Kaleidoscope selves: find your tribe

art journal page: Alice in Central Park

art journal page: Alice in Central Park

Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle. ~ Alice, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

José de Creeft’s Alice in Wonderland bronze statue glimmers in Central Park, polished by children’s climbing hands. Alice, of Wonderland fame, is a character who resonates with me. She is ingrained enough in my thinking that she makes more than a passing appearance in my PhD thesis. What I love about Alice is that she is open to new places and perspectives. She is curious, receptive and constantly wondering. She thrives on meeting new creatures and on having unusual, wondrous experiences. She is the imaginative adventuress who at once embodies childhood awe, strong self-assurance, rationality and fear-conquering daring. In many ways she is a flâneuse of Wonderland: wanderer, wonderer, learner and observer.

The question of self is not straightforward. Various aspects of our tangled selves collide and interlock. Or perhaps, rather than tangled webs of gossamer self-threads, we are each kaleidoscopes of self. Forged from a range of asymmetrical elements, we form the spectacularity of the beautiful changeable selves we are when viewed together through a cylinder of mirrors and light.

my precious stone kaleidoscope

my bronze-cylindered Arcana kaleidoscope has wheels made of glass and semi-precious stones: this one is by Australian artists Robert Cook & Jocelyn Teh

My kaleidoscopic self is made up of a number of different selves which my @debsnet Twitter bio attempts to unify:

Wanderer. Wonderer. Dreamer. Reader. Writer. Creator. Educator. PhD researcher. Passionista. Disruptor. Imaginer. Innovator. Flâneuse.

Not included are other personal selves like parent, spouse, child, sibling, friend. There are many contexts in which I share all or some of these self aspects. As the kaleidoscope turns and the light changes, people see different patterns reflected from me.

patterns as seen through my kaleidoscope

mandala-like patterns as seen through my kaleidoscope

My self-threads splinter, intertwine and blossom, as they do through the kaleidoscope viewing hole.

As I reflected in a previous post, connecting with other educators is for me about being my learner self. Connecting and collaborating widens and globalises my perspectives, while encouraging my own thinking and reflection (see Tom Whitby’s recent post about the relationship between connection and reflection). My teacher self is informed daily by my experiences as a parent, my own learning as a PhD candidate and my online participation. My Twitter interactions are influenced by my daily experiences of parenting, researching and working in a school. My parenting is influenced by my teacherly and researcherly thinking about learning and development. My PhD research self interacts with other researchers on social media as well as being informed by my in-practice educator immersion in my academic topic of study. My PhD itself incorporates me as learner, educator, writer, reader, creator and self-conscious researcher. And here on this blog my posts tangle together the threads of my learner, teacher, researcher, parent, writer and artist selves.

A dear friend of mine recently sent me this quote which I’m sure resonates with many of us:

When you find people who not only tolerate your quirks but celebrate them with cries of ‘Me too!’  be sure to cherish them. Because those weirdos are your tribe.  ~ Nanea Hoffman

It strikes me that many of those with whom I connect, in life, in education, in research and in my online PLN, are those whose quirks are similar to mine. Their kaleidoscope colours reach out to me across time, space, geography and social media.

I was recently involved in a Twitter chat with a number of educators. A few people in the chat began talking about being proud to be dorky, to be okay with failure and to constantly be learning. When I tweeted back ‘yes – fellow geeks unite!’ there was a chorus of ‘amen’ and ‘ditto’. I felt like I’d been high fived over Twitter. Here were my fellow weirdos, people who I’ve never met, connecting with me from across the world. “Yes,” they were saying, “In this moment, I get you and you get me.”

Next week I fly to New York to connect in a very real and immersive way with fellow educators, researchers and thinkers who will widen my perspectives. Perhaps I will widen theirs by sharing my Australian story. As this blog attests, I am hoping that my trip will allow my total and joyful submersion in all my aspects of selfhood. I will be thinking, writing, note taking, photographing, drawing and flâné-ing my way to new connections, new reflections and new perspectives.

The word kaleidoscope comes from the Greek words kalos, eidos and skopeō which essentially translate together into ‘beautiful form to observe’. Here’s to finding the beauty in others’ idiosyncrasies and to each of us finding our quirky global tribe.

find wonder, find perspective

The Connected Learner: Reflections on Connected Educator Month #CE14

spring in my garden: iceberg roses blooming

spring in my garden: iceberg roses blooming

Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. ~ Mark Jenkins

As Spring springs here in Australia and Fall falls in the USA (where I am headed in two weeks), I have been reading a lot about how October is Connected Educator month. You can read more from Craig Kemp (Twitter as PD), Tom Whitby (on the connected mindset) and Pernille Ripp (the downside to being a connected educator).

It has me wondering: what about being a connected learner? Because for me, being a ‘connected educator’ means connecting to be challenged, to be supported and to learn.

Twitter is a platform which allows plenty of connection and learning. On Twitter I …

  • Learn from others around the world – educators, thought leaders, researchers, students, people in other industries, friends and like-minded individuals. I get to read others’ ideas and share my own, and this means I am in a constant place of learning.
  • Contribute to a localised community hub of learning and thinking, sharing ideas on-the-spot such as at conferences during presentations; I simultaneously contribute to and consume the stream of learning-community responses.
  • Engage with people with whom I disagree, thereby engaging in debate and widening my perspectives. Corinne Campbell has written about why we need to be careful about the ‘echo chamber’ and only connecting with those who mirror ourselves.
  • Connect to those in similar situations to myself. This is why I follow #phdchat and #acwri, because as a working parent who is also a PhD candidate (read more about that here), I am not part of a student or researcher community, apart from during my supervisory meetings. Engaging with these hashtags allows me to learn from others while feeling that I am not alone in my PhD experiences. It means that when I am deep in my researching or writing burrow, I can send a shout out (a Twitter SOS, if you like) about my research experience (something that most people in my day to day life don’t connect with) and feel connected to others in the same boat. It allows me, in my moments of isolation and academic struggle, to feel heard by someone out there! I agree with George Couros in his post about why we need to be able to find these kindred spirits outside of our own immediate contexts.

Now, with this recently-begun blogging experiment (Will it continue after my professional learning New York trip? That is yet to be decided!) I have been connecting by sharing my musings (in more than 140 characters), my photographs and my journal scribbles. The very act of writing helps my thinking and the growth of my professional ideas. The subsequent connections with others is about mutual interest and growth. Blogging has helped me refine my own thinking while widening my global learning community (or professional learning network).

Similarly to the ACEL Conference at which I presented this month (you can read my reflections here), my upcoming visit to New York will have me really connecting, face to face, with inspiring thinkers, school leaders, educators and researchers, with whom I have found connections through various avenues, from introductions to cold-emailing. Here Clara Galan reminds us of the importance of connecting in real life as well as in the virtual world.

So for me October is definitely Connected Educator month, but more than that, it is about connected learning. Educators and others around the world connect online and in person, learning together to grow themselves and come up with better outcomes in their arenas of work and influence. Fellow nerds of the world, unite, in any and every way you can!

O, Manhattan!

O, Manhattan!