A colleague in a faculty seminar on teacher research (back in 1999) participated in the first class of the research and writing course as if he were a student. The class consisted mostly of an overview from me of the phases of research and engagement; a Q&A session with a student from the previous year’s class (during which I left the room); and some freewriting, rough drafting, and peer sharing of an initial project description. The colleague, Emmett Schaeffer, commented afterwards on the oscillation the students faced between opening wide and focusing in and on the students being “dazed” about how much was opened up and put in play during this first session (Box 1). As my thank you email expressed (Box 2), having someone else see what was going on helped me articulate and “own” a tension that runs through my teaching.
Box 1. Comments from a colleague on the student experience at the start of the research and writing course
|→ on “divergent” thinking
> certainly, at first, and, if I understand correctly, throughout the process,
any less than fully formulated thinking
→ what about students being “dazed,” “overwhelmed” and “confused”?
Box 2. Thank you email about the affirmation-articulation connection
I really appreciate your keen observations and the work you did in
synthesizing them into the notes. What we did together was rare and
special — I could only remember one other time I got a colleague’s
observations that affirmed but also helped me articulate and own what I was
doing. That time was an ESL and Spanish teacher who had asked
to visit a class of mine about biology and society. She noted my comfortable
use of ambiguity. Much followed for me from her naming this. In fact, I suspect
that the affirmation-articulation connection is a key to the observed
person doing something productive with the observations.