Friday, September 17, 2004

From Inside Sarah's School Head

After a phenomenal dryspell (and more cross-country driving than an episode of the Partridge family), I am using my blog for two ends:

(1) to remind myself that I can post things and live a virtual and actual life simultaneously
(2) to regroup before I meet with my master's thesis advisor at 2. In 18 minutes.

So, to cut to the chase:

I have a master's thesis advisor named Dr. Colleen Fairbanks. We don't know each other at all on a personal (or professional level, really), but we met two weeks ago to get started on the year (I'm taking a 3-credit thesis writing independent stuffstuff course) and to get me working towards actually completing this project in time for May graduation.

She asked a few questions, and we talkedtalked. She suggested books, and I wrote stuff down. And we parted.

And this is what I did in the middle--I read most of Children's Inquiry by Judith Lindfors (who turns out to be a UT professor--or was) and read a few chapters from Curriculum as Conversation by Arthur Applebee (who, as it turns out, is married to another eminent English teaching scholar/academic, Judith Langer. Exactly.). Additionally, I did hours (brief hours, but hours nonetheless) of research to find articles about both student questioning and metaphors/education, primarily for an annotated bibliography assignment I had to complete for one my classes. But from all of this stuff, I learned the following:

1. I don't think I'm interested in students' asking questions, at least as far as my thesis goes. I really am more interested in the use of metaphors pedagogically, or, at least, in the classroom. And not as part of a lesson on figurative language. But as part of how we make sense of the world around us.
2. I think I'm interested more in explicit metaphors than in implicit ones (as made famous by Lakoff and Johnson's Metaphors We Live By, which exposed, apparently, that most of our language and consequently, our conceptions of the world, are (in)formed by metaphors and metaphorical thinking).
3. I am interested in explicit metaphors but, more specifically, the creation of them as acts of inquiry, as tentative explorations of things we almost know but don't quite.

In short, I think that I want to begin to think about my thesis in terms of metaphors and acts of inquiry. I don't know if this is legitimate, but maybe I can take the research (Lindfors' especially; her book was very much something I would like to write, but a little technicaler than I want to be) that discusses inquiry--defines, categorizes, and encourages it in classroom use--and discuss how metaphor, and not just questions and not just authentic interests and not just problem-based learning, can be (is! is!) an act of inquiry. And, consequently, is something we should help students learn how to craft. Or, at least, it is something we need to inspect more closely.

Something like that?

The thesis will be theory. This excites me. But I may, too, need some texts (of students and teachers discussing/using metaphors) to analyze. Will I have to collect them myself? Will I have to get human subjects approval? Does that change my timeline?

It's 1:53 pm. These are things I'm thinking about. These things and, as always, fajitas.