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, burning questions

Moving on.

Yesterday was a terrible day. Nothing in particular happened to me or mine personally, and maybe it was just the last seven months, inside of four years, and the lack of healthy spiritual oxygen to my brain and soul. Our country is in its most precarious place now, and maybe I’m just sick with anger. Anger poisons, doesn’t it? A caustic oxidation process that burns away hope.

But that was yesterday. I turned things off for a bit, watched The Queen’s Gambit (saved the last episode for tonight)! The anger, though, is still there, like a feral cat who demands food but accepts no love or comfort. What do I crave, what will I be denied?

I want an apology.

I want an apology from colleagues who use their power and privilege to stop conversations and dialogue that seems to threaten them. And I want an apology from every teacher who voted for Trump.

I want an apology from parents and teachers who don’t “believe” their children should be allowed to read “that book” (but never seem to have an issue with white authors/protagonists). Teachers who use the word “indoctrination” in social media groups. I want an apology from 57% of white women voters in this nation for confusing fear with male gaze. My dears: they are looking right past you, and stepping on your Botox to get to their true prize: patriarchal power.

Did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
Did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?

And for pity’s sake, people, WE KNOW:

I want us to create a mandate.

To not accept less for our students and their families.

We understand and teach science, evolution, anti-racist practices, know how to dismantle conspiracy theorists, teach culturally relevant and responsive practices, use Zinn Education, Teaching Tolerance, Facing History, #DisruptTexts, ProjectLit, #1619Project, and parents are not allowed to censor texts wholesale, we listen to BIPOC parents and students when they bring attention to texts that harm, are racist, bigoted and of poor scholarly quality. We support teachers and students who want to read a wide variety of texts and decolonize curriculum. We teach civics, political discourse, the consequences of platforms and policies, the mechanics of power. We teach consent and healthy views of our bodies, our lives, and our communities.

Oh, and those apologies? Keep ’em. And if you can’t come up with one, get out of the way, please. I’m not waiting. We’ve got work to do.

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, burning questions, Culturally Relevant Teaching, Culturally Responsive Teaching, Equity & Cultural Competency, Series: White People Homework

Series: White People Homework (28) Money: support the work

This is what I wrote in 2018, and my question ‘is this the best we can hope for?’ lacked in hope and vision. But thank goodness others have taken up the work, and helped us (teachers) continue to grow and learn.

My inadequate hope.

Fortunately, Shea Martin, Lizzie Fortin, and many others keep sharing their thinking.

And it’s almost payday: donate to this, even if they’ve exceeded their goal:

Posted in #Deconstruct, #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, Series: White People Homework

Series: White People Homework (27) Reflection

White people: fair warning. This might hurt a little. But you’re tough, right? You can take criticism, reflect, pray, meditate, and reconsider your opinion if you realize it’s doing harm to others. I mean, golden rule and all that. You get it. But–if you don’t–or if you’re still convinced that this conversation is boring or doesn’t pertain to you, not sure we can find common ground. I’m not sure how much I want to backtrack to pick you up, where you got lost at the tourist trap or the roadside attraction of “not me-ism.” But when you catch up, I’ll try to be here for you. I can’t guarantee.

White people, stop asking us to educate you about racism

How Moderate Teachers Perpetuate Educational Oppression by Lisa Kelly

Before you share an MLK quote, understand that you’re quoting a proud political radical

There Is No Such Thing as a ‘White Ally’ by Catherine Pugh, Esq.

How Get Out deconstructs racism for white people

  • Zeitgeist: the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.”the story captured the zeitgeist of the late 1960s”

Posted in #Deconstruct, #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, Series: White People Homework

Series: White People Homework: (26)The question

Why do white people do this work? All I can do is answer for myself, my observations, and what others have helped me learn so that I can share that message. If this is not your experience or life path, I understand. I would ask that you not add qualifiers.

I woke up this morning and pre-wrote in my head. It was a passionate message. I began to think of our world in the divided places: we are currently in extremism of thought and more dangerously, action. We have those of us who believe in climate science, vaccinations, that COVID19 is serious, that humans have basic rights to their choice of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness: we believe in children, and life, hope, and love. We may have a faith that guides us. We may be atheist. We may have our own children we’re raising, or helping raise others’ children. Or both. But we have two distinct groups: those that want all of us to live our life in peace, to thrive, to support, and those that do not. Now, the issue is, those that do not think they do. Hence, the conflict.

We as a nation have never loved its children. We have only loved heirs. And for those that say the damning phrase, “We are not like this” we are. We sure as hell are.

All white people are currently sitting in present tense benefitting from systemic racism. And for me, and why I do anti-racist work, it’s too high a price for so little benefit. It takes too much from me, my husband, and my sons. It takes too much for too little return for my students and their families. This “benefit” includes killing children in my ‘white’ name. And I will not allow it. I will speak up. Those that support systemic racism, whether overtly or subconsciously, are under the delusion and hellscape cognitive dissonance that this is as good as the world gets, for them, and them only. And I hate their idea of the world. It’s filled with hate, blood, and grief.

There are children in cages. Right now. Today.

We have removed children from their families, their cultures, their heritages. Generation after generation. We have traumatized children. We are monsters.

I don’t want to be a monster.

One story I tell is when I lived in Tehran when I was 12, when I came back to the States I felt like I had been to another planet, another world, and the people I returned to, mostly white, privileged Colorado suburban kids, were so centered and stuck in their thinking, I pushed my experiences and knowledge aside, made myself smaller, tried to fit in, and sadly I realized that I tried to reacclimate myself to a lesser world–the one where white people ruled the history books, and no one questioned it. We high school teenagers wept over stories of the Holocaust, and then put it in the past. There was no voice or information to help us frame the larger scope, the endless, bloody history that was looming over everything else. We knew nothing of our nation and its history, and systemic racism ensured that. And for that, I am enraged. How dare they? How dare they give us the sense we were ‘educated’ when we were kept ignorant? And the fact that there are white people who adore the current racist, white supremacist, bigoted “president” swim in the sea of ignorance and hate. And I am out of tolerance. They stole from me. They stole from everyone.

Why do I do anti-racist work? Because of the blond, white boy who spit on a man in Tehran. The boy was riding in a Tehran American School bus and yelled “raghead” at him and spit on him. This was 1976. And he’s still out there, that boy, and he must be stopped. His legacy must not exist. He is the Kavanaugh, the Roof, the dog whistle turned siren of hate. That boy is the embodiment of everything I’ve grown to distrust and fear, and fight back. Oh, and he has a white wife, too, who also works on his side in some misguided quest with a Wagner soundtrack. He does not get to be the hero of his story, or of any story. His time is over.

I’m sitting in discomfort and sorrow. I’ve lost friends, have estranged family members. I will never get an apology from them, never be told that I was right. In fact, I am often told I’m stupid. The personified demons of cognitive dissonance, denial of death, confirmation bias and racism are not backing down. And I will never hear that apology, nor should I want to, not anymore. Monsters are not contrite.

Why do I do anti-racist work? Because our children deserve knowledge. They deserve power. They deserve agency and love to live their best lives, enjoy the beauty, wonder and joy of our planet. They deserve to love whom they choose, live in safety, pursue their passions, and cherish their faiths, cultures, families, and freedom, freedom to support one another in love.

If you can abide children in cages, I do not have time for you. You are not worthy. You have chosen hate over love. If you join us, and help us, you’re welcome anytime. But for now, sit down, shut up, and get out of our way.

Posted in #Deconstruct, #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, Series: White People Homework

Series: White People Homework (25) Forever Young

A little mom boast: I’m proud of my sons for helping teach me and lead me in ways I didn’t anticipate, but joyfully embrace. From their corrections and discussions to help me better understand transgender friends, their role in the world and their participation in the #BLM protests, readings, and writings. I know first-hand that Seattle is not a “hot mess” according to one Fox viewer who told me so. I mean, well, it is a mess, because the homeless and income disparities and the police violence, you know — that mess, so yes, it is a mess, but #CHOP and #CHAZ were like a big street party. But it’s not peace–it’s power to peace, power to love, and power of protest.

Young Asians and Latinos push their parents to acknowledge racism amid protests

Young organizers led N.Y.’s protests. Now they’re taking charge of policy change.

And this is from 2018: 10 Times Youth Activists Made A Difference

And Ben & Jerry’s has been doing some great work to help educate us: From Slavery to Mass Incarceration (but I and my family knew this because we love Ben & Jerry’s and Ben and Jerry’s loves Bernie.)

I remember when I was little, I asked my mom why/how did the Vietnam war end, and one of the first reasons she cited was the protests. That the American people did not want this war, and wanted it to end. But now we’re facing bigger threats: a very old one, and a new one: systemic racism and COVID19. I have to hold onto hope that knowledge, love, and truth will prevail. I have to believe that more people are doing good work, lending their voices and and energy to create the world they want to live in. And here’s the secret: those who are not doing the work, or in fact counter-attacking, will also receive the benefits and joy of a better world. It doesn’t seem fair, does it?

U.S. coronavirus deaths now surpass fatalities in the Vietnam War

Update: the virus has now killed over 120,000 people in the United States:

Your homework: read more about Audre Lorde, protests in the United States, the murders of men and women by police in our nation (Fred Hampton is a place to start).

Illustration by Meredith Stern: Find on the Teaching Tolerance Website
Posted in #Deconstruct, #ProjectLit, Anti-racist work, ELA, Series: White People Homework

Series: White People Homework (24) Read, listen, take action

I read another tweet from the founder of #ProjectLit, Jarred Amato, about The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne. In two occasions he’s used this text as his go-to for discussing how we should abandon old, irrelevant texts in our classrooms. And I get it, I really do. Post #22 speaks to the canon. But here is a another secret of upholding systemic racism in our schools, classrooms, and libraries: some “white canon, colonized” books take up oxygen we could be using to read others’ beautiful works. And–and here’s the catch–we can still use them as historical texts as examples of themes, context, and ideas. And he’s also right.

Whole lotta white gaze going on here

The issue is we English teachers get stuck on our books. We fall in love with a text, and stay put. Grounded. Stubborn. We defend these texts with passion and lizard-brain emotion. And I mean white teachers, if I was being too subtle. Over my fifteen years of teaching, even recently, there is still so much “othering” of books written by authors of color, global viewpoints, etc. It’s become a binary conversation: this or that. White books or Non-white books. But here’s the thing: let go. Just–let go. Look at your canon and take out what is worth discussing, and eschew the rest. Don’t teach the entire novel. Have it as a reference for a timeline, but otherwise, release. Relook. Review. There are brilliant educators doing the work right now, in real time, who can help you find better novels with thematic clarity, relevancy, and rich, deep philosophies.

Shared on Donalyn Miller’s feed: Weeding Out Racism’s Invisible Roots: Rethinking Children’s Classics | Opinion

Important School Library Journal post from Padma Venkatraman about the importance of reading and sharing #ownvoices books instead of timeworn “classics” that perpetuate harmful stereotypes:“Powerful books can transport us to different places and times and also transplant us, temporarily, into a character’s body. Protagonists haunt us, move us, and sometimes spur us to act by sowing empathy and respect for diversity.Conversely, exposing young people to stories in which racism, sexism, ableism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of hate are the norm may sow seeds of bias that can grow into indifference or prejudice.”

And I would ask that you bookmark this, watch it, take notes, keep, review, and place high on your priority list.