Frankly, I’ve never really thought about how school boards and PTA’s decide who to invite to visit their school. I just go when I’m called, but today I had a very interesting conversation with a former teacher who was privy to just such a conversation.

She’s Muslim and she was hired by a particular principal of a very ethnically diverse school (lots of South Asians and Muslims). She was hired because the rest of the staff was quite…ahem…resisitant to multiculturalism and the whole diversity thing.

There were a few teachers in particular, part of the old guard, who bulldozed through their agenda, so the principal asked my friend to be on as many committees as possible to help influence the outcomes.

When she sat on the arts council committee, the one which decided which artists and performances to bring into the school to enrich the arts aspect of the curriculum for the students, my friend said, “Why don’t we invite Rukhsana Khan.”

Immediately the old guard got their backs up, saying something like, “Well, with the way these kids are, they really need to be exposed to more MAINSTREAM (read: white) culture. Stuff like balet and dance.”

My friend said, “Yeah but one of the artists we’re inviting will be an author, why not make it Rukhsana Khan.”

The head honcho of the old guard clique said, “I’ve never heard of her.”

So the teacher librarian pulled out a few of my books from the library and showed them around.

Then the head honcho of the clique held up the Prologue to the Performing Arts brochure that is mailed out to each school in Ontario and contains a roster of very respectable and well-vetted artists. The head honcho said, “We have to choose our performers from this here brochure!”

So my friend leafed through it and found my page!

Voila! And I was invited.

The funniest thing was that on the day of the visit, after witnessing my presentation, my friend told me that the head honcho herself came up to me and asked me to autograph her Prologue catalogue!!!


Oh man, it reminds me of all the times, when I was just starting out, I’d get the cold shoulder in the staff room. I got invited to schools with heavy South Asian populations and perhaps some of the teachers thought that I was a ‘token’ performer but mostly they thought I was a substitute teacher.

I remember trying to strike up conversations with teachers only to be rebuffed, and I thought, “Oh well. I’m getting paid anyway.”

And then I’d get up in front of the kids and do my presentations, giving it my all. And the surprising thing was that the same teachers who’d rebuffed my overtures in the staff room would come up to me and say, “You were really good.” Like they were surprised.

I learned not to write them off. Sometimes these same teachers turned out to be some of my strongest advocates.

They spread the word about me and my presentations, and when I meet them now we’re like the best of chums.

You know I don’t care what kind of conversations they have about me before they invite me, all I care about is that they invite me. Give me a chance. And I’ll do my best to wow them!