Workshop 2, 2013: After a wild and stormy day…

… in Melbourne on Wednesday 2 October, it was great to see once again a diverse cross-section of English educators (and others) participating in the second workshop of the stella 2.0 project at VATE.

The session began very informally as participants sat down with laptops or iPads or pen-and-paper (and some with wine and cheese) and re-acquainted themselves with old friends, or familiar or new colleagues. Some continued to chat. Some glanced through the chapter by Garth Boomer (‘Negotiating the curriculum’) or the article by Susanne Gannon (‘Changing lives and standardising teachers’) that had been set as pre-reading. Others accessed some of the writing that had been posted on the stella 2.0 Forum since our last workshop. And still others took up a piece of writing they were already engaged in before arriving at the workshop.

After 20 minutes or so, Graham welcomed everyone and outlined some developments in the stella 2.0 project since our last workshop. Not least of the developments was the wonderfully varied, thought provoking and insightful writing that people have posted on the Forum. From the numbers of viewings detailed on the Forum, it is clear that many people beyond the immediate participants in the stella 2.0 project are reading this writing. That is very exciting, indeed. It speaks well of the interest building around the project here and now, and it augurs well for the future of the project as we seek to connect with English educators in other states of Australia (and later internationally).

Graham then went on to frame the activities of this workshop. We would continue our dialogue (talking and writing) about the effects of standards-based reforms on the curriculums we currently work with and on our practices as English/literacy educators. And there would be a particular focus on notions of ‘negotiating the curriculum’, in part prompted by the writing of people like Garth Boomer. This was timely since, as Susanne Gannon (editor of English in Australia) explained via video, a special issue of EinA is planned for the coming months which will be engaging with Garth Boomer’s work. Some of the shorter narrative writing from the stella 2.0 project might end up being published in this special issue.

Scott spoke about some of the wide range of ways in which Garth Boomer, as teacher, advocate, researcher and administrator, was influenced by the work of English educators and researchers such as James Britton, Douglas Barnes and Harold Rosen. He mentioned some of the ways in which Boomer’s own work has influenced English teaching in Australia in the 1970s, 80s and 90’s and beyond.

Following this, for 20-25 minutes, the room was abuzz with discussion (in small groups) of Garth’s or Susanne’s texts.

The next 40 minutes presented a very different aural landscape: people settled into their individual writing against a background of quietly pattering fingers on keyboards. Most of this writing seemed to be in response to the pre-reading (as seen in Philip’s meme sequence and accompanying commentary, already posted on the Forum) and some was on other issues prompted by stella 2.0 conversations (see Pen’s short story about English teaching in India).

At the conclusion of the workshop (before a large group of workshop participants set off for dinner in neighbouring Smith Street), a number of people shared their writing-in-progress, and this prompted some stimulating discussion about the kinds of curriculum work that English teachers and others are called upon to do in schools and other educational institutions.

We all look forward to seeing some of that writing posted on the Forum in the coming days. Needless to say, we encourage all interested educators (whether or not you have been directly participating in the stella 2.0 workshops) to respond to these postings on the Forum. The more the merrier.

The third stella 2.0 workshop is scheduled for Wednesday 27th November at VATE, starting at 5.30pm. This will be the final workshop in this current series, but by no means the last one. Plans are already under way for another series (connecting with English educators in other states of Australia) early in 2014.

We hope to see all participants back for this third and final workshop. But in the meantime, please get involved by: reading the texts that people post on the Forum and writing a response where you feel so moved. Also, why not tell your friends and colleagues about this new stella 2.0 space. You can use twitter if you like!


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