Page 2 of 3
This morning, the Nikon Coolpix is finally here. A few kids gather at a cluster of desks to open the box. Someone mentions the MAP tests, state assessment tests that are coming up in a couple of weeks.
A student in a green hoodie, Daniel, grabs the camera, looks through the screen and starts programming it for daylight saving time and the date.
"Do they say anything about pictures?"
"On the MAP test? No," Boody says, smiling.
The kids understand that the camera might teach them something at least as important as what's on the statewide tests.
A seventh-grader named Octavia is writing a story about advisement classes. She tells the camera crew to go take pictures of other classes. One kid in a gray-and-black starter jacket is snapping pictures of other girls writing at their computers.
"Ms. Boody! Ms. Boody! My computer just died!"
"Go take a bunch of really good pictures of Ms. Ford's class," Boody says over the din.
Octavia and Kevinisha, another seventh-grader, keep typing until the last possible minute.
At the first of this year, Boody called for reinforcements from Jennifer Harris, an old friend from high school, now editor of Johnson County Community College's Campus Ledger. Harris and her staff started showing up at Franklin a few mornings a week.
"When we went in, the kids were very mistrustful," Harris says. "They didn't seem interested in us being there. They were unruly, like, 'You can't tell me what to do.'"
But they were excited about putting out a newspaper. Eventually, Harris says, "They realized we were there to help them grow, not be a threatening authority figure."
Skip forward to a sunny Friday afternoon in May. School is out for the day, but the Ledger's photographers are on the playground with photographers from Boody's class.
In a fenced-off area surrounding a big, bright plastic swing set, John Young is carefully showing his mentees how to frame portraits of kids playing.
"Are y'all puttin' our pictures in the newspaper?" yells a kid who's hanging on a swinging tire.
There's no picture of the swinging-tire kid when the Voice of the Tigers comes out May 21. The big art on the front page is a camera lens: an eye turned back on its readers, as any great newspaper should be. This issue is in tabloid format, eight pages. Writers' bylines are first-name-only, to protect their privacy; after all, they're just kids.
But clearly, the freedom of the press is alive and well at Franklin School.
In Octavia's front-page story about advisement classes, one student, Myeshia, has a problem with Mr. Trice's "recycling and chess" class, saying it's about neither and "should be educational like other advisements."
Octavia has another front-page story slugged, "Calling all parents, lend your support."
"Students are not behaving well at this school and we need more support from the parents at home," she reports. "How are we going to get work done, if we continue to play around and waste time? Students, we need to get our MAP scores up. Parents, if we get your support we may be able to increase our scores. I bet you think your kids are on their best behavior at school. I'm sorry, but you're thinking wrong."
On page two, Kevinisha has a piece about what students can do to fight global warming. DeAndre plugs the upcoming talent show: "The 816 Swaggerz are going to rap their original songs including 'Let's Cupcake' and '2 Fresh.' I think you should come to the talent show because we have talent and we want to share it with you."