Preparing for the Future

Trip Start Jan 10, 2007
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Flag of Costa Rica  ,
Saturday, August 25, 2007

As a fun ending for my unit on jobs and places, I decided to have a career day for my students. When I told them that they would need to come to school dressed as what they wanted to be when they grew up, yes anything they wanted, they screamed with excitement. If Shakira herself decided to have a concert in little La Estrella I doubt there could have been more excitement. For two days all my students talked about was what they were going to be and what they were going to wear. My family's little used clothing store attached to the house was mobbed by my students and their mothers looking for the perfect outfits for doctors, police officers, and firefighters. Everyday at school I had at least five kids come up making sure that they could be whatever they wanted and that the big day was in fact on Thursday. After assuring them that, yes, for the hundredth time, they had complete freedom in their career choice and that the day was correct, they would get this look on their face that some American kids get when they look at an ice cream sundae.

When Thursday finally arrived, the excitement at school was palpable. My fourth graders were first and when I walked into my classroom the soccer players were deeply involved in a pick up game, the doctor was examining the housewife's baby while the farmer/cowboy looked on, and the students were getting out their notebooks. They each proudly had their turn in front of the class declaring, "I am a doctor (or whatever they happened to be)," and striking a pose for the camera. In 2nd and 3rd grade things pretty much went the same way. There were the soccer players, doctors, farmers/cowboys, a fireman, a team of teachers, a few giggling actresses, two veterinarians with their dogs in tow (one of which being Chiclet), and even a forest ranger. After the requisite photos, they were paired up with a fellow career person and given a place in which they had to set a mimed scene. The forest ranger helped the firefighter put out a fire at school, a doctor gave an actress a shot after she was rushed to the hospital, and the veterinarians together cured their dogs after a walk in a supermarket.

In first grade, half of my girls were teachers who were way more fashionably dressed then I ever am, though I was flattered to see all the sunglasses pushed up on their heads as mine always are. I did have a jolt, though, when I saw that one of my boys dressed as a farmer had rounded out his costume with a real machete hanging at his side. It's the little things like this that remind me where I am. (One day I walked outside to see my two year old host nephew playing with a machete while my host brother, his father, was chopping wood with yet another machete next to him. When my mom later called me worried that the matchbox cars she had bought as a gift for this two year old were meant for kids three and over, I assured her that this would most definitely not be a problem.)

The fifth and six graders, who probably spend more time thinking about their future jobs, ended up being a bit more creative with their assignment. Along with the teachers (again with the sunglasses on their heads), veterinarians (dogs still in tow), and soccer players, there were also two photographers and an artist along with a singer, bus driver, secretary, and lawyer. One girl even came as a university student and two as police officers. Their scenes included one in which the police officers busted a soccer player who was caught shoplifting, an artist chastising a photographer taking unauthorized pictures of her art, and a lawyer-secretary team defending a criminal (played by me) in jail.

At the end of the day, walking home as the first drops of the afternoon rain started to fall, I reflected back on the aspirations of my students. They had all been so excited, some of them so sure of what they wanted to be. The park ranger couldn't wait to defend animals from the poachers in the national parks and the secretary was very serious about her ambitions to make it to that office job. Everyday I see all these kids with so much promise, so smart and working so hard against odds I don't even think they're aware of, and it gives me hope. Walking home that day, even though I'm not really one for praying, I sent a little prayer up to the dark clouds above anyway. Please let these kids make it, please give them a chance to do what they really want with their lives. Please.
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Comments

goltzer
goltzer on

Uncle Mike
Hi Lacey,

Enjoyed both your recent essays - so descriptive - what a wonderful writer you are!

Wow - as a Californian I am used to having weather not be a factor in my life - the rain and mud experiences you descripted so well are experiences
which make me appreciate this how benign mother
nature is for us in this state - at least in this
part of the state.

Your 'career day' essay was most touching - such
enthusiasm and optimism is what makes children so
wonderful - and you provided a wonderful outlet
for those qualities. I'll put all your kinds in
my prayers as well. With you providing the gift
of something to envision and aim for - their chances
of realizing their dreams took a big step forward.

Love,
Uncle Mike

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