Saturday, 1 September 2012

Foucault and teaching

Just a few of my Foucault books
'I'm no prophet. My job is making windows where there were once walls.' This quote is attributed to my friend (and nemesis), Michel Foucault. It has not appeared in print but apparently was said by him and overheard by Hubert Dreyfus who then used it in a talk that was heard by Lewis Hyde. He then used it in his book Trickster Makes This World: How Disruption Imagination Creates Culture.(2008) A long winded way of saying I am not positive whether Foucault did say it or not, but it is a quote I find very inspiring particularly when thinking about teaching.

Today is the 1st September and my personal deadline for when I can no longer focus solely on my own work/research, now it is time to start all the planning for next semester. I am hoping that by doing 12 weeks of lesson plans and writing lectures now I will have time to continue with my own work even whilst teaching. Otherwise it is too easy to have the life sucked out of you as the academic whirlwind, that is all encompassing, consumes you then spits you out lifeless and exhausted at the end. Plus there is a new job in a different area to apply for, which if I get will take even more of my time, and a wonderful new project that I am involved in that, excitingly, is right away from academia. Then of course there is the new story idea I have which will need lots of research before I can start it. Lots of positives but all will need my time. Time is such a precious commodity that we rarely appreciate until we have none left.

Oops went off on a tangent there, anyway back to the quote, as I said it made me think of teaching and, no, I am not claiming to be a prophet but I did think that teaching is all about 'creating windows where there were once walls.' Particularly in creative writing where we are giving students the chance to try on and fall in love with different voices. As well as exploring their writing styles and techniques whilst finding out who they are as writers. They learn to hone their craft and knock through their own walls to create those windows on the world which welcome the light in. It is a privilege to watch students develop through their degree and become confident in who they are as writers.

I think this week might also contain a trip to get new pens and pencils and notepads. Who says you have to be a student to experience that bit of excitement? For me it is just another excuse, but so many writers I know are  stationery addicts too - comes with the territory I think.

This seemed appropriate for knocking windows in walls and the forthcoming start of a new semester. Pink Floyd's ' 'Another Brick in the Wall'. Good luck to all teachers and lecturers for the forthcoming onslaught, particularly those of us in Higher Education who are facing our first year of 'those fees'.


  1. Nice quote! I'm only teaching intensives this year but still get uppity around this time as if I had a semester to plan. Here's to keeping windows open and pens full, pencils sharpened and paper covered!

  2. Definitely, I love the idea of windows open and pens full, pencils sharpened and paper covered! That is going to be my plan now.