When I was a little girl, my elementary school had an event called “Character Day”. Everyone had to dress up in a costume depicting their favorite character from a book. We would choose a book from the library (but we were welcome to choose a book we read outside of school) and a week later we would dress up and present to the class why we picked this character. Each class would vote for their favorite character and that child would present in front of the entire school. So, at the end of the day, fourteen children would stand on stage, two from each grade, representing their individual classes.
What I remember most about that day was the excitement I felt when I saw the older kids present. These were characters I hadn’t heard of yet. Books I couldn’t even begin to imagine reading. These were hard books and someday I was going to read them and know their characters too.
When I think of “Character Day” now, I think how special my elementary school was, to honor books and characters the way they did. It was the smallest school in the district and, due to budget cuts, it closed a year before I graduated. I had to go to another school and I never got a chance to participate in Character Day as an ‘older kid’.
But, my senior year of high school, at an awards banquet, they honored the top 10% of the graduating class. We were grouped by what elementary school we had went to. Since our original elementary school had closed, our school was not represented, but we petitioned (and won) to be grouped as: Willett Avenue students. Because out of 35 students in that top percent, 10 of them had originally went to Willett Avenue. We were one of the largest groups of students at the banquet and our group included the valedictorian. Considering that there were only about 30 students that had even gone to Willett Avenue in my entire graduating class, I consider that a major achievement. A testament to a place that held events like “Character Day” and honored learning in such a unique and fun way.
The photo above is a cement turtle that still stands outside of the school (I believe it is now a school for disabled children). The turtle was our mascot, proving that slow and steady does indeed win the race.