Here's what I've learned so far:
- That looking pointedly at a kid who is talking or passing notes will usually get them to stop.
- That sometimes it's okay to ignore the kid who mutters "gay" every time you pause, or who can't sit still or keep quiet.
- That sometimes the kids who mutter "gay" or who can't sit still ask the best questions.
- That some kids can reach the age of 17 without having read a book to the end (I gave one girl a book yesterday as a thank you for asking such a good question, and she looked at it and said maybe she would actually read it in a wondering tone)
- That a lot of teachers dream of getting published, or have husbands or kids who do.
- That you can make a screen by taping pieces of butcher paper on the wall.
- That the kids you least suspect are the ones who will come up afterward and shyly ask you to read their peom or story.
- That some kids, to paraphrase someone on the YALSA digest, are living lives we wouldn't let them read about. One of the kids yesterday at one of the two alternative high schools I visited was homeless. In Texas, I met a girl whose mom was in prison for drug dealing, and another whose step father was in prison for molesting her. They told me these stories without blinking.
- That middle school students are not quite as "cool" as high school students. They will ask you to sign pieces of paper or the back of their hands.
Here's what I haven't learned:
- A really good answer to "How much money do you make?"
- How not to get lost at least once when driving someplace more than two miles away.
If you do presentations, what have you learned and what have you yet to learn? [Full disclosure: And if you are a librarian or teacher, I would love to come to your school.]