Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In the words of Pappy O'Daniel


Anyway. The character-building exercise at Snow Springs Elementary in Lehi yesterday went very well. Jody Kyburz and her fellow teachers did an awesome job of preparing the students (who were wonderfully attentive and eager to participate) for an author visit, and consequently, we all got something out of it. I can't remember a better school visit.

Actually, maybe I'll address the topic of school visits today, although I started out thinking about something else, morally fiberally speaking. So here goes.

When I first started making school visits, I didn't demand much because I didn't want to look like a Raging Egomaniac (egomaniac--my grandma used to use that word!) Writer Diva Person. I also felt like it was wrong at some level to take money from a public school. So I was all whatever is fine. Don't pay me. Don't read my books. I'll just show up, do my thing, and turn the lights out for you afterwards.

Then one day the luminous Ivy Ruckman (wonderful Utah writer who paved the way for many other Utah writers) called and said, "Listen, doll. If you charge for your visit, you'll be amazed at how much BETTER the whole thing will be for everybody. Suddenly they'll have a slide projector that works and suddenly the students will have been prepped and suddenly everyone is much more engaged because AN AUTHOR IS VISITING!"

Well. I didn't believe Ivy. I was committed to being a "good person"--the kind who does everything for free. Until one day I showed up to do an event at a junior high school where the teacher wasn't even there. She'd just left me directions in the main office and oh btw would I take roll and could I stay a couple more periods? In other words, I was an unpaid substitute teacher for kids who had no idea who I was and who didn't care.

And so I started to make a few simple demands after that. 1) ask teachers to read or make my books familiar to students, 2) ask teachers to publicize the visit, and 3) ask for a fee, even if it's pretty nominal.

The take-away here? I don't like to fuss much. But it turns out that sometimes people want to fuss. Sometimes people need to fuss. And sometimes all that fussing can be nourishing for all involved.

Who knew?


Louise Plummer said...

This is so true. And I liked reading Ivy Ruckman's name again.

I spoke at a junior high school in Lehi years ago and every time I made an auditorium of 8th graders laugh, the teachers yelled at them to shut up. Not as nice an experience as you had.

Lisa B. said...

This is fantastic advice. A poet friend of mine once said he no longer just agreed to show up for things. His way of putting it, when people asked him to come do this and that, was to say, delicately, "Do you have a budget?" And you know, he's right. (Not quite sure I have learned this lesson myself, actually. Thanks for reminding me.)

Emily said...

This is something I've learned all the way across the board. People should be paid for 'what they do.' We should never expect things for free when it's that person's JOB!

A friend of mine teaches piano lessons to my kids. She doesn't want to charge me but does because she, wisely, knows we'll take it more serious if we're paying for it.

Guess what, she's right.

Anna said...

It's amazing what an incentive those $$ can be. I teach piano lessons and love what I do. My tuition is enough that my students' parents take me seriously and there is a lot more parent support for practicing at home. I think your experience is very telling -- better preparation on the part of the teacher and students, better participation once you are there, and it is all around more fun. One of my students today decided being prepared for her lesson was way more fun than coming and feeling frustrated because she hadn't practiced. Gee!

BBB said...

So since I had my baby in June, I've kind of been MIA. But I still visit you here at the Writer's Corner. Now that little Olive is three months and mostly sleeping through the night, I've come up for air and am living in the real world again.

I read your TV posts and wanted to comment but didn't know if you'd see if commented back in there original posts. So here goes...
I recently got Season 1 of THE GOOD WIFE from the Library. I love.

First episode of THE OFFICE was hilarious and I had high hopes... and then... disappointment.

I'm really liking THE NEW GIRL.
I'm going to check out PERSON OF INTEREST.
I'm liking PAN AM - Have you tried that one yet?
UP ALL NIGHT - Massively big disappointment.
Agree with you about CASTLE.
Fingers crossed for MODERN FAMILY as well.
Kinda disappointed with COMMUNITY so far.

And now that I'm officially a couch potato and not working off my 'baby phat' I'll stop there. LOL.

Happy TV couching.

James said...

Today's post is good advice. I insist on payment when:
1. I sing into the can over yonder; and
2. well thats about it.
I think I will take the advice and apply to my real life.

Kamp Kyburz said...

Great post! A woman from Norway once commented on how excited Americans become when they are able to buy a pair of pants for three dollars. Her issue? The human being who crafted those pants deserves to be paid more than three dollars. It's a great thought. Gives new perspective on the whole "honest in your dealings with your fellow men" thing.

Donna said...

I am learning this the hard way. And by the way it is so true....when you show people that you value yourself by asking to be paid for the service you provide. I have had to work so hard to charge people, mostly because I have always fed people for free, and now we are making a living at it? So hard....but when we charge a fair price everyone treats us differently. You did good, and I am so grateful you shared...it is so good to know how others are making the journey.

LucindaF said...

Come to my boys elementary school. I will pay you a billion dollars. And yes, I have that much money. I just print it like the fed does.