My first school visit was to the Crain’s Creek Middle School through The Country Bookshop. (The Country Bookshop is a wonderful sixty-plus-year-old independent bookstore. I wrote a little about them here at author Shannon Roat’s blog for her ‘Bookstore love’ series.) Of course, I was nervous. I’d never presented to students about my book before.
My first group was around a hundred – maybe more – sixth graders. When I saw the crowd, I felt a bit like this:
But it’s not that I’ve never spoken in front of students. I taught high school and college biology for ten years. I usually do pretty good in front of a crowd. Usually.
One thing I’ve learned teaching, however, is I can never predict how well a presentation, workshop, or lesson will go. Even when everything should go right, I can have a bad day, the class can be grumpy, the great techno gods can smite the computer game I worked for hours to make. All I can do is prepare, take a deep breath, and not take myself too seriously.
It can be a bit tricky. (This sentence is here just so I can add a cat in a box.)
Actually, I have three basic rules for presenting things:
1. Have a good detailed plan but not a script. It’s easier to tweak a plan halfway through than change a script if things go wonky. And wonky happens.
2. Entertain myself. That way, at least one person in the room is having a good time. Me. Besides, if I’m bored, I can’t expect everyone else to be interested.
3. And of course, I make sure they the students learn something. Hmm. Maybe this should be number one?
I always hope for this type of audience:
As opposed to this falling-over, can’t stay awake, need some excitement version:
I tried to apply those same teaching skills to my author visit. I guess once a teacher, always a teacher. Although, I also talked about my book. It’s an author visit so that seemed necessary. And I made a game with a horse and dragon, and a ‘can you spot the differences’ cover activity thing. I thought there was like a 60% chance it would work well.
Here I am, foam sword in hand, starting my visit:
The question, of course, is how did it go?
It went great! I was lucky enough to have a good day and a wonderful crowd of students. Seriously, I was so impressed with the students at Crain’s Creek. I spoke to sixth graders first, then seventh and eighth graders next.
Afterwards, I met with the Battle of the Books group.
They really made my day. (<–My type keeps turning blue here. This is not planned.)
It never hurts to wave your foam swords, either.
I just hope all my school visits are as great as the first.