These tensional points, the resolution of which during my tenure remained very much “in process,” achieved a certain symbolic poignancy in the relationship between the on-going tutoring program and its special projects. There was a complex relationship between them that seemed both synergistic and persistently in conflict. All of the student-generated material for the Center’s projects emerged directly from its learning climate, whether through the instructional program or in interview sessions with students and tutors. Much of it, in turn, particularly the various anthologies, was integrated back into the program, which stimulated many literacy lessons. On a certain operative level, there appeared a dynamic relationship between the core program and the Center’s projects, simulative of the imagery of the laboratory/research center model.
Yet this was not quite the case even though there was more than a grain of truth in it. For there remained considerable tension, along with a certain degree of creativity between on the one hand, the very desirable goal of program stability, and on the other hand, the innovative work of project stimulation. It is easy to overstate this since in fact new stimuli continued to invigorate the core work as new students and tutors entered into the small group-tutoring program. The tutors invariably brought various innovations to the work which imperceptivity altered the learning climate, along with a wide range of problems about student learning for which they sought resolution (Demetrion, 1999). Likewise, the cumulative impact of the shifting goals and abilities of the students was the stimulus for much of their own creative learning, as were their persisting barriers that proved highly difficult, and in all too many cases, practically impossible to resolve. Notwithstanding the similarities, the differences were important, as projects, at least during their construction stages at the Reading Center, only involved small numbers of students, which were only occasionally drawn on to buttress the ongoing instructional program. Yet their completion still required a great deal of commitment and psychic energy, which sometimes took away from my concentration from the on-going work of the program.
Even with this persisting dilemma, personally witnessing twenty students simultaneously at work with LVGH’s then latest book of writings demonstrated the potency of certain projects to stimulate the entire program. Given the initial project focus of the small-group tutoring program, the relationship between the Center’s staple programs and various projects proved anything but straightforward.
In analyzing our history between 1990-1996 a sort of tension between the quest for program stabilization and project innovation seemed pervasive, notwithstanding certain moments of fusion, experienced most directly in tutoring and in-service training sessions, and for me, in the writing of academic essays that included a strong case study component based on experience gleaned at the Reading Center. This tension between the program and its projects corresponded symbolically to the practical/theoretical dichotomy mentioned above, although the relationship between practice and theory and the staple programs and its projects need not remain sharply polarized, nor always was at the Bob Steele Reading Center.
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