Friday, January 28, 2011

End of week three!

As the third week of my sabbatical leave comes to a close I can truthfully say that I am beginning to actually feel like I am on sabbatical. I have finished all the tasks necessary to pass on my courses to my substitutes for the year. Files uploaded, books organized and other materials labeled.

I had a great meeting this week with my team from the U of MN about writing up our research regarding our projects, courses and teaching. For the past many years I have been the chief evaluator of the summer courses that we all teach through the college of Conservation Biology, Fisheries and Wildlife. We receive our funding through Improving Teaching Quality grants from the state which require a collaboration between science and science education faculty. Our courses are well attended by teachers in the area where they learn insect biology and ecology or focus on schoolyard ecology or citizen science research for teachers. My team includes scientists, science educators and community program coordinators. This year will be my 7th year working with this team.

Our courses are unique in that they invite teachers to work closely with scientists to learn field research techniques, biology, ecology and other life science content. Our courses undergo revision every year, but our format and delivery are sound and strong. This is not just my opinion but evidence strongly by the data I and others collect both quantitatively and qualitatively(by being in classrooms). We are starting an ambitious writing project related to all the research and evaluation I have done for the past three years. On Tuesday we outlined 4 articles for publication in peer reviews journals with another 3-6 more targeted for practitioner related journals. It is exciting to move fully into sabbatical with these ambitious writing goals. Since most of the writing and analysis will initially fall on me, it is also a little scary, but mostly stimulating and exciting.

Yesterday was the first day that I can remember in a long, long while where I felt so calm and relaxed. I was early for every appointment I had and felt fully present. I like this calm feeling.

I also had some very good news at my annual physical on Tuesday. Because of my obesity and my genetic disposition to diabetes, I have been concerned for years about my risks for diabetes. I did not have blood drawn for the past 3-4 years as part of my physical. A practice that I know was part of my own denial of the condition of my health. In June 2010 I finally made the decision to take care of my health. It was about time. SO this year I vowed to face the blood screening that is part of the physical. Guess what?? My blood sugar and all the chemical analysis including lipid profile were great!! I am sure that part of these good results is the fact that I lost 27 pounds and I am exercising regularly. So, another confirmation that I am on the right track with my health.

So how I am doing on my themes for the year?
Balance: Each day I make a “most important task” list an idea I have incorporated into my life from Leo Babauta: Focus: A simplicity manifesto in the age of distraction. Each day I ask myself what are the most important things I want to complete. And I do them. One of those tasks always relates to exercise (like skating).

Speaking of skating: I have found time almost everyday to do some skating with my family. I am practicing balance by being present with them and NOT thinking about what else I need to do. So, yes, I am finding some more balance in my life (as my sense of calmness would attest).

Organization: This week because I was sick, I did not focus on as much physical organization as digital. I deleted over 1500 files and documents from my computer and 810 photos. I also organized all my audio research files from the past year. Deleted all duplicate files and indexed all transcripts for writing.

Downsizing: Physically I am down a total of 27 pounds.

And the 5Rs for this year of leave
Reading: Not as much as last week. Did not pick up Buzz at all, but did read the newspaper almost every day and read through Time magazine.

Research: The organization that I did above will help me get started on the next writing phase. I am ready to recruit some more participants and start the next IRB processes.

'Rriting: The conference is over and I have a pretty good manuscript. But it needs work before I can submit it. But I feel good. The cool thing that happened was the group that I chair at ASTE will be submitting a proposal for a monograph. I plan to submit a chapter for that book. So, more writing on the horizon.

Rest: I rested a lot because I had the flu. Part of the rest was watching about five movies. The most interesting were the American and Winter’s Bone. Both disturbing but good.

Recreation: As I write above, I made time to ice skate every day after I recovered for the flu. But, the best recreation will start tomorrow (Saturday) when hubby and I take our three beautiful grandbabies to California for a week and a winter break!

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Week Two!

Ruminations over the past week in writing & reading: Last week started out really great. I worked for two full days on my conference paper (ASTE). This paper is a typical conference paper with abstract, introduction, lit review (theoretical frameworks) results, discussion, limitations, implications and conclusion sections. For me, it is actually stimulating to synthesis the results together, especially when you think you have something to share, which I do. I worked hard on the literature review and discussion. These sections are still hard for me because they must reflect the current literature for one and some of the historical lit, too, but, especially in the discussion section, articulate how the work that you did extends the field. Writing of this kind requires a great deal of reading and research review and reading and more research review. Uncovering one article, usually leads to 4-5 others that need at least a skim. Thank goodness for the Internet for lit reviews!

Downsizing and organization: This week I finished cleaning out my office at work. I collectively have downsized my office by at least 50% if not more. There are now a total of 9 file cabinet drawers for the folks that will take my place while I am on leave, plus a number of shelves. One of the interesting parts of this downsizing was a historical review of my own transition from using overheads transparencies in my teaching to computer generated images and power points. I must have recycled over 300 overheads, not counting all the reams of paper!
As the two pictures below attest: I finished cleaning out and organizing my home office, too!
and after.
Mind over matter: I caught the stomach flu on Thursday. No one ever wants to get the flu, but on Friday I had my conference paper presentation (and it was now presentable) with a former student, so the timing was not great. Since this was a group of science teacher education researchers, I could not let my student down and not show up. I am not sure how I did it, but I went to the conference on Friday morning and together we presented the paper. We had a great audience, more then I would have expected (about 40) and some rave comments at the end. She did great, too.

The interesting thing for me was that this conference cemented for me the value of this research for my students,for me and for of course teacher education. This study that I reported on is about how my students study their teaching and what they learn from it. Coupling research based methods for science teaching with learning to apply qualitative research methods within the context of classroom teaching at the same time that they are learning to teach is a formidable challenge for our students and something that they initially resist. However tenuous the start, students over and over again, like my student who presented with me, describe the merits of looking closely at their teaching and the value of this research project for them as teachers. The enthusiastic reception was an affirmation to me that this research work was important and valuable, something I had at times doubted, especially with all the events of 2010. I have learned a great deal because of the contentiousness I had to deal with about how to package this research in ways that make it palatable and manageable for my students. As a matter of fact, I think that is the subject of another article for publication: the process of moving students further than they think is possible in their own learning.

Well, that is it for now. Back to the couch to rest and recover some more. Michele

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 5

It 'twas a great week! As I will note below, I spent time at our hobby farm in Mankato. My writing desk is next to a couple of beautiful picture windows. When I look up as rest my eyes I see the beautiful open and snowy prairies that are our farm. As I write, I feel like the most privileged person in the world. I will post pictures soon.

So how am I doing on my 5Rs: Rest, Recreation, Research, 'Rriting and Reading?
Reading: I started a new book, Buzz by Katherine Ellison. It is a memoir about a mom (Katherine) and her son’s journey to understand their own ADD, and in the case of her son, OD. Fascinating read. Loads of interesting reviews about the neurologic, medical and psychological aspects of these two maladies. Katherine Ellison is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer and it show’s. My interest in this book are twofold: I have a daughter with ADD and two I am an educator and want to understand how to support complicated individuals like Buzz in the classroom. A compelling read.

Writing: This week I moved all my writing to our hobby farm in Mankato. I spent three full days immersed in writing. The paper I am presenting is about half done. Tomorrow I meet with my student (we will present this paper together). Today: discussion section.

Recreation: I started ice skating. I blogged about moving my fear aside to be on the ice. I have wobbly legs, but, I am stretching myself.

Rest: Long walks and a couple of movies.

TTFN, Michele

Monday, January 10, 2011

End of Day 1

The end of my first day on sabbatical is here. An excellent and satisfying day one!

Reading: I read Nora Ephrons’s new book I Remember Nothing. As I would expect seasoned with humor and a quick read. Some great wisdom, too. The second piece I read was about half of the book by Leo Babauta: Focus: A simplicity manifesto in the age of distraction. I heard about this book from Alan. It is a free download. If you are like me and have trouble with multitasking and too many distractions, this little gem is for you.

Recreation: I went Skating (!!) today, ice-skating. Only 15 minutes, but every little bit will help me to find my skating legs.

Rest: I went for a leisurely coffee tijd with my son and Ellery and Hann to Patrick’s. Simply delicious.

Limiting distractions: today I shut off my e-mail for 4 hours. I also set a timer when I participated in the blogging community. This helped me to stay FOCUSED.

A great and delicious first day!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Eve of Sabbatical

Today I finished all the remaining tasks from fall semester related to my courses and students. I still have some more to organize in my office, but, I am on target to officially start my sabbatical on Monday, January 10, 2011. I cannot believe that I will have twelve months to focus on my 5Rs: rest, reading, recreation, research and ’riting!!!

One of my biggest fears about this leave is that it will slip away and when it is over I will look back and think: where did the time go? In an effort to provide me with a tangible record, I will post my incremental ruminations here. I have thought a lot about goals and setting some goals and targets, which I will begin to do in the next few days and weeks. Looming in two weeks is my first conference of the year where I will be presenting a paper for the first time with a student. Since that paper is only in outline form right now, I need to get moving so that it will be a presentable paper!

In the meantime, thanks for stopping by. Till next time. Michele

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Ruminations of an incremental nature is my new blog that I am launching slightly before I start my first SABBATICAL leave (!!). My leave officially starts on Monday, January 10, 2011, which is the date that I will have finished all the remaining tasks required of an academic at the close of a semester, plus preparations for my leave replacements. At first I thought I would just have a sabbatical blog, but the more I ruminated, the more I felt that that would be too limiting and did not want the blog to be only about my leave, but about many other aspects of who I am and where I am hoping to go as a human being in this beautiful world. However, with that said, I will use this blog as a way for me to document what I do during sabbatical, but, also for other ruminations that are personal, professional and even worldly. Most importantly this blog is for me. I welcome readers and followers, but, my main blog community and the one where I will interact the most, with continue to be my weight loss blog found here.