This past Thursday I had my first school visit! I went back to my alma mater Nichols Middle School to talk to the bookclubs and a couple of the LA/Lit classes. I saw many of my old teachers who were all very happy to see me! It was very strange being back though. I felt like I had gone back in time. (Mixed feelings about that…middle school was not the best time of my life!)
I had three different experiences at the school. I went to 2 classes of the same teacher. There I stopped by for 5 minutes to say who I was, talk about the book, and then open the floor for questions. Many of the students wanted to know how I got my idea for the book and where I went to school! It was very cute.
At the other teacher’s class, however, I was given 20 minutes! I introduced myself and the book like in the other class, but then I read a chapter from The Healing Pool. I decided next to give a creative writing exercise. I gave them 2 prompts and 5 minutes to start either a scene, a story, or develop a character. The seventh graders didn’t know what to do with that much freedom, so they all started a story! Many of them shared what they wrote which was a mix from a couple sentences to a whole plot in a paragraph. They seemed to enjoy it, but I think they were happier to have something fun and creative versus a book report! I ended my time with a little speech about inspiration and how we shouldn’t take anything for granted. Anything can give us the opportunity for inspiration. I also made it clear that inspiration should be for anything creative, not just writing. I know that writing does not resonate with everyone so I wanted them to know that music or dance or poetry or visual art can all be inspired from every day events. Always be open to inspiration!
The book clubs were lots of fun. Many of the students were writers so they talked about what they were writing and what they liked to read. They were also very particular! I told them how enough punctuation errors can make a book seem sloppy and can ruin the book, and several students already had examples of books with spelling errors! Yes, people, middle schoolers are paying attention!
I left most of my topics pretty open for the students. I was lucky that most of them had questions that I was able to elaborate on. I know that many authors bring presentations with them, but I didn’t want to do that for this crowd. The kids see enough power point presentations and listen to people talk at them in class enough as it is. I wanted them to talk and do so that they felt apart of the process and I felt like I reached them on their level. I do not know how I will structure my next school visit, but I hope that students will continue to respond to a more open approach.