Sunday, 1 July 2012. It’s the eve of starting a life-changing journey. I am starting it voluntarily and happily. After over a decade of high-school classroom teaching I am starting my PhD at Murdoch University. Tomorrow.
After telling a few people about my decision to do a PhD, some have already jokingly called me Dr Lasic. Yeah, please, about 3 or 4 years later if all goes perfectly to plan. Sure, it’s a goal to reach but not really an ambition to be defined primarily as one (Doctor). It reminds me of migrating to Australia 20 years ago. I wanted to make it to Australia and change my life living here. It was never my primary ambition to become or be called Australian but I am happy to have become one. In the words of Deleuze, one of the key authors in my work, it’s a matter of constant becoming, always folding, refolding and unfolding. More on Deleuze some other time …
Why PhD? Over the past few years, I have been percolating ideas and done some writing and research, always interested in “why things happen (in education) the way they do?” The process grew after my Masters research and intensified while working with some of the most disadvantaged, but not helpless or pitiful, young people in our society. I want to dig deeper and see where the rabbit hole goes, knowing full well there is no end. You can’t stop learning.
I have seen the caveats, the warning signs, the stories of horror but also the stories of bliss, of the almost magic affordance to read, think and write, connect, grow, invent, mature and change in the process. Parallels with running a marathon (and I have run five of those in the last two years) abound.
As part of my PhD, I will be joining a project Effects of NAPLAN. The project, funded by the Australian Research Council, is headed by Dr Greg Thompson (@effectsofnaplan), DECRA Fellow and long-time collaborator. As its title suggests, the project looks at the effects of NAPLAN, a federally funded high-stakes literacy and numeracy test run in grades 3,5, 7 and 9 across Australia.
Informed by some initial findings, my research will look at how a heightened sense of fear and anxiety about NAPLAN among Year 3 students, their parents and their teachers promotes fearful ways of seeing themselves and ways of acting upon it. I am interested in seeing how fear, an isolating, divisive and pervasive force and one of the key features of Deleuzian ‘societies of control’ has, and continues to, affect and alter many long present and expected sets of human interactions in the Australian educational landscape
I leave the classroom content and knowing reasonably well what many teachers’ daily realities are, what pressures they and the kids they teach can be put under and how difficult, but not impossible, is to change things. I know I run the risk of losing credibility with some people who, over time, might say: “What would he know, he last taught X years ago…” but I sincerely hope that being in touch with so many colleagues in person and online with allay some the effects of that physical, daily (dis)connect.
So! Tomorrow, I am going in necessarily naive. More accurately, naive enough not to be scared by the enormity of the project but not over confident in thinking this is going to be easy.
Or in the words, long thought about by of one my dearest students and written on my farewell card asking the question: “What does PhD stand for?”
And I will never forget these guys! You know, ‘low ability’, ‘no good’, ‘low this’n'that’. Yeah right, see it for yourself!