30 December 2012

Not Just a Math Teacher - You Know, (Insert Subject Here) Is Everyone's Job

The title is in jest - there really are so many aspects of education and learning in a high school that really are everyone's job. We have reading specialists, but we should all have our students reading subject appropriate texts and writing. I'm a math teacher, but I know the science teachers upstairs are teaching a whole lot of mathematics (and its always funny when we get together and share many of the same frustrations - they always think they're alone). We have business classes and personal finance, but every subject should be in the business of advertising real-world applications.

This op-ed from HuffPost jogged my memory tonight. ("Battle Unemployment By Focusing On Youth Career Education") This is where I'm at right now - many of my students will inevitably work their way through college, which means they're going to need marketable skills the day they receive their diploma, and I wonder how many of them will get it?

Here's the irony: the hard-working kid who's always had it tough and knows if they're going to college, it'll largely be on their own dime - those kids are the ones I see most motivated by tech school and getting in our co-op and CLP (Community Learning Program) courses. These kids get real job taste and always seem most ready for adulthood. The kids who slip through the job-skill cracks, who may potentially benefit most from every course integrating career readiness skills and discussing the very-near future are the "academic" kids who plan on just going to a university, but then have their plans foiled by life. Lost scholarships, chronic illness, family unrest, one or two poor decisions - these hit the "academic" kid hard, because he is thrust into the workforce competing with not only adults, but kids his own age who've been focusing on job skills for years by that point.

As the brick and mortar university dies, more students will be pulling double duty, which requires that we prepare students for the workforce in ways the American system probably hasn't for a couple of generations.

My district has a great career and technical ed program (as I'm sure others do), but the prevailing attitude right now is that the brightest kids go to the college-track courses and ambitious (but not bright) students take the career courses.

I'll leave you with a couple of graphics our Career and Technical Ed Coordinator, Jay Boleach, uses in his crusade to change the perception of these highly technical, fantastic programs.

This graphic most highlights a deficiency is skills that we ALL can work on in our courses - technology, interpersonal communication, and real writing. (More info on the STL State of the Workforce)
From St. Louis Community College State of the STL Workforce, 2012 New hires are frequently deficient in people and organizational skills 
From the MO Dept of Economic Development - The news here is obvious and doesn't really come as a surprise. As baby boomers age, they need more caretakers!
From 2008 MO Dept of Econ. Development: Healthcare is BIG in the future!
So what's the reaction? Do we dial back our school system to churn out vocations instead of students?

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Thanks for sharing!