High School Horrors

A friend of mine runs a Community In Schools program where she brings community leaders in to speak to kids who are in a school to work transition program. Because I am insane, a nice person, or both, I agreed to speak to this group on the subjects of networking and time management.

First off, I had major flashbacks as I approached the glass double doors leading into the school. It was near the end of the day and there were student announcement blaring over the PA system: "Congratulations to our band that placed fifth in state competition...Don't forget the soccer game this Saturday at rival school....All students driving to school must have car passes. Please see Mrs. King if you do not have your pass..."

It was complete deja vou. I felt 17 and insecure all over again.

But I like to think I covered well. I went into the classroom, peppy and full of energy, ready to WOW those kids with the dynamics of simple networking. They would thank me, remember me. Ten years from now when they were being interviewed by national news on how they achieved their success they would say, "I don't remember her name, but my junior year this woman talked to me about networking and opened my eyes and changed my life. I owe everything to her."

Ta-daaaahhh! I walked in and with a grin asked if anyone knew what networking was.

I was met with crossed arms, blank stares, and bodies slumped in seats as if all bones had been removed and they were doing their best to remain upright.

Okay. New tactic. I asked what sort of work they were interested in. People like to talk about themselves, right?

Wrong. They shifted left, shifted right, glanced uneasily at one another and recrossed their arms.

Mayday, mayday. I pulled out a flip chart. "Let's talk about who you know," I said. "That's the first part of networking."

Dead silence.

Finally, taking pity on me, one teen reluctantly mumbled, "Teachers, I guess."

"Yes! Teachers," I said scribbling. "Who else?"

Slowly they came around and called out names: friends, social workers, doctors, coaches, employers, church members, neighbors, parents, friends of parents, mechanics, hair dressers...we were on a roll.

They perked up a bit more when we got to time management, mainly b/c the class laughed when everyone admitted to horrible time management and they were always forgetting things.

I won't lie. It was a hard class to teach. I didn't realize quite how much I relied on audience involvement from the classes I teach to adult women. But it was eye opening too. I really don't think these kids were unresponsive. Rather, I sensed an uneasiness about opening up in front of their peers. Which I get. If you have a career dream which seems far-fetched, I can see not wanting to blurt it out for everyone to hear and--potentially--make fun of.

Surprisingly, given my not-so-warm feelings toward kids, the class made me want to go teach younger students. I want to get to them before they're closed off by experience and peer pressure. Or else I want to try again and find new ways to reach them. Even if I don't enjoy it, I love a challenge. And these kids presented a big one. I worry b/c the skills I talked about are basic skills needed to move ahead in life. But I'm not sure they "got" what I was saying, or the importance of practicing networking and time management. Admittedly, I only had one hour, but it seems odd no one has talked to these 15 year olds before about how to keep a daytimer and organize their time.

The PA was blaring again as I left, reminding students to prepare for upcoming exams and please bring in cans for the can drive which ends Wednesday.

High school. I'd forgotten how hard (emotionally) it was. These kids need all the support they can get.