I’m right here… aren’t I?
Last December I did a show for an annual gathering of the National Science Teachers’ Association in Phoenix, Arizona. Some teachers from the Phoenix suburb of Glendale liked it enough that they invited me to come spend a few days teaching writing workshops in their schools. So, last Tuesday I made the six-hour drive to Glendale. We had scheduled eight writing workshops over three days; this was a fairly busy schedule but I had Googled the locations of the schools and found a convenient business hotel nearby.
On Wednesday morning I woke up, excited for my first day of workshops. I had already printed out the addresses of the schools, so my coffee and I got in the car and punched the address of Desert Elementary into the nav system. Off I went, arriving in good time for my 8:00 workshop. I walked into the school office with a guitar and a big smile and said, “Hi! I’m Tim Griffin. I’m here to do music with your kids.”
Now in order for the rest of this story to make any sense, you need to know what I did not: apparently there are two Desert Elementary schools in Glendale, Arizona. Naturally, I was at the wrong one.
Under the circumstances one might expect a response such as, “I’m sorry, but we’ve never heard of you.” Or maybe, “Who invited you?” Possibly even, “You do know there’s another school with the same name a few miles from here, right?” And I’d be standing there looking bewildered, an expression my friends and colleagues know well.
What they actually said was, “Great! Follow these students right here, there’s a class of seventh graders ready for you.” So I went and spent the next hour teaching basic songwriting techniques to the students of Mr. Jones, whose students all did a fine job. Likewise the students of Mr. Gavin and Ms. Petra. For four hours I ran some pretty good writing workshops at a school where I had been neither invited nor asked for identification, walking from class to class with a large black case, which was definitely okay because it was a guitar case, see?
MEANWHILE… at the other Desert Elementary (remember, the one that invited me?) there was discussion about whatever happened to “that nice Mr. Griffin.” I am told that one teacher said something to the effect of, “Maybe he went to the other Desert Elementary!” And everyone laughed because Hey, who would be that dumb?
Just before noon, I had a chance to check my phone. Odd… there are several messages and texts here from Desert Elementary… What do they mean, where am I? I’m right here, obviously… I listened to my messages with a growing sense of unease. Then a preposterous idea occurred to me and I asked, “Ms. Petra? There couldn’t be another Desert Elementary School around here, could there?”
“Sure. About five miles East.”
Oh. Oh, dear. “Excuse me, I need to make a quick phone call.”
Minutes later, as I was galloping frantically out through the front office with my large black guitar case, I heard the office manager calling out to me, “The kids and teachers really like your work! Can you come back some time?”
Without slowing down I shouted, “I’d love to!” and the office door closed behind me with a bang.
EPILOGUE: The teachers at the Desert Elementary-which-invited-me were very kind and flexible; we juggled our schedules and I was able to run all the workshops we had planned. I did a total of twelve writing workshops in three days for kids ranging from third to eighth grade, all of whom did a great job.
Two days later, I went back to the other Desert Elementary School to apologize for my part in the mixup and to ask if they would like to have me sometime for a scheduled visit. To my amazement, the principal said Yes.
As always, I have changed the names of the schools and people involved.