One hour per week, I volunteer at a local high school, presenting the curriculum for Junior Achievement. For those of you unfamiliar with the organization, “Junior Achievement is a non profit organization that brings the real world to students through hands-on curriculum delivered by a trained classroom volunteer.” There are a number of programs for students in grades K-12; the particular one I present is called “Success Skills.”
Tuesday night, I stayed up way too late watching the election results. And to be completely honest, I initially stayed up for the speeches because I wanted to hear Obama’s walk up music. (“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” for those of you who missed it. Solid choice.) By lunchtime, when I volunteer, I was feeling less than spectacular and pretty ready for a nap. I also was ponytailed and had picked off about half of my manicure the night before, due to election result anxiety. Needless to say, I probably wasn’t, in my mind, the portrait of success.
The lesson’s focus was on building rapport and using both verbal and non-verbal communication. One of the exercises involved pairs of students essentially playing Taboo with cards that listed various occupations. In other words, one student would describe a job like “court reporter,” without using the words “court” or “reporter.” Before they began, I mentioned that if a student didn’t know what one of the jobs was, he was to raise his hand and I would do my best to explain.
Looking over the jobs as the students began, I felt a little hesitant about a few of them ( statistician, public relations specialist, welder), but felt the rest were pretty run of the mill. One of the students raised her hand and I asked her which job she needed a description of. She pointed at “tailor” with a quizzical expression.
What follows is why I will never be on a game show.
“Okay. You buy a dress and it’s a little bit too big. Where do you take it?”
She looks at me and responds, “Back to the store.”
Valid point. Next thought.
“You buy a pair of pants and you love them. But they are just a bit too long. Who do you bring them to, to have them hemmed?”
I realize now that while all of these answers are indeed correct, we’re not exactly headed in the right direction. But I’m determined. We’re gonna get the right answer.
“Starts with an ‘T’ and rhymes with ‘sailor'”
Finally I realized that neither of the kids had any clue in the first place what a tailor was or what a tailor does. And from that moment emerged an even more important realization.
That day, I was teaching success skills for the workplace.
- No matter how tired you are or how crappy you feel, you’re expected to pretend to be on your A game.
- Sometimes, you have no idea what the right answer is, or how to get to it. And you’ll resort to some kind of a cheap, crappy solution – because at the moment it works.
Just another day of inspiring America’s future workforce.