Evading a cow, embracing the future

Published 8:03 pm Monday, June 14, 2010

I’ll go ahead and admit it — I’m not a big fan of doing career days at schools.

It’s not that I don’t like talking to the children. The part I don’t like is waking up early, only to get there and be upstaged by the fire department’s trucks and ambulances, the police officers’ weapons, the sheriff’s office’s cars, the U.S. Coast Guard’s boats and — best of all — the Chick-fil-A cow.

What can I, with a stack of papers in my hands, do to compete with all that?

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Sure, Suffolk Publications has snazzy computers that do cool things, as well as Facebook and Twitter sites, which the kids are certainly familiar with. However, I can’t lug a desktop computer to the school; my camera is the most high-tech thing I can get off-site.

The children always seem bored after they have come from climbing on fire trucks and listening to sirens from law enforcement vehicles.

However, the children at Mount Zion Elementary School last Wednesday — as well as a sign hanging on the wall in the cafeteria — taught me a lesson about the value of career days.

I set up in the cafeteria, as directed. After I set out my notebook, pen and camera, to show the students the tools I use, and laid out some page proofs, papers and magazines, I was joined by Shaun Waters, who works in restaurant and hotel management in Norfolk.

Shaun and I were quickly dismayed to see that Chick-fil-A’s marketing manager also was assigned to the cafeteria, which meant only one thing — the 7-foot cow would arrive shortly.

Despite the presence of the cow, I would like to say that the classes that came to my booth were some of the most well-behaved and articulate groups of elementary school-age children I have ever encountered.

Mrs. McIntosh’s class, particularly, asked very well-thought-out questions. One girl (though I can’t remember whose class she was in) even asked me if I thought the methods paparazzi use to get photos are acceptable. I was very encouraged by the students’ intelligence and thoughtfulness, and even more encouraged that they mostly paid more attention to me than to Chick-fil-A’s faux bovine mascot.

In between sessions, Shaun and I were talking about how difficult it can be to explain our exciting careers to children — and to wake up early enough to be at the school at the required time.

However, a sign on the cafeteria wall soon caught our eye. The sign held a quote by Abraham Lincoln — “You can’t evade the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

That sign says it all about why I went to career day. It’s my responsibility to help these children determine their future careers. Certainly, one career day in elementary school isn’t going to be the determining factor on their future jobs, but I hope I at least planted a seed in one future journalist’s mind.