I have a heightened respect for teachers after spending Friday afternoon at Junction City Elementary School explaining to groups of students what I do for a living and how they can prepare for a newspaper career if that’s their heart’s desire.
Most of the kids probably aren’t like I was. As a child of the 1980’s growing up in Hampton Roads, Va., I knew most of my life I wanted to be a writer or a lawyer. Soon newspaper journalism won out, though I’ve always liked to combine my love of the law and writing into police and court stories.
In the 1980’s and 90’s when I was in school, we didn’t have career days like the one the Junction City Elementary students enjoyed Friday afternoon. I can’t even remember anyone coming into our classrooms to talk about what they did for a living.
But 17 people, including myself and our tireless photographer Clay Jackson, did just that Friday afternoon. The entire school, kindergarten through fifth grade, got to hear from Boyle County Schools Superintendent Mike LaFavers, a dentist, firefighters, police officers, a nurse and non-profit workers.
I found out later this was actually the school’s first career day, which surprised me because it was very well organized under the leadership of Guidance Counselor SharonTodd and Librarian Julie Powell. Each participant was escorted by a friendly student to their temporary classroom, given basic instructions and a bottle of water. Bells and announcements along with teachers and their assistants helped move students from one classroom to another every nine minutes.
The main topics students seemed interested in were the Wildcats versus the Cardinals, the movie “The Hunger Games” and my writing about “the police catching the bad guys.” Children today are definitely less sheltered from things like police arresting criminals than my friends and I were growing up, but we didn’t have the Internet — that seems to impact even the youngest of students today.
A few of the older students wanted to know about the future of print newspapers, which for a journalist is, of course, an important and uneasy question. I told them while we must keep up with changing technologies, I believe newspapers will exist in some form in the future.
I also reminded them that no matter which media I write for, the same principles apply: Hard work, willingness to take criticism and learn from mistakes, good writing skills, an interest in people, fairness and integrity, and of course, continuing education.
And, as I told each group of students, these principles apply no matter which career they ultimately choose.