Saturday, November 30, 2013

Enchanted Hunters

The Academy for Teachers ushered me Into the Woods recently where I spent a magical afternoon getting to know Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty and Hansel and Gretel.

Our select group of elementary school teachers was guided by the brilliant Maria Tatar.

Maria teaches at Harvard University, where she chairs the Program in Folklore and Mythology.  She is also the author of Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood (she generously gave a copy to each of us and even signed mine!) and Off with Their Heads! Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood.  In addition, she is the editor and translator of annotated versions of Peter Pan, Hans Christian Andersen, Brothers Grimm and others.

The event was hosted by the New York Public Library at their main branch on 5th Avenue at 42nd Street.  It was a day to "honor and support" teachers and that mission was evident in every aspect of the day, starting with breakfast.  There were 17 of us, Academy Fellows, and after introductions one of us was chosen at random to receive a gorgeous copy of The Princess and the Goblin published by The Folio Society (with an introduction by Maria Tatar).  As luck would have it, I was selected!  The day was off to a good start - breakfast and two extraordinary books!

Sleeping Beauty by Edward Frederick Brewtnall
One aspect of the presentation I found particularity intriguing was the focus on the depiction of fairy tales in art.  In this time of "close reading" and "text-based evidence" it was refreshing to realize that it is possible to achieve those standards in creative ways.

Though art we explored Sleeping Beauty in various states, from slumbering tranquility to deathlike repose, studied variations on this theme with Sleeping Handsome (the male version), examined how Hansel loved and protected his sister and how clever Gretel ultimately saved the day and wondered about the sexual, and sexist, overtones in Little Red Riding Hood (actually we did that with all of them).

It was a brilliant day!

I thank The Academy for Teachers for reigniting my passion and reminding me that, somewhere out there, teachers are appreciated and respected.  I have been walking on sunshine ever since!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hurry Up and Wait

Goldie knows!
I first heard the expression "hurry up and wait" when my mom used it to describe her experience in the United States Marine Corps.

My experience in the doctoral boot camp is similar.

I successfully defended my dissertation proposal in May on the very last day of the semester.  It was no easy feat to reach that deadline.  The proposal consists of the first three chapters of a five chapter dissertation.  It incorporates the research questions, theoretical framework, literature review and methodology.  It took me exactly nine months to write and revise--my baby--but the preparation that took place before I even sat down to write took almost a year (research, pilot study, etc).  It took me quite a while to understand how to even approach the task.  There is a very strict format with detailed specifications one must follow and learning to navigate them took some time.

It was a challenge to meet that May deadline.  I was so stressed out and felt so much pressure that as soon as I turned it in to my committee members, two weeks before I had to defend, I got sick. Ultimately, I persevered and passed.  I was allowed to open the next door and take another step towards the finish line.

That next step was obtaining approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) which monitors all studies to assure ethical treatment of human subjects.  However, in my case the review board was just then changing locations and undergoing staff changes.  I'd have to wait until they settled their internal affairs before my study could be reviewed.  So, I waited all summer.

I gained approval on September 26, 2013 and am now collecting data. My study examines the nature of reading assessment in K-5 classrooms in the Northeast with students who are deaf and hard of hearing.  I am doing this through an online survey and a series of teacher interviews.

The link to the survey is here.

I am certainly loving that the site I chose to house my survey is called Survey Monkey!  The Curious George connection is not lost on me.

If you fit the criteria (a K-5 teacher in the Northeast working with students who are deaf and hard of hearing) please take 10-15 minutes to complete the survey. Also, if you know of anyone who does fit the criteria please pass along the information to them.  The survey will be open for another 2 weeks.

In the meantime, I wait.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Alistair the Armadillo

There was a time, before advancements in technology allowed for high quality video recording, when American Sign Language existed only in face-to-face interactions.  It was a language that literally brought people together.  

Today it is possible to share and preserve this visual language in many contexts.  One thrilling manifestation of this is the outcropping of ASL and English bilingual eBooks.  You can read more about them here, here and here.  

I recently became aware of a new eBook entitled Alistair the Armadillo by Mike Brumby and Cipta Croft-Cusworth available for download by clicking here.  You can also learn more about Alistair and his creators by visiting here.  

My friend and former coteacher, Lauren, reviewed the book for me and her thoughts are below.

"Overall the story is a good read.  Its message wound up differently than I thought it would be. I thought it would be one of acceptance and tolerance, but it was about promoting health and physical activity among peers.  It's about an armadillo who is different from the rest of his fez (pack of armadillos) because he's happy, healthy, clean and active while the fez is lethargic, depressed and filthy. They stay indoors and do not venture outside.  Alistair has a vision in a dream and leads his fez to a mountain where they find bountiful, colorful food and a glimmering lake that bathes them clean.  The fez changes its outlook and all live happily ever after.

The writing is simple and straightforward.  The illustrations are pleasant and support the text well and add an ethnic, cultural feeling to the book.  After I finished the book I looked at the credits and realized the author and illustrator are based in Indonesia.  

That might explain the slight accent of the man who did the ASL translation.  His translation is super tight, really ON the text.  He does not add or take away anything.  I was really impressed with his precision.  His execution is crisp, clear and accurate.  His signing demeanor is gentle and pleasant. 

Even though the book isn't age appropriate for Levi, he loved the pictures and imitated the signer.  Levi could appreciate the book, so I think this book has good appeal.  I'd vouch for it."

It was also recently named a Silver winner in the 2013 Moonbeam Children's eBook Award contest in the Languages/Cultural category. Stay tuned for more Alistair books and watch for other bilingual eBooks combining ASL and English.   


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