When I started the Metacognitive Blogging project, I must admit that I was confused.  I wasn’t sure why we had to blog, why we had to post weekly, and why we had to be in a partnership.  Additionally, I didn’t know how to blog, or anything about the technology to blog, so that was a challenge for me as well.

The beginning was tough.  First, there are a lot of administrative issues that had to be addressed.  Deciding on the text, purchasing the text, getting matched with a partner, learning about blogging, and finally, doing the actual blogs.  Although it was difficult at first, after a couple of weeks, I got the hang of it, and began to enjoy the process.

I have learned a great deal about my own reading processes and making meaning in my own subject area by working on this project.  For example, I wasn’t aware of the fact that as I read, I constantly make predictions about what will happen next.  It’s like a mind game, constantly checking myself and confirming that my original thoughts made sense, once I read further into the text.  I am ALWAYS making connections to my own personal experiences.  I see things from the perspective of having been an immigrant, and the hardships encountered as a result.  Having become aware of this, I can be aware of and respect my students perspectives.  They will come to class with their own experiences, and the text will be read from very different perspectives.  The challenge is finding a way to teach while allowing the flow of knowledge and information from the students’ to the classroom.  A method of respecting each student’s reading process.

Also, through this metacognitive project, I have come to realize that if the text doesn’t offer me pictures, I make pictures happen for myself.  I either draw, or make pictographic notes for myself in the margins or any place where I can doodle.  I often connect text to movies, television shows, or to other books.  It helps me to have an image or a graphic in order for the text to hold my interest.  This metacognitive process helped me to see how quickly I am distracted, BY ANYTHING.  Unless the text is unbelievably exciting to me, I don’t focus or read for too long at a time.  So, I think that is why I need “pictures” to hold my interest.

This process has helped to highlight for me a few issues that I may encounter when I begin teaching.  When I give my students reading assignments, they might not be as excited about the text as I am.  They may get easily distracted if the text doesn’t hold their interest.  Perhaps, graphics, pictures or illustrations will help to get their attention.  I think that this metacognitive process is forcing me to think of the graphics that I need to prepare in order to bring some of the subject matter of mathematics to life for my students.

Having read outside of my subject area, I find that I use the same visualization, pausing and distracted form of reading.  I especially lose focus when it’s not my subject, or my choice.  I stop frequently to search the net, or look things up that my text has reminding me of.  I’m also always thinking about my business.  So, if the text isn’t really exciting for me, I tend to continue to work on my business a little here and there while I’m reading.  Fortunately, my blogging partner selected a really great text.  It was interesting and it captured me immediately.  I didn’t find myself as distracted.  I was able to connect with the text she selected mainly because it dealt with immigrants and their struggle to learn English….a subject which is very near and dear to my heart.

Also, this project has forced me to thinking about utilizing blogging in my classes when I teach.  I think that it can be a useful communication tool in the classroom.  It may be a motivating tool, given the fact that students are more and more interested in technology and social networks.  I need to learn more about blogging, and how to incorporate it into a mathematics classroom.

Metacognition, the process of thinking about thinking.  For me, this project is the beginning of seeing reading and content area reading in a whole new light.  Technology, media, magazines, articles, books can all be used in the math class as “text” and the process of metacognition can lead the students into deeper discussions about the text, math, and learning in general.

Working in groups, discussing mathematics, graphic presentations of math, and discussing math text and problems….this is what math looks like to me.  That is what I want mathematics to look like for my students.  I believe that discussion of thought process, metacognitive approaches, to math are possible, and necessary.

Chapter 2 – I Just Wanna Be Average

In the first paragraph of this chapter, Rose is telling of the migration of his parents from Italy to the States, and how his parents met at a diner in “Altoona, Pennsylvania at the lunch counter of Tom and Joe’s, a steamy diner with a twangy-voiced waitresses and graveyard stew” (Page 11).

Right away I picture a little town, lots of locals, thick “southern type” accents, and a stew that probably sat on the stove all night, hence the name “graveyard stew”.  I couldn’t imagine how awful and thick that stew could be.  It really made my mind wander.  I’m very much into food, cooking, preparation and love to learn and know about food.  I’ve never heard of “graveyard stew”.  To my surprise, there is information on the internet about it, and it isn’t at all what I expected it to be.  The Ethnicity of it is Norwegian Soul Food.  The ingredients are 2 slices of bread, toasted and buttered and 1 cup of milk.  The preparation of it is to put the buttered toast in a bowl, heat the milk to boiling and pour over the toast.  Then, add salt and pepper to taste.  Now, if  that doesn’t conjure up images of poverty, I don’t know what does.  It reminds me of butter sandwiches that we used to make when we were little; simple food, made by poor people to fill their bellies.

I couldn’t resist, here’s a picture of the stew.

As I continued to read, I was completely drawn in by the descriptions that Rose gave of his life in Altoona and later in South L.A.  The images he paints of his home, a tiny, dirty and poorly adorned place.  His neighborhood, where no children lived, and gave him center stage to view murders, shootings, stabbings, and drug use.   He gave us the address to his childhood home.  I decided to Google it.  Here’s a current picture of the home that Rose grew up in…It’s the peach colored bungalo style home in the center, 9116 South Vermont Avenue, in L.A.

His mom worked at a diner that was at the side of town where prostitutes walked the streets.  And his father was very sick; always sick and weak. It is clear from the writings that his father was an uneducated man.  Rose believes that he may have only studied until the second grade.  He was a quiet man that didn’t speak about his past.  He had no skills at all.

Rose grew up in tremendous poverty and sadness.  The only inspiring thing he talks about is music.  He seemed to get lost in songs about romance and love.  He admits to needing love in his life.  “Even the songs about lost love – and there were plenty of them – lifted me right out of my socks with their melodious longing” (Page 17)

Here is where the quote that you, Fotini, wrote about in your blog, also touched me deeply.  “I cannot recall a young person who was crazy in love or lost in work or one old person who was passionate about a cause or an idea.” (Page 17).  Rose was surrounded by sadness and physical poverty, as well as by people who became absorbed by their sad state and had no hope.  There was no interest in anything in their lives.  They lived miserable existences.  Rose could see there was no love – no one in love, no one looking forward to work, or a career or anything.  They existed, and that was that.  They were hopeless.  It is at this point that Rose mentions that later on in his life, when he became familiar with the writings of Maslow and Carl Rogers, and he couldn’t imagine the fairy tale lives of those who could become self-actualized.

I had to stop at this point in the reading and think.  I had a much stronger sense of his life and his struggle, now that I had read these pages myself.  When I had read what you had written, Fotini, I understood what meant about hope.  But now that I read the text myself, I have a much deeper appreciation for the life that Rose lived.  Contemplating his life, I began to think about the deepest despair that I may have lived through, and realized that even at my saddest moments, I had hope.  I remember that you posted in your Blog, Fotini, about hope being learned from your surroundings or from people around you.  I guess that somewhere along my very young life, I must have learned about hope, because I always knew that I would do better for myself when I grew up.  I just believed it to be so.  I can’t imagine growing up having absolutely no hope at all.  I just can’t imagine it.

Rose is eloquent in telling the story of his awful childhood.  He not only lived in a bad area, with a seemingly hopeless existence, and parents who were extremely poor and uneducated, but he also had a bad time in school.  He wasn’t interested or able to understand basic grammar or mathematics.  He learned coping mechanisms for both, his life at home, and his life in school, daydreaming.  He knew how to escape by drifting away in his mind.  Interestingly, just as his story seemed the saddest, Rose found love.  He fell in love with science, and reading about science (from what I could tell, he was approximately in the 5th grade).  “I loved my chemistry set – its glassware and its intriguing labels – but it wouldn’t allow me to do the things I wanted to do.” (Page 20).  He was dreaming of mixing chemicals that could blow things up, that could be dangerously fun.  He realized that his chemistry set was a child’s toy, and would never yield the danger he was looking for.  It was at this time that he found science books at his school “...one of those shelves held a row of plastic-covered space novels.  The sheen of their covers was gone, and their futuristic portraits were dotted with erasures and grease spots like a meteor shower of the everyday.  I remember the rockets best.  Long cylinders outfitted at the base with three slick fins, tapering at the other end to a perfect conical point, ready to pierce out of the stratosphere and into my imagination…” (Page 20).  Rose had found his “hope”, his dream, and a love for reading as a result.

I’m going to close by talking a little about the title to this chapter “I Just Wanna Be Average.”  Fotini, you had ben struck by the title and spent some time trying to decipher the author’s intentions when he came up with the title.  After having read some of the text from this chapter, I believe that he really just wanted to drive home the point that he was living in sub-par conditions.  Being average was a step above for him.  It was something to strive for.  He didn’t have money, fun, a nice house, nice school, etc.  He must have imagined that other people, outside of his neighborhood, had better lives.  That was the meaning of Average for him. Normalcy.  He didn’t want much.  He didn’t want to be outstanding.  He simply wanted to be happy by becoming average, because that would be better than where he was as a child.

Fotini, I really enjoyed this text.  I will actually go out and purchase the book, because I want to continue to read about Rose.  Thank you for choosing this text.  And thank you for sharing so much about yourself with me.  It was an honor having this electronic interchange 🙂 Claudia

Lives On The Boundary, by Mike Rose

Second posting on this book.

“Is this an educational system on the decline, or is it a system attempting to honor – through wrenching change – the many demands of a pluralistic democracy?” (Page 7)

I was really driven by this statement and the paragraphs that followed.  Rose speaks with passion.  He is using lots of rapidly moving sentences and plenty of visual imagery.  I’m not sure of his stance about education yet, but I know that I will be in for a good read, because he’s talking about his early life and how he was a vocational student who went on to be a successful college graduate.  He mentions that he will present his “own journey from high school vocational track up through the latticework of the American university” (Page 8 ) this book.  The use of the word “latticework” makes me think of a difficult process; I imagine that he had to travel through a lot, many winding turns and sticky situations in order to persevere.

Rose presents an affluent university setting (UCLA), with many cultures mixing and blending, lots of smart and beautiful students frolicking and milling around the campus.  And in the midst of this “beauty” you find a couple of students who are in remediation.  They are seated under “jacarandas” disconnected from the frolicking of the enlightened dancing students around them.  (Jacarandas, by the way, are beautiful rich flowering trees.  I believe that Rose deliberately mentioned the name of the trees to drive the point home to the reader about the affluence of the school.  I believe that this tree is like the Bugambelias of Colombia, colorful and expensive to keep in the States).    These young people who are sitting under a tree, are contemplating their fate.  They feel that they might not make it through their first year of UCLA.  I feel very badly for them, because I personally know what it feels like to be outside trying to fit in and trying to hold on (Fotini, remember, I came to this country when I was 10.  I sat in a non-ELL classroom…they didn’t exist back then.  And it was “sink or swim baby”.  I swam, but always swallowing down huge gulps of water”…it wasn’t easy).

While reading this, I can’t help but thinking of the “No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)”.  “NCLB which is based on the belief that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education. The Act requires states to develop assessments in basic skills to be given to all students in certain grades, if those states are to receive federal funding for schools. The Act does not assert a national achievement standard; standards are set by each individual state” (Wikepedia)

The first image is of the cover of a fantastic book by Diane Ravitch, who was part of the group that established NCLB, and has since done a 180 and is against it. The second image presents my perception of NCLB.

The United States approved legislature (NCLB) that is meant to improve individual outcomes in Reading and Mathematics for students in public schools.  Students must meet basic standards in Reading and Math, and yet, the government did not set national standards by which students are tested to see if they’ve met those standards.  States are free to come up with their own standards, even if they are watered-down.  Unfortunately, my opinion is that NCLB is failing our students BIG TIME.  We have become a nation of testing and testing. Students, like those Rose speaks about in his book, are exactly the type of student that would be helped by NCLB, if in fact, better guidelines and a centralized curriculum were in place.  Centralized testing based on universal standards may in fact help students along the way.  Instead, these students most likely were taught to pass standardized tests, as is the current trend in America.  So that statistics look really good, students passing standardized exams, but in reality, not really learning any better.  So there is a continued need for college remediation. As it stands now, students in California and students in New York may not be learning the same curriculum, and may not be tested in the same way.  Within California itself, the standards change from county to county.  So, how can a high school student, do well enough to get into UCLA, and not do well enough be in regular English/Literature classes?  Some of the students Rose speaks of are ELL students, but not all of them.  I re-read these passages and realized that Rose is driving a message to the reader about educational injustice that may result from socio-economic issues.

“But there are some things about my early life, I see now, that are reflected in other working-class lives I’ve encountered: the isolation of neighborhoods, information poverty, the limited means of protecting children from family disaster the predominance of such disaster, the resilience of imagination, the intellectual curiosity and literate enticements that remain hidden from the schools, the feelings of scholastic inadequacy, the dislocations that come from crossing educational boundaries.” (Page 9)

For me, this ultimately translates to poverty.  There are such fine lines between the working-class category and poverty.  Where people are working-class, there is usually less funding for the schools, less resources available for the schools, parents who may have lower education than their wealthier counterparts.  The working-class is the new minority.  Perhaps the students that Rose speaks of, in remedial classes, are the “minority” that UCLA accepts in an effort to meet equal opportunity quotas.

This book is becoming even more fascinating to me as I read along.  Thanks for choosing this text Fotini.

Background:  Fotini provided me with copies of pages from the book “Lives on the Boundary” by Mike Rose.  I will be Blogging based on 5 pages from this text.

Prior to beginning this text, I wonder if I will concur with Fotini’s previous Blogs or if I will have a completely different approach or assessment of the text.  I am excited at considering what I may learn from this exercise.

The first sentence of the Preface “This is a hopeful book about those who fail” is a wonderful line.  As I just finished responding to your last Blog (Blog 3), Fotini, the idea of “hope” is fresh in my mind.  You spoke a lot about hope in your last Blog.  So, seeing it right off the bat as the first sentence to the preface, perhaps confirms your assessment, that the entire text is about “hope”.  I really like the fact that the author informs the reader that he, the author, was labeled remedial or slow when he was a student.  This immediately engages me because I like to hear stories of triumph.

Chapter 1 – Our Schools and Our Children

I immediately love the book based on this first paragraph.  Rose does a wonderful job of providing lots of descriptive words that help to paint a vivid image of a little girl named Laura, living in Mexico.  Rose uses contrasts to paint a picture of a poor family:“…her father was a food vendor, and her memories of him and his chipped white cart come back to her in easy recollection: the odor of frying meat, the feel of tortillas damp with grease, and the serpentine path across the city; rolling the cart through dust, watching her father smile and haggle and curse…..[selling products to] blond American teenagers, wild with freedom, drunk and loud and brawny.” (Page 1)

The imagery is fabulous.  The chipped white cart screams of poverty to me.  The odor of frying meat makes me think of smelly food carts of Colombia (where I grew up).  I immediately picture the dirty nails of the vendors selling meat coming from parts of a cow that I dared not imagine.  The stench of it all.  I totally connect with this section.  It reminds me of Colombia as a child.  “Rolling the cart through dust” tells me that the roads aren’t paved.  Many unpaved roads exist where the population is poor.  I can imagine bare feet, or feet wearing sandals that are so worn that the wearer might as well be barefoot.  The contrast to “blond American teenagers” who have so much freedom, that they can be “drunk and brawny”.  This information shows unfairness, or rather, the opportunities available to those born to money or in the United States, versus those not born to privilege.  And yet, Laura’s father smiles.  That is a truly beautiful image because despite it all, he’s happy.

Rose ends the paragraph with “…she now sits in classes at UCLA among those blond apparitions.”  The reader is quickly given information that shows that Laura has persevered and excelled from the days of the chipped white cart, to sitting at UCLA as a student.  The speed at which Rose informed us of Laura being a UCLA student, gave me a feeling of triumph.  I imagined her traveling to the States, attending school, being challenged to learn the language, perhaps not being accepted (again, connecting the text to myself, and my migration to the States).  This type of quick information engages me to read further, in the hope that the author will fill in those blanks for me.  The fact that she is sitting “among those blond apparitions” is POWERFUL imagery.  She is sitting among those who were once considered privileged, therefore she has risen above her earlier position in life and has joined the ranks of those “blonds”.

The use of the words “blond apparitions” strikes me as very interesting.  My first perspective is that they were light skinned, and to a darker skinned Mexican girl, may look ghostly.  But, I also imagined that apparitions can be scary, so that perhaps to a young Mexican girl, these ghostly teenagers came and went quickly, and perhaps were even scary, unusual, foreign.

As I read further, I realize that Rose is observing in her university remedial English (at this point in the reading, I thought perhaps he was her professor, later in the reading we are informed that he is observing her class).  Rose tells us that Laura has dropped the class various times before.  She is afraid of writing in English.

Rose goes on to make the reader understand that he, himself, is aware of the panic that can arise when given the task of writing.  He presents images of the goddess of writing, Gramatica.  She is depicted as strict, stern, fierce, and ever vigilant.  And, although young Laura has never heard of the goddess Gramatica, she is too aware of strict grammar teachers, ready to pounce on those committing grammatical errors.  This is really an awesome way for Rose to let his readers know that he understands Laura’s issue.

While reading this paragraph I am reminded of what you wrote, Fotini, in your first Blog.  I remember that you wrote about the name Gramatica and the connection you feel to Greek mythology.  I remember that you weren’t sure whether the author was using the name Gramatica in a positive or negative way.  You had to re-read this section, and determined that the use of the goddess Gramatica drove home an image of a strict grammar teacher with a red pen marking all of the errors, and the student being traumatized as a result.   I agree with you, Fotini, that  the use of Gramatica is really powerful.

Further in the reading Rose informs us that the lesson is about Greek Mythology.  I wonder to myself if you (Fotini) knew about this when you set out to read the book.  I know that you are Greek, and I think that if you didn’t know about it, it is a great coincidence.

During the segment on Greek Mythology, the teacher asks about the name Eugenia (which happens to be her first name).  She tries to elicit from the students “what the word looks like”.  At one point, a student thinks that the name Eugenia may have something to do with “a good race”, or “Race control”.  I remember that at this point in the reading, you (Fotini) had to determine what the author intended by bringing up “Race control”.  First you analyzed the word using your own knowledge of the Greek language.  Then you researched in on the internet.  I believe that you determined that the reason “Race control” was brought up was because the author is trying to support an idea of inequality, of those who have power, and those who don’t.  And perhaps this notion will somehow tie itself into the writings further in the book.  The idea that those with power, money, status, will receive a better education than those who don’t.

Although I see your point, now that I read the text myself, the “Race control” line didn’t have that much meaning to me.  My definition of this phrase is much simpler.  I believe that the last sentence in this paragraph summarizes it for me.

Of the answer the young man gave about the meaning of the name “Eugenia” being “Race control”, the author states: “These are the truly illiterate among us.”  In other words, the group of students in this remedial English class are truly illiterate, and their responses show their lack of knowledge, experience and reading.  I don’t infer that he was making a judgment statement, simply stating a fact that confirms why these students are in a remedial English class at UCLA.  The bigger question is why are they in remedial English class at UCLA in the first place?

This last comment made by the author “These are the truly illiterate among us.” also brings to my mind some of the ideas of Primary and Secondary Discourse and Multiple Literacies.  It appears that the students in this class haven’t had the opportunity to learn the discourse that the other students, those not in the remedial English class, have had the opportunity to learn.  To me, this class is the bridge, that will bring them into the UCLA discourse.  According to Bloom and Enciso, “Even within a specific type of social setting, such as a restaurant, there can be systematically structured variation in literacy practices that corresponds to social, cultural, political, and economic variation.  And these variations can make a huge difference in structuring boundaries among people, constructing geography, and in creating differential privilege. (Page 3)  The students in this remedial English class, although they are part of UCLA, they are missing some of the language and experience that will truly define them as UCLA students.  This doesn’t speak of race, color, or dominance to me…although perhaps as we read on, we may find that all of the students in this class are minorities.

Fotini, I can’t wait to hear any commentary on what I’ve written.  I also can’t wait to read on.  Great book choice Fotini.

As I continue to read on, I find it difficult to make new and fresh metacognitive connections.  I’m not sure why.  I have to force myself back into metacognitiion.

Page 22 “ Fatefully during his Paduan idyll, while visiting friends outside the city, Galileo and two gentleman companions escaped the midday heat one afternoon by taking a siesta in an underground room.  Natural air-conditioning cooled this chamber by means of a conduit that delivered wind from a waterfall inside a nearby mountain cave.  Such ingenious systems ventilated numerous sixteenth-century villas in the Italian countryside…”

When I read “fatefully” I began to consider what the possible outcomes could be of this passage.  I made connections to other texts that I have read, where “fatefully” was used whenever someone was about to encounter a new love, or an untimely death.  In my mind, “fatefully” is used by writers to introduce something that the character in the story cannot change, as if fated.  For me this word conjures up feelings of foreboding.  I feel torn.  I want to read on because it seems like something really interesting and unexpected is about to happen, while I am simultaneously feeling that something bad is about to happen to my beloved main character.  I think that the author perhaps wanted to show that something inevitable was about to take place.  The author has successfully created a feeling of anticipation, dread, and interest in the reader, with this one word.

I had to re-read this passage a few times for another reason too.  I didn’t understand what “Paduan idyll” meant.  I tried employing techniques such as reading ahead to try to extract the meaning, which was not a successful technique in this case.  I stopped to consider each word separately.  “Paduan”.   I was able to determine that Paduan meant “of Padua, a region in Italy”.  I did so by concentrating on the word and remembering the region of Italy from my High School Italian class, Padua.

However, I couldn’t decipher “idyll”.  So I looked it up.  I have to say that I don’t normally stop in the middle of a great book to look up words.  I simply move on and hope that the meaning will come to me from the remainder of the text.  Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.  If I’m too involved in the book, I simply don’t care if I get the full meaning.  However, since we’re doing the metacogninitve project, I decided to stop, and get my handy dictionary.

“Idyll” has a couple of meanings: 1. A short poem descriptive of rustic life, 2. in music it is used to refer to a work evocative of pastoral or rural life.

OK, so this meant that Galileo was in a rural area.  Hmm….actually, I realized that the formal definition matched with some mental imagery that I had disregarded.  Let me explain how.

I realized that when I read “Paduan”, I immediately made a connection with Star Wars. I am a huge Star Wars fanatic.  In Star Wars Episode I, young Anakin Skywalker, the future Darth Vader, is recruited to become a Padawan learner.  Padawan learners go on to become Jedi.  Interestingly, when Anakin Skywalker goes out to meet his love, Padme Amidala, the future mother of Luke Skywalker, he visits her planet called Naboo.  In Naboo, the beautiful Padme lives in an area that looks just like Italy.  Roman columns and gorgeous countrysides are reminiscent of Sorrento, Italy.  The beautiful images of Padme with her beloved Anakin overlooking the water, look like romantic scenes from the Mediterranean; rural, country, and sophisticated all at once.  This is a peaceful, breezy and happy place.  So, as I read the passage presented in this book, I couldn’t help but envisioning Galileo in the same area as  Anakin Skywalker.  My mind immediately connected the two very separate stories into one.  This made the image of Galileo’s 1600 Italy come completely alive for me.  I could immediately understand how a rural area could be serene and sophisticated at once.  Just like in Naboo, Galileo’s Padua was green, serene and full of intellectuals.  Men seeking more, learning more, making advances in technology and diplomacy.  These were seekers of a higher learning and higher life.  It’s interesting how both worlds merged for me.  The fictitious Star Wars world gave such clarity to Galileo’s world.  Now I had a very real image of the three intellectuals, walking together and needing to take a nap from the afternoon sun.

This video clip is of Anakin, the Paduan Learner and Padme Amidala, when they are in Naboo, getting to know eachother.   Please note the country side, the breeze, the beauty.  This is one image that I had in mind reading the passage.

 

This video clip is of Anakin and Padme when they arrive in her “country house”.  This is the second image that I have of Galileo’s time.   Rural, yet rich and advanced all at once.  It is a long clip, so please focus on the image right at the beginning.  The countryside.

 

This passage also fascinated me by the mere fact that people in Italy, in the 1600, could actually enjoy the benefits of natural air-conditioning.  The idea that they had developed a way to pump in cool air from a waterfall within a cave into their homes was amazing to me.  That is truly ingenious.  I am currently in the process of changing the heating system for my house, and would love to establish central-air for my home, but I can’t afford it.  I stopped to wonder how wonderful it would be to pump cool air in from Canada…right into my home during the hot summer months!  How clever and ingenious to have invented natural air-conditioning conduits in the 1600s!

Going back to the beginning of this passage, the author lures us, the readers, by employing words such as “Fatefully”.  This is a great way to hook us right in and let us know that something, somewhat unexpected is about to happen.  I think that writing a biography, 400 years after the person is dead, is difficult.  I think that hooking readers about the life of a mathematician who lived 400 years ago is even harder.  The author does a great job of creating suspense, in a story that my not be so engaging.  Interestingly, the remainder of the paragraph goes like this:

but many have admitted some noxious vapors along with the welcome zephyrs, as apparently occurred in Galileo’s case:  When the men awoke from their two-hour nap, they complained of various symptoms including cramps and chills, intense headache, hearing loss, and muscle lethargy.  Within days, the strange malaise proved fatal…”  The “many”  refers to the natural air-conditioning systems.

So, now I can tie the “fatefully” into a tragic ending.  Two of the men who had enjoyed the natural air-conditioning with Galileo, on one particular afternoon, had died.  There were noxious fumes that were pumped in from the mountain “cool air” into the home where Galileo and his two friends were taking a nap.  Galileo survived, but he suffered unexplainable pains for the remainder of his life.  This would forever change his life.  He would fatefully live out his life in pain. This is a very sad fact that I was not aware of.  It brings me great sadness to be reminded that life can completely be altered from one minute to the next.

Hello Fotini.  Well, after tonight’s class, I realize that I need to dig a little deeper into the metacognitive process.  In today’s blog, I will attempt to unpack metacognitive strategies and track how they aided my comprehension.  I hope that I actually understood what Doctor Johnson was speaking about today, and that I can actually put it to use.  Here goes:

I’ll bring you up-to-date about the story (I hadn’t explained what the story was about before, because I didn’t realize that I should have).  This book is a biography of Galileo Galilei, based on letters that were written by one of his daughter’s to him.   Galileo, as you may know, played a key role in science, modern physics, philosophy, and mathematics.  He was a brilliant man.  Albert Einstein called Galileo “the father of modern science”

Although I had already read the pages that I will be writing about tonight, I realize that, I was so absorbed by the text previously, that I didn’t properly do the metacognitive process starting at around page 10.  So, I’m back to this page.

Galileo held on to his daughter’s missives indiscriminately, collecting her requests for fruits or sewing supplies alongside her outbursts on ecclesiastical politics.  Similarly, Suor Maria Celeste saved all of Galileo’s letters, as rereading them, she often reminded him, gave her great pleasure.”  Page 10.

I was tripped-up by the words “missives indiscriminately”.  I read the whole paragraph in order to determine that the word “missives” means letters.  I confirmed this by looking it up in the dictionary.  Why would the author use the word “missives” instead of letters?   Upon further investigation, I came to find out that a “missive” is a formal letter or correspondence coming from an official source.  This word connotes power, and prestige.  It is a word that is not used in every day language.  Because it isn’t a commonly used word, it gives an air to their correspondence.  It makes their letters, no longer just letters, but special formal letters.

Funny that Galileo saved all of the letters “indiscriminately”.   The author cleverly indicated that requests for fruits and sewing supplies were saved just as well as those dealing with deeper issues.  This really struck me.  I think that the author paints a picture of a father, who loves his child so much, that he will treasure all of her writings to him.  No matter how silly the request, etc.  It’s like me saving all of my children’s doodles and drawings, simply because they made them.  Looking at the drawings that my children have made me over the years, reminds me of them and of special times together.  I believe that the author is painting a very real, human picture, of Galileo for the reader.  We know him as a genius, a mathematician, a scientist.  But with this simple sentence, we begin to know him as a vulnerable loving father.

The text goes on to inform that Galileo’s daughter, Maria Celeste, also saved her letters.  However, the convent where she had lived burned all of the letters upon her death.  “After the celebrated trial at Rome, a convent dared not harbor the writings of a “vehemently suspected” heretic.”

These words are powerful.  Very powerful.  “a convent dared not harbor”.  That’s like “harboring” a criminal.  It’s depicting Galileo as a criminal that they were so afraid of the repercussions of holding on to letters that he had written to his daughter.  How very strict things must have been for them.  They were too afraid to even hold on to his letters.  And to use the word “heretic” in the same sentence brings it all to a new level for me.  I have visions of women getting burned at the stake and others walking around with Capital “A”s on their shirts.  The word “heretic” connotes images of books that I have read about people who have been defiant and against common beliefs, including religion.  So, for Galileo to be described as a “heretic” is to describe him as someone who is fit for a trial and subsequently a punishment.  Although during his lifetime he was considered a heretic, I don’t see him that way with my modern eyes.  I think of him as a brilliant genius.  The author does a very good job at bringing the reader back in time, to Galieo’s reality.  Italy in the 1600s, where speaking about planets revolving around the sun was against the church and all of common thought.  How very brave Galieo was for standing up for what he believed in, even if it meant he would be written off as a heretic.   It makes me have new respect for him as a person.  The author is working to humanize the legend that is Galileo.

Metacognitive Reading:

Galileo’s Daughter, Dava Sobel

A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love

Prior to even opening the book, I spent a bit of time looking at the cover.  I realize that I do this every time I am about to read a book.  I forced myself to consider the book based on the sheer look of it.  What was I thinking?  The cover contains an image of a woman who looks like a nun.  There is a diagram of a man, that is Galileo, and I assumed that the nun is his daughter.  Because the book is written by the author of Longitude, I assume that this book will be a good read (Because Longitude was an excellent book).

As I read the Forward, it was confirmed that the lady on the front cover is Galileo’s daughter, and she was a cloistered nun.  I am struck by the fact that Galileo had 3 illegitimate, children, and that his eldest, the nun, was born in 1600.  Both of his daughters were nuns and his son, was legitimized by a Nobleman, and allowed to live a life as a non-religious.  My mind started to wonder about what life may have been like 400 years ago.  I thought about the computers that we have today, the pens, paper, cars, all of modern things that they didn’t have.   I also thought about how antiquated the thinking was back then, that women who were born out of wedlock were not “the marrying type”.

I am amazed as I begin to read the first passage, a copy of one of the letters that his daughter wrote to Galileo, at the formal prose.  It is written in a very distant, reverent manner.  I think of the relaxed and friendly relationship I had with my dad.  The contrast is amazing.  Her letter begins with “Most Illustrious Lord Father”.  What?  I usually just said “Hey Dad…”.

Page 6 “Galileo found himself lionized as another Columbus for his conquests”.   Page 7 “..his flamboyant style of promulgating his ideas – sometimes in bawdy humorous writings, sometimes loudly at dinner parties and staged debates – transported the new astronomy from the Latin Quarters of the universities….”  I must have read this one sentence over and over again.  For whatever reason, the meaning wasn’t sticking in my head.  I found myself skipping passages like this one, that somewhat confused me.  I realized that what tripped me up here was the word “promulgating”.  Normally I try to decipher the word, breaking it down.  With this word, I figured the meaning based on the rest of the sentence.  My strategy was to read ahead to the remainder of the paragraph so that I could extract the meaning in totality.

Page 7 “That summer a new pope ascended the throne of Saint Peter in Rome.  The Supreme Pontiff Urban VIII brought to the Holy See an intellectualism and an interest in scientific investigation not shared by his immediate predecessors.”  If I wasn’t reading this for an assignment on Meta-cognitive reading, I think that I would have kept reading without doing what I actually did.  I didn’t know what a Holy See was.  I looked it up on-line.  “Holy See” comes from Latin Sancta Sedes, and it means the Holy Chair.

The next 2 pages had diagrams on them.  So, prior to doing any further reading, I started to analyze the diagrams.  One diagram was Ptoleny’s Earth-centered system of the world, and the other was Copernicus’s Sun-centered system of the world.  This whole idea about someone challenging an already accepted theory about the universe is very interesting to me.  I wonder how many current theories will later on be challenged, and indeed overturned.  I think of how many poor souls where sacrificed for their beliefs, for being heretics, when in fact, their beliefs were correct.  They simply challenged the church or the leading government, and were punished as a result.

When I continued to read my text, I realized that I had gotten so off-track thinking about this, that I had to go to the previous page and re-read, in order to bring myself back up to current.

After the page with the diagrams, I was disappointed not to see nice diagrams on the following pages.  It’s all text.  I remember how as a child I dreaded reading books without pictures.  I also remember that reading wasn’t a big deal in my household.  My parents were so involved in working and trying to make a living, they never read, let alone read to any of the children.  So, we didn’t develop a love of reading or literature.  I always dreaded opening a new book.  Then, once the story got good, I couldn’t put the book down.  But, more often than not, I was disappointed by my literary choices.  It was in high school that I began to love reading, because I loved Shakespeare.  I could understand the writings, I loved to imagine the clothing and the costumes.  I found his work extremely romantic.  I also remember that we had a teacher for “drama” in high school, that challenged us to understand the text.  I found it easy, and was instantly in love.  Whereas my classmates dreaded the class, I looked forward to memorizing sonnets and reciting soliloquies.

Page 14 and 15 contain a family tree of the Galilei family.  I spent a considerable amount of time looking over the names, and the dates of birth, death, on the family tree.  I love family trees and I am reminded of the fact that I started to work on mine, and have not completed it.

I found it offensive to read that his daughter was inscribed in the church registry as “Virginia, daughter of Marina from Venice, born of fornication.”  The child was registered a bastard, who was born to parents who were out of wedlock.  Again, my mind wanders about this situation.  How very terrible to be born to the wrong family, at the wrong time, or under the wrong last name.  It could certainly change the outcome of your whole life.  As I mentioned earlier, his two daughters had to be given to the church as nuns, because they were “un-marriable”.

While I am involved in this process of Metacognition, I am marveling at the amount of time I can actually spend if I stop to think about what I am thinking while I am reading.  And also, as I analyze how it is that I read.  I am wondering how I can actually put to use this process as an educator.

I did the metacognitive assignment as I read.  I made notes directly onto the computer while reading.  I went back to re-read what I wrote, and some of it may not make as much sense as it did while I was writing it.  However, I am leaving it as is, because it shows the flow of my thinking.  I’d also like to note that I have developed some reading routines.  I make myself a cup of tea, I find my nice comfortable couch and I like to sit by myself.  I noticed that the first time I sat to read this book, I was not as focused on the book as I was the second time.  The first time I was sitting in my car trying to do the reading prior to going into work.  The second time I sat near the computer, but with a cup of tea, and on a quiet day.

I came to the United States as a child, with no knowledge whatsoever of English.  I didn’t like the US at first. Why?   I attribute my negative feelings to the experience that I had in the neighborhood that we moved into.  We moved into a middle class, mainly Irish, Italian and German area.  We were the only “hispanics” living there, and it seemed we weren’t welcome.  I remember hating the word “hispanic”  back in the day.  My earliest recollection of the word, was that it was often said with a tone that connoted something less than human.  I felt disconnected, alone, anxious, and stupid.  I couldn’t understand anything anyone was saying to me, and I couldn’t communicate with anyone.  I was simply mute, reduced to hand-gestures and playing charades in order to interact with anyone.

School was no picnic.  I attended a private school which was very closed and very much a mirror of the neighborhood where the school was situated.  My experience was that the children, were unwelcoming, except for a few, and intolerant of different people.  They seemed quite racist to me.  Although I wore a uniform, and “looked” the same as far as my clothing, my 70s afro and my inability to speak English made me stick out like a sore thumb.  It wasn’t easy looking different, but sounding different and being unable to communicate with anyone left me completely out.  I was an outsider.

I learned various coping mechanisms to deal with my predicament of being alone, of having no friends, and of having parents who were in the same boat as myself.  I had no one to guide me.  No one to teach me, not even my teachers at school (because no one spoke my language).  So, I watched a lot of television. And I mean A LOT, of television, and listened to popular music on the radio as much as possible.  Television for me was the most fascinating thing that the US had to offer… Looking back I realize how very narrow my vision was at the time.  But when you’re trying to survive, it’s the basics that you worry about.  I was definitely at the bottom of Maslow’s Pyramid…I couldn’t see anything because I was literally at the bottom.  The basics, including language, was my focus.

I became a child of television.  I loved the fact that television was available just about at any time of the day or night that you turned it on.  And I especially loved that television was in color.  Back home, television was broadcast from 4 PM until around 9 PM, and it was only available in black-and-white.  I found that television provided me, not only with “colorful” entertainment, but also with education.  I literally learned to speak English by watching tv.  I can remember watching I Love Lucy, The Sonny and Cher Show, I Dream Of Jeanie, The Odd Couple, Maude, All In The Family, The Bob Newheart Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bewitched, The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, etc.  I learned about “American” culture, about slang, about friendships, about life, by watching these shows.  They became my everyday friends and teachers.

Interestingly, I have absolutely no recollection of any text, book, magazine or other written materials, ever being provided to me, or to my parents, to help us  on our journey of language acquision.  We had no interpreters or bi-lingual education.  There were no teachers, principals, community board members or language schools to guide us.  It was sink or swim baby.  We chose to swim.  I learned English as quickly as I could.  Always from the spoken or sung word, never from the written.  I could hardly put a solid sentence together, but I could sing songs from the radio.

My experience with literacy was limited to the spoken word.  I learned by watching, by copying, by observing.  I believe that this type of Literacy is Primary.  I learned the English language the way babies learn to speak….by modeling, observing and producing.  The Secondary Literacy experiences occurred after I had actually learned to understand the language.  Then I was able to be formally taught in school.

Hello World.  This is my first blog on the internet.  I’m frankly completely out of my comfort zone.  I tend to be a bit private, and also don’t like to talk to “the world”….I prefer knowing who my audience is.  Nevertheless, here I am, writing a blog.  Why?  I am taking a class called EDS654, and creating this blog, is part of the required coursework.  I am hopeful that this new experience will be interesting, fun, and informative.  I hope that you enjoy my first entry.