Cultivating Awe: Tending to the mind fires of 21st century educators

I “met” Dave Rothacker last year as a result of our mutual concern about student success after high school-in other words, we’re both interested in career development. Dave recently wrote  about my work on his blog Cultivating Awe. Dave, I am humbled. And thank you for calling attention to this important work.

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Suburban Schools Study Council Meeting

The Suburban Schools Study Council membership includes current and retired school superintendents from Bucks and Montgomery (Pennsylvania) counties. My school district superintendent asked me to speak about community based learning at a recent council meeting. I was humbled and proud to have this invitation. My presentation and slide notes:

Slide 1:

  • Self introduction.
  • Having a mentor in my life and serving as a mentor to others has always been important to me. My first mentor in education was a man many of you may know. His name is Bill Leary. Dr. Leary was my first superintendent. He believed in me and encouraged me always. Knowing his high expectations set the bar for my work. If you know anything about Dr. Leary (and most in the room did know him) you know that Bill bleeds blue and white. He is a proud Penn Stater. Like Bill Leary, Joe Paterno was also a great mentor.
  • At the recent Memorial for Joe Jimmy Cefalo spoke about the impact of Joe Paterno’s mentorship on his life. In Jimmy’s last term of his college career, he was finished playing football and his major requirements were complete. He planned to have some fun in that last semester in the “Happy Valley.” Paterno called Jimmy to his office. Waving Jimmy’s less-than-challenging schedule in his hand Joe told Jimmy that he was better than that schedule. You see, Joe’s challenge was always-“Today you are going to get better or you are going to get worse, but you are never going to stay the same.”  Jimmy had no additional value to provide the PSU football team. But he did have value to Joe Paterno. Joe cared and Jimmy knew it. Jimmy walked out of that office with a different schedule. Now that is mentorship.
  • As educators, we are challenged with the same issue: keeping our students plugged in to learning until graduation day and making them believe they matter–that someone cares what they do and what they become. I believe that Hatboro-Horsham’s Community-Based Learning opportunities challenge our students to make a clear choice: to get better. “Today you are going to get better or you are going to get worse, but you are never going to stay the same.”

Slide 2:

Slide 3:

  • Our first offering: Internship. We encouraged our seniors to use our community as their classroom. Why? For the student: To try on a profession before going to college to prepare for that profession.
  • We have found that some of our students confirm their future plans through the internship experience while others find their chosen internship career possibility is not for them. We consider it a win-win either way.

Slide 4:

  • A friend of mine was recently asked to give a TED talk. When I asked her what they told her concerning how to prepare she shared this directive: Be interested, be generous, be interesting, connect. That’s when I realized that our Community-Based Learning program made the same demand of our students.
  • We began our Internship opportunity for students 7 years ago. We started with 14 students and since that time hundreds of students have participated in the program.

Slide 5:

  • The Internship experience did a great job attracting our college-prep students. The students who elected this course were gaining many important transferable skills and developing career maturity* at a faster rate than our very capable Honors/AP students and our Academic students. The question then became: How do we attract all students to Community-Based learning experiences?
  • In an effort to involve more students in Community-Based learning we expanded our offerings. Our honors and AP students can intern over the summer in a program we call Bridges. Academic students elect a new work-study program, Working Initiatives.  Our Life Skills students are also involved in work-based training opportunities. Additional supporting experiences such as Lunch & Learn and our Futures Fair are well received by our student body.

Slide 6:

  • I would be remiss if I did not tell you how important our community partners are to our program. Hatboro and Horsham are vital communities.

Slide 7:

  • Our champions include the Greater Horsham Chamber of Commerce, the Hatboro-Horsham Educational Foundation, Impact Thrift Stores, Horsham Township to name a few. Local post-secondary programs and the Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board also offer resources and support.

Slide 8:

  • Each Community-Based learning opportunity I’ve mentioned and most you have seen during this presentation offer students two mentors-a community member committed to mentoring a young person and a teacher who has dedicated their professional life to mentoring students with the goals of developing a life-long love of learning and future success.
  • The outcome? Students who elect Community-Based learning experiences do better in all academic classes during the CBL experience. They seek post secondary options, stay in post secondary programs and graduate from post secondary programs at a higher rate than their peers as well as graduate from these programs in a more timely manner.
  • Seth Godin once said that “Caring is a competitive advantage…” Community-Based learning opportunities are the result of caring. At Hatboro-Horsham we care because “Today you are going to get better or you are going to get worse, but you are never going to stay the same.”  Is there really a choice? Caring is our competitive advantage.

Thank you Dr. Leary.

Thank you Mr. Paterno-Hail to the Lion

*Career maturity is demonstrated by teenagers of high school age when they:

  1. Understand the importance of narrowing career interests as a basis for postsecondary planning;
  2. Have, by the 10th grade, identified one or more career interests after an objective evaluation of their likes and dislikes, their aptitudes, and labor market projections;
  3. Have, by the end of the twelfth grade, engaged in activities to verify these choices; and
  4. Used these choices to make post-high school decisions.

Ken Gray-Getting Real: Helping Teens Find their Future

Sharing: The Moral Imperative (CEW Integration Inservice #1)

In my very first blog post (What Does It Take to Create a Movement?) I shared a video about sharing because sharing and collaboration help us all get better at what we do for our students. In these days of limited school funding my school district is taking steps to save money. One of those steps is to no longer require our students take our Pathways class as a graduation requirement.

Pathways is a stand alone career discovery/exploration class. To compensate for this loss (in a state that requires career development education via the Pennsylvania Career Education and Work Academic Standards) we are working to find ways to embed these learning and self discovery opportunities in core academic classes that all students are required to take. They say that necessity is the mother of invention. This change is forcing us to deliver CEW in an integrated fashion-this change will create new learning opportunities for our students. It is a good thing.

This is the first of a series of posts that I will publish as we work toward this integration. I expect that this transition will take several years and that, if it is any good at all, will be an organically grown product that works for our students as a result of who we are and our community of stakeholders (students, parents, teachers, community and post-secondary programs) desires. I expect to see many layers to this integrated 9-12 curriculum as it develops.

We start by thinking about what freshman and sophomores need. Here you will see all of my materials and resources as we begin this important discussion with our core teachers and school counselors. (Scroll to the bottom of this page to see participant feedback.)

CEW Integration Inservice #1

TED Talk Transcript-Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the Learning

TED Talk video-Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the Learning:

Agenda for the day:

PPT presentation used to facilitate the day:

Graphic Organizer:

Skills ID Ice Breaker Activity (conversation starters from Smith College Career Development Office)

Skills ID build Self Efficacy Resources:

The Girl Scouts and 21st Century Skills

The 6 21st Century Skills You Really Need (source: The Bamboo Project)

Essential Outcomes (given to freshmen at the University of Wisconsin)

10 Skills You’ll Need to Succeed at Almost Anything

What Skills Do Employers Want?

Five out of 14 teachers participating wrote to me after the inservice. Here is what they said:

A story to inspire awe…

I first met this young man in my colleagues Pathways class last school year. Pathways is my school district’s stand alone career development class where students are challenged to think about and plan for life beyond our four walls. Sean’s dream is described in the linked articles below. It is my privilege to know this remarkable young man.

NBC10 segment Burn Survivor Doesn’t Let Scars Hold Him Back

6ABC High School Student ‘s Courageous Journey

Ronnie Polaneczky: A story to inspire awe

By Ronnie Polaneczky
Philadelphia Daily News

 

Shop Class as Soulcraft

This book by Matthew B. Crawford was given to my daughter as a graduation gift from her professor at Syracuse University. I finally had a chance to read it. Shop Class As Soulcraft should be read by students graduating from high school too.Educators will find it worth discussing. The New York Times Book Review says, “A beautiful little book about human excellence and the way it is understood in contemporary America.”

Educators will also find the quote introducing the first chapter worth pondering:

“In schools, we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to be contrived and underserving of their full attention and engagement…Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract, and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged.”

-Doug Stowe, Wisdom of the Hands (Blog)

 Doug Stowe’s blog Wisdom of the Hands is an interesting read too.

For my co-workers Russ, Lori, Heather, Sarah, Lauren, Nick, Adam, Diane, Priscilla and Linda and my friends at Eastern and Central-this one’s for you. Your work is so important.

 

I feel a rant coming on…

Today did not start out as a good day. This morning I woke up to the news that the Department of Education is withdrawing support to school libraries. We say we want our schools to be the best–like Finland. Is this how you do it? Then, the information that threw me over the edge was announced as I ate my breakfast.

Matt O’Donnell (6ABC-pictured above), announced that of college graduates over the past several years, only 50% are employed full-time and of that working 50% the average salary is $30,000.

The idea that college is the only route to success is one of my issues.

“Among recent college graduates, a growing number each year leave college with student loan debt, a degree, and no job. Many ultimately join the ranks of “gray collar” workers–workers who are employed in jobs that are not commensurate for their education and pay too little when compared to the cost of these degrees. It is estimated from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) (1993) Baccalaureate and Beyond study that as many as half of all baccalaureate graduates find themselves in this situation.” Getting Real: Helping Teens Find Their Future  -Ken Gray, Penn State University

Dr. Gray wrote this in 2009–before the “great recession.” This is not new information, it’s “just” getting worse. Why are so few educators and school counselors talking to kids and their parents about alternative avenues to success? And of those who are, why is no one listening?

Disclosure (why I know what I’m talking about):

1. I work in a high school.

  1. Too many students have no idea why they are going to college. For some it has become “13th” grade.
  2. Teachers and school counselor’s are well-intentioned but are still pushing college as the only way to succeed.
  3. College’s protect their dirty little secrets: (1) only 20% of students who begin a four-year degree program will graduate within 5 years and (2) only 11% of students who begin at a community college will have a four-year degree ever. (National stats)

 2. I have two children.

  1. Child #1: 2007 graduate of a prestigious New England Liberal Arts college; magna cum laude; Pi Beta Kappa and now a Fulbright Scholar; interned every summer during college at prestigious institutions related to field, etc., etc…
  2. Child #2: 2010 graduate of a prestigious North Eastern private comprehensive university (because Penn State, our “public ivy” did not offer her major-I know, strange but true); summa cum laude; won best in major award three out of four years, studied abroad (in one of the few rigorous study abroad programs); interned every summer during college at prestigious institutions related to field, etc., etc… 

Both children left college with promising jobs only to be down-sized, laid off, or whatever you want to call it. Both children are now cobbling together a living working several jobs and volunteering in their fields. It isn’t easy to work long hours at various places and continue searching for full-time work but somehow they are “doing it all.” There is no doubt about it, times are tough for the “20 somethings.”

The point of bringing up my own children’s experience is this: they did everything right. Studied hard in high school, discovered a passion for their field of study, worked hard in college and graduated in four years. They had what Dr. Gray calls “career maturity” when they graduated from high school. Educators know that few students graduate from high school with career maturity. In fact, it’s relatively rare (at least in the Philadelphia suburbs).

What happens to kids who don’t have career maturity when, in today’s world, even driven students struggle? (Remember I work in a high school.) As educators who care about student success after high school, what can we do?

  1. Encourage students to determine their goals. Do they want college or college and a career?
  2. Expose students to all career gateways: postsecondary education (community college, business/tech college, 4 year college or university), military, workforce (full and part-time jobs, contract work), internships and entrepreneurship.
  3. Explain to students that there are many avenues to the same goal. They need to be flexible and resilient.
  4. Teach students and their families to view post-secondary education as a costly business decision. Ask them to approach it in the same way they would in buying an expensive car. Buyer beware-most colleges are in a buyers market. Use this as an advantage.
  5. Inform parents about remedial education in college. They deserve to know that colleges admit students who cannot do academic work at college level. Parents should also know that remedial education may be a second chance for some teens; but for most teens right out of high school it is a strong predictor of dropping out.
  6. Help students develop a plan B-the one they will pursue if plan A doesn’t work out.
  7. Students (and their parents) need to understand the importance of a career focus. Most teens drop out of college in the sophomore year when a college academic major must be selected. (Gray)
  8. Explaining high priority professions in your region is also helpful to students and parents when they are trying to focus on a field of study. Introduce the ideas of career clusters , related occupations and career ladders.
  9. Get students out! Informational interviews, shadowing, interning, working, invite professionals into your classroom to help teach a particular topic and explain how and why it is important-ask your community to help students connect to their passions and learning.
  10. Send your teachers out to shadow. If a teacher has been in education their whole working life, they may not know how their subject matter is used outside of school. I have seen a teacher shadow day reconnect teachers to their academic passions. When this happens great things happen in the classroom.

For teens, developing career maturity does not mean forcing them to make a decision about the one perfect career or locking them into a decision by age 18. The hope is that there will be a narrowing down process based on personal interests, passions, skills and aptitudes, during high school and not at great financial cost in college or with enduring disappointments in the labor market.

Your students may change their mind later, but if they make good decisions now, the next time their new interests should relate to current interests leading them to even better decisions.

“Career maturity is as important as academic maturity. Both predict post-high-school success.” Thanks Dr. Gray for your research and wisdom.

And for my own children? Does anyone need a passionate arts administer or talented interior designer?

Career Awareness and Decision Making

The Center for Professional Development in Career and Technical Education @ Temple University hosted a workshop for school administrators on the topic of Career Awareness and Decision Making. It was great!

First on the agenda was Nancy Dischinat, Executive Director of the Leigh Valley Workforce Investment Board. She brought with her an enthusatic and committed team. A few of the topics addressed:

1. The 3 D’s (Economic Development = Workforce Development + Career Development). I was first introduced to this idea by my friend Betty Holmboe of the Capital Region.

The formula reminds us that if our state is to attract industry and business partners (Economic Development) it must have a skilled workforce prepared to take the jobs demanded by industry. Workforce Development is regional. Do you know what the high priority professions are in your region? In the Delaware Valley, where I live, high priority professions include all health sciences, engineering and everything “Green.” As educators, we need to know what the high priority professions are in our region. We need to make aware, connect and prepare kids for opportunities to work where they can earn family sustaining wages! That’s Career Development.

2. New flash! Sixty-nine PA Superintendents have signed and committed to Career Pathways in their school districts!

3. On social networking: You need to be there b/c that’s where your students are! Students feel you are disrespecting them if you are not there (news to me).

4. In 2011 it’s not “You can be anything you want to be…”, it’s “You can be anything you want to be in (high priority field).”

5. Career Gates videos now on YouTube.


Query “Career Gates” on YouTube for the full series.

6. PA RCEP Virtual Career Fair

Next on the agenda was Tom Speicher and Glenn Spoerke from Penn College. They introduced an exceptional documentary series. It is not Penn College specific–the series is career specific.

The career-exploration documentary series degrees that work.tv is produced by Pennsylvania College of Technology in conjunction with WVIA Public Media. The award-winning series airs on public television. Complete episodes also can be accessed online through this website and YouTube .

Take a look at this one to see how great these documentaries really are:

Go to http://www.pct.edu/degreesthatwork/welding.htm for teacher lesson planning guides to this documentary.

The afternoon presentations featured David Garnes, PDE/BCTE, Career & Technical Education Advisor. David updated our group on SOAR Programs in PA. And to wrap up, Jerilynn Millvan, PDE/BCTE, addressed nontraditional programs of study for adults and postsecondary CTE.

Great way to spend the day. Thanks to Temple’s Chet Wichowski for organizing the event.