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The Order of Oddfish

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Back from Pennsylvania, D.C., and Virginia

April 25, 2012

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I’m still reeling from my lightning April tour. A tour that started thrilling and surprising, and ended kind of weird and melancholy. Not in a bad way!

I started out at Abington Friends School in Pennsylvania, whose movie of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was featured in our 90-Second Newbery Film Festival last year. Felix Chen and the other teachers made me feel right at home, and we even got to do a costumed Dome of Doom insult-dance-battle with the fifth graders!

Then I popped over to Tredyffrin Public Library, whose adaptation of Holes was also in the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. I was the guest of the librarian Angela Newman, who showed me a great time and delivered a real turnout. Thanks, Angela!

Then it was off to Springfield High School and Junior High, thanks to superstar librarian and blogger Joyce Valenza. I got the treat of seeing a play written by Jelli, one of the Springfield High students, and hang out with their “Somewhat Virtual Book Club” (that’s them in the picture at the top; Jelli is directly behind me) after speaking at the high school and junior high that day. The junior high school students thoughtfully greeted me with props they made from The Order of Odd-Fish:

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After that it was off to Washington, D.C., where I spoke at the Sidwell Friends School, whose Claymation version of Island of the Blue Dolphins has also been a favorite at the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. Heck, let’s show it again now—it has the distinction of being simultaneously the most violent and most relaxing 90-Second Newbery movie:

Weird story: Many people know Sidwell Friends as the school where Presidents’ children often go. Amy Carter went there, Chelsea Clinton went there, and now so do Sasha and Malia Obama. I’m such an idiot, I didn’t realize that I was doing my presentation to the President’s daughter! In my defense, I hadn’t seen pictures of Sasha before I spoke to her class. But when I saw a Secret Service agent standing around between presentations, I concluded one of the daughters was in the next class, so I said to my host teacher Becky Farnum, “My presentation involves a lot of lurching around and bellowing— should I change that so I don’t get tackled by that Secret Service agent?” and Becky was like, “Uh, you just spoke to Sasha’s class.” Nice, Kennedy.

I also got to speak at the Field School near Charlottesville, Virginia who had submitted several of their own videos for the 90-Second Newbery. It was thanks to their teacher Jen Wilson, and their write-up of the visit pretty much sums up what I do: “literally running around the room, shouting and gesticulating (maybe even spitting).” I am what I am, people.

At last, I spoke at St. Catherine Laboure in Wheaton, MD—which is where I actually worked as a science teacher from 1995-96 (yikes, that’s a long time ago . . . ) It was my first “job” out of university, but I wasn’t actually paid. I’d decided to be a volunteer science teacher for the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. They had me living in a convent with actual nuns, which is the wrong place for a 22-year-old man to be, and teaching science to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders—about 150 kids a day—a task I was not prepared for, and that I must admit, I was terrible at. This is the job in which I actually blundered into killing a live snake in front of the 7th-grade class. (I taught for just a year and quit. This is consistent with my usual pattern of dithering.)

It was a real time-warp crazy feeling going back to St. Catherine Laboure—indeed, back to D.C. at all. Luckily, I have friends living there whom I was able to stay with an hang out with, but returning to D.C. always makes me feel wistful and weary. It’s not you, D.C., it’s me!

Then again, while I was walking down the street, I unexpectedly saw the Space Shuttle piggybacking on a 747, and it was jaw-dropping! So let’s end with that: