Last Friday was Career Day at Centennial Middle School. It wasn’t an event planned just for me, but it was a great opportunity to get up in front of some classes as an actual Author.
I did a 30-minute powerpoint presentation SIX times — for groups of about 30 students each. I know I was there to give the “lesson” but I gotta tell you: I learned a lot of different things. Here are just a few, in no particular order.
1. If you show a slide of fresh, wet, dog poop, the girls will cover their eyes and the guys will cheer. (If you’re wondering why I showed them crap…I couldn’t think of anything better to represent my rough drafts.)
2. If you ask teens what SWAG is, they will refer to their own coolness. But, once you explain the marketing definition, they will all want free stuff. (I handed out bookmarks.)
3. If you want to give out something extra, I did this thing where I gave an OyMG magnetic poetry to the first person in each class who asked a question. I liked rewarding their bravery, and also felt like it was going to someone interested.
4. If you invite questions throughout the presentation, you’ll get more of them than if you wait until the end.
5. Kids love watching a dog pee on a lit cigarette. (It’s a scene from an anti-tobacco commercial from my advertising days.) In fact, kids just like watching things. The best parts of my presentation were things I brought to life visually.
6. Most common question from the kids: Why do you like to write about 8th graders?
7. Second most common question: Who are your favorite authors? (Cool thing about this: I said Judy Blume thinking I’d get blank stares. Instead, lots of kids knew who she is and agreed.)
8. If you begin to lose your mind and talk too fast, you’ll end up with extra “dead” time at the end of your presentation. If you want to spur a conversation, ask kids what books they’re reading. That was a fun discussion.
9. Teachers are even more underpaid than I realized. To say the same thing over and over SIX times, was brutal! My recommendation: Never agree to give more than FOUR presentations without some kind of break. (And a three-minute passing period doesn’t count.)
10. Not every kid in every class is going to hang on to your every word. That’s okay. Because even if you connect with just a couple of kids, it’s an amazing thing.