More to me (than the measurement): Creating preferred identity report cards at school by Tarn Kaldor

In this Friday Afternoon Video, Tarn Kaldor explores the effects of ‘the measurement’ on young people and the development of preferred identity school report cards. It shares stories of young people challenging the imposed definitions of their “performance” and “normality” by others. In this narrative response young people are recognised as co-researchers and experts, sharing their insider knowledge about the phenomenon of ‘the measurement’ and their acts of resistance to it.

This presentation suggests that institutions such as schools are sites of great potential for social change and countering the reproduction of constructed norms. Building upon the influential thinking of Paulo Freire, this exploration makes visible some of the limitations of working and lingering only in the dominant discourses and normative power relations prevalent in education systems.

The video also explores the application of Michael White and David Epston’s concept of ‘counter-documents’ to a school context. This endeavour enables young people to broaden or contest the thin identity conclusions commonly recorded in formal identity documents, such a school report cards. School report cards are written by teachers, for caregivers, about young people. Young people’s input and expertise is bypassed in this process, deeming them passive subjects to their own story, rather than the experts of their own lives.

Throughout, Tarn describes the process of co-creating ‘More to me’ report cards, in which young people determine the criteria and nominate who they’d like to invite to witness their chosen expertise in the report card. It is hoped this creation of counter documents has, and will continue to, contribute to the recognition of young people’s knowledges, competence and contributions.

Biography
Tarn Kaldor has been working with young people in Mparntwe for the last six years, on the stolen land of the Arrernte people. Tarn has a background in social work, community development and narrative therapy. Tarn is passionate about challenging and re-authoring the dominant discourses that attempt to define young people in Central Australia. Tarn’s practice has been greatly shaped by the young people she works and learns alongside. Tarn welcomes your thoughts and feedback and can be reached via tarnkaldor@gmail.com

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Sandra Timbrell

    Sandra Timbrell- Hi Tarn I absolutely love what you shared in the Narrative therapy. Especially students becoming the experts!
    The same process happens to children/adults with disabilities. They are “measured” so they can access services. But at what cost to their identity. It is understandable that they would “resist”. Then they get a label as being difficult!
    Fiona Mackie (sociologist) writes extensively about this process. She also uses Paolo Friere.
    to demonstrate the process of labelling and ultimately dehumanisation via measurements.
    All the best !
    Sandra

  2. Avatar

    Varda Kruger

    Hi Tarn,

    I was deeply inspired by your initiative, and I’m very interested to hear of the continued development you have made to this model in the subsequent years. Could you email me, or post here (for the benefit of others too), how we may be able to read more about that? Wishing you continued success.

    1. Avatar

      Tarn Kaldor

      Hi Varda, thank you for your comment. I’m encouraged to hear that something from our work resonated with you. I’d be interested to hear if you have explored any similar or related practices in your own context? Great question! Unfortunately I can’t speak to this as I have taken significant time away from school to be with our new child. I hope to see more development and effects of the project when I return. All the best to you and your practice

  3. Avatar

    Tarn Kaldor

    Hello Shelley-Anne. Thank you for your comments and curiosity. I am excited to hear that you bring experience of teaching as well as an interest in narrative ideas – what a fantastic coupling!

    Your questions have prompted me to consider things that I don’t actually have answers to (I think this is a good thing!). I too would be very interested to know the answers to your important questions above. Unfortunately I did not directly ask the parents/caregivers such things at the time (and some time has passed since I last engaged with the project). Your comments have encouraged me to consider how one might meaningfully engage family/significant others who are outside of the immediate school environment to reflect back on what the preferred identity report cards have made possible for them.

    I think that a definitional ceremony of some description, to which the student experts could invite chosen others as witnesses and celebraters could be quite significant for everyone involved. At such a ceremony student experts could share what they wished to with the gathered witnesses (including peers), and also the family/caregivers/others could share reflections on what had been brought to light and what these report cards had enabled.

    Thanks again for your engagement with this conversation, and for your comments that have now sparked my curiosity!

  4. Avatar

    shelley-anne kim

    Hi Tarn – thankyou for sharing this project with us.
    I have just recently retired from teaching and am beginning to train in Narrative therapy, so I found your project a real treasure trove of thoughts and ideas.
    I am curious about the responses of the parents/caregivers to the ‘more to me’ report cards that students were ‘issued’. I wonder if 1. they found them helpful? uplifting? and 2. would they like to receive ONLY this sort of report about their child?

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