Sunday, November 16, 2014


Teaching provides many opportunities to collect artifacts.  Here's one I've been meaning to share.  I consider it an art form of popular culture.  Sadly, it's now probably extinct because of the way textbooks are distributed.  But...there was a time, when a teacher was responsible for collecting and distributing books.  Lots of record-keeping here.  Some may still do this, but my experience recently says all students go to the textbook room and check out their own books with computerized ID cards.
Anyhow, one of the rituals back in the day was to determine the condition of the book, record it on the little form stamped inside the front cover, and then add date and teacher's name.
Students, being the clever beings that they are, would often embellish the choice of descriptors.  For years one of the most common forms of written classroom folklore was found inside books that had been checked out.
In deconstructing my classroom of 25 years, one of the last things I did was to go through some old copies of books that I believed might soon be discarded.  I tore out a few of these book condition charts and put them in a folder.  Here's one:

 You can see that in 1971 a student named John Khure was not content with the choice of descriptors and took it upon himself to write a short essay in the space provided for one word.  John wrote: "Examining this book closely, I find very little wrong with it.  But that on no grounds means it is therefore free of blemish."  No good, fair, or unsatisfactory for this guy, he wanted to make a statement and therefore did so.  Reading down the list of subsequent readers of this one book shows that it's condition went from "New" to "Dead."  It appears that for a few years, the book came in at "Fair" and even "Used."  Before it was declared dead in 1989, it languished at "Very Poor" for a decade.
I've always loved the spirit of these little bulletin boards found inside most schoolbooks for many years.  Can't help but think that it might be lost forever.  This one, like the small collection I managed to harvest become like Zen Koans for contemplating the arbitrary spontaneity of young people. Especially when it comes to completing a simple task. In this era of standardized curriculum, here's a flaming torch that shines on individuality.

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