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Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way: Lessons from an Urban Classroom (Teaching for Social Justice) [Paperback]

by Brian D. Schultz
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 14, 2008 0807748579 978-0807748572
''Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way renewed my belief that it is possible to write authentic narratives about urban schools.... I plan to make this book required reading for my teacher education students...''
--From the Foreword by Carl A. Grant, University of Wisconsin, Madison

''Once I began reading, I couldn't put it down. The power here is in the details. It s a marvelous, important book and is badly needed at a moment when the values it upholds are under an unrelenting assault from forces of reactionary ignorance.''
--Jonathan Kozol, author of Amazing Grace.

''In a time of ever more testing and standardization, Brian Schultz demonstrates in powerful ways what the critically democratic alternative looks like. Anyone who wants to make a difference in urban education needs to read this book.''
--Michael W. Apple, author of Educating the ''Right'' Way

''An amazing tale of incredible fifth-grade citizen activists that reveals what education in America's inner cities could and should be.''
--Jeannie Oakes, Presidential Professor in Education Equity, UCLA

''The lessons about curriculum and teaching are powerful and the story is absolutely inspiring.''
--James A. Beane, author of A Reason to Teach: Creating Classrooms of Dignity and Hope

''Carr Community Academy is a crumbling elementary school in Chicago next to one of the largest and most perilous public housing projects-Cabrini Green. It also is the location of one of the more spectacular fifth-grade classes in the country.''
--Ralph Nader, consumer advocate, author, and founder, Public Citizen research group

''This fifth-grade class illustrates some important lessons about America: The neglect of the inner-city poor, the virtues of creative public service, of teaching to educate-not just to pass a test-and of perseverance.''
--Robert Siegel, All Things Considered, National Public Radio

''When city kids are thought to be nothing more than a tangle of pathologies and deficits who must be 'saved' by crusading, missionary teachers the result is always some form of colonization. In this extraordinary book, Brian Schultz, a courageous teacher writing here with clarity and passion, performs a radical reversal and provides an alternative.''
--William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education, University of Illinois at Chicago, and author of To Teach

''Through their compelling school improvement efforts, Schultz and his fifth graders clearly counter the colonizing policy that says only the privileged can be educated through freedom to pursue personal interests and collective commitments.''
--William H. Schubert, University Scholar, University of Illinois at Chicago

What happens when a teacher resists the pressures of ''teaching to the test'' and creates a curriculum based on student needs, wants, and desires? Brian Schultz did just that when he challenged his students from a housing project in Chicago to name a problem in their community that they wanted to solve. When the students unanimously focus on replacing their dilapidated school building, an unforgettable journey is put into motion. As his students examine the conditions of their blighted school and research the deeper causes of decay, they set off on a mission of remedy and repair. It is finally their own questions and activities that power their profound self-transformations. This moving story is a tribute to what determined teachers are able to achieve in the current stifling environment of high-stakes testing and standardization. Anyone who has faith in creativity, commitment, and the deep potential of inner-city children and youth will want to read this book.

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Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way: Lessons from an Urban Classroom (Teaching for Social Justice) + The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children
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Editorial Reviews

Review

''Brian Schultz offers an important account of a social action project that includes both a vision and concrete strategies for teachers to consider... Most surely, the story can help teachers realize the value of placing student needs and interests at the center of the curriculum.... Even teachers who enter the field committed to teaching for social justice can struggle to envision how their progressive values should impact their teaching. Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way might help. Schultz and the students successfully navigated an accountability driven system so to develop an empowering, as opposed to oppressive, school experience. ... Schultz's narrative shows how students can simultaneously develop activist and subject-specific academic skills prioritized in most educational systems today. His work with his students can stand as a model of the social reconstructionist curriculum orientation, as he shows us how children can be taught to believe in and build a better world. ... Schultz offers an important contribution to literature on the civic engagement of youth.'' -- Schools: Studies in Education

''This book is more than just a recounting of a very interesting year in the classroom. ... Schultz realized that in order to engage his students in their own learning, he also needed to find ways to empower them. [Schultz] demonstrated that project-based learning can be an effective way of students learning important skills. ... This book from Schultz has a lot to offer us all as we consider how to make the educational experience we offer our children truly productive. Read the book, then ponder it.'' -- DailyKos

''A compelling narrative of multicultural uplift that prospective teachers will embrace and find deeply engaging as they ponder their own trajectory into the classroom.'' Educational Studies

''Schultz emphasizes how his young students, forgotten by many, were learning how to produce change and were creating their own education in the process. ... Schultz does describe the way that teachers can utilize ideas that are based in democracy and progressivism, even if their entire curriculum cannot become like his. ... The gap between theory and practice remains, yet Schultz is able to show how these two parts of education do not necessarily need to be adversaries, and how inclusion of student voices can work to connect broad ideas and concrete action.'' --Education and Urban Society

''Sometimes we need an outside voice to tap us on the shoulder and say: 'Snap out of it!' Brian Schultz's ''Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way'' does just that. It also sheds valuable light on the necessity for teachers, administrators, parents and policy-makers to tear themselves free from acquiescing to the often suffocating inertia of standardized education. Not every class or every teacher is capable of such a complete break from standard classroom experiences. However, there is much to be gained from Schultz's example of the possibilities of student-directed (rather than textbook-directed) learning, assessment via portfolio building (rather than high-stakes test scores) and collaborative project work (rather than teaching to the test).'' --The Huffington Post

''Education books such as Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way: Lessons from an Urban Classroom are 'rare.' Writings that trouble prevailing non-critical constructions, that give a true sense of what it is like to teach in an urban school, and that portray African Americans as achievers (other than on athletic fields) are rare. Finding a book where readers can almost feel what it is like to be there as a witness and where the theoretical and methodological approaches to intellectual inquiry are connected to the cultural, political and personal is indeed unusual. Schultz's book attempts to get to the root of the is" -- Journal --The Midwest Book Review

''Education books such as Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way: Lessons from an Urban Classroom are 'rare.' Writings that trouble prevailing non-critical constructions, that give a true sense of what it is like to teach in an urban school, and that portray African Americans as achievers (other than on athletic fields) are rare. Finding a book where readers can almost feel what it is like to be there as a witness and where the theoretical and methodological approaches to intellectual inquiry are connected to the cultural, political and personal is indeed unusual. Schultz's book attempts to get to the root of the is" -- Journal of Educational Controversy, Winter 2008, Vol. 3, No. 1

"Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way follows Brian Schultz as he teaches an inner city class something far more valuable than academics -- determination and a feeling of self worth. An inspired and inspiring tale sure to give hope in the next generation ensues."
--The Midwest Book Review

''Brian Schultz offers an important account of a social action project that includes both a vision and concrete strategies for teachers to consider... Most surely, the story can help teachers realize the value of placing student needs and interests at the center of the curriculum.... Even teachers who enter the field committed to teaching for social justice can struggle to envision how their progressive values should impact their teaching. Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way might help. Schultz and the students successfully navigated an accountability driven system so to develop an empowering, as opposed to oppressive, school experience. ... Schultz's narrative shows how students can simultaneously develop activist and subject-specific academic skills prioritized in most educational systems today. His work with his students can stand as a model of the social reconstructionist curriculum orientation, as he shows us how children can be taught to believe in and build a better world. ... Schultz offers an important contribution to literature on the civic engagement of youth.'' -- Schools: Studies in Education

''This book is more than just a recounting of a very interesting year in the classroom. ... Schultz realized that in order to engage his students in their own learning, he also needed to find ways to empower them. [Schultz] demonstrated that project-based learning can be an effective way of students learning important skills. ... This book from Schultz has a lot to offer us all as we consider how to make the educational experience we offer our children truly productive. Read the book, then ponder it.'' -- DailyKos

''A compelling narrative of multicultural uplift that prospective teachers will embrace and find deeply engaging as they ponder their own trajectory into the classroom.'' Educational Studies

''Schultz emphasizes how his young students, forgotten by many, were learning how to produce change and were creating their own education in the process. ... Schultz does describe the way that teachers can utilize ideas that are based in democracy and progressivism, even if their entire curriculum cannot become like his. ... The gap between theory and practice remains, yet Schultz is able to show how these two parts of education do not necessarily need to be adversaries, and how inclusion of student voices can work to connect broad ideas and concrete action.'' --Education and Urban Society

''Sometimes we need an outside voice to tap us on the shoulder and say: 'Snap out of it!' Brian Schultz's ''Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way'' does just that. It also sheds valuable light on the necessity for teachers, administrators, parents and policy-makers to tear themselves free from acquiescing to the often suffocating inertia of standardized education. Not every class or every teacher is capable of such a complete break from standard classroom experiences. However, there is much to be gained from Schultz's example of the possibilities of student-directed (rather than textbook-directed) learning, assessment via portfolio building (rather than high-stakes test scores) and collaborative project work (rather than teaching to the test).'' --The Huffington Post<br /><br />''Education books such as Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way: Lessons from an Urban Classroom are 'rare.' Writings that trouble prevailing non-critical constructions, that give a true sense of what it is like to teach in an urban school, and that portray African Americans as achievers (other than on athletic fields) are rare. Finding a book where readers can almost feel what it is like to be there as a witness and where the theoretical and methodological approaches to intellectual inquiry are connected to the cultural, political and personal is indeed unusual. Schultz's book attempts to get to the root of the is --The Midwest Book Review

About the Author

Brian D. Schultz is an assistant professor of education and honors faculty at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) in Chicago. He also taught in the Chicago Public Schools and in 2005 received the Educator of the Year Award from the Illinois Computing Educators. Brian is the recipient of 2008 Early Career Awards from the American Education Research Association in both Critical Issues in Curriculum & Cultural Studies, and Narrative & Research.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Teachers College Press (March 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807748579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807748572
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #271,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Brian D. Schultz is professor and chair of the Department of Educational Inquiry & Curriculum Studies at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. His research focuses on students and teachers theorizing together, developing integrated curriculum based on the students' interests and priority concerns, and curriculum as social action and public pedagogy. He is particularly interested in encouraging pre-service and practicing teachers to create democratic and progressive educational spaces in their classrooms.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book!! April 11, 2008
Format:Paperback
Truly one of the most inspiring and thought-provoking reads I've encountered in a long time. This book speaks to the very heart of what teaching and learning should be. Schultz takes you deep into the heart of room 405 where he and his 5th grade students are transformed into community activists fighting for justice in the form of a new school. This is a powerful story of students motivated to lead, and a teacher courageous enough to follow that lead. The hope, will, and tenacity of these students demonstrate what's possible in education when kids are engaged in authentic purposes for learning. This book is a must-read for anyone who cares about children, education, or the role of schools in creating an active citizenry. Rarely has a book made me feel so inspired. The journey of these students and their teacher, as the title suggests, is truly spectacular.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic learning at its best! May 13, 2008
Format:Hardcover
I have had the honor to not only know Dr. Schultz, but also his students from room 405. I was a fifth grade teacher at the time, and I tried to get my students involved with what his students were fighting for by them serving as pen pals and by personally making a visit to the school to witness their fight. Brian is a gifted educator who inspires the reader to reflect upon how they teach and learn. Whether or not the reader is a teacher is irrelevant. Humans constantly teach and learn throughout their lifetime. Brian demonstrates that when given some choice in what is deemed important to the student, authentic and meaningful learning can and will occur. This is true in both children and adults. This journey was important for the students of room 405 as well as for Brian. The students were given choice in what they would learn and how, and the teacher learned while taking the journey with them. Teaching and learning embrace each other, and Brian shows us that through his experiences with his students. This is a must-read not only for teachers and administrators, but for parents and those who are lifelong learners.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular Things Happen! April 17, 2008
Format:Paperback
In his book, Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way, author Brian D. Schultz, narrates the astonishing efforts of his class of fifth grade students who fight for basic resources in their school, William D. Carr Community Academy, in Cabrini Green neighborhood, located on the near North-side of the city of Chicago. Schultz' narrative account of this urban school is a teacher's voice echoed in the actions of his students who struggle to revive the empty promise made to them of a new school building by city officials. The students along with the teacher tap into the real life issues of politics and race. They voice their concerns and stand up for what they believe. Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way is a journey of these children along with their mentor from their classroom walls into the practical world of reality. Together, they move every nook and cranny of political reform that is in their reach to work towards their goal and discover that amazing things have happened along the way of constant pursuit. This book is a celebration of all those spectacular things. From the countless stories that can be told from this experience, Schultz had authentically captured in a beautiful narration an example of democratic education in a real-life account.

This book takes the readers on an emotional roller coaster of astonishment, a virtual struggle, and unbelievable exhilaration. This real-life story is the voice of an inner struggle of a teacher with his teaching philosophy juxtaposed with the outer struggle of the students trying to understand their situation, concluded with a celebration of the efforts and lessons learned.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Most important Book April 10, 2008
Format:Paperback
I have just finished reading Amazing Things...couldn't put it down! It is complex and deceptively simple at the same time. For those in academia, Brian manages to explain complex theories in understandable terms and show ,quite convincingly, that educational theories can, in fact, be put into practice quite successfully. More importantly, he shows that changes can be made through hard work, and the engagement of young students in planning, learning, doing and beginning to believe in themselves as agents of change. For those who are not in education, the book provides an optimistic and inspiring look at what young people, with the help of a dedicated teacher can accomplish- not all is wrong with education and schools today. As for politicians...a must read. Perhaps they would get a glimmer of understanding that this is the process to use for not leaveing any child behind. Thank you Brian for sharing your experiences with us - when is your next book coming out?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly spectacular!!! March 26, 2008
Format:Paperback
I read this book in one sitting. It is truly amazing, very provocative, and engaging. The book is the story and the journey of a teacher along with his students who worked together to solve a real problem--to get a new school building for the community. Room 405 shows that authentic learning and learning with a purpose is possible in schools today even amidst the imposition of particular knowledge from mandates like NCLB. I could not believe the deplorable environment within this school, but was awakened that an important lesson could be gained from the story: the possibility in co-creating curricula with students. Also it showed that students will get motivated by something important to them as they embody and to turn into practice the ideals of the democratic education in a Deweyan sense. It is one of the best books I have read ever since it provides vivid examples of how teachers can educate in hopeful, appropriate ways that accommodate the needs and interests of the students. This book needs to be widely read not only by educators, but by the general public and policy makers because it shows that there are hopeful possibilities in all people and that there is something better.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars One of a kind
It is a story of some good (spectacular) things that happened but it cannot be duplicated in all schools. Controversial Bill Ayers is involved.
Published 10 months ago by Fred Kirksey
4.0 out of 5 stars Very inspirational
This was a required textbook for a grad class I took. It is very inspirational about how teachers can change the way we look at curriculum. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Tiffany Zaremba
4.0 out of 5 stars Dewey's plans actualized
We are reading this book as our book club selection. The project Brian created is incredible. We know that most schools would not tolerate his break from regular curriculum. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Peter B. Hilton
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good book
This book is great for beginning teachers or teachers that have been in the field for years. It will inspire anyone to want to teach in a better way.
Published on June 25, 2010 by TNT86
5.0 out of 5 stars Book
I haven't read the book yet because it's for a class I'm taking over the summer. It came super fast and was in great condition. I've had a few teachers recommend it.
Published on May 6, 2010 by Daniell
3.0 out of 5 stars Needed for a class
My education and social justice class read this book. It was great for that purpose.
Published on October 11, 2009 by Chelsie N. Trowbridge
5.0 out of 5 stars School is for more than English, Math, and Science - it's for the...
School is for more than English, Math, and Science - it's for the intangibles too. "Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way: Lessons From an Urban Classroom" follows Brian Schultz... Read more
Published on July 11, 2008 by Midwest Book Review
5.0 out of 5 stars best book
I read this book and I loved it. You have to read the book because it shows the power of children to make the World better.
Published on July 8, 2008 by Claire Santos
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular book
One of the most important and challenging things we do in this country is educate our children. This becomes especially important when we think about how education can affect... Read more
Published on July 8, 2008 by Hammie
5.0 out of 5 stars A real look at education...
Brian D. Schultz's "Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way: Lessons from an Urban Classroom" is a beautifully written, well-researched, and heartfelt account of one classroom's... Read more
Published on July 7, 2008 by Jen McSurley
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