Calls for Manuscripts
Upcoming Voices from the Middle Themes
Editors Shanetia Clark, Robyn Seglem, and Matt Skillen offer the following calls for manuscripts. For more information, read the submission guidelines. Questions for the editors may be directed to email@example.com.
Speculating from the Middle
Volume 31 of Voices from the Middle draws from the work of Nicole Mirra and Antero Garcia who offer a new approach for blending literacy and civic education in their upcoming book Civics for the World to Come: Committing to Democracy in Every Classroom.
Mirra and Garcia draw upon the lessons of speculative fiction to create a vision of speculative civic literacies that positions all teachers as world-builders who assist students in interrogating the world as it currently exists and in imagining and innovating toward new realities. They argue that amid all of the challenges facing public schools today, from the pandemic to political polarization, the failure of our systems to imagine new educational possibilities is, in fact, the greatest challenge of them all. Mirra and Garcia propose that education should be a tool used to design new futures and that youth must be respected as experts in their communities who are ready and able to create equitable social change. We agree! This volume year, we want to speculate alongside them and examine ways teachers can and do enact their five commitments of world-building civic education: inquiry, storytelling, networking, imagination, and advocacy. Through these commitments, we can empower young people to build a joyful, just, and interconnected world.
See details on each issue’s call for manuscripts pertaining to Vol. 31 below.
Why are things this way? In order to speculate about possible futures, it is important for youth to first understand how structures came to exist and who benefits from those structures. And it is vital that teachers create space for students to ask their own questions. So how do we make that space? How do we assist students in drawing upon their own lived experiences to frame questions that allow them to speculate about possible futures? In this issue, we invite you to share your approaches to using inquiry in and out of the classroom to help students interrogate the world. What questions do you use to guide your interrogation of your own curriculum? How do you assist students in formulating the questions they most want to explore? How can you structure learning experiences that use inquiry to shape how students interact with the world? What role does critical pedagogy play in these processes? How do you extend learning beyond the classroom and create authentic opportunities for students to explore their questions with community partners?
Manuscripts Due: December 15, 2022
Stories of Inquiry
Story connects humans together. We learn new perspectives and ways of being through story. Speculative literacies are about reimagining and telling new stories, but they are also about listening to stories of the past. Through story, we can learn new questions to ask. So we ask you, what stories can you share about students’ experiences with inquiry? Who can you highlight? What did you or your students learn? How do the stories your students share shape your teaching practice? What lessons have you learned from your students through stories? How have the stories of your colleagues inspired your work and teaching craft? We invite you to share those stories in short, narrative pieces of 500–750 words.
Submissions Due: March 15, 2023
Networking means connecting human to human, whether face-to-face or online. Inquiry cannot happen in isolation. It requires people to come together, considering “what ifs” in ways we cannot speculate on our own. Digital tools can allow us to connect to people who in the past we never knew existed. They can allow us to forge new relationships and understandings, to gain a broader perspective of our local communities and the wider world. Yet, so often, schools shut down those avenues, limiting students’ access to other ideas. How can we push against these constraints so that students can interact with others around the world in safe but meaningful ways? How can we leverage networking to help students become interactive, productive citizens? We invite you to explore with us the possibilities of networking. How can we network with our local communities to ask questions that are meaningful to our neighbors? What tools and skills can we use to effectively connect our students to others around the world? How do we build our own networks to reimagine our own practices and build new pedagogies? How do we use networking to amplify student inquiry? How do we find fissures within structures that limit networking in order to teach our students how to effectively interact with others? How can networking be used to speculate new worlds?
Manuscripts Due: March 15, 2023
Stories of Networking
In this issue, we continue to use story to connect humans together. Through networking, we can learn others’ stories. What stories have you or your students learned through networking? What stories can you share about students’ experiences with networking? Who can you highlight? What did you or your students learn? What have you learned from your students’ experiences and stories? We invite you to share those stories in short, narrative pieces of 500–750 words.
Submissions Due: June 15, 2023
Imagination often gets the short shrift in education. So much of our time is spent learning content and conveying information in a straightforward manner that there is little time left to dream. Yet, if we cannot dream, we cannot answer a question integral to Mirra and Garcia’s commitments: What kind of future do we want to build together? Too often, we get bogged down in the very serious business of education—teaching our students to be critical consumers, meeting all the standards, helping students perform well on standardized tests. And while these are important responsibilities, too often we forget to play and to find joy together. So, in this issue, we ask you to share approaches to privileging imagination in our learning spaces. Where do students find joy in your classroom? When do you open up a time for “blue sky” creative brainstorming? How do you nurture imagination to solve problems? What role do games play in your curriculum? How do you encourage students to express their learning and ideas in creative ways? In what ways can we merge imagination and critical literacy? How do we build opportunities for students to ask playful questions? When do students have opportunities to imagine together?
Manuscripts Due: June 15, 2023
Stories of Imagination
In this issue, we ponder imaginative storytelling. Where have we seen our students dream possibilities? What imaginative stories have you or your students leveraged in the classroom? What stories can you share about students’ experiences with play? Who can you highlight? What did you or your students learn? We invite you to share those stories in short, narrative pieces of 500–750 words.
Submissions Due: September 15, 2023
Advocacy allows students to move from speculation to action. As Mirra and Garcia remind us, schools are connected to communities, which means that civic learning and engagement cannot be confined to the classroom. Students must be encouraged to take their ideas into the neighborhoods to which they belong. So, how do we, as educators, weave advocacy into the fabric of our classrooms? How do we help our students enact their imaginations to make change in the world? In this issue, we are advocating for a new approach to pedagogy that centers students as changemakers. Thus, we ask you to share how you integrate advocacy into your curriculum. How do you provide students with avenues for communicating their ideas with stakeholders in the community? Where do you model advocacy for your students? What role do youth activists play in your curriculum, and how do you help students see themselves using their voices in similar ways? How do you use genres such as protest art to model various ways to advocate within the community? What changes have been made due to students’ actions?
Manuscripts Due: August 15, 2023
Stories of Advocacy
In this issue, we celebrate stories of advocacy. Where have students found platforms to push for change? What stories can you share about students’ experiences with advocacy? Who can you highlight? What did you or your students learn? We invite you to share those stories in short, narrative pieces of 500–750 words.
Submissions Due: November 15, 2023
Volume 30: Genius in the Middle
Volume 30 of Voices from the Middle celebrates the work of Dr. Gholdy Muhammad, Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy.
In the opening pages of her book, Dr. Gholdy Muhammad introduces readers to historical Black literary societies as spaces where leading readers, writers, and thinkers “worked toward cultivating the minds and hearts within themselves and among others, which led them to being equipped to face and alter the nation’s harshest realities” (p. 9). In light of constant social, political, and cultural change, we take solace in the knowledge that we as ELA teachers possess the tools that can make change happen because we believe, as Gholdy states, “reading and writing are transformative acts that improve self and society” (pp. 9–10). To this end, we embrace Gholdy’s call to reframe literacy instruction. Rather than focusing on the day-to-day grind of test prep and superficial language practices, what if we focus on “cultivating the genius” that exists within our students? What if we shift from practices and ideologies that reinforce white systems to those that recognize and uplift the literacies that have been historically used to empower marginalized people? This volume year, we seek to explore the questions initially posed by Gholdy, as well as the questions raised by the multitudes who have taken up her work. In doing so, we hope to help readers uncover the genius and joy in students who live and learn in the middle level classroom.
Transforming through Criticality
Through criticality, Gholdy reminds us, we humanize our instruction, creating a more compassionate learning space. Teaching through criticality, we prompt students to ask questions, to consider the context a text was created within, to recognize power relations, to develop anti-oppression mindsets, and to seek out equity. And yet, we recognize that we live in a world that is pushing back at criticality, so how can we as educators stand firm in our work and empower students to transform the world? How do you help students understand power and power dynamics? In what ways do you explore what it means to be Black and Brown in our world? How do you help students deconstruct the notion of failure and the factors that contribute to it? How do you help students find texts that represent who they are? When do you provide opportunities for students to create texts that push back at others’ ideas? How do you equip students to examine media with a critical eye? How are we teaching youth to name, question, critique and disrupt racism and other oppression through literacy instruction? No longer accepting submissions.
In recent years, intellect has been under attack and neglected in the push toward test prep. Without intellect, we are unable to understand abstract concepts, shift our paradigms, or critique the decisions or actions around us. Thus, it is through intellect that our students can leverage ideas to enact social change in the world. As ELA teachers, we have the opportunity to expand our students’ mental capacities, but to do so we must stop focusing primarily on test scores. Historically, Gholdy points out that Black communities did not view intellectual education as exceptional education (p. 105). Today, neither must we. So, in this issue, we invite you to consider how to engage students in intellectual exercises. How do we use ELA to help students ponder their futures? How do we tend to social and emotional needs through our instruction? How do we use intellectualism to combat false narratives around Black and Brown students? In what ways do you promote an intellectual culture? How do you help students recognize the impact of the past on the present? What opportunities do you provide for critique? How do you connect students’ experiences to the human condition? to the social problems we currently face? When do you encourage students to act on their learning? No longer accepting submissions.
In many ways, skills are the bedrock of ELA instruction. Skills are what are being mandated in standards, what are being assessed in standardized tests, and what are often the primary focus in the ELA classroom. And skills are important. Cultivating the skills of the six language arts– reading, writing, speaking, listening, thinking, viewing, and representing–are how Black literary societies worked toward liberation. Yet, we wonder if the skills being taught in our classrooms are the skills needed for our underrepresented students to thrive. What are skills in service of? We also wonder if the foci skills have kept pace with the changing texts and technologies that permeate today’s world. We invite you to take part in our musings. How can we cultivate skills within our students without forcing them to sacrifice their cultural and historical traditions? What skills are necessary for our students to reimagine our world and how do we best help them develop those skills? How do we engage with colleagues in other disciplines to develop a robust set of skills that are responsive to varying contexts and situations? In what ways do we use mentor texts to teach skills? How do we pair skill development with identity development? What skills do we need to teach today that weren’t necessary or imagined in ELA classrooms of the past? How do we find fissures in mandated curricula to teach the skills not named, but necessary for our discipline? No longer accepting submissions.
At the foundation of Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy is the pursuit of identity. Students cannot celebrate the joys of the world, nor battle its injustices without first recognizing their excellence. They must also have opportunities to learn about the excellence of those other than themselves. And the reality of schooling is often more about the content we teach rather than the students we are teaching. How can we, as educators, push back against mandates and practices that don’t make space for our students’ lived experiences? In this issue, we invite you to share approaches to privileging student identity in the ELA classroom. How do you design lessons that allow students to connect to and see themselves in the concepts they are learning? How do you help middle level students, who are on a journey of self-discovery, make those discoveries about themselves? How do you leverage the practices of ELA to help students celebrate their strengths and combat their self-doubt? How do you examine your own biases in order to create an environment where all students, but particularly Black and Brown children, thrive? In what ways do you cultivate your own genius? How do you use literature and writing to help students uncover the genius of others? No longer accepting submissions.
Vol. 29, No. 4: Reflecting through Feedback
Feedback is a vital part of design thinking. When others challenge our ideas, we must look at them from a different perspective. When others provide suggestions for our work, we can develop work that is more innovative than what we would create on our own. When others compliment our efforts, we develop confidence to continue creating. Who are your design partners at your school, and how do you work together to create memorable learning for students? How do you incorporate feedback from multiple stakeholders into your learning environment? How do you help students learn to provide feedback that pushes their peers’ thinking forward? How do you help students see feedback as directed at their work rather than at them? In what ways do you develop a trusting environment that nurtures positive feedback? What does your reflecting through your feedback look like? In what ways do your gather and reflect on feedback from your students, parents/guardians, and other community members? No longer accepting submissions.
Vol. 29, No. 3: Embracing Flexibility
Like the writing process, design thinking can be visualized by working within different creative stages: empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping, and testing. Also like the writing process, design thinking isn’t linear. It requires flexibility. The strongest designers welcome change, and thus they become very nimble and adaptable. Within the language arts, stories can play a role in promoting flexible thinking. They can inspire new ideas, helping us consider solutions for challenging problems. Likewise, writing prompts us to explore multiple paths forward, shifting according to changes in audience, context, feedback, or new information. In this issue, we invite you to consider what flexibility looks like in your classroom. How do you adapt your ideas in order to meet your students’ needs and interests? How do you structure learning so that students work in spaces or at paces that work best for them? In what ways do you encourage students to approach learning in a flexible manner? How do your assessment practices make room for students who take an assignment in a different direction? No longer accepting submissions.
Vol. 29, No. 2: Navigating Ambiguity
The ability to navigate ambiguity is absolutely essential in creative processes. Being able to explain abstract ideas clearly to others, access unconventional resources for valuable insight and information, and move freely between abstract and concrete thinking are all tools that would serve our students well in a variety of contexts. Working through and with ambiguity calls for us to recognize that issues have more than one interpretation, that not all problems have immediate or clear-cut solutions, and that we need to be patient while a resolution becomes clear. How do you address ambiguity in your classroom or learning community? Where do you see your students most successfully use creativity to answer hard questions? Does the unknown energize you? How do you leverage this energy to create in your teaching practice? If you could describe ambiguity, what would it look like or feel like? How do you guide students through the ambiguity they see in their worlds? Who are the mentors who have helped you in your own periods of ambiguity? When is ambiguity invited in your teaching and learning? No longer accepting submissions.
Vol. 29, No. 1: Designing for Empathy
Design thinking begins with empathy—the ability to step into the shoes of another person, aiming to understand their feelings and perspectives, and to use that understanding to guide our actions. As educators, we are working with students who come from varying backgrounds with varying degrees of experience. Often when designing for instruction, we create a lesson first and then work to fit our students into that lesson. What happens if we flip that equation and look to our students first before designing our lessons? If we are designing for our students, we need to better understand them. Educators also need to model empathy for our students. Through empathy, our students have the opportunity to remake our world. In this issue, we invite you to explore ways you nurture empathy within yourself, as well as within your students. What does empathy look like in your classroom (either in a physical or virtual space)? How do you use observation in order to better understand your students, and how does that manifest in your instruction? How do you provide opportunities for your students to interact with others outside your local context? In what ways do you immerse students in experiences designed to help them better understand others’ perspectives? No longer accepting submissions.