My mother passed a silver St Christopher necklace onto my daughter this week before the latter left for London. My own grandmother made a similar gesture when I left England as a 10 year old. Since Wednesday, our Skype messages and brief video conversations have centred around the Tate Modern, Camden markets and various attributes of cafes in Shepherd’s Bush. Our daughter tells us that skies are always grey in England.
Not like here, is what she implies. It’s true. In contrast, our wintry cloudscapes appear ethereal, like this captured in Fremantle last July:
Since we will be meeting up in Paddington on Monday (our flight to Doha departs in less than 9 hours and luggage fill our bedroom), my headspace is very much occupied with future evolving. I hold tight to metaphoric blue skies.
This morning’s frenzied map-printing traces the journey we will undertake next week from Shrewsbury to Market Drayton where my 90 year old grandmother still lives.
From the glam rock era of our escape in the 1970s – and largely due to my dad’s eclectic pre-emigration music taste – this song lurks on my mp3 player:
More good driving music, especially when contending with 100 km/h highways and the daily challenge of overtaking roadtrains in a 4 cylinder hatch. As thrilling as my current sense of anticipation…
Home is where I want to be,
pick me up and turn me round…
I guess I’m already there (Talking Heads, 1983).
Fullan, M. (2001). Leading in a culture of change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
The week that was showcased some Year 8 English students investigating Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s biography, while my class (on a tangent) finalised presentations in our debate series:
- Goldilocks is evil
- Perth is a great place to leave
- Recess should be longer
- Brains are better than beauty (old, I know, but worth airing)
- Homework is beneficial
- Save the planet
- Elderly people should not be allowed to drive
- Zoos are good for the preservation of animals
To be revisited in term two.
Year 10s with a semester scope on Truth & Fiction were watching this documentary:
Analytical focus centred around Symbolic, Written, Audio and Technical (SWAT) codes; no-one was distracted from viewing when I undertook Wednesday’s walkthrough and discovered the visiting ECU student teachers huddling at the rear of Sophia’s room.
Year 7 English students undertook the comic code challenge (how to spell onomatopoeia for starters), with Mexican waves to capture sample sound fx, hero questing and villainous recipes. Surprisingly, this Wonder Woman excerpt proved popular:
Jorden claimed to be wed to the hero. Everyone loved the invisible jet; we also made links to other superheroes and their superpowers, gadgets, nemeses and sidekicks.
Back to the collage, Year 9 S&E mapped the ANZAC legend while Career & Enterprise students delivered stunning brochures. Around our campus, critical thinking, persuasive arts and experimentation rule. Thursday’s Humanities team meeting explored inspiring moments in response to these walkthrough images. We engaged in collaborative learning as a practice. And, every day this week, before an audience of student teachers.
This is our culture: From planning, refinement, differentiation, observation, discussion, moderation, coaching, review, heightened, multifaceted awareness emerges; exam results next term will also be revealing – have we been effective?
And so it goes….
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Which brings me to my reflection. Our principal requested leaders to submit homework last Monday: If I was the school’s principal, what would I focus on? Made me think.
Here is what I emailed in response:
Build collaborative relationships and structures for change.
I could also have added:
Develop strategies for sharing best practice
Create learning communities within the organisation.
However, these are embedded in learning area teams.
Once again, another week’s driving soundtrack to close (featured on the mp3 player in my car):
…it ain’t over
I’m not done.
This is the third and final instalment for our current uni assignment on adolescent psychopathology. While my fascination for conundrum and complexity prevails, I am also intrigued at the media-generated feedback loops. Isn’t it dreadful/ handwringing is a common trope:
Back to Cameron’s growing pains…
In providing a centre catering for students with Autism, Darland school can be seen as offering a safe environment for nurturing genius. While Cameron Thompson claims “I have the social ability of a talking potato”, and he is worried about first impressions which may be created at a new school, the welcome notes surrounding his desk are a source of affirmation. Mrs Moore informs Cameron he can function as “You being you with people around you”.
Of immense significance is the blossoming friendship with Tim which suggests Cameron is not at risk of adopting maladaptive behaviours such as school avoidance. While a meeting in the park with local Acton boys reveals Cameron’s social inadequacies and he states that he doesn’t meet his friends in person, preferring to connect on Facebook or playing World of Warcraft online, scenes which depict prosocial relationships with Tim, his teacher Mrs Moore, and karate student Jonathan, are all positive signs of Cameron’s developing social skillset.
Friendships foster flourishing: Shared interests are affirming; according to Mrs Moore, Cameron’s quirky sense of humour is a “Good omen for the future”. It is interesting to see that when Cameron and Jonathan attend the “geek’s paradise” Games Expo, Cameron is amazed that new-found friend Gabi likes the same things as him – Dr Who and World of Warcraft – while Jonathan is on the periphery of their animated conversation, and Cameron’s mother, Alison, is pleased that Gabi’s phone number is secured.
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There are a number of other signs towards the end of the documentary when Cameron turns fourteen that the social issues reinforcing why he sees himself as “such a loser” are dissipating. Despite the LD diagnosis, Cameron has made friends. Tim might not be popular, and Cameron sees himself as “dragged down”, but he doesn’t care.
There is also evidence of newfound maturity – a moustache – growing interest in females, a first date without the presence of chaperoning parents, and an “awesome” birthday party which friends and family alike attend. Emotionally, Cameron has experienced enormous self-growth along with a surge in confidence. Couple this shift with his improving achievement in the Open University course and, by definition of interlinked complexity, it becomes difficult to determine which has the greatest bearing on subsequent emotional changes. Cameron is no longer able to affirm that “Most people my age do despise me; I’ve been like this for years”. His altered manner is a harbinger of continuing change and development.
Cameron Thompson’s Mathematical genius in combination with a diagnosed Learning Disability suggests that, while common LD characteristics may exist, it is the complex interplay of psychodynamic and neurodevelopmental factors which shape the case’s idiosyncrasies. As anxiety disorders are comorbid with each other, as well as other disorders, such as OCD or mania, and they are also associated with social impairment, the interplay of genetic and environmental factors is critical. Moreover, the literature asserts that changes in LD symptoms occur with age, so individuals may manifest shifting or persistent learning difficulties across the lifespan.
For Cameron at thirteen, difficulties arise in achieving social acceptance among peers since he fails to comprehend non-verbal cues. Similarly, stress of underachievement causes obsessive thinking, and Cameron seems to experience panic attacks when adversely affected by achievement pressure as a result of his LD. While adaptive responses are evident, such as when Cameron is seen making friends, and Open University marks are improving, the greatest overall impact lies in his Learning Disability.
At one extreme, it is highly unlikely that Cameron will become, as he predicts, a hobo “eating out of bins”. A more probable prognosis for this young genius is that growing self-awareness and ongoing support from family, friends and advisers will ensure that the alternative trajectory predicted by Imre Khan – Cambridge in four years – comes to fruition.
Wheatley, M.J. (2012). So far from home: Lost and found in our brave new world. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.