Recently, yet another extremely common milestone descended upon our household. You may have guessed by the title of this post that it has something to do with the obligatory, year 10 (or thereabouts, depending on the school you’re at at the state you live in) Work Experience Program.
Multiple forms were sent home, followed by a Parent Meeting at the school, to advise us of the requirements of all parties, and how to fill out the multiple forms, and we were handing a couple more forms for good measure.
Although I am unable to restrain myself from constantly remining my offspring to just do the stuff that they need to do, I also refuse to relent and do it for them. Thus, I was much dismayed when Monkey Boy did the rounds, scored himself a fortnight of experience, and the day before he was supposed to hand 73 of the forms back in, the business that had agreed to take him on decided they weren’t going to anymore.
A disappointment … but also Life.
I agreed to assist, given the time constraints, but would only put in an equal effort – one equal to that which he was putting in. As a result, he was offered the opportunity to experience work in the same office building as I. For the same company, but a completely different department.
I work with words, and he prefers numbers. So there wasn’t much chance of us working in the same department.
I wasn’t all that fussed about that. For me, and as is my understanding of the whole point of work experience, I wanted him to experience this on his own.
He already has a job, however, so I was curious as to what this experience would teach him. The difference, I guess, is this experience was rather corporate, and his casual job is in a fast food outlet, in a relatively low socio-economic area, with great cultural diversity.
This experience, in my opinion, has provided him with an experience that goes beyond work, and seeps into the realm of Real Life.
Oh, I should probably warn you at this point, a bit of a disclaimer as it were, the following contains some very rude words. Not because I am a foul mouthed pleb (or not just because) but because, well, this is real … this is what is actually happening.
I’ve had it brought to my attention far too many times how many people really do not like “that word” and, in this context, I really don’t care – this is not about whether you like or don’t like it. I’d prefer you get over yourself and this word for a moment, and try to stick with the point.
Anyhoo … he has this job, as well as his work experience. Poles apart in terms of work environment and customers, not to mention management; because one is a real job, and the other is part of a school curriculum. Both just as valid as each other.
His ‘real’ job has offered him experiences many parents would cringe at. Some would remove their kids from the job entirely – and some have; others just won’t let their kids work past 9.00pm. Although I encourage him to do all he can, to work the late shifts (even if it is traumatic for him), and to be punctual, responsible, and accountable, I do spend much of the time he is there waiting for The Phone Call From The Police, or to hear that something not much fun has gone down.
Like the dickhead customer who was just being a dick, and have a knife sitting on his lap whilst he carried on being a dick.
Like the white, middle class couple who approached him, demanding he call the police about the behaviour of a group of young, African youths … though they were being loud and enjoying themselves, they weren’t actually doing anything wrong. Aside, of course, from the atrocity of “annoying” this white, middle class couple.
As a very white, middle class teenager himself, I was most impressed with the way he handled it. And for not calling this couple the things he wanted to. He does not tolerate racism – or generalisation, generally – well at all.
Like the time his older cousin asked him how work was going. He pondered for a few moments before saying “Good. I haven’t been called a ‘cunt’ for the last three shifts. It’s going well.”
And why was he called a ‘cunt’? Because he is serving customers and that is how you treat customer service people.
It’s easy to want to say “in these types of establishments” but honestly, I’ve heard worse, seen more abuse towards wait staff and customer service people, and abhorent behaviour in much, much higher class establishments.
It is all these things, and more, that made it okay for me to allow him to travel into his work experience on his own.
You see, because we were working in the same building, the assumption was that we would travel in together. That it would be good for him, that it would be a nice thing to do, and “how could you not?!” As though it were a question, when really, it was a terribly veiled judgement.
Because I refused to hold his hand and walk him in, or drive him in each day, and to let him find his own way in, and his own way home.
And pay for it himself.
I can understand some of the logic behind it; I mean, there’s no harm in travelling in to the same place together. Logistically, mostly for my role’s requirements, meetings, and other stuff I had to do, it wasn’t working. I wasn’t prepared to start my morning an hour and a half later than usual.
So no, no I didn’t, and still don’t, feel bad or guilty for letting him experience work – and experience life – on his own.
I like to think he gained more than just the experience he obtained in the standard 9-5 of his days. I like to think he experienced responsibility, that he was trusted, and that he was capable.
Isn’t that what work experience is about; not just what’s seen and gained in the workplace, but all the other things related to it?
Or have I missed the Mumfia Memo again?