In a competitive global market the soon-to-be college graduate and new professional needs to know their unique talents and abilities in order to stand out from the crowd. Our economy is recovering slowly; a shift in our schools and colleges can set new expectations to better prepare graduates for workforce realities. Many K-12 schools, whether out of choice or necessity, still teach to standardized tests and curriculums. However, the new professional is anything but standardized. The new professional is self-aware, stands out because of their ability to develop unique strengths, can connect their education to their career, is fully integrated into traditional and digital communication, and understands how to use personal discipline for professional advantage. If there isn’t enough time to emphasize this model in class, teachers can emphasize the importance of this exposure out of class.
If the institutions don’t have the money, time, perspective, or know-how to teach to students unique strengths, students often miss learning the skills they need to thrive in the real-world. When teachers and parents don’t make specific opportunities available for students to apply their academic skills to real-life job prospects, young minds struggle to make those connections which employers deem imperative. Small change can make a big impact, whether it’s one teacher making a difference in his class, one initiative helping kids work on their skills after school, or parents creating a supportive culture at home. Below are some small ways educators, professionals, and parents can help find and develop students’ gifts and talents to prepare them for success in school and their career.
Create a culture at home or in the classroom that supports creativity. Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D, an expert in creativity innovation, says:
“We’re all born with immense natural talents but our institutions, especially education, tend to stifle many of them and as a result we are fomenting a human and an economic disaster.”1
Robinson believes the waste of talent we see in our schools is not “deliberate”, but rather “systematic”. There will be an education revolution, as Robinson calls it, but how long can you wait for change? If your school curriculum doesn’t offer enough creative outlets, how can you make one change in your lesson that uses students’ critical thinking skills instead of memorization? If you’re a parent, what is one activity, whether a physical one, a video game, board game, etc. that develops critical and creative thinking skills you could encourage kids to play at home?
Create opportunities for students to practice professional skills and find professional role models. For many students, there can be a disconnect between what they’re learning in school and how that knowledge applies to the real world. Many students ask, “Why are we learning this?” and parents and educators don’t always have a better response than “because I said so” — or some variation. Share the true purpose of the learning and connect the value of each idea to career and personal life.
The national high school graduation rate for black males is 47%. About 70% of black males are born into families without a male role model and only 2% of teachers in the U.S. are black males2. One principal decided to tackle this crisis by going out on a limb and creating an empowerment program that brought positive male role models to the boys in his schools on “Power Mondays”. Every Monday, males in his school come dressed in professional clothing and meet with successful male volunteers from the community. The men share their stories of overcoming adversity, challenges, and obstacles, and become the role models for success these boys never had. The school has received national recognition for the growth in student achievement — largely attributed to Power Mondays. This program is a great example of the power of a positive role model on a child. The Power Monday program could easily be replicated or adapted in any school with the help of the community. How can you introduce your students to professional role models, entrepreneurship, and activities that allow them to practice career skills?
Learn academic coaching skills. Academic Coaching helps students take action and move forward in positive directions through goal-setting, developing intrinsic motivation, and finding vision. Both educators and parents serve as a student’s Academic Coach until, ultimately, the student becomes their own coach to navigate school, life, and career. Studies have found significant increases in retention and graduation rates among students who participated in a coaching program. Coaching is a universal skill that can effectively be used with over- or under-achieving students, students with learning disabilities, students who lack vision, students interested in the arts, athletics, science, and on.
LifeBound’s Academic Coaching Training is conducted throughout the year at our office in Denver, and can also be customized for specific student populations in an on-site session. Visit our website for more information.
How are you helping students draw the connection between school and life? Would you be willing to coordinate positive role models to come speak to your students? Consider the impact of bringing in a real-life role model to a class that is tapped into the unreal behaviors of many of today’s celebrities. It’s the responsibility of parents, educators, students, and the community to create a stable tomorrow. Our energy and our imagination can transform current difficulties and frustrations into a new, vibrant and energizing learning environment.
1 “How Schools Stifle Creativity,” By Sir Ken Robinson. http://www.cnn.com/
2“How One Principal Recruited Role Models to Motivate His Black Male Students,” by Baruti Kafele. 14 April 2012. Good. Accessed on 20 April 2012. http://www.good.is/post/