Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nsta and catching up

Almost two weeks since I posted here. I am back a week aleady from one of the most inspiring and informative National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) meetings I have ever been to. I was just a regular attendee, too, with no paper or presentations what so ever. Just there to learn. I did.

To me the most inspirational talk was Jeff Goldstein, astrophysicist and director of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education. Over and over again he recharged the audience about why science, STEM and education for that matter are critically important. Several of my favorite lines were:

• Science is not a book of knowledge but the journey behind the science.

• If you want to be part of history all you have to decide is when to jump in.

• Science = organized curiosity.

• Nurture the gift of a question.

• Conceptual understating at the emotional level.

Jeff blogs at blog on the for any of you who might want to read more. Powerful talk. A short video of his after talk thoughts may be found here. I have not yet located a video for his talk.

Every session or PD that I attended at NSTA was noteworthy. I plan to incorporate more nutrition and health in the science course I teach at my institution once my sabbatical is over. One of the PD sessions was about nutrition. I walked away with a great deal of information that will be suitable for my students. I have taught about Global Climate Change for years. One of my challenges has always been the controversial nature of GCC in the eyes of many of my students. After attending a three hour long session on GCC and teaching about controversy I feel better equipped to dig in more with my students. There will be additional webinars (FREE!!) in the near future from NSTA that I will attend in the coming months. Kudos to the planning committee for NSTA for making this a great and inspirational event for so many!

Writing: Last week I finished my third original paper of my sabbatical. This one will be presented at AERA in New Orleans in April. This paper will be uploaded on the AERA conference site so that attendees can access it. It is not yet ready for publication, but it is close. This study features both qualitative and quantitative research methods. I synthesized over 300 pages of interview transcripts, 30 videos of teaching episodes, my own observational notes (25 pages) and many, many samples of teacher and or their student work samples. The major findings are in regards to the transformative nature of the identity of the teachers as scientists and a progressive model of inquiry that is adopted by the teachers as they implement our PD into their classroom. It is such a thrill to distill out these findings! It was a long road, too, to get that paper conference ready. It is 37 pages single spaced. I am going to let it rest now for awhile before I make the final push to publication. I will be very curious as to how it is received at AERA and look forward to finding other relevant and currents studies that offer additional perspectives while I am at the conference.

Recreation, rest & relaxation: Everyone should be so lucky and certainly any person working should be entitled to a sabbatical. Yes, I did attend a professional conference in SF. But, it involved plenty of rest, recreation and relaxation: three of my other three “R’s” of this sabbatical. I am finding walking in a city is one of the best ways to get oriented to the new geography. One day, I actually walked almost 12 miles. Believe me, I was sore, too, that night!

But, there is more to the rest, recreation and relaxation. I feel like I am so present in what I am doing. I feel so relaxed. Now, granted, I am accomplishing many of the things that I had hoped for in my sabbatical, especially the writing. So, I am still productive every day. I think because I have been able to distance myself from all of my teaching responsibilities, my mind is not spinning about all that I have to do, especially if what I have to do is for my students. I am more focused on me, but also the other things that are important to me in this one life.

Yesterday I spent the entire day with three of my adult children and their children. We were all gathered to celebrate the oldest granddaughters 8th birthday. I never felt “I have to go now because I have to …” I just enjoyed the day, especially the shenanigans of my children (all adults) and their beautiful offspring. My daughter and daughter in law and I even played two games of Scrabble!

I am reawakened and present to what is happening around me. I wonder as I sit back and ruminate, if I am more present because of the gift of sabbatical or is it just the fact that I am older now and perhaps this is the “wisdom” that comes with being more seasoned? I don’t know, but I sure am enjoying. More to come...

Thanks for reading and TTFN,

Friday, March 4, 2011

This week's ruminations

This has been a really great week of sabbatical. I feel like I am finally finding a rhythm. It is grand, simply grand to have the TIME to soak up in my life. That sounds so narcissistic, but, that is not how I mean it. What I mean is that I am enjoying this gift of time to spend an hour trying out new recipes, take long, long walks every day and read, read, read. I finished Buzz this week. Two chapters really resonated with me, the one on education and the one on meditation. Every teacher should read what she has to say about being an individual with ADD herself and a parent and of a kid with special needs (ADD/OD). Most kids with special needs do not have a parent as well educated and diligent as Ellison. It is a crime that we do not service these kids well. The chapter on mediation was funny, poignant and interesting. Ellison checked herself into a meditative retreat center with a brain and body is super drive. Her own story of responding to the silence and uncovering her own inner peace is compelling, especially for someone like me who never gave much credence to meditation. I am interested to learn more now.

Another part of this week that relates to having time is my own research writing. I am working on my third paper. This one is the process by which teachers who enroll in our courses at the U of Mn implement and experience the PD in their classrooms. This paper involves three years worth of both quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative data is the easy part (except sometimes getting the tables right!). But, it is the qualitative part that really tells a story. And that for me is what is so exciting. For so many of our teachers, especially elementary and middle school, they begin to form a new identity for themselves as scientists. This happens gradually and in large part stems from the relationships that they develop with our team scientists as they work at their “elbows” on citizen science research. The second marvelous part of the story is how the teachers come to terms with the uncertainty that is part of the practice of science. It is a 180-degree shift from needing to know the “right” answer at the moment and becoming comfortable with the ambiguity that is part of learning, whether in science or any other field.

Writing research is a time consuming process. There are just so many angles to think about to get it right. Getting the story right is one of the most important charges you have as a researcher; this is actually the ethical dimension of the research: getting it right. But that is also one of the most exciting. You get to think deep and hard about things that matter to you (what could be better than that!) and put together all the pieces until you have solved the puzzle and voila (!) the paper is complete. Intellectually it is thrilling to see how your research fits in to the published work and how your research even ADDS to that research (or at least I think). Finally, it is understanding where you could go, what more you could do. And that leads you to the next research projects.

So, a great week has now passed filled with the gift of time. TTFN, Michele