I had the good fortune to sample some delicious hot chocolate and scrumptious freshly baked madeleines during Noémie Tessier’s visit yesterday. Noémie, Executive Pastry Chef at Angelina Paris, New York came to meet our 7th and 8th graders as part of the World of Work (WoW) program, masterfully coordinated for eight years now by Franck Le Martelot with the assistance of Gayle Hampton. Noémie spoke to our students candidly about her personal and professional background and answered the questions they had conscientiously prepared.
It is wonderful to (finally!) be able to host these Meet-A-Pro sessions onsite again–even if last year’s virtual sessions had the advantage of allowing industry experts to participate from beyond New York and the States. The professionals that sign up for our WoW program share their–often very touching–experiences with our students and enable them to realize that behind every job title lie backstories, convictions, desires, and dreams, which sometimes go unaccomplished, and that we do not become an author, a taxi-driver, an interpreter, an actor, or a pastry chef just like that–with a wave of a magic wand.
The questions posed by our middle-schoolers are both revealing and pertinent. They demonstrate our students’ desire to forge a link between how they currently spend their days–learning–and what they will do when they are older. How can they reconcile learning how to construct an angle bisector in geometry class with constructing a professional life for themselves in the future? At times, we perceive legitimate doubts arising. When you meet professionals who are passionate about jobs they love and who speak of their work with enthusiasm, how are you supposed to know where and how you will find your way? At what point do you understand that this is the job you want to do or the profession that you would like to get involved in? How do you know you’re on the right path? Are there any signposts along the way?
These are questions that schools have been facing for a long time, and they are questions that we cannot singlehandedly help children solve. That is why a project like the World of Work is essential. Because it offers a variety of points of view and a broad spectrum of career possibilities–each as valid, valuable, and admirable as the other. Because it allows time for encounters and dialogue and goes beyond the, at times, stereotypical advice distributed during what we call in France “orientation” or career guidance classes: if you like math, you should become an engineer.
Noémie didn’t tell us yesterday how to make hot chocolate like hers–it’s a professional secret–but she told us how she came to make it–via self-sacrifice, pleasure, fortuitous encounters, and unplanned detours. What I will not forget, however, is an aside she made after her WoW session. She told me that for her school had been a “burden.” It’s not an easy thing to hear, even coming from someone who has since reached the summit of their profession. It is a clear and unambiguous reminder of the importance of what we do. A reminder that every day we have children before us who, for a thousand and one different reasons, might find themselves suffering, even for a brief moment. Such suffering should never ever be tolerated. It is one of the reasons why we symbolically wore something orange today. On this Unity Day, I would particularly like to thank our Educational Support Team–Stéphanie Antoine, Marie Welch, and Lauren Gagne– for their work and their passion, which benefit all of our students and contribute to their well-being.
Here’s hoping that one day, having reached the summit of their professions, our students will, in turn, participate in World of Work programs and, in asides to heads of school, tell them how happy they were to go to The École.