School Visit Inquiry

My fall newsletter focuses on school visits so a recent email that ricocheted around various writer and illustrator listservs was of particular interest. That, and it was stunning in its chauvinism.
Most authors I know try to work in a number of annual gratis visits for schools in poverty stricken areas of the country. But lately, perhaps due to the economy combined with the rising numbers of self-published writers, more and more schools are not only asking, but expecting authors to come to their schools for free.
With permission, I’m reprinting the visit request email here. One writer who received it vented her frustration so eloquently that it too, bounced around the various listservs, lengthening with every “bravo!” response and “I wish we could actually say that!”
I’ve changed the names of both the teacher who sent it as well as the author who responded. The general consensus is that a request like this is simply uneducated, or ignorant of what goes into doing an author visit. Hopefully this will remind people that even though we do love the kids, and are uplifted by the teaching we do at schools, it is still a business.
Hello Author,
My name is ______ . I am a fifth grade language arts teacher at ______ [East Coast State]. Fifth grade kids can be difficult to motivate to read and write. My goal is to have one author per language arts class (we have 7) I thought it would be amazing if the kids got to meet a real author, form a relationship through letters and visits, and
hopefully get inspired to write. It would require you to meet one class at least once (whenever it is convenient for you) and then we would communicate through e-mails and letters. I know time is limited so anything you could offer would be greatly appreciated. My only concern is my district does not have the funds to pay authors to
visit. It would have to be from the heart to spread a love of reading and writing.
I think it would be such a motivator to have our homeroom “adopt an author” to come encourage them to write! If possible would you be willing to volunteer to be adopted by our kids to encourage writing?
Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
Hello —
What a terrific idea! I’m all for motivating kids and encouraging meaningful relationships with professionals.
Since you would like for me to volunteer my services, I’d like to propose that we do a trade. I will, at my own expense, fly to your town in [East Coast State], pay for my hotel and meals and spend a day working with your kids. In return, you will fly to [West Coast State] at your own expense, pay for your own hotel and meals, provide the pro-rated amount of your retirement and health benefits income, and tutor my 5th grade niece and her classmates, after which you will continue a correspondence with them through the end of the school year.
Certainly, having the “real deal” visiting in person and responding to their questions in the next 9 months will provide motivation that will keep them interested and active in their studies. Of course, I know that you will appreciate this opportunity to give from your heart to spread a love of learning.
I think that this “adopt a teacher” might really catch on. Are you willing to take part in this volunteer exchange program?
Looking forward to hearing from you.

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