June 2008

Occasionally, over the past several years when I’ve called a superintendent to pitch an interview for a profile, I’ve heard something like this:

“Oh, I don’t think people will be interested in reading about our department. We’re small and there’s not really much to say.”

I always disagree and am a pest about it. I’m confident that I’ll find at least one interesting, unique thing any highway department or DPW does. Sometimes I convince the person to do a profile, sometimes I don’t.

Well, the tables turned on me recently when I was asked to do a career day presentation for 6th graders at a local elementary school. I was reluctant, at first. Though I like what I do, I didn’t think the kids would be that interested in hearing me speak about English and laying out magazines and what not. But I relented.

When I arrived at the attendance office to sign in and be led to a classroom, I saw a woman walk in, whom I assumed was there for the same reason I was. Beside her pranced in a big golden retriever. She was a vet — and a cheater. I had magazines; she had a panting, hyper-enthusiastic plaything. Then, as I’m making my way to the presentation, I see a guy dressed up like a chef, who’s carrying a portable hot plate and a bag of food. At this point I realized one thing: the only way I would have been able to compete with them was if I drove up in a backhoe ready to show them how to dig for treasure beneath the playground.

My 40-minute presentation ultimately went OK. Fortunately there were two kids in the front who raised their hands for every question I asked. And who knows, maybe those two children and one or two others who were too timid to ask questions might just think about going into publishing, construction or highway department work as a result of my meeting with them. And that will have made it worth it.

The lessons I learned from this experience were that one, no matter how uninteresting you think what you do might sound to somebody else, there will always be some people who will really like what you do, and two, we need a video game or Harry Potter section in Superintendent’s Profile. P


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