Thursday, April 4, 2013

School Visits Revisited

There's nothing like being there--or is that, there's virtually nothing like being there--or better yet, there's nothing like being there "virtually".
Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting, via Skype, with the terrific fifth grade students of King's Grant Elementary School in Virginia Beach, VA.  I want to thank the Gifted Resource Teacher, Mrs. Peperak, and fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Jackson, for inviting me to speak with their students.  And I especially want to thank the kiddos for their warm welcome and full participation during our visits.  You made my day twice in one week!
My visit was made possible through a grant that Mrs. Peperak and Mrs. Jackson wrote and funded by Virginia Beach City Public Schools Building Futures Grant.  Their students were preparing to take the SOL (Standards of Learning) writing test, or "THE BIG SOL" as the teachers and students refer to it, and they wanted to invite authors to speak with the students about writing ideas, writing challenges, editing tips, and tips for staying on topic.  Needless to say, I was very excited when I got the call and happily accepted the invitation.
If you've ever Skyped with family or friends you already know that an in-person visit and a virtual visit are two different animals.  At any given moment during a virtual visit there can be connection problems or video and audio delays.  And for me, personally, the warmth of a personal visit just isn't quite there during a virtual visit.  I was a bit worried about there being a disconnect in that regard but, being one who doesn't shy away from technology and one who wouldn't want to disappoint the children, I was all in.
A quick practice-run with Ms. Wuesthoff, the computer geek... I mean, the Computer Resource Specialist at the school, and we were ready to go.  My worries faded and my excitement skyrocketed!
Both visits turned out wonderfully!  The students were prepared with some great questions for me and were very attentive as I told them about where I get ideas for my books and short stories, about my favorite genre and authors, and about being a publisher. 
I enjoyed hearing about their favorite books and the unique ideas they had for writing in their favorite genres.  To top it all off, we completed a MadLib together, because there's always time for silliness!  I challenged them to use the MadLib as a prompt and to continue the story as a way to practice for "THE BIG SOL" and for creative writing in general.
We did experience a few minor glitches during the visits but nothing that would make me shy away from the technology and especially nothing that would keep me from visiting with students.  I wouldn't pass up that opportunity for anything!  And so, I'm in the process of scheduling my next Skype visit, because there really is nothing like being there, even if it is virtually.
Thanks again to everyone at King's Grant Elementary School for your hospitality.  I will always remember my first virtual visit and how it was a success because of you.  I'm sending this virtual (hug) your way. Students please keep reading and writing, and teachers please keep doing what you're doing because your students are awesome! 
As always... stay cool!
Find out more about author visits on my Skype an AuthorNetwork page.


  1. Was this an author visit? It sounds like you had a great time as did the kids. Thanks for sharing. I have always wondered what happened during school visits.

    I am here from the blog hop. Thanks for joining in. I hope to see you again on the next hop.

    Sue @ (hostess)

    1. So glad you stopped by, Sue! Yes, we had a fun time. I think this is the best part about writing children's books!

      See you at the next hop!

  2. How awesome Martha
    I am so excited for you. I had a request for an author visit to a school in the US a few months ago from my website. I had to decline as I am in Australia. LOL, I mentioned skype but the teacher wasn't really up with it, but I have heard do many people doing it. I think it will be a great resource in the future, not to replace the author visit but to enhance it. Perhaps a visit then a skype follow too could also be a great avenue.
    Best wishes, Julie Grasso

    1. Hi Julie,
      Thanks for stopping by. I'm sorry that the teacher was not open to a Skype visit. It's definitely not the same as being in the classroom but it's a great alternative... expecially when you're so far away.

      When I lived in Hawaii, I did a few school visits at the school my daughter attended. Now that I'm back in Florida, we're going to do a Skype visit instead. Your idea of a follow up is a good one, especially if you give the kids a creative writing challenge, then they can read their stories to you!

  3. Oh, I'm a big, big fan of skype - it opens up so many opportunities. It is so amazing what is possible through technology. I agree that it is not the same thing as visiting in person, but it sure beats email or chats! I'm sure you made the kids' day too! Sounds like fun!

    Thanks for linking into the Kid Lit Blog Hop! Please check out our upcoming Kid Lit Giveaway Hop - sign-ups are now OPEN! Best, Renee

    1. Hi Renee!
      We really did have fun and I'm excited that I'm planning a visit with another school... this time I'm off to a tropical paradise... Hawaii. Aloha! Too bad I can't "actually" be there.

      I'll be signing up for the giveaway hop soon. Thanks again for your blog hops. They are loads of fun!