Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Beyond The Bounders and the Wavers

by Jody Feldman


There’s one in every school visit, maybe in every session of every school visit—that unassuming student who presents as a small face in the crowd. He or she often chooses to sit slightly off-center, somewhere in the middle. But don’t be fooled. This is the one you’re looking for, the one who can be most valuable, the one who hangs on your every word.

When it comes time for Q & A, this student will not rise on haunches and madly wave a hand to ask me where I get my inspiration or which is my favorite book/author/color/food. No. This one might raise a hand and lower it, but he or she will always have bright eyes, a face filled with hope, and deeper thoughts running through his or her mind.

Sure, call on several others who are nearly bounding from their seats with unbridled enthusiasm. Answer their questions. Laugh with them. Joke, if you will. Then pause. Take a breath. Scan all the faces. Look for the hidden gems.

There was one recently; a boy who seemed to be wavering in his desire to be noticed.

“Do you have a question for me?”
His first reaction? Surprise that I’d called on him.”Me?”
“Yes, you.”
His voice started soft and slow then gained strength. “You said you tried to choose a variety of characters in The Gollywhopper Games.”
“Right.”
“Then why did you have two characters who cheat?”
From me, a beat of stunned silence. Why did I? Rookie mistake? Purposeful decision to make it harder for my main character? I couldn’t remember. Maybe I’d never considered it. But that’s the best type of question; one that challenges me, helps me grow in my craft. And I told him that.

Then there was a girl I’ll never forget. She sat in a packed auditorium, regional Young Authors Conference, mix of grade levels. She may have been the youngest and smallest there. But she summoned enough courage to raise her hand halfway. Somehow I noticed her. I moved across the stage to her side of the audience.

“Were you ever shy?” she asked.
Was I ever shy? You really can’t tell? Yay, me!
But after than fleeting moment of self-congratulations, I smiled and nodded. “Are you shy?”
She nodded back.
“Well, let me tell you. I may not seem shy up here, but I’ve been shy all my life. And look at you! Being brave enough to ask that question in this auditorium? It shows me something. You are strong and you can push past your shyness, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find you up here on stage one day.”

Maybe I helped her. Maybe she helped herself just by asking.
I’ll never know.
But I do know that I once was that girl, that unassuming student, that small face in the crowd with my hand half-raised and a million different questions racing through my mind.

Jody Feldman is now booking school visits for 2018-19 school year. She will leave her shyness at home but promises to find those hidden gems of students in the crowd.

3 comments:

  1. This is a gem...thanks for sharing Jody.

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  2. Oh, I love this, Jody - and love those two little audience gems you shared with us.

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  3. This is so cool. Love that little girl!

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