December 15, 2019- School Author Visits
Being an author of books for children, school visits have become a regular part of my schedule. Since my first book was published nearly 10 years ago, I have averaged 6 to 8 school visits a year. That adds up to a lot of author visits and school presentations. And they never get boring or routine.
Since I am not a full-time author, that does mean taking time off from my full-time job in order to fit in these visits. As an educator, this also means being very careful to keep these two roles separate. Even if I am visiting a school within my own district, I take a personal day so I am clearly on my own time, not my school district’s time.
This week I had two such visits planned. Although scheduled on the same day, these two author visits were decidedly different.
The first one was a morning visit at a local elementary school. The 4th Graders had read my book Saving Home as part of their Florida History studies, and in preparation for their field trip to St. Augustine. They had finished the book, and had already taken their field trip when I visited this week. I met with nearly 150 students and we talked about reading, writing, and history. I shared the process of creating Saving Home; everything from the research and planning to the actual publication process. We talked about the Siege of 1702 in St. Augustine and what they saw when they were on their field trip. I shared some “behind the scenes” information on the book, and they asked wonderful questions. Many of the students also had their own copies of my book which they asked me to autograph.
The second one was actually a virtual presentation, done from my home office that same afternoon, to a group of 8th Graders as part of their Career Studies Day. For this one I had a power point presentation ready and we focused more on the process of writing and publication. The skills needed to be a writer; the world of publication; the life of an author. They also asked some wonderful questions and it was fabulous to be a part of their exploration of career paths.
While both were wonderful and I loved interacting with the students, the virtual one was definitely more of a challenge for me. I love the tools that technology has given us- video conferencing, the ability to meet with those far away, the chance to be someplace without actually having to travel there. Clearly these technology tools have made interactions possible that otherwise would have been nearly impossible. But the challenges were real- at least for me.
When I typically do a school presentation, I am up standing and walking around. I am interacting with the students through eye contact, body language, and questions. While not impossible, many of these things are challenging to do during a video conference. The students though, seemed totally at ease with the Web based Conferencing. This is a testament to the world of technology in which they have grown up. The tools and technology that are much more natural to their teenage lives than they are to my 60-year old self.
However, it is good to get out of our comfort zones and stretch ourselves. In reflecting, there were things that went well, but definitely things I would do differently. After all, that is the point of life experiences. To learn, to grow, and to continue to move forward. And perhaps if I get more proficient with video conferencing, I can conduct author visits to schools that are more than a few hours from Central Florida!