#RozTaughtMe: Post 6 – “Academic” and “Practical,” Being a Strong Scholar-Practioner

#RozTaughtMe: Post 6 – “Academic” and “Practical,” Being a Strong Scholar-Practioner

Over the next several weeks, join us in a celebration of the legacy of Dr. Rozlyn Linder. Our colleague, friend, and important voice in literacy education. While we continue to mourn losing her this past December, her teaching, vision, and work lives on and inspires.

For each post, we will reference her books, workshops, and conversations in the specific ways we are using them today.

We know Roz’s work influenced so many of you, too, and so we invite you to write your own #RozTaughtMe. We suggest your post structure may go like this:

  • Capture Roz’s work (a strategy, method, chart, writing lesson, etc)
  • Share how you have used it or how it has inspired your teaching
  • Invite others to try it out as well

Please link your posts in the comments section of any #RozTaughtMe post and/or share on Twitter and Facebook. We will round up and reblog some of your posts as guests posts here on our Community blog.


#RozTaughtMe post by Dana Stachowiak, member of The Educator Collaborative

“Academic” and “Practical,” Being a Strong Scholar-Practioner

 

Admittedly, I didn’t know Roz that well. I knew her work, and I knew her as a colleague, but I didn’t know on an individual level. But we shared many things: time in The Educator Collaborative Think tanks, amazing colleagues, a birthday (March 28!), and a love of literacy and learning. One of the things I remember most about Roz was her smile – especially in the ways it felt comforting, encouraging, and filled with love.

A memory that is glued to my mind is the first time I presented to TheEdCollab consultants in a Think Tank on equity in literacy education. I was so nervous. Even though I study and teach about this stuff as a university professor, and even though I knew these people really well, it somehow felt more vulnerable to be sharing it with my peers.

She knew what it meant—how it can seem risky—to do equity work in education

About midway through my presentation, when I was particularly nervous that my message was getting jumbled, I looked to the bottom of my screen (our Think Tank meeting was virtual) to see Roz, smiling a comforting smile and slowly, thoughtfully, nodding her head. In that small moment, my nerves and anxieties quelled, and I finished my presentation with confidence—all thanks to Roz’s smile. There was something about her that made me feel like she was saying, “You got this,” as she offered quiet reassurance. In that small moment, I felt like our connection grew. I felt like she was also letting me know that she knows. She knew what it meant—how it can seem risky—to do equity work in education. She knew how vulnerable it felt, and she let me know she was right there with me. I am forever grateful for that small moment.

Roz Taught Me

Roz and I shared another thing: we are both academics. While Roz got her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership (and was working on a second doctorate!), and mine is in Cultural Studies in Education, our work shared a focus of social justice in education. She was a scholar of Critical Race Theory in the ways it informed race and education, and I am a scholar of Queer Crit Theory (an intersection of CRT) in the ways it informs gender/sexuality in education. Even though I’ve been in the literacy world for a while, I now spend the majority of my time in the academic world, and so when I saw Roz in our TheEdCollab work, I mostly saw her as a fellow academic.

It’s a weird (and amazing) life, the academic one. It’s one that people think they understand, but unless they are an academic, they really don’t. Have you ever seen those memes that compare what others think you do to what you actually do? If I had to make one for being an academic, it would look like this:

The life of an academic can come across as elitist, but it’s just because it’s misunderstood. It’s a world that very few enter, and when you do, you never really see the world through the same lens again.

Shortly before getting her Ph.D., Roz wrote in her blog that, while all her research and writing for her dissertation would come to an end, she would be “trading it in for . . . MORE RESEARCH!” (Linder, 2010). That’s the thing about being an academic: you always see the world through the lens of a researcher.

I am always struggling to find a healthy balance in the literacy world and the academic world. At the university, if I write too many practitioner-based journal articles, my worth as a scholar is called into question. And, in the literacy world, if I bring in too much of my view as a critical pedagogue, I’m seen as too theoretical, not practical enough. Figuring out how to be a “scholar-practitioner” is something that many academics, specifically in education, struggle to figure out.

When she taught something with a strong theoretical base, she made it accessible, useful, and powerful

But not Roz. She knew how to be a scholar-practitioner better than most. Her work in the literacy world was loved and admired by thousands of educators, and it was backed by some of the most respected research in academia, including her own. When she taught something with a strong theoretical base, she made it accessible, useful, and powerful, and her work and writing were brilliant, scholarly. To top it all off, she made it look effortless.

For example, in a #TheEdCollabGathering session with her husband, Chris Linder, Roz talked about how they thought through the work for The Big Book of Details. First, they dove into different strategies, re-read old favorites, and looked for ways in which authors crafted details, prompting them to posit, “Why don’t we take these moves for crafting details directly to our students?” because, as she put it, “these are the things our writers need.” Then, they tried these things out in their own classrooms. This is action research in the classroom at it’s best!

When you study the book, you feel like you are inside a classroom with Roz as the teacher, not realizing these lessons aren’t ones that just happened to “work” so she decided to share them; they are lessons that were carefully and thoughtfully researched, studied and tweaked, tried, and studied and tweaked some more.

What I’ve Tried

A tendency of academics is to rely heavily on “what the research says,” but I have strived in my career – like Roz – to rely on both research and real-life to be my informants when I am gearing up to teach something about equity in literacy classrooms.

I was recently asked to create an equity-based unit for a high school English class. Since I no longer have my own classroom, and with Roz’s example in mind, I paired up with a graduate student of mine to dive deeply into what the research says, talk to teachers to see what they are experiencing, and then tried out various lessons in my student’s classroom alongside her. We now have a  polished and successful unit that is accessible to and useful for teachers across the county. This was a proud “scholar-practitioner moment” for me.

Being a true scholar-practitioner isn’t just about the marriage between research and real-life; it’s also about the community that you create, foster, and sustain – and Roz was so good at this. Whenever I see a teacher in distress, or a teacher in a joyful moment, I think of Roz’s smile, and just what that did for me on the night of the TheEdCollab Think Tank, and I make sure to offer a similar type of support that she did.

Sometimes this support comes in the form a smile; sometimes it’s a goofy look to remind them they aren’t alone

Sometimes this support comes in the form a smile; sometimes it’s a goofy look to remind them they aren’t alone; sometimes it’s a note on their desk or their favorite cafe drink in the morning; and sometimes it’s a listening and hearing ear. And, all of the time, the support is with the students at the center. While this stuff may seem like common sense, it’s all stuff that falls to the wayside when we’re busy or overwhelmed or stressed. But it never fell to the wayside for Roz – it was just who she was.

As I continue to strive to find a healthy balance between scholar and practitioner, I have Roz’s work to look to for guidance. For that, I am forever grateful. Thank you, Roz. And thank you to the universe and her family for sharing her with us.

 

 

Please share your reflections or your own #RozTaughtMe posts by linking to them in the comments section of this post.

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