Sunday, January 31, 2010
Who gets more out of a school vist? Students or the Author?
I have to confess. A school visit makes me nervous. The butterflies start weeks before the actual event. And on the day of the visit, I'm filled with the jitters.
On Friday, I drove my jittery self up north for a visit with some 5th grade classes. (btw, "north" is Jersey talk for the northern part of the state. In NJ, the actual north/south border is a subject of great debate and even the subject of a movie documentary.)
It had the makings of a great day.The drive up was fine. No traffic. First time in ages that my GPS and I didn't argue about how to get there (okay, there was that tiny spat about that one turn in the beginning of the drive, but I did it my way and we made up after that).
My jitters were gone the moment I walked into the school. What a wonderful greeting from the 5th graders. Smiling faces. Hand made cards. It couldn't have been better.
The presentation went well. There was a minor blip. Sometime toward the end, I got a ton of blue ink on my face and looked like I was auditioning to be an extra in the movie, Braveheart. (If you've never used a Smartboard, watch out for the blue markers). I cleaned up.
After my talk, the students had a writing assignment. I walked around the classrooms while they asked questions. Good ones. About conflict and plot and characters and voice.
When that was done, I met with quite a few students for a one-on-one conference.
Each child had about five to ten minutes to talk about his/her work.
"I'd like some advice on how to engage the reader," asked one girl.
"This is the sentence I'm most proud of," said a boy.
Another girl showed me about four or five pages of a short story. "You came up with this idea and did this in that half hour you had to write?" I asked. She nodded.
I hope the students learned something from my visit, because I sure did.
After hearing them talk so enthusiastically about their writing, I learned that fifth graders are fearless. They're not afraid to pour their hearts out onto a piece of paper.
As a writer, I owe them the same thing back.