Now that I go to all these school-related meetings and am constantly hearing about the struggles in meeting the federal No Child Left Behind requirements, I have even more respect for the work teachers do. My understanding of that difficulty was raised another bar when I spoke to five middle school classes – that’s right … five – last week.
I had met Brandy Woodall when I did a feature story on the group of eighth graders who make up the creative writing club she started. I had a great time doing that story and enjoyed meeting her and her students. So when she sent me an e-mail asking if I would be willing to speak to several of her English classes, how could I refuse?
I don’t have a problem talking a lot or speaking in front of people, so I figured it probably wouldn’t be that hard to tell them about what I do for a living. Still, the thought of filling 50 minutes intimidated me a bit, especially since I would have to repeat that performance again and again. Pure improvisation was clearly not an option. So when I typed out a tentative outline, I included several questions I planned to use to quiz the students on current events. I didn’t really expect them to be able to answer many of the questions, although I was a bit surprised how few of them knew who Mitch McConnell, Jim Bunning and Ed Whitfield were. But would I have been able to name Kentucky’s United States senators or this district’s representative 10 years ago when I was their age? Probably not.
Either way, I thought the pop quiz would be a good way to break the ice and, more importantly, kill time. It didn’t take me long to discover, though, that filling each class period was not nearly the challenge I thought it would be. In fact, there were even some things I had planned to talk about that I didn’t have time for. What surprised me most was how sore my throat became after just the first of five classes.
Actually, I had originally only been scheduled to speak to three of Woodall’s classes. When I arrived at the school, though, another eighth grade teacher who helps with the creative writing club, Kay Wyatt, asked if I would mind speaking to her two after-lunch classes. I thought, as long as I’m here, why not?
I was also planning to use a lot of time answering students’ questions. They were expecting as much and were prepared. They asked some really good questions, too. There weren’t any I would consider irrelevant, so I didn’t have much trouble answering any of them. They didn’t ask about anything that made me uncomfortable, although Woodall’s substitute thought one boy’s question about how much money I make was inappropriate. She instructed the next group not to ask personal questions. I didn’t really care, though. I figured most people knew already that journalists aren’t exactly what you would classify as rich.
More on Hawkins' experience back at school can be found in your latest Cadiz Record.