Saturday, October 25, 2008

Let's hear it for the teachers!

 I have been doing an unusual amount of school and bookstore visits these days.   (Which of course means I've been doing an unusually small amount of writing, but don't tell the editors, okay?)  I like doing the visits because it means I get to connect with the readers, and hear what they like and don't like about the books.  (And no one tells you what they don't like quite like kids do!) But last week I visited a Barnes and Noble in my old hometown of Cherry Hill, NJ, and spent the evening being the guest speaker at an Educator's Reception.  What an interesting night!
First of all, let me say that it is humbling being in a room of teachers.  These are the folks in the trenches, working with kids every day. Teachers have it hard these days.  The whole No Child Left Behind thing, with its endless tests, has made it hard for the teachers to impart any real knowledge. They have to teach for the tests, and that makes it hard to keep the learning fun.  And yet, they keep on trying, searching for new ways to reach students, particularly those who don't ordinarily want to read.  Teachers really deserve to be making a whole lot more than they do.  What's up with a world where a single baseball player earns more than a whole school system's worth of teachers, anyway?
My job at the Barnes and Noble that night was to explain to these teachers how they could use my books in their classrooms.  That was a tough one for me, since I don't exactly write "message books."  My stories have very few morals at the end. I just want kids to learn to read for the fun of it.  So I keep the humor flowing, throw in a few personality and romance quizzes (in the How I Survived Middle School series) and try to make the characters as fresh and realistic as I can.  And that's what I told the teachers.  I just want kids to feel like the characters in the books are people they know, and want to keep in touch with.  For some reason, the teachers seemed to feel those were the kinds of the books kids needed these days.  Like all the rocom writers who blog on this site, they wanted kids to know that reading was something that could be fun, not just something you had to get really good at for the  statewide tests.
So, while you are sitting there at your computers, wondering if anyone really appreciates the fact that you can give a kid a good laugh, or a good cry, or an afternoon where she feels a little less lonely, know that the teachers do appreciate what you do.  And take a little time to appreciate them, too.  Okay?




Debbie Rigaud said...

Here, here! I second that. Teachers deserve our respect and appreciation. Not to mention, they deserve higher pay. Here's to you, teachers!

Kelly McClymer said...

Absolutely! I just spoke to a group of librarians, and they're the same way. They see the impact that the books have on kids, and they know how the right book can mean everything to a kid.