Under-prepared? Distracted? Overwhelmed?: The Role of CTE and Internships as Laboratories for Work and Life

laboratory

I feel acknowledging my blog’s sudden turn toward Career and Technical Education (CTE) and my state’s Work-Based Learning (WBL) program is important. I have a few ideas marinating for the blog concerning my more traditional focus on project-based learning and literacy, but for the next few posts, I am going to dive even further into reflecting on the role of students participating in CTE courses, internships, potential benefits, and what must be done for those benefits to materialize for more students. My first post on the subject was a few weeks ago. I lamented the challenges I saw my 11th and 12th grade students face to really prepare for an internship and the workforce. Today’s post has some similarities, but I now put the critical lens on myself and other CTE educators.

Why? Well as the title suggests, my WBL students this year are a combination of under-prepared, distracted, and overwhelmed. The first adjective is mine. I have to own my conjecture that my students are under-prepared based on my observations from the last month. I also own it because I am one of the reasons they appear unprepared. The second adjective society must own. I know I feel distracted. My phone distracts me; my email distracts me; television distracts me. But what my frontal lobe affords me that my students’ does not is impulse control. I can typically make a conscious effort to walk away from those distractions. My students, as a product of the world they inhabit (one they’ve had little say in shaping might I remind you), are distracted, but their distractions far outweigh mine as an adult. The last adjective belongs to them. They use this word to describe themselves. The reason I get most from my students to why they do not complete a task, communicate clearly, or avoid responsibility is they mention feeling overwhelmed.

So what’s the solution? We are. Educators are. I am. Continue reading

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Dipping My Toe Into the Teacher Education Waters: My First Week as a Pseudo-Professor

Chemistry Teacher with Students in Class

This is my last semester of doctoral classes. There is something so satisfying in typing those words, and yet, something almost terrifying as though the next step is some primordial beast waiting for me underneath the placid surface of my graduate experiences. Hyperbole aside, I do find it disorienting to a degree to know I’m moving into the lesser known phase of my studies just as I have become comfortable with the first phase.

In any case, this semester I was able to receive permission to work alongside one of my English education professors and assist her in leading a graduate level course for the university’s MAT program. For the next six weeks, I’ll work with Dr. Jennifer Dail to observe and participate in a course that offers students a chance to consider literature studies in various contexts as they prepare to enter the classroom full time. As of last night, we completed week one of the course. Continue reading

Inner Voices #3: “Alan”

microphone-and-red-curtainHere is installment number three of my Inner Voices series that highlights my current and former students experience in a project-based learning classroom. “Alan”, as he’ll be called for this post, is a senior and was part of our first Studio cohort. He was part of our guinea pig group, but also stayed in the program all four years including his current internship. Never being known to hold any punches, Alan gives a more critical view of the class itself and what it’s meant for him as he prepares to go to college next fall. Read on to experience his story! Continue reading

It’s Official…

About a week and half ago I learned that the Studio program has been given full clearance and permission to move forward with our internship program for our senior level of our PBL course. This is extremely exciting news!

Thanks in large part to the hard work and dedication to the program from our administration, we were able to fight for the viability of the course and offer it next year for our current Studio III students (Juniors). The goal of the internship is allow students to gain real-world experience working in a field of their interest, while helping that business or group accomplish some kind of important goal each semester. The idea is that in the two to three years a student has been a part of the program he or she has become well equipped with various soft skills, tech skills, and problem solving skills that make him or her a valuable intern candidate.

Students who have been in the program since its inception have three years worth of projects that can be used during an interview to demonstrate skill level via their project portfolios. Once a student as acquired a position, he or she will be tasked with completing not only specific tasks the company requests, but also two large scale projects that aides the company in a tangible way.

The hope is that this internship experience will give our students a competitive advantage going into college and seeking future internships or careers. Students will forever have this experience on their resumes during the early part of their adult life to help them with the challenges they will face both in college and the job market.

I’m absolutely thrilled at the prospect of this program coming full circle and the vision coming to fruition. I’ll keep you updated on how it moves forward in the next year. In the meantime, we’ll count this approval as a small victory on the larger path to changing some of the public school paradigm.

Cheers!