Posted in #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, Being a better teacher, Big Questions, Curriculum Ideas, ELA, Exploration, Lesson Ideas

The Words of Warcraft

Over the decade of playing World of Warcraft ™ I’ve run across a few allusions to other works in literature, music, and the arts. For fun (!) I thought I’d do some research into how many allusions appear in Azeroth.

Just the other day, I came across this:


There are also numerous puns:

Get it?

And while there are many literary references in Wow, 10 AWESOME BOOK REFERENCES IN WORLD OF WARCRAFT the pop culture ones are as valuable and endearing: List of Pop Culture References in WoW.

Winne the Pooh reference in Stormsong Valley

In a region called Bastion, which is full of angels and paragons, (it’s a little creepy, quite frankly), one of the NPC dialogues is “clear skies, full hearts, can’t lose” which I immediately recognized as a Friday Night Lights line, though I haven’t seen a single episode. I’m not a football person. How did I know it was from that show? Because popular culture exacts a toll. One of my colleagues used it on T-shirts or something for students. We know things in the moment because it’s collectively shared or shoved. I think of the groundlings in Shakespeare’s audience chatting around the village wells sharing one-liners and bawdy jokes from the plays. It was entertainment. And I realized most stories and series I watch are based on Bible stories. No one can convince me that Better Call Saul isn’t grounded in Cain and Abel. And I’m not even a Christian church person.

And I need to think more about this. Recently, #DisruptTexts was attacked. That aggression will not stand, man. I’m thinking of the disingenuous argument that people won’t know where ideas, references or allusions come from unless we muddle through language that’s over 500 years old. Yes, novels that continue to be taught do provide a cultural reference point. But whose culture? What reference point? Yeah, you know who. Allow me some time to ponder this, and work with some amazing women I know.

Posted in #Deconstruct, #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, Being a better teacher, Culturally Relevant Teaching, Culturally Responsive Teaching, Curriculum Ideas, Series: White People Homework

Series: White People Homework: All Posts































Posted in #Deconstruct, #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, book recommendations, Books, burning questions, Burning Questions Book Lists, Classics, Culturally Relevant Teaching, Culturally Responsive Teaching, Curriculum Ideas, ELA, ELL, Equity & Cultural Competency, Genre Studies, Series: White People Homework

Series: White People Homework (22) ‘Canon’ Fodder

I’m going into year 15 next school year, and during this time I can vouch that I continue to seek answers and strive to be a better teacher for my students. This is built on my master’s thesis, which was using engaging children’s literature–I contend this was a solid foundation for my practice. But I’m out of patience waiting for others to catch up. And I’ve encountered this request and steerage multiple times. I’m not a patient person by nature anyway, or so I’ve been told by a friend. It would be my life lesson. I’m beginning to think patience, when it comes to children and education, is highly overrated and is not, as painted, a virtue, but a sin.

And I saw this:

And this:

I would add that I am here for any conversation about books, novels, problematic texts, and the approved “canon.” Districts and district leadership: I beseech you: do not make it so difficult to get great literature written by BIPOC writers in our classrooms. We don’t have time to wait.

Book Recommendations for my current teaching position: link here.

This is a screenshot from a recent Webinar sponsored by the International Reading Association
Posted in #Deconstruct, #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, Curriculum Ideas, History, Series: White People Homework

Series: White People Homework (20) Who?

I read a Tweet yesterday about “canceling Lincoln.” No one is ‘canceling Lincoln.’ But I am asking teachers to do a much better job and overhaul the curriculum and framing of the Civil War.

Teachers: I used this document as a shared reading piece. The students came to their own conclusions: no, Lincoln did not free the slaves.

This thread by Jared Yates Sexton is also a good place to start with thinking about Lincoln’s role and shifts in philosophy.

Dr. Kendi discusses #Juneteenth:

Contextual framing is required for teaching our history. We must teach the concepts of paradoxes, of conflict, and abstract thinking skills so students, and us teachers, too, can hold conflicting thoughts, ideas, and facts in our minds in order to construct a broader, more accurate view of history. This is the challenge in our times of transactional, binary “leadership” and thinking. We think in terms of winners and losers, and we must move and evolve to consider what harm is caused, consequences, and how fear, greed, culture and needs impact us.

Featured image from:

Posted in #Deconstruct, #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, Being a better teacher, Best Practices, Culturally Relevant Teaching, Curriculum Ideas, History, Lesson Ideas, Life after school


How Moderate Teachers Perpetuate Educational Oppression

This is one of the most critical think pieces on education I’ve read in a long time, published in Medium by Lisa Kelly.

A moderate teacher often uses the rhetoric of maintaining high standards without interrogating themselves —holding students to high standards of what? As my comrade G.T. Reyes wrote, “Educators …if you’re still asking about how to “hold students accountable,” I would suggest you first ask yourself — accountable to what? This might sound crazy to some of you, but maybe you are wanting students to be accountable to learn their place within white supremacist, capitalist schooling.” Many credentialing programs teach that it is racist to expect that black and brown children are less capable than white children, which is absolutely true. However, this doesn’t mean that the solution is to expect any student to reproduce capitalism or whiteness.

From school uniforms to accountability, how white teachers continue to uphold white supremacy and colonialism comes in wave after wave. During this time of emergency remote learning and teaching, the number of teachers who are aghast at students turning in blank documents (they did this before, by the way), terrified of students cheating, not being accountable, on and on and on…ladies: you are exhausting. And students continue to act like, well, students. The cat and mouse game of “gotcha” is part of the teacher-student dynamic: but does it have to be?

The first answer that comes to my mind would be — schooling that is centered on relationships. Not relationships that are about getting kids to like you enough to want to produce for you. But relationships built on understanding the unique humanity and the community that each child brings to education.

Every year, sometimes at several check points, I give students surveys to express and provide confidential opinions on my teaching, what they liked, what they wish would change, etc. And overarching themes emerge: they want to wear what they want, and learn about things that will empower them in the moment, in an unknown future, and that feel relevant and worth their time. (Gee, almost like this generation understands existential crisis or something.)

As I continue to grow as an educator, I am mindful that I will always need to push against racist ideas and bias. I am fortunate to have a spot on the Wednesday webinars with Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi on their collaborative book, Stamped. I am going to ask my admin if we can use this as a book study for next year: if not the entire staff, then perhaps my immediate ELA colleagues would be interested.The essential piece of all this is as we’re reimagining schools, beware of who’s trying to hold teachers “accountable” and who is building authentic relationships. Those people service in complicity to hold teachers and students accountable, too. Look for those who include teachers’ and students’ voices, who have experience in making those connections. We cannot underestimate the danger we’re in right now. And personally I am struggling to hold onto hope. As the person said in Samantha Bee’s video, I now consider myself to be, as Meehan Crist quotes, an “Undefeated Despair.”

Keep focused: what brings us to teaching, what brings children to learning, and what are the most critical things to teach? That’s it. I am thinking about entire semester of simply reading critically for argument and bias, and how to have fluency and accuracy in detecting bias and agendas. Looking forward to digging into this resource, too:

PS Something that popped up from the past — it’s a charter school, but am wondering–you know–

Posted in Assessment, Being a better teacher, Connections, Creativity, Curriculum Ideas, Making Stuff

Creating Curriculum

I love curating content and creating curriculum. Here are some units I’ve put together while in #quarantine:

My next projects include Greek Mythology with my Box of Destiny materials, and perhaps other units of study, such as Thesis Writing 101 and Thematic Discussions, and curated content about one or two big questions. Stay tuned!

PS Here’s another one

Posted in #Deconstruct, book recommendations, Books, Connections, Curriculum Ideas, Equity & Cultural Competency, Lesson Ideas, Summer Series of Saves

The Patron Saints of Nothing

I remember how during sophomore year, my English class read Night by Elie Wiesel while we learned about the Holocaust in World History. After we finished the book, we read the author’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. I don’t remember the exact words, but I remember how he said something about how if people don’t speak out when something wrong is happening—wherever in the world—they’re helping whoever is committing that wrong by allowing it to happen. Our class discussed the idea, and almost everyone agreed with it, even me. At least, we said we did. Never mind the fact we all knew most of us didn’t even say shit when we saw someone slap the books out of a kid’s hands in the hallway. In fact, the most outspoken supporter of the idea during the discussion was a kid who did that kind of dumb stuff all the time and thought it was hilarious.

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

One of the countries I know little about is the Philippines, and I’m ashamed of this. The only thing I was aware of is the death toll from Duterte’s dictatorship, a man our current “president” admires. Well, makes sense: both are vile, sexual predators with a knack for domestic terrorism. My former student teacher, L, family is from the Philippines, as are over a hundred thousand in Washington State, and during the election year her fears for her family for supporting Tr*** were well founded. In other words: there are a lot of parallels.

But we all know these aren’t abstract headlines: the terror they inflict and promote affects our students’ lives in concrete and harmful ways. However, I am not a spoiler: so no more plot points, or character analysis. I will leave you to enjoy this masterful novel. What I will do, though, is gather and curate some of the other art and poetry mentioned in the novel, so if you decide to add this to your classroom library, these resources will be available:


The Spoilarium by Juan Luna, 1884, National Museum of Fine Arts, Manila

National Museum:

Books and Poetry:

A Litany for Survival by Audre Lourde

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours;

News Stories: (graphic imagery)

Posted in Argumentative Reading and Writing, Big Questions, Critical Thinking, Curriculum Ideas, Lesson Ideas, Uncategorized

Summer Series of Saves: Discuss, please

Twitter, well, Twitter is a lot of things but it does provide some great discussion/debate threads if you’re patient to find the gems.

Here are five threads that gave me some ideas for discussion questions:

What causes poverty: moral failures or society’s failures? (*remember, in strong argumentative reasoning there is always the third rail)

Why don’t more girls sign up for computer or technology classes? 

Is talking and learning about controversial topics more or less important than not causing conflict in school?

What is going on here?

Is it possible to stop gun violence?


Posted in Curriculum Ideas, Story Telling, Writing

Favorite Lessons: Box of Destiny

A wonderful question appeared on one of my ELA social media groups the other day, “What was your favorite lesson/unit you created?” and immediately I thought of the (say this in a trumpeting voice): BOX OF DESTINY!

I created this prior to hearing the term ‘role play’ — not being a Dungeons and Dragons person and prior to my time in Azeroth, this idea came organically. While teaching humanities and Ancient Rome, I first create the Voices from the Grave unit, whereby students would draw a card giving them a role in Ancient Rome: it required hours of research on my part, and was a joy to make.

Over the years, I put something new on the box–it has many layers.

Later, turning to Ancient Greece, I created the Box of Destiny. The idea is this: make a box and present with great fanfare and mystery to students*: the box contains 4″x6″ cards with the name of a Greek god, goddess, creature, spirit, etc. The interview questions are the same. From those questions, students research their character and present in first-person. This is important: explain to students if they are male or identify as male and get a female character, they may change, etc., however, writers do not write in purely their own gender or about their own gender. Some brave souls will take a character who is a different gender from themselves, and it is my hope as students’ awareness of gender identities continues this is not an issue. They can work in pairs, but independent presentations are encouraged. They can choose a modern retelling or update story, change the form, but the first-person narrative is key.


After the research, draft their short narrative, time to make props and backgrounds begin. The final presentation includes full role-play gear and a reading of their story. Students in the audience applaud, of course, and then there is a Q&A session and feedback.


*Don’t skimp on this. 

Caution: Satyrs brings students to some questionable information. Be aware of age-appropriate sites.

Some of the characters:

  • Athena
  • Zeus
  • Aphrodite
  • Hypnos
  • Pan
  • The Moirai (good for a team, or have one presenter create a one-woman show)
  • Artemis
  • Zephyr
  • Persephone
  • Demeter
  • Hades
  • Poseidon
  • Eris* (my personal favorite)
  • Circe
  • Nemesis
  • Helios
  • Cronus
  • The Muses/Calliope
  • Eros
  • Prometheus
  • Rhea
  • Cerberus
  • Medusa
  • Ares
  • Dionysus
  • Hypnos
  • Hephaestus
  • Apollo

I am trying to go through years of digital files to locate the original cards, but they’re not hard to make in Word. Use card stock and laminate to give them gravitas. Rubrics? Examples? Well, you will want to update them, of course.

If you have any questions, feedback, or comments, ask away!

Box of Destiny Rubric 2017