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ABC OF INQUIRY – MAVERICK  “When people tell me that I must get my maverick gene from my father, they are only half right. My father and I both have inherited our rebellious personalities from Nana. She has always lived her life on her own terms, something that was once considered quite scandalous, given the times she grew up in.” 

Meghan Marguerite McCain.

MAVERICK: Don’t fence me in…

The term Maverick was coined in the mid 1800s applied to cattle who were without a brand. The unbranded cattle had broken away from the herd and rarely re-grouped to the bigger mob.

For many years since and up to the present-day Maverick has been used to describe a person who broke the boundaries, refused to be branded into a group belonging, who saw the rules as something to be challenged. Where most people saw the rules as the boundary of how far one could go, mavericks saw it as the jumping off place, the beginning.

Mavericks have been traditionally widely distrusted and organisations and institutions have been wary of giving them a place, and if employed the focus has been on tightly containing them and diluting their energy until they conformed. Now many cutting-edge organisations are on the lookout for mavericks, they are seen as gold standard, and are sought after so their energies and creativity can be harnessed. Now that maverick ways and thinking have been identified as having economic worth, the risk of these ways being colonised has grown exponentially. As an aside, what happens when gender and maverick ways intersect makes for unhappy research. Interestingly, the people I have met over the years that have been branded as mavericks, are not remotely interested in taking up the maverick brand or any other identity convention imposed by others. It is also worth noting that there are numerous ways of practising so called ‘mavericking’ ways. This way of being in the world will be lived out in various ways, in any given time and place. To use a current thinking device, these ‘maverick’ ways will be expressed along as an ever-expanding web, as links are made and tried and refined and connected to other new ideas.  There will however be a constant in these mavericking ways and that is an insatiable curiosity will drive the links.

So, let’s move beyond any invitations to burn an identity brand onto people who have ways of being in the world somewhat at variance with their culture’s norm. Let us look instead at these ways as expressed by attitudes and practices.

  • Tend to extrovert behaviours
  • Can be persuasive and influential
  • Team events are not their favourite way of working/playing
  • Seek out and are open to new experiences
  • Are goal oriented and have astonishing practices of perseverance
  • Come up with creative, unconventional and innovative ideas
  • Think independently
  • Their minds are broad, far seeing and insatiably curious
  • Scepticism of other’s intentions, and can be seen as uncooperative
  • Risk taking is energising of them
  • Margins/edges are seen as rich, unexplored territory
  • See convention as something to be redefined
  • Failure is of little interest to them, it is seen as possibility and promise
  • Confident socially in many surroundings
  • Committed to practices of fairness
  • Will be outspoken and challenging of class inertia

Smooth running organisations and institutions frequently viewed people with mavericking ways as disruptive, rebellious trouble makers and the cause of friction.  Schools have traditionally aligned themselves with this view and students with mavericking ways have been often identified as problem students. With the movement towards inquiry-based approaches to learning, the creating of agentive opportunities for all sorts of students with many and varied ways of knowing and being in the world, mavericking students have, at last, a way to participate, analyse, contribute, think and do innovatively, and be seen and welcomed as valuable members of the learning community.

Teachers that set out to empower, resource and give responsibility to these innovative rule-breakers, that support them to mobilise collaborators, ignite imaginations and provide flexible ways within inquiry-based approaches, will experience an enriched dimension to their teaching days.

As I was writing this I found myself wondering if over my years of learning I had experience of or known many teachers with mavericking ways. Richard Gill in the field of music education was certainly one such a person. Did you ever have a teacher  with mavericking ways in your learning years, and what did they make available to you that you value?

A few questions to ponder that might scaffold how to engage your students with mavericking ways; this example is about a school rule that says female students must wear dresses without the choice to wear pants/trousers. It might be worth noting that like any other student, building a relationship of trust with mavericking students is the platform on which these questions can be asked.

  • Are you interested in having a further conversation about this uniform rule if I make time during the lunch break?
  • What do you want me to know about your frustration with this uniform rule?
  • Teachers are bound by school rules as are students, what do you see as the next step that could be taken about fairness with uniform choice?
  • Change has to happen within this system so that’s what we have to work with; what are your understandings about uniform choice in other schools?
  • Who else might stand with you on this issue, who might back you up if you take this to admin?
  • Have you developed some workable options to present at this meeting?
  • What would you most want Admin to appreciate about you taking this risk in negotiating for a fairer set of choices in the girls’ uniforms?

*BCW will now use‘They,their — themself’ as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun in all subsequent material generated on our website.

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