Career Day

Spent yesterday morning at PS 124 in Chinatown, the Yung Wing school, at Career Day. This is the invention of the school’s unstoppable principal, Alice Hom, and boy, all schools should only have principals like her. Lots of great creative things go on down there. For Career Day she’s managed to strongarm fifty or so grownups — most, like me, not parents at the school but only peripherally connected (I have a friend whose daughter goes there) to show up at 7:30 in the morning, march in and sit in rows of chairs on the auditorium stage and be introduced, including our professions, one by one to cheers from the 4th and 5th grades (that’s where the photo comes from, while I was up there) and then listen to a keynote speaker tells the kids about his/her journey and deliver the day’s message: kids can grow up to be anything they want to be. Then it’s off to a classroom, two or three grownups per, where three groups of kids cycle in and each grownup does a presentation about what she/he does for a living and the kids ask questions. When they go back to their classrooms they share what they’ve heard, so they see and hear about lots of different career paths by the end of the day. I’ve done this for the past couple of years and I have a whole song and dance by now. I bring a book, and they’re impressed enough that there’s a book with my name on the cover. Then I whip out the scribbled-on, marked-up, 600 page manuscript it came from. 600 pages! OMG! I tell them how I do research by eavesdropping and interviewing people — chefs, doctors, prisoners — and their eyes get wide. I always figure, if I reach that one kid who wants to write, my job is done. After the presentations, our reward is a Chinese lunch. Long live Career Day!

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