Thursday, April 14, 2011

A day at a middle school

This is sort of how I spent my day. I spoke to three groups of 7th graders at Kerr Middle School in Burleson, Texas, today--and my hat is off to all middle school teachers, most of all mydaughter-in-law Lisa who is in the trenches every day. The kids were, for the most part, polite, engaged and a delight. Oh yeah, there was always an undertone of conversation buzzing around, but the teachers were really in control. A few students got pulled from the sessions, others got reprimanded--they had to sit up (no lying on the floor) and pay attention and, most of all, button their lips. I was talking about my y/a historical novel, Sam Houston is My Hero. Seventh-grade students study Texas history so they knew all about Sam Houston and the Runaway Scrape, which made it easier. As I always do, I tried to let them teach the class. I gve them the basic facts of a story I had started with--a young girl, age 12, who rode across Austin's Colony after the fall of the Alamo (where her father died) telling men they had to join Houston and fight for Texas. It's a scrap of history based on little more than hearsay but I thought it made a good story. After having talked to the students about what they were reading and writing, I challenged them to take those bare facts and write three or four sentences about how they would have completed the story (that's what they're doing in the picture). Their answers included paranormal elements, zombies, and all kinds of fanciful things. Then I told them why I did what I did, how I submitted the book for publication, what the publication process it, etc. And then we were into a discussion of publishing. Each of the three groups had a personality of its own--questions were plentiful in some, like pulling teeth in others. Thank heaven for teachers who jumped in with questions of their own. But some of the youngsters asked really thoughtful questions, and only one asked about the money I make. I always welcome a chance to tell them authors are NOT rich, at least most of them. I asked what they were reading and of course it was Harry Potter, the Hunger Games (actually required reading in 8th grade), and Stephanie Meyer. They are not into history, although one teacher told me she heard a girl say, "I'm going to read that book." Hey, success!
The assistant to the city director shepherded me all day, picking me up, taking me for lunch, bringing me home. Kellye is a delightful and most accomplish young woman with lots of repsonsibiities. We had a good visit, and I hope to keep in touch with her--but you know how those things go.
I had given up speaking in public because it made me nervous, but lately I've been dipping my toe in again. Thanks to Jim Lee, who always told me he didn't know why I got nervous because I did a good job at it. So today was another exercise  in stretching my boundaries--and I felt good about it.
But, boy, was I tired when I came home. I started checking the 96 emails I had waiting and literally caught myself falling asleep over my computer. A two-hour nap refreshed me some, but I will be early to bed tonight. Lisa, how do you do it (other than being a lot younger than I am!)?
Tonight I'm piddling--Facebook, Twitter, emals, reading the last of this morning's paper. Nope, no great American novel today--once again, life gets in the way.

1 comment:

Amy M. said...

Thank you so much for coming to our school! It was a wonderful day. We enjoyed having you and are so very grateful that you would give of your time to share your stories and knowledge to enrich our students' learning. And...I learned a ton as well! Ordered your cookbook today:)