Today was a great day! Today, we were blessed by Bess. My school was visited by Bess the Book Bus, a “mobile literacy outreach dedicated to getting books into the homes of underprivileged and underrepresented children and families.” The bus travels to schools across America, giving away free books to children and often conducting engaging activities such as mad libs, read-alouds, and recently drumming exercises. My school serves nearly 800 6-8th grade students with 99% free lunch, so the opportunity to receive kid-centered books is a wonderful way to increase enthusiasm for reading and improve literacy.
“But Mr. B, why are you giving books to these kids? They are just going to throw them out!” -8th Grade Student
When Bess visited last spring, things were kind of crazy and hectic. I was an unorganized mess and I didn’t honestly think most of my students would appreciate the books. Nonetheless, the organization was able to provide nearly enough books for every student in the school. To my slight surprise, the kids loved it! With the help of Aid for Kids, we were also able to donate 18 sets of the Bluford Series. I was a little apprehensive about how things would go on the return visit, but the Book Bus team set up some wonderful collaborations. I was able to bring two of my classes in the morning out to the bus to get books, while the remaining classes got to pick a book for them and a book for a sibling. I explained to them the importance of reading for your own benefit and also to build your brother or sister’s reading levels.
Meanwhile, other students were able to tour the bus on their way to class. I also thought it was great that the team connected with our librarian to help refresh our school library. Also, two volunteers worked with our band director to conduct a lesson on African drumming. I wasn’t even aware of this until one of students came up ecstatic because she had been able to participate in a drum circle! You can see more photos on their Facebook page and website. Please do not hesitate to donate to this high-impact program.
I can’t thank them enough for coming in and rekindling a love of learning in a time of (often) buzz-killing testing regimens. I was a completely different teacher, because I was enthusiastic and felt greater urgency in the day’s lesson. It’s very telling for me that I am much more energized by promoting literacy and coaching basketball, for example, than the strict job description I am paid to perform. Whether it is mentoring young black males, or helping students complete science fair projects by critically thinking rather than jumping through hoops, it is bittersweet that I enjoy these aspects more than being a teacher. At this point, I feel like my actual position is holding me back. I wouldn’t want to leave if I could do more of this and less of teaching to the state test. I know the state test is extremely important as a measure of student, school, and teacher success, but I can’t stay in this business if that’s the sole bottom line.
On this day, I was reminded of the joy that can come from teaching and I’m proud to be working the field of education. This is a reminder to folks that the teachers in this nation are working hard to help cultivate a generation of confident and competent children, but we can’t do it alone. Thank you to everyone who supports educators in any and every way!