Back at School

Hey cHEwY gums gums

I stepped through the school gates and a few seconds later, there were kids pointing at me. Maybe it was my Mario Jacket or the weird huge bag of toys that I was carrying.

‘Look, it’s the author!’ they squealed.

I couldn’t help but smile. It was like slipping back into some comfy sneakers.

So I just had my first in-person school visit in almost 5 months. I was a little worried about today. Firstly, would it be cancelled? I wouldn’t have been surprised, given with what’s going on.

But I also had other concerns. Would I have to change the way I interact with students? I already got rid of any interactive student segments, including one where a toy would give students, the kiss of literacy (shame haha). Would it be awkward being around people? How will my voice handle three sessions in a row? My voice gets rusty after a few weeks of not doing school visits, so I wondered what 5 months would have done? While virtual visits have been nice, I’m not really in full-flight in those Zoom sessions.

Digging even deeper into my thoughts, would I still have the knack for in-person school visits?

I’m glad that Punchbowl Public School was my first school back. The librarian did an excellent job in building up the hype. Each audience was buzzed to see me. It was easy enough to keep a distance, having been a male primary-school teacher, the child protection protocol was already etched into my mind. But I couldn’t give any kids high-fives, and they didn’t touch my toys and books like they used to.

Overall, it felt like a normal day back at school. It’s funny how you take things for granted. This time last year, I would have been halfway through a term heaved with commitments. I would have been a little ragged, weary and at times grumpy about being stuck in traffic or having to talk over a noisy crowd because the school’s mic is broken…now it’s all such a novelty.

Some authors and illustrators can live without school visits. They look forward to the day where they don’t have to do them anymore. I don’t know if I could ever let them go. For me, school visits go side-by-side with my writing career. Then again, I’m only in my second decade (ha!) so we’ll see how the body feels in years to come.

So there will be a sprinkle of in-person school visits in the next few weeks. I’ll still be cautious, before and during the visits. But I’ll also be grateful. I’m a performer at heart. Nothing can beat that buzz of making kids laugh in a room 🙂


About the author

I'm an author, stand-up comedian and teacher. My books include Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Punchlines and The Other Christy. I'm a massive Nintendo fan and love eating burgers. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram @oliverwinfree

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