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School Visit Recap: Assemblies to Workshops, and the CONVERSATIONS in between

Dear Kim (and friends),

This morning I put away my rainbow superhero mask, gold top hat, and banana-on-a-stick. Few things are sadder than closing your banana-on-a-stick into a dark closet. But, I guess it will rise again next month for my next school visit.

Oh, you thought my collection was somehow Halloween related? No, no. Just part of the workshop portion of my school visits. For the past two weeks I had the privilege of speaking to, and then with, students from one of our nearby districts.

Mr. Dwight Smith

Dwight Smith, the founder of My Special Word, joined me for the assembly portion of the event. We were able to share with the children Dwight's vision for the program, as well as my process for writing the books for him.

There was music. Lots of it.
Some singing. (Would you expect any less?)
And shouting! (Mostly the kids, but I got a few words in too.)

We met with over 800 kids during the assemblies and got a sense for how the school district planned to use My Special Word. I'll say,
when the kids read your books prior to your visit,
when they've visited the website to view your videos,
when they've had conversations with their peers, teachers, and administrators about the mission of the program,
well, that PREPARATION leads to super engaged kiddos during the assembly! Their energy was electrifying. Great participation and even better questions.

Dwight was thoughtful while I worked on each book. But, I'll tell you, working with him at our school and community visits is HUMBLING. This man has smiles for DAYS and a passion for children that warms my heart.

MY SPECIAL WORD, illustrated by Beth Bogert

When Dwight left, the picture book's very talented illustrator stepped in. Beth Bogert was artist residency at the primary school, while I worked with the intermediate level students. Each of us designed a workshop to deepen the program's message and tie into the books we created. Beth worked with our picture book, while I used the chapter book. Beth worked in the art room, while I worked with the intermediate school's librarian. #DREAMLIFE

During my week I was able to teach 21 classes, 18 classrooms and 3 small groups. It felt like coming home for many reasons...

The fast pace of a teacher lifestyle-- one class to the next to the next, each one bringing something different to the lesson.

The welcoming way of the entire school district-- from the highly engaged principal to the teachers, to the librarian and her assistant, to the kids, each person I met was friendly, positive, and embraced the books, the program, and me with open arms.

There was something else that felt familiar.


In 2001 I stood in front of my third graders on September 12th. Overnight the world had changed around us, and yet, those kids filled me with hope for our future. They were kind and generous. They were hard working and resilient. Today, some of those kids are teachers, nurses, and army officers.

Last week I got to see the faces of children and listen to their conversations about kindness, compassion, goals, and dreams. Of late (and certainly last week) the world spews hate in our faces, but the kids that I met last week and the teachers who inspire them, radiated hope.

Here is a note from one of the teachers:

The kids offered writing like:

"You've got to be kind with words and actions, and maybe actions are where it's at."  -4th grade student

"In my heart I trust myself." -4th grade student

"In my heart I hope I can always help others, even if it is hard for me." -3rd grade student

"My word is HEARING-aid because I want to communicate with my family and friends. I need my hearing aid to listen but they need help to listen too." -5th grade student

"I love LOVE." - 3rd grade student

"I am proud of the person I am. I am a thinker and even though I am competitive, I try to be a good sport. I think if I can be a good sport in life not just in games that I will always be proud of myself." -4th grade student

Facilitating their writing was an honor, but the conversations that took place were better than any  paper and pen could capture. One afternoon, I looked out into the hallway between classes. An adult stopped a child who was hurrying along, and said, "WHAT's YOUR WORD?" The two-minute conversation between them was a flash in the day. But he connected with her, and she connected with him. Two very different people in the busy pace of life connected about a choice that each made. Each able to listen to the other's reasonings behind the choice. Well, that gives me hope too.

The rainbow mask, the banana, the golden top hat... Those became part of the celebration at the end of our writer's workshop, because who wouldn't celebrate after a school visit like this! A special thanks to the Wayne Highlands School District for their generosity and for MAKING the program a part of their school. Even more, thank you for giving your students a chance to engage, converse, listen, and share. You are making the world a better place.

Much Love,

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