Just speaking to, not really teaching, students is no easy job


Thank you, but no thank you.

Saying no is seldom easy for me, but you can bet I will give it serious thought next time.

The question that had been posed was deceptively simple and expressed in such a way as to make granting the request seem almost too benign to even dare turning down.

Of course, our Chamber of Commerce director, Angela Manders, is a master at making the difficult seem simple and the extraordinary seem routine. She does it all the time. After all, she spent many years as a high school drama teacher. (Is that redundant?) Add in the facts she is a master at persuasion and I am a veteran sucker.

“We just need you to sit in a classroom at the high school one morning and talk to a few students about a career in newspapers,” she said. “It’s ‘Career Day’ at the school.”

“Why don’t I ask them if they want to work long hours for low pay and nobody like what they do?,” I thought. That’s a real sales pitch.

The day started around 8:30 with groups of students circulating into the room about every half hour or so. Lauren Jowers Whitaker, the school’s business education instructor (and a former star PCHS athlete herself), was loaning her room and staying close to help maintain order. She held the “magic stamp” each student had to get on their card to verify their presence, so she was, easily, the most popular person there.

In my head, I had pulled together a few random facts about The Times and newspaper work in general. This was not my first time at this. We’ve had pre-schoolers come visit at The Times and I’ve been to Lollipop several times.

How much harder could it be with high schoolers?

A lot.

Pre-schoolers are easy. They have no trouble at all asking you questions. In fact, with them, every answer only precipitates more questions.

Not so with high school students.

Questions bring blank stares. Shrugs.

Oh, oh, I thought. This isn’t going to be easy. And it wasn’t.

The students really could not have been nicer, though. They came in, sat down and were quiet and orderly. They were, to a person, all well-mannered. No one even rolled their eyes at me!

Nearly 100% admitted they had seen their name, or their photo, in The Blackshear Times at one time or another. A few read the paper on occasion. Most indicated their parents read the newspaper “sometimes.”

None thought they might want to ever work for the newspaper or in the “news business” in any way at any time. So much for a “career.”

Most wanted to be in the medical field. Nursing, radiology, physician, etc. Several guys were already enjoying welding and were looking forward to careers fusing metals. One guy looked like he could forge steel with his bare hands. His biceps bulged like volley balls.

One dainty young lady said quietly she hoped to be a “fashion designer in New York.” Hasn’t that always been the dream of pretty young girls?

I kept thinking about how little I was teaching these students. They were quiet, respectful, eager and attentive. And I was a klutz. At the end of six 20-minute sessions, my time was up.

As I staggered back to my car, mentally and physically drained, all I could think was ... these students were great. They paid attention.  Not a one was unkind or rude. They all were nice. I got lucky.

Many classrooms aren’t that way.

How in the world do teachers do it all day, every day? What if I had to do it again tomorrow?

Spare me!

• Robert M. Williams, Jr. is Editor & Publisher of The Blackshear Times. Email: rwilliams@theblacksheartimes.com.

Robert M. Williams, Jr. can be reached at rwilliams@theblacksheartimes.com.