Monday, January 17, 2011

This may cut into my knitting time

So last semester I did some research along side of my student-teacher supervising, and as I would collect data, I would stash it in a few places, like a dog burying a bone it knows it will want later. I had emails and written feedback of written lessons and written feedback of observations and a lot of videos of student-teachers teaching. I had their written reflections and videos that they recorded to exemplify one aspect or another of teaching. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Alaska, why weren't you coding it as you went along?" and my answer is that the design of the project required that I didn't really know which students were participating, so I couldn't code anything until I knew.

But now I now, so I ordered an external hard drive of epic proportions and started to move all of the data on to it in neat, organized folders, thinking this might take 8 or 9 hours, but . . . I was so wrong.

It turns out that a) at least one of the folder bones is just plain gone. Thankfully every attachment sent by email is kept my our campus web mail, and therefore, I have everything back in one form or another, but retrieving them meant going back through over 300 emails to find them all. b) There were issues with mac v. pc and I lost precious time translating files into forms everything on my pc could read. I needed everything on the pc so I could use NVivo 9 to organize it all, but holy cow . . . what a chore.

So, I feel hopelessly behind now in my coding and completely overwhelmed by the amount of data, but I am gritting my teeth and plowing forward. The one good thing--it's forcing me to choose between coding EVERYTHING and finding those items that will reveal the most about what I want (i.e., I found myself going to great pains to record a series of emails about the cultural content of a lesson. This is not unrelated to classroom management, because lessons that do not include material accessible to students (e.g., it's above their heads in some way, they have insufficient background knowledge, it's taught in a language they don't understand) are inevitably classroom management problems waiting to happen. But I really don't need to go that broard. I think I can show what I want to show just looking at teacher response to student misbehavior--and that makes me breathe a sigh of relief because that means I do not need to look back at all the written lesson plans until I suspect that lesson design was the cause of the problem and I need to support that assertion. Does that make sense? (Nod your head, sip your drink, look interested.)

Anyway, this is actually HUGELY helpful to me. It helps me see the wisdom in my advisor's comment that going into the (new) research project for this spring, I might want to focus on only three class periods with these students--versus trying to code every minute of the 16 to 20 sessions that we will meet.

But in the meantime, between teaching two classes, taking three classes, and working with the data monster of my MA Thesis, it's going to be a very, very busy semester. Maybe not so much time for knitting.

Helen Mary Harrington Black Humbarger

February 11, 1912 - January 16, 2011
We all miss her already, but you couldn't wish for a better exit from the stage of life. This one-time director and college-level teacher of theatre kept us company all day long during our most recent family get-together on the farm. Dozing off as needed, and watching thoughtfully while awake, she seemed to kind of like it when a great-grandchild or grandchild or daughter would take up the spot left at the end of the couch next to her feet. I'm not clear on the events or the time line, but I know that not long after we all left, she stopped wanting any food, sleeping more and more often, and finally refusing water, too. This sort of a goodbye to life is a gentle exit, free from discomfort. It is not a rapid exit, allowing time for her children to return once more to keep her (and each other) company. Her "children" (all grown with children and grandchidren of their own) by her second marriage were also able to come and say goodbye.

Helen was married to my grandfather for over 50 years. She raised a son and three daughters. She did the sort of hosting and traveling expected of the wife of a professor in those days. When I went to Ohio Wesleyan, they were mostly at home in Ohio or at the farm in Indiana, and I have written before about how much they meant to me while I was there.

I will link to an obituary when it is posted. Here it is: Obituary of Grandma Helen

I cannot post about Granma's passing without saying that the peace of mind and care she received in this past decade would not have been possible without the incredible sacrifice of time and energy on the part of her daughter, my youngest Aunt, Charlotte. Charlotte's care meant that Granma had both a trusted confidante and a highly trained personal nurse daily. It meant she could stay in a very nice assisted-living home even when dementia took a toll in the last few years. We didn't have to worry about Grandma with Charlotte at the wheel. I know we are all grateful for that.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I'm Awake

Tonight our quadrafire pellet stove malfunctioned and the ash box ignited. From the pattern of pellets in the ash box, my best guess is that the cleaning rod at the bottom of the crucible jammed partly open, causing the stove to attempt to light pellets, and feed pellets, continuously into the crucible. Smoldering pellets fell into the ashbox, and eventually there was way more fire in the stove than the stove could handle.

Eventually the whole house would have filled with smoke. I suppose the consequences of that could have been pretty devastating.

But it was okay because both of our smoke alarms have working batteries. I woke up and ran downstairs, took about a minute to assess the problem, followed my instincts or inspiration and got the stove to stop fanning the flames, got Chris up to help me, he opened the basement doors, and using my two best oven mitts, I got the ashbox out the garage doors and tossed the whole thing in the snow. Even with the oven mitts, that thing was hot.

Then I went back inside closed all the doors against the billowing smoke, and going back around out the front door, grabbed a shovel and piled snow on the smoking ash box. We're probably going to need a new ash box.

At this point the whole house still stinks of smoke and that acrid burning plastic smell. I think that's the exterior trim on the stove.

The front door is wide open, the back door wide open, some of the windows wide open.

Here's what I learned: the kids can sleep right through the blaring smoke alarms. I won't stay out past their bedtime without an adult babysitter who is going to stay up.

For years I've worried that in the event of a fire I wouldn't be able to wake my deep sleeping husband. Turns out he wakes right up the moment I say softly to him, in a certain tone of voice, "I need your help." Maybe that's the Spirit. Maybe that's 15 years of marriage. Probably a combination of both. All I know is I've hollared at him when a sick little boy was puking all over the place and he woke not knowing his own name.

Ugh. The smell is awful. I wonder if I should get out fans. It's been an hour now and I definitely want to go to sleep. Think I will go check the perimeter, the ash box, and if everything looks okay, start closing windows and doors and head back to bed.