On Tuesday we delivered the first session of our new Associate Lecturer Programme to a group of PGRs, technicians, managers and other staff members who don’t ‘formally’ teach but undertake teaching-like activities. Leaving aside that for a moment, I just want to share one activity with you.

Something I used to do frequently when I was a school teacher was group work, so you develop and steal a number of different ways to define the groups. Peer-selected, chosen via lollypop sticks, computer-generated random list, etc.

One common way is to put a pile of cards near the door, and students pick one up as they come in. Usually it’s either a playing card and groups are determined by suit or card value, or a piece of cards with a letter or number on it. As ALP is an experiential teaching development course, I thought I’d pimp the process.

Taking the latter idea, I switched the letters for pictures of famous educational theorists. They will be randomly arranged, and if you select the same educationalist then you work in a pair. The picture is irrelevant really, but I thought it might be a good way to encourage some independent research about who it was and why I chose them.

Needing seven pairs, the list was quite easy to compile initially: Paulo Frieire, Jerome Bruner, bell hooks (they are key texts/theorists). Then decided to mix it up with Edward Said. Higher Education often neglects other educational sectors, so in went Maria Montessori and Dylan Wiliam.

That left one more place.

Who to choose? I could’ve gone for Piaget, Vygotsky, Dewey or any number of dead, old white guys. But they make every list and can be looked up in any introductory textbook.

For a number of reasons I decided to restrict myself to a women, someone contemporary or PoC, or all three.

A few names came to mind. All brilliant women, and in my mind, all worthy of inclusion.

More names come to mind. “Ooh, I couldn’t leave them out”. More names, more the struggle to pin my list down.

It was at that point that the doubts crept in: “are they famous/important enough?” “Is it fair to amplify their voice and not those not selected?” “Why am I even putting myself through this?”

The question of ‘importance’ nagged at me. I started to wonder if these brilliant women were as famous as I thought (and if that actually mattered). Maybe my PLN (personal learning network) is full of amazing, brilliant women but questioned whether that fame is reflected in the wider education sector.

What a shitty place to be in. Why am I trying to determine if these brilliant, intelligent women I admire are ‘good enough’ to join ‘the list’? Are they notorious enough? Is my PLN just a wonderful bubble? I mean, I might think my children are wonderful, but that doesn’t mean that other individuals or groups agree with me (apologies to the couple at the next table last time we went to a restaurant). Different opinions for different people in different contexts.

And back to the list, everyone will have a slightly different view, but I eventually made my choice and my students now have the pleasure of finding more about them. It really didn’t matter in the end, it is always good to amplify anyone whose voice has been traditionally marginalised, but what a personal rollercoaster.

All this just to sort students into pairs.

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