Stuck – a #nerdultion/slice of life post

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Click on the image above to head over to the blog “Two Writing Teachers” for more Slice of Life posts….

Today I feel stuck. This is dissertation work time, I have a meeting with my advisor in 2 hours and I feel stuck. So I’m going to try writing here.

One of things that I’m struggling with in this kind of writing is that I need to write to figure out what I’m thinking versus “showing what I know”. It’s something that I ask the students in my children’s literature course to do each semester. Some of them really struggle with it – they believe that if they have to write a “paper” and submit it to me (the teacher) that they need to show me what they know. I want for them to use their written responses as a way to figure out what they think and why they think it.

My dissertation needs to be a combination of both, with some stories and references in there for clarity and support. And it is oh-so-hard for me sometimes. I have this notion that I should be showing what I know, that this is in some way going to “prove” that I have earned the label of Ph.D..

I keep feeling this need to defend my work – to defend why I am doing the sort of dissertation that I am (theoretical/humanities) and to defend why it matters. But what I need to do is make the case and then DO the writing – and let that speak for itself. And not everyone will agree with me or even choose to engage with what I’m thinking. But that doesn’t matter. So I’m going to turn off my inner critic now – she needs a nap anyways – and go do some writing…

Philosophy of Childhood and Children’s Literature (nerdlution #2)

Dissertation progress update:

  • reread feedback on Chapter 2 so I’d know where to start with revisions
  • revised 2 paragraphs that needed help and added a new paragraph
  • wrote a story to integrate into chapter 2 (or another chapter, not sure yet)
  • had a conversation with a friend about part of my framework

About that last one, what exactly IS a theoretical framework anyways?!?! This has been one of the most complex aspects of academic writing for me to wrap my brain around. In the case of my dissertation, the way I’m thinking of it (thanks to my advisor) is as the “lenses” that I’m using to read, view, sift, and filter as I read and write.

One of the lenses is Gareth MatthewsPhilosophy of Childhood (not the same thing as philosophy for children). What I’ve been talking about and rewriting is the section that explains what exactly it is and why I’m using it in this study. This second part is tricky for me because it is perfectly clear in my head – but doesn’t always come out on paper the same way.

Ultimately Matthews is important for me because my study is focusing on the ways that children’s literature is thought about, studied, and conceptualized across the disciplines of education, library science and english. In my study I use the terms “literacy, libraries, and literature”. Specifically, I want to analyze interdisciplinary ways of thinking about children’s literature as a way to provide a broader way to prepare preservice teachers to think about children’s literature in elementary classrooms.

So why Matthews? He provides a lens that frames children not from a deficit or developmental perspective, but from a “show me what you can do” perspective. This is important because of the implied child reader of children’s literature, as well as because of the assumed (and explicitly taught) developmental perspectives of teacher education.

Dissertation plan for Monday:

  • finish revisions on Matthews section
  • make plan for revisions on Rancière section (the other half of my framework)

 

Photo Journal: Writing Retreat #1

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This gallery contains 12 photos.

This week, I headed to my parents house in northern Michigan for my own personal writing retreat. I’m so very grateful to my husband and daughters for their moral and very tangible time support so that I can complete my … Continue reading

Dissertation Ponderings: Authorial Intent

I’ve been working in my dissertation and thought I’d share some of my “mind mapping” images. The image below is part of chapter two – at least that’s how it started – which is my framework chapter. This chapter describes how I’m going to approach my topic, another way I like to think of it is what “lenses” will I be wearing as I explore my topic. I’m using (or wearing) Matthews’ Philosophy of Childhood as an alternative to the traditionally accepted stage theories of development (like Piaget). I’m also using Ranciere as a way to consider what happens if teachers and students start from a place of equality.

The photo below was me trying to figure out if the idea of “authorial intent” is one way I can explain my thinking, or if it was just me going off on a tangent to avoid actual writing. I’m still working on it, but the good news is that I don’t think it is just a tangent (although it might come in to play in a different chapter).

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I’ve always been bothered by the question of authorial intent – it seems to me like the only way to get the answer is to actually ask the author. I know that isn’t necessarily true – there are some pieces of writing where authorial intent is very clear – like in very didactic books.

I really appreciate John’s Green’s thoughts on the matter. I’ve watched How and Why We Read: Crash Course English Literature #1 numerous times. Today I discovered that someone has isolated his “Open Letter to Authorial Intent” (which is part of the How We Read video).

One particular thing he says has stuck with me and I will continue to think about in terms of the ways that elementary teachers are prepared to think about literature…

Inevitably reading is a conversation between and author and a reader, but give yourself some power in that conversation reader! Go out there and make a world. 

I think that the idea of authorial intent is going to come in because if that is the objective of a lesson, then it has the potential to significantly impact the types of literature a teacher selects. In other words, if my goal as a teacher is for students to be able to identify the author’s intent of a book, then I’m only going to select books that have one clear message.

At least that’s where I am right now… more soon!

Connections: Extra Yarn and Philosophy of Childhood

My youngest daughter (8 1/2 years old) just asked if she could read me a picture book. She gave me four to select from and I chose this one:

Here is what she had to say about it after she read to me:

I think that there wasn’t any yarn in the box for the Duke because it only worked for people who needed it. The Duke was rude and only wanted it (the yarn) to make him famous and popular. Annabelle was a young girl who wanted to make a change in the world that she lived in. It didn’t say that exactly in the story but that’s what I think because she was the only one who could get the colorful yarn. Annabelle chose to share the yarn to help make the world a better place. The Duke was just being greedy.

I love asking people what they think about books they are reading or have read. I specifically use the term “people” because age doesn’t matter. Whether it’s a preschool child who isn’t yet decoding words, or a Nerdy Book Club friend who reads voraciously, everyone can say something about a story. It makes me think about the phrase I often hear from adults in regards to children reading certain books:

Children won’t understand that. It’s too __________ (insert descriptor like complex, scary, or deep).

This comment makes me crazy. While comments like this may be true for some readers (again regardless of age), it is not true of all readers. When adults make decisions about what a child can or can not engage with before even talking to the child, it worries me. I was reading today about The Philosophy of Childhood. I’m still reading and processing – and will be for a while because it is a big part of my dissertation. But as I was listening to Annie tell me what she thought about Extra Yarn, it made me think back to this quote by Gareth Matthews:

“The models of development that theories of childhood offer to stimulate our research and challenge our attempts at understanding children may have many useful functions. But we must guard against letting those models caricature our children and limit the possibilities we are willing to recognize in our dealings with them as fellow human beings” (Matthews, 1994, p. 29).

If we, as adults and teachers, are too cautious about what we think children are capable or in terms of responding to literature, we are shortchanging them from a world of possible experiences.

My Professional Canon – Part 1

I’ve been working on a little thing lately, ok – it’s actually a big thing (no pressure): my dissertation proposal. The defense is quickly coming up and I’m having trouble narrowing down the texts I’m going to draw on for my humanities theoretical work around multidisciplinary thinking about children’s literature. Earlier today I was struggling with this and thought back to ALAN 2012 Conference when my good friend Teri Lesesne challenged us to think about our personal canons. At the time, I thought about this in terms of children’s and YA literature titles but this morning I realized that I could also think of the texts I’m selecting for this dissertation as my professional canon.

Even this wasn’t nearly narrow enough for me because I started thinking about teaching books, education books, research books… AGH then I refocused. (Thanks to my friend Laura Jimenez.) Children’s literature – this dissertation is focused on children’s literature.

So the question is, what books or articles do I want to include in my profession canon about children’s literature? Here are some questions I’m asking myself as I narrow down the list:

  • what inspires me to think more deeply about children’s literature?
  • what inspires me to want to actually write a dissertation about children’s literature?
  • what helps convey the complexity of children’s literature in ways that I want to engage with as I write?
  • I want to be sure and select texts from across disciplinary ways of thinking about children’s literature in Literature (English), Libraries, and Literacy (Education)
  • I want to include pieces that are beautifully written, as well as those that are thoughtful, insightful, interesting and engaging.

I’m still working on it, but here is what I have so far:

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