BOOKENDS: What Storytellers Wish They Could Tell You
1. Know why it is that you want to expose your students to the art of storytelling. As you clearly define what role you hope oral tradition will play in your class or school life you will also be helping the performer to know how to craft the visit for mutual satisfaction. “We thought a storyteller would be fun!” is a good reason but far better are: “ We were studying various art forms and wanted the oral arts represented” , “We’ve been studying folklore and myth and thought the students hearing stories communicated in a traditional and ancient manner would add to the lessons,” or “ We thought that since children learn in so many diverse ways that a storyteller –bringing an auditory component – would bring an excellent dimension to the event.”
2. Clear with your building administrator to make sure that there are no problems with your plans and you have their support for bringing an enriching program to your class/library/school.
3. Place on school calendar. Get the information out early enough so that everyone gets to learn of the event, that information goes out on any mailings, or send-home packets.
4. Know how much you can spend to bring a professional teller into your setting. Some storytellers have firm price packages. Others may be more flexible, especially if they are not full time tellers. What might you use to barter a price with a storyteller? Can you guarantee a spot on the local cable TV show, a big write-up in the newspaper, or a secondary storytelling job in the same area?
5. Make sure that everything is placed in writing using a standard contract format that defines who, what, when, where, and how much. Any special additions/restrictions/etc. will need to be added to this and both parties sign and receive copies of the signed contract.
6. Plan for problems. Illnesses, missed flights, sudden death or loss of funding can all happen without warning. Remain flexible and even the worst case scenario will be much easier to handle.
7. Check with the administration about any special forms/clearances required by your system or administrative offices before a performer can a) visit your school and b) receive their check. Make sure your performer gets a copy of this in a timely manner so that payment is not unnecessarily delayed.
8. Advertise the visit among students, teachers, staff, and parents.
9. Prepare the groundwork for a wonderful experience by a) explaining your goal for the event, b) explaining storytelling, c) sharing audience etiquette with students and other staff.
10. Call or write close to the date to confirm all arrangements.
11. Provide clear directions to location.
12. Have someone on hand to a) greet (“Yes, you have the right place” b) direct (“The library is here, the restrooms here, etc.) and c) assist your guest storyteller (“would you like some water, a chair?”).
13. Make any necessary announcements prior to introduction. These may include last minute notices to staff and teachers, requests that pagers be turned off, and reminders about proper behavior.
14. Introduce your guest to the audience. If you are uncomfortable with introductions, ask the artist ahead of time to provide you with a script to use as you introduce them.
15. Thank your guest performer at the conclusion of the event. Even if the event was not all you hoped for it is a good role model for students and staff.
16. Follow up with a written thank you to the guest artist. Include copies of any PR material that may have appeared in newsletters, local papers, etc.
Just as the visiting artist should be expected to impress you with his or her level of professionalism….the teacher, administrator, librarian, or school district should also set out to impress the visiting artist that they are a place worth the artist’s time and effort.