Monday, February 28, 2011


Relaxation is the theme of this post. Over this past weekend, I realized that I am really digging into a relaxing pace for my sabbatical. I find myself being present in whatever is happening or going on around me and not constantly thinking about all that I have to do or attend to. It is lovely to go to the Children’s Museum with a couple of little boys and watch and interact with them as they play through the galleries. It is delightful to spend three or more hours making a carrot cake for a four-year-old birthday boy with two of my favorite girls in the world. It is pleasant to be in the moment at a little boy’s birthday party, enjoy his excitement and shenanigans and interact with other guests in a non-hurried manner. So, yes, I am getting good at relaxing. Finally. Overdue and about time. TTFN, Michele

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Unto week Seven!

I passed six complete weeks of sabbatical on Monday. As I get deeper into my leave, I find myself thinking the weeks are just slipping by and I have not done enough or I haven’t been as productive as I think I should be or have been. But, actually I have been quite productive. Here is how I stack up with my five goals: “Writing:” I wrote two new papers. Yes, they are still in draft form and there is plenty of revision to, do. But, they are both conference worthy. One was already presented, the other one in early April. Reading: I have read several books, including just yesterday the slim volume of Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules.” Research: Yesterday, I started planning a new phase of research with some teachers. I am starting some math work with one of my own little grandbabies around number sense. I don’t do enough research in math, so this is a promising prospect. Recreation: I increased my walking so I am now in the 5-6 miles a day range. Went on vacation for over a week. Rest: I am getting plenty of sleep. Now that I walk more, I am finding I sleep longer and better. I actually feel well rested. But, I do not measure rest by just sleeping habits, but by other indicators, like reading the paper, hanging out with my kids or the grandbabies, or even seeing movies. Rest to me is resting from work types of activities. Making time to do other things that make your life enjoyable. So, what gives with these thoughts about not being productive enough?

Well, I have had an “aha”: my expectations are too high, still. I need to strike a balance between being “productive” and enjoying this time “off.” I think it is time for me to read the second part of that focus book: Focus: A simplicity manifesto in the age of distraction. But there is more: I am finding that everything I do takes longer than I think it will. I am a chronic underestimator. I want to set realistic goals for what I hope to accomplish; what I can manage within the time frame that I would like to expend. Can I strike a balance here? That remains to be seen. So, to the mattresses to read what others say about time management, focus and goal setting.

TTFN and thanks for reading, Michele

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Week Five!

Already five weeks have passed by. There was an excellent op-ed piece in the Star Tribune this week about how the “past flashed before my eyes” titled Three Score and Five Years Later. This piece was about the lifetime of a now 70 year old man and the 55 years since he had been a camper at a North Woods Youth Camp. Poignant piece. Another reminder about how fleeting life is, and of course this one year sabbatical for me. You can read more here.

‘Riting: Last week I started prep for one of two papers that I am writing about my research. What I mean by prep is gathering all the data together, checking it for accuracies, and bringing the literature review up to date. As a qualitative researcher, the data set is very complex and large with lots of interview transcripts to read and break down into themes and domains, student work samples to analyze as well as video taped files of teaching episodes. This prep work took me the better part of the week. Honestly this is one of the most exciting parts of research: finding out what you really have and what it means. My first paper is due on February 20 to NARST. As this is a conference paper I know I will have more work to do after the conference especially after I present it. Often time’s questions from the audience will help you to see some of the holes that you have. I hope to have this paper as well as two others on their way to submit for publication by April 30.

Reading: I have one chapter left of Three Cups of Tea left. Reading this book allowed me to gain some clarity about Namibia/South Africa. First a little background. In 2009, I, with 3 other faculty, led a Jterm course to Namibia and South Africa. The course was centered on the study of the history and culture of Namibia and South Africa and exploration of social justice as it relates to colonization, apartheid and other themes of the course. Part of the work that we did included youth in a leadership camp (S. Africa) and schools (Namibia). There is nothing more sobering as working in a Southern African school that services kids from the township to understand how far we need to come to really be a “global” society. Knowing that I would be on sabbatical this year, I talked with the principal of one of the schools about working with the teachers in her school in math and or science. She jumped at this and invited me to come. My sabbatical proposal actually made note of this. However, I have honestly had mixed feelings. Tremendous mixed feelings about what I had volunteered to do. I have a vision of doing professional development that is at the center collaborative and reciprocal. I have as much to learn from them as they may from me. Over the past year I have gone through a lot of doubt about my noble vision; most of the doubt centered around the sheer enormity of what I would like to do and the amount of time that will be invested. You see I cannot in all good conscious, do a drop in kind of PD and then say “See, ya.” That is completely unethical to me. I do not want to “help” those ”poor” people, but instead work with them to understand and strengthen their programs.

Over the past year a lot has happened to me: my parents passed and I had an arduous time earning tenure, to name a few significant events. As a result, I feel that I want to be careful about what projects I work on, because frankly, I have only so much time. There is more, but that is enough for now. Now, getting back to Three Cups of Tea. As I talked with people about my interest in education in Southern Africa many people brought up that book. Obviously, I finally read it. Reading it has helped me to make a decision. I do not know exactly what I will do, nor do I know exactly what the teachers and principal will want, but I will honor my word. Depending on a number of factors, I will travel to Namibia in the summer to complete a needs analysis. I am also considering developing another January term course that will focus on work with youth in Namibia and also South Africa.

Rest and relaxation: Many people would not consider it to be rest and relaxation to have three little kids in your care for five days, but, for me, it is/was. Our son Jacob and his wife went on a little winter break and we took their three kids: Nani 7, Owen, 5 and Noah 1 for five days. We spent the weekend at our farm. It is crazy busy to have three kids, but their humor, singing and overall shenanigans kept us light-hearted and upbeat. Because I am on sabbatical I think I am even more present than I normally would be with them. Last night was one of those nights when Noah was not feeling well (tummy ache) and was fretful and awake for hours. About 2 am I decided to stay with him in his bedroom, where we have an extra bed. I cuddled him in my arms where he would almost fall asleep and then his stomach would begin to act up and he would wake up again crying and fussy. These kind of nights are not any one’s favorites, including mine. But, because I did not have to be any where, but with him, and I was so present with his aching tummy, that I actually enjoyed, tremendously, my role of caring and soothing him. At my age, I know just how quickly he will grow. These moments, even these fitful moments, are fleeting (just like that op-ed piece states) and actually precious. As I lay with him, holding his little hands and talking with him softly, I ruminated about the word grandparent. Ever think about that word? Grandparent. Grand to me conjures up an image of something distinguished, impressive or marvelous. I am not going to go as far to say that any of those words describe me as a grandparent, but rather the experience of being a grandparent is distinguished, impressive and marvelous, even if it means holding a little boy during a bad night, knowing that this too will pass. Life does not get much better than that, being present for the good and the fretful.

Thanks for reading. TTFN, Michele

Sunday, February 6, 2011

End of week four!

Four weeks of sabbatical have slipped by already! Last week was a precious week on vacation. You can read more on my other blog here about what I did and where we went. But, the main thing I would like to comment on here is the fact that I was present in our vacation. Present. Each and every day. One of my goals for this sabbatical is rest and relaxation. Mission accomplished last week. Soooo wonderful to take a break; albeit a short one.
Reading: One of my books on my sabbatical reading list has been Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. This book is one man’s mission to provide schools, meaning build schools, in some of the most remote and poorest areas of our world. A thoughtful book about navigating and learning about cultural diplomacy in a part of the world often overlooked. You can read more here. In some ways this book is illuminating to me as I move forward in making plans to work with teachers and youth in Namibia and South Africa. Much more coming about all of this.
TTFN, Michele