Mrs. Davis’ students were very special. They were told they were special on a daily basis. Their parents told them. The other teachers told them (as they should). Television presenters reminded them of just how special they were. The adverts in between the television programs they endlessly watched reminded them every 15 minutes of just how special they were and how they could use that individuality and ipseity to gain status, approval and most importantly of all, identity. In fact, every pupil was completely singular and special, not just Mrs. Davis’. She, like any other good teacher, liked to praise her class in order to raise their confidence levels in order to satiate their desire for recognition within a group and thus maintain their attendance levels in order to further facilitate the education industry, as it was now known.
“Every student is unique and your special talents must be realised, accepted, understood and acted upon,” said Mrs. Davis proudly to her students, smiling at the logos of laptops with tufts of hair jutting out. The school gave the laptops out for free. It was an initiative Mrs. Davis helped phase in. At first, it was only her Social Media Identity Action class that got the laptops as a test-run. That seemed like years ago now.
S.M.I.A. was now one of the most popular subjects in the education industry after the new school reform of 2015. The aim of it was based on brand new pedagogical research that indicated that instead of trying to get students to concentrate, understand and reflect by traditional, archaic methods like books – which recently had been the primary reason that students turned away from the education industry – they would be better served and more likely to actually attend if they were given the latest computers, internet access and were allowed to be on Facebook as often as they liked as long as they were able to, and I quote, “reflect on the growth of their social selves by use of the correct terminology.” In short, students got the chance to sit and use various Social Media Identity software (Facebook) completely unfettered and unchecked. No rules or regulations. They could sit on their laptops, mobiles and/or tablets for three sessions of 50 minutes a piece, twice a week. The only thing that was required of them was to talk for a few minutes in special teacher/student one-on-one’s in of the specially designed reflection lounges that every “modern school who took itself, and it’s students, seriously,” she would sing with a comfortable smile to her colleagues. Here the students would be required – although of course only if they felt like it as forced reflection on the individual, as it was known, only frustrated and confused the student. Their development and growth was of primary focus so the sessions were not strictly obligatory. In fact, Mrs. Davis was often alone in there, as she was today.
She uses the time to check her students’ Facebook pages on her iPad, smiling to herself as she reads how the students solve pressing issues like “What did Mrs. Davis say homework was?” and “Where do I have to upload my homework?” and things like “How do I log in in order to gain access to whatever-it-is I’m supposed to actually be doing here?” and “Where am I?” etc.
She also had progress charts for each individual student as she mapped their Reflection Capacity tables throughout the course of the school year. This was highly time-consuming and the criteria for whether the students’ Identity Reflection Levels had increased or decreased was a whole mine field of complicated but extremely cutting-edge didactic method. Mrs. Davis had been on numerous courses with inspirational speakers and fantastic lunches but couldn’t work out whether a student replying and thanking everyone personally (translated: leaving a message on their Facebook wall) for each Extended Merging of Social Identity Profiles (as Likes were now called) they received was an indication of that individual’s increase in self-awareness as it meant that he or she acknowledged and responded to favourable interest in their social self was due a “cordial acknowledgement of increased Extended Merging is encouraged as the social self need [sic] to feel at ease with its own growth and thereby is a key factor in social identity growth development,” or if it could be construed as negative reflection as the book clearly states in a later chapter entitled Negative Social Growth: Understanding the Impact of Over-stimulation that “the social self must in many cases grow unaware of external attention. An awareness of each instance of E.M.S.I.P is perhaps a sign of the social self’s insecurities which can lead to frustration, doubt and thereby causing Social Identity Expansion and Awareness Parameters to contract.” (Deign: 2014, 45-99)
Her eyebrows furrowed slightly. That last thought confused her and was too long. No full stops. She smoothed them out with her hands and quickly glanced over her shoulder; her students must not see her perplexed. They might begin to doubt her sincerity, and thus their own roles as students. This could lead to them dropping out of school and cost the education industry money. She must never forget that.
“They’ll come and speak to me eventually,” she reminded herself, sitting in the egg-white walled, green-lit, rounded Reflection Room on one of the blue cogitation bean bags. “Someone usually always does.” She felt her hand tighten around the usually soothing, shiny, white curves of her iPad but quickly made herself relax by reminding herself that her frustrations were down to her not preparing herself properly for the day’s class. Reflection was key to being a good teacher. “How could I have done it differently?” “What did I learn?” “If the students didn’t listen to me because they were engrossed in an internal dialogue on their Social Media Identity Facilitator (Facebook), how could I approach that situation differently without upsetting anyone but still maintaining the necessary, professional authority of a teacher?” She sat in that vegetative state for a few minutes.
Her hand was now relaxed and she gazed at her notes once more. A feeling of quiet emptiness crept up her back. It made her pause. It was a feeling she had been getting recently and one that she didn’t quite understand. She was becoming a shell. All she could feel was her skin. There were no thoughts. She looked up from her work at the empty white wall. She heard the click-clacking of keyboards and the hollow, grating echoes of chairs dragging along the varnish. It sounded far away. Was it? Her body now felt extremely heavy. It was as though the blue cogitation bag has a vice grip on her lower back and bottom actively stopping her from getting up and telling the students that Social Media Interaction Action classes were over – or did the ‘I’ stand for Identity? She couldn’t quite remember just now. This puzzled her further as it was her who coined the phrase. She was still allowed to do that – send the students off home or to their next interactive courses. Some students had complained that they did’t like being told they can go as it made them feel that the teacher doesn’t like them and the brighter ones usually said they felt their S.I.E.A.P’s contracting without really understanding what they were talking about, which they didn’t have to as it was the correct use of academic expression and not the thorough understanding of concept that was measured during testing. Exams, as they once were called, just stopped students from turning up. However, most of the students did’t mind Mrs. Davis’ instructions. They didn’t have to care one way or another, actually. New rules meant that they could practically come and go as they pleased. They had to be perceived as special individuals and restrictions like time only added further pressure to their already over-stressed and complicated lives.
Mrs. Davis put her arms down on the floor and launched herself uncomfortably from the grip of the cogitation enabler, opened the door to the Media Room, looked at the rows of soft-white Apple logos with tufts of hair sticking out and said, “Thanks everyone, see you next Tuesday. Have a great weekend!” in her strongest and most authoritative teacher-voice that she learnt during her teacher-re-training course that became mandatory for every teacher with more than 5 years’ experience back in 2013. Only after a few seconds did she notice the continual click-clacking of keys. Although the Media Room was square in size and relatively small to encourage interaction, she felt as though she was standing at one end of a long, narrow, white corridor, and the students at the other. The tufts of hair slowly revealed foreheads and then eyes and mouths. The mouths didn’t move. They keys continued to clack, there was a slight change in atmosphere, she couldn’t make out what it was. The eyes slowly turned into tufts of hair again. There was no sound apart from the repetitive beating of skin on plastic. “They aren’t being rude, they’re special,” she reminded herself when incidents like this frequently occurred.
A tear appeared in her left eye. Her chest felt weightless.
She put her iPad in her backpack, gathered her Social Identity Progress Charts and quietly left the room.
When I think back at my time at Sisters Academy, 3 things comes to my mind. The first thing is about learning. The Sisters Academy was an educational experiment, to see if students could learn more in another environment. I think my conclusion must be, that people are learning in…
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