Just got back from three days presenting in Kingston, Ontario, and I’m feeling a good kind of tired.
It’s the kind of tired when you know you’ve given it your all, and you have high hopes that you changed a few minds and did some good.
I visited six schools, in three days, did eight presentations, and saw about nine hundred kids.
It’s funny how people first view me.
I had to collect some pictures of me ‘in action’ for promotional purposes.
And I always gravitate to this one photographer in India who took some amazing photographs of me ‘in action’ when I was presenting at the Bookaroo conference. That was in 2013, and I visited four cities in India: Delhi, Bangalore, Pune and Amritsar.
I think Shyam saw me in Delhi and he caught me in the throes of storytelling.
Now usually I don’t like seeing photographs of me storytelling because I make some pretty funny faces! But somehow he captured me at my most raw! And I love the photos!
You can see his album here: https://plus.google.com/photos/111439383080007025766/album/5949645780619793665/5949645813647969170
I absolutely love the photos! But then when I saw a comment on there, saying I looked like a ‘caricature’, I was shaken.
And then I thought, well I guess if you only look at the photos, yeah, I might. And I kind of shrugged it off.
I do believe you have to risk looking foolish when you storytell. Otherwise you’re not giving it your all. And if people judge you just by a photo, then they’ll miss out.
People often make assumptions when they first see me.
I think it’s the hijab.
It comes with a LOT of baggage!
But then I get in front of the kids and I’m just myself and almost inevitably, I have them for the entire time I’m doing the presentation.
Yesterday I had a very challenging group of kids.
I think there were a lot of behavioral and learning disabled students in the group and they were disruptive.
When a couple of boys started play fighting in front of me, I had no choice but to ask them to stop.
But mostly I’ve learned you need to ignore that kind of behavior in such a situation and forge on, ramp up your presentation so it becomes so engaging that the kids have to stop disrupting and listen.
It took a long time for that to happen. It was some time during the telling of Big Red Lollipop that they finally settled down.
I mean there were kindergarten to grade two, so that’s four year olds to about seven year olds.
I didn’t take it personally when a few of the kids were lolling around on the floor, but even those guys, were listening!
What you have to remember in these kinds of less than ideal situations, is that despite the appearances, there are still going to be quite a few kids who are listening, and will get a lot out of the presentation.
Sure enough, at the end so many kids came up to me and asked questions and told me how much they’d enjoyed it and a teacher asked me if I was a teacher because of the wonderful way I’d handled the kids.
That was quite a compliment! I told her no, I’m not a teacher! And she said, but you managed them so beautifully!
Ah, and here I was, thinking it was a disaster!
I’m so hard on myself!
If the kids aren’t transfixed, completely immobile, then I think it’s a disaster. Oh I’ve got to stop being so hard on myself.
Just a few nights ago, while I was in Kingston, I received an email from a student I’d seen fifteen years ago on International Women’s day!
She’s now a young woman studying in Berlin and she wrote me such a moving letter, of how my presentation that she’d attended FIFTEEN years ago, had moved her!!!
I’m still wondering how I will respond. I need to tell her how much her letter meant to me. How sometimes you get comments like you’re a ‘caricature’ and you need to let them go and remember the big picture!
Kingston was an amazing experience.
And I came away from it thinking that initiatives like this is why we don’t have a lot of disenfranchisement in Canada and we’re more accepting of each other. We’re not as racist as we could be.
The school boards actually try to be inclusive!
So the day after, I’m exhausted, but quite happy. Alhamdu lillah.
I really love what I do!