I’m in the middle of an art lesson. Bryson says loudly, “No, dude. The planet.” I stop and look over at him. Then, I get the joke. They got me. All the boys are on the floor laughing. I’ve lost them, again.
Thanks to my magazine articles and an upcoming nonfiction book, I’ve been getting requests to talk to local classrooms. What am I going to say? How can I keep them interested in all the knowledge that I want to share? Is there any thing I can do to prevent losing them?
I’ve created and presented Art Appreciation lessons for over 12 years. I’ve created and taught several After School Enrichment classes for the past 6 years. Most cases, the teacher or a mom helper has been in the room. I’ve taught for an after-school Art program for almost two years - teaching at several schools each week and subbing all around the western Chicago suburbs. In those classes, it’s just me. I’ve had my share of challenges. After one class, a teacher walked by as I was putting up the artwork and said, “That must be Michael’s.” I said, “Yes, it is. Are you his teacher?” She responded, “Yup, and good luck with that.” The class was full of Michaels.
This week, I discovered several websites and blogs filled with information on how to give classroom presentations. Children’s book authors and illustrators are so giving of their time and expertise. The town I live in has hosted several Author festivals. I was fortunate to be able to sit in on many classroom presentations; even made a few author friends through the years, too. When possible, I watched presentations in my own child’s class - my own personal focus group. (One very popular author totally “bombed” according to my son, an eight grade student at the time. The author’s talk was geared for elementary school students not middle schoolers... or, at least, we thought third graders might have laughed at the jokes.) I’ve been a guest at several career days, talking to several eight-grade classes at a time - always an attentive and engaging audience.
Other lessons I have learned:
- When the power goes out in the building, the whole class screams. (I thought turning the lights out quieted them.)
- When one student has to sharpen a pencil, the whole class does, too. (Yes, my pencil box has all sharpened pencils.)
- When one student has to go to the bathroom, the whole class does, too.
- When one student asks to hand out papers, the whole class does, too.
- When Gracie jumps up and down and shouts “Mrs. Lewis, Mrs. Lewis, Mrs. Lewis”, she’s going to say, “I like pumpkin pie... and lemon pie... and strawberry pie...”
- If there is any way they can glimpse at your lesson, they will see it - and tell the class what you are going to teach before you start.
- If one child asks to erase the board, they’re all going to drop everything and race up to help.
- And, finally, there’s always one child who you think is going to be handful who winds up totally surprising you - and that makes you smile all the way home.
While telling a friend about my trying day, I said, “The entire class was driving me nuts.” Argh. Another word to delete out of my brain. Wish me luck.