Taking the Stage in Brookline

It’s impossible to describe how exciting it was to speak to an audience of 350 sixth-grade students at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, Massachusetts last week! First of all, I love this neighborhood. Second¬†of all, I taught sixth-grade in this town. Third of all, it was in this very theater nine years ago that I sat in the audience with my students and heard YA author David Almond speak about his book, Skellig.

When I was walking back to school after hearing David Almond, I thought, “Hey, I’m gonna give this writing thing a whirl.” That afternoon I began serious work on A Thousand Never Evers.

This gorgeous old theater has been renovated since then. Last week students sat in plushy red seats and watched a clip from Eyes on the Prize on a giant state-of-the-art screen.

As the segment came to an end, I tried to figure out how I’d get onto the stage. I couldn’t see any steps up, so I decided I’d probably have to go backstage and then step out through the curtain and in front of the movie screen after I was introduced.

Easier said than done!

First of all, those velvet red curtains weigh a ton. Try pushing one of those babies aside as you squeeze yourself sideways through cable wires.¬† I’m only glad that the spotlight wasn’t on me yet, because as I walked onto the stage in the dark, I almost fell flat on my face.

Small technicalities aside, I had the best time ever talking to students about the pivotal role young people played in the civil rights movement and how they helped to chart a new course for our nation. I used PowerPoint to show some of the old newspapers from 1963 that I examined while researching A Thousand Never Evers. And I also mentioned the grant that I received from the Brookline Education Foundation, which enabled me to hire some of my former students to edit the first draft of my book way back when. As soon as I said that, one girl excitedly raised her hand. “My brother was one of your editors!” she said.

The sixth-grade students came to Coolidge Corner Theater from eight different schools. They were all so well prepared and had a million and one questions. I was thrilled to receive many emails from them in the following days.

After the event at the Theater, I spoke to several classes of fifth grade students at the Edward Devotion School about how to grow a story and the power of a question. Then I enjoyed a tea with former colleagues in the library.

A thousand thanks to Mary Matthews, Skye Kramer, Geoff Tegnell, and all the Brookline teachers and students for their hard work and excellent planning!

Posted in Educators, Shana's Posts, That's Life, Writing on 05/02/2009 10:28 am

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