Friday, December 14, 2007

The recruiter

One of my buddies at work asked me to sub for him at a recruitment fair at a local elementary school yesterday. I didn't know these things existed before last night, but basically Chicago high schools have to recruit incoming freshmen, so they send reps to schools, where students and their parents can find out about the various programs. My school actually has a nice little display board that someone created (with pictures of students that graduated four years ago) and a folder with information. In addition to my little neighborhood high school, there were a couple of private Catholic schools and several of the heavy-hitting city magnet schools. Their representatives could talk about great test scores, great graduation rates, and great results on AP tests. I didn't even know that I'd have to talk. So when the elementary school's principal asked us to speak in the auditorium to the gathered kids and parents, I got nervous.

If you've ever seen me speak in public, like at a wedding, you know three things:
  1. I get really nervous.
  2. I usually drink as much as possible before the speech.
  3. I then deliver a somewhat funny speech that lasts way too long.
I didn't have access to alcohol, so I had no way to calm my nerves. So I listened to the other reps, and tried to formulate a quick speech. It didn't look so hard. The reps spoke. The audience sat there, unimpressed. Huh, I thought, similar to my classroom. So when I went up there, I wasn't too scared.

And then I started telling little stories. Instead of telling boring facts about my school, I talked about some of my experiences with students. If you read this blog (which I guess you do), you know the kinds of stories I was going for. And the amazing thing was the audience actually got into it. They started laughing. With me. I didn't say too much, but when I finished, a couple of people actually applauded. Going back to my seat, one of the reps, a football coach, said, "Wow, that was great."

We then went to the gym, where our displays were up. And as the students and parents walked in, they walked right past me and straight to the magnet schools. Darn.

Eventually, though, some came back.

One Latino dad, with his cute wife and daughter, came over. "Your speech was really, really great," he said. "Thank you."

"Well, thank you," I said. "Do you have any questions?"

"Yes. My daughter is in seventh grade right now. I wonder, what can we do," he said, pointing at himself and his wife, "to get her ready for high school?"

At first, I thought that was a cool question. So I talked about making sure she keeps her grades up and researching all these high schools, checking out web sites, visiting, that kind of thing. But then the question sunk in. He was really asking so much more. He's probably an immigrant, most likely did not attend high school or university in the States, and he wants help. My help. Like I know how to raise kids. Like I even know anything about the different high schools and options.

"Well," I said, finishing up. "I think you're already doing everything right. You're interested. You want what's best for her. Just keep doing that. Make sure she knows you support her, that you love her. And you want what's best for her, so that's why it's important to you who she hangs out with and whether or not she's doing her homework."

And I looked at the girl. "And you need to always remember that your parents want you to succeed. So listen to them."

They left. The other reps started packing up. I did a quick count. Gave away nine or ten of my school's folders.


mr. christian said...

You are a great public speaker--and you don't need alcohol. I love the part were you wow'd 'im with your speech, they applaud, and then go straight to the other schools.
Did you mention that your school won't be around next year? Did you get paid?

The Mom said...

His school WILL be around next year. 30 lashes to you for saying that. We are already such a thorn in the butt because of past confrontations, and with Daley's son in the news right now screwing up the "integrity" of the mayor's office, he's NOT going to want any other scandal before he gets his olympic games.