I think I might be a man.
Turns out that I’m completely without that well-known female quality of being able to successfully multi-task, so that instead of juggling writing this blog, catching up on a dubiously thick stack of reading and preparing for the new school year I have instead been in a state of stall for the last week when I’ve been able to do nothing more academic than watch re-runs of Frasier.
I’ve had to impose discipline on myself so I’ve come into work and I’m writing to you sitting at my desk in my classroom. Should you like to picture the scene you might like to know that it’s freezing cold in here, a testament to the fierce air-con that’s keeping the oppressive heat outside at bay. I live in Romania - which is a land of all sorts of extremes, not least in its literal interpretation of a cold winter and a hot summer. The students aren’t back yet - they won’t be back for at least another week - and the school seems very quiet and altogether too ‘grown-up’ without them.
In the interests of getting to know one another, dear reader, perhaps you’d like to know that this will be the start of my ninth year teaching secondary English, and my fourth at an international school. Before that I spent three years in a selective school in Kent after starting my career in a comprehensive school in North London. I’m 30 years old and just to clear up any confusion, I’m definitely a girl. I even have a girl name: Lisa.
The aim of this blog is to tell you about the course that I just started, which is the MA Education. With the exception of the two week lecture series that I just completed in London, I’m going to be doing the MA as an online course, which will take me about three years. My imaginary audience for this blog is people who are either on the course or want to apply for the course - and I’ll try and keep my musings to things that I think you might be interested in. Please feel free to drop me a comment in the box at the bottom of this blog and let me know if I’m meeting your readerly needs. You can even drop me an email if you like at: [email protected].
So Far: Two Weeks at the Institute of Education (IOE).
The first unit of the MA Education was focused on a single question- ‘What is Education?’- a deceptively simple query that guided each of the 16 lectures that took place over two weeks. I chose to travel to London for the lecture series, joining a class of around 20 people, with the rest of the cohort joining in from around the world via the IOE’s ‘Collaborate’ platform. If you’re able to, there are advantages to making the trip to London to attend in person- not least being able to stay at John Adams Hall, a literal stone’s throw from the Institute, which is itself just down the road from Russell Square, the leafy-green centre of London’s academic life and an excellent venue for between-lecture picnics. Granted, John Adams Hall is student accommodation, with everything that implies, and a two week stay there in a tiny room with no en-suite will cost more than a month’s rent in more reasonable cities. It’s London, though, and nothing beats it - especially when the weather defies all expectations and chooses to be nice for two weeks straight.
As for the course itself, it’s simply very well run. Module leader Fiona and course leader Clare both have the rare trifecta of being experienced classroom teachers and skilled academics who are also excellent at teaching adults. They produced a programme that took full advantage of the high caliber of academics available at the IOE as world-class academic after world-class academic turned up, each one adding another level of complexity to our understanding of the question. I don’t want to over-praise it for fear that I might sound insincere but please believe me when I tell you that it was brilliant. Certainly, there’s no denying that it’s a fairly intense fortnight, especially because of the heavy reading load that accompanies each lecture, but it’s also incredibly engaging and stimulating. We didn’t leave any of the lectures without wanting to talk further about what we’d heard and to share how the theory applied to our wildly varied experiences of education. These conversations reminded me that learning should never be a passive thing - ideas require interrogation and reflection before they settle into something meaningful. As my next modules are all online I’m interested to know - what was it like for you on the course out there in cyberspace? Did you feel like you were able to reflect on your ideas with others, even if you weren’t in the same place? Can you offer those of us who are doing online units from now on any tips to help us get the most out of our online learning?
I hope to see you in the next blog in a couple of weeks time - by which time I hope, dear reader, that I will have caught up on my reading.
Lisa is studying the MA Education in Romania.