Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Progress on sabbatical themes and goals for 2011

Fall lingers on in Minnesota. We had about an inch of snow at our cabin last Thursday night, but by mid day Friday it was already gone. As much as I love snow, I am happy we do not have any because that means that I can still get on my bike. So how am I doing on my sabbatical themes? Let’s start with:

For me, recreation right now is all about the bike. I am nearing 1500 miles biked since June. To me that is unbelievable. I make it a habit to get out and exercise (outdoors) most everyday. Over the past month I exercised 28/30 days. Most of it: yes, you guessed it, biking. I write about my biking on my other blog, so I will not repeat what I write over there here. Suffice is to say that I am a cyclist. That was me tearing up the Lakes Trail on Saturday (60 degrees!) with a big smile on my face. You see, I adore being outside. I have found that biking is a great form of exercise for me. First, I have to pay attention to it and I can not multi-task. Yes, while I am biking, I am thinking and processing, but that is about it. No headphones, music or podcasts. Second: It isn't always easy either. Take yesterday: now that was a grueling ride. Cold. 30 degrees and hills. Hills. I do them. But they are not my favorite.

Rest: Most days I feel very rested. But there is more. Just like I cultivated new habits to get healthy, I cultivated habits to stay balanced. I struggle with balance. Being able to get in the “flow” is both a blessing and a curse. This flow allows me to see things through to completion. But the problem is that it is hard for me to turn it off. I am learning though. Over the past three weeks I spent the better part of my days holed up in my writing retreat: our cabin. Most days, I adhered to a 50 minute writing block with a 15 minute break. This break might be doing the dishes, walking our dog, doing some exercises or even reading the newspaper. I allowed myself to break away from the intense concentration necessary for me to write. It is a survival mechanism, too, because without those breaks I trigger my migraines. I am hoping that when I go back to my academic life in February that I will have the tenacity I have had during this late fall writing to set limits and to take breaks. For me that is my rest. Another thing, over the past many weeks I made it a practice to NOT work on the weekends. Not at all. Instead I enjoyed my family and spent a lot of time cultivating and becoming acquainted with my inner cook. Pizza or butternut squash soup anyone? How about some of my fantastic scones??

I am in major writing mode right now. I have to, the end of my sabbatical is closer every day. Both the papers that garnered my attention recently were presented at conferences earlier this year. The first one, related to the PD I am involved with in summers at the U, was really a very preliminary draft. I had not analyzed the 24 classroom teaching episodes, nor had I really thought hard about how this study advances the field. At times it was excruciating to write this paper. Just the sheer amount of data was a challenge to keep organized and at my fingertips. Four different theoretical frameworks shaped the research and the analysis. This research pushed the boundaries of what it means to do effective PD and what it mans to be an exemplary teacher through five assertions:

We assert that additional principles for effective science inquiry professional development include: 1) a definition or operationalization of and for scientific inquiry and 2) a culture of mentoring or coaching from scientists and expert science educators to teachers as they are learning and applying scientific inquiry. Adding these two dimensions to a PD framework that includes researched based PD guidelines published in recent years (Loucks-Horsley, Hewson, Love & Stiles: 2010; Jeanpierre, Oberhauser & Freeman, 2005; Garet, Porter, Desimone, Birman & Yoon, 2001) positions teacher participants to embrace three additional tenets of exemplary teaching. We assert that exemplary teachers of science 3) draw from their own emerging identity as scientist with their interactions with their students; 4) have high levels of cognition and student engagement in their classrooms; and 5) are confident teachers of science who do not fear uncertainty.

Although I am the primary writer this is a paper that is co-written with another scientist. She spent the entire weekend pouring over it and offering feedback although I have not seen her remarks yet. I can not tell you how much it means to hear her exclaim: “I really liked it!” This is someone who doles out positive feedback to those she works with sparingly. Nice.

The second paper involves the work I do with my students where they learn to use qualitative research methods and apply these methods to their teaching. This is a monumental task for them which is clear in my course evaluations. However, their learning about themselves as a teacher, albeit not until the end of the semester if not beyond, is exponential. This is the paper that I won an award for that I will accept in January. I am reshaping the theoretical frameworks and rewriting the methods and discussion sections. I hope to finish this today.

Reading: Well I admit since summer my reading for pleasure has dropped off. I bought the new Steve Jobs autobiography, although I do not allow myself to have it at the cabin where I am writing. It would keep me up and distracted from writing. Not good for me right now. Instead it is at my bedside in MPLS.

And now for my other themes for 2011:
Downsizing: Personally, I am downsized almost 40 pounds. That is an incredible achievement. As I alluded to above, I believe the discipline that I cultivated to downsize physically will spread into other parts of my life.

I continue to go through the remaining items in our basement from both my parents. I also made the decision that my grandmother’s china, the ones that survived the fire, will be passed on to the offspring of my mother’s brother, Jill and her family. The sheer fact that it all survived, almost all intact, is impetus to pass it on. I lovingly cared for it for over 35 years. We celebrated many special events including Thanksgiving, Christmas and special anniversaries using that china. Time to share it with someone else in the family.

Organization: Well, I continue to aspire to be organized. For one: I keep all my writing stuff in my study and not scattered throughout the house like was my practice in the past. Downsizing helps with organization. My goal is to downsize enough yet this year that keeping organized will be a snap. I can do it!

Finally, balance: well I wrote about this one above, too. I aspire to be more balanced. Over my sabbatical I have come to terms with the tensions of balance or lack of it: flow/passion/diligence/persistence/inspiration and the flip side: migraines and exclusion. Just as I have come out on top with my healthy habits, I am convinced I will come up on top and develop methods (like I am ) of keeping more or less a balanced life.

Finally, as I ruminate over where I am in my sabbatical and in my life I have come to the conclusion that I have so far led a full and privileged life. I am fortunate. In a year that included many life changing events, I can still say I am privileged and fortunate. Thanks for reading and TTFN, Michele