need, I see, for silence and reflection. Of course a community of like-minded individuals has an enormous pull – we all seek to have an ‘@mention’ or a ‘favourite’ or a ‘RT’ as these assure us that we are valued, needed, trusted, wanted. But when it becomes that and nothing else, I guess it’s time to take a step back and reassess the reasons for being part of the community in the first place.
So how does this relate to the title of the post? Separate from the tweet, retweet, favourite, quote cycle of twitter and from the read/comment/read of blogging, I have discovered that I am at bottom a grumpy and cynical educator, frustrated by talk that yields little action. Thus, I suppose, I am a Romantic … unfortunately that may result in a complete removal from the community and an immersion in my own fantastical imaginings: the classroom. In fact an outburst of emotion and despair regarding the future of my children’s education ended in the observation that I am simply standing outside and chucking stones.
For me the reality of education is confronted daily … there is a future for it, but like Nick Cave, I don’t fall for the Utopiate that the edu-crew preach – a utopian vision of education where all students and teachers are Apple and Google certified, learning together in open spaces of colour and comfort, engaging effortlessly with technology and reshaping society in an image of themselves. I see struggle, confusion, frustration, failure and yes – learning. Just look at the young people taking part in the #OWS movement (the trauma they are experiencing, the denial they confront daily, the refusal by those in power – the touted 1% – to acknowledge this protest as being valid) and you can’t deny that there is such deep, systemic inequality in our world that talking up breaking down walls between public and private, rich and poor, haves and have nots is merely talk. And there I am. I have come full circle. I have thrown the stone.