Alumni In Charge

The MicroSociety experience is one that long endures. Far after the lived exposure has expired with the pomp and circumstance of graduation. But don’t take our word. As we like to say, the proof is in the alumni. Recently, thanks to a Google alert (what did we all do before technology enabled us to bridge connections?) MicroSociety was introduced to the ever-articulate Robin Reilly. Through her blog, Stoop to Conquer. An aspiring writer and current English major with a Creative Writing emphasis, we were impressed by Robin’s nostalgic journey back to her Micro days at Renton, Washington’s Talbot Hill, Elementary. We invite you, through Robin’s recollections, to experience MicroSociety through a student lens.  



When I was seven years old, I worked as a bank teller. 


At Talbot Hill Elementary, on certain days of the week, class would end early and the entire school would march off to their respective jobs for which we had applied at the beginning of the school year. We’d fill out a form, listing our employment preferences and corresponding qualifications. Nearly everyone listed the Restaurant as their top choice; perhaps it was the promise of free cookies that prompted this inclination toward a career in the food industry. 


Thankfully we also listed other choices since a society driven by one massive restaurant seems impractical. So I ended up in the bank, having listed “My dad is a banker” on my resume.  Not exactly true, but he did work for a bank. And it did land me the job. 


As a bank teller, I learned about the inner workings of a bank and went around to the  classrooms to teach fellow students how to fill out our custom checks, withdrawal slips, and deposit forms. We’d set up stand in the hallway, arranging desks to make a make-shift counter and assisting the students that lined up to make their bank transactions. 


Everyone received salaries in the form of “Cool Cash,” bright orange dollar bills with a Talbot Tiger plastered on the front. As the bank, we had the motherload of Cool Cash locked away in a safe, a safe my brother’s friend would later somehow rob in what I like to imagine as a miniature sting operation. 


One day I was withdrawing money for a customer and accidentally brought him the wrong amount. “What are you, seven?” the older boy taunted. Second graders weren’t normally able to leave their homeroom but I was in a 2/3 split class and my teacher had gotten special permission for the younger half of her class to enter the workforce early. “Yeah.” I replied. He looked surprised. I proceeded to teach him how to fill out his checkbook. 


Embarrassed by my mistake, I spent hours in my room at home practicing counting money quickly and efficiently, my left thumb gripping and sliding the bills apart as my right hand slammed them down on the table, “$20, $40, $60…” By the end of the year I could deal out cash like a Poker dealer did cards. 


When I was eight years old, I worked as a restaurant server. Finally I’d made it big, I couldn’t believe my luck. Before I was allowed to touch any of the food, I first had to pass a serving test that asked questions such as:


What should you always do before handling food? 

A. Wash your hands.
B. Don’t wash your hands.
C. Eat a mango.

It was kid stuff. Now I was free to serve rice crispy treat squares and root beer floats to our eager customers, occasionally dashing back to the classroom for more supplies, careful to dodge the power-crazed hall police patrolling the hallways in their neon reflective vests, clipboards in hand. They’d give you a ticket for looking at them wrong. Once I did get a ticket for looking at them wrong. 


If they caught you, you had two options. Pay the fine, or dispute the charge in court. I chickened out and paid the fine. However, I did get to experience court life when I got called down for jury duty. The case was one regarding slander, the prosecutor had accused the defendant of bullying her. The 5th grader wielding the gavel asked if any jury members were compromised. I said, “That’s Alissa and that’s Jenna. I know them. They’re in my class.” Allisa narrowly beat me out for shortest kid in the class. Her best friend was Carl. Carl preferred to squat under his desk rather than sit in a chair. Jenna played soccer and had a birthmark next to her right eye. The judge looked unsure, but then the teacher in the back gave a nod. I was allowed to stay anyway. 


When I was nine years old, I worked in a greenhouse. We grew daisies, petunias, and pansies in brightly painted pots and sold them in our Marketplace and at our Micro Night, a semi-annual event open to the entire community where parents could spend their hard earned dollars (and we could spend our hard earned Cool Cash) on popsicle people, bead lizards, and origami. Even the kindergarten and 1st grade classes got in on the action, selling their macaroni portraits and Smarties necklaces. 


My friend and I came up with the idea of also selling caterpillars twisted out of pipe-cleaners and adorned with googly eyes to accompany our flower pots. However, the hot glue guns would have to wait until we’d gone through the patent process and filled out the proper paperwork. 


The life of a small business also meant there were loans to be applied for and company taxes to be paid. Luckily I had a friend in the IRS. 


By the time I was ten years old, I’d had enough of the day to day grind of business life. I was tired of filling out forms and working at the greenhouse had lost its charm. And so I became an actress. 


As a member of the Talbot Theater Company, I didn’t have to do much besides sell tickets and memorize lines. I never became a star; all my roles had vague titles such as Maid #2. Our last play of the year was a sort of montage of American history. My friend Annie was tall. She was the Statue of Liberty. I rode on the same bus as Rosa Parks. 


We graduated as good American citizens every one of us. The perfect professional, groomed for success. 


Every morning after announcements, we’d stand up and recite the Pledge of Allegiance and then, without a breath, launch immediately into, “Talbot Hill is a MicroSociety school of caring and responsible citizens.” It wasn’t until I left that school that I realized the two weren’t one and the same.

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