April 21, 2009

Letter to a Teacher

My middle son told me that today they took some heat in class for anyone who intends to go to Take Your Child to Work Day. She said they were too old.

And they had to make up their work.

And he said he looked at his friend and told her, "I don't care what she says... I'm going."

And so tonight, I sat down and wrote her the following letter. I thought she needed a different perspective on this particular day. (The letter has been edited to take out any particular names of what I work on and who it is for.)

Ms. ABC,

Mr. T was telling me today how they were told they really shouldn't be going to Take Your Child to Work Day during Middle School.

I understand where you are coming from, but I thought I'd give you my perspective.

First, Ringo has never been to my place of work. He has never expressed an interest and this year was the first. I'm not about to NOT jump all over that... when a teenager expresses interest in a parent, that opportunity must be seized when it comes, as it may never happen again.

Mr. T has come with me once before. He has asked to come again as he truly enjoys working on the systems where I can pull up a jet engine and he can pull it apart and move the various components on the XYZ plane, my teaching him how to read blueprints, and watching me interact with my co-workers. It's role modeling.

When my kids come to work with me, they learn.

I didn't have this opportunity in the past. I'm fortunate that nothing I am working right now is top secret, that my employer is open to children coming in and experiencing what we do, and that my co-workers love to pull them in and teach as well.

I was driving on a field trip at Christmas and two little girls were in my car with one of my sons. One of them saw my badge. She said to me, "Mrs. L., what do you do for a living?"

I replied, "I work in National Defense as an engineer."

I was met with a blank look by both girls.

I continued on, thinking they didn't know what National Defense was, "I work on the F-xx".

Still I got no response. I was at a loss as I thought for sure they'd seen my plane on the news or on some TV show.

I expanded, "It's a jet. The United States XYZ flies it... " I got nothing. "OK. It's a jet... you know the back end that blows out fire? That's the nozzle. Right now, I'm working on the nozzle."

Two blank faces stared back at me and I gave it up for a loss as I had nothing else to expand with that they might connect the dots.

Finally from the back of my van I heard a little girl voice say, "Wow, my Mom just folds laundry..."

They got it the ENTIRE time. They just could not believe what they were hearing, that a woman, a Mom, was working in a job that would be considered a man's job.

My boys need to see me at work. They need to see that I'm just as smart as their Dad, just as respected, just as capable. They need the exposure to what I do, that my life is not just about them and washing their clothes and cooking their meals.

And that is why I am taking my boys. I think they 'get it' more as teenagers, than they do as younger children. This will be my last opportunity with Ringo. When he gets to high school, there will be too much on his plate.

And for the record, I made sure that little girl knew that what her Mom did was just as important as what I did... and that I do fold laundry too. Our most important jobs are being Moms.

Take Care,


Posted by Boudicca at April 21, 2009 08:46 PM

Way to go Bou!

Posted by: Rachel at April 22, 2009 04:55 AM

Yes! I hope she gets it too. As a teacher, she should be all for this experience.

Posted by: oddybobo at April 22, 2009 08:10 AM

Way to go!! I'm just astounded that his teacher missed the whole point of the day!! Hopefully she gets it now.

Posted by: Nina at April 22, 2009 09:01 AM

I really think there should be a minimum age in which kids attend TYKTWD.

Its whole purpose is to teach the kid what that job requires (as in education, skills, etc). It's not about having a fun day and drawing and eating, which most companies have turned it into.

And actually it started out as take your daughter to work day so girls could learn that they can do anything they put their minds to, even jobs that are typical "man" jobs.

Posted by: Quality Weenie at April 22, 2009 09:04 AM

It seems to me that kids of Ringo's age would get the most out of "take your child to work" day. They are old enough to understand things and young enough to make a serious effort toward any career in their high school classes.

Of course I can understand the teacher thinking most kids will use it as a day off school without paying the least attention (if they even go to the office with mom or dad and don't just take a day off).

I would think the way for the teacher to make the most of this would be to have the kids write a one page paper about what they experienced at the work place.

What did they learn about what their parent does. What did they observe about employee interactions. What did they learn about responsibility in whatever position the parent holds. Why is this job important! She could even create parameters that they should look for to make it easier to write about. Everyone who earns a pay check has these parameters - from janitors, to cooks at McDonalds, to store cashiers, to rocket scientists... All jobs have a purpose and serve a need or they cease to exist.

That would make the less motivated students really think a bit about what they saw and learned. And possibly give their minds something to grasp other than... okay nice office. Heh.

Posted by: Teresa at April 22, 2009 10:15 AM

Great letter! Now if you could only fix comments.

Posted by: Denny at April 22, 2009 11:39 AM

I did TYCTWD before it was even a glimmer in the NOW mind. My co-workers have commented about the experience from back then (1980's).

Now I would need to take then out of work (not school) for them to participate.

They did take time out (on their lunch hour) when we had the AH-64 Apache on the lawn last summer.

I doubt if they remember (I will have to ask) the time when we had the M1A2 in the parking lot (20 years ago) along with other (I forget which) helicopters.

Posted by: The Thomas at April 22, 2009 12:34 PM

Say, I've worked on the F-xx too, as well as its cousins A-x, F-iv, F-xvi, F-xviii, F-xxii, F-xxxv, X-xlv, and X-xlvii.

Posted by: The Thomas at April 22, 2009 02:33 PM

Great letter! How unbelievably sad that the teacher was discouraging the kids from going. Argh! I cringe when I hear stories like this. Unfortunately, I hear stories like this all too often. I'm glad that you stepped up and stepped in.

Posted by: DogsDontPurr at April 22, 2009 03:46 PM

its possible that the teacher comes from the perspective of having been to one or more of the useless ones. In my case, went as a child and parents company corralled all the kids for "activities" and "demonstrations" that showed you nothing about what your parent actually did. I seem to remember disney movies being involved. if that's your only experience with it, then yes it seems like a fluff skip a day of school thing. as i recall my dad got mad that they so completely missed the point and never took me again because it that case, school was more valuable, you weren't learning anything at the activities. he took me into his work again when it was unofficial and i had a day off school anyway so he could show me what he REALLY did with his time. I am sure (I hope!) that with an explanation that yours is not a blow it off fluff one, she will be more receptive and encouraging of the idea. and probably more tolerant in future years... although i like the paper idea! If it comes up with my students thats what I'll do! (right now mine are too young to qualify, not too old.)

Posted by: epione at April 22, 2009 06:11 PM

Half dozen years back I had one of my daughters sit through an IPDT meeting, complete with pontificating and everything.

I will do anything to make sure that they don't end up as engineers.

Posted by: The Thomas at April 22, 2009 09:53 PM


Posted by: DammitWomann at April 22, 2009 10:17 PM

Good for you, Bou! :)

Posted by: Richmond at April 23, 2009 09:06 AM

Good for you. Unless she's a dolt (which I suspect she is not) she will be on the same page with you on this.

Posted by: Carmen at April 23, 2009 10:37 AM

Very good! I wonder how many parents would just say okay and not take their children because the teacher frowned on it.

Posted by: Dash at April 23, 2009 10:45 AM