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On Writing About Loss, Healing, and Supporting Teachers

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I published an article in the most recent issue of Schools: Studies in Education. The full title is “A Call for Healing Teachers: Loss, Ideological Unraveling, and the Healing Gap.” I want to say a few words about how I wrote this article and why.

The first paragraph of the article is something of a content/trigger warning and something of a disclaimer: this article is about coping with grief as a teacher. It requires talking about pain and I try to acknowledge that 1. If that’s not the kind of thing you want to read about, don’t read this article for now (I get it) and 2. I share three different accounts of loss in the article but don’t presume that these are at all representative of others’ feelings of loss and coping.

With that explanation and warning re-stated, here are the first four paragraphs of the article:

Sometimes words are too loud for the sensitive task of sense-making they must endure. Considering this, the paragraphs that follow excavate and interrogate feelings of loss tied to my experiences as a teacher as well as those of my colleagues. I do not seek to essentialize these feelings but recognize that the process of defining and analyzing loss—the very project at the heart of this article—may feel unsettling. Staring back into the eyes of grief can be painful, confrontational, incomprehensible (Caruth 1996). I offer what follows as an analysis of loss, death, and uncertainty as intertwined with classroom teaching experiences. Furthermore, I want to be clear that grief ’s origins are myriad and it molds to innumerable shapes. I do not paint a definitive portrait of how it manifests in the lives of teachers. Instead, I seek to explore how the complexities of race, class, and gender within classrooms offer opportunities for teacher solidarity in healing, particularly within historically marginalized school communities.

My father died two months into my second year as a teacher.

Perhaps the one saving grace of teaching on an otherwise inequitable year-round schedule was that I had ample time to spend with my father in his remaining weeks in a hospital. With the months of September and October of that year set aside as a break in our academic year, I had time to mourn before returning to the needs of the eleventh- and twelfth-graders in my classroom.

I swam through the first half of that school year numb and confused. Flashbacks of the beeping IV jellyfish that accompanied my father in his final weeks and his strangled raspy breaths in his final hours would invade my attempts at teaching American literature and half-hearted bouts of grading papers. I wasn’t prepared for the tangled feelings of personal grief and professional responsibility that I faced daily that year. From all outward appearances, I taught and acted like I did the previous year. I also often felt similar: confused, lost, overwhelmed. I wasn’t able to separate my sense of being overwhelmed by work from my feelings of being overcome with grief, and so I went through the year assuming that this was how most teachers new to the profession felt. Scholarship from my teacher education courses, discussions with veteran teachers, and conversations with friends who were also wading through the debris of neophyte teaching converged around the steep learning curve of the profession. For better or worse, the creation myth of teacher preparation dictates that this is what becoming a teacher feels like: a phoenix-like transformation, a soul-crushing process of exhaustion, confusion, and embarrassing missteps in the classroom that, a few years on the other side, would produce a world-weary teacher ready to battle the great day, year, and career of teaching.

I wrote this article amidst growing frustration with the lack of emotional support for teachers, particularly in the context of escalating violence and politicized fear. I wrote this prior to my co-authored essay focused on healing in an era of Trumpism. That it’s published now—amidst constant headlines of school-related gun violence and of legislation that restricts the rights of women over their own bodies and of the myriad other forces that are causing trauma and pain to teachers daily—feels fitting.

I’ve continued to grow frustrated with the limitations of social and emotional learning (SEL) as a means of supporting teacher life. And so, while I offer a few ideas of how to move our field of teacher education forward, I wrote this article committed to trying to push for healthier ways to support teachers in classrooms today. If you are a teacher or in teacher ed and doing this work around healing as well, I’d love to continue a dialogue with you (I am not presuming this article is by any means the start of this conversation… we’ve been circling these topics across happy hours, across hashtags, and across strained text messages and phone calls for a long time).

As a final note, I know that the acknowledgments sections of articles are usually skipped over. They are typically a place for nodding toward funders and reviewers. But I do want to pull some attention to words often overlooked and placed so near the gutter:

I would like to thank Victoria Theisen-Homer and Lauren Yoshizawa for their substantive feedback on earlier drafts of this article. I also want to thank the two anonymous teachers who allowed me to share their stories in this article. Finally, I want to recognize the powerful contributions of Antonio N. Martinez, whose contributions as a scholar and as a friend weighed heavily on me as I completed this article.

A lot of help goes into the academic labor of publishing. I benefit from the often overlooked labor of thoughtful respondents. I get to share the words and experiences of two anonymous (and amazing) teachers that allowed me to learn alongside their narratives. And I wrote this article sitting in the powerful scholarship of a friend I wish I could still continue to learn with and from. While there are a lot of “I”s in this article, it was built from the generosity of time, of ideas, and of friendship of a whole lot of other folks.

Fence-Testing in the Hyphenated Present

Everything or nothing. All of us or none.

–  Bertol Brecht

Last week, I had the pleasure of reading Randy Ribay’s Patron Saints of Nothing, out next month. The book masterfully explore’s one young man’s attempts come to terms with identity, family, and death within the contexts of global post-coloniality and participatory culture. There are many, many parts of the book that I loved. However, the three word dedication is probably the moment I got really excited about the book:

(Dedication in Randy Ribay’s Patron Saints if Nothing)

As someone that’s felt like I’ve lived between and amongst a lot of hyphens, the dedication is one that spoke to me.

It’s a hell of a thing describing who you are. My multiraciality means splashing hyphens all over the page when I wade into positionality statements for academic research. It means having a name that autocorrects to anteroom. In my younger days, it meant feeling like I had to account to others for the fact that I don’t speak Spanish or Tagalog. I am so thrilled for these words to serve as an invocation for readers, writers, and learners who will get the opportunity to read this book soon.

I’ve been ruminating on the beauty of those three, simple words from Ribay’s novel while also futzing with a scrap of notes I shared at a conference last year. The crux of what I was wondering about—in a ritzy conference center as my colleagues and I talked about educational equity whilst sampling crudités and cocktails– was the embodiment of a hyphenated present.

As educators, researchers, writers, and human beings that take seriously centering activism and love in the work that we do, it is past due for us to reconcile the hyphenated when we ask: What kind of future are we designing, co-constructing, co-authoring, co-dreaming?

This isn’t a question for laconic daydreaming. Rather, I’m reminded of how friend and mentor Kris Gutiérrez describes imagining as a transformative act of literacy in this article. It is in the moments of youth dreaming that the students Kris worked with became historical actors “who invoke the past in order to re-mediate it so that it becomes a resource for current and future action” (p. 154).

Hyphenated, historical actors act in every classroom today, as both teachers and learners. Ribay’s novel demonstrates that historical actors have the capacity to take historical actions.

A Reptilian Metaphor

As we explore and actively work within the hyphenated present, I want to propose a metaphor to frame the ingenuity of young people. In the film Jurassic Park (a movie staunchly influenced by second-wave feminism, don’t @ me), the following dialogue serves as a key introduction to the raptors that will terrorize our protagonists throughout the second and third acts of the film:

Muldoon : They show extreme intelligence, even problem-solving intelligence. Especially the big one. We bred eight originally, but when she came in she took over the pride and killed all but two of the others. That one… when she looks at you, you can see she’s working things out. That’s why we have to feed them like this. She had them all attacking the fences when the feeders came.

Dr. Ellie Sattler : But the fences are electrified though, right?

Muldoon : That’s right, but they never attack the same place twice. They were testing the fences for weaknesses, systematically. They remember.

(I’m getting this dialogue from the Jurassic Park IMDB page here)

I want us to be fence-testing the conditions of schooling, learning, and inequity, like patiently impatient raptors prodding for liberation. Fence-testing, as a means of speculating about alternatives to a mundane present, is an act that is engaged in collectively. Our fence-testing efforts can be interpreted as a means of exploring the boundaries and pathways for robust and sustainable diversity and representation writ large.

Like raptors clawing for a feminist revolution, we must engage in fence-testing as a means of distributed resilience that allows us to get free.

I started this post with a line from a Bertol Brecht poem. Often read as a clarion demand for labor movements and inclusivity, I can imagine Brecht’s line interpreted differently today. That “us” is a hyphenated “us” is a hyphenated “you” is a hyphenated “me.” And you accept all of us, of you, of me. Or you accept none. “Everything or nothing” is a personal demand: see our fullness as hyphenated selves wobbling in the crevices of the Anthropocene.

This blog post is part of the #31DaysIBPOC Blog Challenge, a month-long movement to feature the voices of indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars. Please CLICK HERE to read yesterday’s blog post by Kelly Wickham Hurst (and be sure to check out the link at the end of each post to catch up on the rest of the blog circle). You can read all of the blog posts this month here.

Talking with Nicole Mirra at Teachers College – 4/23

Nicole Mirra and I are talking civic literacies [checks watch] tomorrow! If you’re in NY, come say hello!

 

Flyer for April 23rd Nicole Mirra and Antero Garcia Doctoral Student Event 2

“What’s it all for?”: #AERA19 Schedule and Resources

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Like much of the rest of the educational research world, I’m in Toronto for the next few days for the annual AERA meeting. I’m sharing my presentation schedule below as well as some resources related to the address I’m giving on Saturday as the recipient of the Jan Hawkins Award. If you’re in town, please send me a tweet and let’s connect!

First, I’ll be speaking and sharing findings from several different elements related to the Letters to the Next President study Amber Levinson, Emma Gargroetzi, and I have been engaged in. Here are three sessions highlighting different aspects of this work:

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Additionally, I’ll be in conversations with friends as part of a presidential session on Sunday, “Forging a New Digital Commons: Youth Re-Imagining and Re-Claiming Public Life.”

I’m also part of a large crew of amazing critical literacies researchers for a working roundtable session. Raúl Alberto Mora made a flyer for this session:

Finally, on Saturday, I am giving a short address as the recipient of the Jan Hawkins Award. This talk, “electric word life: Learning, Play, and Power in an Era of Trumpism” is based on an in-progress essay that explores researcher responsibilities in an era of oppression and Trumpism. I’m planning on doing this by centering the meaning and history of Prince’s song, “Let’s Go Crazy.”

Hawkins Address Resources:

Because I don’t go deeply into the articles I reference in this address, I’m linking to them here for future reference (please reach out if you need access to any of these articles!):

Garcia & Philip, 2018: “Smoldering in the darkness: contextualizing learning, technology, and politics under the weight of ongoing fear and nationalism” 

(This is the introduction to this special issue of Learning, Media and Technology focused on “New Narratives for Solidarity, Resistance, and Indignation: The Intersections of Learning, Technology, & Politics in a Climate of Fear, Oppression”. More info on the whole issue here.)

Garcia, Stamatis, & Kelly, 2018: “Invisible Potential: The Social Contexts of Technology in Three 9th-Grade ELA Classrooms

Garcia, 2017: “Privilege, Power, and Dungeons & Dragons: How Systems Shape Racial and Gender Identities in Tabletop Role-Playing Games”  

In press: “A Call for Healing Teachers: Loss, Ideological Unravelling, and the Healing Gap”

(This article, forthcoming talks about the need for healing in teacher education; I’ll post a link when it is available in the coming weeks. More as background than anything else, here are a few words and stories shared nearly a decade ago on this blog about my father.)

Garcia, 2018: “More than Taking Care: Literacies Research Within Legacies of Harm

Garcia & Dutro, 2018: “Electing to Heal: Trauma, Healing, and Politics in Classrooms

Garcia & Gomez, 2018: “Player professional development: A case study of teacher resiliency within a community of practice

Mirra & Garcia, 2017: “Civic Participation Reimagined: Youth Interrogation and Innovation in the Multimodal Public Sphere

And, because it feels relevant to the talk. I should share the official archive of Prince gifs. (I couldn’t compete for an audience’s attention with any of these looping during my talk, but hope they are useful for everyone!)

Two Talks This Week: Los Angeles & Stanford (and Free Books!)

If you happen to be in Los Angeles on Wednesday (January 30th), I’ll be speaking as part of the USC Scholars of Color Research Lecture Series. I am planning on sharing preliminary findings from the Letters to the Next President research I’ve been doing alongside Amber Levinson and Emma Gargroetzi. Here’s a poster that confirms I’m not a liar and also lets you know where the talk will be:

If you happen to be around Stanford on Thursday (the 31st), I’ll be talking about my book Good Reception as part of Stanford’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity Chautauqua. If you RSVP for the event at this link, you’ll even get a free copy of the book. It kind of feels like I have to pay people to hear me share my research which does wonders to my self esteem.

“ghosts from dreams of a hard, fast future”: Books Read in 2018

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I just finished the A-side of Jeff Jackson’s Destroy All Monsters and it will probably be the first book I finish in 2019. And so, I think it’s time to round-up my reading from the past year:

Books read in 2018: 196
Comics and graphic novels included in reading total: 57
Books of poetry included in reading total: 1
Books reread included in reading total: 2
Academic & Education related books included in reading total: 23
YA and Junior Fiction books included in reading total: 30
Roleplaying Game-related books (rules, modules, settings – related to this research): 6

Some thoughts (As usual, here are my posts on books read in 2017201620152014,  2013201220112010, and 2009):

The easiest recommendation I can make is for everyone to read my friend Nicole Mirra’s book, Educating for Empathy. I’ve gotten to work with and learn from Nicole for more than a decade at this point (how is that possible?!) and this book is a great, accessible synthesis of many of her key pushes on civics, empathy, and literacy. Everyone should read it and it looks like this:

The best novels I read this year were There There (where the quote in this post’s title comes from) and An American Marriage. These are critically acclaimed works and show up on everyone’s year end lists for good reason (I see you, Barry!).

The sci-fi novel The Player of Games was the exact mixture of ethnographer-studies-games-of-foreign-cultures-but-also-in-outer-space that made it the Antero-equivalent of catnip.

I read a bunch of comic books this year and that included digging into the 9 volume collection of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster; it was one of my more sustained engagements with manga and I really enjoyed the entire run. Sabrina is the highbrow graphic novel that I’m not sure if I liked but is a good conversation starter. Mark Russell & Mike Feehan’s The Snagglepuss Chronicles (yes, that pink cat) is amazing. Snagglepuss is a playwright frequenting the Stonewall Inn and facing MaCarthyism head-on. It is timely, poignant, and tragic. 

Moxie is the YA novel that made me listen to a bunch of riot grrrl records for the first time in ages and if it introduces younger readers to the likes of Kathleen Hanna, 3rd wave Feminism, and the Sharpie-and-glue-and-scissors world of zine making, then that is awesome. The reality TV junkie in me also really liked Nice Try, Jane Sinner.

Virginia Eubanks’s Automating Inequality and Christopher A. Paul’s The Toxic Meritocracy of Video Games are both books I read for different research projects that I think could be of interest to general readers (the titles are pretty self-explanatory).

In terms of music, Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer was my favorite album of this year and an incredible, moving live show.

I also really liked the new Parquet Courts and Dirty Projectors albums. However, most of my time was spent listening to female-led singer-songwriter-y stuff: boygenius (including all three members’ recent-ish albums), the Crutchfeld sisters, Black Belt Eagle ScoutSnail Mail, Soccer Mommy, Molly Nilsson, Mitski, Robyn, Miya Folick, etc.

YouTube informs me I listened to this cover of Kendrick Lamar’s “LOVE” an embarrassing number of times. Ditto the Mac Miller Tiny Desk Concert.

Finally, I’ve been listening to this old Modern Lovers live album a lot while writing at night. “Morning Of Our Lives” feels like the kind of optimistic psalm to usher in the new year.

 

Coffee Spoons 2018: What I Worked on This Year and Why

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I’ve been thinking about how opaque the researching/writing/publishing process is for academics. Like most of my colleagues, I did a lot of work this year that is largely invisible and that won’t see the light of day until next year (or later). This often meant digging into data analysis with colleagues, engaging in field work in various cities as well as virtually in online environments, planning, preparing grant reports, and other day-to-day activities that move scholarship forward. It also meant spending a lot of time writing, re-writing, editing, and re-editing. Even when something is accepted for publication, it can be months until it officially reaches the public.

In light of this, I want to highlight some of the research I worked on this year. This is not a definitive list; Google Scholar has a close-to-complete list of the publications I wrote this year and I am sporadically trying to add PDFs of various materials to my Academia page (I don’t love the service, but it’s an easily findable platform where I can put papers until requests for them to be taken down trickle in). Instead, I am hoping this post describes what this research is about, the purposes underscoring my work, and the kinds of social, community, and activist commitments that drive  what I do.

Healing, Politics, and Responsibility

In several essays, I focused intentionally on the role of healing, politics, and the responsibilities of researchers. Generally, I have been arguing that emotions are intertwined with politics and that both of these are topics that teachers are not well-equipped for in classrooms; this includes teachers’ own emotions as well as those of their students. Though youth civic identity has been a key part of the work I’ve been doing, this focus on healing and politics comes from my own inability to work in the months after the 2016 presidential election. I have been focusing intentionally on the ways teachers and researchers must account for affect and politics in our work. This article in English Education is probably the clearest distillation of this work for me right now (and that link includes the many crowd-sourced, open web annotations that were collected as part of the Marginal Syllabus). The special issue of Learning, Media and Technology that Thomas Philip and I put together was first developed in early 2017 and digs into these themes as well (it came out three weeks ago, to echo impetus for this post). I’m planning to dig further into these topics in more empirical work in 2019. Likewise, the research on student civic writing practices during the 2016 election are also tied into these themes and I am hoping to share these findings next year.

Reading, Writing, and Technology in Classrooms

I continued to research classroom reading and writing practices—both in articles that came out this year as well as in data still making its way through the publishing pipeline. In general, my colleagues and I have looked at assumptions about technology and what count as reading and writing in classrooms. Classrooms today are shifting in ways that are often overlooked when we think about new advances in technology, classroom interactions, and relationships—the fluidity of video links, of complex learning I’ve been researching. At the same time, the resilience of traditional, factory-model instruction remains staunchly in place. My work in this area tries to push on broader understandings of technology and pitfalls of forcing new contexts into old forms of schooling structures. Further, the ongoing Compose Our World project that I am part of is in its fourth year of data collection and I am excited to begin sharing our work around project-based learning in ELA classrooms soon. Further, I’ve been engaged in a couple of practitioner-facing book projects related to classroom equity in secondary ELA classrooms as well. I am hoping I can share these in the early months of 2019.

Multimodality, Gaming, Analog Interactions, and Digital Literacies

Somewhat related to the above topic, I also spent a substantial amount of time thinking about and troubling notions of sociocultural literacy. This ILA Literacy Leadership Brief is a short synthesis of my push on understanding how technology can meaningfully support students and teachers. The gist is that the emphasis needs to be on people and what we can do in collaboration with one another; hearing, empathizing, and working in solidarity with one another must be centered with tools playing a secondary role. Likewise, like in my chapter in this volume, I’ve been trying to tease out the differences between digital literacies, analog literacies, and gaming literacy practices. Several of my articles have been intentionally pushing toward “analog” literacy practices to guide our field to be more intentional about what we refer to as “digital” literacies and what is overlooked with sweeping, generic terms. Though I didn’t have other gaming-related articles come out this year (they are in the works!), my previous work still managed to piss-off a bunch of gamers.

Related to this scholarship, my frequent collaborator Robyn Seglem and I co-edited a special issue of Theory Into Practice on Multiliteracies. The various pieces in this issue all are pushing on new understandings of literacies as informed by the New London Group’s seminal work (not officially old enough to join us at the bar for a celebratory drink!).

Equity-Driven Design and Methodology

Nicole Mirra and I have been engaged in a bunch of work that pushes on familiar concepts of civic identity, equity, and imagination in classroom and informal learning contexts. In general our work is about broadening how we interpret civic participation, research around it, and engage in models of research that elevate the voices of youth, teachers, and the communities we learn alongside. Though from 2017, this article that Nicole led is a useful position from which we situate a bunch of the articles we have in the works. Somewhat related, my co-authored chapter in this book and in this book and in this book speak to ways that I see research and design intentionally engaging practitioners in this work.

Literature and Pop Culture

I still spend a bunch of my time reading YA books and thinking about comic books and pop culture more broadly. I still don’t think our pedagogies and policies take seriously the role of pop culture in classrooms and this has been a serious area of what I’m investigating. Likewise, when it comes to the role of YA literature, transmedia, and fandom, the burgeoning methodologies in these spaces are awkwardly suited for engaging in spaces of educational research and I’ve been exploring methodological approaches to these spaces; all of this work is still developing right now. The chapter on Cathy’s Book that Bud Hunt and I co-authored was fun to work through and has hints of this thinking. Similarly, I spent a lot of time on a large editing project related to comic books and pedagogy which I hope I can announce in the coming months.

Though not definitive, I think this gives a snapshot of some of what I spent 2018 doing. I also realize that my work can look a little scattershot when described as above. I’ve been trying to work on articulating the driving agenda around youth, identity, and civics that compels me to study PBL in 9th grade classrooms while also thinking about layers of gaming in Dungeons & Dragons while also analyzing student letters to the next presidents; these are all of a piece in my attempt to understand civics and schooling today. Maybe the links across my work will be a little clearer in 2019.

Let’s Talk about False Equivalency and Gamer Fragility

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Oh that? That’s a meme going around some corners of the internet. It’s building off of the Breitbart article that is ostensibly about my research. I wrote about the first time that went viral here.

This new remix on this headline suggests that the fear-mongering around Dungeons & Dragons in the 1980s is somehow the same as critiquing the game’s reinforcement of gender and racial tropes and stereotypes. It’s usually brought up by people with brief hashtags or notes like this:

 

Let’s unpack this a bit. The Satanic Panic of the 1980s was a significant moment in gaming culture and highlights the threats to imagination manifesting in ways that look strange and unfamiliar to mainstream culture. It is also part of a cycle of fearing new forms of (generally youth) culture. Notable examples post ’80s include Marilyn Manson, the Matrix, video games, cell phones, Snapchat and many, many others. Within this context and as a part of the formative years for tabletop roleplaying games, the fear of 1980s remains an important moment for understanding the genre and the kinds of fragility that remain in tabletop and video gaming culture today.

At the same time, I also want to note that the fear of “demon worship” in the first headline of the meme is not the same as critiquing white and male privilege. I think this is a really important point and the fear of the 1980s is not the same as acknowledging—let alone critiquing–privilege 50 years into the history of D&D. As I note in the article that kicked off this dust storm, D&D is a gaming system that was made by white men, built on tropes and stories largely written by white men, and—at least at first—primarily played by other white men (who were being swayed to join the new genre of play, adapted from historical wargaming systems). To be clear this research isn’t focused on how D&D “perpetuates” problematic tropes—contrary to the Breitbart headline. It is instead looking at how histories adapt and shift and inform over time.

This later point gets to the other piece of this meme that really bugs me: the headline doesn’t actually represent what my work is about in the first place! One of the reasons I wrote this article was to both deeply excavate the historical systems that mediate every interaction at the Dungeons & Dragons gaming table and also to draw parallels to other—non-gaming—contexts. As some grumpy commenters noted, some of the language in the earlier editions of the game no longer exist in the current edition. What I want to recognize is that, smoothing over language, rules, and representation in previous versions of the game does not erase history. Further, race, gender, and privilege assert themselves within particular contexts.

Additionally, this article was focused on the niche context of illuminating cultural-historical research. I’m quoting slightly at length from the conclusions of this paper to highlight the methodological takeaways I focused on for this study:

Although there is an abundance of insightful research into how games shape socialization and learning (in both digital and nondigital contexts), such analyses cannot be studied as if games are isolated from the cultures that influence them or in which they are embedded. This study’s findings reveal two methodological stances to consider when looking at communities of gaming, schooling, and myriad other learning contexts:

  1. The cultural production and influence around a community must be explored. How individuals understand what happens within a gaming community, for example, is shaped and influenced by cultural factors external to the ecosystem being analyzed. In short, games are a part of culture, and culture seeps into their enactment.
  2. The cultural production and influence from within the systemic design of cultural artifacts must be explored. As illustrated in this study, the human biases and beliefs of individuals that construct systems are embedded within systems. These guide beliefs and influence specific “cultural-historical repertoires” (Gutiérrez & Rogoff, 2003; p. 21).

Although cultural-historical analyses often attend to the preceding first point, the human-built foundations within systems may more easily be overlooked. Particularly as educational research considers biases, oppression, and equity in varied communities of practice, the role that cultural artifacts play in the shaping of meaning and understanding must be unpacked.

One task of researchers is translation. Explaining the practices, experiences, and analyses from one context and making them coherent for academic peers is central to how my work is evaluated. Unfortunately, this means that my translational work is focused on a community that’s historically elitist in our language practices and in the fences put up around our work; the article in question is behind an academic paywall (though there are plenty of online places that are sharing linked PDFs and I am happy to furnish this work for others). Taking the nuances of the cultural-historical research around tabletop roleplaying and explaining it to other educational researchers often means presenting things that are seemingly obvious to the tabletop community and explaining them to a new audience. And so I often explain this work to gamers and it’s pretty mundane to some. At the same time, acknowledging a history that was made by particular individuals with their own cultural values has posed as a threat to the closed off, protectionist practices of gaming spaces.

To this last point, the title of this post is only trying to be slightly provocative. I do think there is a need to dig into the nuances of a gamer fragility and the explosion in interest, think pieces, and popular books around white fragility. Several recent books have been helpful in contextualizing gamer fragility, even if that’s not the vocabulary the authors use. Part of what—I think—contributes to the vitriolic response to the Breitbart article and the subsequent memes around my work is the insecurity of presumed outsiders critiquing or looking closely at history, culture, and power in games. It’s true of systems of writing, language, schooling, and youth popular culture. It’s largely the push against what much of my career has focused on to date.

Special Issue of Learning, Media and Technology: New Narratives for Solidarity, Resistance, and Indignation

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I am excited to announce the publication of the latest issue of Learning, Media and Technology – New Narratives for Solidarity, Resistance, and Indignation: The Intersections of Learning, Technology, & Politics in a Climate of Fear, OppressionThomas Philip and I proposed this issue in the early months of 2017 expecting to highlight research of a passing moment. 20 months later, it is clear that the urgency around the themes for this issue has only increased.

The ten articles in this collection point to necessary scholarship exploring what learning and technology mean within the contexts of violence pervasive in recent years.

Our opening editorial essay for this issue, “Smoldering in the darkness: contextualizing learning, technology, and politics under the weight of ongoing fear and nationalism” attempts to situate the present moment within broader historical trends. It is freely accessible here. (And it quotes Rihanna.) Here’s a brief excerpt:

We write this acknowledging that the vast majority of educational—particularly classroom-specific—research is conducted now without acknowledging the sociopolitical contexts that press on the lives of youth today. As students sit in schools within the U.S., they are presented with reminders that youth are presently in cages, are victims of violence and unarmed deaths, and are foisted into debates of the morality of alleged sexual assault. To consider improving student learning outcomes, we must first acknowledge the substantial damage that is being incurred by both the blindness of schools to the healing needs of youth (Zembylas, 2007) and the normative approaches of educational research on vulnerable communities (Tuck, 2009).

Further, we note that the words, policies, and violence prevalent in global contexts is not bound to the whims or motives of individuals; we see today’s political actions—internationally – shaping the landscape of learning and technology long after the administration of individual leaders. As a result, the papers in this issue explore the broader landscape of the current political climate, rather than focusing exclusively on specific figures and events. It is our hope that they provoke renewed conversations
about the intersections of learning, engagement, and resistance.

We edited this issue because there is not a more important focus for us to center in educational research than the lives of individuals continually living under the threat of oppression and autocracy. Our contributors are interrogating this topic in powerful, imaginative, and hopeful ways. Please take a look at the full table of contents here.

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Unpacking Everyday Advocacy – SLAM School Returns

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After a brief break, SLAM School returns with a five part focus on Everyday Advocacy. Co-hosted by Cathy Fleischer (Eastern Michigan University) and Antero Garcia (Stanford University), each episode unpacks specific approaches to building your skillset as a classroom advocate. Starting on April 30th, new episodes will appear weekly.

Guests and topics include:
1: Everyday Advocacy with Rick Joseph

2. Smart Advocacy with Kris Gedeon
3: Safe Advocacy with Sarah Vaughn
4: Savvy Advocacy with Alaina Felix
5: Sustainable approaches to Advocacy with Beth Shaum

As we dig into the nuances of Everyday Advocacy, we hope that you and your colleagues will—in real time—develop an advocacy plan related to an issue that is important to you. And we are here to help support you with that work! Online discussion will occur between episode with the Twitter hashtag #SLAMEdu and abundant resources can also be found at EverydayAdvocacy.org

You can catch up on all past SLAM School sessions on our YouTube page. SLAM School is an ongoing series for educators and organizers hosted by the NCTE Studies of Literacies & Multimedia (SLAM). Each class will feature a 15-20 minute hands-on session to help engage in discussions of activism in classrooms and beyond. For more information, please visit SLAM.education or the Twitter hashtag #SLAMedu.