Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Cappuccino Corner

A couple of years ago, a high level bureaucrat from the Florida Department of Education came to our 70 year old crumbling school as a consulting expert. We met in our tiny library with too few shelves of too few books.
She looked around and asked "Where's the other library?"
We are a combined middle and high school, so she is forgiven for thinking we might have 2 libraries.

"This is it." we said.

She looked at us and said,
" I just came back from a trip to Costa Rica and I always take books down to give to a school in a tiny village there. I think from now on, I'll send them to your school."
She shook her head in disbelief and the meeting continued.

This post is not about Florida nature, but it is about Florida culture ... the culture of poverty. We have plenty of it behind the shiny beach front condo's and wealthy retiree colonies.
I teach in it ... neck deep in it.
Seventy-five percent of our students are classified as economically disadvantaged.

This is not a gloomy tale though. It's a tale of hope and kids and teachers who take action and make things better.

Last night, two teachers took their motivated Student Government Association (SGA) kids and put on the second annual Cappuccino Corner event. Admission was one book, but guests were encouraged to bring more. The SGA kids transformed the bland school cafeteria into a "Coffee Shop" atmosphere with subdued lighting, cozy seating, and a stage set for impromptu acts.

The smell and sound of Cappuccino production coupled with baked goods filled the room and tables for book donations were groaning under the weight of many books by evening's end. Visitors were encouraged to book swap and take something home to read also.

Junior MC'd the show (he is not shy) and the entertainment was provided by the student body and a few teachers (no, I didn't, but I'm thinking next year...).

They read poetry, sang, played music, danced, and acted in skits of their own making.

In keeping with the air of hip coolness that the coffee shop atmosphere required, we didn't applaud, instead, we snapped our fingers in appreciation of each act.

It was so neat to see the talent that some of our kids have and they were so glad to have a chance to demonstrate it. Such chances are few and far between in poor communities.
The evening was a great success with over a thousand books being donated. Some of those went home to new homes and some will stay in our school, but all are needed.

Cappuccino Corner ... a couple of teachers and a handful of kids taking action and making a difference.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Now who in their right mind would expect you and Mrs FC to have a child that might be shy? Good for Jr! I am such a fan of reading (guess you noticed that)I think it's awesome what they did last night! Hopefully in a few years we can participate in this wonderful evening!
Lightnin

Doug Taron said...

Kids these days- they're just...coming along fine and doing some pretty cool stuff. What a great, upbeat, optimistic post on a subject that can be pretty grim at times.

robin andrea said...

What a great post, fc. So much success comes out of experiences like this. The kids learn about community and resourcefulness. And, they get a peek at some of the goofy practices of ancient hip connoisseurs of poetry and art, those snapping fingers of praise.

roger said...

nice community support and a neat educational experience for the kids. not all learning is in the classroom.

i'm snappin' my fingers.

Thunder Dave said...

Great idea! (and I agree with Lightnin' on our hopeful future participation)

Here in Ohio you would likely have to have filed for and purchased a special license to serve the Cappacino in a school, have been fined for serving it to students, and the books would have been reviewed by the local school board for their content before you could accept them, and I won't even start on the possibility of taxes that this whole thing could generate. ;-)

Sharon said...

What a great idea, and you painted a great picture of it. Glad it was a success. :)

Dr. Know said...

Having lived and worked all over Florida, I've seen what you describe. I left when the NeoCon machine began its takover of the state's politics - the odor was rancorous. Yet it has surely not improved in my absense. But I digress...

My last hope for this country rides on the youth I meet - nationwide. Some are inked to the hilt, some are a little oddball (who isn't), but I notice an increased intellectual curiosity and a certain wry mistrust of authoritarian figureheads in this latest crop of young-uns that is totally lacking in those of my generation. Perhaps it's age that dumbs many of us down, or perhaps it's the Southern heat...

Good luck with the books, let us hope not too many of them are burned by the brownshirts before they are read.

Deb said...

I like that idea. I really like it. Not just the helping out the school aspect, but the venue for sharing music, poetry, and ideas. It just reeks of Beatnik coolness.:) Wonder how something like that would go over here...

Floridacracker said...

Lightnin,
You would have been in book heaven.
Coffee heaven too!

Cathy S,
I imagine even a simple polebarn in your location must meet about a zillion code requirements.
Sigh ...
Sorry about your budget woes, I know it's not just schools that are feeling the pinch.

Doug,
Thanks. The kids are okay ... most of em!

Robin,
I thought someone of your coolness could relate to this atmosphere.

roger,
snappin back at you. you would have loved the politically correct version of little red riding hood that the kids put on. too funny.

Thunder Dave,
It's easier to apologize than get permission.


Sharon,
It was a great success and shows signs of growing more so each year.


Dr. Know,
Yes, Florida has suffered under that more than most stated I think.
The kids are okay though. They are very resilient.


Deb,
The thing that struck me most were the musical kids and the kids who read their own poetry.
Teen angsty stuff, but pretty raw emotions.
They had an aching need to be heard. You could feel it when they sang.
At last a stage!

vicki said...

This post was interesting to me after spending 3 decades in a well heeled and well educated university town where poetry slams were de rigueur. More than once I had to give the kids "xerox" money to give the school secretary so they could have copies of textbook pages if they had missed a day of school- there weren't enough books for each student. I suspect some of what you talk about is the shame of the nation and not just the hardship of your neck of the woods.

But I can tell you this: where I lived everybody complained and wrote letters to the editor but people did not gather together for such an uplifting and beneficial community event. That says something important and positive about where you live and teach. And good on Jr! although not the least bit surprising, given his roots.

threecollie said...

That is just awesome! Good for the kids and teachers for such a wonderful program!

kathy a. said...

what a great event! i'm sure junior was a terrific MC. [you're working on your act for the next one, right?]

my little city has a free book exchange at the recycling center. it's a happening place -- on a lucky day, you can find all kinds of interesting books there. i'm a little turned off from it right now, because i recently took a couple loads of books up. the first delivery disappeared by the next day. and before i left the second day, someone had grabbed my best books and was looking up their value in a trade book -- he was taking the books to sell somewhere. i'm thinking that next time, i'll donate directly to the library or the public high school, both of which are desperate.

Leslie said...

What a spectacular idea! Congratulate the kids on their rousing success.

Junior isn't shy? Wonder where he gets THAT from?

In other news: hope you recover from your cold and are up to your usual shenanigans in short order.

Floridacracker said...

Vicki,
You are spot on. It is the shame of the nation.
I could go on and on, but I won't. I'm just proud of the two SGA teachers and their kids for getting this going.


ThreeCollie,
I think it will soon be an entrenched tradition. Think of the books.

Kathy A,
Good point. I would donate directly also.

Leslie,
His Mom?? You think?
It's a mystery to me.

Laura said...

@@@@@ Nothing gets my blood boiling more than when I see a school lacking in what is needed the most.
What type of books do they need for the libary? I'd like to make a donation either in the form of books or or a check for the library to purchase them. Seriously.
Just drop me an email and let me know where to send it to!