Rethinking Schools is a publisher and advocacy organization whose mission I admire, and is an important source of curriculum in the United States. I learned of their work at a Social Justice Curriculum Fair in Chicago in 2014, and upon my return to GPHS, worked with staff to order some of their instructional support books that are actively used and now have their own shelf in the school library. We also subscribe to their quarterly publication that, I’m told, influences a lot of classroom dialogue and journal writing. A number of teachers commented that they have used the Rethinking Schools books before at other schools, and from what I hear the resource is useful.
To learn more about Rethinking Schools, click here.
About a week ago while working late in my office at home in Parra, Goa, I took a chance and emailed Rethinking Schools to propose an article for their magazine about my Fulbright inquiry project with Video Volunteers. I quickly got a response email saying that their curriculum editor, Bob Peterson, was traveling and doing presentations on Social Justice-infused Math in India. I know Bob’s work. He is an important American educator. I immediately inquired about his exact location, in hopes of meeting up. I got an email from him the next day. Turns out, Bob and his wife Barbara were in Goa. We met on February 18th, a few days ago, and had dinner. What are the odds? From sending an email to meeting in person spanned about 36 hours.
Besides his work with Rethinking Schools, Bob served as president of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association during one of the most turbulent periods of recent American education history: Scott Walker’s “Act 10” legislation. His organization also created the first ever school WALK IN, that after being developed in Milwaukee, was set to become an national WALK IN action across the United States only 12 hours after I had dinner with him! To learn more click here. In fact I’d Skyped with Gordon Parks High School just the night before I met Bob, and knew that my school was participating with the WALK IN. Suddenly the world felt small and I had a reassurance creep over me that I’m where I’m supposed to be right now. During dinner my mission was keeping his beer full and absorbing stories of his work (of which a must read is his article “A Revitalized Teacher Union Movement”). I shared bits and pieces about my journey as an educator over the last 17 years, my goals, research in Japan/UK/India/USA, and the stories of students and schools in St. Paul. I had just finished “Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession”, so my mind was thinking broadly about the kind of educational trends that Bob has interacted with in a big way during his career. Meeting him created an additional context for my research with Video Volunteers, developing an approach to curriculum that re-connect schools with communities civic storytelling, and accomplish much more than test prep.
Before I met with Bob I reflected on all the happenstance required in order to be here right now involved with this project having dinner with him, and here’s a quick sketch: When Gordon Parks High School was dedicated, I met UofM Professor Catherine Squires. Catherine has become a perpetual collaborator on school projects for the last 8 years, and who was instrumental in inviting me to co-write a chapter with her for “Teaching Communication Activism.” It was this book that brought me to Chicago in 2014 for the National Communication Association conference, where I learned about this Fulbright program. And, on that same trip, I visited Catherine’s sister at the Francis W. Parker School where I learned about the Social Justice Curriculum Fair. It was there that I learned of Rethinking Schools.
I hope to collaborate with Bob and Rethinking Schools and imagine we’ll get the chance to re-tell the story of how we crossed curriculum trails in India. Happy Trails Bob and Barbara!