Posts from the ‘Professional Development’ Category

2020 Takes a Virus to Journal

As most of us are aware by now, the Coronavirus spread has become a national issue, as most of us are hunkering down for a while. We are learning quickly that our luxuries aren’t going to help keep us safe if we do not practice due diligence. We need to confirm our “social distancing” to protect ourselves, and our loved ones. With this said, many families are forced to resort to continued education and homeschooling.

Speaking from experience, keeping a journal or journaling is a personally rewarding experience for dealing with crisis. My entire Master’s Project was grounded on this notion. Blogging and journaling is therapeutic. Does everyone agree? I doubt it! Most people wouldn’t understand the premise or complexities of how our minds process trauma. However, the idea of putting pen to paper for some can be scary. I’ve been told it can be “crippling” for those that aren’t familiar or comfortable with it.

It never felt unfamiliar to me. As a young student, I wrote often and read voraciously. The library was my refuge. It was quiet and safe. It was usually clean, and everything I needed to read in peace was readily available to me. It was also a place I could go that no one would question me about, and most of my friends didn’t care to join. I had learned early on to associate the nature of peace and quiet with reading and writing. It never occurred to me that I was using writing as my tool out of poverty and hopelessness.

I find myself faced with the reality that our students are dealing with making adjustments to a lifestyle they are unfamiliar with, and it will take a toll on them. As a member of the infamous Generation X, those of us unaffected or unimpressed by external factors, we were raised on using phones connected to the wall. We had the convenience of connecting with our outside cohorts, and the vehicle being America’s technological innovations. Still, we knew home was where this innovation was taking place. The information generation has that feeling of “home” but it has almost been replaced by Facebook profiles, ‘The Gram’, and Snapping. So, I say, let’s meet our students where they are, and help them find their trajectory.

I am including a link here for a neat activity to get our students out of their funk. It serves a few purposes. The activity provides students with self-awareness, as they will be creating this journal according to their likes and/or dislikes. They will also employ forethought and organization skills. They will structure their journal while developing a better sense of author ownership, and this will allow them an opportunity to view their writing through a new lens. The activity helps students become comfortable with utilizing writing as a way to contain feelings of fear or anxiety due to lack of control.

A journal helps our students find some control in an environment where their perceived perspective of losing it overwhelms them. Happy journaling all!

 

 

Student-Centered Pedagogy

I have recently starting working for a non-profit agency as a teacher/facilitator. I work at two separate sites; one located in Lincoln Park and the other in Dearborn. It has been a great experience so far, as I am not bogged down by the weight of administrative bureaucracy. The beauty of this experience is that I can focus on the students, as opposed to end of semester test scoring.

Clearly, we are attentive to these scores, and use them in order to assess where our students are, in order to meet them. However, our philosophy allows us to put students front and center. I have always been an advocate of student-centered learning, and for the first time in my teaching career, I found an organization that does exactly this.

I am still learning students names, and it does get somewhat complicated as our students sign up for our program at will. So, some students come often, and some do not, which makes it a bit difficult to remember names. Still, it has only been a few weeks, so eventually I will iron this out. The gist of our program is holistic. Our approach encompasses the idea that students learn best when they are exposed to a variety of learning styles. We apply a “reading, speaking, listening, and tactile response for kinesthetic learners” and this approach helps us meet students where they are, academically and facilitate their development.

Students are also fortunate in that we provide a small snack, and dinner. Once they sign in, they receive their snack, and they chat with their peers, and with us about their day. First order of events is that we check to make sure students get assistance with their current assignments. If they need help with anything, this is what we take care of initially. Then, we may begin an activity or learning objective that has been developed by myself or my site Supervisor. We pay close attention to the current scholarship being studied in their classrooms, and work to further those skills by creating lesson plans with this foundation in mind. Once we complete these activities, we then incorporate physical activity, craft projects, and/or learning strategies. This is the precise concept that title this post. I really appreciate having this creative freedom as an instructor, because it puts the student front and center. After all, they are the reason I do this!

Petrie Dish or Pen

After meeting with my advisor regarding the end of this Masters project of mine, something had occurred to me that I didn’t consider prior to beginning this project. As I began to ponder this subject, I realized how pervasive the idea truly is, and how it may have impacted my perception of education. I have conducted an artifact analysis as part of my project, and in doing so, I knew recording my findings would require an organized graph or table of what these findings were, and how they influenced my conclusion. I emphasized to my advisor that I have struggled with this document, feeling unsure of the hows and whys of producing this table of information. He then said to me, “Why are you fixed on a spreadsheet? What makes a document detailing your findings less valid than a spreadsheet?”

 

Well…shit! I don’t have an answer for that? Why do I feel a spreadsheet is more representative of dispelling knowledge as valid? What makes knowledge valid, the way we convey and share it or the knowledge itself? In my quest for higher education, I have often been faced with inconsistencies embedded into my thinking patterns, having been exposed to them throughout my primary education. It’s an unsaid truth throughout the education community that testable, verifiable knowledge is the “pièce de résistance”, but rarely does the scientific community respond to text the same way. Maybe I’m oversimplifying, or maybe I’m stereotyping education as a whole. Still, I can’t deny that this narrative has been set, and those of us that are a part of the composition community know it all too well.

 

When my advisor asked me why I was set on using a spreadsheet, I wanted to respond in loud bursts of laughter, followed by tears of joy….”I DON’T KNOW!! I don’t know Professor! I don’t know why I felt compelled to use a spreadsheet, other than to say, I’ve been programmed to believe it’s an efficient way to share empirical information”

 

Thus, this experience has propelled me to ask this question: how many other students feel this pressure? How many students have attempted to avoid certain projects or subjects merely due to this stifling? Is the idea that information is useless unless it’s quantified prevalent? Does it in fact stifle learning? I feel as though I’m digging my fingers into a whole new study or project? Could be.

 

I’m interested in gathering the views of other students and professionals regarding this question. If you have anything to add, please do. As most of us life-time geeks know, it is this kind of inquiry that inspires a lifetime of learning, and Lord knows I’m no where near finished with this journey. I’m convinced I very likely never will be, as simple questions like the one I posit here seem to feed my starved brain, regularly.

MP Reflection

Reflection #1: 4/12/16

Today I met with my advisor to discuss the methodology portion of my project. I’ll be working on a rhetorical analysis of a number of blogs to locate key terms, patterns, and characteristics that they all maybe share or do not share. I’m looking for markers of grief and mourning discourse within the blogs, in hopes to illustrate how the internet and writing is changing the playing field of grief coping mechanisms for many people.

It was one of the first moments when I could feel this labor of love piecing itself together. Jason would have scolded me by now and shit on my timeline by now, but he’s partly why the timeline was sabotaged so maybe I’m just being a little self loathing in that assessment. It was a great feeling knowing I will only be visiting Prof. Krause’s office maybe one last time. As much as I love campus life, I have had about enough of it.

He spent the better part of an hour with me today, which I’m really grateful for. He squeezes me into his schedule, and I appreciate that time, immensely. We browsed for blogs, looked at a few specific ones I’ve located, and ironed out what types of keys linguistic markers to look for. I was having a tough time determining precisely what a “marker” is and it’s function, so he asked me to think of genres. For example, when I think of country music songs, what types of characteristics would I look for in songs like this? This really helped me get my thoughts into perspective, and we began listing genre characteristics for my methodology.

Then he said I would need to create a spreadsheet to title the blogs, designate the markers, and tally my findings for each blog. At first I felt uncomfortable, because spreadsheets are the bane of my existence. I’d prefer to create a presentation in front of hundreds of people, instead of such a tedious task, but perhaps it’s a necessary evil here. I suppose there’s ways to make the spreadsheet my own, and not so dry and uninteresting. I’m really looking forward to this aspect, because it gives me a gateway into other grieving minds, and everyone knows misery loves company. I learn more from other people in my field than what I contribute, I can promise you that. Well, the next thing on this project list is to tighten up that literature review, attach my methodology, and the works cited….then it’s off to life in the spreadsheet.

The NY Hum.

Lady Liberty to my left and the Freedom Tower to my right at 199 State St. Brooklyn, New York, and it basically just fell in my lap. How does such a fitting metaphor have me here in such a historically rich place? Lord knows I have my share of friends, and they have their share of networks, but I never expected this. These are the moments I thank God that I’m alive and well! I love New York, and I want to come back. If I could land a well-paying source of income, I could most assuredly live here. Like Nancy said last night, “If you stop and listen, you can hear the hum”

I want to kickstart the “hum” in my life. I’m taking my sweet old time doing so, but I truly do. I want to get up, move, make things happen, and make my way through the streets with purpose. I can do that again, but this time with a different purpose. A purpose on a grander scale. The thought occurs to me often, “I can do whatever I want” I mean, within reason of course, but this thought was non existent in the old me. Particularly because I had everything that I wanted, and never felt the need for more. In my eyes, I had everything. In general, I did have everything.

This is different though. Now, everything means sustaining this family on my own. Even though I have the safety net, I have to secure a dependable living, which I know I can do, but I have other facets of responsibility to consider as well. I have a child in college, I have a grandchild on the way, and I have a son starting high school. It feels like I’m dabbling in life’s many experiences all at once in some sense. I don’t know why God thinks I’m so good at multitasking and juggling, I’m really not. However, when God calls, you better answer I gather. I don’t know if He’s calling, but He sure thinks highly of me. I guess I should bask in that thought, but it tends to make me anxious. Perhaps that feeling is just experience rearing its familiar head.

I’ve visited a few places that left enough of an impact on me that it didn’t seem like a place at all; Savannah, Ga., Windsor, Canada, South Padre Island, TX., Nassau, Bahamas, Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, and now New York, NY. These places all share a unified concept, just like many other places I’ll visit, and that is they represent emotion, passion, love, culture, language, asthetic value and rich, experiential knowledge of people. The world is made of people, so the more we’re exposed to them, the more we become comfortable being ourselves in the world. We create mental connections with those we encounter on the way home from work, and on our way to band practice. We may not have an extended or intimate conversation with people regularly, but we are a part of one another’s passing time. A human fragment attached to our day, therefore us. Haven’t you ever passed someone on the street, took one look at them and thought “I wonder what their life is like?” No? Never? Well you should. You should, because you’ll hear the hum inside of them. It’s a feeling, not a place. It’s a piece of the pie with surround sound, and we’re in charge of getting those details. They’re the details that make people a person, and I’m enthralled with learning what makes us all tick.

If you have asked that question, then you know what I meant by “a human fragment” People touch our soul, whether it is in a way that we get satisfaction from or not, it is true. People come in and out of our lives on a daily basis, and it can just as easily be a stranger you see wheeling a shopping basket around, carefully as so to not lose the excessive amount of returnables hanging off of it, as it could be someone you’ve slept next to for over twenty years. We have no control over who we fall in love with, and almost no control over those we invest in. I give my heart, freely whether it is to my lover or my best friend. Simply because we are human beings and have this incessant need to love, we crave the human contact. I crave human contact. When I find myself in a an unfamiliar place, I go out of my way to meet people. I spark up conversation. It can be mundane initially, but eventually I’ll guide the conversation into territory where we talk about the geography, history, and sooner or later, some retrospective memory of this place pops in their head, and I get this vastly layered short story of how this particular location became significant to the individual. It’s what I like to call unofficial participant research. It’s unofficial because it certainly isn’t academic by nature, but I’m participating in people researching, so I find it fascinating!

I love this stuff! The kind of inspiration I get from these observations is gold. One can only learn outside the box from people and experience, books cannot provide it. Personal stories are manifestos of life. They are irrefutable happenings with lives, emotions, and livable, credible perspectives shaped by wisdom. I thrive on it. So, I try to listen more than I talk, and for those of you that know me, you know this is a daily struggle for me 🙂

Curious Optimism

It’s been some time since I’ve graced my page, too long for my liking. Life on campus is coming to a close for this veteran academic, and needless to say, it has been one heck of a ride. This testimonial is not an implication that my journey through scholarship is finished. No, because for those of us that sacrifice time, family, tuition, and sometimes bits of sanity, we are fully aware that this calling is a lifetime one. We cannot escape the inexplicable fulfillment of making room for expanding our brain cells, and more importantly, demonstrating to our students the endless possibilities of such an endeavor.

It is a selfish and selfless road we traverse, which may be some of the reason why students feel so conflicted about this journey at times. The nights of cramming, reading, writing, equating, experimenting, researching, discovering, and doing it all over again when we hit a wall, working seamlessly into the early morning hours. The point at which we determine sleep is insignificant, but forms of caffeine are welcome with open arms. When the cell phone continuously goes off causing fits of aggravation until we decide it’s one less electronic mess to deal with and turn it off. We cut ourselves off from the world, and sometimes consequentially those we love, immersing focused into what we what we love to do.

I have come to understand why I love to do this, beside the obvious benefit of learning beyond myself. I am a creature of curiosity. I have been since I can remember. I’ve worked my way into my dad’s tool box numerous times, having an odd obsession with the rainbow colored magnets that stuck together on one end, and magically push away on the other. I was enamored of my mom’s make up kit, and the fragrant allure of Cover Girl, woking the electric blue shadow onto the tips of my fingers and wondering how such a thing could make her eyes so pretty. As a little girl, I made huge messes of muck and grass on my grandpa’s workbench in the back yard, as I had prepared our mudpie suppers. The pièce de résistance was granny’s jewelry box, not the goods that grandpa had spent so many hours at Chrysler working to award her with, but the trunk stuff, bobbles, pendants, ridiculous tiaras that she must have picked up at yard sales to tickle my fancy with, this was my treasure trove. This habit of play is what nurtured a habit of curiosity, and to this day I credit these experiences, because they are what taught me what working toward something means. They made me the curious mind that I am.

So, since I have been at Eastern, I have been desperately trying to find a position that fits my place in the world. I have utilized the values that my curiosity molded, trying to find the place that is carved out for me. This has not happened yet. As a matter of fact, I feel that there is no place carved out for me. Sometimes this feeling makes me very insecure, as though I’m not worthy of having my dream job, and sometimes I’m frustrated that the world hasn’t made room for me. As I am reaching the pinnacle (for now) of my academic career, I’m realizing that this journey wasn’t paved by the world for me to enjoy, it was paved by me to appreciate the world. So…with that admission, I am on the next journey. This is where I go back to the basics, for although teaching and education is my passion, writing in my heart. Thus, perhaps I haven’t found this niche yet, because I have been looking for the wrong thing. Maybe getting back to where I began as a student will help me locate where I might go next. I have decided to keep all options open and begin my search for my place in the world, by getting back to what I know, back to what I am. I am a writer, and it is by nature that this has refined me, not me it.

So, I will being to write as writers do, and all the while I will keep my perspective open to the opportunities that my passion may unveil. If I am fortunate enough to take the path leading to education and instruction, wonderful! If not, it is okay, because my writing has brought me this far, and has provided me with opportunities and accomplishments that I never dreamed I would witness in this life. I teach because I love it, but I write because it has loved me.

Writing Myself: Finding Genre in Everything

Today was my interview with the workshop instructor from Downriver Community Conference Work First program. I participated in a three day workshop called, “Personal Placement Network” (PPN), a program designed to provide professionals in career transitions with proven, self-directed job search techniques and I made an appointment to have the instructor take a closer look at my resume.

He was very helpful. He was able to determine that my resume was in need of a more comprehensive career summary, as opposed to the current opening entitled, “objective” He helped me tease out which career skill-sets I needed to extract, and which information I could lose, altogether. He said professionals have very little time to view resumes and they ought to be as concise as possible. He also stated that although the hard copy needed to be concise, a lengthy electronic copy would be okay, because most professionals are accustomed to scrolling through information on a PC. He helped me devise another career summary that included more detail about my experience as a scholar, and I realized I was able to do this because of the continuous amount of questions he asked me. His inquiry developed even more self-assessment on my part, and I was able to tweak the already ample amounts of skills related to writing that I had listed. As he and I looked over the details of my resume, together we also located a few mechanical issues that required addressing. We basically proofread an outdated version of my CV, and systematically recreated a polished version. We were a part of the writing process, just as tutor and consultant are. He was a peer-reviewer and I gained the benefit of it.

As I sat there, I realized what we had been doing was the very idea that I argue mainstream classes need to incorporate, more. We worked together to make adjustments and changes to text, and the conversation encouraged metacognitive strategies that I used to improve and revisit the text. My resume writing interview was an example of the writing process at work, and how peer-review enables success in that process. I had to giggle after thinking about it. What took me so long to recognize this? I mean, after all, a resume is just another genre, right?