Last week I did two out of town trips in one week!

I shouldn’t be surprised that I got sick, sick, sick, as a dog!

The first trip was down to Windsor, to one of my favorite schools: Al Hijra Academy. I tried something new, did a workshop on my new book with Pearson Educational called Not Guilty.

The second trip was to keynote an ESL teacher’s conference in Calgary! (One of the participants told the lady who invited me that he could have listened to me for another two hours!).

It’s always hard to develop a new presentation. It’s just so much easier to stick with what’s tried and true. And both trips involved me creating new presentations!

But developing new presentations, or shows, is imperative to growing yourself as well, as an artist.

I did go over some familiar material.

But, and this is probably my tendency to be over critical, or maybe it’s my husband’s critical voice in my head, but I felt like I rambled a bit.

My husband is a very good public speaker in his own right. He does excellent lectures that are full of information that he’s basically compiled from other sources.

But where we differ is that I try to explore and develop original ideas. Stuff that I, myself, might be struggling with, or more likely, conclusions that I’ve come to over the years.

The difficulty lies in trying to figure out the process, how did I come to these conclusions? And then try to replicate the process in the workshops I develop.

Well that’s what the Not Guilty workshop was all about.

I definitely had the kids’ engagement during the whole hour. And afterwards a bunch of kids came up to mob me, which is always a good sign! But I was feeling kind of tentative, and I asked the kids what they thought. Many of them said they loved it! One of the boys even said, “It was mindblowing!”

And I thought, “Good!”

And then I asked the teachers and got some very good feedback on how to improve it. So there’s work to do!

In the second keynote I did at the Calgary conference, I wanted to impress on the teachers the biggest challenges their students, as ELL/ESL learners faced, and one of the things that wouldn’t occur to them, as part of the teaching establishment, is that they, as teachers, need to respect the roles of their students’ parents. And I talked about how I’d seen a very stupid science teacher unintentionally belittle my father.

I remember watching her and my father shaking hands, and thinking it was all wrong. She was very tall, and very gawky, and she did stupid things to try to be ‘innovative’ and get our attention. My parents were at the school because I was graduating and on impulse I had introduced my father to her, and the way she bent over, every so slightly and took my father’s hand, with a stupid condescending look on her face, still makes my blood boil to this day! And the way my father showed respect on his face when she deserved none!!! Well! I thought it should have been the other way around! She should have been honored to meet my father! And that’s what I talked about!

It went over very well. I think perhaps it opened up a different world to the teachers. And there was talk of inviting me back next year.

All in all very successful, but very stressful so that as I boarded the plane to return home last Saturday, I could feel the cold coming on, and I’ve been hacking and sniffling ever since.

And in between those two trips I had two days at the residency.

I have a few very dedicated teens who come to my teen program on Tuesday evenings. They’re each about fifteen years old and they travel a LONG way!

I’ve been doing writing and public speaking workshops for them, and boy, it’s so cute how appreciative they are! And so polite!!!

But the residency is starting to wind down. I can feel it.

And one of the teens, who dreams of being a public speaker one day and raising the profile and challenges of single parenthood (because he has a single mom) has made some incredible breakthroughs. I asked him what was the most important thing he learned from the workshop so far and he said that for his purposes it was more effective to relate personal experience instead of doing a ‘powerpoint’.

I couldn’t agree more!

Last week I actually did my Roses in My Carpets powerpoint for them. I let them see me in action. Mind you, this presentation was developed over seventeen years!

And I’m proud to say that I would pay to watch it!

Tomorrow night I intend to go through and show them the techniques I used, and we’ll discuss why it works.

At the end of the session, that teen says to me, “I discussed it with my mom, and after this workshop is done, we’d like to hire you to tutor me further.”

Well my jaw just about dropped! From everything he told us, his mom works really hard, they don’t have this kind of money to spare! And so I told him the truth, that he couldn’t afford me. And I told him that it wasn’t a good idea. Not when he could get me for free, through the residency. And I have indeed applied again for next year.

Basically what the residency has come down to is really assessing the needs of the people I’m working with. Really figuring out what it is I need to teach them and then doing it in a way that really engages them!

Tomorrow morning I have a workshop with newcomers and I’m going to develop exercises for them to do, to practice their verbal skills. I’ve developed scenarios they might encounter and I will teach them the right inflection and intonation to use so that Canadians will take them seriously. Language is such a huge barrier these newcomers face and it isn’t just about learning to ‘talk’ English. It’s about learning to ‘speak’ English. Two different things!

This residency is such a learning experience even as it’s been physically exhausting!

I’m giving them everything I have!

But forget about writing! I’ll have to wait till it’s all wrapped up.