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Balancing act: Work, life come together at school career day

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 17 2013 8:30 a.m. MST

I had been nervous about this ever since my 8-year-old second-grader brought a note about it home from school a month ago and told me he wanted me to volunteer.

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My quest for good work-life balance is always challenging, often rewarding and, occasionally, scary.

The latter was the case last week, when I had the opportunity to talk about my job to four groups of children during career day at my son's elementary school.

I had been nervous about this ever since my 8-year-old second-grader brought a note about it home from school a month ago and told me he wanted me to volunteer.

"Sure," I said, as I filled out the form. "Sounds like fun!"

But I was thinking, "AAAAIIIEEEE! How am I going to make my job sound interesting to kids?"

When I asked him later why he wanted me to be part of career day, my son said, "Because I like your job." Following up by asking if he knew what I did at my job, he said he guessed I was a writer.

That was good enough for me. I couldn't imagine saying no to my boy. And anyway, it's not that I don't think my job is interesting.

I love being a writer, editor and manager. While I was a reporter, I had the chance to interview hundreds of different people, and I learned something from every one of them. Crafting newspaper articles based on their stories was always fun. As an editor, I enjoyed helping other writers polish their stories and learn the craft. And as a manager, I have grown in my abilities to work with all kinds of people and help teams achieve long-term goals.

I'm pretty sure I could sell that to a group of adults. But I wasn't sure kids would be able to connect to my job.

I did my best to prepare. I figured I could make the Clark Kent/Superman connection to being a reporter. I decided that showing my name and picture with a recent column in the newspaper might impress them. And for a demo of my work, I opted to quickly interview a class member and make up a three-paragraph story about that child off the top of my head.

Best of all, I procured a big bag of pens from my company's marketing department. My reasoning was that, even if they thought I was a loser with a lame job, the children would love getting free stuff.

Apparently, many other parents and grandparents had the same thought. It looked like almost everyone had something to give away as I shared nervous glances with the other volunteers in the school hallway before the first session.

Needless to say, I didn't want to follow the guy from a local pizza place who brought cinnamon bread sticks to give the kids. (Unless he left some for me.)

During the course of the morning, I gave my 15-minute presentation four times, once each to a class of first graders, fourth graders, third graders and, finally, my son and other second graders.

I'm happy to say it went better than I thought it would. It was a bit difficult to connect to the first-graders, but they liked it when I interviewed one of their peers, and they loved the pens. In the other classes, I felt like I was able to convince the students that writing is important, no matter which career you choose.

Interviewing them was fun, too. I was able to talk to a 10-year-old girl who loves drawing, has nine brothers and sisters and went on vacation to England to visit relatives. I chatted with a 9-year-old boy whose favorite subject is math, likes to play soccer and went to a restaurant in Mexico where they served all-you-can-eat ice cream.

Perhaps my favorite interview subject was the 8-year-old girl who loves writing and telling stories. She told me that her favorite family vacation was a trip to Montana. I asked what she liked about it, and she told me she couldn't remember, because she was only 1 year old at the time.

That's great stuff.

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