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Intro | A Model for Career Development | Elementary | Intermediate | Secondary | Links & Resources

Contributor, Caye Baxter writes: "I found some great new things that I can incorporate into my own community lessons I've used for years. Community involvement hasn't been as much of a problem for me. I go talk to local business owners... bank managers, grocers, fastfood managers, even the local coffee shop. I got free field trips to their place of business (All in walking distance, so no $$$ involved) except two that actually came to our school. They showed us around, we visited vaults, freezers, and kitchens, worked a little, and learned a lot. A friend manages to get students' parents to come to class and present their profession. (I've tried and not been successful) She offers tickets much as you do [in the Real World classroom decor ideas] for all participants. Good Luck!!!

Intermediate Strategies

Note to teachers: It is so important for career development to begin early in life. Please don't leave this all to the high school teacher because by then so many kids are "blinded" and can't see a future, plus students may never get the information. Career development and employment skills are learned behavior and we are in the teaching profession. A career focus can be fun, rewarding, and is imperative if our youngsters are going to become the professionals of tomorrow. Take a look at the shortage of educated folks needed in the workplace now. What about the future?

Career speakers in the classroom – Employers are usually more than willing to spend time talking to students or will send one of their employees. Parents and grandparents are also a great resource.
Easy to integrate; An easy lesson plan: If the unit being studied were Mexico, a travel agent, a bank representative who deals with foreign currency, or a retailer who sells goods from Mexico would be good sources. An athletic trainer or physical therapist would be good for PE classes. English could bring in someone from the local newspaper and maybe an engineer for a science class. Open the yellow pages in the phone book, find a source, call, and just ask!

  • Ask the speaker to bring "tools of their trade" to share with the young people and make sure they know you want them to speak about their career and industry.
  • Have the students brainstorm questions prior to the speaker's arrival.
  • Bale the speaker out if need be – they usually are not teachers and kids can be brutal.
  • Make sure there is a question and answer time.
  • Have the students write thank you notes. This is very important as well as a lost art!

Fieldtrips to different places of employment – This activity is logistically more difficult at the intermediate level than with an elementary class of 24. Working with a team makes it easier. The team can work together to integrate these trips into their curriculum.

A team of 90 or so students with four teachers could arrange a trip for 30 students to a local business. Two teachers and a parent could supervise (you need one adult for each ten students) and the other teachers could stay at school with the rest of the team. The other students could go at a later date to the same place, rotating teachers so all involved could have a similar experience. Seems like a lot to ask of one business? You will be surprised. Businesses will rise to the occasion if asked. If you are fortunate to have at least 3 companies willing to participate and enough money for transportation, you could set up the same type of rotation and have ALL students and teachers out on the same days.

Another good source is a neighborhood business within walking distance of the school. They are quite convenient and cheap because no transportation is needed. Most of them also want to be a part of the neighborhood! A win – win situation.

  • Arrange trips at least two weeks in advance. After the first year, this is usually simple to set up with the same employers year after year.
  • Confirm the trip the day before – schedules can change.
  • Have the students brainstorm and write down questions prior to the excursion.
  • To keep hands occupied, have them take a clipboard and activity sheet (Adobe Acrobat PDF file)
  • Partners are a good idea.
  • Have one adult for every eight to ten students.
  • Point out things at the business that your guide misses such as time clocks, safety posters, and technology in use – they are not teachers either.
  • Provide time to debrief the students on return from the experience.
  • Have the students write thank you notes - the lost art!

Current events, reading books and watching videos are prime times for career awareness activities. Asking students to identify careers during these times or finding careers in the news makes for an easy career focused activity. Researching a health career that deals with a certain body system in biology or anatomy is a good career enhancement activity. What about the camera man shooting the documentary – what a neat career. With a little imagination, the list can go on and on!

Self assessment activities – "Getting to know myself"
In order for students to be in control of their future, they must know their personality styles, interests, values, learning styles, temperaments, abilities/skills and aptitudes. Many think these are guidance activities but in reality it can fit into an English class quite well. Social studies teachers can also fit some inventories into their curriculum. Building this type of portfolio for your students is a wonderful way to integrate with other curriculum areas. There are many resources available. See the links listing to begin your search.

Research – It seems we all have research opportunities. Why not research careers or career clusters. For this to be most meaningful, students should have completed at least the self-assessment section of the awareness section so they can research careers relevant to them.

There are some good resources for this research in cyberspace and in the library. Also there is a sample lesson plan here (Adobe Acrobat file) for you to download if you choose.

Shadowing - This is the best way for a student to see the real world but does require work to organize. If the entire school or team is involved and all teachers along with those dedicated volunteers put their heads together, it can be done! Solicit local industry to provide a 1/2-day experience for a youth or two. These days can be throughout the year or all on the same day. Maybe "Take your daughter to work day" could be expanded and all students could have a place to go. Ideally, students would be matched with a career area of interest but any workplace experience is good. If you want to try this and the entire school isn't interested, find a few workplaces willing, a good parent volunteer to help, and send your kids. Make sure you share the results with the rest of the school. Make it grow.

Career Fair – Bringing the professionals to the kids is easier than sending the kids out and almost as good of an experience for students, teachers, and employers. A 2 or 3 hour fair is plenty of time.

  • Schedule the day with the office including a place, either the library or cafeteria.
  • Send a letter inviting local businesses 3 or 4 weeks before the fair is planned. Plan on having at least a 1 to 3 ratio of different careers to your number of students. Make sure the careers are varied. Ask businesses for several professionals to attend.
  • Send a return postcard and RSVP phone number.
  • Call if no response is received.
  • Have students pick a partner – solo is ok and 3 will work.
  • They need to write 10 questions to ask.
  • Discuss behavior at the fair.
  • Plan to have refreshments. Use last year's students as host/hostess.
  • On the day of the fair, have professions sitting at tables and the students will have sit down interviews with however many you require. Ten interviews were a lot for some of my students and not enough for others. Tie a grade to the activity.
  • Teacher or parent needs to send thank yous.

A mentoring program is an excellent way to get community involvement and if a match is made based on career interest they can provide a great school to career transition for students. At a time of life when parents and teachers "know nothing", this adult can mean the world to a young person. Maybe this is a good place to use a VISTA or AmeriCorps volunteer. What a wonderful learning opportunity it would be for this person too.

Skill building – Building their resumes!

Encourage students to take courses such as typing, computer applications, welding, etc.

A CPR and first aid certification course can be offered even on a Saturday. The Red Cross or some community agencies can help here. You can even invite parents.
Community Service activities translate to skills not to mention community involvement. Arrange for volunteer opportunities for students – Adopt a nursing home, send reading tutors to an elementary school, maybe a local museum could use volunteers. Also almost all scholarships for college are looking for recipients who have community involvement and service.

ALL students need to have skills, smart and not so smart, college and non-college bound - Who knows who they are anyway. By the way, what would you do if you got laid off?
Remember "Every scholar has a skill".

Workplace skills are taught in the classroom daily. Instead of disguising them as classroom procedures, rules, behaviors and the like, teachers need to dress them up as workplace skills. Following are some examples of easy ways to do this:

Why not design some type of "promotion or commission" for 3, 6 or 9 straight weeks of completing work and perfect attendance.

Employee evaluations from local business can be used or adapted to use in the classroom. This is a great addition to the "report card" and for parent conferences. Workplace skills such as time management, quality, cooperation, completeness, dependability, etc can be rated in this manner. Make sure the information is presented in the context of workplace skills not just classroom manner.

Many of you creative teachers already have activities and resources nailed down. Many of you will develop some wonderful activities this summer. This is a jumping on place. Career development can be fun, is beneficial to students, and is truly an enhancement to your curriculum. How about sharing with other teachers by using the Teachnet Teacher-2-Teacher mailing list? Together, let's prepare our students for a productive future.

Intro | A Model for Career Development | Elementary | Intermediate | Secondary | Links & Resources