What Do You Do That Can’t Be Measured?

On Radical Care in Teaching and Research


What do you do that can’t be measured? In this innovative debut on both the practice and study of critical educators, Restler answers back with radical care. Radical care in teaching and research; radical care as embodied and affective; radical care as justice work up against real and imagined deficits and racial capitalist scarcities. Drawing on a collaborative visual study with New York City public school teachers and her own art-research practice, Victoria Restler offers up a framework for radical care as relational, liberatory and fundamentally immeasurable.

Slipping between genres and styles—personal narrative, poetic prose, empirical study, and three multimodal artworks—this book brings old and new traditions in arts-based research into dialogue with scholarship on care, affect studies, and Black Feminisms. The volume is essential reading for scholars and practitioners interested in the study of care, qualitative and arts-based research methodologies, as well as teacher practice and assessment.

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Victoria Restler is Associate Professor of Educational Studies and Founding Director of the Youth Development MA Program at Rhode Island College.
"In What Do You Do That Can’t Be Measured, Victoria Restler explores the hard-to-describe aspects of teaching that educators do. Using experimental methods and approaches, this multimodal research study with ten New York City public school teachers weaves between teacher explorations of their own practices and Restler’s expert arts-based analytical interventions and reflections. Central to the whole project is the concept of radical care and how that emerges in human as well as more-than-human ways, which Restler explores via a collection of gestural practices, including rubbings, voicing, and imaginings. Each practice is theoretically rich, told through a wonderful creative narrative that thinks deeply about the ways professional commitment is practised and present in contemporary teaching. Holding the project together are the practices themselves: mappings, rubbings, and stories that collectively convey the pedagogical practices of teachers working in the US school system with its stark differences and how these differences provoke radical caring in deeply committed ways. This is a wonderful and important text that offers a deep dive into the teaching profession in the contemporary context. Restler conveys her deep respect for teaching in times of great challenge and how practices of caring are also forms of radical pedagogy that educators enact every day."
-Linda Knight, RMIT

"Victoria Restler beautifully braids together art, poetry, theory, stories, images, and sound to gesture toward the unaccounted for in education. Through attentive outlining of teachers' material lives, desires, and acts of radical care and creativity, she traces how measurement works at teachers' and students' subjectivities. This important text is an offering to the unseen and uncounted work of teachers, and a much-needed alert to unsettle the taken for granted in education."
-Susan O. Cannon, University of Georgia

"In this fascinating account of teachers’ caring labour, Victoria Restler opens up a new and imaginative way of making teachers’ care work both visible and political. The book is a profound and moving critique of the absurdity of reducing teaching and learning to a numerical score via the VAM (Value Added Measurement) system. Her research shows how VAM evaluations both undermine and demoralise teachers (and students) as human persons, while invisibilising the hands-on, care-relational emotional work that teachers must undertake to engage meaningfully and educationally with their students.

Drawing on teachers’ own accounts, What Do You Do that Can’t be Measured? is a relational story, mapping the complex spaces, relationships, devices and feelings that make up the very human world of teachers and students. Through ‘mappings, tracing, voicings and rubbings’ the book develops a new and important concept of radical care in education. This is not the ‘soft or easy care’ of low expectations, but a way of caring that recognises the ‘strategic antagonisms and liberatory imaginings’ that radical care offers. The deployment of research methods from the arts and social scientific has added a richness to the text that is fascinating in itself. Through the blending of different ways of knowing, relating and learning, the book offers a route out of the racial-capitalist capture of education as a cultural process.

The book is important both for educationalists and social scientists: the blending of visual, haptic and other artistic methodologies with more established social scientific research traditions makes this book is an important work methodologically; the introduction of the concept of radical care enables educators to think differently and more care-fully about what is and is not of value in education.
-Kathleen Lynch, University College Dublin

"It is Victoria's urgent request that we look deeply within our educational system—its history and its current state— to locate, identify and ultimately make radical changes in our thinking. This timely, powerful challenge cannot be left unmet.

It is striking and important that the author, herself a hetero-cis white woman, has chosen to ground her research and the composition of this book within the Black womanist framework. Within this scholarship she finds the insights and the language needed to successfully craft her research into a book that is itself nothing less than a work of art--art crafted and anchored by radical care.

Victoria stitches together research, art theory and practice, the everyday, and the extraordinary to offer a new kind of medicine . A medicine made radical by its simplicity , radical by its rituals. This book is a map and a ministry for a time like this. It is a call to care and love at a time when we need these things most."
-Vashti DuBois, Executive Director/Founder, The Colored Girls Museum

"Victoria Restler’s new book What Do You Do That Can’t Be Measured: On Radical Care in Teaching and Research, very simply put, is innovative and radical in its focus and beautiful in its presentation and production. Placing at the centre the idea of teachers’ care work or radical care, so often hidden (or ignored by policy-makers), the book highlights the rich possibilities for arts-based approaches to research and personal engagement. Indeed, the book serves as a catalogue of sorts of art-making with its close attention to the detail of tracings, rubbings and mappings to name only some of the arts-based methods. It is without doubt one of the most aesthetically rich presentations of arts-based research that I have ever seen in a professional manuscript. Victoria Restler’s own work as an artist is so evident throughout. But in the middle of this art-making are the teacher-participants themselves who share their lives, their challenges and their own care stories. At a time when it is so easy for faculties of education, school district officials, parents and even teachers to get lost in debates about value for money and close scrutiny of test scores, this book reminds us of what education is all about. I was thoroughly captivated by the book and I cannot wait to offer it as a reading for new teachers with whom I am working, and for teacher researchers in the field. Care matters."
-Claudia Mitchell, Distinguished James McGill Professor, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and recipient of the of the inaugural Arts Researcher Life-time Achievement Award, Canadian Society for Studies in Education
List of Illustrations

1 Beginnings

2 Sitings

3 Rubbings

4 Tracings

5 Mappings

6 Voicings

7 Imaginings

This book will appeal to teachers, teacher educators, emerging and established education researchers, as well as those interested in care work, affect and embodiment, research-creation, and innovative, multimodal research methodologies. The book is appropriate for advanced undergraduate students, pre-service teacher education students, and graduate students.
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