Experience is the Best Teacher

Experience is the Best Teacher

Every year I travel with a group of high school students form Kansas City to La Romana, Dominican Republic. This year there were 41 participants. We assisted local craftsman in building an elementary school cafeteria. We visited a sugar plantation where we dispensed blood pressure medication. We even assisted surgeries in a hospital. But for me, the highlight was teaching English at Joe Hartman Elementary School.

 Joe Hartman serves Kindergarten through 6th grade students. Having taught at this school several times previously, I am constantly reminded of the joy and curiosity these kids have for learning.

However, the best part is watching a bunch of high school students from Kansas City. They learn the craft of teaching. They assess the skill level of the students. They manage the classroom. They create the lesson plan. And they utilize multiple formats like games, skits, songs, and crafts.

Beyond learning “how to teach,” as they stumble out of their fifth classroom at the end of the morning, the sentiment that I most often hear them voice is “that was fun, but I’m exhausted.” Spending four hours in a classroom, even with five co-teachers in the room, is indeed tiring. The children of La Romana, with their laughter, hugs, and joy have brought us all an important lesson. They start to imagine how hard it is for one person to teach all-day, 9 months per year. I remind them to “keep Joe Harman Elementary in mind when you turn eighteen and have to vote on school funding.” Experience is, indeed, the best teacher.

practice makes perfect






March 21, 2017

Zar and the Broken Spaceship just got a shout-out from Kids Rhythm and Rock. We tested Zar at library story-times because, despite my years of experience working with children, I am still occasionally surprised by what garners a strong reaction from four-year-olds. As a result, the edits made a big difference for group presentations.

Here’s a snippet from the article:

“One of the librarians who works with me has been using this book in her preschool visits this winter. The fun, interactive aspects of the story have made it such a hit with the preschoolers that it quickly became the finale of each story time.”

Here’s the link to the full article.  IMG_0568WorriedZarIMG_0567IMG_0567
February 13, 2017

This is a busy month. There aren’t any public shows, but I am performing my outer space science show, “The Milky Way, Moons, and Meteorites” for the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools. I’m flying to New York City for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference. And I am visiting one of my favorite preschools, St. Peter’s Early Childhood Learning Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

I visit a lot of preschools, but St. Peter’s is one that I particularly look forward to.  Last year the teachers began a new tradition. The 8th graders were asked to join our audience and sit with the preschool classes. The four-year-olds had a wonderful time while unwittingly giving the thirteen year olds permission to be little kids again. And the teens took full advantage of it in the best way possible: helping the preschoolers count on their fingers, fixing Zar’s spaceship, handing out imaginary high-five pizzas, and even puppeteering a story about little monsters under the bed.

Building bonds is especially powerful during adolescence. We are at our most vulnerable as hormones change our bodies and intensify our feelings. St. Peter’s is excellent at creating community and fostering a safe environment that allows their students to connect in constructive ways across age groups. Win-Win!!!