Scribbling & Bibbling, but What?

November 7, 2013

This week I decided to take a closer look at all the “in-process” writing I do while reading. It’s really hard for me to read without being able to write on a text. It’s part of what makes it hard for me to move from reading hard copies v. digital copies in adobe. There’s something about returning to the scrawl that helps me get my head back into where my thinking WAS when I left a piece. But I don’t really control my pen too much as I’m read-writing. So what exactly am I doing when I write?

1. I’m identifying lovely quotes I think either sum things up or might go nicely in a piece if I reference the article. As you can see below, I’ve asterisked a “good quote” and underlined it. It’s a clear, incisive line that speaks about the relationship of subjectivity to identity and identities; a set of concepts Hagood is working to trace relationships between and distinguish from one another. Here she points out that subjectivity is not about “being” an identity or performing multiple selves, rather it’s about the slips and liminal places in between stable notions of identity.Image

2. I do a alot of paraphrasing. If you take a look below, you’ll note that I pull out phrases and work to write the in my own words or words that I’d use if I were to write academically about the concept discussed in the article: “subjectivity is active effort to de-stabilize stable identities.” Here I’m not just highlighting how the author’s writing nicely about things, I’m working to sum up a section or paragraph in a nutshell or to connect it to concepts I am working with. I do this so I can just skim through my notes the next time I return to the work. It’s a very un-digital and complicatedly searchable way of annotating an article. That being said, I think it speaks to my need to always return to the primary research source before I cite it when I’m writing. There are all these lovely database programs for academics who need to cite lots of things – databases that hold all these notes in searchable fields and will drop a reference into a draft with the push of a button. This makes me nervous. I’m always afraid to get too far from the texts I’m claiming support my thinking, especially given how much what I think about texts changes over time.  Image

3. Margins are also the places where I jot my text to text connections. As I’m reading academic articles, I’m always working to line things up, map how one researcher or theorist speaks about concepts I’ve read about or studies within my oeuvre. Note below, how I draw an arrow at the bottom of the article linked to the term “performative politics.”

Image

This is a term that I highlighted at the close of my dissertation. It’s the heart of the significance and implications for my work. It’s a concept Judith Butler developed and Deborah Youdell deploys in research. It’s a way of seeing how people use words, gestures, and dress to shape reductive identities.

Weaving a Story In to Illustrate Concepts – Visualizing

October 14, 2013

Weaving a Story In to Illustrate Concepts - Visualizing

In this next segment of the article entitled Critical Literacy for Whom? Margaret Hagood, the manuscript’s author puts concepts of critical literacy and identity “in action” (Pages 253-254), outlines the relationships between critical literacy and subjectivity “construction” (Pages 254-258) and then puts concepts of critical literacy and subjectivity “in action” (258-259). What holds this conceptual explosion together is the story of Timony, the young man at the center of a case study she’s been weaving through the article so far.

Timony’s important because “The texts Timony used and his recurring time spent in In-School Suspension continuously produced an identify for Timony as a bad student” (p. 253). But she illustrates the ways Timony’s text use and ways of spending time are produced in social, historical, political context – in this case, amidst the Columbine shootings, episodes of violence at Timony’s middle school that yielded a zero tolerance policy. These events surrounded an exchange between Timony and a fellow student, Alex about a guitar pick in Alex’s mouth. A teacher had asked what was in his mouth, he’d joked it was a weapon, they’d shouted Careful! Careful! and everything spiraled out of control to the point that Timony ended up in In School Suspension.

This is all important because what we learn is that Timony is unaware that t-shirts he wears and time spent in ISS have produced him as a “bad student.” Instruction in critical literacy, that takes identity production into account, supports students unpacking the ways film, media, written and spoken language make particular ways of being (identities) taken for granted, assumed. Bowling for Columbine, the Columbine shootings, school violence and district zero tolerance policies did just that for the guitar incident between Timony and Alex.

In the next, lengthier section about subjectivity construction, I had to do some charting. Timony wasn’t around, so I needed to draw some of my own “images” or “maps” to keep my understanding straight. What I came up with was sort of an outline:

1. Texts have no inherent meaning
2. Power works through texts and readers (identity – in text) and (subjectivity – in reader)
3. Subjectivity moves the emphasis from multiple identities produced in texts to readers as subjects and the ways they construct themselves.

“The meanings attributed to texts are what readers make of them within various contexts” (p. 255).

“Subjectivity highlights the tensions of betweenness not as one identity or another or as multiple identities, but in the transitional state of transforming” (p. 257).

To illustrate these ideas, Hagood tells how Timony parodied the guitar pick as a weapon to reference an event that took place beyond the school when a student was suspended for bringing a big tweety bird key chain to school that the school decided was a “weapon.” As he discussed his take on the guitar pick incident, he explains that teachers imbue different materials with violent connotations, like rubber bands, paper clips, in this case a guitar pick. He points to a “wacko” student who joked about killing, but also explains that he is not wacko, so…Here he actively constructs himself outside of the identity of bad student and as one who can joke about violence without being a threat. Timony doesn’t seem himself as dangerous as teachers do. He doesn’t see the identity placed upon him as one he’s taking up.

For the sake of not taking up too much more space, I’ll include 258-end in the final post.

Reading Research with a Purpose

October 1, 2013

I can remember when I used to just sit down with an interesting article and read slowly, letting the words wash over me, visualizing the researcher’s study, the participants, the theoretical ideas. I’d read and re-read, underline, star, paraphrase things for myself, circle and box critical terms. But most importantly, I had TIME – time to read and think about what I was reading. 

I DON’T HAVE THAT ANY MORE!

Which is why I chose to read research for this project. It let’s me slow down again. I need more slowness in my life.

I digress.

So I could blog about the 1 million things I did while reading the first six pages of Margaret Hagood’s (2001) article entitled, Critical literacy for whom? which appeared in the third issue of the 41st volume of the journal entitled: Reading Research and Instruction. 

  • I listed connections to other texts I’ve read.
  • I noted that I’ve never read ANYTHING in this journal.
  • I noted that I’m very familiar with this author, her work, and her use of terminology – in fact, she’s someone I’d say I inadvertently am modeling myself after in many ways. We share a research lens, so to speak.
  • I started outlining big concepts she was telling me she would be discussing in the article’s body, but put my notes in the margins, so I could quickly scan my notes on the article and refer back. 

This last bullet is a perfect segue to the point I’d like to focus on for this post. My process could not escape from my purposes for reading. I selected this article because it is an article written by the editor of a journal – one that deals with theoretical concepts I’m working with in my own research and writing and one that will help me make the necessary revisions to an article I’m hoping to publish. I read this article (or this chunk of this article) with this purpose. Because of this purpose and theory at the foreground of my attention, I planned to pay VERY close attention to the ways Margaret Hagood conceptualizes the relationships between literacy, identit/ies, and subjectivit/ies. This meant reading with a ridiculously close eye for language use like “production” “construction” “identity” v. “identities,” etc.. As I read, I worked to paraphrase these relationships, highlight salient quotes, map out the relationships she was describing, read and re-read the descriptive examples she gave to illustrate these concepts AND their relationships. I also kept an eye out for those summative one and two-liners writers throw in – lines that encapsulate everything in a way that really sings for me as a reader.

So what did this translate to?

The 6 pages I read included the abstract, introduction, “An Overview of Critical Literacy” with a subsection entitled: Critical Literacy and Identity Production. The article has more subsections, but today this is where I start and stop (pages 247-253).    

In the article’s introduction, Hagood explains that she is working to explore the problematic dimensions of critical literacy. She explains that many in the field of critical literacy explore the dangerous consequences of well-intentioned literacy curricula, the ways texts contribute to problematic self-concepts, and limit the ways people see themselves or the world around them. The field of critical literacy holds that texts are not neutral compositions, rather they position people and worlds in a range of potentially harmful ways and teachers should teach young people to identify these textual messages. This is something I work to do in all my classes. You can see me doing this with Little Red Riding Hood for my Children’s Literature class here if you’d like.

As I read through Hagood’s introduction, I let alot of this digest of the critical literacy field wash over me. I was familiar with this synopsis of the field and believe strongly that the world of critical literacy has many ways it can develop and acknowledge a broader set of perspectives on what counts as critical literacy.  When I got to the last paragraph of the second page, I snapped into focus as she mentioned that she planned to, “illustrate how differences in conceptualizations of identity and subjectivity, though often subtle, produce different constructions of adolescents as literacy users, different iterations of critical literacy, and different problems and dangers” (p. 248). This was a useful roadmap for the article and her argument.

The next section “AN OVERVIEW OF CRITICAL LITERACY” pushed me to note: “explore subjectivity” “stereotypical identities” “formations of self” in the margin. Again she pointed out a roadmap of three tenets that hold the concept of critical literacy together, so I got my pen and my number brain out and put a number by her words that would draw my eye next time I had to skim to cite this article: 1) Critical literacy is a field focused on “the alleviation of human suffering” v. the field of critical reading which “emphasizes the psychological and cognitive development of higher order thinking skills related to comprehension” (p. 249). 2) “literacy is assumed to be political practice influenced by social, cultural and historical factors (Barton & Hamilton, 2000; Street, 1995)” (p. 249). 3) Critical literacy aims to right social wrongs and “effect change” toward social justice. I shortened these for myself in the margin: CL v. C Reading, L = Political practice, Effect social change/social justice

The subsection that makes up the remainder of the reading I blog about in this post is titled, “Critical Literacy and Identity Production” In this section, I worked hard with my pen. Here she laid out traditional concepts of identity as a fixed, stable, autonomous, rational, logical self. This concept was juxtaposed with categories that produce identities, like nationality, gender, etc.. For my purposes, I paid most attention to the ways Hagood used identities and identity after the stable definition. Flexible identities, multiple identities, and their production and performance are what I’m interested in. It’s important to note that in this section, she begins to talk about her own study and one student, Timony. She uses her case of Timony, his interests in pop culture, identities, and subjectivities, to flesh out the concepts she is working with. Following Timony helps the reader get a real sense of what she’s talking about, check understanding, apply understanding, and puts abstract concepts into play, so questions can emerge.  I noted in the margin that:

  • rational stable categories = “identity producing mechanisms”
  • identities are “noticeable ways of being.”
  • Identity “markers” produce Timony as a “kind” of person.
  • Identity as conceptualized by some researchers is fragmented not holistic.
  • Fragments of identity are contrasted with the possibility of multiple identities.
  • Institutional discourses of school produced identity for Timony as a student. Did he take this identity up?  
  • Discourses of qualitative research produced identities for Timony of student to Margaret’s teacher and as guinea pig or participant, to Margaret’s researcher.

Hagood goes on and the big ideas I was left with were: 

  • Identities are produced in texts (spoken, visual, digital, print, etc.) – in discourses or interpellations
  • The teachers working with Timony used his text choices and clothing to evidence ways they positioned Timony as lazy and an underachiever

I reacted to this idea of available identities being produced in texts because this concept leaves out the participant’s interpretation of the text as it makes identities available. The big question I go into the next section with is, “How does Hagood account for/accommodate individuals’ interpretations of text, i.e., not only available identities, but how they make meaning of the identities within texts?” Specifically, where is the reader as an active, agent and meaning-maker? 

As I read along in this section, Timony was front and center. His teachers position him as an underachiever, he talks back and identifies the rationale for dressing as he does. He remarks at the ways they’re disturbed given recent Columbine shootings, but also points out that he’s different. Timony really propels the section and the reader, but I focused on the concepts getting worked out (my agenda as a reader).

What I’m hoping I’ll be able to do better in the next post is include visuals or a useful video. I’m realizing this print text discussion of my process can get DRY……….

Making Lunch

March 7, 2012

Recently Sadie’s lunch started coming home uneaten. Stinky sandwich, sour grapes, untouched. It got me thinking about why we make lunch and why we thought she should keep to eating the home lunch. How much of this has to do with her body and the way it processes food? How much of it has to do with our general principle of knowing what’s in your food? How much of it has to do with cafeteria lunches typically consisting of fried cheese sticks, hamburgers, and pizza? How much of it has to do with our fear of letting Sadie “choose” from what are likely totally decadent and delicious (read salty, oily, sugary, carby, processed) choices? Will she choose the wholegrain wrap with honey mustard, pickles, uncured ham, and yogurt cheese that she’s “chosen” her way to?

I had to thank my sister, silently, for bringing up the lunch quandary weeks earlier when she’d emailed about her son (my nephew), getting in line for lunch at school and coming home with an “I OWE THE CAFETERIA LUNCH MONEY” on his hand or shirt or something like that. When she asked him what had happened to his homemade lunch, he told her he hadn’t eaten it because it made him feel poor. Eating the school lunch didn’t result in this “poor” feeling. She was writing to us siblings wondering what we thought about this. She was also jogging our memories of lunch times past, when we’d thrown out carrots and ignored sweaty meat and cheese sandwiches. I recall the light feeling of carrying my two quarters to school instead of a cumbersome lunchbox like it was yesterday. Knowing that two shiny quarters would turn into a hot scoop of taco meat on a staleish chalupa shell with shredded lettuce, cheese, and all the almost eating at taco bell feelings i craved (my family didn’t eat out much. i grew up in the days when eating out was more expensive than cooking for yourself. not so sure this is still the case with the 99 cent menus everywhere).

My response to her follows:

***I love that you brought this up***

 
I think a few things. 
 
1) This seems to be more about feeling different than feeling poor.
 
2) It would be interesting to know what he thinks poverty is. This might give you all a starting point to talk about both. Who seems poor? Why? What do you think of them? What do other kids say about him/her? How does this make you feel? How do you think kids get poor? 
 
3) You have to decide why you all pack lunch instead of eat the school lunch. What is in the school lunch? What’s the family’s set of ethics and values around food, eating, health, enjoyment, socializing, snacks, cooking, shopping, where food comes from, treats, etc.?
 
4) I’m sure there are ways to make the home lunch snappier, if that’s the way you decide to go. Maybe there’s a compromise between hot and home lunch for certain cafeteria days. I remember this from childhood. And getting him involved in planning and making lunch is probably a good idea (if you’re not already doing this ;))
 
5) While I can see the baggage from childhood and certainly relate to it being one who had and didn’t have cool lunches depending on our family’s finances, how well we’d manipulated parents at the market, who was packing (grandma when mom was in the hospital (can you say peanut BUTTER and jelly and Zingers)? dad (carrot, apple, bread, cheese)?), I look back and am glad I had to work with a packed lunch. There’s something about not getting to eat the salt, fat, sugar + protein, carbs, and “vegetables” / “fruit” of school lunch that probably trained my palate. I HATED and often didn’t finish the apples and carrots, but I think it was good to not have alot of money when we were kids or eat junk regularly. It taught me alot about what it feels like to have less, how nice it can be to have more, but how important it is to realize that most people have less and get by and that it’s important to choose less even when you can have more because you never know when you won’t have more and will have to live with less. 
 
I always wanted to fit in (never did), but as an adult that’s not necessarily always fitting in still, I’m realizing this is a life long journey and that most people don’t get to fit in and there are even more people who can never fit in just because of how or where or when they’re born. Fitting in and having friends are different. Caring about what everyone thinks is a pressure that no one should have to live with and the sooner kids learn to get over the crowd the better. Of course this never goes away. It’s more of a learning to live with, cope, and remind ourselves that everyone’s got a fear of being different, but it’s the strong and different and the boldly different that figure out how to live freely and comfortably in their own skin. Feeling comfortable in your own skin is crucial. I’m wondering what Silas can say about how he eats and why he eats that way. Is there a way to start to develop an ethic and some pride around it? (I’m shooting the moon, but realize that this cannot always be given that lunches are daily and a pain in the ASS necessity)
 
6) If I seem top down or paternalistic or insensitive, it’s not my intention. I just have been thinking about difference and food and all that stuff since little Sadie was born and have ALOT to say about food, bodies, cooking, childhood, and the ways people feel and assume about it all on the daily. These family narratives are important and a life’s work.
 
Love you lots and look forward to the next “ghetto” lunch installment :)
 
xx
 
Liz
 
p.s. pop culture side note: While Silas is too young for glee, likely, I feel like there are many episodes or scenes in it to draw on while thinking about this. it’s got an ethic that I love!
 
It’s not a mystery that food is a critical text through which families craft values, beliefs, and practices. My girls have been playing kitchen and setting the table since they were two. When Sadie talks about missing her father, she always mentions that she misses his food. Having a dad who love to cook and takes that over has produced an image for her of men cooking (not so different from the male dominated chef world, so I’m not sure HOW forward I’ll let Rob be for this, but…). When we talk about whether or not she can choose candy for a snack, we talk about food, energy, sugar tasting yummy, highs and lows, special times. It’s clear we celebrate with food. We talk about it, look forward to it, reflect on it afterwards when she wants MORE. But there is a conversation – a daily one and it happens in families everywhere. 
 
What do these conversations sound like? When do we say yes, no, draw the line, not care, leave it to someone else? What are the constraints surrounding these choices?
 
In our case, we probably wouldn’t have gotten SOOOOO thoughtful and talkative about it if we didn’t have a first child who has a rare endocrine disorder. But I thank God (not for her struggles), but for the lenses this experience has afforded me to see all the microscopic ways we live through our bodies. We haven’t gotten to the feeling poor bit yet, but that one’s probably on the horizon. For now, we’ve addressed Sadie’s lunch vote with inviting her into the kitchen, into the cookbooks, and onto amazon where we bought a panda bento and are packing it with weird stuff we’re concocting. Today it was a deconstructed ham sandwich (whole wheat crackers, provolone/pickle/ham skewers, and edamame/carrot kabobs). Last week it was veggie multigrain English muffin pizzas (topped with grated zucchini, carrots, parmesan, and ham strips). 
 
 

Dumb Bunnies Anyone?

March 7, 2012

Dumb Bunnies Anyone?

Evidence of the second grade literary canon in action

Some of my literate life

January 29, 2010

My earliest literacy memories are of evenings sitting at home with my father, waiting for my mom to come home from work, playing a game we invented together. Who could recite the most Mother Goose nursery rhymes? The winner would get something intangible like a kiss, but sometimes something delicious like a twinkie. We’d sit hours, challenging each other on the couch ’til someone fell. Jack and Jill, Little Miss Moffett, Hickory Dickory Dock, you name it.

Lots of home time was also devoted to music and musicals. There was always something playing in the house, whether it be classical music my father fancied, or old records from the seventies and sixties that my parents grew up with, e.g., Beatles, Derek & the Dominoes, Beach Boys, Al Green. But the music we really learned to sing along with was music we learned through televised musicals like Hello Dolly, Annie, and Mary Poppins. I can remember to this day, almost every word in the script from Mary Poppins, having likely watched it 200+ times. At night when I’d have trouble sleeping, I’d lie back in my bed and try to recite the lines from start to finish. Inevitably, I’d fall asleep before Mary Poppins arrived to take the job at the Banks’ home.

My mom, the over achiever, taught me to read in my bedroom closet with “Sam I am” books she’d photocopied from a friend.

This was all before I got to school which was great, but conversely, this made me the girl who had to go to the first grade room for reading when the rest of the kindergardeners were enjoying class together, learning colors, phonics, etc.. This meant that I learned to read in sort of an isolated way, never really meshed well with the older kids and the younger ones never really got to know me during reading time. Having that social life around reading would have made me less self conscious about these skills or could have possibly helped me fit in better.

I remember late nights with encyclopedias, crayons, and lined paper writing book reports on electric eels in 3rd grade and rehearsing oral reports on garlic and Beethoven in 4th grade, complete with hand painted posters and musical recordings to engage my audience.

For fun, I’d curl up on the top bunk of my bunkbed with the Anastasia series by Lowis Lowry or the Sweet Valley High books.

I could relate to Anastasia who had weird academic/artistic parents and didn’t like her little brother too much. I could not relate to the Sweet Valley High twins, but thought they were amazing, beautiful, and the people I wished I could be. I longed to live with their hair, their friends, and their “normal” popular lives.

Middle school was a blur. I remember nothing other than carrying a ridiculously large alto saxophone case up the hill and home for band practice, hating reading Great Expectations in school, listening to alot of Bon Jovi, Guns n Roses, and Motley Crue, lusting after Johnny Depp on 21 Jumpstreet, trying to learn Spanish since the cutest guy in my grade was from Mexico, and figuring out how I could get out of the house with big hoop earrings and too short skirts.

It’s funny. As I think back now, my interests started to shift away from reading series and chapter books and toward film and music in my teen years. I’m not sure if that was a function of the times, new media, age, my parents’ interests, living in Los Angeles, but I haven’t read for pleasure in such a sustained way since 6th grade. This is not to say that I don’t read for pleasure, but more that I watched alot more movies than books. When I turned 14 and entered high school, my parents both got jobs in Kalamazoo, Michigan, so we picked up and moved from the bustling metropolis of Los Angeles, California, to the sleepy little midwestern college town of K’zoo. There I was angry to be away from sunshine, friends, and family. But I can remember Mr. Tod, my senior AP English teacher – a man to love and hate. With a shiny balding head, in ill fitted suits, through a high pitched voice, and with incredibly high expectations he taught me something I’d never forget, however, is that films are texts to watch deeply, ruminate on like poetry, and consider juxtaposed alongside literature. In his class we watched film versions of books and watched films with completely different narrative plots that we could compare and contrast to literature we read. So it was okay that Tom Sheffler wrote an entire paper comparing Star Wars to Shane. This was my favorite literacy memory from high school. We could legitimately watch films for school.

This love stuck with me into college at the University of Chicago where I majored in English Literature and focused on bicultural literature, theatre, and film. There I fell in love with authors like Sandra Cisneros (who I never read in school prior), poets like Nikki Giovanni, filmmakers like Julie Dash, and playwrites like Stoppard, Chekov, and Genet. I hungered for all this textual culture I’d never encountered at home or in public school in Los Angeles or Kalamazoo Michigan. My professors were young, wore black, read contemporary work, seethed with passion, and made us by hundreds of dollars worth of books. We read at least a book a week, if not more, watched multiple films multiple times. And I learned that Spike Lee’s Girl 6 was a work of genius as I watched it and critically analyzed it 8 times over the course of one weekend.

But graduating with an English literature degree left me a pile of confusion – a pile Teach for America swept up and transported to Compton, California where I thought I would teach fourth grade at the Willard Math/Science Academy for a few years ’til I figured out what to do next or went to law school. Much to my surprise, teaching fourth grade was one of the most tiring and stimulating creative endeavors of my life. It allowed me so much freedom to create curriculum, enjoy young children, learn new techniques and strategies for teaching, struggle to engage learners reading and writing WAY below “grade level” and made me a respected, cared for member of a school/home/family community I never thought I’d gain entree into. What I had not anticipated was the amount of work it was, studying curriculum, creating curriculum, grading student work, communicating with parents, learning how to teach all day, everyday, and crashing in an exhausted heap every night, sometimes before 9pm.

What I’d also forgotten about California was how dominant the Spanish language was. After three years chugging away in Compton, I finally decided that in order to become a better teacher there, I needed to take my spanish language learning seriously. I could no longer rely on paraprofessionals and students to translate my joy and concern to parents. I needed to be able to speak the words with confidence, eye contact, and know that my words were not only being received, but translated correctly. I resigned from my post in Compton and moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina for 2001 to teach English as a Foreign Language and learn Spanish.

There I learned first hand what it’s like to lose your identity. In one plane ride my sense of self, humor, place had been stripped from me, replaced with this bumbling idiot who had no idea how to express a simple request like, “Plastic, please” at the grocery store, let alone get around, make friends, get a job, and find an apartment. With alot of help from kind people at a language institute and some support from expats, I got settled, and eventually worked teaching business adults in the morning, high school students during the early morning, fifth graders after lunch, and private adult and child clients at their homes in the evening. There I learned how far popular culture and media will get you in the world of language learning and acquisition. Students longed to speak, read, and write about Rolling Stone articles they’d read, bands they loved, underground games they played, films they watched, and online adventures they had. My life living with North American pop culture was a constant curiosity to them and they never tired of discussing the Simpsons, George W. Bush, or the Red Hot Chili Peppers with me. I returned to the United States determined to better understand people living outside their countries, speaking new languages, and refashioning their identities with words, cultural references, and contexts that were completely foreign to them. I was also sure that I needed to pay closer attention to my students’ interests in my curriculum.

Back in the US, I moved up to New Haven, Connecticut with my partner attending law school. There I found work at Roberto Clemente Leadership Academy, teaching middle school Bilingual and Transitional Language Arts one year, and moving back to teaching inclusion fourth grade the year following. Connecticut’s requirements for teachers were much stricter than California’s, so I was required to go back to school for a Master’s degree while teaching. This meant days teaching and nights studying and attending school. Weekends were a study-fest. Time I’d used for fun turned into time for school work. I no longer wrote and read for pleasure and instead, wrote and read for school. One or two professors stood out as people who encouraged me to develop my own curricula and enjoy reading and teaching short stories, but by in large, my courses were flat and not challenging. I hope that is not the case with this course for you.

But there in New Haven my teaching evolved as I found new uses for all the music, film, and television work I’d done in Argentina. Students also delighted in reading shorts by bicultural authors I’d adored in college. Fourth graders loved reading, talking, and drawing about Sandra Cisneros’ chapter “Hair.” And eighth graders wrote and acted out their own plays based on popular telenovelas they watched with their families in the evenings.

After a year teaching in New Haven and earning my master’s degree, I surveyed my position as a teacher in the public school system. I’d been teaching for five years at this point, but always in Title I schools with little power over my work environment. While I could close my door and teach as I wanted to and was typically praised by administration for my creativity and organization, I was rarely inspired by my co-workers and felt a lack of learning and challenge that usually drove me to improve my skills and make more of my work. I’d begun to stagnate. And I was tired of being trotted out for the dog and pony show that the principal put on for district superintendents, with little concern for my own professional development in between these events. After my second year in New Haven, I entered the doctoral program at Columbia Teachers College, determined to become a principal and change Title I school teachers’ and students’ lives. After a year I realized I did not want the life of an administrator, but was enamored with the questions that circulated in classrooms between teachers and students as they negotiated meanings for popular culture texts, mainstream curriculum, and their own personal identities. This lead me to my dissertation research project “Pop Culture, Literacy, and Identity: Performative Politics in a High School English Classroom.” During this study, I spent a year observing, talking, and listening in a tenth grade high school English classroom as a teacher and students negotiated meanings for pop culture texts like clothing, jewelry, food, and slang, in addition to more normative pop culture texts (e.g., TV, popular music, and icons) and navigated the boundaries of what did and did not count as “literate” practice in their classroom.

This semester, I am excited to bring this range of work and life experiences into my teaching at CUNY College of Staten Island as I work alongside you this semester. I welcome your comments, questions, and stories as our days unfold.

Hello world!

September 2, 2009

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