Photo by Sydney Cromwell.
Greystone Elementary art teacher Blue Horn with her tools for People of Greystone: a camera and a recorder.
There’s a story behind each face that walks through the halls of Greystone Elementary. By the end of the school year, art teacher Blue Horn hopes to know all of them.
Horn has taught in Hoover City Schools for 23 years — first at Trace Crossings and Shades Mountain elementary schools, then at Greystone for the past nine years. About two years ago, she fell in love with the photography project Humans of New York and decided to propose a similar project at her school.
“I was fascinated and taken by it all at once,” Horn said.
With a name change to People of Greystone — to avoid the unflattering acronym HOG — Horn brought the project to life this school year. Her goal is to feature the entire student body, as well as teachers, parents and all the other people who make an impact on the school.
“I want to get everybody … because they’re all a part of our community and what makes our school function,” Horn said.
The process is straightforward. Horn, along with two parent volunteers and peer helpers from Spain Park High School, choose a few People of Greystone subjects each week to take their picture and ask a few questions. Another parent transcribes the interviews to be posted on the website, peopleofgreystone.com, and music teacher Sara Womack posts them on the People of Greystone Facebook page.
One of the big challenges, Horn said, is asking the right questions to draw out interesting answers, especially from elementary school students who clam up as soon as she turns on the tape recorder. She said the project has been a “big fat learning experience.”
But along the way, Horn has discovered just how wide a web Greystone Elementary has in the community. It’s not just students, teachers and parents, but also grandparents, visitors, Hoover police officers and even regular delivery drivers. These interviews often lead to much longer conversations after the recorder has been turned off.
“The community, our little bubble here, is actually so much bigger, and it joins so many other parts of Hoover or Birmingham based on just who comes into the school,” Horn said.
It also helps the students get to know people at their school who they otherwise would rarely meet.
“It’s wonderful to spotlight people and their individuality and their diversity, and the kids love it,” Horn said.
Some of the interviews are more serious, Horn said, such as a student who talked about his Tourette’s diagnosis or a boy with color blindness. However, most are fairly lighthearted, such as the young girl who just wanted to talk about how much she was enjoying the taste of her gum.
“The happy stuff is nice,” Horn said.
People of Greystone has become popular with the school faculty and students. In October, the school turned Horn’s web project into an art installation at the entrance to the school. The pictures and interviews can be changed regularly, so there will always be a new person to learn about.
Though she started the project and is still its driving force, Horn emphasized that the focus shouldn’t be on her.
“I really have a problem with attention on me, but I love shared attention for, really, all people,” Horn said.
Instructional support teacher
Photos courtesy of People of Greystone.
I started working with kids with special needs, actually with adults with special needs, when I was a junior in high school … a long time ago. Let’s see, that would have been 1980. It was a service project. I went to Catholic high school and had to do a service project. So, I did that for a summer. Then, in my senior year, I decided I wanted to be in education and special ed was where I wanted to be. I have been doing for … this is my 32nd year in the classroom, all in special education. I don’t know about the specialness of the person teaching, but it takes a lot of endurance to be in this setting. I just heard someone say they have been doing this for 25 years, and I have passed that mark. I just don’t know how much longer my body is going to take it, and my mind.
We were at Inverness before, but we moved into the Greystone area. This, so far, has been the best thing that has happened in our lives. I really feel like family when I come to Greystone Elementary. My kids, you can tell how much better they feel about this school. That brought a lot of happiness and joy to the home. As a mother, when your child is happy, you don’t have a choice but to be extremely happy. So, I thank God for this school and for all the teachers.
I am thinking about that I can jump off the swing and touch the sky. I am thinking about that I am fire resistant. That means I can walk on fire without even dying.
What do I like about working at Greystone? I like just working, period. You know. It’s really great. I have been here since Day 1, you know.