In the environment that existed in Hartford during the early 1990s my concept of a laboratory/research center proved a hard sell. This was due in part to the limitations of my own political and interpersonal skills, but more fundamentally, to the persuasiveness of these other critical areas of agency growth that also linked the “literacy myth” with more articulated public voices and aspirations than my phenomenological probing could achieve. The fact that I felt compelled to make explicit my vision of the Reading Center represented a certain literalism that pushed ahead of the potential force field I was attempting to nurture one step at a time. This provided a source of compensation against the ambiguous milieu in which I sought its realization, but did little to help my cause. To be sure, I viewed the vision as an operational ideal rather than an embedded reality, although one in which the energy released would provide the underlying dynamic for the program. By “speaking,” I could claim the authenticity of my voice, which was certainly better than the sometimes autistic ruminations reverberating in my consciousness, which I occasionally experienced. Nonetheless, and this was a pervasive reality, I lacked the power to garner the resources to bring the vision to fruition against the press of more “realistic” and socially evident concerns of my colleagues.
Part of the outcome of such tension was an increasing psychic withdrawal from large aspects of agency-wide activities in order to concentrate energies on probing the depth of the learning experience of the students and tutors, clearly on my limited, but far from unimportant understanding. This enabled me to bring out aspects of the program’s learning culture that would otherwise remain mute, what I viewed as the underbelly of the program’s motivational dynamic. A sense of conflict over these two realities undergirded much of my psychic energies especially in the last few years in the program as the scope of the agency became increasingly sophisticated.
It is useful to keep this broader ambiguous context in mind in assessing the “deep structures” that shaped at least my participation within the Bob Steele Reading Center, a dilemma which has perplexed practitioners throughout the field (Demetrion, 2004, pp. 26-55). That was one reality. The other was the energy that was unleashed at the Bob Steele Reading Center, despite the ambiguity, through such an effort in consciousness probing and the creative transformations of the program’s microhistory that the beckoning image of the laboratory/research center spawned, well beyond the recesses of my imagination.
Small Group Tutoring
With apprehension and hope, the Board of Directors of LVGH in the fall of 1989 anticipated the expansion of the Bob Steele Reading Center housed in its new environment at 56 Arbor Street. As the program manager, I realized I had considerable freedom to operate, but knew I had to deliver some tangible outcomes (particularly program growth) in a relatively short period of time. I was convinced that having our own space created a new force field for program development even as I sensed that the means for it would have to flow from the energies unleashed in the process of daily operations.
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