Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Advice from the Trenches Part 3

 If you missed Part 1, you can find it HERE.

Part 2 is HERE.

  • School visits are hard work. Make it easier on yourself by staying in your comfort zone when you need to. For instance, at lunch, I need some quiet time. My solution is to go outside for some fresh air and a walk, when I can. The walk really helps my energy level and the quiet time recharges me. If weather doesn't permit a walk, I ask for a quiet spot to check emails or do some work while I eat lunch. But then, that's just me. You extroverts can chitter chatter all day. Either way, teachers and volunteers will understand.

  • If you go outside the building at lunch time, you will find yourself locked out. Nowadays, almost all schools lock their doors after the morning arrivals and require that you be buzzed back in. Don't panic. Ring the buzzer, which is usually located within plain site of the door. Someone from the office will do a quick fingerprint scan, run an FBI check, call your mother and then buzz you back in (unless your morning presentation was particularly crappy, you failed the FBI check, or your mother dissed you).

  • Most schools are stretched for money, so they want to get as much out of an author visit as possible. "How I Became a Writer" or "Where I Get My Ideas" isn't always enough. Try to add something to your presentation that teachers can use in the classroom - preferably some concrete writing tips for the kids. Particularly because of those dang standardized tests, it's nice if an author visit can help the students prepare for the writing portion.

  • I now take some professionally designed and printed bookmarks. But if you don't want to take on that expense, you can make a template of a bookmark (3 per page), personalized for each school and with your autograph. Teachers or volunteers can then make copies for the students. Many schools copy them on colored cardstock and even laminate them. The kids love them. I did that for many years and it worked just fine.

  • Trust me, if you say yes even once to a request from a student to sign a scrap of paper, you'll find yourself with a mad mass of kids shoving teeny weeny scraps of paper under your nose when you only have five minutes before your next presentation. You will feel like a schmuck saying no, but if you sign a few but say no to the others, you will feel like an even bigger schmuck. Just accept your schmuckiness and say no. (And hopefully, an observant teacher will jump in and save you from your schmuckiness. Teachers are great at taking the schmuck hit for you.)

  • I take templates of worksheets that reinforce one of the writing techniques I brainstorm with the kids. I know, I know...some folks shudder at the word "worksheet." But I personally like them (I'm anal like that). They give teachers something useful for their classrooms and add another layer to a program that might otherwise be your usual "how-I-became-a-writer-and-how-I-get-my-ideas" kind of presentation.

 Part 4 coming soon


Anonymous said...

Hi Barbara, thanks for the great advice. I've been doing school visits for a year or so and have learned some of this by trial and error, but other ideas here are brand new for me. Thanks! Sheila Turnage

Sherry Nelson Rosso said...

Great boost to read your post this morning - points 2, 3, 5, and 6 made me laugh out loud! Having read post 1 last week, this morning during book discussion I utilized the repetition factor (immediately and loudly repeating kids' answers to my questions) so that everyone in the room could hear and follow along. That was so helpful in keeping great interest and participation with our second graders. Thanks!