Last night (taking a break from my thesis write-up!) I watched Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond (Netflix, 2017)’ and it made me thing about the research struggles I have had (as often discussed here) in relation to my inexplicable pull towards autoethnography even though I knew my methodology was firmly founded in participatory action research. I never cease to be inspired by the links we make as a consequence of what we do. I think I am able to make sense of this paradox now. Although it is somewhat tinged with regret in relation to my thesis, it has shed new light on where I go from here.
In the documentary film, Carrey makes some astoundingly fresh and honest assertions on human behaviour regarding the choices we make (or we think we make!) regarding our identities and how to re-present them. Carrey discusses the processes by which he ‘became’ the late Andy Kaufman in the film Man on the Moon (Milos Foreman, 1999). I guess what resonated with me most of all was the idea that my doctorate is not just about the research in terms of the data and to what extent the intended outcomes were realised through participants but equally it has signified a ‘becoming space’ for me personally, in the same way it did for Carrey. It is only with hindsight and on reflection that I now see how the internal transformations I was feeling were tied in with my obsession with autoethnography earlier in the process.
Over the past few years of being involved in this doctorate programme, I have constantly had to negotiate my impulse (or calling) towards autoethnography whilst conducting PAR, which culminated in having to concede that the value of the project undertaken cannot be effectively measured in a way (at least in the way that I carried it out) that fulfils academic protocols. Perhaps I wasn’t brave enough to run with autoethnography from the start, and perhaps the fear of self-research given my professional environment (at the time) was too greater risk for me to take. I didn’t want to compromise but found I did in the end. I wasn’t as brave as Andy Kaufman.
I guess my writing here is still playing out that turmoil. As well as a place to order some of my data, my blog has provided a platform for necessary outbursts and reflective writing. Whatever resulted in terms of content, I have always made a commitment to see it through until my final viva. I am still convinced it may prove of value to others long after this process has finished for me.
Also, in relation to the problematics on identity, the documentary also poses questions on who do we want to be? Put simply, do you want to be a raw uncut or a packaged, edited version of yourself? The former meaning to unpack and expose the self for who we really are (a mash-up of dirty pearls) or the latter meaning to continue to consciously reversion our identity adhering to societal or institutional expectations (and what we think is deemed more acceptable in the eyes of others)?
Maybe there isn’t a specific point where you decide one way or the other, and perhaps some of us try to do the two but sometimes badly, sometimes with success. Some may not even think to ask the question of themselves or consider it an existential irrelevance. However, I think this has shown itself to be increasingly more pertinent to me the older I become and thinking about how this relates to our online identities.
The co-framing project premise was founded on the basic idea of the re-engagement of hope by using a ‘community as curriculum’ (Dave Cormier-styled) strategy in a sector that in my experience is becoming increasingly more repressive and disenfranchised. I needed to do something that I didn’t feel was present in the curriculum and as a teacher I wanted to reclaim that sense of hope for myself. It was for all of us involved and I guess this is where the blurred line emerged between PAR and autoethnography. By reflecting on what we have (personally) to offer the world in terms of transferable skills, only then is it possible to find a space or place in which we can flourish as we work towards becoming the happiest version of ourselves. The co-framing project was never about adhering to the prevalent neo-liberal agenda of employability nor was it designed in terms of supporting the marketisation of education. On the contrary, its aims were much more subtle. We were attempting to make sense of employability as we understood and experienced it in the classroom. It assumed an ‘in itself for itself’ objective but not in a capitalist sense. The projects’ co-devised strategies were applied primarily for purposes of strengthening participant confidence(s) in relation to their own reflexive articulation(s). Not only signalling an articulated celebration of who they are but something that is not benchmarked. The absence of the latter served to free the project up in a way that I felt was needed. Project outcomes demonstrate participant mobilised mindsets as a consequence of their engagement. Thus presenting a window of hope previously absent.
Yesterday I left my role as Course Leader for Media Production (TV & Film) in the FE sector with the goal of completing my Doctorate write up over the forthcoming weeks. It signals a transformative and indeed reflexive time for me. I received some wonderful, thoughtful words and creative gifts. As a ‘thank you’ and in honour of all my colleagues who have worked so tirelessly and done some amazing work with vocational students over the past 14 years, I wrote the following poem:
As I Turn the Page
As I turn the page, this chapter here ends.
Whilst I fully acknowledge it’s the right time to leave my good friends.
There is no denying FE is tough, put politely somewhat unique,
But after 14 years I feel I’ve reached my FE peak.
A necessary move; tinged with sadness,
bittersweet converged with gladness.
Aren’t you scared? I was recently asked.
Afraid of what? I thought. Of others or myself?
Not a chance, the thought soon passed.
My desk is now packed.
Laptop and keys returned on request,
As I move forward, unafraid,
of living my own conquest.
For years I have talked of artistic visionaries, on what others create;
Now time to lay focus on my own research and craft of writing – no time to wait.
Knowing now is right for me, feeling free informed a critical choice
My time here proving essential to finding my own voice.
I’ve been a rainbow in many a clouded tutorial, the students they know.
Encouraged peers to pursue masters and provided comfort for others feeling low.
I’ve facilitated media careers, and many I’ll never know.
Thus, the beauty of teaching, it is in the silent seeds that we sew.
Having witnessed years of undeserved denouncement and criticism of our turf,
Promise one thing, always know your worth.
For if the road ahead remains tough,
Always know you are enough.
You just are enough!
The latter repetition was intended for emphasis, not lazy grammar Mr Ofsted.
As I seek out to redesign my own regulatory framework in my own thinking shed.
In a world of data, I still see faces!
In a world of judgement;
Let them leave no traces.
No traces to map the rest of the way,
For that belongs to you; autonomy to find your own way.
Whatever the journey, whatever the route.
Invest in yourself for you are the fundamental shoot.
So, as I walk towards footsteps that don’t yet exist,
And continue the struggle with an unapologetic raised fist.
For as a woman who is a daughter, a mother, a student, and a writer with a voice who
has something to say…
It is time to disseminate that knowledge and negotiate my way.
The baton must be passed knowing I tried my best,
A re-versioning of myself – as a critical life test.
So not to milk or eek out this goodbye any more,
Thank you all for your energy, for the many conversations, for the laughs and sometimes
sorrowful narratives we have shared at our core.
As I grab my hat and coat for one last time,
one illogical ‘My Little Pony’ song continues to chime…
‘I love horses, they’re the best of the animals. I love horses, they’re my friends.’
The madness of Ofsted (2004) remains a permanent memory for me.
An example of laughing hysterically, a strategy to get us through; drinking copious
amounts of coffee and tea.
And finally, then, as I turn the page of this particular chapter,
I go leaving the campus with one less scouser to share in the laughter.
Speaking of which, under the watchful eye of Ms Fox – I know she will support you all
and keep you in toe.
So, continue to laugh, it’s good for the soul and always know you are your own rainbow.
Long sentences: I have since readdressed one specific sentence highlighted as an example and killed it but allowed the content to live out in several paragraphs instead.
Contradiction: Straight to the point versus language hyperbole – still working on the middle ground. Very true.
Creation of a visual representation (that can perhaps clarify outcomes of methods as determined by actions) as a timeline of events.
Insufficient referencing to the research question (it is an identified problematic not a question – requires clarification). Historical, political, contextual sensitivity required, this is not a ‘social problem’ but a process of negotiation towards participant empowerment (rhizomatic action research).
All makes sense to me.
Feels like clearing out an old set of draws, preparing a case. It is really becoming a process of streamlining and clarifying events – that can seem more complicated with distance.
Tip: What I did…
Last night I had a dream that everyone said it was crap, happy to wake up. It is a mental process, it is mental.
The more I think about the data, confidence and self-belief become consistent strands, maybe I was hoping to draw on this too? It is a mental process, it is mental.
(70) 183d/ 6m=382
(50) 183d/ 6m =273
Looking through the glass pane at the pissing down rain.
Been walking through the heath to relax my brain.
All this when my kids are in Spain.
A necessary sacrifice, a personal choice,
the goal of entitlement to celebrate voice.
‘Pray for all the women out there,’ we say every night.
For God knows, it is going to be an eventful fight.
I hope they remember to say it before they turn out the night-light.
Face cold and damp,
Apple blossom and leaves line the roads –
The wonderful stench of suburban living.
No chocolate eggs this Easter.
But real shells caught in the drain, only fair.
Leftover from the egg and bean lunch,
No time for food prep.
Don’t seem to care.
Now dusk and pondering a glass of red wine or something soft instead?
Still sitting at my desk, enough said.
Excuses, deviations, my eyes do hurt.
Summaries awaiting attention one thing is for cert (mate).
Thinking when walking in the pissing down rain,
analyses help my sense of composure and refrain.
From self-perpetuated, self-inflicted negative waves,
as emotions lie guarded in their caves.
What’s it all for? Bemoans the menacing doubt.
Get back under the table you messed up lout.
Having deleted the auto from autoethnography, I can now move forward as a post-structural ethnographer assuming a participatory (or rhizomatic!?) action research approach (with my students). I consider myself officially reframed. For the record my blog now constitutes a reflexive platform, someone to walk with.
Key lesson for today: When anonymising keep to the same participant ID. When working (over a sustained period of time) with participants ensure that labelling of artefacts remain consistent. Had to spend (waste) a considerable amount of time (my fault) making sure that the pilot identification of data is consistent with main body research.
Back to NVIVO…