Got some great news Monday: I’m getting paid to talk to 8th graders!
The caller was an Allegheny County middle school principal. She said she’d seen my name on a list of uplifting and entertaining speakers.
“Kids in 8th grade really struggle with confidence,” she said. “We’d like you to come in right before the PSSA test and really encourage them. Can you do that?”
She asked what I charged.
I told her in the last six months I’ve been paid in a range that runs from $5,000 down to one free Rotary coffee mug that came empty of coffee.
The negotiation concluded closer to the coffee mug, but it’s still a swell payday for a carefree hour of happy yapping — and, being a shrewd negotiator, I insisted she throw in a free cafeteria lunch.
That’s what the rock stars call “a rider.”
I am excited about the March 18 engagement for many reasons.
One, it’s an unbidden payday. It sailed in out of the blue and landed right in my lap.
Two, it means my name is circulating on a list of people who can be counted on to be lively and entertaining speakers.
Three, because it’s an entirely new demographic, I am forced to write a whole new speech. I love that. Doubtless, much of what I say to 8th graders will fit perfectly in with what so many adults really need to hear. It’s always good when lazy writers like me are forced to write.
Four, I’m getting paid to talk to 8th graders!
This is great because the world is full to busting with 8th graders and the only way we’ll run out of 8th graders is if the world stops producing 7th graders.
So it’s all very promising. If this goes well, and it will, it could lead to a entirely new revenue stream.
Why am I convinced this will go so well?
It’s my custom to host an open bar before every talk to soften up the audience.
What could go wrong?
Actually, I think it’ll go well because a big part of me never left the 8th grade.
That’s been a professional hindrance. Adults in supervisory positions tend to frown on the guy most prone to interrupt a slow meeting with a fart joke that simply can’t wait.
But, if I recall correctly, the ability to tell a really good fart joke among 8th graders is a quality to be revered. It can make you a leader of men.
Or at least a leader of 8th grade men.
Plus, I’ve been taught since college that the average reader reads at an 8th grade level. And that to that exemplar of scholarly hierarchy I’ve long been perched.
Er, I mean that’s what I’ve done did!
But I’ve never tailored my topics to actual 8th graders. I can now see if I’m more engaging by talking to open-minded youths who are free of grown-up things like prejudicial opinions and armpit hair.
So this upcoming address will allow me to test drive the theory by bringing up relevant topics like, “Jello or roll: What’s the sensible food fight first strike?” And, “Turning the substitute into a psycho: Advantages vs. disadvantages.”
Those topics always fall flat with your typical Rotarian.
In all honesty, the biggest reason is I am truly thrilled that someone thinks my message can be beneficial to young kids.
That kid that’s feeling hopeless about his future? I can help him.
Those girls who think they’re worthless? I can assure them they most certainly are not.
I can look every one of those 250 kids in the eye and tell them each something wonderful is in store for each of them.
I say this because I truly believe it.
“Never forget for even a single instant how many happy colors your life is forever adding to the lives of those you love. And remember, together we can all brighten the whole world!”
That’s the essence of my entire message. It’s why so many adults have said they enjoy my book and are making “Use All The Crayons!” their mantra for colorful living.
For whom does a universal message like that have greater resonance, an adult or a 14-year-old kid who spends the day feeling lost?
My money’s on the kid.
Now, my job for the next few weeks is to find a clever way to marry that soulful message with at least one really good fart joke.
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