Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Review: Cece Bell's *El Deafo*

El Deafo is the imaginary super-hero persona of young Cece Bell, an upper-elementary student who identifies herself as deaf/hearing impaired. While Cece is shy, anxious about her hearing and how people will view her, exceptionally eager to make friends, and contemplative in her relationships, El Deafo exudes confidence and charm and encourages Cece to take the big chances and see things from alternative, can-do viewpoints.

Perhaps given her super stature, El Deafo earns the eponymous title for the book which details her and Cece's story. But, Cece isn't too far behind. Grown-up Cece is the author!

Endearing and accessible to its intended young audience, El Deafo has a rolling pace which can get tedious after seeing Cece again and again over-analyze things which she can't control. Furthermore, as someone previously corrected after sharing his assumptions about deaf culture and accepted terminology, I worried about the blurring of definitions regarding "deaf" and "hearing impaired," which I'd come to see as a faux pas.

Had I read the short essay after the comic narrative, however, my worries would have been waylayed and my reading experience more enjoyable. For those interested in accepting the book into their classroom collections or gifting it to a reader, reading that section first may make for a less turgid reading experience an is my recommendation. And as for Cece's anxieties, how much more empathy can be built for her by realizing as tedious as those analysis sessions may be for us (but surely made less tedious once understanding Bell's own take on deafness as construct), they must have been torture for a young girl growing up decades ago when people weren't taught to be as accepting of "difference" and when signifiers of such difference took the form of bulky, testy technology?

Cece and El Deafo eventually merge when Cece, who has long framed her hearing in terms of a super power, has her social circle embrace the metaphor on their own -- with hilarious results guaranteed to tickle (or is that "tinkle?") young readers.

What is one of El Deafo's tech-assisted super powers? Let your imagination wonder. ;)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Comics and Post-Secondary Pedagogy Issue ImageText Now Live!

Click here to read essays from folks teaching comics across a broad array of fields and disciplines. Thanks to co-editor Najwa Al-Tabaa for asking me to guest edit the issue. I'm thrilled with how it turned out and know -- whether you're a K12 teacher, a teacher educator, a librarian, a graphic designer -- you'll learn from this issue.

Great essays; great reviews, and great resources for all interested in comics and education! What are you waiting for? Read! Read! 

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Eval Has a Name...

As I eagerly await the arrival of my Spring 2014 evals at Washington State University to see if what my students told me in person -- that they enjoyed the classes, felt comfortable with me, etc. -- matches what they put on paper and correlates with quantitative equivalencies, I note a previous employer still has me listed on one of its major faculty info pages.

While I'm a little loathe to post it here since I know I have readers from El Paso check in from time to time, and I sort of like having access to the page and don't want anyone to get it removed, you can see basic eval data for every class I taught there from June 2008 to Spring 2013 by looking for the "Previously Taught Courses" here.

I'm happy to say they illustrate a sincere, reflective educator who learned how to navigate the best and worst of that campus & departmental/program culture. I hope for 3 things from my evals from Spring 2014:  1. They do indeed match up with anecdotal comments from students 2. They show how I quickly navigated that new campus/department culture after a tough, shell-shock of a first semester experience (possibly designed that way, as I reflect) and 3. They have not been unduly influenced or tampered with by outside influences.

Once I have the info and can see which of my hypotheses are correct or wrong, I'll post another reflective statement. I hope it'll be one in which I can detail changes made between Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 which paid quantifiable dividends in my teaching.

In the meantime, you can view some qualitative feedback on my courses via my Google Drive public folder (especially in the "Appendix" document).

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Friday, May 02, 2014

Brian Michael Bendis on Diversity in Comics

He has a pretty interesting quote here, does the man who has probably made one too many white jokes in his comics but has done a great job of addressing the issues as he sees them. I'm using this post as a placeholder, because I've got something coming up for which this will be great, but you can enjoy it for whatever reasons float your boat.

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Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day!

May 3, 2014. Visit your local comic shop, pick up some comics for you or some friends, and enjoy this multifaceted literacy event.

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Thursday, May 01, 2014

@ The Chalk Face Plays "What If" w/ Standardized Testing

Over at.. um... @ The Chalk Face, there's an amazing, well-written article on the new slate of education "reform" and its accompanying reification of standardized tests as ultimate measures. Please, please read.

The author asks and answers the question "What if we knew the tests are WRONG… and still used them? What reasons could there be?" 

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Want to be Teacher of the Year Someday? Get Ready to Shill for the Common Core.

Click this link to see the connection between being a TOC and a CCSS-stoker. Recoil in horror if you assumed this was one process not yet tinged by corporate/political influence. All education is political, yo.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Who Wrote the Common Core State Standards?

Diane Ravitch has a post giving us the most-accurate list yet of who actually may have crafted the CCSS. Click here to get the link to the list, but please read some of the comments on the page before the jump.

English teachers and teacher educators -- especially those of us not behind the curtain -- might gain valuable information from Bob Shepherd and Yvonne Siu-Runyan especially, who discuss naming, authorship, NCTE, IRA, and how some education scholars and "experts" get paid more for their reputation than for their actual work.

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MLA Commons K16 Education Committee Taking Up the Common Core State Standards. Time to Help Them Know Where to Stand

A K16 Education Committee associated with the Modern Language Association (MLA), "Inspired by Michael Holquist’s challenge to the MLA to dialogue about the CCSI, what it means for us, and our relationship to secondary education," has created what they term "a space for discussion of standards, assessment, and our role in this process."

Only a few comments have been posted so far, but one poster seeks to brainstorm ideas about how to help teachers implement CCSS. I pray the comment is not the start of a slippery slope.

Folks, if you are against privatization of K12 education and do not want to see MLA infiltrated by Big $-, Big Business- and Big Politics-CCSS support, like some of our other educational organizations may have been (not to say MLA hasn't been influenced by these forces regarding other topics already. I wouldn't know), I encourage you to contact this committee or speak to whomever you know who is a member of MLA and can get your concerns about the CCSS heard. Especially the ELA CCSS.

Do not assume the MLA membership is as informed on the CCSS like the Network for Public Education might be, or Susan Ohanian, Stephen Krashen, or the Badass Teachers might be.

Further, please note  it is entirely possible many professors of literature and rhetoric & composition look at the ELA CCSS and see a dream come true.

You see, the CCSS's focus on rhetorical modes of writing help reify the "importance" of rhetoric and composition and obscure the different philosophies on K12 student writing found in the larger English Education, Literacy, and Ed Studies communities.

As someone who has seen rhetoric and composition faculty take over English Departments or at least exert unduly influence on English Education matters at two different universities -- I'm looking at you, UTEP and Washington State --  sometimes with the support of the rest of the department and sometimes at the chagrin of it, I've seen how easy it is for folks who are college-level humanities educators -- especially rhetoric and composition professors --  to assume that means they also know best for K12 English teaching and assume what so many others are assuming/politically working to their advantage right now: That K12 teachers aren't smart or capable enough to handle pedagogical and curricular matters on their own anyway.

 The ELA CCSS's call for focus on argumentative modes of expression could be music to the ears of these same folks. Now they're doubly important. The K12 teachers didn't know what they were doing before, and now their specific areas of expertise align to K12 curricula, especially high school English curricula.

As well, there is a rationale to be made that the main exemplar texts suggested by the CCSS ELA documents actually represent a curriculum, one which is very narrow and prescribed. Some proponents and opponents of the CCSS ELA will say that's not the case, that the exemplars are just that: Really good examples of texts teachers might use but not the only ones. Regardless, the ELA CCSS focus on American literature and Shakespeare at the expense of global and multicultural literatures, and, sadly, many college  English Departments are still so conservative they still see the resident Shakespearean as king or queen.

 Do you think Shakespeareans -- especially Shakespeareans who are also department chairs,  the leaders of English Departments -- will look at the CCSS ELA, see their preferred literature is also its preferred literature, and be willing to critique it? Fight against it?

I'm telling you there is a very real possibility that the college-level Literature and Rhetoric & Composition faculties across America are salivating over what the CCSS means to them:

Its language suggests a new level of import and necessity -- a rationale for continued relevance and existence -- for which they've been searching for decades. 

We've seen college exert control over K12 curriculum before, especially at the high school level. Indeed, in 1911 NCTE was founded on the radical belief that K12 teachers understood best what K12 students needed, not the college professors crafting hegemonic reading lists to help secondary teachers make sure some students were "college ready." We can't count on NCTE to be that radical this time, not as an entire organization, anyway, especially not since CCCC is one of its most powerful sub-organizations and its members may stand more to gain from the CCSS than anyone other than corporations and privateers.

 My hope is this MLA committee will thoroughly research the many arguments for and against the CCSS and will look to the history of how they came to be and how undemocratic that process was. My hope is their communal sense of equity and social justice will lead them to join other organizations opposing the Common Core State Standards and what they truly represent.

But I'm jaded. Working under two English Department chairs who ran their departments into forms of receivership will do that, as will seeing the cut-throat tactics of rhetoric and composition faculty who seem exceptionally eager to claim their ground, stake their claims, and expand their empires. (Thanks a lot, dismissive Literature faculty, for all those generations of looking on those r&c folks as second-class citizens. You've created a group of folks who may see opportunities like this as justifications, revenge, retributions, and absolutely acceptable, the proper evolution and changing of the guard). I just don't think we can assume the members of that committee will see what Diane Ravitch sees, what Paul Thomas sees, what thousands of Badass Teachers see regarding the entirety of the CCS, let alone the ELA CCSS.

Unless we help them.

Click the link embedded in this post, and also click on the administrator and member icons for more contact information once you're there. Then get to emailing and tweeting. Take to twitter via tweeting @MLAcommons and sharing the link and your worries so they know how to direct your input. If you're an English Ed or teacher educator, contact the English Department and find a sympathetic MLA member who can pass along your concerns.

But don't stay silent. Assuming I'm right about how the CCSS ELA document can be a boon for certain college-level professors,  and given the might of MLA, it is a necessity to share our knowledge to help them see the CCSS and its backers are banes to our K12 students and teachers.

I could be over-reacting. I could be skewing or skewering certain professors' and organizations' sense of themselves. If so, my apologies. Certainly I do not mean to slander MLA or this K16 committee. But if there is even a sliver of truth in what I fear, that the MLA could -- wittingly or unwittingly -- become a pro-CCSS organization, can those of us who know better afford to let its considerable membership and sway contribute to the reign of error dominating contemporary K12 school reforms like the CCSS?

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