Monday, June 09, 2008

A Very, Very, VERY Long Road

Supposedly, I'm on the home stretch of what has been a very long, intensely painful, very miserable four years. It involves finishing a dissertation, prepping a 10-day summer institute for Chinese teachers, and revising a paper required for graduation--all in the next three weeks. (We won't even talk about the cross-country move that awaits me after that.) From my vantage point, the road ahead looks very long, very muddy, and filled with irritating mosquitoes (like IRB renewals)!

I'd rather be writing about the abundant life that fills the rest of the world, like the inch-long ant (seriously!) that came to visit me last night, my favorite tree--perfect in every season, the bird parents that faithfully feed the babies that live above my balcony at 5:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., or the idyllic farmscapes on the way to my friend's houses. I guess "real" life, and its accompanying stories, will have to wait for another day.

For now, here's the Twitter version of my dissertation (plus a few additional characters):

The world has changed. School hasn't. Although learning is inherently joyful, school is absolutely mind-numbing. Most educators lack the vision and the transliteracy skills to create compelling learning environments. High quality professional development shifts perspective through powerful paradigms, playful pedagogy, and the modeling of multiple representations. As teachers view their professional responsibilities through new lenses, changes in their practice follow.

And this is the Twitter version of my current take on graduate school: Dissertations make you dumb!


Jessie said...

These are beautiful pictures Cherice! Is it encouraging that your road does have a destination? You can do it!

Dave said...

As always, I'm impressed. Perhaps one reason why it's been so rough is because you care so much about what you're doing. It's inspiring to hear you talk about how you want to change the system--I honestly think you will change the world.

I expect that there will be many to thank you in years to come (or at least who would thank you, if they only knew who came up with their models of life-changing learning).

Keep it up.

Fiddlefish said...

Almost there, sis!!!! Just get it over with and get out here! :) The kids are going to be so excited when they realize Aunt Cherice lives as close as Grandpa and Grandma Jackson.
I'm going to start looking for places for you come July when timing is a little closer. That's one thing you don't need to worry about.


Cherice said...

I must say I absolutely LOVE my camera and find a lot of joy in taking photos!

I think this would be even harder if my road didn't have a final destination--so I've been very blessed in that regard. On the other hand, I posted the photo because it demonstrates the journey perfectly. It looks rather idyllic from a distance, but actually walking that road is VERY muddy.

Cherice said...


You are a great encourager! Thanks for your comments--they came at a crucial time.

There is a lot I could say about what is making this hard, but I'll refrain. I've become a believer in positive thinking. :-) What I will say is that I DO care very deeply about teaching and learning. My experiences in graduate school have deeply etched upon my soul that the way school (and teaching) is conducted in most classrooms does more than just leave a few kids behind--it damages souls (in some cases, irreparably). (And no, I am NOT a fan of NCLB.)

As to changing the system--doubtful. Complexity is never comfortable, and people are generally willing to trade whatever benefits other, less predictable arrangements might offer for the illusion of consistency and control that the status quo currently offers.

Having said that, I do think I'll be able to influence some teachers in some classrooms. I don't have control over the system, but I can shut my door and teach in a way that is aligned with what I believe. And, as a very wise mentor once told me, when you disturb the system, you force it to reorganize around the disturbance. I'm okay with the role of disturber for the moment.

Life-changing learning? Naively, I'd like to think so, but probably not true for most. Besides, I think LIFE is learning--and THAT is the part everyone forgets. We take life and try to shove it all into an airless, joyless little box called school, which smothers the life, the learning, AND the joy out of it.

So, people in my future classes may not "learn" anything, but I hope they'll at least remember the experience and that it will cause them to ponder the world around them more deeply.

How many schools do you know that let you spend 30 or 40 minutes just sitting outside attempting to understand the routine of some birds feeding their babies? If I had been in school, I would have been in trouble for not finishing the paper I was supposed to be writing (which still isn't done, by the way), I would have been chastised for daydreaming, and the bell would have rung long before I ever got the shot. However, I learned a lot of lessons in the 40 minutes I spent waiting, and adjusting, and trying different techniques. I understand my world differently as a result, but I guarantee you they wouldn't appear on most teachers' lesson plans!

Cherice said...

Thanks for the encouragement, sis! I'm learning to give up the idea of controlling anything. If a place magically appears, fantastic! However, I told Mom today that I know you and Grandma won't let me be homeless until I can find one. ;-) Looking forward to seeing you soon and to meeting Adam! Keep the prayers coming! They really are helping!

Cindi M said...


Just wanted to stop by and say "good-bye" and thanks for teaching Nathan. Good luck with your move!