Journal of Educational Controversy


Monday, March 18, 2019

Author Brian Schultz on the Second Edition of his book, Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way: Lessons from an Urban Classroom

In a time of endless policies that attempt to commodify and standardize educational practices, it is refreshing to read a book that reminds us of the deeply personal and relational nature of teaching.  The book, Spectacular Things Happen Along the Way: Lessons from an Urban Classroom,” by Brian Schultz is now in its second edition so we invited Brian to inform our readers about the content of his latest edition. 

Shortly before the publication of his first edition, Brian had published an article in our journal called “Living Savage Inequalities: Room 405’s Fight for Equity in Schooling,” where he first set forth his experiences teaching in an urban classroom that was to become the focus for his upcoming book.  A discussion of that article generated a rejoinder by Sherick A. Hughes entitled, “Toward a Critical Race Pedagogy of Hope: A Rejoinder to Brian Schultz.”  

Because of the importance of his book, the journal subsequently published two reviews of the book when it first came out.  One was by Carl A. Grant entitled, “Revealing Truths in a Troubled Time: A CounterNarrative,” and the other by Paula Johnson.

Brian has been on the editorial board of the Journal of Educational Controversy since its inception in 2006.  He is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Teacher Education at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Prior to joining the faculty at Miami, Brian was the Bernard J. Brommel Distinguished Research Professor and Chair of the Department of Educational Inquiry & Curriculum Studies at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago.

Below is Brian’s description of the second edition of his book.

Brian Schultz on the Tenth Anniversary Second Edition of Spectacular Things Happen along the Way: Lessons from an Urban Classroom
The original book remains as it was originally published 10 years ago documenting how I as a teacher, alongside my 5th-grade students, co-created a curriculum based on the students’ needs, interests, and questions. Engaging with my students, who were mostly from a Chicago housing project, we develop an emergent and authentic curriculum based on what is most important to the 5th-graders—replacing their dilapidated school. As it was in the original edition, it details me as teacher in an urban school and his students juxtaposed against the powerful and entrenched bureaucracy of Chicago’s public education system.

This 10th anniversary edition adds new material on both the front and back end. In so doing, I examine how school reform continues to fail students in urban contexts, reflect on my teaching and writing from a decade ago, and offers updates on students and what became of the school. My reflections, and the ongoing insights of the students have a lot to teach us both from when they were young people and now as young adults. In the new material at the beginning, I push back on narratives of city kids, push back on common definitions of curriculum, and push back on my own storytelling. In the new materials at the end, I provide how this story fits into the neoliberal, corporatized school reform pervasive across the country and in particular in Chicago, provide updates on the school and the land where the school once stood, and provide and complicate updates on the students from Room 405. Also there is a new foreword by Pedro Noguera, “A Lesson for Teachers on Making Choices and Making a Difference" and a new afterword by Sonia Nieto, “On Teaching with Hope and Humility.”