2. Get students thinking about careers at an early age.
We believe it’s never too early to begin exposing students to various career options. Talking about potential careers in elementary school expands students’ vision of possibilities while encouraging them to set personal goals. It also helps connect what they are learning to the real world, giving this knowledge more context and answering the question: “Why do we have to learn this?”
Many of our teachers use a live-streaming and videoconferencing service called Nepris to connect students with experts in the field. If students are studying weather, for example, the teacher might have a meteorologist connect with the class on Nepris to discuss what her job entails. Students can ask questions that are significant to them, which makes the learning more tangible and provides insights into various career paths.
In addition, we use Achieve3000 to give students personalized instruction in nonfiction reading and writing that is precisely tailored to each child’s Lexile reading level. With Achieve3000, students can see which Lexile scores are required for specific careers, giving them ideas about possible career goals. As students move to middle school, counselors meet with them to discuss career pathways they might want to explore further.
3. Develop the “soft” skills that will enable students to be successful.
Surveys show that “soft” skills such as communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking are highly coveted by employers. Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks hiring managers which attributes they value most beyond a strong GPA and specific technical skills required for a job. Problem-solving and the ability to collaborate as part of a team were the top responses.
To ensure that students develop the soft skills they’ll need for success, our curriculum emphasizes practice in listening and collaborative problem-solving. We use the Google’s G Suite to support student collaboration. Also, we have adopted programs from the Center for the Collaborative Classroom that support the social-emotional skills—such as listening carefully, disagreeing respectfully, and criticizing constructively—that students will need for effective communication.
4. Foster independent learning.
Helping students become independent learners prepares them more effectively for the rigors of college and, ultimately, a career. It also ensures that students will continue learning long after they graduate—essential in today’s rapidly changing workplace.
Inspired by Google’s “20% Time,” we’ve started a program in which students in some Friday classes work on projects of their choice. In the past, students have designed video games, conducted historical research, and planned a nonprofit organization during this time.
Not only are students becoming self-directed learners through this process, but they are learning more about themselves as well. For instance, some students realized that they need to be more open to constructive feedback. This self-awareness will serve them well in whichever career they choose.
Preparing students for college and a career requires a total team effort, with contributions from faculty, staff, and administrators. By adopting these four key strategies, we are giving students a strong foundation for success when they continue their studies in high school—and beyond.