Sunday, 15 June 2014

Oral History Interviewing...Real Life

One of the best parts of my honours was learning about oral histories and conducting our own oral history interviews. I've been thinking a lot about the elderly woman I interviewed back then - partly because I still feel guilty for not following through with the ethics side of the interview (giving the interview to the University to hold for five years - of which it's now past that time...) and also because having moved from Hamilton three years ago - I've lost contact with her.

Oral histories are conducted to get true accounts from people who witnessed events in their lives, or may simply have their own story to tell. It's amazing what you learn from someone when you take the time to listen. The other aspect to oral history interviews is the fact that you get a real perspective of life and what it was like in their generation. It's an honour being a part of an oral history interview - because even though you are the researcher there are lots of parts to it where you are guiding the questions but also allowing them to branch off and let them take control of what they want to tell as well. Eventually that process in which they tell their story becomes yours as well.

I've recently been thinking about historical events in my own life and whether someone in the future may ask me these questions about how I related to events overseas and what my thoughts were regarding them etc.

I wonder mainly because there are lots of events which I actually don't pay that much attention to. And also because I have asked similar questions to my own grandmothers and grandfather about events in history - and if I took the time to ask them things that they wanted to tell me instead - I might get a more developed response rather than the one I try to get out of them.

This kind of open questioning and interviewing process is something that I've always been interested in - in fact it's something I wanted to do for my dissertation (part of my honours in history). I wanted to interview and use diaries from men and women involved with the Vietnam war and discuss with them their reactions and feelings upon coming home after the war - to the opinions and perspectives of those who stayed behind. The lecturer who was meant to support me in that process pulled out as he was too busy at the time - and I had to quickly find someone else who would be willing.

Unfortunately I had to change tack and chose another topic with one of my favourite lecturers as my supervisor - which was around the comparisons between what Mary Wollstonecraft thought about education and women's rights and how her own feminist critcs believed that she didn't do 'enough' for women...back then. It's a great topic and if I'd had more time (was doing my own teacher training and practicums at the same time as trying to research...) I could have created something awesome.

My third idea and the one which I'm still leaning towards (despite being told it's more of a Masters thesis) is a mix between education and history. The changes we've made to our teaching styles particularly in regards to the introduction of the Native Schools Act of _____ compared with Te Kotahitanga and the implementation of that matauranga and way of teaching. It's an important piece of of research, close to my heart and more importantly something relevant to my own inquiries as a new teacher.

Within that idea I'd like to do some research around how Maori were taught and how they are being taught and whether with the implementation of Te Kotahitanga there have been 'enough' of a shift to encourage our Maori students to strive harder and have more of a growth mindset about themselves.

Yes - I know it sounds huge. And it is.

But there has to be a way that I can narrow the field a little and focus perhaps just on the Native Schools Act and do some sort of analysis on legislation and primary sources - particularly letters and newspaper articles, perhaps diaries if there are any around still. I know that the NZ Collection whanau at the Library of Waikato University would be able to help - and I know it's only a phone call away... but then there is also my own teaching to do... all the extra stuff I do... and of course finding a supervisor who is used to my way of thinking... or searching for a lecturer that could help narrow my thinking, and widen it at the same time. Who knows... this could already have been done.

I feel out of the loop of historical thinking, analyses and historiography... It frustrates me because it used to be such a huge part of my life. Now that I'm not properly teaching history it makes it even harder - because as an English teacher  - though I try to teach within the context of history as much as possible... it's just not the same.

I also think that by getting my courage back - namely my own self-belief that my intelligence is connected with my historical understanding and awareness - and if I have my honours all finished (just my dissertation to go) and if I attempt to figure out a Masters thesis... then perhaps I could teach history at my school. I love the school I teach at. Love it to bits. But I miss teaching history. I miss the discussions and the indepth critical thinking. I miss university life too where I can get lost in a conversation for three + hours and be okay with it.

Ultimately... I just want to get my dissertation done so that I can have closure on that part of my life and know that I am smart... regardless of possibly getting 50th grade honours for it being so late.

It'd be nice to hear that praise again. That I know what I'm talking about. Even though I know that.. sometimes it's just nice hearing it from others. That recognition and the appreciation. If you've gotten to the bottom of this post... thanks :) If I lost you ages ago - that's cool too!

Naku noa,

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