Thursday, October 30, 2008

At Virginia Tech with Nikki Giovanni

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On October 27-28, the Moo Moo Book Club traveled to Blacksburg, Virginia. We left the high school at 4:30 a.m. and didn't arrive in Blacksburg until 2 p.m. Needless to say, the bus experience was horrible. We got lost, we went the longest route to begin with, we did our best with using the bathroom on the bus, and finally we made it.

On Monday afternoon, we toured the campus of Virginia Polytechnic and State University. We all agreed that the campus was nothing but beautiful. That night, we toured the Smithfield Historic Plantation. It was so neat because there is no overhead electricity in the house, so we used floor lamps and flashlights. It felt very authentic. Once the tour was over, the students and chaperones walked down the property to an old slave cabin--the summer kitchen--and told ghost stories for an hour.

The best part of the trip was meeting and participating in a writing workshop with New York Times best selling poet, Nikki Giovanni. Students read her book, Blues for all the Changes, and were able to ask her questions both about the book and the writing process. Nikki was inspiring, down-to-earth, hilarious, and oozing with talent. Students were asked to share some of their writing, and if they were too nervous, Nikki read it for them. Hearing her voice resonating and fluctuating with my students' words was astounding. What an awesome experience!

Battle of the Bands

In March of 2008 the Moo Moo Book Club had our first big fundraiser: Battle of the Bands. Putting the spotlight on student bands, we invited the community to our high school to get a taste of student music. With two student bands, one teacher band, one community band, and several solo and duet student acts, the community and student body had an evening of ecclectic jams.

The Moo Moo Book Club worked the door taking tickets, emceeing, keeping order, helping set-up and break-down, etc. They did a fantastic job, and we made a nice little chunk of money to buy books.

Area Author's Fair at MCHS

On October 25, 2008, the Moo Moo Book Club helped the Montgomery County Arts Council's Literacy Committee with the Area Author's Fair. Students welcomed people in, gave out door prizes, kept authors comfortable, and helped the members of the Literacy Committee with set-up and take-down. It was a great experience for students to meet authors who are every day people as well as to work with the people in the community who care about literacy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Moo Moo Summer

As the spring 2008 semester ended, MMBC members weren't ready to say goodbye to books until August. I used their unwillingness to take a break as an opportunity to let non-members try the club out for the summer. 40 students signed up for summer reading. We met once in June and once in July, and the participation was great. At both meetings only about 20 of the 40 were able to come, and although we met at Cracker Barrel where it was hard to hear each other, the discussions went on.

This summer program brought in about 15 new members, so I expected the club's number to increase by 15 or 20 in the '08-'09 fall semester. (Later I would find that I was off by a long shot.)

Trip 1: meeting author Tim Callahan

In April of 2008, the Moo Moo Book Club chose to read The Cave, the Cabin, and the Tattoo Man by Tim Callahan. The setting of this book is Morgan County Kentucky, and the students enjoyed reading something close to home. They gained a new respect for the book however when, through Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington, KY, they were able to hear the author speak. Mr. Callahan was nice enough to speak exclusively to the book club and to answer their questions both about the book and about creative writing.

Before meeting at Joseph-Beth, students toured the Carnegie Literacy Center, also in Lexington. They had some reading time and chose books from their library to keep. It was a neat experience.

How we started

Some students in my Accelerated English II class asked me to start a book club in December of 2007. I had envisioned a lot of things for my career up to that point, but I had never thought of a book club. Who would? In an age where students are attached to their iphones, texting, emailing, calling and myspacing have long-since trumped a desire to read. So, when my students were adamant about starting this club, I readily agreed. If it can be done, I thought, I want to be the one to do it. The rest is history.

About the name, why Moo Moo? It happened like this: I showed the students a picture of me in a old muumuu gown, and they couldn't believe that their 25 year old teacher would wear something so ancient and ugly. The next day, I wore one to class and taught in it. They loved it. That day they decided to wear muumuus on Fridays and to call our Accelerated English II 4th block class the Moo Moo Club and have T-shirts made. However, none of us knew that moo moo, as in the dresses, was actually spelled muumuu. We sounded it out, tried to google the term, and when we couldn't find a definitive answer, we just had T-shirts made with the flagrant misspelling proudly flaunted in magenta.

Nearly one year later, the club has grown to over 100 members. I can't write enough to portray how wonderful and active this club is and has been since it started. We have met a few authors, taken a few trips, read a lot of books, and had way too much fun. This has definitely been the most fulfilling facet of my professional career, and I have dreams to take this club much bigger, state-wide to start. We'll get there someday, but for now, I love who we are and how we got here.