‘A Call to the Imagination’

Part 2 of 3:

Let’s look at Iambic pentameter. Some might first ask, what does it mean?

“Let’s define some terms to help explain this one. Meter refers to the pattern of syllables in a line of poetry. The most basic unit of measure in a poem is the syllable and the pattern of syllables in a line, from stressed to unstressed or vice versa. This is the meter. Syllables are paired two and three at a time, depending on the stresses in the sentence.

Two syllables together, or three if it’s a three-syllable construction, is known as a foot. So in a line of poetry the cow would be considered one foot. Because when you say the words, the is unstressed andcow is stressed, it can be represented as da DUM. An unstressed/stressed foot is known as an iamb. That’s where the term iambic comes from.

Pentameter is simply penta, which means 5, meters. So a line of poetry written in pentameter has 5 feet, or 5 sets of stressed and unstressed syllables. In basic iambic pentameter, a line would have 5 feet of iambs, which is an unstressed and then a stressed syllable.”

Cited from http://iambicpentameter.net/


When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,

I all alone beweep my outcast state

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries

And look upon myself and curse my fate,

John Keats:

Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes    

He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men 

Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—    

Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Why look at Iambic Penatmeter?

If Iambic pentameter helps define not just what we read, but how we read and the meaning we take from seminal works in our literature, can it also serve as a metaphor to better understand behaviour in our schools?

–       ’Reading’ behaviour beyond semiotics

–       ‘Reading’ behaviour to see it clearer

–       ‘Reading’ behaviour to hear its nuances,

–       ‘Reading’ behaviour to better understand the characters in our daily narratives

–       ‘Reading’ behaviour to better understand us and what we say, do and believe

–       ‘Reading’ behaviour to follow the rhythm of what may sit behind the ‘why’ of the                   behaviour’,

–       ‘Reading behaviour’ to link the rhythm and flow to the growing freneticism of our                schools, and its inevitable impact on the choices we make as teachers, and the                      choices our pupils make.

Could ‘reading’ behind the behaviour be aspirational? Or is it so inexact that the meaning of behaviour in schools can never truly be understood?

The many variables that shape behavioural choices lie both within our influence and tanatalisingly beyond our control. In very simple terms, biological, socio-cultural and cognitive lenses converge and ‘choices’ ensue.

‘Jigsawfy’ the students you teach, and fill in the many descriptors that we can use to describe our pupils, x 100 teachers in your school and you have a very diverse lexicon. Yet, kids are kids are kids, the world over…surely? Or are they?

As I stated in part 1 of this blog series of 3, like all aspects of teaching is learning, as teachers, we get chances to change ‘me’ to influence ‘you’. The story I will illustrate from my experience in Hong Kong, will no doubt resonate with many of you, irrespective of geography.

‘Jayne’s Sonnet’ (Name changed- story not) 

My thought on family: mummy, daddy, brother, sisters… Time spent as one, defining me as much as us…

Jayne left the car every morning with an air of self-assuredness yet a confident aloofness. The car varied from the best that German engineers could design to the ‘Bella figura’ of Italy’s most elegant prancing horse, never the same two days running. The brolley was put up and held dutifully if it was either too hot or too wet. If she deemed not, the brolley stayed elegantly encased in the ‘Shanghai Tang’ buckle…

Two rucksacks, a laptop case, and a lunch case for year 11… Never worried Jayne, she never carried it- her “surrogate” Filipino mum did without question.

‘A’ stars predicted in all 10 I/GCSEs and one early entry French A* in the bag from year 10. Now, mum and dad could entertain guests confident in the knowledge their daughter was as ‘clever’ as any one else. She was grade 7 piano, one away from where she wanted to be because that’s where mum and dad wanted her to be. And, mum and dad, “we are good parents, look at how well our daughter is doing?”

I didn’t teach Jayne, but as VP pastoral care (still unsure of this label) I thought as others did and said; great kid, always happy, hugely popular, nice mix of self belief and humility. Not flying below the radar, rather soaring with the eagles… Confidently.

Strange then that 2 weeks later, I was hearing about physical scars on her arms,  ‘tragic self tattoos’ of the mental stress and anxiety she was under. She had a predicted ‘A’ grade instead of A* and her parents would be very, very angry. She knew this because they had said so in the email she received from them. They lived and worked in China, she lived and grew up in Hong Kong, except in many ways, she didn’t grow up… That magical phase of life was robbed, and the love of ‘us’ as a family that helps define ‘me’: never really happened…

No experience is a bad experience:

  • I misread what I saw; ‘perception-projection-reality’ is not always the reality behind the behaviour we see. Neglect shows itself in many ways, and is not a prisoner to affluence. Perhaps I became complacent in interpreting the meaning of ‘Jayne’s Sonnet.’
  • I had missed the nuances of Jayne’s narrative, I had missed the rhythm of her life, and that made for introspection. It made me re-focus what I took from my interactions with my students. Perhaps over-analysing, but always caring, trying to connect as people and learners, rather than merely the latter.
  • ‘As with-in, so with-out’: in part, what we see as behaviour reflects a communication of self, what we ‘are’ on the inside projects to the world on the ‘outside’.
  • I learned that in a school that had an average IB Diploma score of 36 plus, to try and ‘slow’ the rhythm of my world down in order to better understand my students. How? I made time, meetings could take place after school, and the ‘leather of my shoes’ should become further worn through on a daily basis.
  • Behaviour in all its forms in schools could be classed as communication- a dialogue between teacher / pupil that is not always spoken but always conveys some sense of meaning. Look behind the visible, and try the harder process of understanding. It might not always be easy conversations, It may not always give the answers that we as teachers or as pupils want BUT to get there, I have to go beyond the ‘what’ to the ‘why.’ That in itself is progress, but it is a tough slog at times- I concede.
  • I understand the lasting footprints that social and emotional bonds made in early childhood can ripple to how we connect throughout our life. That early intervention as an austere clinical term could instead be replaced by time, love, care and security. (Bowlby and Ainsworth)
  • To paraphrase what @John Tomsett put powerfully in his recent blog, perhaps we spend time with people we care about, not always through wanting, but rather through choosing. The ‘choose to’ with pupils helps understand the meaning behind their communication. From my own experience, time given to some pupils is so well appreciated, for many, it doesn’t happen too often anywhere else.
  • Those we teach today are the fathers and mothers of those we teach tomorrow, why would we not want to better understand?
  • Perhaps OUR future of education we shape and create in the ‘now’.

Part 3- What would a ‘Rhythmic Toolkit’ look like? And why? Through a lens on Dubai, Behaviour and Learning.


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One Response to ‘A Call to the Imagination’

  1. nancy says:

    I like your comment that behaviour is a form of communication.

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