Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tuesday night writing club.

Just so you know how "un-hip" I am... when my husband called the community the "Tuesday night writing club" I had no idea it was a reference... apparently this album was a big deal a while back.... oh well, just one more confirmation of my tragic lack of coolness and deeply absent knowledge of popular culture... apparently this gal dated some bike rider from around here. But that is not the point.

Last night our group met and we had read a piece that SAM had submitted to a journal and had gotten back to "revise and resubmit", a popular refrain in the academic world. I was amazed at how harsh and specific the feedback was. But... here is why SAM continues to inspire me. He had responded to all the critique from the editors, done the revisions and then sent his new draft (including the letter) to our group and asked for more feedback. The group was honest and in spite of the fact that he is in some ways our boss (perhaps leader is a better word) we had a lot to say and he seemed very grateful for our critique.

I am learning more and more that this whole thing - life, graduate school, writing is all a process and the only way we can learn from our mistakes- is for someone to kindly (hopefully) point them out. I think about how much better my writing and my thinking has become as a result of all this.

I am hoping that I can continue to meet with this group after I have finished...

Friday, March 20, 2009

turning it in...

The dissertation draft is in the hands of the SAM. I am under no illusion that it is finished, but the appendices and references are in place and the acknowledgments have been written. I emailed my committee to set up a time for the oral defense and it looks right now like it will happen on May 1st at 3:00pm. I will have editing and revising and also the bureaucracy related to graduation before then.

Oh my word...... or words.... lots of them. In the interest of brevity I will not include them all here. Rather here are my dedication and acknowledgments...


To the teachers in my life


I have been blessed with many great teachers during my life, without them, I could not have completed this endeavor.

First my mom –R., you taught me about love and sacrifice, you always made decisions with my best interest in mind, you told me that I could do and be anything I wanted to be and supported me in each pursuit. This belongs to you.

To my dad- D., you taught me how to balance my checkbook, ride a bike and persevere, you taught me that life wasn’t fair and worked to give me every advantage, you taught me that faith was about actions more than words. This belongs to you.

To my brother –A, you taught me about excellence, you reminded me that someone would always be richer, smarter and prettier and then told me I was blessed, smart and beautiful. This belongs to you.

To my elementary teachers– Mrs. B., you believed in me and told me that I was lovable and capable. Mr. P., you taught me about rigor and humor. This belongs to you.

To my teaching colleagues – R.S., you loved me and weren’t afraid to speak truth into my life.W. G., you always worked to learn more and be a better teacher, and taught me about being myself as a person and a teacher. T. M., you taught me about planning, challenging students and laughing so hard you cry. This belongs to you.

To my grad school supporters, the Friendly Frogs and J.W., you have taught me to hear and accept critical feedback. You have read drafts of this paper to numerous to count and my writing and this work are better for it. This belongs to you

To my friends and sisters in Christ –E. H., S. N., S. S., M.W., B. Y. and many others – You taught me about friendship, trust, and rising to challenging and fearless pursuits. You have prayed for me, encouraged me and celebrated with me. This belongs to you.

To my readers, B. Y. and R.S., you read this work and found misplaced comma and dangling modifiers and questioned my assumptions. This belongs to you.

To my sister-in-law, S. you taught me about discipline, mothering and putting family first; you are always willing to help when I need it. Thank you. This belongs to you.

To my niece and nephew, G. and D., you taught me about joy, living in the moment and laughter. This belongs to you.

To my husband, N., the words that tell what you have taught me are insufficient: passion, hard work, joy, contentment, humor, problem-solving and most of all sacrificial love. You model all these for me daily. Without your love, encouragement and support I would have given up long ago. This belongs to you.

To the boy, my angel, you have taught me to live outside myself, to truly live sacrificially, but most of all you have taught me to enjoy each moment and reminded me daily, that I do have time for what is most important. I am a better person because I am your mother. This belongs to you.

To my committee – you have challenged me to produce excellent work and asked me questions that pushed me to think about the issues in new and different ways. This belongs to you.

To Rose Jackson, Margaret Anderson, and Douglas Parker – you opened your classrooms and your lives to me and taught me about quality teaching. You taught me that the best teachers know how to be themselves and enjoy each day. This belongs to you

Finally, to SAM– you have taught me what it means to be a scholar but more importantly you taught me that hard work and honesty are the best tools for success. You remind me to be myself and keep writing. Peace and Cheers to you! This belongs to you.

(of course in the document I used everyone's actual name)

I am feeling tired, and excited and overwhelmed and happy - happy to be here at home with my boy, working in the yard and thinking about what to put into the garden. I will continue to work on the class I am teaching and trying to get a proposal together for NAECTE, which is in Washington, D. C. next fall. I will work over the summer to try to get a piece together for a journal submission and figuring out what I am going to do for a job next fall.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

field trips, content and pedagogy

This past weekend we took our son on a field trip, the local university had an "open house" - basically every single student group puts up a booth and the university gives presentations to prospective students (and their parents) On the advice of a "tour guide" we visited the natural sciences area. The boy enjoyed the activities they had... using glue, borax and water to make "slime", recycling plastic by making "shrinkie dinks" and of course putting solid CO2 into water to watch it boil......Cool.

Now a word about content knowledge and pedagogy. One element of the new federal legislation is to put a "high quality teacher" in every classroom. Sounds like a good idea, yes? Well.... the problem for many of us within the field (check out Cochran-Smith and Lytle, 2006) is in how this notion is defined. The federal government strongly favors content knowledge over pedagogical knowledge - basically it is more important that teachers know Chemistry than that they know how to teach it. (See how this might not sit well with the College of education? - We spend the bulk of our time teaching pedagogical knowledge.)

So what does this have to do with the field trip? The young man working at the CO2 booth made a comment about how they would only have a "shrinkie dink" - portraying some chemical symbol in the Chemistry department. This guy was excited about Chemistry. He loved Chemistry. He challenged students to blow on the solid stuff and see the steam rise. It was pretty cool. No explanation of why it was so cool, just repeated exhortations that it was.

Now I began to wonder.... I am not suggesting that this young man had expressed an interest in becoming a teacher. I simply wondered about people like him becoming high-school Chemistry teachers, if only for a short time. He sure knew his chemistry- but did the children learn anything?

He lacked a fundamental pedagogical knowledge as he related to the children visiting his booth.... he was so excited about the coolness of the solid Co2, that he forgot to tell the kids that this is the stuff that we exhale when we breath- that this is a essential to plants for the production of O2 (I know this probable gets taught in the biology or botany department but...)

I am not suggesting that we should simply train teachers with pedagogical knowledge and let them learn Chemistry elsewhere. I just think send Chemistry teachers out into the field without a fundamental/working knowledge of teaching is not beneficial for students, teachers or the profession.

Wondering how education is improved when we forget that it takes more than content knowledge to help children become successful in the world around them (not to mention in the classroom).

Keep asking questions. I am sending a draft of the dissertation to my adviser at the end of next week.... I couldn't be happier (or more stressed).

Sunday, March 1, 2009

PhD. Graduation May 23, 2009 @ 12:00 noon

I will be there. I will finish. I will purchase my regalia and hang that stuff in the closet to remind myself that I can do this.

I have finished chapter 4. Of course I did this by moving the messy part into another chapter but, it is still finished.

I talked with SAM this week and I have been battling a particularly messy bit of data.
Here is a bit of our conversation...

SAM: Why don't you cut out the whole section?
Me: Well... Really? just cut it out?
SAM: Yeah, It doesn't relate directly to your research questions.
Me: I guess but... doesn't it have to be in there, if it is a finding don't I have to include it.
SAM: No.
Me: so I can just cut that section out?
SAM: Yes.
Me: Are you sure?

This goes on a bit longer, finally I go home and cut out the section.

I am getting closer.... I just need to finish the messy part of chapter 5 and get the significance ironed out.

I will have a draft to send to the SAM by the end of Spring Break March 20, 2009.