This week I was a storyteller for three elementary schools and a public library. Each performance was slightly different, not only because of the concert I was presenting, but how I was received. At one school and the library, I was met at the door, led to the performance space which was already prepared to my specifications, and was offered help carrying my items.
The other schools allowed me to find my own way to the office, which is not always obvious. For instance, today I parked in the back of the building which appeared to be the front and all doors were locked with lovely signs that directed me to the north entrance. Which way is north?! I’m running late here! At these schools the office secretary gave directions to the maze-like inner sanctum with a room littered with desks and tables that became my responsibility to move.
I drove home today thinking how nice it would be if teachers got a clue and treated me like the professional I am. But wait! I’m a teacher, too! Perhaps it is the teacher who should speak to the teller and not the teller to the teacher.
Tellers, this is what a teacher needs from you:
1.Come prepared and arrive early. Teachers are supervising students all day with 30-minutes for lunch and maybe a recess break during the day if they do not have duty. Teachers do not have the time to clean your space making sure the room is suitable for a performance. We’d like to do that for you, but it is not always possible. Sometimes that space is in use up to the minute of your performance.
2. Teachers need to know in advance about all special needs. If you have special needs, develop a “rider” (search ‘technical rider’) that allows the school a heads-up for EVERYTHING you expect to have provided for you. This includes a bottle of water. What you think is etiquette may not be provided because your expectation was not in writing. Appearing low maintenance is not fair if you expect a sound system, water, a stool, extension cord, and a music stand. You may assume a classroom would have a stool, but the performance may not be in a classroom which means the teacher must leave to get what you need.
3. Send the teacher two invoices in addition to anything you need returned to you. Why two copies? The teacher does not pay your bill, but we would like a copy for our “field trip” files. Yes, the teacher could make a copy, but in the rush of it all, that little step is forgotten and then the teacher has no copy at all. Oftentimes, that means the teacher does not have your contact information anymore because you sent the marketing materials to someone else at the school. I highly suggest hand delivering marketing materials to all teachers present. Teachers move around a lot and may be at a different school and district next year.
4. Do not make a contract with a teacher. Your contract is with a school or the Parent/Teacher Organization. The teacher is the recipient and rarely if ever actually pays for the event. If you make a contract with the teacher and the school decides not to pay, for whatever reason, the teacher is stuck paying you and that isn’t good for you or the teacher.
5. Presenters can be considered in-house fieldtrips. That is a different fund. Market yourself as such. Teachers need this reminder.
6. Please, write a thank you to the class that is personal. Teachers collect and display these letters. We use them as examples of letter writing and etiquette. Writing within a week of your visit helps us to remember you positively.
7.Having an updated web site that includes pictures, personal information, as well as information about storytelling is very helpful. We like to prepare for your visit. Having a study guide to use pre- and post-performance allows us to be more interested in your performance. Remember that students need to connect with your information and you prior to your visit. Having prior knowledge lessens the “wiggles” during the performance.
8. Discuss your research process either on your web site, in the study guide, or after your presentation. Students need insight as to how you find your information and possibly even how you learn it. Teachers want this more than students. Research is a direct tie-in to state standards.
9. Get yourself familiar with state standards (search state standards; found on all state education department sites) and use them on your class materials.
Today, I couldn’t find the entrance to the building easily, was locked out, was running late, and walked into a space that was not prepared for telling. Thank goodness I understood the pressures the teachers were under because I came prepared, provided my own water, and handled a discipline problem myself. We had a positive experience due to a well-prepared study guide, a blog about my research process on my updated web site, and I was truly low-maintenance needing nothing but a stool. I will send that personalized thank-you tomorrow!
Carol Knarr is a storyteller specializing in historical stories for the Kosciusko County Visitors Bureau, Warsaw, IN. Carol has more than 20 available concerts, workshops, and in-service opportunities described at www.carolkknarr.com. Posted 3/2009.
Want to learn more about storytelling? Then take a look at our Storytelling101 EWorkbook.