I like to think that being a reporter is, at least in the eyes of the young, a cool job. Sadly, according to my own kid-o-meter (a verbal survey), I found out recently that reporters are pretty low on the cool-job list.
Considerably below clowns, as it turns out.
Community service teacher Karen Charlton organized an A-to-Z Career Day for Spring Hill Elementary School recently and asked me to be the "N" — N for news reporter.
Figuring that my husband, Tom, would be valuable addition to the mix of careers, I asked Mrs. Charlton if she could use an "X." Tom is an expedition leader for an adventure travel company and I thought eXpedition leader was a reasonable, if not downright clever, way to cover "X."
Mrs. Charlton agreed, and on April 25, Tom and I arrived at Spring Hill Elementary. With young students, props are everything, and this is where my slide began. I did not have a helicopter or a fire truck, balloon animals or jar of bedbugs. I had a pen and a notebook.
Tom, having collected interesting items during his years of adventure travel around the globe, had great stuff. He had carved orangutan skulls from Borneo, a hippopotamus skull (big enough to be a coffee table), a coco de mar nut (the biggest seed in the world), a dog tooth necklace from New Guinea and a shark's jaws.
Tom did very well on the kid-o-meter, but still below the clown. It's hard to top balloon animals.
A leather crafter brought a motorcycle, over which he had fashioned an alligator carcass, including its huge, grinning head, front and center on the handlebars.
The dog trainers had dogs, the undertaker had hearses, the Suncoast Federal Credit Union brought a panther (a person dressed in a panther suit) and the veterinarian had a slide show of dog surgery and X-rays.
To my credit (and very much to the credit of Times North Suncoast public relations director Linda Raab), I also had word searches, posters and pencils to give away. My display wasn't as much fun as the landscaper on the one side or the photographer on the other, but, hey, I had word searches!
So there we were, a chef, a computer administrator, a yarn weaver and a nurse. An actor, a judge, an entertainer, a musician, a title agent, a pilot and a karate instructor. I wondered which career really interested the children. I asked some of them what they want to be when they grow up.
First-grader Angel Delacruz, 7, didn't identify any presenter as her favorite. She said she simply wants to be a teacher.
Eleven-year-old fifth-grader Kaleb Browdy had plenty to say. "If I don't go to the NBA or the NFL I'd like to be a doctor or lawyer," he said. "I like to draw, so I might be an artist. So far, I like the chef, because my mom's teaching me how to cook. I like to cook."
One of my favorite children at career day (second only to a tiny, blond, clearly intelligent child who looked at me and said, "You're really pretty") was fifth-grader Jason Thomas, 12. I asked him his favorite career station and he said, "Actually this one. You get to write and be in the newspaper."
Fifth-grader Keon Readinger, 12, said, "My favorite thing today would be the news reporter." That put me ahead of his second-place highlight, the alligator motorcycle.
And so it went all day. The most popular career choice the children told me was a football player (note to Mrs. Charlton: Bring in a football player next year; basketball in a pinch). I also heard singer, veterinarian, lawyer, billionaire basketball player, doctor and cheerleader.
Toward the end of the day, I charted the favorite career exhibits at the school in earnest and learned the overall favorite of all children I asked. Keep in mind, the teachers were free to choose the displays to which they wanted to take their classes.
And now, the most popular career display: karate instructor. A close second was the polka-dotted, pink-haired clown. She beat out the helicopter, which had the next highest number of votes.
Others mentioned, in order of popularity, were: a tie between Tom the expeditionist (I think Mrs. Charlton made up that word) and the sheriff's canine unit; a tie between the dog handlers and the veterinarian; the leather crafter; a tie among the nurse, the Suncoast Credit Union panther and the chef; and a tie between me and the musician.
Also mentioned were title company agent Lisa Williams (she had a cute little house with an equally cute little sign with "sold" across it that really impressed one child), Florida State Prisons' Rosemary Laluz (she had handcuffs), the Spring Hill Fire and Rescue firefighters (they had a fire truck), Woodside Photography, Brewer Funeral Homes, and the University of Florida extension service scientist (bedbug guy).
Sweetbay Supermarket ought to be mentioned here for providing food, cooked by the school's "Grill Team," teachers Eric Schwertner, Misty Laushot, Judiann Cacioppo and Laura Fowler, for the exhibitors and other guests.
It was fun, but all I could muster at the end of it was home and pizza. If I'm invited again next year, I have time to learn how to make balloon animals.