IDENTIFY YOUR AUDIENCE
If you’ve worked with students in classrooms before, then you’ll know which grade level you’re most comfortable visiting. Some authors might prefer working in elementary classrooms rather than secondary ones, just given age ranges, as well as the types of stories they write.
DEVELOP YOUR CONTENT
Aim to create a few key ‘mini writing workshop’ ideas that can easily be woven into the curriculum expectations that need to be covered by the teacher(s) at certain grade levels. You can get a sense of curriculum expectations by checking out your province’s Ministry of Education curriculum documents, just so you know what teachers are covering in different grade levels. If you can mention a few curriculum expectations in terms of how they link directly to your particular workshop(s), then you may be able to secure a classroom visit more easily.
These mini writing workshops don’t have to be too complex in nature. Try to incorporate some interactive aspects into your visit and workshop so that students get a chance to listen, write, and then maybe even share their writing with you and their classmates.
It’s always wise to “chunk” the time that you have in a class. Here’s one possible way to do it so that everyone feels comfortable:
Introduce yourself and tell a bit about the books you’ve written and published;
Schedule in some time to read your work – 10-15 minutes gives students a sense of your work without boring them
Schedule in a bit of time for any questions that students might have – again, 10-15 minutes might be enough time, but if students have been studying your book in their classes, they may actually have more questions for you;
Speak a bit about your career path as a writer. Sometimes students are really interested in hearing how writers ‘became’ writers because they tend to think that career paths are linear or set in stone.
SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR CONNECTING WITH TEACHERS AND SCHOOLS:
Choose a couple of schools that are near to where you live. You can begin to create close networking relationships with certain schools in your geographic area.
Connect with a school board’s communication officer. Check on a school board’s website to find the appropriate contact person. It’s best to try to reach out via phone at some point, if you can, because sometimes emails can get overwhelming. The people who are in those positions within school boards will be able to send off emails to all schools—and all teachers—within their respective boards. In Ontario, for instance, you would have French and English public and Catholic schools. A communications officer can send out your message to every teacher in each respective board.
Search online for a list of all the schools in your area. Call schools individually to see if they have teacher librarians. These should be listed on school websites, under “Faculty” or “Staff.” The office administrator at each school will usually be your best contact, as they know the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of a school. There have been cuts to school libraries and teacher librarians over recent years, but if a school has a teacher librarian, then they can act as your liaison person. The alternative contact would likely be the Program Leader or Department Head of English if you’re considering a secondary school visit.
Once you’ve visited a specific teacher’s classroom, then you’ll be able to stay in touch throughout the year. A good idea is to wait until September is fully out of the way, as it’s one of the most hectic months in a teacher’s academic year. Teachers are always looking for ways to make the curriculum come to life in new and exciting ways. Having authors visit is exciting for both educators and their students. Sending a thank you note, with a reminder that you’d like to book a follow up visit in a few weeks (or months), is a way to ensure that you continue to build a rapport with specific people inside the schools and school boards. This relationship will then be one you can return to over the coming years, knowing that you’ve established a connection.