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Painterly sky 

  

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Hopefulness or not?

I don’t know where the last year went other than into a busy working life. I think my last blog piece was in April last year. Part of my plan for the blog was to remind myself how to write, and use the blog as a way of keeping writing. Keeping writing seems to have been a bust! At least in blog terms. Although I have been working on a couple of individual pieces for publication, done an introduction to a proceedings and am editing (with colleagues) a collection for SEDA, so maybe writing has still been going on.

My daily working life is one which is fairly full with a lot of reading, writing, presenting, talking, thinking aloud and generally trying to keep up with the busy-ness of developing professional staff and understanding (and helping others understand) the sector I work in. I mostly, most of the time, enjoy what I do. Of late, working has taken over far more of my other time (for my partner, my cat, my house, my sense of self, my connection with friends and novels and the world beyond work – yes there is one, honestly!) and in particular seems to have left me with little time for thinking.

I read two things recently which have pushed me back to this blog and to thinking through writing (and writing to think), and about the future of higher education, as well as my own future place in HE.

The first piece I read was a blog about hope and despair (or not) and higher education in the USA http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/just-visiting/opposite-hope-isnt-despair I thought the piece was sad, but I recognised too a familiar sense of hanging in there by the fingernails that is echoed by many of those I know working in HE in various countries round the world. All we can do is teach, and write and try to make small differences and not be overcome by the pressures of governments and money to undermine any values HE provides, and the despair of a world that seems to grow less fair, less equal and more divided. The author doesn’t believe they can change the world for the better through their work, but there is a sense of trying (not despairing) to make small differences to individuals.

The other piece I read was an article about being an academic reflecting on the impact of overwork on health and trying to find some balance. I was reminded of the besetting problem faced by those whose work is often cerebral – we separate our bodies and our brains so very effectively that our bodies have to shout at us, very loudly, to be heard (usually by laying us flat!) . My own body has been sending me signals for a while now, and I’m trying to listen, but the bruises from a recent fall are a strong reminder that I wasn’t listening very well!

It seems to me that HE is at a crisis point (which may take 20 years to actually fully show). Governments have/are ‘tinkering’ and the ideological shape of that tinkering has yet to be understood. Technology is radically changing the sources and ownership of knowledge. Economic changes and approaches are driving students expectations, managerial processes and professional practices to such an extent that HE is already very different to how it was even 20 years ago. Not all the changes are negative; in fact the partnership between students and staff in Universities and the opening of HE to a far wider range of participants (both as students and as academics) is a bright light in murky waters.

But we can’t go on hoping it will all go away and everything will return to normal. And I’m definitely not convinced that the increased managerialism and business-minded approaches that seem to be advocated as an alternative are in any way suitable for education at any level.

Education changes lives. Education opens doors. Education creates citizens and revolutionaries. Education is scary, and beautiful. Those who are educated ask questions, they think, they interact, they explore creative solutions. Universities are full of educated people, so surely the answers are already seeded in the minds and hearts of those people. If we are at a crisis point, we should be well placed to identify creative solutions. We shouldn’t be despairing the end of HE as we know it, but imagining and even creating the future HE as it could (and maybe will?) be.

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Unexpected Sky

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This looks like snow, but is actually sky.

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Seasons change

I’ve been away for a couple of weeks this month, with little Internet access; hence no blogging. Yes, I know I could set up blog entries to go out while I’m away, but on the small chance someone responds I would like to be able to pick it up. In someways coming back to the blog, now at the end of September makes me more aware of the seasonal changes. I’m writing this in the garden, with birds singing around me, but the smells and colours definitely signal the shift to autumn. The leaves are still on the trees, but the berries almost outnumber them! Rosehips have replaced rose petals in some places, even though one or two hardy flowers are hanging in there. And of course autumn brings a new academic year to education (whatever level of study) and a change in energy. I love the buzz it brings, and the airy mixture of excitement and anxiety. Lots of new growth and new beginnings going on there: in contrast to the endings and slowdown here in the garden.

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Yeh I know everyone has probably been doing it for ages, but I’ve just discovered spine poetry via this great blog, so I’ll probably have to give it a go!

A Little Blog of Books

After my previous attempt at spine poetry, here is my latest effort… and this time, it rhymes!  Spine poetry can be quite challenging as it is hard to come up with something that actually makes some sort of sense, even allowing for some artistic or poetic licence.  It’s still fun though 🙂  I doubt I’ll be able to manage another one that actually rhymes.  I think that might be my peak.

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Friday Fun – What’s your favorite quote (this week)?

I think if I had to pick one of these entertaining quotations, it would definitely be the red shoes! My dance shoes are red.

Live to Write - Write to Live

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, writing-related question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: What’s your favorite quote … this week?

Susan Nye:
Life is short. Wear red shoes.

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Lisa J. Jackson: The person who starts the race is different from

the person who finishes the race.

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Deborah Lee Luskin: “This too shall pass.” – in reference to the current heat wave.

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Wendy Thomas: “So much has been said and sung of beautiful young girls, why doesn’t somebody wake up to the beauty of old women?” Harriet Beech Stowe

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Jamie Wallace: Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the idea that life is serious.

– Brandan Gill

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Summer at last?

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