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liminal spaces

July 6, 2013

Our daughters returned from Melbourne past-midnight heralded by the gate, taxi departure, trolley wheels rolling down the driveway, and preparations for bed. Later this morning, one left for work, while the youngest slumbers on.


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Odd that with them safely home, and after a week exchanging iMessage tales and images, I remained restless and wakeful. As you do, I mentally catalogued works-in-progress:

  • Soil, mulch and plant selections to create our re-imagined front garden (at this stage, pride of madeira, agapanthus and erigeron with a weeping mulberry to the fore)
  • Pile of partially marked year 10 work sitting on my desk
  • Wonderment at the state of play in year 7 & 8 classes I engaged with during relief sessions yesterday (thus, incomplete marking explained, and action research directions newly gauged).

Nothing burdensome or stressful smouldering in those embers.

Must be the excitement of term’s end, I decided.

Then I fell asleep.

school holidays

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I also dreamed. On waking, I recollected one significant dream-landscape. That vignette was then related over breakfast, buffed and turned until I could capture its vestige here, as a memento.

In my dream, I confronted a man still operating as principal at a school I have left: The school struggles with lack of leadership capacity to manage a problematic core of student misbehaviour while attending primarily to academic success as a salve; the oversight issue – disengagement clear to everyone in the community – is ignored by a leadership team intent on managing perceptions.

Colleagues who remain tell me that blame is the norm; an unhealthy culture prevails because it is

easy and common [for] experienced teachers to get discarded and disvalued by their principals and colleagues. When such teachers are made to feel they are not part of things, when their wisdom and expertise are not sought or valued, and when their teaching styles and strategies are dismissively viewed as out-of-date and no longer valid, they understandably become disenchanted and resistant to change. When a school has one or two bad teachers, this is usually a problem with the individual teachers. When it has many bad teachers, it is a problem of leadership (Fullan & Hargreaves, 1991, p. 87).


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My dream was both vivid and realistic. Credible mannerisms, gestures and demeanours of dream-personae (myself and the principal) stood in relation to each other as we tended to stand in work-life; at odds.

Initially, the conversation was cordial and friendly. Occupying this morning’s  liminal space of  slow-wakening, though, I  acknowledged glaring truths in my own steadfast nature, and this revelation came awash with a mental soundtrack streamed by recognisable intonations condemning me as an outcast. In the face of phoney pleasantries, I denied this man’s version of events as readily as I had done through actions in waking life.

The staff want you gone…

I said to him. Words I would not speak aloud, but dream-me is a thought-shifting entity, both beguiling and unbound by niceties or social conventions. This woman spoke her mind.

His dream-response? Froze me out, then walked away.

I remind myself now that dreams carry portents or messages.  According to Australian poet Gwen Harwood, dreaming is capital-a Art:

Things fade and fail, but not the dream
Let me enter it now, and learn the language.
Alter the secret balance of my brain
lost at the threshold of the waking world.
Come soon. I shall not have another life (Harwood, 2003, p. 311).

In seeking to fit this contemplative state into the framework of my present day, I also appreciate the educational leaders’ goal is to

“let go” of the details of change, steering broadly… to restore safety, avoid harm, and remove incompetence and corruption from the system (Hargreaves & Shirley, 2009, p. 71).

Selected reference

Fullan, M. & Hargreaves, A. (1991). What’s worth fighting for in your school? New York: Teachers College Press.

Hargreaves, A. & Shirley, D. (2009). The fourth way: The inspiring future for educational change. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Harwood, G. (2003). Collected poems 1943-1995. (Eds Hoddinot, A. & Kratzmann, G). St Lucia, QLD: University of Queensland Press.

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