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

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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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What Work-Based Learning Has Taught Me about the Classroom, Work, & the Spaces Between

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In the state of Georgia, we have a work-release program for students aged 16 years or older coined Work-Based Learning (WBL). Essentially, if a WBL coordinator at a school uses the program well, WBL becomes a bridge for students from academics to the work force through meaningful internships. Most states have this sort of program and while I have learned more about it over the last three years, this is the first year I find myself in the coordinator position (along with a few other distinct roles). A coordinator is responsible for piles of data, including, yes, grades, attendance, applications, but also, inputting information into a state database, maintaining your own database, evaluations from various businesses, maintaining and developing a roster of businesses, sign-out sheets–the list really does go on and on. The amount of paperwork can certainly be justified. We’re talking about real work, real businesses, adolescents and adults working together for a common good. That all translates to a need for accountability from everyone involved.

In the opening weeks of this school year, my eyes have been opened to the challenges my upperclassmen face and the realities they face in the world waiting for them after high school. If you follow my blog, there is a good chance you know I am an advocate and proponent of using the classroom space as one where not only is content taught but soft/21st century skills are practiced as well. Hence, my strong belief in project-based learning (PBL) as a viable and important instructional method. The WBL program is meant to support growth in these areas as well. Really, before a student even qualifies for WBL at 16 the hope is they have taken at least one course in Career and Technology Education (CTE) where many of those skills are to be focused on continually. What has become apparent in the last few weeks is despite CTE, or even exposure to some PBL, many of WBL students really do lack the soft/21st century skills necessary for their success beyond the confines of high school. Continue reading

Teacher Innovation #12: Teaching with Identity and Care Ethics in Mind

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Sorry for the delay for any faithful readers, but today’s post is the last in my Summer Teacher Innovation Series. I am so grateful for the wonderful educators I have worked with and know contributing their voices to my blog. They made this series very special, and I’m honored to call many of them friends.

I wrote today’s post. Originally, I had lined up two other teachers as potential contributors to close the series out, but the start of school simply would not allow it. (I fully plan to get them in on my next guest series, though.) This post provides my own ‘teacher innovation.’ If you have followed the blog over the last few years, you know I have a passion for identity exploration and care ethics in the classroom. While I love that I dedicated my dissertation to these concepts, my current role at my school limits my traditional avenue of using the classroom as a space to encourage the growth of both. So, I have spent the last two weeks embedding these important concepts into my time as my school’s Work-Based Learning coordinator. Before you become too skeptical, keep in mind literacy and multimodal texts are everywhere in our lives, not simply confined to a classroom. In any case, I hope you find what’s inside the post insightful. Thanks as always for reading.

Previous Series Entries: Post #1 // Post #2 // Post #3 // Post #4 // Post #5 // Post #6 // Post #7 // Post #8 // Post #9 // Post #10 // Post #11 Continue reading