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“Lessons from the Ed Write Collab on the Importance of Critical Love in Civically-Engaged Communities” – A Civic Engagement Lunch Talk Follow-Up

On April 17th, 2024, Professor Rebecca Woodard, PhD, from the College of Education, presented at IPCE's last Civic Engagement Lunch Talk of the semester held on campus in Daley Hall. Her presentation was titled "Lessons from the Ed Write Collab on the Importance of Critical Love in Civically-Engaged Communities”. She was accompanied by her research partners, Andrea Vaughan, PhD, Visiting Research Associate Professor from the College of Education and Kristine Wilber, a Doctoral Candidate.

Although educators are well-positioned to critically analyze the systems in which we work, there are numerous impediments preventing our engagement in public conversations about education (e.g. high scrutinization, see Goldstein, 2014; feeling undervalued, see Drudy, 2008; a lack of time). With discussion platforms that drive public policy being overwhelmingly led by men (see Orenstein, n.d.), we need more teachers--particularly those who identify as women and People of Color--serving as thought leaders about education.

The Chicago Area Writing Project convened a group of 21 educators to do civically-engaged writing--or writing that employs a public voice, advocates civic engagement or action, and argues a position based on reasoning and evidence (National Writing Project, nd). This group, which was called the EdWrite Collab, included higher ed, out-of-school, elementary, and secondary educators. Group members identified primarily as women, but there were also some men and non-binary participants. Approximately a quarter of the group identified as People of Color.

Each participant in the collaborative attended a series of “Writing to Change the World” workshops where participants articulated areas of expertise and drafted an op ed (The OpEd Project, nd). Resulting publications appeared in EdWeek, Chalkbeat Chicago, and California Educator, and at national education conferences. Additionally, their group met over Zoom for four two-hour meetings where Dr. Woodard and team shared experiences in education, discussed research and opinion texts, and wrote.

During their talk, Dr. Woodard and her team shared preliminary findings about how teachers in their collective understood the power of participating in a teacher collaborative focused on writing for civic engagement. They shared three findings: (1) Teachers’ voices offer personal experiences and critical analyses of education systems; (2) Gathering in writing communities empowers teachers to raise our voices on collective concerns; and (3) By gathering, teachers can create critically-loving communities.

The team oriented their analysis around hooks’ (2001) ideas about love as necessary to liberation (see also Sealey-Ruiz, 2021), examining how this teacher writing collaborative engaged in acts of critical love (e.g., through deliberate practice; through a commitment to nurture our connections; through a love ethic for the collective good), and the necessity of critical love in civic engagement efforts and in sustaining the teaching profession.

Follow the link below to watch the entire lunch talk. We thank Professor Woodard and her team for their wonderful research that helps further our understanding of effective strategies and tools for civic engagement! IPCE would like to extend our gratitude to all research awardees and attendees for helping make this years Civic Lunch Talk series so wonderful.