If you feel you are on a lonely thesis or dissertation writing journey, this blog story offers up an idea to gather other scholars, PhD Candidates and postgraduates like you, to start your own mini-wānanga writing retreats either face to face or remotely across cyber-space. This KIN blog post follows one I wrote about two years ago in 2015 called Wānanga Writing Retreats: A powerful Indigenous learning tool. It all started with the Te Fale Pouāwhina and MAI ki Tamaki whānau who had enjoyed productive writing retreats together at Vaughn Park, Long Bay and other sites across Auckland. This year MAI ki Tamaki and the other MAI sites nationally faced funding cuts and with the slashes less Vaughn Park opportunities. We were challenged to find creative ways to meet up regularly. We started having partly funded breakfasts meeting at various cafes. Some of us decided to have mini-retreats at each other’s houses when we were available. I started home retreats on the weekends with our friend Ruth Herd, and a regular Sunday writing wānanga with a postgraduate student Rachel Schmidt. Rachel lived just around the corner and we had both been on the Te Fale Pouāwhina writing wānanga before. Home weekend mini-wānanga worked well for us until a weekend plan I made with Ruth got cancelled.
In light of the face to face mini-wānanga with Ruth being cancelled, on the 26th August we started the Remote Pomodoro Study Group over a Facebook Private Messenger conversation. Ruth and I discussed synching up over the online forum rather than face to face. The PM message read “I’ll be ready to do Pomodoro at 10am. Let’s synch and try 10-11am with 2 sets together and see if it works. Will FaceTime at 9.55am aye?” Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato and is method for timed writing sessions, derived from the twisty tomato timers. A pomodoro session ‘our style’ involves 25 minutes writing or work with a five minute break at the end. We do that three times and have a 35 minute break. Therefore we have 3 sessions and a longish break every two hours. Others that use the pomodoro method have 4 sessions and then take a half hour break.
We formalised our pomodoro sessions by agreeing to start on the hour or half past the hour. We decided to photograph our goals and post them to be accountable to each other. Later in the day we had a PM video conference to check in on our progress. Then entered our third member Teariki Tuiono from Christchurch, Ruth in Avondale, myself in Manurewa and we went from a couple of mates over a PM Messenger to a remote study movement. Teariki joined the PM group and we called it Remote Pomodoro Study Group. We agreed to keep the 25 minutes sessions sacred and not PM in those times, and we agreed to one rule, ‘no moaning’ in our messages. We all managed our own time and in the late afternoon Ruth, Teariki and I decided to have a Zoom call and our first face to face wānanga korero as a remote study movement in cyberspace.
During the call we treated it like a cyber-marae space and formalised whakawhanaungatanga, sharing iwi, what, where, and how far through our studies we were. After that it turned into a deep wānanga where we discussed theories, approaches, and what we had learned through our journeys of PhD life. It was a real ‘ako’ experience where we were all teachers and all learners, and we all learned from each other. It was revolutionary! Suddenly distance was not a thing. We could join the PM at any time and sign out when we were done studying. We could meet face to face on our screens in live time and do what we had done at Vaughn Park and other writing retreats face to face. This time it was all done in an online cyber-space forum, managing our own time, and our own resources, and it worked.
We invited other people to join the Remote Pomodoro Study Group and followed the same whakawhanaungatanga cyber-marae space process to welcome them into the group. We still meet face to face when we can. Like today Ruth and I met at an excellent book launch for Critical Conversations in Kaupapa Māori edited by Te Kawehau Hoskins and Alison Jones, and managed to acquire dinner on the way out. A little time saver that left us more time to study rather than cooking dinner. We also challenge ourselves to eat healthily, do quick walks and maintain our well-being. Starting tomorrow we are going to think about how we reward ourselves when we reach our goals.
Rachel Schmidt was the first success story in our group and handed in her Honours research dissertation last week (27 October 2017). So far there are five in the group with two who have left since finishing this semester. One of them also said it wasn’t a format that suited him. Other feedback from the group includes: it was an opportunity to debrief and look at the writing with fresh eyes; the 25 minute sessions are long enough to get quite a bit done; accountability to yourself and others is motivating; putting your goals out there makes them real and doable; generally the group is a good idea from an Indigenous worldview and reclaims fonotaga and whanaungatanga in a cyber room.
We are not sure how this group is going to go, change, move forward and the likes, but right now it is a method that keeps us accountable, motivated and feeling like we are not alone on the journey. We encourage any of you out there that might be feeling lonely, isolated, unmotivated, undisciplined or just plain lazy to get your own group together. We plan to make this a national movement in alignment with the First Follower Movement on Youtube.
Being Kaupapa Māori theorists, practitioners and advocates we thought to incorporate a kaupapa Māori name. We wanted to integrate the ideas that we operate remotely, independently, and in cyber-space. We found that ‘wānanga ipurangi’ means online forum. The name we like at the moment is: Remote Pomodoro a Wānanga Ipurangi. What are your thoughts about the name and the ideas? Please leave your comments below.