The Scamp’s World View

I had a meeting this week with my supervisors. They mapped out the next three years of my life, complete with a little sad face of death in the third year.

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As you can see, year 1 (my current position) is booked from now until July. I start to get a little more frazzled in year two, and by year three I have died before being reborn and achieving glory! I have sense added some things to year 2 and year 3 in terms of deadlines and things that need to be done, but I’m choosing to stay with these pictures because they make me a little less sad than the full chart.

Goodbye social life, hello burning the candle at both ends.

Despite this, I am excited that things are finally getting to the point that real work is getting done. For the last year I have been dealing with the disappointment of CSUF and the way that I was treated. It seems like forever ago that I was collecting data, doing research, and really doing something worthwhile to contribute to the field of education.

The problem is, before I can really get to the nitty gritty of collecting data, I have to settle on my world view. My supervisors asked me what my epidemiological and ontological views are. Now, this is a question that all researchers are asked at one point of another, especially PhD students as these views shape the way they gather data, the way they analyze the data, and the way that they present results. The answer to these two questions set the tone for the entire project.

The answer to these two questions are thus far eluding me.

I had to answer these questions when I was at CSUF, but I no longer view the world the same way.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. For those of you who do not aspire to be a student forever, or those of you who are a little rusty on your word parts, let me start with a simple definition of the two words.

1. Ontology and epistemology are both branches of philosophy that try to explain the existence of an entity or something.

2. Ontology which indicates the study of how something existed, its nature, or being, usually answers the question ‘what’.

3. Epistemology is often considered as the theory of knowledge, in which we know something exists, and it answers the questions ‘how’ and ‘what’

So now it is time for me to sit and think about how I think, how I construct knowledge, and how I go about answering questions in those categories. Easy right?

Wrong. First, I am not good in silence. If I spend too much time in silence then I am liable to go to the dark and twisty with my thoughts, so I always have music, podcasts, or TV playing. That does not allow for a lot of serious contemplation about the way in which I construct meaning in my world. Am  I a realist? Am I constructionist? Am I an interprestist?  Where does my belief in Critical Theory come into play? How can I explain my view in 500 words to my supervisors, and how can I spend more than 500 words explaining my views when the first chapter of my thesis is written? Do I want to do a Phenomenologicastudusingroundetheordiscourse? Do I even understand what that means?  I’ve been sitting with my laptop on my lap for the last three hours, and even with my crack skills as a researcher, I feel like I am no closer to answering the question than I was two years ago when I encountered them. 

Right now, I feel like I am sitting in the Pragmatism camp.

PragmatiParadigm

Ontology:Realitithpracticaeffectoideas.

EpistemologyAnwaothinking/dointhaleadtpragmatisolutioniuseful.

Methodology:MixeMethods,designbaseresearch,actioresearch

Anything that allows me to do action research is okay by me. We all know that I have had some battles with action research (Scamp on the Battleground), but luckily for me for the UK does not have the same hangups about a valuable form of research. I thought that maybe by the end of this I would have some better insight into the inner workings of my own mind and how my world view shapes my research, but I think that I have to spend some more time in the quiet to really figure it out. It might be time to unplug, turn off, and really get my shit together.

I am looking at my flow chart and I see how busy I am. I really need to refocus and get those 500 words written so I can start setting up the rest of my research I need do to stay on track with my three year plan.

The Scamp and the Gratitude Challenge: Week 31 and 32

I am in Scotland. For good this time. I have been here for 4 whole days. I’ve managed to get almost everything I need in terms of housewares and food stuffs, I’ve got one of my boxes, and have made it to and from work twice without getting lost. That last one is a big one because I had to navigate the bus system, and figure out the closest stop to my work since the building is hidden in a slightly shady industrial area. I cannot begin to explain how good it feels to actually be sitting at my desk working (although it will be much better when I have internet at home and can work from there a few days a week). I have heaps of things to do, and although I am still not 100% sure I know what I am doing, I have a month to get things in order. I have a list of things of emails to send, meetings to attend, and a presentation to give. I’ve just been named the face of TESTA for the university.

You may now henceforth call me the queen of TESTA. I want a tiara….and minions. Lots of minions.

But, back to the gratitude challenge.  Week 31 is all about my core values. The one core value that I would have to say that I am most proud of is my belief in adventure. My life is centred around adventure, whether it be my crazy wanderlust, or the risk that I am willing to take for my career (I mean, I did just pack up my life and move to Scotland for my chance at my dream career in higher education). That sense of adventure has provided me with some life changing experiences, and some pretty fantastic memories. That  belief in the value of adventure is what keeps me going some days. Planning a new trip, encouraging people to travel, talking to people who are also adventurous, it makes me happy. I hope that when I am in my 80s I will still have that wanderlust.

This week, Week 32 is dedicated to a city that I have visited. I have been lucky enough to visit a lot of cities, but I think one that really stands out is Boston. The Boston trip was scheduled at a time when I thought I was going to need a break from the CSUF program, and it was the perfect opportunity to see one of my best friends while she was in the States for a week. By the time the trip actually came, it was a good break from being depressed about the expulsion, and it was during that trip that I interviewed for my current position. The city was under 8 feet of snow, but that did not diminish the fun that we had for three days. Sus and I saw a lot of fun things and ate some really great food, and both got jobs out of the experience. It was a turning point in the year for me. It changed the direction of my life. I want to go back to the city again one day and see the city when it is not buried under snow, but it will always hold a special place in my heart as the city that redirected my life toward something better.

Once the internet is set up at home, I will get back to consistent posting about all of the great stuff that has been going on since I got back to Scotland.

The Gratitude Challenge: Week 23 and 24

Seeing as this is week 27 of the year 2015, I am a bit behind on the challenge. Part of that is the fact that I have been too tired to sit down and write, and part of it is that between the trip to Spain (which I still have yet to give proper time too), the move to Scotland, and my neverending visa issues, I do not have enough hours in the day to get everything done.

or, maybe I don’t want to.

Week 23 is dedicated to my favorite physical trait. A couple of years ago, I would have said my abs. Now, after all the stress of the program, the move, and all the change in my life, the abs are in hiding. To be honest, I would have to say that my smile is my favorite physical trait. Thanks to my mom and a really good orthodontist, I have nice straight teeth, and thanks to whitening toothpaste, they sparkle. I’m often told how great and white my teeth are, and on a flight from Germany to Estonia, a Russian man named Alexander asked me if I lasered my teeth. It took me awhile to figure out what he meant from that, but he was asking if I had my teeth professionally whitened. It made me laugh. The second thing that I like about my smile is that it brings out the dimple in my cheek. When I was a kid, that was one way that people could tell me from the wombmate, and now, I think it gives me a childlike quality that I love.

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Week 24 is a book I learned from. Being that I am a nerd and have read hundreds, if not 1,000 books, it is hard to think of just one that I have learned from. From a personal standpoint, there are so many that I am not sure that I could just pick one, but from a teaching and learning point of view, there is one book that has guided not only much of the writing and research I have done, but also helped guide me towards the type of educator that I want to be. That books is The Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. Here, a very talented author and scholar (a.k.a., me) sums up the book:

First published in Portuguese in 1968, Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed has become one of the most valuable texts in philosophy of education classes. The first English translation was published in 1970 and has seen several reprints and updated editions. Freire’s book is a scathing critique of the traditional top-down teaching methods where ‘instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiqués and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize and repeat’ (72). This ‘banking model of education’ (Freire 2000: 70) is thus used as a tool of oppression where the teachers have all of the power, and students are nothing more than empty vessels waiting to be filled. Freire was deeply inspired by the philosophy and works of Karl Marx and Franz Fanon, and predicated his own work on the notion that revolutionary educators were needed in order to help students become functional human beings who think critically, question the world around them, and act on their own free will in order to fight oppression and injustice. For him, true liberation, then, comes from the ability to inquire about, reflect on, be conscious of, and most importantly, to act on the world around you in order to transform it (Freire 2000: 79). For Freire, ‘knowledge emerges only through the invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, and with each other’ (Freire 2000: 72). It is up to the educator to help their students become critical beings by first seeing them as capable of higher level thinking than as equals in the process of learning, and then the teacher must trust that the students will use the skills and power they gain from this learning environment.

This book is something that I have read over and over and over again. I did not really understand what it was saying the first time I read it, but now I feel like I am an expert in liberatory teaching practices. I also feel like I have a better understanding of what it means to be a fair and just educator from having read this book. When I was in the midst of Cal State Fullerton, I had a choice to make. I could have played the game, pretended to be racist, and let the awful people in the program “fix” me, or I could stand up for what I believe in, and discuss the obvious injustice of the race that the program viewed race. This book has taught me a lot about how I can recognize those that need a voice, and how I can use my position of privilege to help those in need. As I get ready to embark on my final degree, and then a career of curriculum development, I know that this book will have a place of honor on my shelf.  I’m going to use his words to change the face of higher education one program at a time.

The Scamp on the Battleground

I’m sitting in the middle of my qualitative inquiry class and all I want to do is cry (okay, let’s be honest, I cried. I actually got up and left the room and cried. Giant hiccuping sobs Snot, hiccups, and embarrassment. I came home before the second class started and had a beer, french fries and onion rings). Since I started this program I have continually battled with whether or not I made the right choice.

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Days like tonight make the answer very clear: no. I made the wrong choice. I am now extremely depressed in a program that touts me as a racist, and today I learned that the program has never approved a proposal for action research. For anyone who isn’t aware of what action research is, here is a quick breakdown:

Action research is a practical approach to professional inquiry in any social situation. The examples in this component relate to education and are therefore of particular relevance to teachers or lecturers engaged in their daily contact with children or students. But professional practice need not be teaching: it may be management or administration in a school or college, or it may be in an unrelated area, such as medicine or the social services. The context for professional inquiry might change, but the principles and processes involved in action research are the same, regardless of the nature of the practice. (Water-Adams, 2006)

I believe as a future leader, and current practitioner that it is important to look at, and understand the practices in the classroom, and what needs to be changed in order to promote student success. I believe that my proposal not only lends itself to a dissertation, but it has merit and value in the field of basic skills writing. I also believe that as a future leader, I should be looking beyond race when I set out to help my students. I currently have 60 students, and I cannot, for the life of me, tell your the ethnic breakdown of my students.

In the program, that makes me a racist. I have made no secret to my displeasure in class, and my frustration with the mindset of some of the people. I have spent countless hours in therapy trying to deal with the boat I am in, but it is harder and harder for me to remember why I decided to stay in the program. Tonight I was told I have no critical consciousness, and therefore cannot be a good leader, because I do not look at the race, and I do not tailor my classes so that nonwhite students are given priority. I was also told that it is not my fault, I am white, and privileged, so I do not understand how to help students who are not white. I lack professional development which is just as much a problem of the college for not offering it, and me for not seeking it out.

Today I told my professor I saw no reason for me to continue in this program. Between hiccups I told her how attacked I felt, and how this program was only teaching me to be racist. I am not a quitter. I think anyone who really knows me knows that, but for the last year, all I have thought about is quitting. This program is one of the major reasons that I cannot wait to get back overseas. I was willing to just about break my bank to go to Estonia for a week at Thanksgiving, just so I don’t have to be anywhere near this program and these people. I’m seriously considering how bad it would be if I did not come home.

My friends have been pretty great. A few of the people in the program emailed and text me to make sure that I am okay. and my best friend sent me these words of wisdom:

It’s a long road. We’ll be 30 soon though, far smarter than our peers, angry at the world, paying of debt and having the times of our lives

He’s right. I just have to make it to 30. I will still be friends with the few people in the program I have really connected with, and I will never have to deal with the rest of them ever again.

The one thing that I have decided to do is fight this system. I am going to do an action research dissertation. I was the first person they ever allowed to defer admittance, so why can I not be the first person to do action research? I know I shouldn’t try and change the world right now with my work, but I want to do something I am proud of, and I will not be proud of anything less than the study I designed. This will be my giant “f-you” to the program. I haven’t decided if I am going to quit the program or not, but I have a meeting with the director on Monday to discuss my future. That gives me a few days to cool off and think about what I want, and how I am going to get it. In the meantime, I am going to ignore the classes, focus on my writing students, and figure out how to get myself into a clear mindset.

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The Scamp Completely Completes Her Dissertation

Exactly 4 months after I sat at my desk in Scotland and wrote a rough outline for a potential research project, my final draft is complete. No more editing, no more counting words or triple checking references, and no more children’s literature for a long long time. As of 11:30 pm Pacific Standard Time, my labor of love is now in the hands of my readers…..or at least in the in-box of my supervisor and the secretary in the front office who is going to print my hard copies.

It is too late in the evening for me to be super excited, but I am very very very happy with the final product. I think it is some of the strongest work I have ever written, and it is much better than my last dissertation (or thesis as it is called here). Tomorrow, I will do the happy dance and try to get everyone I know to read it and tell me how awesome I am.

On the bright side, I now have 8-10 hours in my day that are free….well at least for the next 7 days. I have a stack of novels waiting for me to read them, and the weatherman tells me we are all set for a heat wave. If you listen closely, you can hear the pool calling my name.

In case anyone is dying of curiosity about what my paper is about, here is the abstract:

  ‘¿Como frijole?’ or ‘How you bean?’ Is Not a Greeting:

How the Use of Critical Literacy Can Raise Elementary School Teachers’ Awareness of the Picture Books they are Presenting in the Classroom 

This study was aimed at adding to the field of critical literacy analysis by highlighting the importance of analyzing cultural representations of Mexico in children’s picture books.  Gary Soto’s (1995) Chato’s Kitchen and Judy Schachner’s (2005) Skippyjon Jones in the Doghouse were used as two examples of how Mexican culture is represented in children’s picture books. The aim of this research is to highlight the importance of analyzing critically the picture books before they are presented to students in the classroom. Teachers can encourage cultural sensitivity among their students by choosing culturally sensitive picture books to read in the classroom. Two pages from each of the stories were analyzed with special attention given to how the authors and illustrators used color, texture, layout and characters to represent Mexican culture. In addition to the visual text, I analyzed how the use of Spanish words affected the representation of Mexican culture.

This study starts with a review of critical pedagogy, critical literacy analysis, and critical media analysis. Important research and scholars are highlighted, as well as the definition of critical literacy analysis that was utilized for the purpose of this study. Because picture books are analyzed, literature on children’s literature and picture books was also analyzed. The study concludes with a reflexive discussion on the importance of content and analysis and action research, as well as how the example of analysis used in this study can be used to analyze cultural representation in any picture book. I conclude with a reflection on the importance of using critical literacy analysis to encourage cultural sensitivity.

If that isn’t enough, I’ll even show you the pages that I analyzed.

Skippyjon Jones Skippyjon Jones in the Doghouse 

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8S1BDVrKQSKHrfPSKRDY3Cy4

Chato’s Kitchen

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If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, then use it as a cure for insomnia. I promise that Chapter Two will put you to sleep before you can finish reading about critical literacy analysis.

I would like to thank my family and friends for letting me sit in my office with my headphones on and ignore them, for feeding me and entertaining me on breaks, pretending to understand what I was writing about ,and to my mommy for reading the whole thing to make sure all the commas were in place and all the words were in a proper order.