Summer Turner on the TeachMeet Bus March 2014
“This web of time – the strands of which approach one another, bifurcate, intersect or ignore each other through the centuries – embrace every possibility.“ (The Garden of Forking Paths)
Most people think me quite dysfuntional at TeachMeets. I rarely have time to socialise because I am trying to get the filming right; often I’m doing something very few people have attempted to do before with film in this way – certainly not as a one men band filming on a bus.
I am totally focused on trying to get the media as clear and sharp as a prime lens and, of course, to obsess about the sound – always the sound.
I do this to enable people to tell their stories, to give each other CPD, to socialise, to reflect; to help spread their ideas to wider audiences; to archive what was said and done at this time and in this place. The mainstream media will never do that – it is too ‘rich and strange’, so someone has to do the job for the teaching community.
This was my first use of a GoPro camera and, believe it or not, I couldn’t see or hear what was being filmed other than by remote monitoring through a phone so the evening was stressful as I was filming blind. You can see the result at the bottom of the page.
When I was challenged to Live Stream a TeachMeet on a London bus by Ross Morrison McGill (@TeacherToolkit) from an impossibly mad idea from Martin Burrett (@ictmagic) and made to happen by Paul Dix (@PivotalPaul) at Pivotal Education, I couldn’t resist.
I am a Londoner – I spent my childhood holidays travelling the capital on London buses in the 1960′s (using a Red Rover) – I was part of a generation that was thrown out of the house and “encouraged” to go and explore all the “unreal city” had to offer, and not come back until dark; so we ended up quite a lot of the time in museums and other places by default.
So what Summer had to say was fascinating. I spent many years teaching in a small primary school in Fitzrovia in Central London and I wrote several prize winning websites with my pupils around resources for the British and Science Museums. Working in Westminster, every week seemed to bring a new outreach project by the Royal Opera, Ballet, British Museum, Wellcome Trust, National Gallery or one of the many, many arts organisations in that part of town.
I will never forget the day an extremely small woman arrived with a pianist in tow at our school. When she entered the hall for an assembly we were all more than a little bemused, but the minute she opened her mouth and began to sing, I, together with everyone else, was spellbound – most of the children in that area had never heard another human being make a sound like that. I later ended up writing the Artists in Schools policy for Westminster LA and so this talk by Summer was very close to my heart.
We are poorer without such narratives, culturally and in so many other ways. These forms of enrichment must not be lost in the rush to put rigour and academia at the heart of the curriculum; life is more like Borges’ Forking Paths than the pre-determined possibilities people would have you believe – no matter how you dress it up in positivist reasoning.
There are other, more informal experiences that are imperishable, lurking in the shadows – they remain, often, on the periphery of most people’s life map but once in a while teachers like Summer come along and open up cracks in time, unentomb them; then these stories and ideas begin to trickle down and cascade out through the fissures of the social fabric to greet us like half-remembered friends; jinns; smoke on the water; ignis fatuus; ghosts of memory, apparating amongst us once again; reassembling after having lain dormant and scattered for years. Their transfixing ectoplasm envelops us – we surrender to their zombie call…even on a London bus.
These fables, histories, writings, politics, are the life blood of the city: oozing, trickling, then flowing – then flooding our sensibilities and bringing with them, aspirations – a desire to emulate and echo – take soundings. And buses – they are the corpuscles – the cultural ferrymen transporting us.
Once you are on it, you never get off the bus – you are infected. Learning and education become a given. Teachers are the viral carburettors providing just the right rich mix of fuel with air – breathing life into the ancient machine…
This film project took me over two months to plan and implement; I won’t go into the ins and outs of the technical stuff because that, in many ways, is not what interests me – it is simply a means to an end.
What I find fascinating is the need for people to tell their stories to each other; to demonstrate practice in different ways and to have the courage to stand up and tell what it is that they do – I like to make media that explores and highlights this activity and the serendipities that inevitably come out of those encounters.
For exactly the same reasons I set up a poetry magazine for the London area. It is 25 years old this year and Carcanet are bringing out a book about it in the autumn. I made it a networking magazine for poets; to bring people together to share writing – to list where people congregate and to act as a smart filter for how we live and have lived over the years.
I’m pretty pleased by how some of the footage came out tonight but I’ll let Summer tell you her story herself to an amazing moving backdrop of Parliament and other landmarks.
She is quite right, of course, a lot of pupils spend their time coccooned in an electronic wilderness of distractions between home and school without knowing the wider world.
We need to take them places they’ve never been; tell them some of the old tales – like the one where a distraught mama emerges from the depths of the swamp, coming to avenge her slain son – better than anything Hollywood could have invented and worth getting them excited about, especially the codex in the British Library!
“Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.” or maybe more apposite James Joyce’s tongue in cheek take off of Shakespeare:
“Where the bus stops, there stop I“.
Ahh those intertextual forking paths again. Enjoy the video.