week 9 diary > no longer paralysed

This week I have really enjoyed making progress with my story. It is over 12,000 words at the moment and I still have a way to go, probably a month. Not sure yet about the final length. I like that I know where I am going as this story develops from a picture book story, under 500 words. I have the story skeleton. While initially, I felt paralysed by the task, progressively I learnt to love the writing process linked to this story. Now, I feel a bit naughty mixing reality with imagination, a lot of it. Something I like doing anyway. But I wasn’t sure if it was right to do this, in this particular story. As it is based on real stories. I have let go. I feel the freedom now. The freedom to invent, to be playful with language and experiences, to trigger emotional reactions in my characters, hopefully also in my readers. There is so much I don’t know still and will never find out about my parents’ past. Maybe it is better that way, maybe. The gaps have been useful for me. They test me, they challenge me and create opportunities for invention. How would it be for them to read this story, one day? Would they recognise themselves in it? Would anybody get a sense what really happened and what is made up? My wish is that the story flows as a whole and would enable the reader to immerse themselves into it from the start to the end and live different realities. Realities they never experienced. Or maybe they did and the story brings it back to life for them. The other day I spoke to my mum and she was telling me that she was reading a book… as soon as she said that I knew what was coming. She was enjoying reading it and then looked at who the translator was. It was me, her daughter. She sounded really proud. She asked me how I did it. Well, with a lot of patience and commitment to quality and respect to the original and the author, of course. It is hard work and a craft at the same time. A labour of love. I did it for over ten years, mainly translating literature. Now I was trying to write my own pieces.

I am really looking forward to my early mornings. My 30 mins writing blocks, every day, even on  weekends. I seem to be really disciplined and get an energy booster for the whole day when I know that I have made a little bit more progress. Little by little the story is coming together. I feel that I am not just creative in my approach but also critical. I go back and forward, polish, change and connect, connect tighter. Simplify. Always little by little. My daily target is manageable and achievable. I did the same when I was translating books. Maybe I am transferring that practice to a new context. Maybe this way of working helps me believe that I can actually write longer stories and not just for children? Am I growing  as a writer? A tiny bit? Writing regularly definitely helps. My very first reader, except my supervisor who has seen it a few times already, read what I had written about 2 weeks ago. The feedback was really encouraging. Can’t wait to share with them the full story. I have also been thinking about how to link the storydress with the longer story (no title yet) and have found a way, I think, that could work and connect the two outputs naturally. We will see.

Ody went for a walk with me. It was the first time for him in 9 weeks. He was ok. We had a good time together while Nassi met his girlfriend from a distance. Dating in the time of physical distancing. My plants in the garden and in the house are doing well. Our rocket is yummy, we have flowers on our strawberry plants, the tomatoes seem to do really well and I am potting and repotting mint and flowers. Also drying some mint.

I continued my crafts. The silver clay was a disaster. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it. Some things are better learnt with somebody showing you. Making the moulds was the easy part… The firing, needs more work so that I don’t ruin the designs. Will go back to YouTube as the written instructions didn’t help.

I finally decided to give the cabochon pendants a try. Even managed to do this following limited instructions. I am pleased that the pressed forget-me-nots worked really well. Need to press a few more before they are all gone.

My parents’ portrait is on the wall and our black and white outline family picture is also hanging.

Thinking about one more painting for the living room. Santorini came to mind, again as an outline, white on black. Will check our photos when we went last time. I wish I was there now. I wish we had that little house on the top of the hill. I wish we could swim in the deep blue sea. I have no idea how travelling will look like in the future. On a plane, a train, a ferry. All seems scary at the moment.

We are still in lockdown, sort of, at least some of us. Many seem to ignore the guidelines, even the ones writing them. So many have lost loved ones. So much pain. I wish this virus would disappear and never come back. I am praying for all those in pain. Stay safe!

week 8 diary > the masked shopper

I did overcome my fear and went into a shop, wearing a mask and gloves. I didn’t like that shopping experience but at least I got what was on my list, mainly cleaning stuff. Not that we didn’t have any… I was surprised that almost nobody was wearing a mask and/or gloves. I continued also making masks and have now find a way to make them bendy around the nose thanks to all the experimenters who share openly on YouTube. Just like this one.
This week, the Government’s message changed… apparently we have to be alert. But I am actually alarmed. Alarmed by how the pandemic seems to spread quietly around the country… We can now meet one person from another household. I had such a request and decided to be there to make sure distances were kept. Not that I didn’t trust, but my fear was bigger and guided my decision. A date with the mummy police watching.
Making further progress with my story writing (for the storydress). I have actually started enjoying injecting my imagination into the authentic experience as remembered and retold to me by my parents, in snippets. My mum’s side of the story is now ready, the first draft, I mean, and I can not only see my mum in there but also myself. I think at times I have been playful in my approach despite the fact that the story is traumatic. I like the ideas I have come up to tie things together and will be asking a friend soon, to read it and tell me their honest opinion. I noticed when I read the other day a section to Adam, that I was at the same time tidying up my sentences. I shared two paragraphs with him, one that made me smile and one that made me cry. Is this a sign of a good story? I definitely could and did connect with the story, but would other readers do as well?
Marking has began. And while I enjoy reading the FLEX submissions and providing feedback, I think it takes me longer to read as I find the work fascinating and can see how the module has been useful for my colleagues. I suggested to a few of them already to consider writing up their work, for publication, as there are some real gems in there worth sharing more widely. Many of the submissions are directly link to teaching during the pandemic and the sudden transition. Really interesting what they say and how they have dealt with the changes. I am collecting the key themes that are coming out of these… another reason why it takes me so long to mark this work… While I am still marking and will be for a while, our new FLEX iterations have started and today is our orientation session. Many colleagues have already posted their introductions in our Moodle area and also said hello in our community. I am grateful to our mentors, colleagues who have completed FLEX for helping this term. Let’s see how the redesign of Moodle also works.
I carry a story in my head for some weeks now. Not started writing it down. My priority is the longer story I am working on at the moment for my final MA project. I seem to have found a writing rhythm. Early in the morning, for just 30 mins maximum, before work, when my brain is fresh and has ideas. I had started writing about this earlier in the post. Now I seem to be back to this. I am looking forward to my early mornings and the writing surprises it will bring. As I am starting to write my dad’s side of the story, I need to give his character a unique voice, a personality, mannerism, and apply this throughout. My next challenge. Will I be able to do this? And will I be able to do this well?
Inspired by the above I decided to create a family picture on plywood. Looking at the outline on the black background, I can actually see it working, without faces, without colour. Just a few white lines. So I decided to use this approach.
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Less is more? Also in art? It will therefore be different from all my other colourful paintings that decorate our kitchen and dining area, which I made when the boys were little.
My plans are growing in the garden and indoors and we are trying our luck with silver clay. I have been avoiding this for some time as it seems too complicated. I have also started making my own creams.
Stay safe!

week 7 diary > partying in the streets so so close to each other… really?

Before I forget, again. We have been designing our meals using a weekly menu. For the last three weeks now. It helps prepare balanced meals and make sure that there is variety on a weekly basis. It also helps us to use what we have instead of always needing or wanting what we don’t have and go back to the shops. We have become more resourceful, try new combinations, often altering recipes we find online and creating colourful dishes with Nassi and Ody.

on one of our walks in Glossop

With Nassi we went on a few walks. One day we went into Glossop. Normally we go the other way towards the hills. I didn’t expect to see that many people. Distancing was not always possible. I became concerned. We crossed over a few times with a Nassi some other people did too, but not everybody seem to mind being that close to others. A group of teenagers past as too. They were not all from the same household, no way, and in the park people were sitting on benches. Oh no, what is happening to me. I turn into the lockdown police. We past the shop and we had gloves and a mask with us but didn’t go in. I normally would. I love shopping. I haven’t been in a physical shop for over 2 months now.
On Friday a street party. I understand it was V day. And nothing wrong with street parties, of course. But now? And without any sign of social distancing? I have never seen so much movement in our street, never. The kids were up and down the street playing together, not all from the same household… adults were sitting together and drinking not all from the same household. As time past they forgot more and more about physical distancing and came even closer together. We seemed to be the only ones not out there.
And then I had a nightmare. I was in a shop filling my basket and suddenly realised that I wasn’t wearing a mask and my gloves. I left everything behind ran out and woke up. Am I developing a phobia? There is a Greek word for this, I know and I know the word. But I am  not going to mention it here. How many people have had similar experiences/nightmares?
I made some further progress with Mami and Papi’s portrait and when I showed it to my parents on Skype the other day, Mami even recognised herself. She liked the hair which at the time was just an outline.

Mami saw it before I adde the chillies, lemons and hair

With Nassi we made some silicone moulds. That was much easier than I thought. The plan is to make some silver clay jewellery. When we went to the big Maker fair and I watched the demonstration it looked really easy but for a year now I have all the kits and haven’t done anything with it yet. I planned to do a course but this is not going to happen now. We started looking on YouTube and have so far made the moulds. Making some progress. Yeah. We will continue next weekend.
Work has been really busy again. All good and exciting developments and also preparing to re-run FOS, an open course that started as an MSc project back in 2009-10, developed then into a cross-institutional course in 2013 developed with Lars Uhlin from Karolinska and later into the child course FOS (also influenced by BYOD4L developed with Sue Beckingham) which was offered for the first time in 2015 and then again in 2017 with many colleagues. My research around FDOL when I did my doctoral studies and particularly the collaborative learning aspect really helped me inform my thinking, how FOS is offered and how it is keeps evolving. I am very excited as Neil Withnell (who has been there from the very beginning, initially as an FDOL participant, then as a facilitator multiple times) and I are organising a new iteration, the #FOS201 in collaboration with colleagues from 10 institutions in the North West of England over 10 days in June. We hope that it will be a useful experience, especially now, where we are all re-thinking how we teach and also un-think in these Covid-19 times. New-think is needed and this course will provide some stimulation, we hope. I am really grateful to all our lovely facilitators who volunteered to be part of #FOS201 and Neil for his ongoing support, friendship and commitment.

5-14 June, join us!

Stay safe! Apparently we need to be alert now. The stay at home message has gone now. But as my friend Helene said, I am alarmed!!!
Is the lockdown over (yet)? Is the question we seem to focus on. I would like to find out more about the research that is conducted, any new developments in treatment and the vaccine(s). Shouldn’t the news  say more about these?

Week 6 diary > we all had a haircut by now

… even Adam. I might actually need another one soon.
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After writing my last diary entry and saying that the weather was so lovely, and for so long… guess what… yes, it started raining. And hasn’t stopped much. Good for the plants, I was thinking. Our strawberry plants will grow. And the spinach, and the rocket. And they do. They have already. I enjoy saying hello to my plants every day and looking after them.
Work is super busy. Among others, I decided to restructure or redesign my Moodle areas to model what I feel could work for next year so that colleagues who join the units can experience it and consider similar approaches in their own teaching. And we are now almost ready to start. But first marking.
Really enjoyed the session I did this week about frameworks for learning and teaching and pleased I decided to use a hands-on approach to explain what we often do instead of telling people or just show them a flat picture. Experiencing something is so much more powerful and lasting.

… from the webinar… you can also see my mask template on the left… will need to make a few more soon

What else? Oh yes,I have become unstuck with my longer version of the storydress story. I have overcome my fear to inject imagined episodes to an authentic story of story and I have actually started enjoying coming up with ideas. I have still a lot of work to do and can’t wait to share this version with my first critical reader when ready.
We are making good use of our flour and I plan to learn how to make sourdough bread and am also thinking to get a pasta maker that looks like a German cookie maker. Seen it on eBay.
I have been thinking a lot about all my loved ones. When will I see my parents again? Bringing them somehow closer will give me some comfort and after the storydress that captures their life stories, I decided to start a portrait of them. Perhaps Grayson’s Perry Art Club on Channel 4 9(episode 1) inspired me last Monday. Very possible.

Mami and Papi started on the 3rd of May 2020

On purpose I will progress this slowly, to prolong the process, to work on it with care and love. I remember all the things they went through in their lives and my eyes fill up. Seeing them regularly via a webcam and not being able to hug them is painful. Very painful. At least I can see them from a distance.
I enjoyed my meeting with the illustration students this week and I am positive that we will continue working together on our project. Can’t wait to see this project coming together and I have done some more preparatory work on this in the last few days. Very exciting!
There are some good news regarding a Learn Greek app for all those Greeks abroad. Will share with the boys.
Also, Easter is officially over and has been replaced by spring and summer decorations around the house. Will take picture and share here.
Let’s hope the sun will shine again for all of us on this planet.

I had cut these wooden pieces a while ago… now, I am turning them into boats that will help us travel with our imaginations (yes, plural!)

To FLEX or not to FLEX? Term 3 is about to start #flexcpd

Can’t wait to co-facilitate FLEX next term with my colleagues Kath and Ben starting in a few weeks. Since 2014 when I developed FLEX after arriving at Manchester Met it has grown every year and become popular unit on our a PgCert and the MA in Higher Education. It has worked really well for many and offered opportunities to engage in scholarly activities around their teaching and disseminate some of their work through conferences and publications. With my colleague Dr Gerasimos Chatzidamianos we carried out some related research and with a Kath Botham early on we did a pilot for the HEA linked to the use of portfolios within FLEX.
It is now the first time I will be team teaching on this unit but I am not new to such practices. Extremely valuable, I have found in the past for peer dialogue and support. I have been team teaching systematically on our a PgCert with Haleh Moravej, also on one of her units (we have written about our team-teaching experience and this will be published later this year). Then with a learning developer, recently and I often invite colleagues in the PgCert to team teach with me. In the past,when I was at Salford Uni, this provided an introduction to academic development to a colleague who then transitioned full time to become an academic developer. So working together has some fantastic benefits for all involved.

FLEX is flexible as the title suggests and it does what it says on the tin. I think it does. Perhaps it is not just flexible but elastic. This may be its appeal? There is evidence that it has inspired colleagues internally and externally to adapt the FLEX approach for other professional development initiatives but also for undergraduate and postgraduate units in different disciplines.

We are in lockdown, for over six weeks now and I have been working systematically to reshape our FLEX Moodle areas. Reshaping with a purpose. Until now, I did not pay much attention to these spaces, I have to admit. So when I started looking at them with a critical eye I started stripping some of its layers away. I think I actually removed most of it. I realised I needed to revisit my own research into learning and teaching supported by technology. There was extensive work I did in my thesis, also linked to pedagogical models and frameworks supported by technology and the collaborative learning framework I developed. I also looked back at my own experiences as a distant and online student on a range of programmes and courses and my role as a facilitator in some of these. This experience and research came in handy. Very handy indeed. I know that frameworks can make a difference to learning and teaching, to scaffold, support and build community. I have experienced it myself and my research confirms this as well.
The new design (well there is a design now!) is streamlined and the use of learning blocks or blocks for learning, with a focus on supported inquiry, and clear (I hope!) instructions will bring clarity, help navigation and foster engagement so that we can come together and learn together. Less is definitely more. I am really looking forward to hearing how colleagues find this space and if they feel that it is easy to navigate through the space and easily find what they are looking for but also participate in the activities and discussions.
As there are two FLEX units, FLEX 15 and FLEX 30 I felt that it would be beneficial to bring the two groups together not just synchronously but also asynchronously. We will do this through our uniting Twitter hashtag #flexcpd and also our brand new private Facebook group. I wasn’t keen to use Facebook but we have used it in the past and also our #creativeHE community has been transferred there and it seems to work ok. Let’s see what happens with your FLEX community there.
Hopefully, our colleagues will who joined FLEX will find the unit useful to not just reflect on their practice but also to get ideas that they could adapt in their own teaching.