Why We Stare At The Moon

Taken from Harvard Astrophysics Observatory, on my birthday.
  I had the fortunate circumstance to study educational theory and ideas at the Harvard Graduate School of Education with Eleanor Duckworth (2001), and have been on her critical explorations listserve since. My oceanography students were given the task of moon-watching last semester, and lately I have been thinking a lot about moon watching with HGSE grads. I know what moon watching brings to me, but, in light of the resistance I received from my high school students, I wondered what other adults gained from the experience. Here are some of their thoughts:

da wabbit - looking at a not-too full moon (don't want it too bright), the rabbit is in a quiet observant posture - as if snacking on a piece of grass while keeping an eye out for Farmer Brown. If you picture him/her sitting there, with legs underneath, facing right, you are almost there. Now, turn the whole disc 90 degrees counter clockwise. Now the bunny is facing UP (up? ... maybe not ... but maybe). His/Her ears are kind of folded back over hisher back. Good luck. Once you see it, you will not be able to avoid it. So enjoy the journey. ....This week, my fifth grade kids are starting a version of that grid picture. They've been tracking, with various amounts of dedication, things lunar since Sept and I have enjoyed their musings very much. They haven't been real creative, but their enthusiasm is awesome. With our new graph, this round is sure to be a great one. The crescent is incredible against the twilight sky. ~Jeff Davis '02, Santa Fe, NM.

just today as I was driving with my 10 month old, I looked out the window and saw an almost full moon in the middle of the day! I got so excited that I actually said to my 10 month old in the back seat, "If you look outside your window you can see the moon - it looks a little different in the day, doesn't it?" I truly thought about the moon 'study' we did. Of course I didn't expect much of a reply, but for me, seeing the moon always puts me in a good mood - it's a stability in this unstable world. The way Victoria put it, "no matter how well I think I know something, further study will reveal new possibilities" is great because it can apply to wherever you are at in your life. While I always get pleasantly surprised at where and when and what the moon looks like each time I see it, … I am excited to take it a step further and …'use it as an inspiration' for this new journey of parenthood I am on. ~Robin (Kessler) Cohen

Loved the moon. Especially the deeper we got into it. Because I too was constantly surprised by what noticings others offered. Things that hadn't even begun to appear to me. Like the rabbit. And thoroughly surprised by what I did and did not know. ~ ian hersey
One of [Eleanor’s] earliest assignments was to establish a moon watching journal. We were to share our drawings, descriptions, and discoveries with the class.  I must admit I was a bit baffled by the assignment. What did this have to do with improving classroom instruction, I wondered. I wrote to friends back home and told them that I had discovered there was "an   upside down rabbit in the moon." They thought I was nuts. By the time  winter rolled around, I found myself more than once running around  Cambridge at midnight (secretly cursing Eleanor's name) just trying  to  find the moon, let alone wax philosophically on it.  After leaving my Teach For America site in Louisiana of six years and investing twenty thousand dollars I could ill-afford, I began to wonder why I had decided to put my life on hold for grad school.  But I cannot tell you how many times I have returned to the metaphor of moon watching in my subsequent teaching career. For by the spring of 1999, I had come to some rather stunning conclusions. Every time I had tried to establish a definitive pattern about the moon, something unexpected would occur. Sometimes the moon was a cold and distant orb; sometimes it looked as though it must be shining so brightly only over Harvard Square. In class, fellow students would begin with literal descriptions of the moon only to end with mythical references. In the years since I have taken the class, former and current students continue to submit fresh insights.  The lesson for me has been that no matter how well I think I know   something, further study will reveal new possibilities. When we think we've exhausted the possibilities to solve a problem, that's when we must be open to the new ideas and resources that will emerge if only we are willing to embrace them.  I currently teach 9th grade English in a suburban high school in Pennsylvania serving 2400 students. Our school is undergoing a stressful time of transition as we move from an IST program (where struggling students receive individualized tutoring) to RtI (where students are to receive additional assistance in the regular ed. classroom only). Over the summer, the programs that we knew to be successful were eliminated. The new programs have yet to be fully implemented. As we attempt to establish a new vision and to reach kids that are struggling academically, we teachers are becoming understandably frustrated in our efforts to be effective.  Oddly enough, the moon is providing inspiration once again. Instead of concentrating on the present frustrations, I am trying to step back to get a vision of where we are heading instead of where we are currently stuck. As I have done this, I have been reevaluating the pros and get a vision of where we are heading instead of where we are currently stuck. As I have done this, I have been reevaluating the pros and cons of ability grouping, the role of grammar instruction, and the goals of freshman teams. Such reflection is critical for teachers if we hope to improve the quality of classroom instruction.   Okay, I get it now.   Thank you, Eleanor, for sharing with me an instructional strategy that continues to inspire.  ~Victoria Short, HGSE 1998.
Ah, right. That's where I was. Now I remember.

Eleanor's final class at HGSE.

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