Thursday afternoon at the end of the school day, Kevin Zeck's voice filled the halls of Bailly Elementary School in Chesterton.
Zeck said, "Hey, boys and girls. Do you want to know the title of the book? Well I'm about to tell you....it's BEEP!"
Giggles were heard from the room across the hall, but it's hard to tell if it's from the students or the staff.
He continued, "What? Oh. You missed it? Well, I'll tell you again. Ready? ...Okay, it's BEEP!"
After another bout of giggles, Mr. Zeck concluded the school day with, "You will have to wait until tomorrow afternoon - because I'm not telling! Have a great day."
Kevin Zeck, principal at Bailly, was referring to the big reveal of the school's book for their One Book One School event. For the past week, students have been asking, begging, and writing letters to Mr. Zeck to reveal the title of the book early. There was a tear-away count down on a bulletin board in a heavily trafficked hallway, reminding the children heading to and from their rooms that the big reveal was impending.
Friday afternoon, the wait was over.
The entire school; students, teachers, custodial staff, and office personnel, gathered in the cafeteria to finally have their answer. The staff, of course, already knew the book - it's something that had been in the works for a while. They prepared the students for the event by putting a foam nose and whiskers on each student, every teacher, and even Mr. Zeck, who was ceremoniously prepared by getting whiskers drawn on in front of the assembly. The kids loved it.
"It has been amazing to me how this process has helped to build a community within the school. Teachers have dedicated time to plan together outside of their typical grade level structure. Teams of cross grade level teachers finally have the time to be creative and think outside the box," Zeck said.
The presentation began with a video made by the staff. It followed the journey of a bright and shiny silver package with a red bow addressed to Bailly Elementary travelling throughout the school. It began its trek as it was dropped into the mail box by a mysterious, Mickey Mouse-gloved hand. The trip is took throughout the school was a Benny Hill-esque romp set to joyous tunes (even the Benny Hill Theme), as the package was handed off by every single staff member of Bailly.
When the video concluded, Mr. Zeck directed the attention to the back set of doors where a Hamster-costumed Jacob Havner burst through carrying the very package from the video. He skipped through the kids and handed off the box to Mr. Zeck, who in turn opened it up for all to see. The book was The World According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney.
"I think this book of full of life lessons. Humphrey has a giving heart. I feel that families will be drawn to him and learn things from him. We shall see," Zeck said.
Every student and staff member (including yours truly!) was given a copy at the book along with an explanation about what One Book One School is all about. There were guidelines for a reading schedule, and to kick the festivities off, Jacob Havner, Cheryl Marrs, MaryAnn Martin, Stephanie Strawbridge, and Kevin Zeck read the first chapter of the book as a reader's theatre performance.
Every student left the gym ready to get their very own copy and learn about little Humphrey with a grin on their face underneath the painted-on whiskers.
"As we move forward reading the same book together we cross barriers that naturally occur between students," Zeck said.
Go ahead. Get a copy and read along with everyone at Bailly.