My last full year of teaching ended in July of 1992. [The following year saw the beginning of a 13-year run of job sharing. I spent half of each school year in the classroom. The other half was devoted to seminars and workshops.]
Anyway, a month before the end of the 90-91 school year, I met with my principal to discuss the idea of me taking over for one of our retiring sixth grade teachers. We were losing both of them and I knew someone had to step up. So I volunteered to switch from third to sixth.
I already knew the 91-92 group was going to be a lot of fun. For one, a third of the students had been with me in Room 8 as part of a great third grade class. The rest of them seemed like pretty decent fifth graders and could prove to be even more fun in sixth grade. Throw in the fact that we were joined by a very savvy student teacher--Brad Hubbs--and I was anticipating something special.
Fast forward to March, 1992. The students have written, illustrated, and produced a book called School Our Way: Twenty Terrific Techniques for a Happier, More Productive Class. You can download a copy by clicking on the link below the image. [All book rights belong to San Diego Unified School District.]
The whole thing was designed as a fundraiser that kind of took on a life of its own. When it was finally done, Eric DuVall, a great guy and part-time graphics guru, printed 500 copies. He also folded the tabloid sheets and the cover so that everything was ready to be saddle-stitched. He even brought in a really slick stitcher that I used each time a student brought me a collated book ready to be bound.
I can so clearly see myself stapling the last copy. As I looked around the room, I took in the kids standing in small, informal groups flipping through the book and talking about a hundred things. Very sweet and genuine. And as much as I didn't want to disturb what for me was a poignant moment, I got their attention by holding high the book and proclaiming, "Here it is. Copy number 500. You did it." You can imagine the response.
That entire sequence is etched in my memory.
Bottom line: We sold all 500 copies in about a week. At 3 bucks a pop, we raised $1,500. Sweet.
It certainly didn't hurt that David Smollar of the LA Times produced an amazing article about the project. He interviewed some students while his partner, Bob Grieser, snapped photos. The finished piece was picked up by three separate editions of the Times. You can download and read one of the versions of Dave's article by clicking on the link below.
Have to give a shout out to someone who helped to make School Our Way such a nice book. It's Commander Mark of Draw Squad fame.
He came to our school once and put on an incredible student assembly about how to draw. I got his book and began to provide a simple drawing lesson every day during the ten minutes before lunch. Within two months, students were beginning to bang out some really nice work. You can see Mark's influence evident in much of the artwork in the book.
As I was going through the School Our Way folder, I found another photo. [Bob Grieser] The six students pictured were meeting at a 24" x 48" table. The table had been lowered so that the students could use 12" kindergarten oak cubes as seats. It was easy to get in, easy to get out, and the whole arrangement turned out to be a great place for being productive.
I mean, what's not to love about giant, hollow blocks made from oak? So sturdy and well-made. Really impressive. Anyway, since the floor of our classroom was linoleum--we had a 9x12 area rug for gathering--I got some self-adhesive carpet squares and stuck them on one side. Are you using the block on the linoleum? Please place it rug-side down. Using it on the carpet? Wood-side down is best.
That little table with the rather unusual chairs got a lot of activity. Maybe it was due to the lowered perspective or simply the coolness factor of the kindergarten-block-as-seats concept. Whatever the reason, the whole thing clicked. When I left the classroom in 2005 to devote more time to PD I made sure to pass them on to a friend. Pretty sure she's still putting them to good use.