Musings on School Author Visits (and a wedding)…

 

I’ve been doing a few school author visits this month, as well as mentoring some young writers, and I’ve been musing…

  1. Small rural schools are a lovely thing; with fewer than 200 students, every adult in the building knows the kids, and that makes it an easier environment in which to be a kid, I’m pretty sure. Class sizes are typically smaller, and it just feels more like family than the bigger schools. It’s sad that as a cost-saving thing, school boards are amalgamating such small schools, leading to longer bus rides for kids and what must be overwhelming crowds for a lot of kids who value their personal space.
  2. Kids are aware of the scary, addictive nature of the internet. While visiting one middle school, a  girl approached me after my presentation, seeking my advice on how to avoid being sucked into the Google vortex while trying to write a story. On the spot, the only advice I could give was to use Google as a reward – say, after you’ve written a couple of pages, allow yourself a few minutes of internet time. Amazing that she’s so self-aware at age 12.
  3. Kids want to be good and want to learn. At that same school, three students approached me as they were leaving (on their own initiative) and apologized for their misbehavior (which I hadn’t even noticed since it was a large group), explaining that they’ve been diagnosed with ADHD.
  4. Calling out students who are inattentive, by mentioning they’ve made themselves outstanding by being the only one in the room without a “listening face” as I call it, is effective. Probably makes me some enemies, but maybe they’ll learn something about being polite, rather than trying to drag others off-task with them. I’m always happy to put on my teacher hat when required:)
  5. The absence of school librarians is noticeable. The middle school above (500 students) does have a librarian, and the library is so well-used, especially at lunchtime, partially as a quieter refuge from the noisy cafeteria. One school I visited has a parent volunteer to supplement the few allotted librarian hours, which is awesome. The good thing is, most kids do have a public library card (and hopefully have somebody to take them to the library occasionally…)
  6. Couldn’t resist adding this gem from today: A student told me about a friend of hers who keeps a list of lines for picking up girls (they’re 12). The one that made me laugh out loud: Getting out a pocket mirror, showing the to-be-wooed girl her face in it, and asking: “Does your father know you stole the stars from the sky and put them in your eyes?” You can’t make that stuff up!
  7. Kids are the best, and I’m so happy I get to write books for young readers. Sharing in their enthusiasm and energy for life is a real treat.
  8. Shout-out to Linda Hudson of the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia who makes these school visits possible through their Writers in the Schools (WITS) program, and to all the adults who make the time to arrange for authors to visit. But mostly, thank you to the students who show up (for the most part) with their “listening faces.”

And I couldn’t resist putting in a few wedding pics from Shannon and Peter’s October 20th country wedding at Peter’s home. Such a wonderful day; my heart was/is full!

Our new, LARGE extended family in Tyrone, ON

The bride making her bouquet in this DIY country wedding.

Proud and happy parents – a new son!

Our four kids – two by birth, two by marriage – love them!

Lots of musicians (and dancers) in the crowd.

Mr. and Mrs. Vooys!

 

 

 

Kids Are Still Kids

jan-coates-2I’ve been doing some school author visits lately, and it’s always interesting walking into a classroom full of strangers, most often from grades primary to eight for me. I like kids, their honesty, energy and enthusiasm, and doing school visits really inspires my writing; it’s a great research opportunity. For the most part, students are attentive, and they can ask some pretty funny questions, often about my dog since I include Charlie in my PowerPoint, along with my other family members, the people who help me be a writer on a daily basis. Giving four presentations in a day pretty much tires me out – how do teachers do it day after day?

The thing that always strikes me is that kids are still readers and they’re still p1000574kids, despite the internet, technology, etc. that brings the world to their fingertips regularly. There are still shy kids (often those paying closest attention), bold kids looking for a laugh, in-between kids, and, sadly, left-out kids. Middle-school students are still trying to figure out their place in the group; the “cool” kids are still trying to stand out in various ways and venturing into the confusing, yet thrilling, world of relationships.

 

I always browse the bulletin boards at schools. I took these pics when visiting a school in BC during TD Book Week last year. One thing I’m careful about these days is to never gender-specify when calling p1000578on a student. There are always plenty of volunteers willing to share their writing, and it’s not always the “out-there” kids you might expect. I ask volunteers who want to present to write their own names on the board. One grade 8 student, in a classroom featuring a rainbow flag, proudly told me they’d made up the spelling of their name – Jaycob. Generally, it seems like kids today are a lot more free to express themselves, to be who they want to be than in my long-ago school days, when everybody seemed to be conservative and fairly conforming. Maybe I’m being naive, but I’m cautiously optimistic that this means the adults of the future will be more accepting and open… What do you think?