I recently spoke to a fourth grade class about writing. They’re the accelerated writing group so they were already interested in the topic, luckily.
Oddly, I was more nervous about this than many other public talks I’ve given. One could make the case that I broadcasted live every day for my job to a potential viewership of a million residents in the state, though in actuality it was more like 50,000 morning show viewers.
However, I was in the studio with five other people and a handful of cameras, so that’s not quite the same. A more parallel example is that I’ve emceed events with 800 people in the room.
But a couple dozen nine year olds? I rewrote my script four times!
My husband listened to me practice and told me, “Too many words. Keep it simple.” My daughter would lose interest. I’d revise after each.
The day came, and it turns out Claus was wrong. I budgeted 20 minutes for a tight presentation, but the teacher allocated 90! Luckily, I can ad lib, so I ended at 60 minutes.
I can’t believe I was intimidated by kids, but here’s the thing: they’re super honest. Unlike adults, they don’t try to hide it when you’re boring. The last thing I wanted was a paper airplane soaring across the room in the middle of my speech.
I think I did OK. The kids were good listeners, and I had video, pictures, props, lots of questions for them, and handouts to keep it varied.
I told them writing set the foundation for my life, and that I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil. I like it for many reasons: I like to inform, educate, or entertain people.
I like to express my ideas in an organized way. I like to put my thoughts on paper to help me sort out my feelings about a situation.
Most of the good things I have in my life come from my writing. My career is built on writing, my family comes as a result of it because I met my husband on a story, and my inner peace is aided by my journaling. It’s cathartic, relaxing, and creative for me.
I showed them photos of famous people I’ve met or interesting opportunities I’ve had because I had a job that was based on writing well. I think it opened their eyes to the possibilities.
The person they liked the most was Seattle Seahawks’ Michael Bennett, followed by some oohs that I interviewed then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama. The other photo they really liked was of me holding a green sea turtle at work.
With their teacher’s approval, I created a writing contest. I talked about how to be a food reviewer, and told them I’d post the top three essays in this blog. It could even be about their mom’s cooking (word to the wise: it better be a glowing write up).
They were very excited about a quasi-professional endeavor. I’m excited, too.
While it was more intimidating to speak to grade schoolers, it is also more impactful. These are people I might actually have an influence on. It’d be nice to find out that one of these kids became a famous writer in 15 years.
Stay tuned. There are student blogs to come!