Great news today!! I was just notified that my most biggest writing project ever, was named a Finalist for the 2010 Association of Educational Publishers Distinguished Achievement Awards in the category of Reading and Language Arts.
I really only started writing educational curriculum for one reason: I hated the fact that I was a perpetual complainer about all the junk that was out there being peddled to my school and my students.
And living in a world where I saw my school – and so many others – get, pardon my French, “fleeced” by educational publishers that weren’t providing what I felt needed to be provided in order to 1) effectively reach our modern students and 2) smartly empower today’s teachers with the tools they really needed to be effective professionals was driving me bonkers.
And the prices that these folks were charging? Jeez, it made my head spin. (Thus the French term above). I always felt it could be done better.
But then I had to face the facts. If I really thought it could be done better, I would have to prove it. It’s easy to talk and complain. It’s harder to actually do something about it.
And so I decided to take a run at educational publishing myself.
When publishers found out that I was going to put together a curriculum of best practices from my own classroom that pretty much used all the strategies, methodologies, insights and tools I had developed over the years and years I’d spent as a classroom educator (and as avid student of schooling itself) it landed me a bunch of meetings. Everyone was interested in working with me on this endeavor.
My literary agent, however, thought I was a bit nuts.
“Why take a detour off of a great – and growing – career as a YA novelist to go write material for teachers? The work is going to be three times as hard and the money a lot less?”
Now my agent is great. Best professional partner I have in many, many respects. However, when he heard my reasoning (i.e. I wanted to “give back”, I thought I could make a real difference, people asked me all the time for materials as to how I do what I do to reap the results I get with my kids) he said, “Ya know what, you won me over. I can see you feel passionate and think this is going to be something meaningful and special. Let’s do it! Let’s see if we can’t change, or at least try to change a world that has become fossilized.”
And so, of all the publishers available to me, I struck a deal with a young and hungry group over at Haights Cross and Recorded Books. What they lacked in tremendous size, they made up for in desire, smarts and talent. They let me captain the ship, they worked hard to provide all the resources I’d need to produce something smashing, and they put the pedal to the metal from the boardroom on down. Essentially, they gave me their full support. (And who doesn’t want/need that?)
What I was able to publish with them is, what I feel, the best teaching I have ever done. The BookJam is my response to my own complaining.
And though it’s still less than a year old – and there are more phases planned in the project (I just finished the Poetry Jam and The Classics Jam meaning 7 BookJams are already out while 4 more BookJams are being written by me this summer for release in the next 6-8 months) well… how cool is it that the Association of American Publishers just gave me a little love for my efforts.
So what’s the lesson? (I am always looking for lessons.) As teachers, we are not as disempowered as we think we are to bring about change. I rolled up my shirts sleeves and got to work.
Our schools are starving for more of us to take the lead. Science teachers, math teachers, history, PE, art, music, Special Ed and on and on and on.
We can do better.
Or kids deserve better.
The status quo is not working.
Being named a finalist for such a prestigious award, what’s it really mean? It means I now have the credibility to encourage other educators to quit looking to politicians and administrators with political agendas for the classroom answers you need.
Take the reins and have at it folks… you have no idea where it will lead.