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‘My learning’ Category

  1. Research

    4 April 2015 by shartley


    Image source: author’s own textbook

    I’m currently studying EDCN800 Introduction to Educational Research at Macquarie University.  It is the only compulsory subject in my course but I put it off to last because it seemed so dry, and well, boring.  I have my regrets, however, since it would have been quite useful to know what I should be doing before I submitted abstracts on behalf of my team to international conferences.  When we were accepted to these conferences I had to write academic level articles on the basis of haphazard and amateurish research.  One of these articles was for a peer-reviewed journal and one of the two peers who assessed the paper slammed it for not being written in the acceptable academic format.  I had avoided the more academic format because I didn’t want to pretend that the research was formally conducted.  I have now resubmitted the piece into a more acceptable format but it still awaits final approval.

    More recently, I have been trying to support a friend who has been designing real proper research under the guidance of a university professor.  The professor’s critiquing of the attempts to write a research question and plan the research methods was a painful process but the frustration was worth it in the end because I think there is a very valuable research project currently underway.  As I do this course I can, in retrospect, see more clearly what was required and if I had completed this subject before this year it might have been a much less painful process.  Now, as I study the ethics of research I wonder how much more should be done to cover ethical considerations in my friend’s research.  It is also giving me more depth to my knowledge of research methods for when I teach Society and Culture.

    In the first semester of my Masters of Education I chose one subject (curriculum) because a friend was also doing it and another subject because I felt knowledgeable in that area (pedagogy).  I had enrolled in the course just so I could obtain the piece of paper and letters to look good on my CV but within a couple of weeks of participating in these two subjects I was enjoying myself immensely and did quite well as a result.  However, the one aspect that I was continually criticised about was the negligible evidence to support my (soapbox) statements.  I have improved a lot in this area since then.

    Now as I study EDCN800 I expect high achievement from myself but I’m not succeeding. I’m engaged in the subject because of the afore-mentioned application but despite being quite numeracy literate I struggle with the statistical concepts and analysis of data.  I only received 65% for the first of five assignments.  Today I battled with the concepts of reliability and validity with all their different coefficient measurements.  The concepts in themselves are fine but when I have to apply them to a technical academic article it becomes all muddled up and difficult to navigate.  Not only do I need to understand these concepts for EDCN800 but I am also writing a literature review for EDCN806 which requires an examination of the reliability and validity of the articles I am including in the review.  It is all driving me insane and I question my ambition to complete a PhD down the track.  As a result I’m feeling a fair bit of empathy with my students at the moment.

    Anyway, that’s enough complaining, I need to attack a question about evaluations using numerical ratings and then write some of my own questionnaire items to assess student experience in studying the Masters of Education.  It is so much easier to help my students design their research for their Personal Interest Projects (PIPs) in HSC Society and Culture than to do it myself at a university level.  But here I go…

    Stay tuned.

  2. One More Mark

    15 February 2015 by shartley

    We recently had an assembly at my school to celebrate the students who received an ATAR over 90 in the HSC last year.  There was a brief introduction from the Principal, a guest speaker who was surprisingly entertaining and in-depth about having respect for yourself by demonstrating respect for others, a speech from an all-rounder from the class of 2014 and a speech from the student who achieved the highest ATAR in 2014.  The students’ speeches consistently referred to balance but also a commitment to study.  The Head of Curriculum spoke about “one more mark”.

    I am currently finishing my Masters in Education with a plan in place to do a literature review as one of my last subjects in preparation for a Masters of Research as a lead-in to a PhD.  A long road is marked ahead.  For my PhD I plan to examine the increasing emphasis on marks as the main goal instead of marks being a mere measure of learning.  Sometimes the learning component of 13 years of formal school education is lost in a single number.  Too many times I ask students what they want to do when they leave school and they have no idea.  When I ask what they want to achieve at school they say a good mark in the HSC.  I ask why and more often than not it is to please their parents.  I ask what interests them in what they’re learning, and they say not much, they are just aiming for good marks.  How sad is that?

    The “one more mark” speech implored students to ask their teachers what they could do for just one more mark.  You see, data analysis of the school’s HSC results revealed numerous 88s and 89s in individual subjects so the aim is to push students into Band 6 (90+) because we have more Band 5s than the average school, shouldn’t it be easy to push them into Band 6 with a one more mark philosophy?  I think not.  I think the underlying problem is more associated with a culture of teaching to the test and spoon-feeding, of memorising and regurgitating, not just in my school but across many, many schools.  Band 6 is about demonstrating high-order thinking skills, critical thinking, problem solving and the like.  Remembering one more fact will not push an 89 to a 90.

    Now as much as I am an advocate for learning to be a focus over the memorising for tests, part of my job is preparing students for the HSC and its testing regime.  In Society and Culture students need to know, understand and apply some core concepts.  We drill the eleven main definitions underlying just about everything studied in Society and Culture.  My Year 11s recently sat their first test of these eleven definitions.  One student perfectly provided the first six but then left the remaining five blank.  She didn’t want to even try to use words from her own understanding, she only wanted to give the precise words of the syllabus.  Again, how sad is that?

    This weekend I marked a practice HSC Business Studies extended response I had given as holiday work.  They were a long way below the standard I expect from these students.  I believe the majority didn’t do them over the holidays but the night before they submitted it.  The question was How can different sources of funds help a business achieve its financial objectives?  Both the sources of funds and financial objectives listed in the syllabus were handed out when the question was issued at the end of last year but many students failed to refer to them, probably because they just took the question from the ediary entry.  Most of those who did use these syllabus terms, did not link them to show how different sources of funds help businesses to achieve financial objectives but merely provided textbook definitions of each term and tacked on introductions and conclusions.  Needless to say, it was a disappointing marking process.  However, despite my reservations about the “one more mark” speech I am going to hand these responses back with marks and an expectation of how many more marks they are to achieve in their second attempt.  I feel like I’m going against my principles but that it could be a good way for them to see that their poor attempt at the only bit of homework I set over seven or so weeks of the holidays just isn’t good enough.  The increase of marks expected have been determined by my gut instinct based on having spent a year with these students and thus knowing what they can achieve.  Some students are being asked for just two more marks, some ten and a whole range in between.  Wish me luck!

  3. Everything old is new again

    21 September 2014 by shartley


    Image source: Shani Hartley

    Remixes, mash-ups, whatever the young people are calling it these days, leadership literature has nothing new under the sun.  Macbeath (2006) takes us back to morals, Kellerman (2007) returns to using the language of ‘leaders and followers’ after some of the literature had a stint at promoting everyone as a leader, Eacott (2011) has returned to Bourdieu for inspiration and Blackmore (2013) is looking at leadership through a feminist lens.  Albeit there are slightly new nuanced meanings of leadership hashed out in the process, the search for a holy grail of leadership continues.

    This holy grail represents the easiest and most reliable path to greatness through leadership and change management.  However, this holy grail is a myth because there are so many factors at play in leading an organisation, particularly an educational organisation, that all variables cannot be accounted in a simple instruction manual or recipe.  They make some good guides to follow but they cannot be strictly adhered to because they do not represent the real world.  It’s like click-bait for blog posts – the ones most clicked are those that have an identified number of items in a list and use marketing techniques to suck you in.

    The worst article I have read so far as part of my ‘Leadership for Learning’ course is Zimmerman’s (2004) climbing a mountain analogy.  I wanted to puke.  So I thought I’d give it a go myself.  We recently installed a new kitchen in our house so in 20 easy steps I’ll guide you through how replacing a kitchen is like leading a school through change.

    1. Make a decision that the old kitchen/paradigm/building/etc is not good enough anymore
    2. Convince others that this is the right/best thing to do
    3. Dream big – plan what the new kitchen/paradigm/building/etc will include
    4. Measure and cost – what is achievable?
    5. Adjust, compromise
    6. Have a plan drawn up
    7. If possible, hire additional workers to do what you can’t do yourself
    8. Rip out the old kitchen/paradigm/building/etc
    9. Suffer during the transition process
    10. Put in some hard yakka yourself (last school holidays I did 65 hours of painting in one week)
    11. Discover the unexpected hurdles and expenses, and changing parameters along the way (doors needed to be removed to fit the new large fridge, the oven doesn’t have a clock/timer!)
    12. Adjust, compromise
    13. Everything takes longer than expected
    14. Adjust, compromise
    15. Enjoy the shiny new things (the fridge really is lovely)
    16. Discover that not everything has improved from before (there’s less storage space!)
    17. It seems there are a few bits and pieces which never seem to be finished off
    18. Settle into the new kitchen/paradigm/building/etc
    19. Turn your attention to the next area in need of a revamp
    20. Return to Step 1


    Blackmore, J. (2013) A feminist critical perspective on educational leadership. International Journal of Leadership in Education. 16(2), 139-154.

    Eacott, S. (2011). Leadership strategies: re-conceptualising strategy for educational leadership. School Leadership and Management, 31(1) 35-46.

    Kellerman, B. (2007). What every leader needs to know about followersHarvard Business Review, 85 (12), 84-91.

    MacBeath, J. (2006). Leadership for learning: quest for meaning. Leading and Managing, 12(2), 1-9.

    Zimmerman, J. (2004). Leading organizational change is like climbing a mountainThe Educational Forum, 68(Spring), 234-242.

  4. Leadership and Learning

    21 September 2014 by shartley

    I am Here for the Learning Revolution

    Image source: Wesley Fryer (Flickr)

    This post (aka rant) is a result of being part of a team driving change at my school; studying not one, but two university subjects focusing on leadership; and having numerous conversations about leadership in recent times beyond these circumstances.

    There’s a fine balance between the autocratic/transactional style of one-way communicating telling staff how things are to be done and a constant consultative style that becomes caught in trying to please everyone so that nothing ends up being done.  It isn’t a dichotomy but a spectrum of leadership style.  As a leader I like to work alongside people but realise there are times strong decision making and even discipline may be required (although I know to treat the action not the person, just like with students).

    Character traits apply to leadership style but a lot of the traits demonstrated by leaders are an act, not necessarily something they are given at birth.  I’m naturally an introvert but assume a stronger persona because I’m someone who strives to be a high achiever (if a job needs to be done I want to do it well). This is why most people view me as an extrovert.  For instance, I hate conflict as a passive observer but being in it or trying to reconcile conflict between others is worse.  Yet, I am good at it.  I once went to a psychologist who helped in career matters and he told me that my sense of pride in doing things well over-rode being out of my comfort zone but it wasn’t sustainable as a constant practice.  At uni we were once asked what we thought was the most important aspect of leading change, and everyone else said communication while I said, all-in.  Communication is just a method for driving an all-in attitude.  I therefore work on solidarity, cohesion and an all-in attitude within teams.

    I believe there should be a clear vision in schools and that a vision should have at its core a focus on learning, but too often I see schools avoiding the word learning and making the vision more about character.  I wonder how much this is to absolve parents from that role?  I think developing character is important but learning across all aspects of life is important and surely, the main purpose of secondary education.

    I think it is important for my current school to move from a transactional leadership paradigm to a transformational paradigm (Bass 1997) but beyond this, it needs to bring in more open leadership style, with a focus on people more than administration (Kotter 1990).  I want to be part of that paradigm shift.  I like what Robinson, Lloyd and Rowe (2008) and Davies and Davies (2005) have to say about leadership because although they simplify leadership, they don’t oversimplify it into unrealistic expectations of a mere series of steps to follow. For instance, I like Robinson et al emphasise building trust and it appears genuine, not just a means for meeting goals.  Davies & Davies are excellent at moving leadership theory for product based organisations to the school environment and taking context of environment into account.

    I love Eacott’s (2011) analysis of Bourdieu (who I studied extensively as part of a writing and literature course) partly because “A central aim of Bourdieu’s sociology is the attempt to remove the dichotomy between the individual and society” and partly because Eacott demonstrates how the accountability of schools have become the end-goals in themselves (p.42).  The HSC should be a measurement, not the goal in itself.  The learning involved in undertaking the HSC should be the goal.

    We need a focus on learning in an environment of trust and strong relationships.  Otherwise, schools become a competitive arena about point scoring, amongst staff and amongst students.  Even between teachers and students.  Some of the top academic achieving schools seem to want to foster an individual selfish competitive environment, taking away the focus on learning to a focus on marks, and even though I’m competitive by nature and take pride in high marks (mine and my students’), a system that thrives on that is my idea of hell.


    Bass, B.M. (1997). Does the transactional-transformational leadership paradigm transcend organizational and national boundaries? American Psychologist, 52(2), 130-139. DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.52.2.130

    Davies, B.J. & Davies B. (2005). The strategic dimensions of leadership. In Davies, B., Ellison, L. & Bowring-Carr, C. (eds) School Leadership in the 21st Century (pp.8-16). London: RoutledgeFalmer.

    Eacott, S. (2011). Leadership strategies: re-conceptualising strategy for educational leadership. School Leadership and Management, 31(1), 35-46. DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2010.540559

    Kotter, J. (1990). Management and Leadership. In Kotter (ed.), A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management (pp.2-18).  New York, NY: The Free Press.

    Robinson, V. M. J., Lloyd, C. A., & Rowe, K. J. (2008). The Impact of Leadership on Student Outcomes: An Analysis of the Differential Effects of Leadership Types. Educational Administration Quarterly44(5), 635–674.


  5. NY8: The Last Day

    20 July 2014 by shartley

    Guide (600x800)

    I awoke to my last morning in New York frazzled about what little time was left and what to do with it.  It then felt like I moved in slow motion as I began the packing process and readied myself for the day.  At breakfast I had my map and guide book out, my brain flicking through ideas of what to do out of the great list of options and time kept ticking away.  In the end I decided to go with my original plan from days earlier, to visit the art galleries in Chelsea and walk a bit of the High Line.  I went by subway (Grand Central to Union Square and then across to 8th Avenue on the 14th Street L Line).

    HighLine1 (800x600)

    The High Line used to be a railway for trains transporting freight to and from Manhattan’s industrial centre but due to the increasing use of trucks for such matters, the High Line ceased being used in 1980.  After much campaigning, it became a public open space, including gardens and scenic viewpoints (further history).  What they have done here is superb.  My photos do not do it justice.  As my guide book recommended, I bought gelato at the market stalls but then had trouble juggling money and ice cream to buy a T-shirt. 

    HighLine2 (600x800)HighLine3 (600x800)HighLine4 (600x800)

    Once I had walked from 14th Street to 23rd of the High Line I descended to the Chelsea art gallery district.  Some of my favourites were:


    I became rather melancholic as I wandered through the galleries.  I think it started with viewing Napalm by Banksy and then every piece of art that depicted sadness resonated with me.  The sadness became more intense as I ran out of time, even after deciding a cab back to the hotel instead of the subway would buy me more time.  I didn’t want to leave New York quite yet.

    Pera (600x800)

    I checked out of the hotel with 5 minutes to spare and met Melissa for lunch at Pera, another gourmet delight, and soon after I headed to JFK as President Obama was arriving.  The trip home was uneventful with QANTAS failing to live up to the standard it set on the trip over.  I mean, someone occupied the seat next to me the whole way, the trip was mostly in darkness (but flying across Sydney early in the morning was good) and even the food wasn’t as palatable.  I’m glad to be home but I hope to return to New York one day to finish what I started.

  6. NY7: The Reason

    18 July 2014 by shartley

    ConferenceProgramILT (800x800)

    The day finally arrived.  I woke at 2.30am local time and worked another couple of hours on the presentation.  I was nervous until I sat in the session before ours.  The presenters were quite interesting and distracted me from what was coming up.  In the end, we were both cool, calm and collected, even with our Principal in the audience.  Apparently he took photos.  I haven’t seen them yet.  There were four presentations in our session and after we had all spoken there was a Q&A time which we dominated because people were really interested in what we were doing.  I was approached at the end by someone for James Cook University who would be happy to act as a guide for our future research.

    DeLaSalle (800x800)

    Our Principal had told us we should visit St Patrick’s Cathedral and see St John Baptist De La Salle.  So when we finished at the conference of the day, we did.  And we lit a couple of candles for him.

    Thanks to Yelp, we located a Japanese Restaurant for our celebrations.  We were on 43rd Street, looking across the road to where the restaurant should be but could only see a Japanese restaurant with a different name.  We crossed the road and at the front of a stark white corporate foyer there was a small sign with Sakagura written on it but the decor and the sign didn’t seem to match-up.  There was a man at a concierge desk in the foyer so we entered, surprised the doors were unlocked, and asked the concierge.  Oh yes, he said, just go in further, turn left and take the stairs to the basement.  I asked him if he would recommend the restaurant.  You’ll love it, he replied.  As we descended the stairs and passed piles of rubbish, like descending to some drama out of Law & Order,  we came upon the restaurant.  We had to wait 20 minutes for a table but it was worth it.  Wonderful food, plum flavoured sake and great service.  For the first time, on the last of eight nights in New York, I slept through the night.

    Sakagura (800x600) SakaguraDessert (800x800)


  7. NY4-6: Work and Play

    16 July 2014 by shartley


    Central Park

    Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were a big mixture of work and play.  Melissa joined me on the Sunday and we worked for several hours on the paper and presentation.

    But of course we had to play too.  We walked through Central Park when it was so muggy I was red-faced, dripping in sweat and my clothes sticking to me when we arrived at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or ‘The Met’.  We started in the Greek and Roman section and I immediately felt sorry that my daughter wasn’t with me.  I enjoyed The Met much more than MoMA.  The amount of art and artefacts on display became overwhelming, particularly in comparison to Australian museums and galleries, and we left after four hours (including lunch).

    Bruno Mars

    Bruno Mars

    On Monday night we saw Pharrell Williams and Bruno Mars at Madison Square Garden.  It was a lot of fun.  A lady from Connecticut sat next to me.  She and her 18yo daughter had come in by train.  The daughter was going to college in California but was on Summer break auditioning for all sorts of shows in New York.  They’re encouraged by a cousin who wrote a production that is about to appear off-Broadway, Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical.  I was asked what I’d seen of New York already and included the 9/11 Memorial in my list.  Another cousin had died in the 9/11 attack but they hadn’t been to the memorial yet to find his name.  Sitting in Madison Square Garden waiting for a concert wasn’t the time or place to delve for a deeper story.


    As for the whole purpose for being in New York, that has started.  There is a wide range of international academics at this conference, like ICERI2013, but it is not as professionally organised.  For instance, the WiFi is awfully slow.



    I’m a big nerdy fan of Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis who come from Australia but now work in Chicago at the University of Illinois.  They have fabulous ideas for modern pedagogy (see their website, New Learning) and I believe they are the people behind The Learner conference and its publications.  They opened proceedings with some really good information that supports what we are doing at my school.

    ConferencePedagogy2 ConferencePedagogy1

    Other sessions we have been to have been less than dynamic and contain lots of, ‘well duh’ moments.  For example, it has been discovered that university students who are late to class or often absent, don’t do so well when they are out on practical placement in schools.  Hopefully when it’s our turn we don’t have the same effect on our audience.

  8. NY3: The Aussies

    14 July 2014 by shartley

    LibraryHotelRooftopLounge (609x617)

    I started Saturday with a quick stroll around the local shops, mainly shoe shops, along Madison and 5th Avenue but didn’t buy anything.  I then grabbed my laptop and set up office in the Rooftop Lounge, choosing the leather couch in the middle picture above.  I was alone on the 14th floor, which sounds like a movie title, particularly when you realise it is actually the 13th floor (the emergency evacuation plan told me).  After a couple of hours of successful work I returned to my room for my now daily nap but scoffed some mini-bar snacks as a lunch substitute.

    It has been an unusual Winter holiday in that it seemed everyone I knew on Instagram and beyond were travelling in foreign lands and it turns out some were in New York the same time as me.  I had a day’s overlap with @townesy77 but we were in different areas of Manhattan and failed to connect.  On this occasion, however, I met with @biancaH80, @waginski and @johnqgoh for pizza.  Bianca and Lee have been travelling across the USA with their two boys for a few weeks now, with another week to go.  As they told their stories it was a strange experience because I knew most of their stories already, since I’ve been following their trip on Twitter, Instagram and in Bianca’s blog.  The travelling they’re doing is an amazing learning experience for them but also their children.  Early on when we had children we weighed up travelling versus private schooling and went with the private schooling.  Generally I have no regrets but sometimes when I see and hear what the Hewes family are doing, I wonder.

    I’ve also been following John’s journey.  He has been on a week long course at Harvard and a blog is never going to cover the depth of what he has learned and is still processing.  I enjoyed listening as he continued to explore his thoughts and reflections of his experience.  Much of the conversation was about how what we do in our schools reflects our values, particularly for principals.  So if a Principal is participating in classes, professional development of staff and generally being involved in the learning processes of a school you can see how much he or she values learning.  I know John does all these things.

    Pizza (800x600)

    Pizza at Luigi’s on 8th Avenue

    EmpireStateBuilding (600x800)

    AussiesInNY (600x800)

    Walking down Broadway – (1) Empire State Building (2) Our Point of Departure

    We had met at the SE corner of Central Park, walked the Southern edge, stopped for pizza, made for Times Square and then followed Broadway until we reached the street of Bianca and Lee’s hotel.  Similarly, John and I walked (and talked) until we reached the street of his accommodation and then I completed the loop back to mine.  It was a very pleasant evening for it too.  I have done a lot of walking since I’ve been here and enjoyed it immensely, except for the blisters!

    The_Aussie_Walk 20000Steps (640x656)

    Saturday may not have been as jammed pack as the previous two days but connecting with other passionate educators is of deep value and the life experiences we are all experiencing here will add to who we are as people in general but particularly as teachers.

  9. NY2: Respect

    12 July 2014 by shartley

    GrandCentralStation (654x800)

    Today’s touring started with Grand Central Station which is indeed grand but not as large and cavernous as I thought it would be, damn Hollywood.  I then braved the Subway to Downtown.  Actually, the happiest, most helpful and friendliest people were on the Subway.  For instance, there was a man who wasn’t certain he was on the right train but a couple of different locals generously helped him.  He was wearing a navy pinstriped suit with expensive brown leather shoes and a ‘messenger’ manbag.  He had short sideburns and a decent layer of stubble.  He was going to Wall Street.  I think he was going for a job interview.

    StatueOfLiberty (600x800)

    I alighted at Bowling Green, the stop after Wall Street, at the very southern tip of Manhattan.  It was then a short walk to Staten Island Ferry.  Thanks to Lonely Planet for this tip because it is FREE.  The trip takes half an hour each way and passes by the Statue of Liberty so I didn’t need to accept any of the many hawkers’ offers for a cruise to pay my respects to liberty, particularly since I didn’t have a desire to be up close and personal with the lady.

    NYSE (800x600)

    Of course I then had to walk through the financial district to satisfy my young yuppy heart.  However, the New York Stock Exchange was barricaded off with only very-well dressed people entering, so I don’t know if the barricades are permanent or if there was a special occasion.  I suspect the former.  The tragedy was that there were so many tourists, particularly of the guided tour variety, I didn’t even see the bull (I forgot to look for it too)!

    ReflectingAbsence (800x600)


    ReflectingAbsence (click for 5s video)

    I then made my way to the true site of tragedy, the World Trade Centre Site, also known as the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.  The two memorial water features, called ‘Reflecting Absence’, occupy the spaces where the two towers once stood and are an acre in size each.  They are truly moving and fitting for the homage they pay to the people lost, whose names are imprinted around the edges.  It was a bit odd to see a number of people throw the memorial a glance, pose for a smiling photo, and leave, probably to tick-off the next tourist destination for the album.  One young couple I saw from a distance were in an emotional embrace, I think he was comforting her, but they stood out for their sadness.

    MemorialPlaza (800x270)

    I had a couple of hours to fill before my appointed tour time so I hopped benches in the Memorial Plaza to follow the shifting shade.  I also chatted to anyone who sat next me for a while.  I started conversations with “Where are you from?” and soon followed up with “Did you know anyone?”.  These are their stories.

    1. An older couple visiting from Florida.  He was wearing a baseball cap that said ‘Cold War Veteran’ (apparently it’s quite a thing – soldiers who weren’t in a physical war during the Cold War want greater recognition – see this WSJ article) and she had a problematic sciatic nerve so needed to rest regularly.  They lived in New York City many years ago.  When the 9/11 attacks occurred she was visiting friends on 86th street.  The night before had been quite a party so they were all sleeping-in when her husband called from Florida.  She couldn’t leave due to the airport and other transportation being shut-down.  Eventually she took a 27 hour bus journey from the East to West Coast with so many others desperate to leave.  The couple didn’t know anyone directly who had died but their daughter-in-law did and a friend in Florida had a son who died.  They said it would be hard to find anyone who had ever lived in New York to not be connected to a death from 9/11.  She didn’t want to come to the site but he did.  On a happier note, they had visited Sydney about 10 years ago.  Loved it.  One highlight was dining at Doyles.  Another was attending a Sydney Theatre production – loved the location, walked out on the play though.  They also went to New Zealand and claim the South Island is the prettiest place on Earth.
    2. Family of five (three generations). A woman in her late 50s or so sat next to me having lost the remainder of her family in the crowds.  She was tired and frustrated as she tried to contact them.  When her daughter and grandsons (aged 12 and 14yo) arrived they were tired and cranky too.  They had all travelled from Long Island that morning, a long bus trip of 1.5 hours in good traffic.  They had encountered bad traffic on the 6.30am ride.  The daughter and her sons were visiting from Phoenix, Arizona.  They hated crowds, and the city in general, not really wanting to go into the 9/11 Museum at all.  According to their grandmother, all the boys wanted to do was play arcade games and eat pizza.  Sounds like my 14 year old, I said.  They knew a few people who died in the 9/11 attacks.  The elder woman knew a first responder who had died.  The daughter had gone to school with a man who was in the second tower, above the impact line.  She was also friends with his wife.  He had also been there during the 1993 Bombing and figured he had been fine during that incident, so assured his wife he was going to be fine this time too.  The wife was pregnant with their fourth child and the daughter to whom I was speaking was pregnant with her second so they had been travelling that path together.  They are no longer on the same life journey.  There have been campaigns to raise money for the family left behind and apparently they are financially quite well off as a result…  The daughter just shook her head to explain the rest.  She is also friends with a first responder, aged in his late 40s, who is now suffering from cancer in the brain, lungs and bones, probably due to the dust and carcinogens of 9/11, and is struggling to meet the financial costs of fighting the cancer.  She kept saying, it’s sad, and letting her voice drift off.  The Long Island lady said that immediately after 9/11 many families just packed up and left New York City, moving to the Hamptons (a wealthy area of Long Island) with the intention to never return.  School numbers swelled as a result.  After they left me for their entry time to the museum I wondered how much it was the crowds that made them tense, tired and irritable, and how much it was the memories and connections.
    3. Homeland Security Woman. My last encounter was with a woman who says she owes her job to 9/11 because Homeland Security only existed after 9/11.  Everything I know about Homeland Security I learned from Claire Danes and Damian Lewis in the TV Show Homeland.  I didn’t mention that.  She lives in Corpus Christi, Texas and was in New York for a wedding the next day.  She said she just had to visit the memorial, partly because of her job, partly because she knew people who had been at the Pentagon that day.

    It was finally my turn to enter the museum.  I went on an hour long tour led by the wonderful Stephanie, who spoke with knowledge, poise and dignity, the entire time.  It was mainly a tour of artefacts.

    LastColumn (694x800)This is called the Last Column.  It was so well secured that the rescuers couldn’t remove it so they shifted through the debris all around it and as the debris was removed it became increasingly a makeshift memorial.  To the left of  the column is a slurry wall that is the original wall holding back the Hudson River.  This wall was originally below the point that anyone would see of the tower.  The points ‘hammered’ in strengthen the wall (sorry, lack of engineering knowledge being exposed here).  There was a concern in the aftermath of the collapse that these walls had also been weakened and not only would the underground of the towers be flooded but also the Subway system.  The walls are now reinforced.  The main section you see in the photo is a new concrete wall, strengthening the one behind it, but you can also see a small part of a section that has had more points inserted but without a whole new wall built in front of it.

    Ladder3 (800x512)This is the fire engine of Ladder 3.  It had 11 firefighters travelling on it the morning of 9/11. All of them died.  The truck was later found under the rubble.  The left side of the photo shows the remains of the driving cabin.  The captain of this crew had a helmet called his lucky helmet because it had saved him from so many dangers.  He wasn’t wearing that helmet that day because it was being repaired.  His family donated it to the museum.

    Other artefacts included the Survivors Stairs and Steel Beams from the impact zone:

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    The final part of the memorial I’m going to share with you is an art work in front of the Remains Repository.  The NY Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is working through the unidentified remains from 9/11 in the hope of identifying them for the 40% who have yet to be satisfied in this way.  The art work is called  Trying To Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning and (supposedly) consists of 2983 different shades of blue to represent each individual who died at the World Trade Centre, including the six who died in 1993.

    Sky (800x516)Overall, I thought the Museum was very tasteful and respectful.  But then I’m an outsider.  Here’s the BBC’s perspective, another outsider really.  I was very glad to find the shop was to the side and there was no forcing your way through it in order to exit.  I did buy a few gifts but then I have a son who a few years ago was obsessed by 9/11 and researched it extensively.  I promised I’d bring him back something from the site.  

    I travelled back on the Subway, stopped in opposite the hotel to have my nails done and paid the extra for a shoulder massage.  It felt quite a facile activity after the experiences of the day.  I then slept for 4 hours in the evening, ate a late dinner and it is now 2.30am local time.  Oops.  But I had to write all this down while it was fresh.  I hope it isn’t too much of a downer.



  10. The journey to New York

    10 July 2014 by shartley

    HotelRoom (800x600)

    I suppose the journey to New York started a year ago.  A group of us at school were writing an extensive report for the Principal about ‘ICT and Active Learning’ and we thought, why do all this work just for the eyes of the Principal, let’s leverage our research into other fields.  So we did.  We applied for two academic conferences by submitting abstracts of work we hadn’t written yet and managed to secure both of them.  One was in Seville last November, which was the subject of my last post, and the other is next week, The Learner’s 21st International Conference on Learning, in New York.

    As my flight out of Sydney took off I had an exhilarating view of Sydney Harbour, like I’ve never experienced before.  The plane tipped and arced the rim of the harbour on the inner side of the bridge, my right hand side window seat providing the perfect view.  I felt like it was a good omen and it turned my nervousness into a positive vibe.  A few hours later I pulled my laptop out of the overhead locker and worked on the paper and structured the presentation.  It was the first time I had felt good about the writing and confident that it would be a success.  I was smiling inside and out.  It also helped that there was a spare seat between me and a man on the aisle.  Appropriately, I was reading Quiet by Susan Cain, because for the entire journey to Los Angeles we didn’t speak.  When he went to the bathroom, I also went, so to not disturb his sleep or movie.  However, when we landed we started a conversation, and lo and behold, we have a mutual friend who works in the office next to him at Sydney University.  Small world.  As for the book, there are some elements that really resonate with me but other parts irritate because it is quite against collaboration in schools.  It isn’t extreme but  it isn’t balanced either, which is understandable given the nature of the book but I’m all about balancing approaches to teaching and learning in schools.  Perhaps the book will be a topic of another post.  Nah, who am I kidding, I won’t have time to do that!

    My luck continued.  We were the first flight to land for the day at LA so moving through customs was a breeze.  There was also a spare seat between my window seat and the passenger on the aisle for the next leg of the trip.  I was determined to mark a set of assessment tasks on this leg and though I struggled to stay awake until I finished, I did, probably thanks to a revolting Ice Coffee from Starbucks at LAX, and managed a 40 minute nap towards the end of the trip.  Again I was in luck when we flew over the spectacular Grand Canyon.  It was definitely worth the $25 I paid to ensure I had a window seat for the flight.  My luck dissipated slightly upon landing at JFK with an hour wait for luggage.

    I’m staying at the Library Hotel which is gorgeous.  I’m in room 603, themed Management (600.003 in the Dewey system).  It is small but full of Management books, one of which I used in my last uni course.  See the photo above for an idea of the room.  I was too diligent at turning off my phone for the flight so sorry, no photos of the great natural wonders of the world.  Unpack, shower, room service and six hours sleep brings me to the next morning and looking forward to an eventful day.  I’ll fill you in on the other end.

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