For all of us writing for kids, the Author Visit holds equal amounts of terror and excitement. Being there at ground zero, in the classroom or gym, up close with our audience…it’s adrenaline charging! But then the doubt and fear creep in: What if they don’t like me? What if the kids start to fidget from boredom? What if the teacher grows stone-faced because what I’m covering isn’t what she expected?
Author visits are a great time to encourage the love of reading and to enjoy interaction with our audience, so getting caught up in the mental worries is something we need to avoid. When I found out Jillian Terry was a retired teacher interested on blogging about her classroom experience, I asked her for tips to ensure both the audience and author walk away with a bounce in their step. So please, read on, because this is Author Visit GOLD!
THE AUTHOR VISIT
It’s not uncommon for professionals from all types of backgrounds to visit classrooms to give students some perspective on their area of expertise. It’s a nice opportunity for educators to break from the strictures of a daily curriculum so that students can hear firsthand from those who have benefited from a great education. A research scientist might visit a biology class to lecture students on current breakthroughs in the field, or perhaps an entrepreneur will visit students to explain how they started their business.
Along these lines, I thought it might be useful to reflect on what wisdom an author could impart upon a classroom. I never had an author visit my classroom during my time as an educator, but I think that a visit from a professional writer could have had a profound impact on my students. Let’s take a look at some of the ways how an author could make their visit to a classroom benefit students.
Share childhood stories about reading
I’m thinking about the phrase “leading by example” with this point. Perhaps one of the best ways that an author could begin their time with a classroom might be to share what they read as a child. Doing so could form an instant bond with the classroom—perhaps some of the author’s favorite books are favorites among kids in the class. Sharing childhood experiences will put the entire classroom at ease and will help to put students and the author on the same level. What’s more, hearing an author talk about their reading habits as a child might encourage some students to read more.
Explain and demystify the life of the writer
We all have that imagine of the stereotypical writer in our minds, the one perpetuated by all forms of media and entertainment: someone chained to a desk with a typewriter, empty cups of coffee, and endless balls of papers strewn about. A visiting author could do the classroom a favor by demystifying the idea of the writer by explaining just what they do on a day to day basis. The author could talk about writing schedules, dealing with publishers and agents, or what they do in their spare time. Sharing this type of information helps students learn to humanize a profession that might seem too abstract or lofty for them to attain.
Affirm that everyone has trouble writing occasionally
Writing can be one of the most difficult areas to teach students, especially if they aren’t too keen on reading. Part of the difficulty stems from students feeling like they aren’t “smart enough” to write or the misconception that they lack any thoughts worth sharing. Authors can dispel this insecurity by sharing their own struggles with writing. If an author were to share their stories of writer’s block, or explain how they, too, have bad days when they feel like they can’t write anything, perhaps it will make students feel more at ease about their own writing anxieties. Again, it’s all about humanizing the profession and making it less intimidating than it seems, and writing can take all the humanization it can get.
Inspire students to work towards their dreams
Above all, professionals do these visits to inspire students to do great things in their own lives. The takeaway from nearly every one of these career day-style visits is, “If I can make it, so can you. Stay in school, study hard and anything is possible.” An author could add their voice to that chorus by explaining how their passion for reading and writing led them to their vocation and giving hope to kids who share the same interests. Students could hear firsthand from someone who makes a living by writing about what they want to write about; and if that won’t inspire some students, then I don’t know what will.
Jillian Terry is a former educator turned freelancer who writes about higher education, the college experience, US history, and much more for teachingdegree.org among other sites. Feel free to send any comments her way!
WOW! A BIG thank you to Jillian for so kindly sharing all of this with us. I have been in the classroom a few times, but I plan on applying these lessons to make sure I take every opportunity to make it a hit! Have you spent time in the classroom? What did you find worked well to keep the audience engaged? Please share your experience in the comments!
**A small note: I’m guest posting over at The Write Now! Coach blog. I hope you’ll swing on by for my advice on What Makes Characters Stand Out To Readers.