Monday, March 12, 2012

Evolution of my school visit "schlep list"

On occasion, a host at one of my school visits gets a panicked look when s/he sees what I bring for my presentation. Rather than come right out with what that is, I’ll trace the evolution, for fuller effect:


  1. portable whiteboard to draw on, plus the marker and eraser
  2. slide projector (you read that right; more below)
  3. the slides
  4. small drawing to tape to the bottom of one of the students’ chairs before they enter the room; at the end of the presentation, I ask them to check for it to determine which student will randomly win a copy of one of my books
  5. the tape
  6. the book to randomly give out
  7. my presentation outline
  8. handouts:

  • feedback form to be copied and distributed to students
  • feedback form to be copied and distributed to teachers
  • referral form (to fax to other schools; probably no one ever used it)
  • list of publications that publish work by young people (to be distributed to students)

I don’t know why I thought the schools wouldn’t have a whiteboard, and a much bigger one at that.

Well past the ubiquity of PowerPoint, I really did buy a used slide projector on eBay. Though I expected to spend no more than $5, mine cost $68.

I carried it in one of those familiar, cavernous IKEA bags:

It was especially annoying to lug around when it was raining. Once I left it in the car overnight before a visit and it was so cold out that once inside the school it took 20 minutes for it to “thaw.”

The slides were more expensive than the projector.

If the kids sat on the floor instead of chairs, I’d tape the small drawing to one of their rears. Do not believe that.


I finally began using PowerPoint, reselling my slide projector on eBay (for a loss at $44) and adopting the infinitely more portable flash drive. I had been postponing making this switch because I was worried that it would be complicated to make my first PowerPoint; I ended up throwing it together during one hourlong nap of my toddler daughter.


I stopped distributing forms and instead e-mailed versions of them. Soon I would stop doing this as well, hoping word of mouth would ignite even without the thrill of paperwork.


I was no longer referring to my text outline while speaking; by now I referred only to a printout of the slide show, and even then only occasionally. Soon, for my standard presentation, I would stop using notes altogether.


I now show up with just a flash drive in my pocket, sometimes my camera in another pocket (though I often slum it with my iPhone camera instead), and sometimes some of the last of the Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman postcards. At times I also bring a giveaway. And at times, upon noticing upon my arrival that I have no props, my host gets that slightly alarmed (though fleeting) look I teased about at the top of this post.

I can’t help but smile when I think back to my heavy loads in the early days, especially when I now jaunt into schools encumbered only by this:

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