Most parents will agree, it's never too early to start thinking about a career. That is why Louise Archer Elementary School held its third Career Day for the school's fifth- and sixth-graders last Thursday afternoon.
Louise Archer has implemented a Character Development Program, which has a different emphasis each month, said guidance counselor Carole Zindle. October's theme is "choices," making it an appropriate month for this event, she said.
Seventeen presenters, many of them parents of Louise Archer students, arrived at the school between 1:30 and 2 to talk about — and often demonstrate — their various careers. Students selected three presenters based on their color-coded results on the Career Explorer Inventory administered by counselors and heard a 25-minute presentation from each.
In the library, Judge George Hastings, who has two daughters attending Louise Archer, held a mock trial. (Hastings' job fell into the Purple Career Explorer category: "Leader, good at getting point across, likes to be in charge.")
Beforehand, he explained what his job is like. "A judge is like the referee who runs the courtroom," Hastings told the students. He explained that judges begin as lawyers and that they "have to read a lot of documents and have to do a lot of writing." However, he said, "one of the most interesting things attorneys or judges do is go to trial."
Six of the students then enacted a scripted criminal trial in which the character Tony had been accused of throwing a rock through the window of his neighbor, Mr. Wiley.
"The rest of you have the most important job of all," said Hastings. "You're going to be the jury." He lightly chastised students who immediately began whispering their verdicts. "Wait until you hear all four witnesses before you make your decision," he instructed.
The script moved quickly through the steps of a trial, with Hastings playing the judge.
Following the testimony of the prosecution's witness, who said he had seen several rowdy people outside Mr. Wiley's house, including Tony, who he said was getting ready to throw a rock, the defending attorney asked simply, "Did you see Tony throw the rock?"
He had not.
When Tony got the chance to plead his case, he explained, "A kid near me tried to throw a rock. I tried to take it out of his hand."
The prosecutor asked Tony if he liked Mr. Wiley.
"No, but I wouldn't break his windows," Tony replied.
He ultimately received a unanimous verdict of "not guilty."
"Tony," said Hastings, "we'll let you off with a warning this time."
Following the trial, students had a chance to ask questions.
"Did Tony really throw the rock?" asked one.
"That's for you to decide," said Hastings, explaining that the facts often remain uncertain even after a verdict has been reached.
"Do you wear a white, poofy wig?" asked another.
Asked how he would have ruled in Tony's case, Hastings declined to respond definitively.
Sixth-grader Sam Vincent, who played this first incarnation of Tony in a trial that would be repeated two more times with different students, said after the enactment that he still would not be scared to stand trial in a real courtroom. "I might be a little nervous," he conceded.
LAUVE STEENHUISEN, theology professor at Georgetown University, said she was volunteered for Career Day by her fifth-grade daughter. She gave her presentations, appropriately, in one of the classrooms.
"Next week I will have 72 10-page papers to read," Steenhuisen told students, instructing them to multiply 72 by 10.
In a semester, she said, her students will write five 10-page papers.
"Why are you being so mean to them?" asked one student.
"And they get to choose their own topics," Steenhuisen finished.
A chorus of relief went up.
"How many people like money?" she asked, to a unanimous response. "If you like money, don't become a professor."
On the subject of money, she mentioned that tuition at Georgetown this year is $45,000. "So tell your parents to save, save, save," she said.
"They had the best questions," Steenhuisen later said of her audiences. Her favorite, she said, was, "Do you have to do your homework in college?"
IN THE CAFETERIA, flamenco dancer Ulrika Frank told students how she found her calling. As a girl in Sweden, she said, she wanted to be a hairdresser. "I had nothing but hair in my head," she said, until she stayed with a family in Stockholm, where she went to attend school for hairdressing, and the family's teenage girl "had nothing but dance in her head."
Inspired, Frank began studying dance. "Then, I met a flamenco dancer and her guitarist, and I fell in love — not with the guitarist," she said.
Frank went on to relate the hardships of pursuing a career in dance.
Out of 279 dancers applying to the National College of Dance in Stockholm, she was one of 18 selected, she said. From then on, "I had from 9 to 5 all dancing," said Frank, adding that dance students arrived at school an hour early to warm up and spent four hours in the evening at auditions.
To earn money to study flamenco in Spain, she said, she did hairdressing, cleaned offices and did other odd jobs in addition to her dance schedule.
She told students that, despite all the work that goes into it, dancing does not make a lot of money. Also, "I am always sore somewhere. Today, I am sore here," said Frank, pointing to her upper arm.
"So, you see, I need to be obsessed," she concluded. "Totally crazy for dancing."
Following her talk, she performed some flamenco and demonstrated the uses of castanets, a fan, a shawl and a walking stick. She then had students try a few moves and keep time stomping their feet.
Frank said her second-grade daughter recently performed flamenco at Louise Archer's International Night.
ZINDLE SAID HER fellow counselor Donna Sinclair was responsible for finding most of the day's presenters and that Assistant Principal Michelle Makrigiorgos did much of the long-range planning.
"This is where you spark so many lights — in elementary school," said Sinclair.
"I thought it was a great way to show what all these people do," said sixth-grader Helen Hastings. She said her favorite presentation was her father's, in which she played the prosecutor. "I rarely see my dad in formal stuff," she said.
"It was fun," said sixth-grader Tierra Gray, who said her favorite presenter was the flamenco dancer. "I think we should do this again next year."
Sixth-grader Lars Havekost said he was inspired by the architect. "Blueprints are so cool," he said. "You get to see everything in the whole building." Lars said he wants to be an engineer and form an architecture business with his two brothers.
Fifth-grader Lauren Daisley said her favorite presenter was the policewoman "because we learned how they take down people who need to be taken down." Lauren said she might want to be a police officer, but also wants to be a photographer.