Before everything started, we waited in the lobby of the BSU Student Union. After about ten minutes, one of our students from last year, who is now a student at BSU, walked by on her way to class. It was perfect, divine, better than any planning I could conjure. We high-fived her as she went to class. It was such a high note, we could have left right then and there. But we didn’t.
We were all supposed to wear red so we could stand out among the other people at a job and career event at Boise State. It kind of worked, not everyone wore something red. From a teacher’s perspective, today was great. Students participated in mock interviews and received positive feedback from employers, from people they never met. That’s huge when you are an English Learner. They walked around and talked to vendors, asking them questions about their organization and questions like, “What keys of employability or traits do you look for in an employee?” I gave them an assignment, they had tasks, they hated me for it at first.
“Can’t we just do everything without writing anything down?” one kid asked.
“And we have to interview?”
“But I haven’t practiced.”
“You are today,” I said, giving not an inch.
And then later, I peeked into the mock interview room. There they were, one from China, one from Libya, two from Congo, one from Iraq with a hijab – sitting up, leaning forward, making eye contact, shaking hands when finished. And then, they were very eager to show someone, anyone, the positive interview feedback.
At the vendor tables, they talked a lot. Not so much at first because this was a new experience but probably not their last job fair. Free swag galore – pens, pencils, highlighters, sunglasses, candy, candy and candy. Girls got their hair did at the beauty college vendor, boys shocked each other with electricity at the STEM table and everybody just had to have the cool, black sunglasses Wells Fargo was giving away.
At 12:30 p.m., we were finished and the bus was not showing up for another hour and a half. The last thing you want teenagers doing is just waiting around, mischief might ensue. Fortunately, we were in a building with a bowling alley, pool tables and big screens showing a soccer game. Kids bowled for the first time ever, others wore their sunglasses as they looked down a long cue stick, pulling it back and forth like a piston, measuring how to hit the cue ball just right to send a solid or striped into a side or corner pocket.
Kids being kids. Kids who work hard, laughing and playing, no stress. They interviewed, handled their business and then they played. It was a good day.
Tomorrow I will proctor a standardized test, probably not designed with English Learners in mind. I will have to watch frustration flood their faces from the front of the room as English defeats them. I cannot help them. I cannot explain anything. It is cruel. All I have is the teacher’s fall back dictum of, “Try your best” or “Don’t worry, it doesn’t affect your grade.” Who knows what I will say. But hey, at least they have four hours to finish the test.