Just before half term, I visited a school for a book talk… without leaving the house. And most of the students I spoke to were also at home, though some might have been travelling, accessing the classroom from wherever they happened to be.
The school I visited was called InterHigh, a secondary school and sixth form that takes place entirely online. Their physical headquarters are in Wales but their students are all over the UK and in various other countries too. This helps to provide a really rich, fun school environment. When my daughter attended InterHigh last year, one of the many extra activities on offer were lessons in Moldovan language, taught by a student who was a bit older than her and lived in Moldova. And, for a couple of weeks, her Spanish teacher was logging in from Colombia!
So how did the experience compare to one of my more typical school visits?
Well, it was largely the same. I spoke to a roomful of bright, happy, engaged students, and I could see from the messages appearing in the text box that everyone had a keen interest in the world of books and publishing.
Then came the part of my talk where I ask for questions. Now, I’ve hosted text chats before, including one run by Random House when Swapped by a Kiss was first published, and while it was slightly tricky to keep up with questions, I type quickly so I just about managed. But this time, I said, “Any questions?” and the text box lit up in a flurry of words as a stream of questions flashed by. I caught one or two on their way past and answered them, but there was no way I could keep up.
Thankfully, a member of staff stepped in and took the much more sensible approach that I should have thought of in the first place. Students virtually put up their hands, then spoke their questions into the microphone one at a time. And what a wonderful, imaginative and intelligent set of questions they were!
Huge thanks to the staff and students of InterHigh, if you happen to see this. I hope I answered enough of your questions. Keep reading and writing! (Also: this is Girls Heart Books, the site I was talking about!)
Book image by Taliesin at Morguefile