Efforts to equip students for college and career readiness are beginning earlier and earlier in the classroom. A 2015 Gallup poll of one million students in the U.S. found that only half reported feeling engaged in school, and one-fifth feel actively disengaged. These statistics show a disconcerting lapse among curriculum, students, and the reasoning behind why we teach what we teach.
Fortunately, many districts are making moves toward building connections in the classroom, showing students real-world applications of lesson plans. For my K-8 media arts and technology students, I focus on skills such as computational thinking to display how what they are learning now can help them in a future career. This skill can be applied to any subject, with the most important part being that we are exposing students to a variety of critical-thinking methods and showing the application across subjects and job industries.
By encouraging students to explore careers, we inspire and empower them to choose their own path. Bringing awareness to careers and showing how STEM plays a part across the spectrum is crucial to gaining and retaining student interest while teaching these lessons.
Connect students with professionals
Educators can spur student interest in different career paths through a variety of resources and activities. In my district, we use Ignite My Future in School, which helps inspire students through computational thinking. The program features unique career vignettes that highlight diverse and dynamic people who have launched careers in computer science, design thinking, and more through their passion for STEM, an interest that was ignited during their school years.
It’s incredibly valuable to connect with professionals and introduce them to students. There is an ‘aha!’ moment that occurs when students realize that what they are learning now can be used in a career later on. Students see these specialists as mentors who can share real-world advice on careers, industries, and more.