By Paul Barnwell
As a content creator for Curio Learning, Paul Barnwell interviews and profiles Curio users to highlight expertise, teacher rebeldom, and general awesomeness. Barnwell also teaches freshman English part-time at a public high school in New Hampshire, writes as a freelancer for various publications, and works on a farm.
Here is his profile of Curio user Sam Reed III:
They are astutely subversive, Sam Reed III says of teacher rebels. It’s like Kung Fu, he adds. Or perhaps finding cracks in the system where you can make a positive difference.
Speaking to Reed feels like conversing with an action hero, an educational version of T’Challa from Black Panther or Peter Parker in Spiderman. And I also can’t help but think of those Dos Equis beer commercials about the most interesting man in the world.
He served in the Peace Corps in Botswana.
He plays chess.
He writes for publication.
He practices yoga and mindfulness.
He leads a summer program that combines the arts and literacy.
He volunteers on non-profit boards.
He salsa dances.
And of course he’s found time for Curio, finding the platform perfect for curation. “Educators — we’re always curating, but how do you organize that stuff on the fly?” he asks. “I like the intuitive function of being able to curate and put my stuff right there on a card or stack. It’s really cool.”
And his contributions thus far, I’d say, are pretty cool as well.
Reed is a Founding Educator at the U School in Philadelphia, where he teaches eleventh grade humanities and a ninth grade project-based seminar course. This eponymously titled Curio card, Born a Crime, contains material that Reed and his coworkers developed to teach a unit centered upon reading comedian Trevor Noah’s book about growing up in South Africa, during which students delve into critical theory and the following essential questions: How do our individual stories fit with historical context? How does our experience impact the way we interpret the world?
And this card, Reed explains, represents plans for students to compare the Dominican Republic and Haiti — two vastly different places that share the same island — through the creation of infographics, providing a great example of the U School’s approach to blending design thinking and project-based learning with a globally-focused curriculum.
With over 20 years in education under his belt, Reed continues to value the power of teacher networking. Early in his career, he says, he received an affirming boost from the Philadelphia Writing Project, a branch of the National Writing Project. He participated in a summer institute, where he learned a few essential things — he was not alone in his struggles as a young teacher, and he realized the great power and promise of teachers working together.
“I was floundering during my second or third year of teaching,” Reed says. But through the writing project, he found kindred spirits who cared deeply about making an impact on young people’s lives. “I wasn’t the only one struggling with the hard work of teaching kids to read and make sense of the world,” he says, “But the main thing it really taught me is the power of teacher networks, and I’ve been cultivating and developing this (mindset) ever since then.”
Finally, I ask Reed how he manages to juggle all of his educational and social engagements. “When the things that you do are kind of already connected…both inside and outside of work, it’s not a burden. It’s just like this is what you do,” he says.