As standardized testing has taken the front line in our schools, we are finding enrichment opportunities, vocational training, and career guidance has periodically been moved into an area of formidable lesser priority. Administrators and core teachers are compassionate to our calling to provide career guidance, but continue to closely guard their instructional time in math and literacy schedules. As career counselors strive to build their programs, it is difficult to create “buy in” from an already overwhelmed school staff. It seems everyone has their own priority.
Business and industry continue to plea with the education system to ensure graduates are career ready. Soft skills, such as simple punctuality to in-depth problem solving crest their wish lists of employability skills. Our goal as educators is to provide experiences and opportunities which ultimately produce skills and abilities that allow our students to become viable citizens.
As career professionals we can help teachers provide an answer for the age-old question students seem to ask, “Why do we have to know this?” As we learn more about Generation Z, we are finding they are looking for “the why” before they invest their effort. This group is quicker to catch on, but just as quick to turn away if our message is not clear and relevant to their current circumstances in life.
What Can Career Counselors in Schools Do?
Collaborate with colleagues. One of the greatest facets to building strong support for career readiness skills is finding time in master schedules for grade level team meetings. Teachers and counselors should be encouraged to arrive prepared to share ideas as to how they can work together while accepting that no certain program of study is more important than the other.
Promote connections between workplace skills and core curriculum. Provide copies of all course standards to look for areas of commonalities. The expression, “Kill two birds with one stone” can easily be applied in this instance. Share core concepts with colleagues and discuss opportunities to create activities or share teaching methods. For example, measurement is a foundation of math, in addition, measurement can be an integral concept in food science, construction, automotive and technology.
Create a true integration project. A comprehensive integration project or activity is an excellent way to create student awareness of the importance of all subject areas. For example, students could participate in a service-learning project, such as a community landscape project. In collaboration with counselors, teachers should create mini-projects within their classrooms that correlate with the bigger project. For example, in language arts, students could write a news release about the project for the local newspaper. In math, students could create a detailed budget or geometric outline of the project. And in science or agriculture class, students could determine the best plant type for the project. A rubric or grading scale, which clearly outlines the expectations of each teacher, will help students keep track of the requirements. The project should culminate with a career research component.
Build career-related projects using standardized test items. Explore released questions from standardized tests to build project ideas. Most math and literacy items have career related subjects. The test item can be used as a pre-test and post-test encompassing the actual project. For example, a math item using a shelf can be brought to reality in a building and trades classroom. Through collaboration with counselors, the teachers can use common academic terminology and explain concepts in a similar manner.
Create lessons via workplace documents. Create literacy lessons using workplace documents such as, job applications, user manuals, tax documents, legal documents, maps, brochures and recipes. Employers are interested in students applying their literacy skills to workplace scenarios; therefore, in collaboration with counselors, teachers should identify literacy skills that promote college and career readiness using these documents.
As counselors and educators collaborate, they can offer a holistic approach that helps integrate work place skills within the math and literacy curriculum. This team approach will answerstudents' question, “Why do I have to know this?”
Shantele Raper, GCDFI, has been passionate about Career and Technical Education since she started teaching Business Education in 2002. Her career path led her to Career Guidance where she has served in various leadership positions including, Arkansas Career Guidance Association and Arkansas Career Development Association. She currently works as Instructional Technology Director at Osceola School District and as a Career Development Facilitator Instructor with Knowledge Works. She has a MSE in Business Technology from Arkansas State University and is currently pursuing an EdS in Leadership and Administration. She received the Arkansas Career Orientation Teacher of the Year award in 2009 and she is a National Board Certified Teacher. She can be reached at email@example.com