I believe I am socially constructed.
Not the Social Constructivism of Leo Vygotsky, popular in 90’s teacher training but my own growing sense that I am the product of encounters, both good and bad, that have shaped the person I am today.
Specifically, for the purposes of this OCA E-bulletin Confessions of… I mean the tutors and colleagues whose ideas, advice and opinions have shaped the path of my studies and influence how I have perceived the landscape of my educational journey. Thank you.
May I encourage you, therefore, to pursue tutor recommendations for further reading and viewing and do so with a notepad open on your lap? Be open to influences. My tutor recently asked me to read Summers of Discontent by Raymond Tallis. In it I found this quote that, for me, confirms my belief.
‘We are of our times and have a unique take on them; individuals with a single trajectory through the world we collectively fashion and maintain.’ (Tallis, 2015,p.187)
Feedback on my first WeAreOCA submission indicated it had been of help and it is a satisfying feeling to believe you contribute positively to others’ development or appreciation of the art we love. In doing so I encountered ideas, phrases that stimulated my thoughts in other creative directions and lead in turn to this piece of writing.
There is reciprocity in the artistic and educational world we shape and maintain. Furthermore, it is so egalitarian that anyone, from any stage of their development, has this power at their disposal.
So I am suggesting that there is an imperative to engage with other students and the OCA provides opportunities through forums to critique. ‘Constructed socially’ reminds us to be positive, and yet a well phrased critique of a work, even one that highlights areas of improvement, addresses perceived deficiencies, can be edifying for the recipient of the critique and the…. Critter for want of a better expression. It allows us to practice using the language and develop the vocabulary we need to express artistic ideas we encounter. That’s why I am pleased to be writing these Confessions.
I am grateful because my rate of progress has been accelerated through engagement. That said, I have been guilty of being so focussed on my single trajectory that I chastise myself for not participating enough. There is still time, at any time, to do more. And I will.
Sometimes however, tutors take a firmer line and it is often necessary and justifiable. If a horn doesn’t honk, you won’t dodge the harm. This is where I feel the journey, the pilgrimage like the Camino to Santiago de la Compostella, has changed me.
I remember a throwaway remark my very first tutor made on my first course. It cut me to the core at the time and now seems so inconsequential as to barely register. I have been exposed to enough critiques that I feel I am quite resilient – dare I say immune – to criticism. Even the most uncharitable kind.
The purpose of studies is to build you up – strong – like a statue. First with lots of scaffolding but, over the course of time, the scaffolding is successively removed as to reveal a structure capable of standing on its own two feet – even in the strong winds and rain of criticism.
The fact that scaffolding, as a teaching strategy, unfolded from Vygotsky’s Social Constructivism is particularly satisfying point to reach in my argument. Complete – like a fully formed student realising they are actually an artist. Finding the ability to stand up to the slings and arrows that the world might throw at you, is linked to finding you voice and exhibiting discernment.
There will come a point in your evolution where you believe so much and so strongly in what you are doing that you will be prepared to stand your ground and defend your stance and justify your position. This will be evidenced in a changing relationship to your tutor. In level one and to a lesser extent level two, learning was something done to me. A more passive student to tutor relationship. I would never have dreamt of questioning, challenging my tutor’s assessment. In level three I am finding it more of a partnership. More evenly yolked together in ploughing through my assignments. More a meeting of equals. I am prepared to argue back, with reason not belligerence all because my colleagues, people I call friends, engaged with me and made me feel strong.
So this is where I appeal to you for continued support. It is a requirement for level three students to be seen to engage with other students. In future posts I will be sharing my own specific concerns and will invite your participation. I will invite critique and criticism of the art I upload, the ideas I explore and the lessons I feel I have learnt and hopefully the dialogue we engage in will be mutually beneficial.
Indeed, socially constructed.
Images: Adrian Eaton, Elassomorphs – self portraits of collections of interests.
Also published on Medium.