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[xmca] Researchers looking into non-linear constructions of time

Dear XMCA Colleagues,

I am working on a project with my colleague, Alisha White, in which we are trying to understand the experiences of a  teacher during her second year of teaching in which she was diagnosed, treated, and recovered from cancer.

The issue at hand is this: Time, as we understand it based on her discussion of her experiences, was not linear. She often spoke about time in a folded or overlapping sense--she spoke about past, present, and future all at once on a number of occasions. We speculate that her understanding of time was not linear because she positioned her experiences as being present to her at the moment of the interview, though the experiences had already happened in the past or she was talking about what her experiences would be like in the future. Trying to parse out whether she was talking about recent past events or future events was something we encountered throughout the analysis of several hours of formal and informal interviews that were conducted during and just after the school year. 

The question we would like to pose for consideration of the group is this: 

Where and to whom do we look for discussions and analyses of time in people's experiences as possibly non-linear? 

This question is here, in part, because of work that I did with Peter Smagorinsky in analyzing the work of a Native American student and his composing practices in an English class (see: http://ijea.org/v8n10/). In this study, the student named Peta described how a mapping activity to show his life could not be linear because "No way in life is linear." This phrase has been rattling around in my own brain since about 2005. 

For the current study, we think that time was not linear for the teacher in our study as well. For her, time was less a function of a clock marking a linear progression of hours in a day; rather, time was more a function of the relationships she had with students. Time seemed interminably slow when her relationships with students were strained and awkward because she was recovering from the illness, staying relatively still throughout her classes, and not connecting with students on a personal level (there were times when she could not remember students' names, let alone if they were present in class). In contrast, time seemed more typical and even perhaps fast when her relationships with students were closer to her expectations for what she expected those relationships to look like. Put simply, time is important in this study, but we are struggling with how to theorize how it functioned, especially since it seems to be out of synch with the day-to-day
 pacing of one lesson after another, day after day structure that existed in the school. (We published an article last summer about how her teaching practices shaped into the kind of teaching she wanted in this article: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1754-8845.2011.01096.x/abstract). 

I appreciate any thoughts you can share and directions you might be able to point out.


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Dr. Michelle Zoss
Georgia State University
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