Had I known the guy from the SPCA was going to bring a dog, I would have brought an alpaca.

Career day at Greenleaf

School career days are often the subject of SNL skits and commercials: adults trying to outdo each other with the relative coolness of their jobs. But in real life, I had never presented at a career day until a couple of weeks ago, when the nice folks at East Oakland’s Greenleaf K-8 invited Children’s Fairyland to participate.

I didn’t know what to expect, which is why I took Shana Barchas, our education specialist, along with me. Over half a day, we’d be presenting to three classes representing three grades. Shana, who has advanced degrees in both teaching and counseling, knows the particular attributes of each age group and how best to engage kids at each level.

When we arrived at the school, we found ourselves on a small street trapped behind a huge vehicle that appeared to be an official response truck of some sort, possibly a bomb squad. At first I thought that we’d arrived in the middle of a catastrophe, but then it hit me: The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department was there for Career Day as well.

And it wasn’t just the sheriffs and the SPCA. The school had done a great job attracting all kinds of people. I’m talking serious career competition: an announcer with the Golden State Warriors, a video game designer, an Oakland firefighter, a scientist … even a chef from Sidebar, one of my favorite local restaurants.

And that was just the morning roster!

The afternoon presenters included a doctor, a city councilmember, a civil engineer, a photographer, a musician and an arborist. It is my understanding that only one speaker brought a dog, and although Miko was adorable, I think that was just a bit of an unfair advantage.

To say that Greenleaf was organized around this event is an understatement. Greenleaf is a clean, inviting and friendly school that feels like a very caring community. We were met at the door by a group of staff, students and volunteers who gave us name tags and folders with our schedule. Students serving as guides led us to a room where we were treated to coffee and a continental breakfast. I complimented the Sidebar chef on his burgers, which I think are some of the best in town. I spoke with an investment banker whose dad — visiting from out of town — had come along for the ride. 

Then it was showtime.

Let me say that we enjoyed the kids in each of the grades. Our first class was eighth grade: Shana says that kids know how to play it cool at this age. The second class was fifth grade: Shana loves this age, because they are excited about learning and still young enough to not worry that much about being cool.

And last was a group of sixth graders, who have started caring more about the opinion of their peers, and less about what adults think of them.

After Shana and I told stories about how we came to work at the nation’s first storybook theme park, we had the kids fill out a form titled “Ups and Downs.” The questions asked the kids to list what they thought would be awesome about working at Fairyland and what would be challenging.

In an overwhelming sweep, “cleaning up animal poop” was the winner in the “challenging” category.

The “awesome” list is what really moved us, and served to remind us why we chose a career at Fairyland. In no particular order, here are some of their definitions of awesome: seeing kids have fun, petting animals, designing rides, getting paid, spending more time with our family, hugs, puppetry, unicorns, dreams, love, fairies, food, you can have fun instead of being bored, driving the train, making people with a boring life have a fun life, getting to use your imagination.

But it was young Oliyah Brown who summed up the most awesome aspect of all: “Getting to make kids smile.”

At the end of our sessions, Team Greenleaf “staff and scholars” distributed Career Day feedback forms to presenters. The final feedback item: “If my schedule allows, I plan to return to Career Day at Greenleaf.” Both Shana and I answered “Strongly agree.”

But next time, we’re bringing a miniature horse.


Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. For guidelines, see: http://oaklandlocal.com/guidelines.

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