It has been 6 days of me visiting my dissertation school (at some point I’ll need to come up with pseudonyms for the school, teacher, and students; not only for this blog but for my paper in general). Even though I only go for about a half a day, I am already getting to know my students a little. I know which students are outgoing, which are shy, which ones rip loud farts for others to laugh at, which girls “like” which boys, which ones take pride in their fashion sense, and which ones give me hugs when I arrive versus which ones give me handshakes or fist bumps. I also am starting to learn a bit more about them academically–like which students work quickly and which ones don’t. I’m learning the students who, during writing workshop, can fill up page after page of a great story and which ones well, rip farts for everyone to laugh at instead of writing.
My committee posed an interesting question at last week’s meeting: How will I present my results of this study? In other words: What kind of story do I want to tell? If I can have an idea about this from the outset, then I can collect the data that fits with the story I want to tell. As I am wrestling with this question now, I see it like this: I could tell the story of the class in general (“students learned this…”, “students thought this…”). This would allow me to really talk to anyone in the class and look at whatever data I choose. Another option is to tell the story of specific students and their specific journey through the One Hen unit. This would probably mean I only focus on a select few students (5-6 perhaps) and any data not pertaining to these students’ stories either get woven in some other way or ignored for the sake of this study. I wonder what is a more compelling read? I asked Mike this question and he said he thought knowing individual stories would be more interesting to read, but he pointed out that one can’ t know their stories without setting the context–which may then involve talking about the class as a whole. So in sense–he thinks both are interesting. Even though I’m writing a dissertation, not an entertainment piece, it’s still important to me that this is readable and accessible and that my voice comes through. I feel I might be more successful telling individual stories, so this is where I am leaning.
Of course there is another story here–the teacher’s. And of course she is very much responsible for the context in which these students learned. For example, I learned that she uses natural light and floor lamps as much as possible–no overhead florescents if she can help it. She also has books literally in every nook and cranny in this room (which I LOVE), as well as a collection of dirt from all over the world, displayed in jars all around the classroom (I brought her a vial from Budapest to add to the collection). She also has set up an environment of teamwork in the class—the students work in “learning clubs.” So far, her social studies instruction as been about teaching the students about what she calls “life skills”– how to focus, work to your best potential, help each other, be responsible, etc. Her perspective is incredibly important here too.
And I suppose my story is important as well– what I bring to the classroom and what I hope to teach them with One Hen. I have this blog to capture my story, but I have to figure out where (and how and if) I fit in to my paper as well.