Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Thanks for sharing the journey.

Dear Dr. Bryant—
Thanks for being understanding, supportive and considerate during a time of crisis.
Knowing I had some leeway made dealing with life, beyond being a student, easier.
Thanks for creating a place where I actually wanted to, be every Thursday from 4-7 p.m.
An environment I found engaging, supportive, stimulating and which often left me feeling, “But wait…the conversation isn’t over!”
Thanks for making me “want” to continue the conversations…to listen, learn, reflect and share in a way I haven’t done before.
I thought there would be more opportunities, more classes to consider under your tutelage.
Imagine my dismay that last class, when I learned it would be your last.
!Que Lastima!
For me…
I wish you well.
I wish you were still teaching.
Moving from the Nation’s Capital three years ago, I never realized how many wonderful people would touch my life; encourage and stimulate or motivate me.
I wish you a wonderful new adventure as you take up a new journey.
Thank you for being a part of mine…

Karen Ventura-Kalen 

Changing Landscape

            As I reflect on the landscape of the last year of my life, the images that appear in the most vivid fashion are those marked by struggle and growth.   That is nothing new for me, but in the last year the challenges seem to have been heightened both by internal and external forces—what were once mole hills have become mountains.  Aside from the sheer magnitude of those new features in my life, what is new to me is the way that I have been approaching them. I have been observing them qualitatively.

            My landscape as a researcher is forever changed.  In college I studied astronomy from a purely positivist perspective.  The computer-based number crunching left me numb and disillusioned about being a professional researcher—it was a barren land without much life or beauty.  As a masters student I did a few small field studies in ecology.  Although those projects divided my time between the outdoors and the indoors, they still did not excite my interest in pursuing research as a profession.  Finally, as a PhD student I have been introduced into the field of qualitative research—this is a rich field of plenty.  For the first time I feel that I can professionally explore issues that really matter to me from a perspective that is close to my heart. 

            The spiritual journey that is still unfolding for me coupled with the qualitative research paradigm allows for connections between the meaningful features of my life.  The mountains that I have climbed in the past and the ones still ahead of me merge into one contiguous range.  I am no longer Sisyphus with pointless hours of toil.   There is a broad meaningful horizon, which I am so excited to explore.  

            Thank you Carol for your guidance and trust in letting all of us explore the meaning in our lives; thank you for your masterful ability in bringing our experiences together into another meaningful academic context; thank you for your own passion in qualitative research.

Samuel Singer

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What makes a good teacher?

I have been thinking about what makes you such a special teacher, and part of it is that  you encourage us to improve on what we already are. You always inspired us to take our own path and really encouraged us to come up with creative solutions to problems. Mostly, what I admire is that  you are such a genuine person. I really enjoyed your party and hearing about all of the lives you have touched so positively. Also, I thought your husband was really cute (I married a big guy too).

Thank you for opening the door and coming into the room that I was in.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

From Cuttlefish to Research

"Thought flows in terms of stories -- stories about events, stories about people, and stories about intentions and achievements. The best teachers are the best storytellers. We learn in the form of stories." -- Frank Smith

The Curious Cuttlefish
by Melanie Reaves

Bobbing gently with the rhythm of the swaying water, the embryonic cuttlefish viewed her surroundings. It was filled with colorful coral and swishing seaweed that would soon be her home. She wondered what it would be like to be out there--out there where she could weave amongst the architecture of the sea. The colors are what intrigued her most. She couldn't choose one as her favorite if she were asked. In fact, the middle of the day was her favorite time as the beaming sunlight from above created quick flashes of color on everything around her. She waited rather impatiently each night for the dawning of color as she peered through her egg.

Finally she just couldn't stay in her egg any longer. She gently pushed on the inner wall of her translucent egg. To her surprise, a hole formed and with one quick swoosh she was home--home in her colorful world. She found the sea world around her more vibrant than she imagined while cocooned in her egg. With the ease of undulating chiffon, she propelled through the colors. Yet she found she was defenseless against a predator. She would dart quickly under a rock or within coral and they would swim right by. Although her new home was filled with many frightening things she felt welcomed and warm. Little did she know that part of that warm feeling came directly from her own skin and would serve as her defense!

One day, while swimming past a bright red coral the small cuttlefish noticed a flood of warmth rush through her body. As she peered down at her tentacles she realized that she was no longer the pale white color of her birth. Instead she was flashing with a myriad of colors ranging from scarlet with black spots to a fiery orange. It was then that she realized how she mirrored her world--flashing all kinds of colors, patterns, and even textures. Not only did she live in a colorful world, she was part of bringing color to that world!

For the remainder of her days she relished in the joys of swimming amongst the flowing colors of the sea. She flashed her colors to signal her presence and reflect her world. Her colors were unlike any other creature in the sea and although she knew her difference, she felt at home amongst the architecture of the sea.

From Story to Tribute

It is difficult to find the words to describe Carol's influence on my life as a fledgling, curious researcher. Yet I knew Carol's love for story and that's why I chose to write The Curious Cuttlefish. Like the small cuttlefish in my story, I entered the world of research with little understanding of how I would fit in. I marveled at others' words as they described what they found in the world of early literacy and wondered how I could ever contribute. Fortunately, when I emerged into this world I found Carol who opened the architecture of the research sea before me. She showed me the amazing colors of qualitative research and I knew I had found my home. I knew that in this sea I could find my voice and offer some colors and patterns that could be unique but contributive. Thank you, Carol for your guidance and friendship. Your literal presence will be greatly missed but you will continue to present in my heart and mind as I propel my way forward in this new world!

To close, I share some excerpts* from an amazing poem, Cuttlefish Bones by Eugenio Montale.
It’s time to leave the stunted cane
that seems to be falling asleep
and observe the forms of life
as it is breaking up.

We move in a quivering haze
of mother-of-pearl,
in a glare that dazzles our eyes
and weakens us a little.

Still, you feel, in the play of dry waves
that numbs us in this moment of unease,
let’s not yet toss our vagrant lives
into a depthless abyss...

Dark things tend to what is bright,
bodies break up in a flood of colors,
colors in music. So to vanish is
the destiny of destinies.

Bring me the plant that shows the way
to where bright transparencies
arise, and life as essence turns to haze;
bring me the sunflower crazed with light...

What you knew of me
was only a  coat of paint,
the tunic that covers over
our human fate.

And maybe beyond the canvas
the blue was still.
Only a seal kept out
the limpid sky.

Or else there was the fiery
changing of my life,
the unveiling of a burning
sod I will never see.
So this skin remained
my actual substance:
the fire that wasn’t quenched
for me was called ignorance.

If you see a shadow
it’s no shadow—it’s me.
If only I could strip it off
and offer it to you.

*The entire poem can be found at:
Montale, E. (1985). Cuttlefish bones. Ploughshares, (11)4, 43-47.

By the way, if you've never learned about the cuttlefish, watch Nova's Kings of Camouflage!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Unique Professor

"I Will Be Forever Grateful For Your Boundless Creativity,Your Shared Insights, and Your Guidance."  

Ibrahim Gashim 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Song for You

Dr. Bryant-
When I left your last class, I was kind of sad and then this song came on the radio.
I thought it was perfect timing. I just had to tweak the words a  bit.
I'm sure it speaks for all of us!

      Blue on Blue 

Blue on blue, heartache on heartache
Blue on blue now that you are through
Blue on blue, heartache on heartache
And we find we can't get over losing you

We walk along the halls we used to walk
Two by two, teachers pass
And as they're passing by, we could cry
'Cause you're not here for us

Now the trees are bare
There's sadness in the air
And we’re as blue as we can be

Blue on blue, heartache on heartache
Blue on blue now that you are through
Blue on blue, heartache on heartache
And we find we can't get over losing you

Night after lonely night, we meet in dreams
As you teach your students
And talk of Qual research, Qual research

That now is closed to us

Do we turn to Quant?
That’s not what we want.
We’re as blue as we can be

Blue on blue, heartache on heartache
Blue on blue now that we are through
Blue on blue, heartache on heartache
And we find we can't get over losing you

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dr. Bryant,

It was a pleasure taking the Qualitative course with you.  I did not know this is your last year of teaching.  I hope you have a wonderful retirement and I wish the best for you in the future!

David Des Armier