Stepping in the same river twice?

Not stepped in this river at all: much too cold

I found myself at a dinner with a bunch of academics the other day and we fell, as one goes, into the cultural reference points we use to connect with students.

One colleague had been struck by someone they work using cultural objects from the 1970s; something they felt was a push even for co-workers to understand, let alone the pimply youth in our classrooms.

However, I’ve not let that stop me using an allusion to a saying from the 6th Century BCE as my title. If you don’t get it, then GIYF.

Any way, this saying occurred to me as I continued my exploration of BlueSky, even as Twitter/X/whatever becomes ever more useless.

The immediate prompt was the arrival on the new platform of several of the best Twitter-era politics snark accounts (Berlaymonster and General Boles, if you fancy following them). These are the accounts that helped to make Twitter not simply a great networking site but also an enjoyable one. Doomscrolling is considerably less taxing when you have someone willing and able to skewer it all.

But that was then.

BlueSky isn’t Twitter, for which there are many reasons to be thankful. But that also means recognising that we lose something too. And even if we can frame that as ‘different’, rather than ‘better’ or ‘worse’, it still needs our engagement to recognise and adapt to that.

This is also true for our teaching practice.

Not only do our students change composition over time, but so too do our technological options, our institutional obligations/constraints and we ourselves.

That can be a joy: I love that every time I take a politics-focused class it will be different and unique because of this accumulation of changes. But it’s also rather disorientating.

Central to managing this is our own self-awareness. Just as we want students to be critical learners, so too must we practise this, recognising what the relevant factors and dynamics might be.

That can be understanding that a class late in the semester will have students both more focused on assessment for your class and more distracted by work for other colleagues. It can be reflecting on how recent real-world developments in your field of teaching might impact on how you present cases or theories. It can also be about the lessons you took from the last time you ran the class and where the pinch points of understanding came.

Again, all this falls into a framing of things being different. Hopefully, we all have moments when it all came together and was amazing, but the best way to get that happening again (or for the first time) is to continue flexing and adapting, rather than trying to recreate what is now past.

Remember, the full quote is: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and it’s not the same man.”