The busiest summer of my life.
As the new school year is about to begin - I feel like my summer has just flown by. Although I was able to ride my bike this summer and go swimming, this was definitely an atypical summer and there was not a lot of recreational things happening! I've been transcribing and have been working on the analysis portion of my dissertation data. In between that busy bustle, there have been other projects and adventures. I went back to Santa Barbara, Honduras again and went to PME 2014 in Vancouver, Canada. This has truly been the busiest summer of my life. And, in what feel like a blink of an eye, it's almost over!
It's always a blessing to go back to Honduras and visit my kids! This trip was the most heavy and emotional trip that I have been on. Despite the emotional challenges, it was so amazing to have the opportunity to go back for the fourth year. Of course, I was beyond happy hugging my ninos again. I'm counting down the days to to return!
I always learn some amazing lessons on my trips and definitely wanted to share one here. The lesson that shined brightly to me came from the mountains of Santa Barbara. Mountains are non-Newtonian fluids, which basically means that they are always growing. And, being non-Newtonian fluids, they are growing above and beyond their container (e.g., the Earth). We don't see them as fluids because we are humans living on Earth with a finite amount of time; however, if we had an INFINITE amount of time the mountains would move fluidly, maybe like pancake batter or maybe even water. That being said, sometimes we feel like we have a lot "mountains" to move in our lives and perhaps we feel overwhelmed with our task at hand. However, we don't have to move mountains alone; they are already moving. Each year I take a picture with the mountains when I go (see below) and they seem so beautiful. Really thinking about moving mountains in our life and not doing it alone, was something that really stood out this trip. In the midst of all of challenges, we are never moving them alone.
The first two pictures below are some mountain pictures from this year. And, the next side by side pictures are why I keep going back - The Kids. Here's Luis David and me. The picture on the left is from 2011. This was one of the first times we met. It was the week that El Jardin was launched and the first time the kids got to be part of the program. The picture on the right is from this summer and is at Luis David's house. He and his brothers and sisters have a super special place in my heart.
Each year that I go to Honduras I am pushed to learn things personally (like the mountain story above). Besides personal learning and growth, I am also pushed to learn things professionally as a teacher. Whether it's struggling to question and talk about mathematics in Spanish (this year my challenge was alternative algorithms for long division!) or it's trying to problem-solve something unexpectedly, like a flooding orphanage from rainwater...
This year one of the most outstanding professional lessons/challenges was:
Prepare a professional development for teachers with little time and preparation. The teachers/social workers needed to prepare 6 months worth of lessons and planning.
However, they just hadn't had experience with lesson planning before, neither long-term nor short-term planning. Because of how busy everyone is at El Jardin, we only had one day to spend working together. We discussed what kinds of things make a lesson good, we discussed writing objectives, and actively worked together to begin their individual plans.
About PME 2014.
PME 2014 was my first international conference adored with many firsts. I went to Canada for the first time. I ate my first tasty French-style macaroons. I participated in the first ever PME Young Researchers Day (YRD). Also for my first time, I participated as a co-coordinator in a discussion group (DG) about negative integers. The YRD and the Negative Integer DG were the absolute highlights of PME for me.
My favorite parts of YRD were learning about embodied cognition from Nathalie Sinclair and genre studies from David Pimm. Both sessions were directly applicable to me as a researcher, especially with the theoretical lens of my dissertation being commognition. Gestures tie into the visual mediators of commognition perfectly and the genre studies remind me of what I am doing with the historical studies. And, all this discussion also highlighted to me that I could apply commognition to historical studies/textbook analyzes. My other favorite part of YRD was hearing from a panel journal editors of various international journals, like For the Learning of Mathematics (FLM), Educational Studies in Mathematics (ESM), and Research in Mathematics Education (RME). Their advice extended beyond just reading the aims and scopes of the journal. Some of my favorite pieces of advice were:
About the Dissertation.
If I had to produce a visual image of the dissertation it would be this roller coaster. The roller coaster - with up and downs; fun parts and scary parts. Of course, despite knowing its scary parts with the ups and the downs, you WANT to ride the roller coaster. Well, some people want to ride the roller coaster. I feel like the dissertation process has been a bit like this for me. And, often it's like this all in one day. Some parts of the dissertation process are scary and overwhelming, but then there are sudden bursts of fun and clarity. Although not all people will ride roller coasters, or this particular one, I love the one that I am on. And, just like a roller coaster, this process will eventually be over and I will have to hop off. Unlike a roller coaster though, this process takes more than a few minutes. ;) But, I'm sure the ride will be much faster than I imagined and I might be a little sad when it's over. Good thing there will be other roller coasters (e.g., research projects). So ... I'm working on it. Although not at this moment as I'm blogging. :)
So there you have it...The busiest summer of my life. I can't wait for school to start so I can have a break!