Monday, March 16, 2015

Taking the Stage

I'm nervous.

I've spent the day making sure that everything is in order for our visit from the One Book, One Philadelphia author Christina Baker Kline, author of the fantastic historical fiction novel Orphan Train. Emailing maintenance to make sure we have a registration table and microphones, asking students to come up with questions they want to ask of the author, and running around the building snapping pictures of teachers and students reading Orphan Train. I had quite a bit of fun with that last task. As teachers, students, and community members file into our auditorium tomorrow, I have a slideshow prepared of our community members reading Orphan Train, and snapping pictures throughout the day has also meant that I have had the opportunity to talk with so many different people about this story. There has been one common thread - we love this book!

A guidance counselor shared with me the story of discussing this book with her 90 year old mother, connecting over the history behind Vivian's tale. A tenth grader shared how she loved the parallel between Molly's story and Vivian's. A gym teacher nearly cried as she shared how this story helped her connect with an important young person in her life who shared a similar journey to that of Molly. Young and old, men and women, students and teachers from all walks of life connect to this story. There is something so moving about Vivian's journey, her struggles and decisions, her heart break and connections and the way in which young Molly is able to reach out and connect with her experiences across generations that touches all sorts of readers.

But, I am nervous.

I have the job of being moderator for tomorrow's program with Christine Baker Kline. It's not that this is my first time moderating an author presentation, but that doesn't seem to quell my nerves.  I have had the pleasure of moderating presentations authors Edwidge Danticat and Julie Otsuka made when they visited our campus in the past, but there is something about being so near the writers whose work I've admired, while also standing on stage in front of hundreds of people under a spot light. I mentioned this nervousness to a non-teacher not all that long ago who gave me a quizzical look. "Aren't you 'on stage' in front of people every day? Isn't teaching the same thing?"

My classroom is not a stage, and I don't put on a performance each day. Although I work with about 75 - 85 young people each day, it's not quite the same experience. As years pass, I find that I spend less and less of my time in front of the class. My nervousness about tomorrow alludes to my position in the classroom. I am not confident speaking in public. It is not something that comes naturally to me. I much prefer to be in the classroom working with people. So to prepare for tomorrow, I had my students help me brainstorm questions to ask of the author. And, not surprisingly, they came up with great questions about Ms. Baker Kline's writing inspiration and her process.

So I'm starting to feel a bit more prepared for tomorrow because when I go up on that stage, I'll take with me the stories shared with me by our community of readers about their connections to Orphan Train as well as the questions that my students generated. We've prepared for this together.

Okay, I'm more prepare but still nervous.
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