A few weeks ago, I took a chance. My students have been reading The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. First of all, if you haven’t read it yourself, please, please do so. Then, put it in the hands of your most reluctant readers and watch them immerse themselves in the text.
Being that this particular book sparked a love of reading in students who, frankly, are the ones who “pretend read” each day, I decided to ask the author to come visit. It took a few minutes for me to fill out the contact form on Alexander’s website and while I knew getting him to come visit our small school was a long-shot, I had nothing to lose. However, my students have everything to gain if, by some small miracle, Alexander could come visit.
About 30 minutes after filling out the contact form, I received what I thought was a form response. For the most part, it was. However, Mr. Alexander just happened to be in our city on February 3 and he could swing by our school for a visit. Would that date work for us?
For the next 24 hours, I spoke with my administration, HR, Kwame’s publicist (PR person? Event organizer? Email responder? Whatever her title, she was extremely helpful and kind!) Luckily, I had some money leftover from a grant, which would be enough to “book” Kwame! My principal was kind enough to purchase each of my students their own copy of The Crossover, which Kwame signed.
The day of Kwame’s visit, my students were hype. They kept asking me when he was coming. However, some of them had doubts. One student said, “What if he doesn’t come?” I assured this student that if something came up, I’m sure Mr. Alexander would let me know. But, it was clear that this particular student (and perhaps some others) were used to being let down by adults. It reminded me how important consistency is when you’re a teacher and how critical it is to follow through with your word. I had a brief moment of insecurity – I could not let this student down!
Kwame showed up as scheduled. He was phenomenal, engaging and positive. The student who had doubts about him coming was more focused and engaged than I had ever seen him. Most students were smiling from ear-to-ear. So was I.
Afterwards, my homeroom students cheered “Thank You” to me. Many asked me to get more authors to come to the school. Some begged me to order Kwame’s new book for them. A few had me look up his new book on Amazon and then told me they would bring me the $10.50 so I could order them a copy of Playbook so they could read it on its release day, February 14.
Wayne Gretzky stated that “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” I took a shot and it was a slam dunk, one my students will forever remember. As a teacher, I often feel as though I miss most of the shots I take. But that doesn’t mean I stop trying.