Post-Traumatic School Visit Syndrome

Just got back from doing my "Life Between Cultures" presentation for each of the the three fourth-grade classes at Mason-Rice School in Newton, Massachusetts. I am absolutely exhausted. You might ask why, given that speaking to kids about writing is one my favorite pasttimes.

It wasn't the kids. They were starting an immigration unit, and so were primed to listen to the story of my life as an immigrant-kid-cum-author. They asked great questions, laughed at my silly jokes, and shared wonderful stories of their own. One young man told us how his great-grandfather was assassinated by guerillas in Colombia before his family escaped the country. Another described his Russian grandfather hiding inside a mattress while soldiers guarding the borders poked it with a bayonet. We listened, fascinated. (The kids later wrote letters to me, which were so wonderful I asked for permission to share them with my visitors.)

It wasn't the teachers. They were incredibly supportive and hospitable, with slide projectors and screens and connecting cords waiting for me like obedient servants in each of their classrooms.

So why, then, am I shattered?

The extra tension came because members of Newton Schools' Creative Arts and Sciences Committees were sitting in the back of the library while I spoke, pens and evaluation sheets in hand. This was my "showcase" presentation, arranged courtesy of the Newton Public Schools Creative Arts and Sciences Department. These caring parents were there to gauge any value I might be able to add to their kids' education. They were lovely people, don't get me wrong. But "showcasing" is a nerve-wracking endeavor, and I'm glad it's behind me. I'm all set to curl up on the couch and watch other people perform under pressure — the Red Sox play ball at Detroit tonight.

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