Inspiring the kids – or not

I’m signed up to a website which means that from time to time I get asked to go and speak at schools about my job. The aim is to inspire the youth. My own children – the older section – would be horrified if I turned up to speak at their school, but only son would dearly love me to become a teaching assistant. “You look friendly, mum. I think they would like you,” he said, which is praise indeed.

I found myself dropping him off at breakfast club yesterday and heading for a ‘what’s my line’ event in a nearby town. I am not the best at directions and have not mastered Googlemaps, mainly because it uses up all my phone battery. So I had scribbled the directions from AA Route Planner on my notepad and was trying to follow them while listening to an interview about sleep deprivation. I was up until 1am the previous night getting ahead of myself so I could go to the school event. Apparently lack of sleep will lead to an early death…

At the primary school we had to go into each class and talk for 10 minutes about our jobs. For some reason I decided to talk about shorthand, which no journalist under 40 – or even 50 – probably does any more. It seemed more interesting than talking about writing stories about education policy and the like. “It’s a kind of secret code,” I stated. It definitely feels like a secret code sometimes when I am trying to read it back. I wrote a sentence on the board. There was a hushed silence, even a sense of awe that I could know such a weird code. I asked for suggestions for words to write in shorthand, hoping for something easy. “Iridescent” said one boy. Hmm. I am a big fan of shorthand basically because I am always worried that recording stuff will go horribly wrong and I will end up having to create an entire interview based on memory.

I got the inevitable “have you interviewed anyone famous?” question. I have interviewed quite a lot of people, but I’ve never really interviewed a famous person who nine year olds will have heard of.  However, my flatmate once interviewed Kylie and a friend is a football reporter. I went into detail about all the mums and dads I had spoken to for Eyes glazed over. I said most people had a really interesting story to tell. “So you’re a bit like Shakespeare?” asked one girl. Yes, exactly like Shakespeare.

“Who inspired you?” asked one boy. That threw me a bit. I’ve spoken to many people about the importance of role models and I realise that I can’t name a single one myself work wise. Role models were not a thing back in the early 90s and there were not that many women reporters around.

I am not sure if I inspired anyone at the school to take up journalism. The chances are not high given that I was followed by a magician.  I have probably confused them totally and they think it is all about writing in a secret code, but at least that sounds a bit more interesting than only son’s assessment of my job. “You just sit and stare at the screen all day, mum.”

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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