Monday, March 28, 2016

Career Day

Last Thursday was Career Day at the elementary school where a friend of mine teaches, and she asked me a couple of months ago if I'd be willing to come talk to the students about the work I do. I said I'd be happy to help. Somewhere in my mind, I was thinking elementary school as in third and fourth grade kids - not kindergarteners.

Sure enough, my first four sessions of the day were with the little tykes. And for three of the four groups, they came in immediately after seeing the gal from Bayer, who had rigged up some dancing raisins for their edification and enjoyment.  (It involves vinegar, baking soda and raisins, quantities unclear to the little darlings - one thought maybe you used a cup of baking soda...) Tough act to follow!

I work with computers for a living. When I tell adults my official title - I am a Solutions Architect and work in systems analysis and design - their eyes automatically glaze over. The kids, I'm sure, would have just cocked their heads and politely looked at me like I was speaking gibberish.

So, I started with the basics. Who knows what a computer is? Where do you find computers in your lives today? Did you know they use computers to fly airplanes? When you get on a computer and click on the picture, how does it know what to do? How does it know to bring up the app about numbers instead of the one about learning the sounds of the letters?

Some of you speak English, some also speak Spanish.  Did you know computers have a language of their own?

Ah, this, they could comprehend!

So, we talked about the computer's special language, and how long it takes to become a programmer.

Here, I lost them again. When your life's experience only spans five years, making it through sixteen years of education seems like FOREVER! So, we counted out the numbers. We talked about high school and how college comes after that. We talked a little bit about how they'll be adults by the time they're 22 and done with school. (they couldn't go there, either.)

We talked about the two most important things they can do in school where they are right now. One is to work hard to learn their letters and numbers so they build a firm foundation for everything else they'll want to learn. (kind of like making sure the bottom row of your blocks are good and solid when building with them - this concept, they had down cold!) The other is to learn to ask the right questions. These children have resources I couldn't have imagined at their age, with Google at their fingertips and widespread internet access. But all the readily available information will do them no good if they can't frame the right questions.

Kind of like my life these days. When I can figure out the right question, I'm more than halfway to finding the right answer.

The best part about talking to the kindergarteners?  They're not too big for hugs. They like to give hugs, even to strange ladies talking to them about computers. They give the best hugs!  I liked talking to the kindergarteners.

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