Authoring the Book Jam has been an immense undertaking for me. After penning a book a year for the past 6 years in a row, I decided to take some time off and build a curriculum that came straight out of my private filing cabinet as a high school teacher in inner-city Los Angeles. Being that so many people have asked me over the years how I achieve the results I do with my kids, I decided once and for all to publish them in a format which would abide by a few simple rules.
It would have to be affordable, user-friendly, sizzling with energy, effective, intelligently constructed, and progressive in a way that empowered educators to meet the needs of the next generation of learner while returning the classroom teacher to a position of strength.
More than a few people thought I was bonkers to put aside a very healthy and lucrative book writing career (in the arms of Disney, nonetheless) to a pen a standards-based literacy curriculum aimed at reluctant reading 6-12th graders who had an overt disinterest in school.
Well, no, I thought. Matter of fact, I found the idea electric.
The fact is, America’s classrooms are long overdue for change. Everyone agrees on this. Sure, we might not agree on how they should change or what this change will look like, but I meet very, very few people who look at the state of America’s classrooms as we draw to a close of the first decade of a new millennium and think, “You know, this whole school thing we got goin’ here in this country… it’s kinda firing on all cylinders. We need more status quo. Serve up more of what ya already got.”
So I asked myself, “How can I best contribute to creating the change I hope to see?” (instead of bitching about the problems, that is. See, so many people are complainers in the world of education, it drives me nuts. I say, quit moaning, pick up a shovel, a pen, a pile of books, a lesson plan — something — and GO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!! Just quit yapping. We need problem solvers, not problem pointer-outers. Geesh!)
So this is my attempt to re-invent the wheel I so dearly love. I mean face it… I’m a dork. I love school, books, writing, teaching, and homework. If I can’t be honest about my doofy-hood than I certainly don’t have a chance of breaking through to today’s kids.
But I’ve had a pretty good go these past few years breaking through to today’s kids by making connections, building bridges of relevance and accessibility and (yep, here comes the dorkiness) changing lives. It’s just what I love to do.
And Book Jams are how I now hope to empower others to be able to do the same.
Of course, as I type this, it’s late on Saturday night during a three day weekend from school that will see me working 16 hour days to bring the best that I can possibly offer to the Book Jam table. It’s a sick level of commitment which I have invested in these things but the fact is, I deeply enjoy the sickness. (I think if you look that up, it’s called addiction. Yep, I need Teachers Anonymous.)
Yet, I can honestly say that Book Jams are the best teaching I have ever done. Without a doubt. This, I’ll say it again, is the best work I have ever done. Unequivocally.
I can’t say where Book Jams will lead or what doors it will open but I do know that everyone behind the scenes who is working on this project feels a special energy emanating from the potential of that which we have thus far endeavored to craft. Truly, some of the best and brightest have come together to bring Book Jams to the light of day. I am literally amazed at how fortunate I am to work with so many talented people. And when I saw the very first piece of official literature on Book Jams, a simple poster/mailer thing that has everyone who has seen it abuzz, I decided to do a little chronicling.
We stand at the doorstep of unprecedented opportunity to revolutionize America’s classrooms. Book Jams are my attempt to step up to the plate with the biggest swing of the educational bat I have in my teaching bag.
And I am letting it rip.
Onward and upward, I say. America’s kids simply can’t wait
I should also mention that it is but a few days before Barack Obama gets inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States. He enters office riding a mandate for change. It’s incredible to me just how many ripples a man of optimism and intelligence and faith and vision might make in the waters of mankind. Sure, some people are despondent when they look on the educational horizon. Me, I don’t see our problems… I see our opportunities.
I hope you’ll join me in your own special way.
Go ‘head. Chime in on the ning. We need you.