A few years ago, I decided to ditch my award winning radio advertising job, and shortly afterwards starting taking the message of my children’s book, ‘Being You is Enough’ to primary school kids across Western Australia.
So instead of boardroom niceties, I’ve now get called fat, told I’m old and a liar and I get farted at on regular occasions.
Even though that wasn’t in the job description of being a touring children’s author, I wouldn’t swap it for the world.
People have this idea that children’s authors sit in a big easy chair reading their book to a bunch of wide eyed 8-year olds, and then go home to have a polite cup of chamomile. That’s what I used to think anyway.
However, for me (and most other kid’s authors I know), the reality is very different.
When I visit schools, I’m a travelling one-man band; part Vaudeville act, part stand-up comedian, part motivational speaker and part PowerPoint genius.
I have to be.
21st Century Kids
Kids are savvy these days, they want to be entertained.
When I first started doing this gig, I sought the advice of a schoolteacher with 40 years’ experience.
‘Mix it up, keep kids engaged by incorporating different elements into your presentation’.
That’s why I use PowerPoint, a superhero cape, a whistle, stories, questions and a drawing activity where I get students to share what they have drawn.
Then I use funny voices, acting, dancing and clowning around, to make it as entertaining as possible. I couldn’t do that in a boardroom full of clients!
But for me, the magic lies in weaving into the presentation, important key messages from my books, to help kids thrive in this world.
- Even cool kids have to poo.
- it’s Ok to be different.
- There’s always someone you can talk to.
- The power of creativity and imagination.
- How to make friends with your emotions.
- And being you is enough.
Kids don’t have a filter
Kids can spot bullshit a mile away and will call it out (often across the room), that’s why I love their unpredictability.
There’s a point in my presentation when I discuss it’s Ok to be different and I ask the students, ‘What’s different about me?’
Now for your sake, I’m short, standing at only 5’2”, and I don’t want the kids to be afraid to say it. However, it’s the random answers I love. ‘You’re old’, ‘you’re fat’ and ‘you have a funny lump between your eyes’.
Snot, Farts and other fun stuff
In this role you have to be prepared for anything, such as;
- The kid in the second row picking his nose and eating it.
- The random fart that pops out (from the kids, not me).
- The boisterous kid repeatedly calling out what he’s having for lunch.
- The kid who gets up from his EA (Education Assistant) and stands beside me looking stressed and anxious.
- The over enthusiastic kid who has their hand up for ages wanting to tell me about the one time their sister fell off a swing which had nothing to do with what we were talking about.
- Then there’s the school TV or projector that refuses to work, meaning you have go to old school and wing it.
- Also, the time when no-one prints off the worksheets, when no one organises the pencils, and when no one mentions I was coming at all. It’s all happened.
Non gender specific times we live in
I started out doing the presentations innocently addressing the kids as ‘young boy’ and ‘young girl’, however I very quickly learned, never assume the sex of person by the way they look.
A few embarrassing moments have taught me to be alert, always.
I now don’t use any indicator of sex at all, which I find quite freeing. I can allow the child to be who they are without me assuming anything about them.
The staff room
The school staff room is a sacred space, with staff coffee cups completely off limits to outsiders.
If Mrs Slaberswaite from Room 5 catches you using her late ‘90s Far Side mug, you’ll get the evil eye.
The guest cups are always under the sink next to the dishwashing liquid.
Children’s Book Council of Australia Book Week.
This year’s book week tour last August saw me drive over 1,100 kms, present to over 2,000 kids at 17 schools, and eat too much junk food, including an overpriced greasy sausage roll.
It was exhausting, but well worth it.
I mean seriously, in what other job would you get mobbed for your autograph, receive random hugs, get to be silly in public while wearing a cape, and tell people “It’s Ok to be different”?
Advertising boardroom, or ‘Being you is enough’ with snot and farts? The latter is a lot more fun!