Saturday, June 11, 2011

Yo-Yo Ma and Award

Today I begin the post with a homage and recognition to all of you of something that I care deeply about: cello music (violoncello music as is the precise name of this beautiful instrument). As I write this post, I am in a little bit of heaven. For my birthday, I splurged on some music: Yo-Yo Ma’s 30 Years Outside the Box collection to be exact. This is a compiled set of ALL (over 90) recordings that he has made in his professional career over the past 30 or so years. This box set is music and musicianship at their finest.

He rotates his play on two cellos, my favorite being the magnificent, 275 years old, Domenico Montagnana's cello with exceptionally beautiful resonation on the low C string, which for me, makes for that great woodsy sound that stirs my soul. So, for me, listening to each of those CDs is a little bit of heaven. There are 90 in the box. I am only on CD 10. You can read more about Yo Yo Ma here and here.

People that know me, know that I am an amateur cellist. I was introduced briefly to a cello while in tenth grade in high school. Later, as an adult, I studied cello at Mankato State with Dr. Harry Dunscombe, who recently passed in January 2008. I considered myself a pretty good intermediate player. With loads of practice, I eventually auditioned for the Mankato Symphony Orchestra and won a place in their cello section. I happily played with this group for about 5 years. I have not played in many years due to a fairly significant knock on the head and subsequent sensitivity to sound. But, I have the cello out, and plan to start up again.

Next news:
I am tooting my horn here a bit. I submitted one of my papers that I presented in January for an award and guess what: I got it!! I cannot tell you how much this means to me. That paper describes what I have had my science/math methods students do in terms of researching their own teaching. This practice is what got me in the pickle around tenure: I pushed them too hard, or so they thought. Here is a bit from the letter:

Congratulations! The ASTE Awards Committee has completed its review of all submissions for Awards IV and V. It is my pleasure to inform you that the ASTE Award Committee selected your paper, Descriptive Inquiry in the Throes of Learning to Teach: Can Prospective Teachers Learn to Teach and Study their Teaching Closely? for Award IV: Innovation in Teaching Science Teachers.

Here is the abstract for this paper:
This paper will report on results from an innovative elementary science methods course where prospective teachers study closely their own teaching episodes within a framework of descriptive inquiry. During the science methods course, the preservice teachers spent 5 weeks in local elementary classrooms applying the teaching methodologies with elementary students. In addition and working in pairs, the preservice teachers applied qualitative research methods to their own teaching by collecting observational data through videotaped teaching episodes, field note documentation, and interviews to uncover phenomena, dynamics or practices that are exclusive and do not promote learning of all. In this paper, we will report on two case examples where prospective teachers’ research revealed that (1) the “average” students were overlooked in their teaching and (2) gender bias interfered with their inclusive interactions with all elementary students. These results suggest that if prospective teachers apply knowledge of subject matter methods with a close look of their teaching episodes they will gain some of the perspective of more seasoned and expert teachers.

I invited one of my former students to co-present this paper with me. As such, this award will be shared with her. She reported to me that she thinks about the work that she did in researching her teaching almost every day as a new teacher. So, it is a pleasure to share this award with her.

I know that the work I do with my students pushes them hard. They have told me this both in verbal ways and in written comments. But, I know, that this work make them better teachers, which is the point. So, receiving this award is a great validation of the work I have been doing and am so committed to doing. Isn’t our goal as teacher educators to produce the very best teachers possible?

TTFN and thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Rest and recreation

It seems so ho-hum to state that I cannot believe that I am almost five months into my sabbatical: but, I am. I started this blog to help me document my sabbatical because I was so afraid that I would look back and wonder what I had done with this precious gift of time. Well, all I can say is that I am relishing the time. Savoring it.

Recreation and rest: Since my birthday I have been in the Netherlands with a side excursion to Paris for a few days. I blogged about some of the bike rides we did in the Netherlands, the greatest country for biking, on my other blog here and here. But there is so much more.

First, here are my travel companions, Ellery (6 and grand-daughter) and hubby. There is no one I would rather travel with than my hubby, first, and a lovely grand baby, second, especially to Holland, hubby's birth country and home to many, many relatives, including my own sister. Here is a picture of my hubby, Johannes, and Ellery.
We were blessed with fantastic weather the entire trip which makes for great recreation. The first week we stayed in Onderdijk with hubby's sister and family. You can read more about our stay here if you like. The extended family I have in other parts of the world, especially the Netherlands, enrich my life. The picture below gives you an idea of the tranquility that is still part of some parts of rural Holland, including this small village in Onderdijk.
Our trips to the Netherlands are always full with family visits and activities. Coming only about once a year means that we have lots to catch up on. Several of hubby’s siblings still live in the village, but several; are spread around in other cities in Holland. This trip we planned a day of biking on the island of Texel as well as a day trip to Utrecht, home of one brother and his family.

My sister Chris also lives in the Netherlands with her hubby, Koos and our two god children. Chris, Ellery and I made a short trip to Paris by the high speed train the Thalys. It takes only 3 hours and 15 minutes to get to Paris from Amsterdam. Chris surprised me by booking our tickets in First Class-a wonderful luxury when traveling with a child.
If you ever go to Paris, I highly recommend this fast train as transportation. Easy and quick. We stopped at many cafes for coffee and sometimes a bite to eat. With a child in tow, cafes were one sure way to find a bathroom. Prices can be high in cafes, especially near well known tourist spots, but they are a great way to take a short break. Plus many of the cafes have seats that face outward-so they make for a great people watching venue.

The River Seine flows through Paris. We walked along it, road in a bus-boat on it and crossed over many bridges above it. Notre Dame is one of the great cathedrals that is located right on the River. My pictures do not do justice to the intrinsic craftsmanship that was part of this building, including sculpture and stained glass. That is Notre Dame on the upper right of the first picture.

Ceiling below.
Beautiful rose window.
Some of the

intricate sculpture

around the entry doors.

Image of the cathedral from the street.
One of my most favorite museums is in Paris, the Musée d'Orsay. The building itself is an old train station which makes a spectacular venue for some of the most beautiful artwork in the world.
Here are a few of my favorite pictures.
First, Van Gogh:

Next a little Monet. Claude Monet.

Ellery at the Musee d'Orsay

I have always wanted to go to Holland in the spring. I was not disappointed. Temperatures were mild (65-70 degrees) most of the time, with a gentle crispness in the air at times; some rain, but not much. It was lovely to share this travel experience with Johannes and my sister, but the delight was having Ellery along. She sang, skipped and danced her way through corridors in the Metro through Paris. She sang and told funny stories in the child’s seat on the bike. She enchanted us with her “tea party” play with her little animals and a tea set bought to her by Chris. Most of all, she illustrated for us adults, Chris and I, that a small child (6 years old) could fully enjoy what are often times considered adult excursions (museums and world class tennis). She had studied about “Claude Monet” in school (a Kindergartener) and was determined to find all the Monet pictures at the Museum. She knew which pictures were painted when his “eyesight” was poor and desperately wanted to find the water lilies and the Japanese bridge of the painting above.

Her delight and enthusiasm for Monet was captivating to us. Having her along and reveling in her own delight at the sights was a great reminder of how impressionable children are. How they can absorb, learn and be resilient in international travel. I enjoy my grandbabies tremendously. This year I am relishing their companionship, antics, and play more than ever. The gift of time in a sabbatical is remarkable for recreating with special people. Thanks for reading and TTFN, Michele