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Educators working together to end the Race to Nowhere

February 28, 2011

Tonight, despite the terrible weather, over 150 Atlanta Area teachers from more than 30 schools came to watch a special screening of the film Race to Nowhere. Had it not been for the weather, we would have had over 300 participants. I played a small role in helping to organize the screening, and I wanted to make a plug for just how easy it is to organize a screening of this movie, and how much good can come from it. Just check out the discussion that took place on our twitter hashtag.

First, you should know that Race to Nowhere has only gained more and more accolades and buzz as the school year has progressed, including coverage in the NYT, and countless discussions on the radio and TV. Screenings still sell out almost instantly when they go online, and the director seems pretty committed to the community screening model, so don’t look for a DVD anytime soon.

They’ve even released a trailer specifically for community screenings:

It’s very simple to organize a screening. The website has a “host a screening page” with a form that you can fill out to be contacted by a representative of the film. They also have links to posters and postcards you can use to promote the movie, and you can request a facilitator’s guide from the representatives.

We sent out emails to as many Atlanta Schools and school systems as we could, and then did all we could to promote the event on facebook and twitter. It was a piece of cake for us to register participants using a google form, and then assign people to random groups and merge name tags using a simple spreadsheet. We had a team of 4 faculty working on this, and collectively, I don’t think we spent much more than about 20 hours working on this. We also set up a discussion group on the social action network to accompany the film, endtherace.com, and a twitter hashtag #rtnatl. Thanks to the awesome mailchimp we were able to email directions and a reminder to all of the attendees.

If you’re reading this, and thinking you’d like to see the movie, but you don’t have the time to organize a screening, I’d like to encourage you to think you can. I’d happily share all the forms, documents and materials we used to organize our screening.

In the end, it reminded me of a beautiful quote from the director, Vicki Ableles, near the end of the movie, where she discusses all the efforts she’s made to get her kids off the race to nowhere, and she said “It’s really hard to do this alone.” I totally agree, and I think this movie, this blog, and this effort have shown me we don’t have to do this alone. It sounds like there should be some sappy music playing in the background, but we can make a difference, we can change the conversation, if we work together. Just look how many of the tweets on our discussion were retweeted far beyond our little discussion.

So what is the next step?

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