After several sometimes enjoyable, sometimes frustrating days of designing business cards for Tom and I to hand people after answering the question “What are you up to?”, I just finished slicing them apart. The day is slowly approaching when I will really understand Photoshop, and remember the commands!
Both of our cards have a plush bunny as the central motif. In Tom’s case, it is sitting on a shelf next to a container of writing implements and a pair of scissors: tools of the teacher’s trade. In my case, the bunny is held by a pair of small hands. This bunny had an important role in the classroom, and will show up frequently in the film. He was our version of the talking stick, passed from person to person to indicate that person and only that person had the right to speak. But a soulful bunny, his big ears seeming to take in every word, was so much more appealing than a stick. In a classroom where students loved to name things–even naming the beanbags we tossed while taking roll (Mooroo, and Dumpy The Dumptruck), the bunny never was given a proper name, being referred to only as the Class Council Bunny.
Most Friday mornings started with Class Council. I borrowed the concept about 10 years before from my friend Jean Luc Bedat, a teacher at Ecole Aujourd’hui, a bilingual elementary school in Paris. Their many ways to empower children impressed me. Each week a different student picked up the class council book, checked for what anyone in the class may have written inside it as a topic needing discussion by the whole class, and led a 30-40 minute meeting. I sat next to the leader, and when needed would give them some support, but as the year went on, that was always less and less necessary,and I could participate as just another voice in the discussion. Topics ranged from the mundane (“people are not putting away their supplies…”) to the complex (many issues around the concept of fairness) to the deeply moving (“if someone says ‘so’ after I say something, it feels like they don’t care about me…”). There was the bunny, listening, nodding, looking out at the group, as the child who was speaking animated him by unconsciously squeezing his soft body.
In between meetings, the bunny sat on a shelf where he seemed to survey the action. What better symbol for this film that observes with sympathy the life of a class?