There are a variety of reasons why I wrote Nerd Girls. Number one: I’m sort of a dork myself. I mean, I like reading. I like writing. I like learning about things that interest me, and I love teachers and librarians.
Plus, I’ve been known to embarrass myself now and then. For example, once I gave an oral report in front of a class with my fly unzipped. I thought people were laughing at my ingenious use of comedy. Instead, they could see my tightie-whities. Oy vey!
When I was a kid in school, these traits made life kind of tough. I wasn’t cool, sexy, the class president, or voted most likely to conquer the world. I was awkward with members of the opposite sex, laughed like a goofball, and sometimes felt like the loneliest person on the planet.
Add it all up, and I was a nerd.
Once I realized I am what I am, things got easier for me. As I got older, I realized that there are more of “us” than there are of “them” anyway, so I decided to channel my inner nerd and write Nerd Girls. I wanted to write an LOL-comedy—and I believe I have. I’m proud of my work and have aspirations to do all sorts of things with the material including TV and movies. In fact, I just adapted Nerd Girls into a play to be performed by middle schools. The sold-out world premiere was last month, and the drama teacher said she’s never had so much fun staging a play in her entire career.
This is why I decided to pen a BookJam for Nerd Girls, too.
Look: Kids today are smart. Wicked smart. And neat, sweet stories that wrap up like perfect little fairy tales are hardly the way the real world works.
Nerd Girls is layered and complex because today’s young people are layered and complex. Approaching topics such as bullying, growing up in a wired world, handling the challenges of peer pressure, puberty, and parents all present a host of ripe, teachable moments. And when you can use a funny, relatable text to nail the content standards, bring project-based learning into the classroom, and build connections to pieces of nonfiction, well… my aim as both a teacher and an author is to have my cake and eat it, too.
Sure, today’s young people have a wonderful sense of humor. They love to laugh (who doesn’t?). However, they also like to be challenged to think deeply. Creating win-win scenarios for kids and teachers in the realm of literacy is certainly my aim in all of this.
Students are at their best when they enjoy what they’re doing. They’ll read more books when they like what they’re reading, and learn more about a subject when they like what they’re learning. That’s my belief and I’m sticking with it. (Besides, I was named California Teacher of the Year, so you might think I know a wee bit about this stuff.)
School is not a comedy club, but it’s not a funeral home, either. I believe a classroom without laughter is a classroom that isn’t operating at its highest potential. Before kids are students, they are people. People need to laugh much as they need to eat and breathe and love.
To be clear: I believe that working hard is important. In my classroom, I have little patience for goof-offs and a lot of love for kids who put good ol’ fashioned positive energy into their efforts. But I think you’re much more likely to try harder when you like what you’re doing. Making reading and writing enjoyable makes better readers and writers.
Fun is my secret sauce. It works!