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Preparing Students for the New World Order

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We welcome guest blog author Vera Jacobson-Lundeberg, Career Technical Education Coordinator at San Mateo County Office of Education.

You see, we must begin the preparation early. In Kindergarten. What? Prepare little five year olds for careers as they enter school? What about playing and learning to read and blowing bubbles?  What about the joy of being a little kid? Should we rob the little ones of that? Well, no, as I believe in the power of play as soul-satisfying and necessary for human development. But at the same time teachers can weave into the curriculum self-awareness and self-reflective assignments...even when they are small...to help ensure the students start to own their individual reality fostering independence and creating agency.

Dr. Kevin Fleming, a Career and Technical Education specialist recommends the first step in career exploration begins with the knowledge of self. We, in education, can learn to think and approach our curriculum differently. We could create curriculum that follows the standards and the text books yet with minor changes allowing students to explore who they are, what they like, what they don't, what they are curious about, what they value, what their dreams are or could be.

I was a classroom teacher for 23 years, specifically working with marginalized populations. I taught a wide range of ages from 4th grade to adults. In my own practice I always wove in pieces of "Know Thyself" assignments as I was curious about what the students were thinking, learning or dreaming.  Many times I found that their imaginings were small and often they had real trouble expressing their thoughts, emotions or dreams. They would come to me very quiet and whisper softly, 'I don't know the answer or what to write". I would respond, "There is no answer other than what you think. I can't help you as this is your own thought". This puzzled them and was challenging as many teachers do not do this in the classroom. We are encouraged to "cover" material in order to meet the standards, not allowing time for student reflection. Many times teachers are told that self-reflection and self-awareness assignments are useless or trite and do not appear in the textbooks or the standards.  The authorities claim it does not teach the students much nor does it have substance for their learning. I never saw it that way.

And then just when I was letting doubt creep into my thinking I met Junior Achievement, a 100 year old organization that practices this thinking, built curriculum and implements it into classrooms.  When I attended one of the board meetings I listened to several industry partners talking about their experience in the classroom with kindergartners teaching financial literacy. I spoke up, suppressing a smile and asked, "What could you possibly be teaching little ones about financial literacy in kindergarten?" I was sure they would not have a good answer as I was the expert in the room and they were industry folks probably just playing with adorable little kids.  "We teach them wants and needs" one responded. Oh. I was corrected.  Learning that Junior Achievement is indeed teaching kindergarteners important and vital concepts for their own individual thinking and success in life woke me up. This reunited my thinking that we must start at the younger grades for all our children. Isn't it the responsibility of the state to educate all youth and prepare them for their life?

Let us all wake up to the true purpose of public education. We are living in strange and exciting new times where outsourcing and automation are a big factor in youth workforce development.  We, in this field, pay attention to the unanswerable question, "How do we prepare students for sustainable livelihood and satisfaction in careers when the jobs we are preparing them for do not exist yet?"  High school is too late.  Let us begin early to educate all of our youth preparing them by giving them the tools, early on, that they will need to carve out a fulfilling life for themselves. Too early? Nope. They can still blow bubbles and play tag in the yard at recess and spend time reflecting on their own individuality.  As the California Education Code #33080 states, "Each child is a unique person, with unique needs, and the purpose of educational system of this state is to enable each child to develop all of his or her own potential."

Ann Myers and Jill Berkowicz are the authors of The STEM Shift (2015, Corwin) a book about leading the shift into 21st century schools.  Ann and Jill welcome connecting through Twitter & Email.

Photo by Sergey Nivens courtesy of 123rf

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