Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Career Week

TB came home today excited to invite me to speak to his class for career week.

I'm not exactly sure how to explain academic administration to second graders.

“Well, I go to a lot of meetings, and I try to get grownups to play nicely and share their toys.”

Somehow, I don't see that one capturing the room.

“I make sure we follow the rules.” Yawn. “I try to get teachers to behave.” Not bad, but I could see the discussion veering badly off-course. “I keep the college on an even keel despite years of public disinvestment.” Yeah, second graders are big on 'disinvestment.'

“I drink a lot of coffee, and read and writes lots of emails.” Pretty accurate, but it just doesn't fire the imagination.

I bet rodeo clowns don't have this problem...

You could always say you stand in the hallway with a yardstick and whistle to make sure the teachers and students get to class on time...
Tell them you're the ringmaster of a circus.
Cat-herder. That's your true occupation. And that does capture the imagination :)
Hmm. Maybe a practical demonstration?

Walk in, and secretly signal TB to start blowing enthusiastically on a kazoo. Have the kids divide up randomly into groups and pass out crayons, but make sure that some groups get enough for everyone, some groups have to share, and one group only gets Q-Tips. Then, pass out a simple coloring assignment with instructions written in Portuguese.

After a few minutes of utter confusion, you provide the English translation and extra crayons, and ask TB to stop with the kazoo.

Point being: what you do is make it possible for people to learn. You provide tools, structure a good learning environment, and remove impediments to student success.
The Boy's Teacher: And what do you do, Dean Dad?

DD: I hunt.

TBT: Hunt? For a living?

DD: Yes.

TBT: What on Earth do you hunt that you could make a living at it?

DD: Men.
My Son's 3rd-grade teacher called me to let me know how the day went. He asked each kid to explain what their parents did for a living:
Son: My Dad is a Dean at the Community College.
Teach: Maybe you should explain what a Dean does for those hear who don't know that is.
Son: He fires people.
Teach: That's it? I think there must be more to the job than that.
Son: No, I don't think so.

That was the prelude to asking me to come in to talk about my job.

You should just tell the kids that you are a Principal for adults.
My daughter lost all enthusiasm for "Take Your Daughter to Work Day" when she realized I spent all day in school.

I have a hard enough time explaining academic administration to adults, much less second graders. Good luck.
You could be totally honest and tell them that you stand by the freeway exit with a cardboard sign that says "wanted, one English teacher".

You could tell them that you manage a group of second graders, only the ones you work with are quite a bit older and have the title "Professor".

Or you could simply say you put out fires every day. Same difference.
I like your suggestion of: "I try to get grownups to play nicely and share their toys.”

- it's factual
- it ties in the life lessons that they're learning now with life lessons that they'll need in the future. And they might not remember your presentation when they're a electrician, professor, rodeo clown or sales clerk, but maybe that lesson will have sunk in a little.

Share your toys, and don't call people names. It's good advice.
I happen to have just been through a career day this past Friday. I was an "Art Gallery Manager". I played up the art part and used the excitement over it to explain that I show people art for a living, and why I do so. Seems to me you could do the same thing talking about school and why college is really awesome.

Lessons learned:
You can not compete with the fire truck.

Everything you do is cool - until the students hit fourth grade. After that, well, like, uh, whatever.

All of the children's behaviors you will see are things you have already seen reflected in community college students.

If there is actually another presenter on the schedule called "Bam! Kung Fu", you will not be able to go see it for yourself.

Some teachers will perform classroom management while your in the room, others will not care whether or not you do it for them.

Bring visual aids. That can not be over emphasized. Bring visual aids.
"Principal at a school for grownups" is probably the way to go.
My dad was middle management when I was growing up (now he's upper management). He always told me his job was "the boss." Having watched the Jetsons, I pictured him as Mr. Spacely. This was probably not too far off.

(My mom is a lawyer. I didn't know what that was either, but I was delighted when George Jetson hired one. Except, I remember saying, I didn't know *boys* could be lawyers.)
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