One of the most meaningful parts of the last school year for me was being part of #kidsneedmentors. The program was started by two teachers and two authors: Kristin Couch and Kristen Picone and Ann Braden and Jarrett Lerner. It pairs authors with one classroom to mentor for one year.
I had the pleasure of being a mentor to a fifth grade classroom a couple of hours away from LA. To start things off, we had an introductory Skype and I sent them some copies of Zinnia and the Bees with goodies. After the teacher and I brainstormed via email and google doc, we figured out some neat ways to collaborate.
I wrote the class letters, which the teacher photocopied for every student. I sent the class two boxes of books. And my favorite thing was using Flipgrid! Students posted videos and I could post video responses—for example, in one they introduced themselves, in another they “booktalked” a book they liked, and in another they asked me a question about writing and I answered it. It was a lot like being in person and such a special way to communicate one-on-one from afar.
The other super neat thing was that I got to visit them twice. The first time was a surprise! The students had been reading and giving feedback on a work in progress of mine, so when I arrived, I read them another chapter. Then I did a writing workshop and as a goodbye, handed out pencils with inspirational sayings about writing. The second time I visited, they knew I was coming and I held one-on-one conferences about a piece of their writing—my absolute favorite thing!
Overall, the experience gave me insight into students and their writing, into what writing curriculums are like, and into the meaningful ways authors can engage with students to promote literacy, reading, writing, and to offer positive encouragement. I highly recommend being part of it. Plus, anything to support teachers is ace!