A local high school recently invited me to be one of 80 guests to speak to different classes at a Career Day. The school abbreviated its schedule to allow each guest to follow a teacher around the campus, speaking to three different classes of about 20 to 30 students per class for 45 minutes.
Somebody thought during the planning of the event, “Hmm ... magazine editor? Let’s pair him up with an English teacher.” So I followed this bearded fellow around to his two classes of freshman English and his one class consisting of juniors.
To my surprise, I thought the freshmen were more attentive than the juniors. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since I get those withering looks from the wife that scream, “You acted more mature when I met you 25 years ago than you do now.” We apparently act more stupidly as we age.
The teacher was a “rookie” in the sense it was his first year at the school. Although younger than I am, and probably more mature, he had already taught at another campus or two. When introducing himself, he said he last taught English at a four-year state university. My puzzlement must have shown (I thought teaching at a college would be the ultimate goal for teachers), so he explained that he wanted to “reach out” to students at a younger age.
That tidbit of knowledge about him greatly added to my anxiety. When I reach out to younger people, I’m just hoping for a smidgen of obedience from them. Kid #1, Kid #2, and Kid #3 do not often say, to quote Jerry Maguire’s Dorothy, “You had me at hello,” when Dad talks about his career.
I had to explain to the students that I don’t study the science and art of editing all day long. I read about dentistry all day.
I’m sure this prompted more than one teenager to sympathize. “Teach gave me this Willie sonnet to read, but this poor guy has to read that stuff?”
I’m pretty sure Teach liked that kind of motivation. “If you don’t drink two glasses of milk every day, and ruminate over Shakespeare at least three times a week, you could end up ... like him.”
I also had to explain that dental professionals don’t tell each other how to floss. They save those lectures for naughty teenagers. The magazine’s articles are on other topics. So I talked, for example, about why dental professionals tend to bristle at the number of soda vending machines in schools. The schools, of course, badly need the revenue from the soft drink makers - quite a dilemma. I talked about the increasing number of adults who choose orthodontic treatment, so it’s not just a painful part of the teenage years anymore. I talked about those vain Baby Boomers (the students’ parents) striving to keep up appearances with cosmetic procedures.
At the conclusion, I talked about what I really wanted to talk about. I asked how many students flossed daily. Out of about 60, I think three or four raised their hands. I then mentioned that oral irrigators are an excellent alternative to flossing. And I happened to mention that Waterpik’s portable oral irrigator doubles as being a terrific squirt gun. I kind of explained that you could soak your best buddy’s clothes with it.*
The students, who had started dozing right around “hello,” gave me that look my wife gives me. Actually, some of the male students let out a whoop about the idea. It’s a mature man thing. Real men think dentistry is hip.
* Although the efficacy of oral irrigators is well established during “use as intended,” Waterpik, for example, does state in its product warnings that the irrigator should not be aimed into the “ear, nose or other delicate areas” (which presumably include the eyes). Definitely not for small children, and the warning should be passed along teenagers with itchy trigger fingers too.
Mark Hartley is the editor of RDH. He can be contacted at [email protected].