I thought to balance the last story of Alene's bad school visit, I’d blog about a good one. The problem: I’ve had so many good visits that it’s hard to choose just one.
There was Shepherd Junior High in Mesa, Arizona where one of the girls told me that she hadn’t been able to sleep the night before because she was so excited that I was coming in. I felt like Santa Claus.
There was Wy’ East in Oregon where two teachers sold snacks out of their classrooms to pay for my visit. That’s dedication. I really hope I was worth all of the beef jerky.
There was San Manuel High in Arizona where I overheard the principal talking with one of the teachers about the difficulty in paying the school’s air conditioning bill—it was humbling to realize how much they were struggling financially, and yet they’d paid for an author to come in to try and inspire their kids to read and write.
Ditto for San Rafael in Ferron, Utah, a town so small they didn’t have a bookstore, but I could tell how much the community and librarians cared about getting the kids to read.
But the school I want to blog about is Estrella Middle school, perhaps because like the school in Alane’s bad school visit story, it too was a school full of at-risk students. In fact, the first thing I saw when I drove up to the school was a big sign that said, “We beat the odds!”
I’m always a little nervous when I do school visits because you never know what to expect. I have these paranoid fears that a) the school forgot I was coming b) I’ve come on the wrong day and was supposed to be here yesterday or c) my powerpoint presentation won’t work on the school’s computer, and I will spend the entire day making shadow puppets on the screen.
So I was my usual nervous self and the librarian told me that a couple of my classes were filled with kids who were just learning English. Then I was really nervous because a lot of times it’s hard to keep the kids' attention when they understand what I’m saying, what would it be like if they didn't understand me?
It turns out I shouldn’t have worried. Every single class at this school was great. The kids were creative, enthusiastic, and respectful. One boy gave me a story he had written to read over lunch. It was so sweet--not the story, (which as I recall had a hot girl and exploding buildings) but it was so sweet that this boy was writing and he wanted me to look at it. I was that way in sixth grade too. I’m sure if he keeps at it one day he’ll be a published author.
Another boy told me that I should write his story. You could tell he felt passionately about it. He said, "People don't realize what we had to go through to come to this country." You know how sometimes in life somebody says something and you know it will stick with you forever? That’s what it was like when he said this to me.
He was eleven years old and I have no idea what he went through to get to this country.
Afterward I talked to the librarian about him. I told her to talk to his parents and if they agreed, he could tell me his story and I'd consider writing it.
But the parents never answered back. Maybe they thought they'd get in trouble with the law if they were telling an author how they sneaked into the country.
Anyway, it was one school I’ll always remember. I hope the kids I met there do beat the odds.