Student-Produced Video on WBL: Applying Work Based Learning Skills to Authentic Products

The above video highlights what is possible when a student’s passion meets with his or her internship and the skills developed through Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes. The video was produced by a current intern in my WBL program who aspires to be a national broadcaster one day, while one of the students featured in the video is also one of my WBL students who aspires to be Chikfila store operator one day.

I’m proud of both. The video is a strong reminder of the opportunity WBL provides for students who are ready to take their skills and focus them in on a passion or pursuit. While I certainly did not get all my students to this point, I am thankful I could help support this endeavor.

Remembering My Own Advice: Student Growth Takes Time, Patience, and Care

I have spent some time on this blog this fall lamenting about the state of some of the employability skills of my intern students. At the end of this past week, I received an email that put my concerns in perspective and reminded me that change and growth are directly tied to time. There are times we all find ourselves ignoring our own best advice and understandings of the human nature. I speak often and candidly to teachers early in their careers about how it may take a semester, a year, or years to see the caring work we put into a student to pay off or to show dividends. While it took a long and at times arduous semester, this small part of the email response below reminded me why I believe what I do about students, and why I give the advice I do to other teachers:

“I promise I will! You’ve been so helpful through me having my first job and giving me advice. This program has given me a real look into real life working and I appreciate it!”

To provide some context, this is in response to a final plea from me via email to follow through on a series of assignments and paperwork required for the course. Essentially, this student had been ignoring much of the work and my outreach for nearly two months.

Now certainly, the student’s words speak to the ego I think all teachers have, but what I admire most–or want to believe the most– is how the student speaks to how the program has given the student “a real look into real life working.” That, my friends, is what it is all about.

Preparing Work-Based Students for the Interview & Seeking the Value of LinkedIn

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A few weeks ago I met with my work-based learning students to address some of the concerns I shared in two recent posts about their current skill set in concern to communication and professionalism. You can find those original posts here and here. When we met as a class, I did not admonish them or use the time to berate them due to my concerns. I wanted, instead, to have them actively engage in the process of working on those communication and professionalism skills. To help in this endeavor, I enlisted the help of Taylor Rogers, an account executive for Randstad and a former mentee of mine when he was in high school. (Have I really been teaching that long already?!) Taylor, in kind, enlisted the help of friend of his, a financial guru and serial entrepreneur, Alexander Brown–who most recently launched the start-up app Draw My Hunt.  Continue reading

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

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