When the Teacher Becomes the Student

“Thank you so much for joining us today,” said the principal to the guest presenters. I happened to be one of them.

I glanced around the library we were stationed in as each presenter prepped themselves to speak. “How did I get myself into this?” I thought to myself. Normally, I don’t do speaking engagements, as a matter of fact, this would be my first.

“Can you come with me to share what you do for the school’s Career Day?” my nurse cousin asked the day before. “They need more presenters and I thought of you, so I signed you up.” To which I smirkingly replied, “Then I guess I already said yes.” 

So there I was the next day sitting in the school library trying to take in all the books I saw: The Story of King Midas, The Princess and the Pea (oh, one of my favorites when I was younger), and many, many more. My nurse cousin had worked all night into the morning, but decided to attend the Career Day anyway. She of course was tired but she looked more composed than I was. “Why are you so quiet?” she turned to me with a smile. “I’m nervous,” I told her. “You’ll be fine,” she said.

Other guest presenters included: a firefighter; an NYPD police officer; an ER surgeon; a Nurse Educator (my cousin); and, an Outreach Director who works with juveniles. Last year, the school’s Career Day had invited actresses, actors, and musicians (not sure how that went, but I’m sure that must’ve been interesting).

“Okay, we’re ready for the presenters,” said the guidance counselor who was so intrigued to see us. I straightened my shoulders, whipped out my chest and strutted behind the group as we made our way to the classrooms. “This will be your class,” the counselor turns to me and says. As she opened the door, it didn’t help when she said to me that this was one of their rowdiest classrooms. I said a quick prayer before heading in.

“HELLO and good morning!” I shouted. Like an echo, the kids replied back. I asked each student to say their name and what they wanted to be when they got to college. A football player! A firefighter! A nurse! A soccer player! A video game expert! A dancer! A pediatrician! A veterinarian! A pilot! A lawyer! A teacher! (I was surprised to find that not one student send anything about being in communications. They really didn’t know what it was.)

The class sesson proceeded on as I discussed what PR is, what it’s not, and the communication skills needed in order to advance to college.  “You need to pass your tests,” one student replied when I asked them what skills it takes to get to college; “You have to learn other behaviors,” replied another. (These students are good, but I could tell they didn’t know what it really took to do well in the “real world”.) I continued to share with them the need to excel in writing, in reading, and in math, to listen effectively, and know how to work with others.

When I showed an example of answering a telephone, the kids realized the importance of speaking over the phone versus face-to-face and how important first impressions are. When I spoke with them about social media, they never heard the word (another surprising fact), but when I spoke of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace all hands went up who knew exactly what I spoke of.  “It’s about socializing,” one boy exclaimed. “Why talk on the phone when you have MySpace?” one girl as a matter of factly stated.

Before I left the classroom, I pointed out to the students the importance of not giving up and believing in themself. “Repeat after me: I CAN.” The students exuded with enthusiasm and shouted back: “I CAN!” The students clapped after I was done and I waved goodbye.

After presenting to six other classes (from sixth to eigth graders) , four things I learned:

  • It’s not easy for teachers to train and work with young people every day. Think about it: Just dealing with one child is enough! Commend a teacher when you have the chance. The little appreciation can go a long way for them. I remember I bought a gift for my geometry teacher (who was not very popular with her students because she graded tough) and out of the kindness of my heart the gift I gave was to show my appreciation for her putting up with us every day. She never stopped smiling more ever since.
  • I came away feeling like I made a BIG difference. Those kids never knew what PR or other communication fields entailed, but because of what I shared, they now have a step up above their peers who might not. I hoped they will remember the “I CAN” motto, especially. I know the trials that life can bear and they don’t, but I was glad to take part in Career Day, more so for the kids.
  • Young people are willing to learn but they won’t know as much if someone older and more seasoned in wisdom or work experience is willing to take the time to teach or mentor them. It will make a world of difference. Just look at the expression the kids give when they learn something that positively benefits them.
  • Do something spontaneous. If it wasn’t for my cousin asking me last minute to pitch in and help with Career Day, I would have missed out on an incredible opportunity to get involved and do something I’ve wanted to do but never got the chance. Don’t let the “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s” take over your “I can and I will” when in the moment.

We were invited back next  year, so maybe I’ll attend—this time of course with visuals : ).