Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The good school visits

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.


Anonymous said...

It's those "You don't know what I've been through..." stories that I like the absolute best!

I am glad to hear about a good school visit, because frankly, your bad one almost put me off the idea completely. But I love kids, and I think it's great when they want to be writers. The world is wide open when you're young!

But hey, I have to get famous before I have to worry about that, right? I've got lots of time in that case....

Shari said...

I love reading your blog. Thanks for the positive school experiences. I would love for a school to want me to come and visit as an author. *sigh* Now all they want from me is another body in the classroom.

Anonymous said...

That's sooo sweet!!!

Asenath said...

this reminds me of a story that i'll have to tell you sometime

Cheryl said...

Now I really want to be an author (although the humiliating experiences of your friend was so hilarious I might be willing to go through with it just to have material to work with, writing-wise!) since reading this post. What sweet experiences! That's gotta make the travel worth it, eh?

The Golfing Librarian said...

I'm glad you posted "good" stories, because after you "bad" stories I felt like I needed a shower!

Janette Rallison said...

Yeah, everyone knows that you librarians are a wild bunch.

The Golfing Librarian said...

If you only knew, you'd want to go to ALA every year!!

David G. Woolley said...

I work with kids who have stories to tell everyday. I see their fear. I know their pain. I also see their success. I love them. And I love their desire to excell.

Well done.

David G. Woolley

Unknown said...

Thanks for inviting me to check out your blog, Janette.

I remember my first author visit when I was in elementary school. I felt like a super star had just walked into the building! I used my little brain to try to figure out a way to stay in that auditorium as long as possible just so I could be near a real, live author. I think I volunteered to be the author's helper, and they let me stay for awhile. I'm walking proof that school visits can change lives. (Now I've just got to get a publisher to actually buy one of those manuscripts I've got floating around out there--wish me luck.)


Lynne's Somewhat Invented Life said...

Great story...not as funny as the last but great. You are so good to give your time to kids, I KNOW you have changed lives for the better.

Laurie LC Lewis said...

Great experiences like yours really send you back to the computer and make it all worthwhile. I hope you get thye opportunity to write his story.

Also, thanks for the sweet words about the baby!


Shaunda said...

Okay, so after your last post about Alane, I thought (while laughing/cringing), Do I really want that to happen to me? Well, first I need a school visit, and a book to visit with. ... But in that event, do I?

It's a tough call. ; )

I never knew being an children's author could be so full of danger, entrigue, and suspense (sounds like a plug for career-opening in the CIA).

Thank goodness, the good visits out-balance the bad.

Great site. I'll be back.

And of course, my daughter and I love your books, too.

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

What an inspiring post, Janette! Makes me want to finish my book all the more. What a great thing it is that you do.