Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Inspire me, I dare you.

It has become the opium of the masses for those who gaze with longing eyes on the pay packet of the Senior Leader. It's perfect little form must fit, must be the right size for the pre-formatted box, or as I am seeing increasingly, it must fit between the windows of the corridor, to be read once by a proud director and then forgotten to the slowly abrasing elbows and shoulder of a thousand rushing, barging, ignoring students. It is that haven of soundbite; the inspirational quotation. It is the Quote of the Week. The appropriated gobbet that holds within its words some pervasive message of peace, of hope, of hard work paid off, but it really just sits still, bathing in the blissful ignorance of one long dead. I told you I was ill, he said.

But alas, If the opium of the masses is the (in)famous quotation, then I am on harder stuff. I am the smoker with the hand-rolled cigar, the craft bear drinker, and I wear a tweed cap. Ironically, of course. I love a quotation, but I can't stand the humdrumery (definitely a real word) of so many of them. They are chosen and presented without thought, without care and without any student consideration. I apologise if this next statement pulls tears into the eyes of some aspiring Ministers for Education, but painting quotations on walls and putting them on boards during form time to sit with little to no acknowledgement doesn't make students cleverer. It doesn't make them more conscientious or aspiring because for the most part the quotations that swill around the hi-tops of students on their diurnal passage look as if they have been saved up from Christmas crackers.

I like quotations that come from unlikely places. I love those that are challenging to preconceptions. I adore those that are unique. Anyone can find a quotation that talks about how hard you have to work to be a great success, or how every child is a unique little butterfly. So how about showing your students a different angle? Perhaps the gravitas of:

  Two possibilities exist: Either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying. – Arthur C Clark

Or maybe, to counteract "It'll be okay" syndrome:

This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time. – Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club)

 Why not use these moments of un-curriculumed freedom to have a look at events from a alternative perspectives:

We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita; "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." I suppose we all thought that, one way or another. – Robert Oppenheimer, Inventor of the Atomic Bomb

But these are perhaps too conventional still. How about any of these:

Who was the first man to look at a house full of objects and to immediately assess them only in terms of what he could trade them in for in the market likely to have been? Surely he can only have been a thief. – David Graeber

You can go home again, the General Temporal Theory asserts, so long as you understand that home is a place where you have never been. – Ursula Le Guin

If you want to watch telly, go watch Scooby Doo. That programme was so cool; every time there was a church with a ghoul, or a ghost in a school, they looked beneath the mask. And what was inside? The janitor, or the dude who ran the water slide. Because throughout history, every mystery, ever solved, has turned out to be not magic. - Tim Minchin

When I went to the Yellow Cab Company I passed the Cancer Building and I remembered that there were worse things than looking for a job you didn't want. – Charles Buckowski

If they give you lined paper, write the other way. – Juan Jimenez (also the preface to Fahrenheit 451)

I think of writing as a sculptural medium. You are not building things. You are removing things, chipping away at language to reveal a living form. – Will Self

Being God isn't easy. If you do too much, people get dependent on you, and if you do nothing, they lose hope. You have to use a light touch. Like a safecracker, or a pickpocket. – Futurama
My advice is stand firm for what you believe in, until and unless logic and experience prove you wrong. Remember, when the emperor looks naked, the emperor is naked. The truth and the lie are not "sort of" the same thing. And there's no aspect, no facet, no moment in life that can't be improved with pizza. Thank you. – Daria Morgendorffer
I had to look in the dictionary
To find out the meaning of unrequited
While she was giving herself for free
At a party to which I was never invited
- Billy Bragg

1. You can't win. 2. You can't break even. 3. You can't even get out of the game. – Ginsberg’s Theorum

I have never found anywhere, in the domain of art, that you don't have to walk to. (There is quite an array of jets, buses and hacks which you can ride to Success; but that is a different destination.) It is a pretty wild country. There are, of course, roads. Great artists make the roads; good teachers and good companions can point them out. But there ain't no free rides, baby. No hitchhiking. And if you want to strike out in any new direction — you go alone. With a machete in your hand and the fear of God in your heart. – Ursula Le Guin

Most of the wind happens where there are trees. - Paul Muldoon

Look at all those things. Lovely ain't they. But my greatest advice? Find some of your own, from people you respect, and then you can talk about their words to your students. All of the aforementioned will be used from September, along with trucks and trucks of others; an ever changing cloud of words that turn black and rain and snow and then open up to the sun but never fail to have an impact because they are part of a dynamic conversation.I think that the current teaching ethic is one that rewards stasis. Despite its outspoken chagrin of coasting, it rewards systems that stay the same. But ideas that put things in place. Hmmm. Putting things in place. That is a vile little goblin in itself. Stop putting things in place, because that just means that they are to be left. If you paint something on a wall it will be ignored because that is its inevitable function. Talk, change, EXIST AS A CONVERSATION.

Just, in all this quoting and quothing, remember:

A witty saying proves nothing. - Voltaire

Oh, shit. I think that's just formed a paradox. 


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