Blogging from the edge: thoughts on Biesta and care

Don’t I heard as I teetered on the edge!
I’ve thought, read, scribbled, scrunched, scratched and re-read since my last blog (1 February 2014).Scrunched lots of paper into balls for feline toys, which don’t exist for my cats until humans have left the room. Scribbling in school exercise books which aim to engender the discipline of writing correctly and legibly, I’ve scratched my way through inches of pencils. I’ve asked myself in so many colourful ways, why am I feeling cool, detached and disconnected from my own words? I feel insecure, exposed and so heavily aware of my limitations. My way forward was clear; I engaged my rational, inquisitive gear and set off exploring the world of blogs, bloggers and roads to writing a successful blog. I would then be able to write! Wrong gear!
I know, I’ve asked myself many times since, why did I take this path? But, when not only my blog writing but any writing felt so fragile and transparent, it felt safe. I am not wishing to compare my purpose or experience with that of Hunt’s account of leading the 1953 British Expedition of Mount Everest, but my fright, frustration and eventual acceptance of the risks is captured so eloquently here: ‘…we threaded our way along a series of twisting, narrow ice channels, between pinnacles…making many detours…wobbly looking, gasping crevasses…which could be crossed by a leap or a long stride…but later changed shape…constant audible movement…’
I’m icy cold but sizzling to know how the expedition went.
I realise that writing has much to do with failure, but it also creates a blissful inner boundary-less space. In that space I’ve been thinking about Biesta’s concept of ‘trust without ground’, one of his 3 interlocking concepts of an educational relationship. Coincidentally, I’ve also been reading and thinking about care and caring, especially Patricia Benner’s Primacy of Caring and Mayeroff’s qualities of caring. Scope for future writing here! Mayeroff’s quality of ‘being there’ is a way for the teacher to care, to be authentically present, to connect and to bracket self-interest, creating a trusting educational space for students. Palmer’s description of a classroom as both ‘…hospitable and charged…an open space, liberating, but also raising fear of getting lost in the unchartered and unknown…’, causes me to further consider Biesta’s concept of trust. In the words of Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Department briefing, 12/12/2002: “We know there are known knowns: there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns: that is to say we know there are things we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” If at anytime there needed to be trust, it was in that room. As Biesta says ‘…trust is about those situations in which you do not know and cannot know what will happen…’, and risk is ‘structurally’ a part of trust.
What have I learnt? I see similarities across Biesta’s 3 interlocking concepts of an educational relationship and Mayeroff’s caring qualities. After all, Biesta emphasises how important care is from both educators and institutions. I’ve also learnt that an educational relationship may be a clearing/space of mutual encounters where contact with each other and ourselves creates possibilities for people to be present (Heidegger), a worldly space with exposure to otherness and difference (Tschumi), a clear expression of ‘coming into presence’ (Biesta), where students experience ‘being-there care’ (Mayeroff) and opportunity to realise who they are and where they stand.
In my initial sentence I was teetering on the edge of possibly not crafting another blog. The mere existence of this blog is an astonishing splash of colour, a scratchy, sweet interlude. Barclay Fraser sums it up well in his poem ‘Mountain days’:
‘The day when the abysses yawn, the heart abandons hope. With toes tense on a tiny hold while fumbling fingers grope…Thank heaven for the rope.’
I’ve bought a pile of school size exercise books,so there will at least be blog No4. I may need more pencils of the sharpening kind!

Just in case you want a little more information:
Biesta, G 2006 Beyond Learning. You will find Tschumi, French architect in here also
Benner, P & Wrubel, J 1988 The primacy of caring. Stress and coping in illness
Hunt, J 1957 The Ascent of Everest
Mayeroff, M 1971 On Caring


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