A friend recently asked if I would be a speaker at one of the local middle school career days. Before I could really think it through, I found myself typing back, “Sure, why not?” and then looking at the words as if an alien had gained control of my hands before my brain could fully engage and process what I’d just been asked. After that momentary panic, I regained my composure and thought, “Eh, it’ll be fun!” (right?)
But what appeals to 7th graders now I wondered? I sought the advice of friends, who included a retired middle school teacher. “Bake them some black bean brownies – they love farting!” Hmmm, somehow I didn’t think that would win any points with the teacher. Another suggested that age is into gross and if it won’t kill them, they’ll put anything in their mouths. Now THAT I could work with. I enlisted the help of my son, who can be a master of the gross, and was not disappointed. So, I went in with what I knew to do and armed with a laptop, PowerPoint presentation, handouts of healthy snacks and gross snacks and, samples. Of seaweed. Not that I find seaweed gross, but at that age I figured they would.
When I walked into the room I felt comfortable immediately. It was computer class, so personalities that I could relate to having reared my own geek prodigy. By letting them know at the outset this wasn’t an “open brain, insert information” type of talk, I won some favor as I had them raise their hands if they came to school today (ha!) and wave their hands if they were just happy to not have a test! Beyond that, I knew I had to engage them right away, so we started off with a guessing game – what would you call a person who…. and I had four or five characteristics of a health coach listed on the powerpoint that would drop down one at a time. Surprisingly, I got guesses for a psychologist and a gym teacher. When I did the big reveal of a health coach, most of them had never heard of such a person.
I went on to tell them the boring details of how I came to be a health coach, a long boring journey from being a CIS major to medical transcriptionist to ER scribe to Zumba instructor to personal trainer condensed into, well, what I just said basically. Throw in the obligatory salary expectation slides and there you have the “career” portion of my presentation!
I stopped and asked if there were any questions, and of course one had to ask if I made as much money as was listed on the slide at that point – fortunately it was a reasonable figure and I could truthfully answer “Yes” to that question. I then asked if they’d like a quick demonstration of what I go over with clients about nutrition.
I couldn’t have asked for more enthusiasm, attentiveness or engagement – so much so that I occasionally retreated into my own head to do a reality check! They seemed to quickly grasp the concept of traffic-light eating, so when we transitioned into the quiz portion, there was plenty of discussion and some debate on some of the more tricky questions. The harder part of the slides, the ingredients quiz, was definitely more difficult for them, but it didn’t seem to slow them down in their debate about what the ingredients might turn out to be.
The 45 minutes seemed to fly by. Due to some small issues at the beginning with setting up my laptop with the school’s projection system, it cost us some time in finishing the presentation. With just 5 more minutes I could have quickly gone through my handouts of healthy snacks <boring> and the second page of “gross foods” <awesome!> and possibly passed out some of the samples of snacks provided by GimMe Health from a contest a friend had entered us in earlier in the year. The best testimonial I could have gotten from that age group however, were the disappointed groans I heard from the students when the bell rang signaling my time was over. Those groans were music to my ears, and the thank-you I received the best gift ever!