Ms. Tanc’s students in Romania learned some Inupiaq Eskimo words before I shared Charlie and the Blanket Toss with them on Skype. Our time together made the newspapers in their city.
As March wrapped up, so did my sixty-day commitment to Skyping with classrooms all across the country (and the world).
During February and March, I spent most weekday mornings with three to five appointments that teachers had booked through Microsoft in Education’s guest-speaker program. They chose one of three titles offered on my profile: Bobbie the Wonder Dog, Charlie and the Blanket Toss, The Itchy Little Musk Ox, or I could talk about the Iditarod for older students. Using the “share screen” function, I showed them a Powerpoint presentation and/or a Windows Movie of the illustrations from each book as I read.
Occasional evening appointments on Alaska time translated to mornings (the next day) on the other side of the world. So I stayed up late to read to English-speaking students in Greece, Qtar, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, England, Egypt, India, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Romania . . . all from my cozy little office with a stinky dog sleeping nearby.
The grand total: 108 Skype visits. It was incredibly satisfying to read to kids and encourage them to read, write, and explore other creative expressions. By far, the overseas classrooms asked me to read Charlie and the Blanket Toss. At times it hit me, the significance of this transformative technology. There I was, this white lady in the sub-Arctic, clicking through a Powerpoint presentation and teaching Filipino kids how to pronounce Inupiaq Eskimo words. Really.
I came away with an even greater respect for committed teachers and their profession as a whole. And while I fielded lots of questions about Alaska and Bobbie the Wonder Dog and musk oxen babies, the most-asked questions were: 1. “Do YOU have any dogs?” and 2. “Can we see them?” Then I would crank the laptop around to one of these two golden retrievers, Kvichak or Willow, hear the loud “AWWWWW!” and know that they now hold superstar dog ranking. And before the end of each session, I walked my laptop to the window and showed the kids all that deep snow in the front yard. Blew some minds there.
I’ll be back again next year to Skype during February and March, the months that celebrate world literacy and Read Aloud Day. Until then, I’ll continue to visit schools and libraries in person, so if you’re interested, just let me know.
In the meantime, Quyanaq to all you wonderful teachers who invited me into your classrooms!
In February, I Skyped with Mrs. D and her students in Phoenix, and then she surprised me, driving for hours to see me at the Tucson Festival of Books in March. She said this selfie would prove to her students that we’d met!