Presenting at the OADE Conference

The Ontario Association for the Development of Education Conference was held Feb 21st and 22nd at York University.    Nice setting.  I was presenting with my PhD supervisor on some of our recent research findings regarding the spheres of knowledge literacy teacher educators must develop in and how they go about making the developments happen.  I found it fascinating, so the presentation was easy.  Lots to say. Narrowing it down for a one hour presentation was the hard part.  I tend to find academic presentations a bit dry.  But this wasn’t.  This work is so insightful for new teacher educators, mid and late career teacher educators and administrators of teacher ed programs.   This is one of the most exciting and poignant articles I have ever read, let alone research and write about.  As the research is not published yet, I will not go into detail as of yet.  But thank you to the participants that came to hear us present.  I could tell how excited you were too and that was so encouraging.  More to come, dear reader, more to come.


Yeah, academic writing is hard

The other day I had a student in undergrad ask me if writing a dissertation was hard.  I was a bit amused.  “Yes”, I answered, “it’s really hard”.  I’m not sure if it feels hard because I wrote creatively for years.  Writing a novel comes from a completely different place.  It emerges differently and sings differently on the page.  It tended to stir me up, get me wound.  This type of writing is, well, logical.  And my logical, analytical side quite likes it, but it is painstakingly slow.  I am relieved that I have enough background knowledge in my specialty to at least keep writing.  I know where to find the articles and what scholars will back up my argument.    This is at least faster than it was when I was first conducting my research on my topic and writing papers about it.  I do see progress.  But the writing of a thesis is still different.  I wrote 1000 words today and I am exhausted.   My brain is tired.  My neck hurts.  I need a break.  But at least I leave the computer feeling as though I have accomplished something.  They are 1000 good words.  Well chosen and well supported words.  It’s hard, but it is satisfying.

Adapting to the Audience

Had a great workshop yesterday at the Reading Recovery Conference.  I had made plans, ran off handouts and prepared a ppt for (I was told) 60 people.  The stories I prepared (5) were very serious and I was going to select the’ right one’ to tell depending on the nature of the audience.  All of this flew out the window when I ended up with 5 participants.  Deflating, yes, but exciting, most definitely.  I threw out the whole plan and asked them why they came.  What did they need and want from this experience?  Their answers put me on different track, with some elements from  the original plan. (One participant actually read the description of the workshop and wanted exactly what was in the description!  As this rarely happens, I was impressed).  The opening story ended up being Fox and Bear, a primary story in my performance experience, and I included movement.  There were several reasons why I chose this story:

1.  One of the participants teaches First Nations children, hence a First Nations story. (Note,  I acknowledged the founding nations that told stories in the area first- Cayuga, Neutral, Mohawk and Seneca)

2.  Most of them were primary teachers

3.  They wanted to connect the story to a writing experience and this story lends itself nicely to mapping

4.  The story was short and I lost a lot of time finding out about my participants

5.  The group was small, so a serious story that may make them cry will put them on the spot.

6.  Since it was such an intimate experience, we needed humour to lighten the mood, and that story is funny.

7.  The movement addition would give them license to play with their own stories in the classroom.

Guess what!?  I worked.  I was delighted with what they got out of the story and the telling.  They picked up so many nuances  and wanted  to try it themselves.   They did map part of the story as a  retelling  and eventually we even got into personal telling.  A lot ended up being crammed into those meager 75 minutes.  But it was so worthwhile.  They said they learned lots and I had a wonderful time.

Storytelling at the Reading Recovery Conference Feb. 13th, 2014

This week I will  be presenting at the LITERATE BEGINNINGS, LITERATE LIVES, Reading Recovery & Early Literacy Conference in Scarborough.  Nice conference.  (Web site is below).   Topic?  What else- storytelling.  I will be exploring the power of story: what it does for our minds; our imaginations; our senses; even our tension levels.  I want to start with a compelling story.  Something that will grab the audience by the throat.  Of course, part of the magic of storytelling is being able to adapt to the nature of the audience.  This will mean having a few stories in my back pocket.  Nice challenge.  I will dwell on this for a few days and  get back to you.  If you have any suggestions, let me know!

Friday the 13th

I’ve never been superstitious: I don’t avoid black cats; I proudly walk under ladders; and only put my salt on my food; but, I have been given reason to reconsider this. On Friday December the 13th I was broadsided by another car. Yeah, yeah, I know what you are thinking… “So what. Pure coincidence”. Uh, uh. This was my THIRD car accident on the Friday the 13th in four years. THIRD! (And it has never been my fault). After the second accident the policewoman taking my statement (as I lay at x-ray in emerg) didn’t believe me and actually looked up my record. “Good God!”, she said, “You weren’t making this up. You were in another car accident on Friday the 13th!” Thank goodness for records. Otherwise, she might have thought I was telling stories! The policeman tending my third accident didn’t doubt me. He just banned me from driving on all future Friday the 13th. I will happily comply. When I shared my story at a friend’s 2014 New Year’s Party, one of the attendees asked if she could put me in the Guinness Book of Records. I know some people just don’t believe this. I get this, after all, I am a storyteller. And even though I am pretty stiff and sore, I do have a good story to tell now. Quite unique really. I wonder… is the universe trying to tell me to prepare a story set on superstitions?

Growing through a PhD

It’s been a while since I posted.  Been busy.  Decided to get a PhD from U of T.  I’m in the Curriculum Teaching and Learning Dept. at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.  This was a dream and it’s finally coming true.  And it is AMAZING!  I have learned so much already.  So much.  One of the biggest challenges has been to move between being a student at U of T and being a university instructor at Brock U.  I admit though, I do identify with my students more now.  I know what it is like to sit in a lecture and have NO IDEA what the professor is talking about.  As a result,  I am more sensitive to their blank stares.   I explain more.  Have them discuss more.   I also did something last week I hadn’t done before as an instructor… I shared one of my own research papers with one of my classes, and not because I was proud of it either.    I had just handed their research papers back and the papers were covered in circles and arrows and constructive feedback comments. My students were deflated.  So I showed them my paper.  It was marked up much more than theirs.  My supervisor had taken the time to show me my mistakes and how to change them.  It was invaluable learning.  I knew this.  It was uncomfortable but how else was I going to grow as a literacy learner?   I was grateful.  So I did the same for my own students.  It took a week, but last night they thanked me.  We are all learning and growing.  Lucky us.

Fitness Literacy

I am aware of math literacy, even fnancial literacy, but Aquafit Literacy is new to me.  I started going a couple of weeks ago, but it became imparative after falling down the stairs the other day.  My stiff body actually longed to get into some deep water and move without hurting.  I can’t believe, however, how much I feel like an ELL student.  “Bulldog”, my instructor calls.  I tread water and stare.  “Skiing”, she calls next.  I continue to tread.  (At least I’m moving!)  “Dog paddle”,  her voice booms across the water.  “I know this one!”  I exclaim and  frantically paddle against the current.  She is patient, my instructor.  I give her that.  Tonight she even called me “honey” when she noticed I couldn’t  do the arms for the ‘Dolphin’.  Funny thing, I responed like any kid wanting postive attention and tried even harder.  I think it may take a few more weeks for me to get the lingo down, but as long as I am enjoying it, feel I am getting something out of it and like my instructor, I have all the components of good literacy learning.  Who knows, maybe in a few months I’ll feel so fit and confident, I’ll try something else… Tae Kwon Do maybe?

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