Friday, July 3, 2015

"Things I Learned Last Week"

As some of you know, I have been working on this grad cert for teaching ESL.  Part of the course requirements is an action research project, so I bought a book to help me with that.

I read the first chapter in an effort to get started on this project.  I honestly intended to just b.s. my way through this whole thing, get the A, and move on.  After all, when am I ever going to use all of the random things we've done?  I just wanted to learn some strategies for teaching ELLs.  (Honestly, the only reason that I even applied was that my district was paying 80% of the tuition.)

Anyway.  After reading the first chapter, I have decided that I am really interested in becoming a teacher-researcher!  Not just for the purposes of this class, but because I think I could learn a lot from actually paying closer attention to the data that I'm analyzing anyway.  By thinking about said data a little differently.  By thinking about it as a researcher that happens to be a teacher.

So to keep myself motivated to do this project the right way, I've decided to sort of document my journey through the whole process here.  Some of it might be boring.  Some of it might not apply to you.  But maybe you want to be a teacher-researcher, too!  Maybe you want to and you just don't know it!  (That was me.  I just didn't know that I wanted to seriously document the changes that I was planning to make anyway.)

The book is set up in such a way that includes a "Research Workshop" within each section of the book.  (I wonder if that's supposed to be comparable to a Reading Workshop or Writing Workshop that I do with my students...)

The first "workshop" was designed to get the teacher-researcher thinking about things differently.  It's titled "Celebrating 'Things I Learned Last Week.'"

On page 9, the authors write:
"In the pages that follow are examples from new and veteran teacher-researchers who explain how they dig into their data and cope with the messiness of their evolving research.  Some of the advice deals with the little things we learn that can get us through the day, if we pay close attention to them, and help us reconnect with the research questions that intrigue us.  It takes practice to notice the small details.  It may involve looking through a new lens, readjusting our focus, and celebrating what we see as we document what we have learned.

"The poet William Stafford believes that these details in life are the 'golden threads' that lead us to what he calls 'amazing riches.'  In his poem 'Things I Learned Last Week,' he celebrates the learning that comes from close observation, from reading, and from reflecting on his own actions:"

The authors of Living the Questions then discuss teacher-researchers' attempts at taking on the challenge of looking closely at "what we learned last week."  I decided to take on that challenge myself.

It was a lot harder than it sounded when I was reading that part of the book!  Holy cow!!

You should give it a try, too!  Here is the format:
  • Title
    • Write "Things I Learned..." and then the increment of time of your choosing.
    • Under your title, write in parenthesis, (with apologies to William Stafford)
  • Couplet 1
    • Start with a living thing (animal, plant, insect),
    • and something unique, quirky, or little-known about that species.
  • Couplet 2
    • Begin with, “Sometimes” and follow with some small noticing or observation.  It could be poetic, about life, or something literal, like something you discovered recently just going about your business in everyday life.
  • Quatrain 1
    • Begin with “A man/woman” and something he/she does.
    • Then, write two lines that reveal some irony or contradiction about what the man/woman does. This can allude to a specific person, or be more general.
  • Couplet 3
    • Write about a famous person or institution,
    • Then write something that contradicts the previous statement or makes it ironic.
  • Couplet 4
    • Same as above.
  • Quatrain 2
    • Follow this format: 
      • If I ever die, I’d like it to be
      • (time, place, month, etc). That way, I’ll have
      • (something in nature/natural phenomenon) to go with me, and
      • (a thought about why you chose the ‘something’ above)
  • Quatrain 3
    • Write about a place (could be a building, city, country, type of climate or geographical landscape, etc.)
    • Then "one person's job is to..." then some description that you find interesting, sad, ironic, funny, or surprising.  Ideally, this should refer to allude vaguely to the first couplet.
Good luck!  Let me know how yours turns out!

I really am thinking about teacher-research in a brand new way.  I'm looking forward to beginning the school year so I can get this project off the ground.  Of course, I look at all of the work that I still need to do and realize that I'm running out of summer.  But it will all come together in due time.

Here are some things I've learned about research (the "little r" kind)...

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