Opinion | If Your Office Were Run by Fifth Graders

Op-Docs

Through a day of role-playing, a group of students get an eye-opening introduction to the careers that may await them.

transcript

The Field Trip

Through a day of role-playing, a group of students get an eye-opening introduction to the careers that may await them.

“P, F, L, P, F, E.” “Good morning, citizens. Welcome to JA BizTown, where you are running a town for a day. Raise your hand if you want to be successful today. Awesome. So I need my C.F.O.s, those are my chief financial officers. Please stand up. C.F.O.s, you are in charge of every single dollar that goes in or comes out of your business. That is a pretty big job. Now, each one of your teachers put you in this position because they believe that you’re ready for this level of responsibility. C.F.O.s, please walk to your business. Everybody else, let’s get to work.” “Henry, what is your subtotal, because you took out $10 too.” “My subtotal — what’s your pay?” “What your total balance —” “Your pay is $8?” “Yeah.” “You didn’t make any checks? My subtotal was $584.” “Same.” “The account that you’re depositing….” “Deposit this into the construction company bank account.” “Oh, OK.” “So, is he depositing it?” “Mm-hmm.” “Where is he depositing it into? Does he have every other thing? He needs three other —” “I know, but he’s depositing it into a company.” “Or two other — oh, for your company?” “Yeah.” “Um.” “So you need $4.” “No. You should go back to your company. You need a red bag and a deposit ticket.” “Did they reject it?” “We need a red bag.” “Oh. Oh. So we’re supposed to just put it in here and give it to them, and then they’ll give us cash?” “I don’t know.” “Here. That’s not my problem.” “I can help the next person here.” “We have a deposit to pay. Now we have the other stuff that we need, but you would have to go with the C.F.O. or the C.E.O.” “You need a red bag?” “Oh, OK.” “We are not allowed to be working with this person. You would have to go with the C.F.O. or the C.E.O.” “Yeah. C.F.O. or C.E.O. for the money bag?” “For this part.” “I am the C.E.O. I am the C.E.O.” “I’m talking about this company.” “Oh, OK.” “Yeah, you got to take it to Richard DeChauncy.” “Thanks.” “I can take whoever’s next.” “Why’s it so complicated? Why does life have to be so complicated?” “Excuse me.” “Yeah?” “I’m sorry, but your slogan is too long.” “Oh, darn it, OK.” “It only can take 30 letters, including spaces.” “Did CenturyLink already give you the check?” “I don’t know. I don’t think so.” [INTERPOSING VOICES] “They probably did, then. I already deposited them.” “OK. Got it.” “Ah, stressful. Oh.” “So the animals that you saw out there stacked in that box are the ones that you can adopt. These ones you can just pet. They haven’t had their shots yet so they cannot be adopted. Donations are also very — They are very — I don’t know what the word is but — very — we like, we like donations.” “They’re valuable.” “Yeah. You want to donate that?” “Sure.” “Thank you. Dog or cats?” “Dog.” “All right. Choose your dog.” ”[INAUDIBLE]. Thank you.” “Here you go. No problem.” “Oh, all right. You know what? I don’t even care. I’m just going to put this all in at once. One, two, three, four five, six, seven, eight. [INAUDIBLE] I don’t care about that right now. [INAUDIBLE] Ah. That’s impossible. Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no. Oooooh. All right.” “Popcorn and soda?” “Fanta.” “With no ice.” “You can get it by yourself.” “Oh, I didn’t know that.” “Where is she? Hey, Dylan, you gonna drink that?” “I’ll give you my popcorn for your Reese’s Cup. I mean your Reese’s —” “My Rice Krispies?” “Mhm.” “Did you see the Wiffle bat I got?” “Yes.” “Northwest Sports. It had the ball with it, too.” “They’re super expensive there.” “Print business expenses, check somebody actually received the paper bill for our services. Unpaid bills to be paid. Yeah, I got that done.” “Five, nine, nine.” “Zero.” “Here.” “And then I need to do Northwest Sports. My god, this is a lot of math. So has anyone collected your bills?” “No, not yet.” “Oh, it’s printing. Cha-ching.” “Let’s go over [INAUDIBLE]. Hello. Your bill is finished, so I was wondering when you’re going to check it off? OK. Thank you.” “Guys, come on. I need your assistance.” “Michael.” “OK, just stay over here, please.” “Michael.” “You know what to do. Put the date. It’s June 2nd.” “June 2nd.” “2nd, 2017” “2017?” “Yeah. I’m pretty sure you should know your years. Put the date.” “6th of June.” “6 slash 2 slash 17. Were you paying attention in class, please?” “Yes, I was, but —” “So how do you not know?” “I can’t remember anything.” “You need to have a strong memory if you’re ever going to do good in business. Put the date. Put the date.” “I don’t have a strong memory.” “Everyone does. You’re just not working hard.” “Not everybody does.” “If you work hard, you will. Memo. There you go.” “Meter readers, David. David. David. Hello.” ”Attention, JA BizTown citizens. Attention JA BizTown citizens, everyone should be frozen at this time. We are done for business. All right, citizens, it is now time for our town hall meeting. I want you guys to really think about what you guys did here today. If one day you want to grow up and be the C.F.O. for a nonprofit, or if you want to be the C.E.O. of a bank, or if one day you want to grow up and run for office and be the mayor or president, all these things are available to you if and only if you take what you learned here today and start applying it to your own life. I want everyone to raise your right hand and repeat after me. We are bright.” “We are bright.” “We are talented.” “We are talented.” “And we can do anything.” “And we can do anything.” [MUSIC PLAYING – THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER] [APPLAUSE]

Video by Meghan O’Hara, Mike Attie and Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck

Ms. O’Hara, Mr. Attie and Mr. Ojeda-Beck are documentary filmmakers.

This film is part of a special Op-Docs series of short documentaries from the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

What did you want to be when you grew up? The jobs we dream about as children about aren’t usually the ones filled with paperwork, meetings and short lunch breaks — but that’s often where we end up. In the short documentary above, which was filmed before the pandemic, a group of fifth graders get a crash course, through a day of role-playing, on the ins and outs of the modern workplace. As one student says, “Why does life have to be so complicated?”

Meghan O’Hara is a filmmaker and assistant professor at California State University, Monterey Bay. Mike Attie is a filmmaker and professor of film at the University of the Arts. Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck is a filmmaker and lecturer at California State University, Monterey Bay.

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Op-Docs is a forum for short, opinionated documentaries by independent filmmakers. Learn more about Op-Docs and how to submit to the series. Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

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