Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A New Question for my Class

I had a new question to ask my class on Monday. Every few weeks I ask them, "What year will you start attending college?" Of course I want to impress upon them the importance of earning a high school diploma and that they should set their sights on attending college. I also related to them the many reasons that college is important. It is not only fun, but stimulating, and necessary for their future welfare. They all can answer, "2116" to my question.

I decided that getting to college wasn't the only goal for my students to have. They had to graduate too. We looked at a poster I made of educational opportunities that listed the choices they had before them: dropping out, high school diploma, GED, certificate programs, junior colleges, vocational training, and community colleges and the fact that in two years they could earn an Associates degree. Then I talked about colleges that offer 4 year Bachelor degrees. We further talked about continuing ones education with Graduate schools and earning Master's degrees and Doctorate degrees. They learn that just because it is called a doctorate degree and a person with this degree is called Dr. that one cannot perform surgery. One can get an advanced degree in many different fields. My brother and a sister both have a doctorate degree but I would want neither to even put a bandage on me!

I also informed them that sometimes kids are not made for college. I am still waiting for a former student to become a mechanic. He will probably be the best mechanic around. He had a profound love of motors and cars and always came to school with stories about the engine or machine he was pulling apart and tinkering with. School was not easy for him but engines where his delight! Other children don't have the chance. I told them about a former student that I ran into a month ago. She is 17 and has a child. The father is in Mexico and she wants to go there to be with him. She has already dropped out of school. I told them that when you are young a baby seems like a lot of fun, but look at all this girl is going to miss out on in her life. That doesn't mean the girl will be a bad parent. I know a few kids in my class whose mom had their first child at 16 years old. It is not always easy for the mom, but one girl in my class is one of my brightest and hardest working girls and her mom is only 26! She is doing a fantastic job with her daughter!

Anyhow this is where the lesson comes in. On I noticed a photo essay called "In the Year 2016: The 30 Fastest-growing Occupations". Seeing that is the year my class would graduate from high school, I thought that I would inform them of the predicted possibilities of professions that may be looking for workers in their coming future.

I printed and cut out all 30 pages of professions. Each page listed and explained the job, listed the present "median" income for the job, explained why the job may be in demand, and listed what type of experience or degree one would need for the job. I then introduced and quickly explained each job and made reference to my poster showing what educational level would be needed to hold such a job. The class noticed a few trends immediately. The highest paying jobs needed at least a college degree or beyond. All of the high paying jobs had to do with numbers and finance or computers and computer systems. I told them they when they get to high school not to poke fun at the "nerds" because one day the "nerds" will be living in the best houses! They also noticed that few jobs were available to dropouts and those that did paid the least amount of money. When I mentioned "manicurists and pedicurists" all the girls got real excited: then the saw the median salary and their job focus started shifting!

Another sad trend was that people in the helping professions: such as from the well educated marriage, family, and substance abuse counselors all they way down to the #2 and #3 fastest rising jobs (and lowest paid) the home-health care workers were paid far less than other comparable jobs. We decided that these were real important jobs that needed special people to fill them, but being helpers does not always pay well, although it sure feels good to help others.

The pages also listed other training: courses, certificates, on-the-job work, licenses, continuing education and so on that a worker may need to have and also the all important "customer service" that many businesses require. We talked about not only do you have to do a job well, you have to be nice when you do it.

It was a fun and interesting excursion that hopefully motivated my class or caused some students to think. One never knows, however, what the kids get out of a lesson like this. But I felt real validated the next morning as I was hanging up the cards on the wall for the class to inspect. The one girl who had been absent during the lesson came over to see what I was doing. She began reading the cards and making comments and noticing some of the same trends that the class and I had explored together previously. She engaged me in a good 15 minutes of conversation about her findings and what it all meant along with which jobs she would be most interested in as she gets older. We had a great conversation.

My new question is this, "What year will you graduate from college?" The stakes have been raised.

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