I’m here today to report on Eva’s experience at the North Dakota Teachers’ Association conference in Fargo last week. She had a booth in the exhibitors’ hall, squeezed in between McGraw-Hill textbooks and a pseudo-”healthy”-non-caffeinated coffee booth run by a couple of moonlighting teachers. Nice folks all the way around (though I stuck with my Starbucks).
Sadly, though school is not in session during the two days of the event, the teachers’ conference isn’t well attended. Teachers aren’t required nor are they compensated for being there, and with travel time, out of pocket expenses, and the allure of having a couple of days at home with their families, the conference has a difficult time competing. Exhibitors who have been around awhile talk a lot about the good old days not too far back when all this was different – teachers were required and compensated, and the place was packed, abuzz with conversation, networking, and of course, sales.
Still, even with the sparse attendance, the event was well worth attending. Eva sold ten books, and had conversations with several teachers about the possibility of speaking with their students about writing. It looks like she may well Skype into a classroom about four hours from us, up in the northeast corner of the state. And our friend at McGraw-Hill gave us some good suggestions for other conferences we should attend as exhibitors. So good stuff all around.
Mostly, however, this event was great for pumping Eva full of energy, excitement, and focus. On the long drive home, we talked a lot about all this. She wants to have two distinct focuses in her writing work: the first, which I deeply respect, is the hard work of improving the quality of her writing. The second is her work inspiring other kids through her videos and classroom visits. She enjoys working with kids, but wants to make sure that she is equally respected as a writer and knows this can only happen if she works on her craft. I am impressed by the maturity of that observation, and am determined to find her further opportunities such as writing workshops, mentorships, etc.
In all this, the secret to success is following Eva’s lead. If pushed too fast or in directions she isn’t excited about, she’ll burn out and get stressed out. This is especially true about public speaking. She’s so good at it, and is normally energized by her experiences. Her success often opens up additional opportunities, and this is the part we have to carefully balance.
Last spring, she was invited to apply as a speaker to a TEDx event in Washington state. I’m such a TED geek that I jumped on board immediately. Eva, in her desire to please me, thought she would do it. But it was clear that the idea gave her a lot of anxiety. When I finally wised up and told her that it really would be ok if she never did another talk again, she immediately bowed out, her anxiety lifted, and a dark cloud left her little brow. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. I want this to be good for Eva, no matter what it looks like. And when she’s given control, she finds incredible sources of courage and self-confidence. She’s even considering applying for the TEDx event next year. We’ll see. If she changes her mind, that will be ok too.
I’d like to hear from other readers too. How do you handle this with your own children? Do you give them much control over their hobbies, pursuits, and creative endeavors? What kinds of conversations do you have with your kids? How do you walk that careful balance of pushing your children to stretch themselves and try new things and listening to their opinions and wants?