Ironia Elementary

RANDOLPH, NJ — Visiting the Ironia School last week was a trip down memory lane. This is the school that both of my daughters attended. IMG_6075Located on Dover-Chester Road, it’s just around the corner from riding stables and wooded hiking trails.

Here, the principal stands outside every morning, in rain or shine, and greets each child as she/he steps off the bus:IMG_6069Wow. If that doesn’t make you feel important and welcome, I don’t know what does.

It also tells you NOT to do anything you would regret ;).

His name is Dr. Dennis Copeland. And he greeted me as warmly and respectfully as he greeted his students :). It made me hold my head higher and walk a little taller going into the school. Thank you, Dr. Copeland!

IMG_6008Inside, I was immediately hugged by the amazing PTO moms who had organized my visit. Wow! I really liked it here! Here they are, Gail Kreitzer on the left and Stephanie Coleman Chan on the right:IMG_6040They did everything. They had water and snacks waiting for me. They organized my entire day. They hosted the pizza lunch/writers workshop. They suggested pre-visit activities to the teachers. They did book sales. They made me feel special and loved all day long. Mrs. Coleman Chan even took all the pictures you see here except for the one above that I took of her. They were such kind and gracious hosts, I can’t thank them enough. Thank you, ladies!!!

Plus, they had decorated practically the entire school! Here are some of their decorations:

IMG_6005IMG_6002IMG_6001IMG_5997IMG_6003IMG_6004

My day started with a reading of BRUSH OF THE GODS to the kindergarteners:IMG_5989They were very good listeners and very sweet.

After that, I had to rush down the hall to the gym where a very different audience was waiting for me: IMG_5991Gulp!

Three hundred third, fourth and fifth graders.

No worries! Dr. Copeland knew exactly how to handle a crowd like that. He gave me a very warm introduction . . .IMG_5994Then everyone was very attentive, just like that!IMG_5996Wow. Magic!

I think he should bottle it and sell it to authors visiting schools. He would make a mint!

Among the teachers sitting on the side were my daughter’s third-grade teacher, Mr. Cervona, and her librarian, Mrs. Lockwood. I saw no other familiar faces. It was great to see them again. Thank you, Mr. Cervona, for coming to say hello during the writers workshop!

Here we were in our writers-workshop-pizza-party:IMG_6027IMG_6019IMG_6030And you thought you had to write a lot during the general assembly. Ha! This is where I get to really torture you!

A word of warning to young authors who think they might want to sign up for my writers workshop: DON’T. Don’t even THINK about it. Go to gym instead. Or go to recess. Then I will have a WHOLE pie to myself :D. Mmmmm!

After that, Dr. Copeland worked his magic again for my next assembly. See how attentive they were:IMG_6036These were the first and second graders and they were great — they gave me real belly laughs 😀 at all the right moments without any prompting! Thank you, first and second graders!

When you’re an author, and your audience laughs at all the wrong moments, it makes you wish you could disappear. But when they laugh at all the right ones, it makes you want to say something even funnier!

Here I am with my daughters’ beloved art teacher, Perry Tyroler, who is a real inspiration to all, myself included, not just to the children lucky enough spend time in her art room:IMG_6042Look at some of the art that they’ve created with her:IMG_6049And these from coffee filters: IMG_6055IMG_6054IMG_6053IMG_6057IMG_6050Priceless.

Normally, I talk about the young readers when I post about a school visit, but this time I  was struck by the grown-ups. They really set the tone for the kids here. The children were treated with such great respect that in turn, they treated me in the same way. After the first assembly, for example, many of the third, fourth and fifth graders wanted to hug me — so they asked very politely, then spontaneously formed a line in the hallway for hugs :)! It was SO sweet. The students also looked me in the eye and greeted me by name each time I passed them in the halls. And when they didn’t, if there was a grown-up around, they got prompted, for sure!

Wow. It made me feel like I mattered. It made me feel FANTASTIC!

When you’re an author, doing author visits can be brutal. You have to understand that your young readers never mean to hurt your feelings. They’re kids. They will say all sorts of things. Such as, “I was hoping to meet R.L. Stine,” when they meet you. And when you leave, “I still want to meet R.L. Stine.” Or, “You don’t look like your picture.” (After you’ve covered yourself with lots of anti-wrinkle cream to try to look like your picture.) Or worse, they just don’t acknowledge you at all.

But not at Ironia. This was where my youngest daughter’s proudest day occurred during her turn as “Star of the Week.” Back then, when you were the Star of the Week, you received a large cut-out letter of the first letter of your name. And printed on the letter are all the words that your classmates used to describe you: marvelous, wonderful, beautiful, magnanimous (yes, they used this word!), generous, kind, forgiving, hard-working, brainy, smart, creative, artistic, musical, a good friend, huggable, a good listener . . . and on and on. On the day that you come home clutching that letter, you’re different. You walk so tall and smile so big, you’re unrecognizable. My daughter kept that letter on her door even through college.

When you’re acknowledged like that, it really changes you.

Everyone at Ironia is a star.IMG_6047Thank you, Ironia grown-ups, for being the brightest stars of all.

And thank you, Ironia young readers, for being super-duper special too 🙂 🙂 🙂 !!!

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