Blog Flux LinkLog: Outgoing Link Logging and Click Tracking for Em duas línguas

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Blu-tack as a cultural practice

Yesterday I did a workshop together with a colleague who presents a lot of training courses. It was the first time he had ever used blu-tack (bostik) - a tool that I can't imagine doing without.

Monday, September 26, 2005


The semester begins and the new students into universities and polytechnics all over Portugal begin their humiliation. They have their faces painted, they wear identity cards hanging round their neck, they kiss the ground, they allow themselves to be humiliated by the old-time students.

I dislike every moment of it. I hate to see the students being paraded round the grounds, shouted at, and obeying orders given them by their "elders" dressed in black suits, with white shirts and black ties.

Why, oh why, do they go through it? My friend in San Francisco would explain it through the S & M lens - the "top" and the "bottom", the dominator and the submissive.

At least in his S & M community there would be a meta-reflection about the processes, rather than "scenes" taking place in the name of tradition with the power issues behind them studiously repressed.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I hope no-one ever finds out ...

... that I'm on a Commisão Pedagocica that recomended that student attendance in class was compuslory and monitored. And one that even highlighted the special innovative use of e-mail and CD Rom for teaching.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Survival lesson 2: meetings

I am getting better at meetings too. Sitting at the big table with, among others, the very Excellent President (watch me lose my job here) I realise that I'm honoured to have this opportunity to mingle in this select group. The President is a very elegant, perceptive and intelligent woman so I feel graced. We have lovely coffee and enough cakes for a child's party.

I listen attentively to her story of one time a few years ago when she attended a training session based on interactive activities rather than watch and listen to the expert. I am sufficiently admiring of such an experience although I do tire a bit when other important people start talking about vaguely related things. While they are talking I start plotting my strategies for avoiding any future formação which will teach us how to be more interactive in our teaching. (Does that make me someone who's holding back modern pedagogic methods?)

I've learned to look indifferent to the obligatory moaning (about illiterate students, about resistant teachers etc.) and I've learned not to open my mouth too often. My biggest learning is not to offer to do anything unless it helps secure my job and requires minimum work in return for maximum points (there is a document somewhere which tells us how many points activities are worth). I notice that there are different ways of talking, even of sitting, between those people who have tenured jobs and those who have a contract that comes up for renewal each year (which is voted on in secret).

We all worry about how there is so much to do and no-one to do anything and then we book a time for the next meeting. Two and a half hours later the meeting is over and I feel satisfied that I've just participated in something important. Yes, I am learning.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


I spent six days in Manchester, UK where it was suprisingly difficult to make an internet connection. How do people manage without easy access to the Net? A friend, and an international speaker at a conference hosted by the Education Department, had to stay three days in university accomodation without Internet and without telephone.

It's a salutory lesson for me as I always imagine that northern European countries, and especially Britain, are all hooked into the fountain of communication. But they are not. They bumble about like ordinary people!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Survival lesson: being seen to do

Yes, I think I'm getting it.

The way to survive in certain places is to be seen going through the motions. What I've always got wrong is that I haven't distinguished doing with being seen to do. And I don't mean being seen to do and doing, I'm talking about the art of being seen to do.

Things like long meetings, planning and carrying out questionnaires, collating and publishing them in the form of a report are all strategies for being seeing to do (and keeping your job safe and advancing in your career). Another is to make sure you are in your office regardless of if you are doing anything. Whatever happens - just make sure you are being seen to do.

There are two other important aspects of being seen to do. One is to be sniffy about colleagues who are not being seen to do (regardless of whether or not they do). And the other more important aspect is do NOT, and I repeat DO NOT ever show that you are doing (as opposed to being seen to do). In doing you will seriously threaten the state of non-doing by the people who are being see to do.

So if you really do, then keep it firmly to yourself.

Yes, I think I'm getting it now.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Colour, language and identity

I'm having fun this week in seeing people's different perceptions of what's what in terms of language and identity. My daughter is very pale and looks English but speaks very good Portuguese in a perfect Brazilian accent. She sees herself as being English. I don't look Portuguese and speak Portuguese with an Anglo/Portuguese accent. I don't have a clear identity for myself - I was born and brought up in Kenya, lived in England and think I come from Portugal. Our two friends staying with us look African/Jamaican and see themselves as British.

In shops and on the street everyone imagines that our friends speak Portuguese because they look African and so must come from Mozambique or Angola (except for the people who start singing "No woman, no cry" when they see them). Then there is a confusion because my pale-faced daughter steps in to translate for these "Africans" using her perfect, broad north-east Brazilian accent.

And even more confusing today at the Festa de Avante is that whitey-me stopped to speak Swahili at some of the stalls, whereas our "African" friends could only speak English.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

A rubbish day

For three hours, between Porto and Setúbal, I tried to think of positive things to say. But I couldn't. It epitomised my life in two "languages".

I went all the way to Porto for what I thought was going to be a meeting. It turned out to be an oficina (workshop) about ... sigh ... e-learning. For one whole day I suffered an exposição (monologue/lecture) - or torturous explanation - of what e-learning and new learning paradigms are.

For one day I listened - well, I did also manage to do all my email correspondence and some online work at the same time - to some guy who had some interesting stories that ... didn't get told. I listened alongside people who listened respectfully to the professor.

In my Portuguese life I have to stick to my lowly status - otherwise people will think I'm being an upstart English woman. And it's no good saying that my passion is learning when learning (in practice) means listening to what people higher up the pecking order say and doing as you are told.

Next week I will be presenting a one day workshop on a similar topic in Geneva. Maybe I could have brought something to this workshop in Porto? And I wonder what the others who went to this workshop had to offer. And I wonder what potential there was in the synergies between all of us...

Like so many people in Portugal, the only way to survive is to assume your low or high status - which, believe me, doesn't depend on what you have to show for it. And assuming your position means assuming an individual status - contrary to any concept of social learning.

a writing block

I should be writing up my dissertation but i'm not. I should be writing my blog but I'm not. I can't. I have to. But I can't.

It's related I'm sure to identity. I don't know who I am when I'm writing. This thought in itself challenges a belief I've always had that I am I regardless of who's listening or talking to me.

I don't belong anywhere in my writing. My research and writing is irrelevant in my principle job which gives me a regular salary. So research and writing has to be something extra-curricular. Nurturing or belonging to a community where my writing belongs takes time and takes time away from writing. What's more, as I have an exclusive contract with my current institution, I am not alowed to do any projects or work outside.

I need a community to write for, but cultivating it and having to cultivate it subversively takes so much energy that I don't have time, especially time in terms of the headspace, to write.

I've tried all summer to get my head round what looks, I'm sure, like a simple problem. But I can't. And I'm worried about what I'm going to do next.