I think I’ve mentioned Career Day here before.  A school invites you to come and talk about what you do.  You put together some handouts, some examples of what you do, and some kind of display.  You go talk to a lot of kids for a few hours.  Fun.  And, as with anything, it’s the stuff that surprises you that’s worth repeating.  What’s the #1 question I get from schoolkids?  Take a moment to guess.

Here it is:  “Did you draw all of this?” while indicating a table full of books, comics, ads, comic strips, etc.  My usual answer is, “Yes.  Cartooning is my career.  I wouldn’t bring anyone else’s artwork to show you.” They usually turn to the kid next to them and say, “He drew ALL that!”  I don’t know why.

Here’s my #1 question for the kids:  “How many jobs within the field of cartooning can you name?”  That usually gets them engaged.  Most people assume that cartoonists do one job- the one that pops into that person’s mind when he or she is asked to name more than one.  For elementary school kids, that usually means animation of some kind- movies or TV.  For older kids, it might be comic books or videogame design or animation.  What’s funniest is when the Career Fair is set up in a library and NO ONE can think to say, “Children’s Book Illustrator.”

My handouts are actually sort of a cheat sheet.  There’s a long list of cartooning jobs/careers listed.  Some kids will stand there with the handouts, never thinking to look at the words on it to answer my question.  Sadly, there are occasionally kids who DO read the list, the light STILL doesn’t come on, and they still don’t have an answer.  For those kids’ (and my) sake, I’m glad someone’s making them go to school where they can get a decent breakfast and lunch- and meet some people who can expand their worlds with them.  Maybe something will click someday and their lives will be something they’re aware of, and that they have some control over.

Most kids, though, are fantastic to talk to.  Did you ever explain… really explain… something to a kid who’s surprised that there’s information to be had?  You learn as much about what you already thought you knew as the kid learns from you saying it.  Always worth the effort, for everyone involved.  Try it, if you can.  Need a quick example that tried and true?  Sit down and write complete instructions on how to tie your shoe.  You know, instructions that are clear and to the point, that a kid can follow.  I guarantee you’ll learn something about how you tie your shoes, and how you communicate… or don’t.