Grazing, even for a moment, on the outskirts of great coaching

Leonard Cohen’s Preface to the Chinese translation of his collection of Beautiful Losers poems includes this passage:

When I was young, my friends and I read and admired the old Chinese poets. Our ideas of love and friendship, of wine and distance, of poetry itself, were much affected by those ancient songs. … So you can understand, Dear Reader, how privileged I feel to be able to graze, even for a moment, and with such meager credentials, on the outskirts of your tradition.

His thoughts sprang to mind this week when I had an opportunity to meet two coaches (a head coach and an assistant coach). I did feel immensely privileged to spend time with them. I had been following the coaching career of the head coach for over a decade. The assistant coach has been involved in my critical friend project for five years.

When we met I had one question: “How have you turned around the energy in the team?”. What they shared, in confidence, fascinated me. When I watched the team perform, I saw at first hand the outstanding performances of understanding they had co-produced with the two coaches.

I was in awe of the privileged access I had to their coaching on the outskirts of their everyday practice … grazing.

Photo Credit

At the game (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

Outside (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

Social practices and intersubjective acceptance

A photograph of notes made by Mara Averick and shared by her on Twitter.

Last week, I was introduced to Matthew Rampley’s exploration of visual culture. In his discussion of architecture, Matthew observed:

Architecture needs to be thought of less as a set of special material products and rather more as range of social and professional practices that sometimes, but by no means always, lead to building. (2005) (My emphasis.)

His mention of practices caught my attention, particularly as I was thinking about how we use space and place in convivial ways.

Two other papers this week have focused my attention on social practices and intersubjectivity.

The first is written by Daniel Dominguez (2017) and discusses web skill acquisition in open learning environments in the context of learner autonomy. Daniel considers “the heuristics and linking the practices of individuals using the web and the skills they develop from these practices” (2017:103). He observes “the new competencies the web offers for people to be active in constructing new pathways for social participation and, especially, learning”.

The second paper is written by Gary Schaal, Roxanna Kath and Sebastian Dumm (2016) on the topic of interpreting data visualisations. They present a hermeneutic methodology “for interpreting visualizations that aims at intersubjective acceptance”. Their paper is in German. My limited technical German led me to reflect on the points they made about the visualisation process:

  • Data sampling
  • Algorithmic analysis of the sampled data
  • Choice of visualisation for the algorithmic analysis
  • Hermeneutic interpretation of the chosen visualisation

Their own learning journey has been enriched by the work of Don Ihde, part of which has focused on science’s way of seeing that can be explored by visual hermeneutics.

Matthew, Daniel, Gary, Roxanna and Sebastian raise some very important issues for me as I continue my journey of open sharing in digital habitats. They remind me that as we share our work and induct students into digital connections, we can (and must) take a reflexive approach to what we are doing about our occupational social practices.

Photo Credit

Mara Averick’s notes (Twitter)

Convivial spaces

Looking out of the Circa Cafe to Wentworth Street

I visited Parramatta on Monday. By chance I found the Circa Cafe.

My wife, Sue, and I had breakfast there. It is the kind of cafe we like and where I feel particularly comfortable. It was constructed in an alleyway in Wentworth Street and is a single storey structure.

Its furnishings reminded me of the Elephant Boy Cafe in Bowral and many of the laneway cafes I have visited in Melbourne. I was interested to read on Circa’s website:

The intention was to provide high quality coffee and food experience in a quirky and unusual setting which would be fun. The premises were designed based on some of the classical laneway cafe styles of Melbourne using up-cycled materials and items. The premises evolved naturally and organically over the years, to maximise the experience for our guests.

The owner, Aykut Sayan, said of his plans when starting the cafe in 2010 “The only thing that I wanted was to share my love of food and coffee with others, that’s all”.

Circa Cafe decoration

Whenever I enter spaces like Circa, I think about how significant they are in my reflections about places where teachers, learners, coaches and athletes meet.

In their discussion of living cities, Steve Hinchliffe and Sarah Whatmore observe:

If cities are inhabited with and against the grain of urban design, such inhabitation also involves more than living with the city. It involves ecologies becoming urban, and cities becoming ecological. (2006:128)

Living with and against the grain of design, becoming and learning to live among and as others mark out some of the contours of what we are calling a living city. (2006:134)

If we are fortunate, each of us as a teacher or coach, has the opportunity to invest in ecologies of learning. Circa is not a lavish space. It is fascinating, invitational space enriched by excellent service.

It was the kind of space that was hard to leave and one that would be a delight to revisit. Which encouraged me to think about the kind of pedagogy that might pervade such an environment.

I considered too that the Circa space might not be to everyone’s taste and how I might go about creating changes in spaces that facilitate “living with and against the grain of design”. 

It requires me to think about architectural practice too and address issues raised by Matthew Rampley (2005), amongst others:

Architecture needs to be thought of less as a set of special material products and rather more as range of social and professional practices that sometimes, but by no means always, lead to building.

It is remarkable what a cafe and a single origin coffee (from Honduras) can stimulate. In the laneway in Wentworth Street, pedagogy met conviviality met ecology met social practices.

Outside Circa cafe

Photo Credits

Circa Cafe (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)