Kameron Connor Ball is an inspiring educator whose "official" title is "Reading Specialist" for the Rankin County School District in Brandon, Mississippi... however, she tells us she prefers "Classroom Teacher without a Classroom." Her North Star Happening is a wonderful example of how sharing ideas and thoughts through conversation can spark new ideas, new thoughts... and new initiatives that help children reach their true potential. Read on as Kameron shares the story of her North Star Happening, which, as you will learn, really was one of the very first North Star Happenings ever!
My story is unusual... while attending NECC (National Educational Computing Conference) in '94 at Baltimore I had the opportunity to meet Peter... a chance meeting that I can say without hesitation changed my life. As we sat and talked about the conference, our hopes and dreams for education - for true quality materials for kids, he shared with me the sketchpad version of The North Star. Upon first reading, the story moved me to tears and still does today. Being an elementary teacher, I was thrilled with the idea of a book to encourage children's imagination, dreams, and possibilities. My students, who were part of a multi-age loop, were overjoyed when the following summer Peter sent me a hand-drawn copy of the book prior to its publication. We read the story, created our own "stars," and e-mailed Peter regularly to share with him what a profound impact his story has on kids, their families, and teachers. I knew there was something magical about the story of The North Star the first time I read it. I will never forget the first time I witnessed the sparkle in my students' eyes the first time they listened to the story. It quickly became my children's most requested book at carpet time.
My North Star experience has mostly served as a guiding light throughout my life - both personally and professionally. It has opened new doors to my imagination and helped me think about teaching in a new way. Peter and I have had many discussions about the plight of our educational systems falling prey to "cookie cutter" curriculum. By not allowing children to draw from their own uniqueness and gifts as part of their learning process, educators are limiting the possibilities for so many. Someone once said, and I have adapted this thought to center around our assembly line philosophy of teaching, "If educators continue to send children through packaged curriculum programs without individualizing for each student, it would be like owning a baby grand piano and only playing chopsticks." What The North Star has said to me is that each child has a wealth of gifts and talents.
As teachers and parents, it is our responsibility to help that child search and discover his gifts along life's journey. Hopefully, as schools, we can see children as individuals and teach the desired curriculum through each child's individual talents. If every child were taught with The North Star's loving, supportive, inclusive philosophy, I truly believe that schools would become lighthouses for all children and their families.
Feel free to e-mail Kameron if you have any feedback, thoughts, or questions about her inspiring North Star classroom experiences.