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Goals for working group

Here are some ideas that Nicole and I discussed today in class - comment if you want to add/change these goals!

Goals for Field notes /posting:

  1. make our notes more accessible - focus on specific moments or interactions, highlight/bold the sections that you want us to focus on
  2. respond to at least one person’s notes with a question (or bring a question to class)


Goals for conversations in class:

  1. bring advice/suggestions
  2. hold people accountable – ask them to explain their statements
  3. I (or someone else?) will scan and post my notes from our conversation – this could be a good way to bridge/connect our conversations over time
  4. Ask each person, “What are you looking for in your next visit?” - if we don't get to each person in the group, then we can at least go back to this question on Serendip
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Field notes 1: reading with Erica

The book that Erica was reading, titled “Smile,” is a graphic novel. It is set in San Francisco. The main character is a white, brown haired girl. She wears her hair in a ponytail, and has to get “on again off again” braces. This girl is in middle school – by around page 60, she has transitioned into 7th grade and is worried about what other students will think about her braces and pimples.

Mariah, the director, went upstairs to check whether Erica had a tutor with her. Since Erica was on her own, I offered to go sit with her. Erica is 11 years old, and in 5th grade. She is black, and appears to be tall for her age. She was wearing a school uniform - a maroon, short sleeved polo shirt and khaki pants. 

When I got upstairs, Erica had her legs stretched across the couch. I asked her if she wanted to read out loud with me, but she shook her head from side to side. I went to the bookshelf and found a book that I had already read – The truth about forever, by Sarah Dessen. I went back to the couch and asked her to move so that I could sit on the couch too. I got two rectangular ottomans for us to put our feet on.

“This is one of my favorites,” I told Erica. “Do you know Sarah Dessen?”


“Sarah Dessen – she’s the author of this book.”

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Background research and findings

Initial Findings: Before visiting Wordsmiths’ physical site, I was able to access a great deal of information about the organization through other sources. My initial research about the organization was online. Wordsmiths has a stable online presence– a quick Google search brings up their Facebook page, LinkedIn, Twitter, Wikipedia page, and Vimeo site. To me, their constant output of information suggests an air of both transparency and playfulness. The organization is constantly sharing its goings-on with the online community. For example, a tweet from February 12 reads, “Dorsey Dog visited tutoring today, but despite Erica’s very enthusiastic urging, he did not eat anyone’s homework.” Further, this statement provides a glimpse of the kinds of relationships that are possible within this organization – good-natured, sometimes silly, and friendly. On the Facebook page, photos of daily activities or events, invitations to workshops, and many paragraph-long excerpts of students’ writing, are posted every 2-4 days. Wordsmiths’ website also includes students’ writing, with “Student Work” as the first tabbed section on the website; this page contains stories, magazines, and other projects that have been published/formatted online through sites like Scribd. 

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Savior/victim mentality: a western tradition?

Reading Pedagogy of The Oppressed is making me question my own status: am I oppressed or oppressor? Could I be neither? Being an American, I think, sets me up as a colonizer/oppressor/privileged person… so I thought, perhaps I might be an ally, joining in solidarity with the oppressed. But that role is questionable too. It could easily (unintentionally) posit the oppressed as "victims" and myself as a kind of "savior." I see this all the time with nonprofit organizations, youth groups, missions projects, etc. What entitles westerners to conceive of themselves as capable of changing the world, one person at a time? I think Friere would tell them that individuals can only change themselves: "Attempting to liberate the oppressed without their reflective participation in the act of liberation is to treat them as objects with must be saved from a burning building" (47). Further, "it is only the oppressed who, by freeing themselves, can free their oppressors" (38). So maybe there's more to be explored in the the "with, not for" (30) concept: the savior/victim mentality is just as oppressive as the oppressed- or oppressor- status. 

This makes me question the notion of "empowerment": What is the act of empowerment? Who can empower? By empowering someone else, are you actually treating them as less than human? 

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Sample Field Notes

In-Class activity: Writing reflections about a group project

Last year, I observed a class taught by two teachers. Teacher M was the primary teacher for this 6th grade class, and Teacher L was a support for students with language learning needs. Just to preface this excerpt – the students had just finished working on a multi-day group project, and the teachers were explaining their expectations for the reflections.

I was struck by this lesson, because I think it clearly demonstrated the focus of the school, and the values that teachers intentionally incorporate into their actions and expectations every day. I was really impressed that teachers could work together this efficiently, without a weird power hierarchy. Also, students, at least by this point in the year, seemed to be very responsive to the high standards and methods used for self-reflection.



Teacher M used the Smartboard to show what she expected students to do. There were some glitches, but she appeared to be comfortable with the technology. Students were all watching the screen. A student who had been told to sit in the back complained that he couldn’t see.

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Teach In: Blue Mind

For our final teach-in, I played Blue Mind, by Alexi Murdoch. Rather than focussing specifically on the content that interested me in this course, I wanted to demonstrate how my own learning process has developed.

I think the lyrics of this song compliment my personal trajectory  really well. The first stanza is somewhat vague - what does it mean? no time? sleeping? I feel some confusion (though calm) when thinking about these lyrics. At the start of the semester, it seemed as though we were trying out a lot of different things, and just getting immersed in the content. I struggled with that immersion. 

In the second stanza ("go free of time") - This represents the moments in class when I started to let go, let learning happen or not happen. I had to hibernate, gel, that sort of thing - I had to stop trying to control the outcome, something that I am still struggling with. 

The chorus, "slowly slowly I am drifting," keeps coming back to me. In class, I felt as though I was drifting at times, and I could do this either by choice or by need. I want to choose to drift, especially if it's going to happen anyway. This feels a lot like "wandering" to me - 

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Field Guides: Wandering and Imaginging

When do you need a guide? When do you guide yourself?

My "guides" are available online in magazine formatting at:

If you'd like to download some of the images, they are available in this dropbox folder:  (it might be easier to view them this way?)

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nature art

After reading Morton's Ecology without Nature, I've been thinking about the intersections between nature and art - how does art attempt to represent nature? Artists as ecocritics, Art is unnatural? Art calls attention to its own form - when you call something "art," you immediately invite some sort of reflection on that object.... Some of these ideas are mine, and some are from the essay. Mostly I'm just confused. So I went and looked at a page I bookmarked a while ago - this artist, Nina Katchadourian, plays with maps, images, found objects, nature - and comes up with some thought provoking images (even if they were created with the intent to display them in a gallery) -

This grouping is titled "Transplant" -

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Guides for fielding, co-fielding, co-guiding, following, co-following, mutuality, reflection...

When do we need a guide? When do we guide ourselves?

We started the semester with Solnit's "Field Guide for getting lost" - and now, I think we are starting to create our own guidebooks/methods for discovery.  Though it was time consuming, deciding together how to structure our outings was a way of writing out our expectations and procedures… and while some of them didn't work exactly the way we wanted, I think the process of making group decisions was worthwhile. 

When we went to Ashbridge Park, we self-selected different activities to provide for the group - choosing how/when to be leaders. And choosing to let Carmen be our leader/guide/mentor - I think this is also a form of self-efficacy. 

1. Ashbridge Memorial Park - Field Trip

Trip: planned, activities, structure/purpose, destination

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