Ask any children’s writer about school visits and they will tell you that every time they meet a new class they take a deep breath and think: ‘OK, what’s this session going to be like? What awaits me? Do the kids have a clue why they’re here? Have the staff built up the event? Will I get out alive? I usually know within a minute. The great sessions are when the kids come in clutching sheets with questions to ask or, better still, have actually read my books. The great sessions are when the teachers listen as intently as the kids instead of texting or marking. The great sessions are when the children and staff participate immediately when I ask for volunteers, despite the risk of embarrassing themselves in front of their peers. So when I saw that I was kicking off with Y6 from Ysgol Esgob Morgan in St Asaph’s my heart leaped. Great session guaranteed! Esgob Morgan was one of the first schools I met when I came to North Wales five or six years ago. Their teacher, Mr Redgrave, was the sort of teacher you pray your kids will have as a form teacher. He was so keen, caring, full of good humour as well as being committed to the value of storytelling and books. The fact that he is now the headteacher at the school came as no surprise. I knew I’d have a flying start to the day with his Y6 – and so it proved.
My second session with Ysgol Faenol was equally as enjoyable. The kids were buzzing! I’m so sorry I don’t have a picture of them to post but the session went so fast, as it does when it’s going well, that we ran out of time. I hope you all received the signed postcards from Mrs Williams, guys!
So, all pumped up and ready for my final session of the day, I was driven to Prestatyn Library. I was impressed – the librarians had put up a display, re-arranged the furniture in their friendly children’s section and bigged me up by saying they were excited about my return visit as they knew what positive feedback they’d had last time. Sadly, Y5/6 at Ysgol Melyd will never know what they missed. They didn’t turn up! What a shame – a shame for the kids who missed out, a shame for the librarians at Prestatyn who had gone to so much trouble and a shame for the other schools who might have come instead.
A bonus though, for Esgob Morgan. Rather than go straight back to the hotel, I offered to pop in to the two schools from the morning session and sign postcards. Unfortunately Ysgol Faenol had its answer machine on so we couldn’t get through to them but Esgob Morgan were up for it! An extra treat for me was that as well as meeting the Y6s again I was able to drop by Mrs Richie’s class and hear some fabulous creative writing. It meant I returned to my hotel on a high instead of feeling down in the dumps. We writers take no- shows very personally, you know, sensitive flowers that we are.