It all started when I found out that David Isser was going to visit the University of Pennsylvania. I had David as a student in ninth grade Global Studies and AP US History plus Model United Nations. Anyway, I asked him if he could get me a little pennant that said “Fighting Quakers” on it. He came back with a hat and told me Quakers don’t fight. Maybe it was my days growing up in Portland and playing Franklin High School in football or maybe it was an oxymoron that I subliminally liked, but whatever the case, I got a hat that I truly cherished.
Keep in mind that I am follicley challenged and the students over the years have made it clear that I lack hair on my head. I have a little poster in my room that says “God made so many perfect heads and then put hair on the rest.” I embrace my baldness, but one thing that bald people need are a bunch of hats. Nothing is worse than burning the top of your head. So anyway David gave me a hat.
I wore the hat everywhere. It is a really nice hat but I was afraid I was going to lose it, so I put it on the wall of my class. I put his name under it letting students know that he went to Penn. That year I had three students Jocelyn Burke, David Bernard, and Jeremy Hansen all say they were going on the wall with their hat from their school. After their first year from school, they all came back with a hat: Jocelyn- Pomona; David- Vassar; Jeremy- Haverford. I put them on the wall and the “Wall of Fame” was created.
This all started with David in 1998 and has taken on a life of its own. The name “97 Hats” comes from the 97 hats hanging on the wall at the time I registered the blog. There is a rule that applies to hanging on the wall- I have to have had the student in a class. I have had students want to contribute a hat over the years, but I would have to turn them down- we never shared a class together. There are two exceptions which I will get to later. The question is now that I am retiring/retired, what do I do with these hats?
Having taught for 30 years, I have come to know a whole bunch of people. The reason I got into teaching was that I love kids. I love the energy of youth and the enthusiasm that comes with it. I would like to think that working with young people has kept me from growing old. I also want to know what has happened to my students. So, I plan on visiting everyone that has a hat on the wall, break bread with them, and listen to their story.
This is going to be a great excuse to see the country and in some cases the world. I’m game. There are some great stories out there, and hopefully, they will let me report back on this blog on how they are doing. I would never write something that violates confidentiality. What this will become is a description of the architecture of a teacher’s community over the years.
This will be an ongoing journey as Kim and I pack up in “Red,” our Sienna, and travel the country and pop in on some people some time. This will take some doing to perfect the technology, but heck, I have time. This will also be a commentary on the travels we go through of getting from here to there. I really feel like I’m playing “night golf” here, hitting into the dark and then go chasing the ball, but it sounds like fun.