Friday, February 17, 2012

Journal Entry #15 - 2/16/12

So, this journal entry is really late. I was planning on doing it the normal time, but the Library Assignment due in PL SC 200 (which ended up being almost 14 pages long....whew!) took longer than expected. That being said, the Library Assignment was incredibly helpful in educating me more about databases and scholarly articles and how to make correct citations of unique documents. Quite like our source document analyses that we complete for our field study prep class, I created a research question about something I was interested in and then found numerous sources from books, articles, dissertations, government publications, and more to find out more information about the topic. For ten of the sources I wrote a summary and a description of how the source would be useful to my research. In the end, I definitely learned quite a bit about the costs and benefits of bilingual education :) However, more than learning just about my topic, I discovered that there are a huge amount of databases and research resources that I haven't even used in my research for the this field study, much of which I will have to take a closer look at during this next few weeks (in fact, sometimes I wish I could just spend an afternoon going through each database in the HBLL website just to figure out what each one is for). Still, although there are a lot of resources that can be used through the library, I have noticed that many of the articles written by researchers in the social sciences are extremely dry. While this doesn't go for all of them, sometimes I feel like these social scientists are capable of taking any topic of study and sucking the life out of it with all their theories, jargon, regressions and research models. Of all the documents that I looked at studying bilingual education, the ones that had the largest effect on me were a book written by a very passionate and talented educator and a government document written by yet another educator. The latter was personally involved in bilingual education and gave specific strategies for helping immigrant Spanish-speaking children not only to learn better but to adjust better to culture in America.

Now, I'm trying not to get too far off topic here, because this does relate to my research in this field study. In fact, this may have a lot to do with my own career, not just the field study. These last few months it has dawned upon me several times that I might write a few scholarly articles someday and present my research at a conference or get published in some sort of a journal somewhere. I've even thought of giving my field study project a more statistical basis so I could include regressions and experiments and control variables and the like in my final write-up after my project is done. I may still do that. However, I'm finding more and more that although these research articles are a wonderful way to talk to experts and specialists in the field, they're not really a great way to talk to most people. To say the least, most people don't have scholarly journals sitting on their coffee tables. Moreover, I'm not sure I see myself wanting to spend all my career writing these stiff, dry articles to experts who, at least in my observations of researchers for bilingual education and in my PL SC 200 class, seem rather disconnected from normal, everyday people.

That's why I really like what I get to do this summer. Because, you see, the point isn't just to write stiff, dry articles about a certain scholarly topic and cite all my articles correctly, dot my i's and cross my t's. I actually get to go out and talk to people. Just like the two educators who wrote passionately and personally about bilingual education, I like being able to work directly with individuals, see who they are and what challenges they face, see their personalities and those things that make them human and real. That's what's most interesting to me. I know those two educators loved their work and had great love for the children they have taught--that much was evident from their writing. Their words showed passion and love for their work and great optimism about making a actual differences in the lives of people--to me, that was more touching than all the scholarly articles I read put together. If I decide to spend my career writing journal articles and getting published, I'll probably feel very satisfied if I get thirty people to cite my articles and get a half dozen studies published in reputable journals. But how many people actually read those anyway? Bro Christensen, who teaches PL SC 200, teaches hundreds of students each year, and dozens have written back to him or visited him and told him that the class was the most useful one they took at BYU. In light of the difference he makes every day in the lives of hundreds of students, what are a few articles that he has published during the last 20 years? Well, they're sort of important, but they're not as important as the work he does with people each day.

Again, that's why I'm excited I get to work and talk with people during this field study. I may not really get to know too many people well, I still hope to talk to a fair few. Religion and spirituality play a big role in my own life, so it's something I like to talk about. As a missionary, I've talked to thousands who don't care very much about it beyond superficial affiliations passed on through their families or traditions. I've talked to others who care about nothing more than their religion and their beliefs. The English are a very different people than the Brazilians though, so I will have to be prepared to face opinions and beliefs that may be completely different than what I've experienced before. Especially since London is such a big city, and I'll be sure to run into individuals from a wide range of backgrounds, many of them not even British at all. But like the two educators who spoke passionately and powerfully about their work in bilingual education, if I'm to gain something from this experience, I hope it will include a fair amount of love and appreciation for the diverse people who live in London. If I can explain about the religious feelings of Londoners in a language suitable for scholars without losing that passion and love for the people I meet and work with in London, I believe I'll be satisfied.

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