Monday, December 30, 2013

Winter and writing

It is a frigid night tonight in NW Wisconsin, -9 degrees Fahrenheit!  We are once again in a stubborn arctic air high pressure system. For me this means being very productive with indoor activities... 
We have over 25 inches of snow!
My writing desk at our cabin.

I am finally making some headway in getting published, which is very exciting. One article will appear in Science and Children sometime in the near future. This is an article I wrote about pollinators, specifically bees,  with a couple of teachers and an entomologist. I was the main writer and editor, but I gave first author rights to the two teachers who designed a unit about bees that was the inspiration for the article. With pollinators increasingly in the news, this is a timely article. I am guessing it will be out in late spring.

The second article is one that was part of my original dissertation research. It is a case study about a 7th grade student who chose the name of Wizard as his pseudonym. Wizard was identified with learning and behavioral challenges at a young age. In elementary school he was enrolled mainly in special education classes, so a 7th grade inclusive science classroom was a great place to understand his experiences in learning. The paper that is now in “production” had many iterations over the years. Last summer, I finally landed on an appropriate and relevant theoretical lens of disability studies in education to analyze and synthesize the data. I rewatched all the video tapes last summer, too. This time I used a Classroom Observation Protocol called CETP-COP to help me understand the learning environment across 5 minute intervals. This paper represents such a huge chunk of my life, professionally. Here is the abstract:

This case study reports on a special education student in an inclusive seventh grade life science classroom using a framework of disability studies in education. Classroom data collected over 13 weeks consisted of both qualitative (student and classroom observations, interviews, student work samples) and quantitative methods (video-taped classroom teaching and learning record using CETP-COP). Three key findings emerged in the analysis and synthesis of the data: 1) the experiences in learning science for Wizard are in a position of disability or service 2) the outcomes of learning are fragmented as a result of vulnerable and weak disciplinary literacy, 3) the nature of the inclusion is fragile and functional. Implications for classroom practices that support students with learning disabilities include focusing on student strengths, intentional use of disciplinary literacy strategies, and opportunities for eliciting student voice in decision making. 

It sounds trite to say that I learned  a great deal from Wizard, but I did. Each semester I bring him (figuratively speaking) into my teaching with my teacher candidates. I use his voice to push my students to think more about inclusion with the hardest to reach students. What I learned from Wizard has contributed to my own growth as a teacher educator in ways that I could never have imagined. His story is one that should be shared. I am very excited that it will finally get the press it deserves.

January Term is just about upon me. I have a few more hours of grading to do, and then all of my responsibilities for Fall semester will be complete. I am looking forward to the next 5 weeks of respite from my teaching so that I can more fully concentrate on my scholarship. I have another 4 articles that I am working on. One more for Science and Children, one on disciplinary literacy, a resubmit of  research of my summer work at the U of MN about a professional development program using scientific inquiry and a resubmit of a descriptive inquiry paper that I wrote with some of my students.

Besides all of the Writing, I am also hoping to catch up on at least 15 weeks of the New Yorker and read two books and see a bunch of movies. Love January term! TTFN, Michele

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Slicing Carrots and Other Ruminations

I just sliced up a few carrots for dinner. Nothing special; just cut them into smaller slivers and then made diagonal cuts so they do not look so geometrical. I love the way raw carrots snap and crackle as you cut them up with a sharp knife. I love the color of them, too. Orange. Deep and brilliant orange. As I cut the carrots I wondered what their origin was. Where did these carrots grow and when did we as human beings begin to eat them? So much to wonder about a carrot!
I will throw them in some boiling water in a little while and cook them for just a few minutes until they are done the way I like them (tenderly crispy). Once they are cooked I will savor their gifts of carotene and Vitamin A. Cutting up a few carrots is simple enough and borrows only a little time from my very leisurely day. As I was cutting, I could not help but think about how many people think cutting up vegetables is a chore, including me just a few years ago. When I had a rising family I know the last thing I wanted to do was to cut up some vegetables at the end of the day. Food producers and food processors have taken note of just that as is evidenced in all the prewashed and pre cut veggies that are available at the market. All you have to do is throw them in some boiling water. But, you miss out on that snap and that crackle. You miss the aroma of the raw carrot as it lays slivered up in front of you. You miss out from using your own hands to at least prepare part of your meal.
Preparing for dinner and cooking in general is such a calming aspect of my life now. It was not always so, but as I have taken better care of myself, cooking has been something that I have grown to relish. It is one demonstration of how I care for me and for those who I love. Cutting up carrots today was ruminative.
I am somewhat immobile now because I broke my foot. I did not feel confident venturing out today because of the rain, instead, I ventured in and read through four New Yorkers. The most poignant article came from the May 20, 2013 edition with an article by Rebecca Mead: The Sense of an Ending. It portrayed a patient centered model of care for the elderly, especially those with dementia at the Beatitudes Campus (a retirement community in Phoenix, Arizona).  It is a holistic model of care where the philosophy is: “When you have dementia, we can't change how you think, but we can change how you feel” (p 94). At Beatitudes there are no fixed bedtimes or rising hours and no schedules that residents must be showered by a certain time. The focus is on promoting experiences that are pleasurable because research has shown that such experiences have an effect on persons with dementia even after the experience is forgotten.  The principles underlying Beatitudes stems from the work of Thomas Kitwood, a social psychologist, in 1997. He insisted that people with “dementia, rather than being seen as debilitated should be embraced for what they can teach the cognitively intact” (p. 97). He promoted “person centered care”. He believed that people with dementia invite us “to return to aspects of our being that are much older in evolutionary terms: more in tune with the body and functions, closer to the life of instant.” My father had dementia, thus I feel it is likely that I may acquire this, too. When I get dementia, I hope that I receive the type of care discussed in this article.


Monday, January 21, 2013


I feel like I am on a mini-sabbatical right now. I will stay for the bulk of the next three weeks at our cabin in NW WI to focus on writing and research analysis. I planned and protected these three weeks so that I could do just that. It means that I am away from my family and the grandbabies, but I am hoping that I can make good progress in my writing goals so that it will be worth it. I am working on two papers related to inclusive science education. My brain is swirling after spending the bulk of the day reading and reviewing literature to help me shape the theoretical perspective that will undergird the papers. I enjoy this work immensely and find it creative, inspiring and thought provoking.

I read a novel over Christmas break which is unusual for me: Anna Qunidlan’s Every Last One
I found it to be riveting, compelling and tragic. I had not read anything by Quindlen before, but this book sure did get my attention. I enjoy novels, although I rarely take time to read them because of all the professional reading that I do. I found another novel that I will start tonight by Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna. I read the Poison Wood Bible many years ago (good read) and have read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle with my students (a great read with lots of recipes). I like her style of writing so I was delighted to find the Lacuna at the local used bookshop.

Speaking of reading: I share a subscription to the New Yorker with a friend. I adore this magazine. They are published weekly, but I rarely can read one weekly. Instead I save them up for when I have a long break from school, like now. I like to read an issue a day while soaking in a hot bubble bath when I am not bound by the constraints of the academic life (i.e. breaks like the one I am having right now).  Two great articles from issues published last summer really caught my attention. Being it was Inauguration Day today, one of the articles featured an overview and an analysis of what the second term of Obama might lead to.  Given that this issue was published over 7 months ago, it made for interesting, relevant and probably (although only time will tell) realistic depictions of what he might get done. For me it offered a brief education of the politics of a second term. According to the New Yorker, he will have about 18–24 months to make advances in any of his campaign policies before the focus turns to the election of the next President and all the politics inherent in just that begin (sorry, I passed this article on so I can not give you the title). The second article was a personal history called “The Aquarium” by Aleksandar Hemon about a child’s isolating illness. A poignant story written by a father with poise and wisdom.  I do not think about death often, but I do think about the fact that what there is left of my life is much less that what I have lived. I am aging and that is no secret. This piece resonated with me as a mom, a grandmother and a human being. Here are two of my favorite sections of text, used without permission.

There is a psychological mechanism, I’ve come to believe that prevents most of us from imagining the moment of our death...It would be unbearably obvious that death is inscribed in everything that constitutes life, that any moment your existence may be only a breath away from being your last. Still, as we mature into our mortality, we begin to gingerly dip our horror-tingling ties into the void, hoping that our mind will somehow ease itself into dying, that God, or some other soothing opiate will remain available as we venture into the darkness of non-being (p. 54).

One of the most despicable religious fallacies is that suffering is ennobling-that it is a step on the path to some kind of enlightenment or salvation. Isabel’s suffering and death did not nothing for her, or us, or the world (p. 62).

Finally, there was the lovely piece (June 13 & 20, 2011) titled: Where I learned to read by Salvatore Scibona. The author attended  a college where the curriculum was very liberal arts-ian and students read books by authors like Copernicus, Aristotle, Einstein and Darwin rather than reading books about them. He sums up how these great works impacted him with this text: “In retrospect, I was a sad little boy and a standard-issue, shiftless, egotistical, dejected teen-ager. Everything was going to hell, and then these strangers let me come to their school and showed me how to read. All things considered, every year since has been a more intense and enigmatic joy” (p. 105).