I haven't volunteered in a school for a very long time. These past years have been so heavily focused on involvement, spreading my passions even further (if that's possible) and trying to absorb everything university life had to offer. That being said, volunteering with children has been put on the back-burner (I already have 47 students whom I love dearly and spend every waking moment with, so diverting more time for more students never really crossed my mind). 

With the 4th year Emphasis in Teacher Education course, I got a chance to work in a lovely grade 2 classroom - both in classroom management and working closely with 2 specific individuals. I never intended to have tutoring placements with such a young class (I want to teach highschoolers in the future!), but it has been a blessing in terms of challenges and reflections. 

On the one hand, I appreciated how energetic everyone was - there was no need to convince them to be excited about the activities I had prepared for them. On the other hand, I quickly came to realize just having 2-3 activities up your sleeve for the brief 40-50 minute sessions were insufficient - high energy comes hand in hand with short attention spans. We filtered through these activities like everything was in 'fast forward' mode.

From the short time I've spent in this classroom, I honestly feel like our education system is broken - but individuals are trying so hard to keep it together. Think about it. A typical primary school teacher has a class of 30 students - you spend most of the day trying to get young children to listen or to stay engaged [trust me, that is exhausting]. You have to rush through curriculum, and the one-on-one attention needed to help students keep up with the system isn't provided for by the classroom teacher - not that they don't want to, but it simply isn't feasible. Teachers tend to get a lot of 'hate' or 'contempt' because everyone's been through schooling, they've seen it on their ends and can't possibly imagine that it is as difficult as many other jobs out there. Yes, we're not performing brain surgeries here, but I think where my appreciation comes in is the energy and dedication teachers put in - you're not dealing with people your age who can understand simple instructions, it is a constant battle and they fight for every ounce of attention and understanding they can get from students. 

As much as it has been rewarding to be able to help students one-on-one to promote literacy comprehension and confidence (it's easy to get left behind in the system), it has given me the extra 'push' of confirmation in my choice of wanting to teach highschoolers. Yes, I love exhausting myself in many efforts, but I don't want to use my energy there - [not saying it isn't necessary and highly appreciated of those who do], but I want to spend my energy, patience and attention on changing the curriculum and making those connections with students and challenging them in the subjects I am passionate about.

Regardless of that realization, I have loved working with the students [remembered each student's name in that class in the afternoon], and I have never felt so much love from a class full of grade 2's before. You will always learn something from others - regardless of how old they are. People teach you all kinds of things - I can teach them how to use letters to make sounds, and they can teach me more about myself than I ever could've done on my own. I think that's the beauty of teaching - it is always sharing knowledge and experiences and uncovering reflections here and there.

Looking forward to another semester! 

I'm currently taking a fourth year Cultural Studies course called: Text and Image. The title itself seems relatively basic, something rather 'too simple' for a fourth year class. It wasn't until I had Zsuzsa as a professor that I really felt like I was challenged (for once) in Cultural Studies. Year after year, the same texts seem to keep popping up, but in this course, think all the abstract concepts have grounded themselves a little more. 

There is potential instability with the introduction of text to an image. This largely refers to the malleability of the image, as it is - 'defenseless' often times in the pairing with a text. The content text provides causes this instability and it more or less haunts an image. There is so much word play and semantics involved - but these notions and discussions that come out of Magritte's paintings and Michel Foucault's work really forces one to look critically at the relationship between text and image. 

Accompanying surrealism is the delicate balance between unreal and impossible. Unreal referring to the distortion of reality and impossible, referring to the fact that it has a real referent but is reassembled into something impossible. (ex. Magritte's painting of the trees where they become the shape of the leaves itself, but cannot exist in its perfection and referential quality.) This meeting of language and image presents the possibility of the impossible on the surface of the painting. 

A famous painting by Magritte offers the same intellectual grounds for discovery: Ceci N'est Pas une Pipe. "Ceci" in French means "this", which can refer to many things but it is always positing relation. The resemblance of the pipe and the word "pipe" are very different. The former being a logical and analogous representation of a pipe, whereas the word is an arbitrary representation of a pipe. Foucault's second principle is the equivalence between the fact of resemblance and affirmation of a representative bond (signified and signifier). There are representative bonds by resemblance and representative bonds by referent.  They are different by nature. 

By resemblance indicates an affirmation of what it is/representation, and the bond is strong. It is because the image re-affirms itself and there is no gap in between the image and the actual subject (similar to how a passport photo re-affirms your identity, there is no gap). It is self-referential and can legitimize and authorize itself. This is the bond between an image and reality.

By referent on the other hand, it is about absence. The bond is weak because it is arbitrary. There is nothing inherent about a text as it is dependent on culture, language, etc. Text is composed of sign systems that Saussure describes as arbitrary in nature because of its contingent nature. There is distance between these sign systems and the actual referent.

The playfulness of "Ceci N'est Pas une Pipe" comes from the relationship between the image and the text. The image says: I am IT. It is an affirmation of its presence because the image resembles it. Without resemblance, the image would be meaningless. In this case, the image is NOT defenseless because it creates doubt and raises questions to the text. It almost serves as a contradiction to the weak bond that is the textual referent. 

Writing this out helps me process what's been discussed in lecture and seminar. Phew, excited for next week!