Tag Archive for James Preller Zoom Visits
Fan Mail Wednesday #323: A Great Teacher, A Wonderful “Thank You,” & Another School Year Comes to a Close
One thing I’ve noticed — and I bet you’ve noticed it, too — is how rarely we receive “thank you” notes anymore. In any form. Not handwritten, not via email, not even a quick text.
People are busy and otherwise preoccupied and that kind of thing seems to be vanishing. The world is a poorer place for it.
Not that I need a thank you, but I notice when it’s not there.
As a driver, when I pause to let another car into “my” lane, or allow a pedestrian to pass, I always look for the little wave. That simple act that says, I see you.
I’ll continue to do those small things regardless of a response. But jeez, people. Where’s my little wave? Would it kill you?
Enough of the preamble, let’s go to the main event.
This package came the other day. I recognized that it was from a second-grade teacher in Ohio, Rose. I had enjoyed a paid Zoom visit with her class about two months back (one of Rose’s old friends had gifted me to her — even though all she ever wanted was a motorcycle).
Oooooh, fancy paper.
It’s a handcrafted hamster! Rose had
threatened promised to send one. Each year — I think I’ve got this right — Rose reads Jigsaw Jones: The Case of Hermie the Missing Hamster with her class. And each year they make their own hamsters. In Rose’s classroom, literature meets art. Rose probably includes science, too, teaching about real hamsters. It’s called cross-curricular learning. Or maybe just “fun,” depending upon whom you ask.
That’s not all. The package included a card, signed by the entire class.
So kind — and what a warm activity for these young students to share. Reflection and gratefulness and thanksgiving. “We love books!”
I received photos, too. Can’t show them all.
But here’s another!
And lastly, maybe best of all, the handwritten note.
Pretty great, right? How lucky am I?
So here we are, late June, summer begins and another school year ends. As always, I am grateful to every teacher who shared my books with young readers. I couldn’t survive in this bunny-eat-bunny business if not for you — promoting literacy and a love of reading.
We recognize in this one package the profound difference that one teacher can make in a classroom, modeling positive social behaviors — again: reflection, appreciation, thankfulness, manners. Think of the difference that dozens of teachers make in a school, and hundreds make in our communities, and hundreds of thousands make in our world.
Rose is just one person, a humble second-grade teacher, loving those kids, managing through a pandemic, doing her level best — impacting her students and giving us all more reasons to hope for the kinder, more gentle future.
Please, don’t thank me, Rose.
Thank you, teachers, everywhere.
In the best of times, my creativity ebbs and flows. This past month, I’ve found it difficult to put a post together. Part of that is my own distracted, short-circuited mind; another aspect is a nagging sense that few people care anyway. I guess a lot of writers feel that way from time to time, though my case has been acute of late. Strangely, I’ve still been actively writing manuscripts. Good ones, too, I think. But I am a little disheartened about my place the industry; I’m just not confident that my recent stories will see the light of day. What’s a writer to do? A strange place to find myself after spending the past 35 years in the children’s book world. On the positive side, I completed a prequel/sequel to my middle grade novel Bystander, titled Upstander, which should come out sometime next year. No cover yet, still waiting to see what that will look like.
So if you are here now, reading this — thanks for that. I hope to never take you for granted.
I generally cut back on ye olde blog posts in the summer, since a lot of my traffic seems to revolve around the school year. I’ll still post when I’m moved to do so, or if something spectacular comes up, though for the most time it’ll be quiet. But before we all pitch tents in our backyards, I wanted to share with you a publicity letter I wrote to “select” educators who expressed interest in my new book, All Welcome Here, illustrated by the legendary Mary GrandPre.
ALL WELCOME HERE: A LETTER TO EDUCATORS
As an author who has worked in children’s books for more than half my life, I’ve visited hundreds of schools across the country. I always come away with a good feeling in my heart, not only because of the students, who are amazing, but also because of the vibrancy and intimacy of the classroom. I’m moved by the good work that people like you are doing, day after day, year after year, sometimes under extremely challenging circumstances. Online learning anyone?
Teachers can be counted on to open their hearts and their classrooms to every child who comes through that door. All those values we hold close to our core -– empathy, inclusion, kindness, community –- become a living reality in your classroom. This is the great promise of the American Experiment played out before our eyes. It truly works, you’ve seen it, and it’s beautiful.
I was inspired to write All Welcome Here early in 2016. The world as I knew it felt fractured and divided. Today, four years later, it seems all but shattered. But together we’re picking up the pieces, working to cobble together a better, brighter, more loving and ethical land of the free.
Please think of this book as my thank you for that great effort. I know you work hard to foster those values in your school community. Hopefully this book, so gorgeously illustrated by Mary GrandPre, will serve as a springboard for positive conversations between you and your students. Also, I hope that you find it to be entertaining, and funny, and joyful. Jon-Kim spilling his crayons, Chloe’s laughter, and the way a shy girl tentatively makes a new friend. Even the shaving cream behind Principal K’s ear. This book is my tribute to those everyday moments that happen in your school lives, day after day, year after year. Thank you for your valuable work.
Be safe, stay healthy, and good luck!
I’ve enjoyed several Zoom and Google Meets Visits over the past few weeks. Some have been particularly meaningful, I think, making me a true convert to the value and impact of a properly structured Zoom Visit.
To me, the key figure in an online visit is the teacher. It is the teacher who inspires, who prepares, who builds anticipation, and who actively moderates (thank you, “mute button!”) an online visit. A Zoom Visit with one class can be a profoundly (and surprisingly) intimate experience. It is very much like stepping into a classroom for a loose, easy-going conversation between students and author.
And guess what? In normal times, that never happens. There’s no time for a visiting author to move from classroom to classroom; instead, we present to entire grades or multiple grades: hundreds of students at one time. That’s awesome and powerful, too. But a Zoom Visit can be inspirational in its own unique way. A standard in-person presentation is a broadcast with a short Q & A tagged on at the end; a Zoom Visit is more interactive, featuring more of a direct one-on-one connection.
I recently heard from an enthusiastic teacher on Long Island who wrote to me after a visit with her class. She said:
“I had to share some more feedback I have received from parents . . . you truly have influenced many of my students. I realize the technology was a bit of a pain, but the outcomes are so worth it! I cannot thank you enough for your time and inspiring words!!”
She included some follow-up emails from parents:
“Danny was so jazzed up after this he wants our whole family to write a book. He has assigned us all jobs to do and he is the author. I never would’ve thought that he’d be so into this. Thank you again. I haven’t seen him this excited about something in a while.”
“Super inspirational!!! And so so patient. Like when they asked the author similar questions he just patiently answered! It’s inspiring us (at home) to maybe build a mini library!”
Note: I believe I talked about my love of Little Free Libraries, which I featured in Jigsaw Jones: The Case from Outer Space. Pretty cool if a family reads my book and turns around to build one of their own. That’s the literacy connection, how books bring us together and help build communities.
My point here is not to toot my own horn (though, obviously, I’m doing that), but to express again that I AM SOLD ON ZOOM VISITS.
I think we’ve still got to figure out the money — it has to be very affordable, but at the same time “more than free.” We can individualize visits, or even create recurring visits, around concrete themes. For example: haiku poems. We could talk about them, share them, learn together. Or writing mysteries. Last week I enjoyed a visit with a Texas librarian that centered around dialogue.
In short, I think it’s more productive to think of a Zoom Visit not as “the James Preller show” but more of a unique way to bring an author into your classroom to directly connect with and inspire your students.
Feel free to write to me at email@example.com to discuss it. I’m open and flexible and eager to meet your students.
THANKS AGAIN FOR STOPPING BY!