Maxwell High School English teacher preparing seniors for adult life

Maxwell High School seniors Angel Velazquez and Bailey Wilson go over possible interview questions prior to being called in for their mock interviews last week.

After school on Wednesday last week, five Maxwell High School seniors gathered in the teachers’ lounge at the district office and waited for their turn to interview for their dream job. Sure, it was only a mock interview – but it offered them a glimpse of what life would be like after high school, which is the idea Maxwell High School English teacher Paul Gadbois had in mind when he developed the “adulting project” or “Real World Starter Kit” for his seniors last year.

Gadbois got the idea after seeking the input of a handful of former students, who told him they wished high school had better prepared them for life as adults. While they enjoyed reading classics from  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” to Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” many of them felt that they were unprepared for the everyday realities of adulthood. Gadbois decided to develop a unit centered around teaching those very necessary life skills, which he now teaches alongside the usual English coursework. Over the last two years, his senior English students have learned how to create and adhere to a budget, file taxes, prepare a job application portfolio, and interview for a job.

In addition to last week’s mock job interviews, students were required to submit their job application portfolio, which includes a personal statement, a cover letter, a resume or curriculum vitae, a completed job application, and a letter of recommendation. They were also required to prepare federal and state tax forms to simulate filing taxes for a randomly-generated income scenario. Based on that same income scenario, they also had to formulate a budget.

A third component of the “adulting project” was for students to write an expository essay on how to do something essential in adult life and then to give a visual presentation to the class on the topic.

Gadbois said that the students’ responses to the “Real World Starter Kit” unit have been great.

“This is the kind of thing where you teach it, and you really go home and feel like you’ve done something good,” Gadbois said. “I’m trying to promote skills they’re going to need in the real world, not just what’s going to be on the next test.”

For a some of the students in last Wednesday’s round of mock job interviews, it was the first time they had interviewed for a job – pretend or otherwise – and the nerves were real. The first to go in before the three-person interview panel was Alejandra Ruiz, who admitted she was nervous before she was called in.

“That was intimidating,” she said after her interview. “I felt like I was being interrogated.”

That was also the case with Bailey Wilson, who was anxiously going over the list of potential interview questions with her classmates as she awaited her scheduled interview time, fretting over how she should answer them.

“The only time I have been interviewed was for Mini Miss (Colusa County) when I was like, 12, and the interview questions were really simple,” Wilson said, adding that she was mock interviewing for a position as a caretaker on Wednesday.

For others, like Jake Sutton, Brenda Cano, and Lance Gwinnup, nerves weren’t a problem.

“I’m not nervous,” Sutton, who plans to be a teacher, said. “I’m just going to go in there and do my thing.”

Sutton said he had interviewed for a job only once before at Ace Hardware in Colusa.

“I didn’t have to dress formal,” Sutton, sporting a blue button-up shirt and a tie, said. “This is nice.”

He added that he had prepared a curriculum vitae for the first time as a part of Gadbois’s “adulting” unit, which he said would be useful when it came time to apply for a teaching job down the road.

“I think it’s pretty cool actually, all the stuff we’ve turned in so far,” Sutton said.

He walked out of the interview feeling confident.

After she spent time reading over her flash cards before the interview, Cano walked out of it pumping her fists, and whispered, “Killed it,” to her fellow students.

Whether they were nervous or not, and no matter how they felt the interview went, it was getting the experience that mattered most, said Angel Velazquez, the last of the students scheduled to interview on Wednesday.

“It’s good practice for us, especially coming out of high school,” Velazquez, who plans to work in law enforcement, said. “Most of us will be 18 years old, living on our own. This is needed practice for the interviews and the job applications that we’re going to see in the real world.” ■

Brian Pearson is the former Managing Editor & Reporter for the Williams Pioneer Review. Brian joined the Williams Pioneer Review in June 2016 and is committed to bringing hyperlocal news to its readers. A few of his projects included reporting local government and the sports page.