Guided Pathways for High School

Guided Pathways for High School

A recent opinion piece in the New York Times posits a potentially heretical idea: that the premise of our educational system, of promoting college attendance to all students, is misguided. The author’s assertion is that our society spends too much money on students who attend college and not enough on everyone else. The article cites increases of 133% in federal funding for higher education – combined with tax breaks, loan subsidies and state-level funding that totals $150 billion annually. Given the facts surrounding high school and college attendance rates, attrition and degree attainment, the author argues for investing some of this money in training high school students for work after high school, not college attendance. Whether one agrees with this radical idea or not, it begs an important question that deserves debate: Shouldn’t we recognize that not all students will go to college, and more actively prepare those students for satisfying and meaningful careers/work after high school? The idea of adapting the guided pathways concept that already exists in the postsecondary realm to the realities of the high school might make sense. Refocusing guided pathways at the high school level also assumes that everyone has a legitimate path forward, without the historical judgments between students who are – or are not – bound for college. Moreover, using the guided pathways lens as a means to shepherd students through high school doesn’t mean that STEM programs lose importance. In fact, they gain more importance as students understand the value of STEM programs to their vocational goals. The same can be said about the need for increased social-emotional learning. Shifting to... read more
Connecting current events to classroom lessons

Connecting current events to classroom lessons

One of the obvious benefits of a digital world is instant access to news and current events.  We are all set adrift on this sea of information, which also serves as the backdrop for those who walk into every school classroom in the morning. A recent article in the New York Times outlines how many teachers and their students are connecting current events with classroom lesson plans.  The Times asked both teachers and students how they connect what’s happening outside of class with lesson plans.  We think you’ll find their responses inspirational and insightful. We are left with a few observations that led to these successful efforts, including: Let the students carry the conversations.  Successful teachers are merely moderators in facilitating an honest and fair discussion. Just about any current event is fair game as long as the process engages students in open dialogue and debate.  The goal is not to solve the problem but to support engagement and exploration that can lead to consensus. There is no age limit to participation.  In the Times piece, teachers shared stories from elementary, middle and high schools. Everything from novels to poetry to interesting social movements has been used to motivate connections. Give students a stage.  Many of these efforts involved allowing students to give their own “Ted Talk” or use other means to share their thoughts. We believe Elizabeth Misiewicz, Ridgefield, Conn., Middle School, summed up her connection efforts best when she said: “As middle schoolers, my students are growing into their identities and trying to find their places in the world. This project essentially said to them, “Your opinions... read more
Shifting into job search mode

Shifting into job search mode

I was motivated to write this blog because, as I meet people and “do life”, I find it fascinating to engage with individuals and inquire about their career choices. Conversations generally cover topics related to education, career path and satisfaction level. I’m always amazed at the responses, sometimes shocked or surprised by the choices that have been made and why. It’s obvious who has prepared well compared to those who have not. I find paths in life are as unique as the person. As life throws challenging twists and turns, it’s interesting to see how individuals respond in moving forward. Surprisingly, many of the young adults I meet in the 25 to 35 age group are underemployed, given their education and experience. Many are still in the jobs they accepted right out of college and often share that they work more than one job to survive. I am on a crusade to make this change! One enlightening thing I’ve learned on life’s journey— one that rings true for many of us—is that succeeding in college is very different from succeeding in a job search. Once you’ve graduated, the skills of research, solid communication, organization, networking and negotiating are crucial in promoting yourself in a competitive job environment and managing a vigorous job search. A successful job search requires project management skills, a heavy emphasis on organization, and follow-through. It requires putting in the hours of a full-time job, whether you’re already working or not, so you must become a very efficient and savvy project manager to land the interviews and get those offers. Perseverance and focus are essential in... read more
Appreciating Teachers requires more than just wearing red

Appreciating Teachers requires more than just wearing red

May 7-11 is National Teacher Appreciation Week. Against this backdrop, we have seen several teacher walk-outs across many states since January, each imploring their state legislature to increase education funding in general, and recognize teacher efforts with higher pay. Gathered under the banner #RedforEd, these organized efforts point at the painful truths many teachers are faced with in filling this important calling. While they make a compelling case for addressing the issue at a political level, there is much that the rest of us can to appreciate teacher efforts without “taking it to the streets”. If you are a parent of a student make sure that you and your child go out of your way to let their teacher know you appreciate what they are doing. This shouldn’t be done one month every year, but every day, if possible. Band together with other parents in your student’s class and hold a “Thank You Day” that honors their efforts.  Extend this into important discussions with teachers about what they need to help them do their jobs, then raise money from other parents to cover this cost. If you are a student, take the initiative with your other classmates to honor your teacher. Remember, they are on your side and are dedicated to helping you learn, grow and succeed. If you are a friend of a teacher, make sure you let them know that you appreciate their calling in building our future. These people are truly unique…they are walking the walk and talking the talk about making this world a better place. We need to recognize them. Why not put together... read more
Resiliency — It’s in You!

Resiliency — It’s in You!

I loved watching the recent Olympics! Where else can we watch and get a sense of life as a high-level athlete up close? We see profiles that illustrate the amount of time, energy and effort it takes to maintain the human body, physically and mentally, at the highest level of competition. We are privy to the raw reactions of each athlete as they experience success or failure or unexpected trauma. That raw vulnerability touches my heart in the moment and makes the entire experience so unique and special. I am always left wanting more. One aspect that stands out dramatically is each athlete’s ability to focus in the moment. For those who fail, it’s the ability to process and regroup quickly and effectively. This is the ultimate example of resiliency in action. Each athlete has trained to deal with failure in an expedient manner. They still display human reactions — such as anger, frustration, disappointment — but their training is such that they can move through the emotional side quickly, or perhaps compartmentalize it for later analysis, and continue to compete at a high level. Most of us don’t necessarily train to deal with adversity the way high-level athletes do. Nevertheless, if we go through the conscious process of dealing with failure and working through it, we can, in most cases, bounce back and move forward within a reasonable amount of time. There are always exceptions, and those who need more time should never be shamed into rushing through the process. Let’s look at some lessons we can draw about developing resiliency for our own journey. First, understanding our... read more
Community Colleges: Working Hard to Build a Bright Future for Students

Community Colleges: Working Hard to Build a Bright Future for Students

When we think of postsecondary institutions, we usually have our own 4-year state institutions in mind.  What many don’t understand is that our country’s community colleges serve another 12.7 million students[i] at the same time…nearly 50% of all college-going students. And community colleges typically serve these students with half the annual budget per student than their 4-year counterparts[i]. Given that an estimated 63% of jobs available in 2018 will require at least a two-year degree[i], it is easy to see that community colleges play a key role in educating tomorrow’s workforce. Yet, according to the American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) report, Empowering Community Colleges to Build the Nation’s Future, fewer than 46% of community college attendees have completed their degree[i].  Why the low figure? According to available data, community college students are more likely to be the first members of their family to attend college, are more likely to be single parents, are older and occupy lower economic categories, and are more likely to attend part-time. In short, the deck is stacked against them.   But there is hope…. there’s a lot being done to address this challenge. According to the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCSE) at University of Texas, well over 75% of all community college students attend part-time, or vary between part-time and full-time students during their community college careers[ii]. In Even One Semester, the CCSE’s 2017 report on student engagement and success, the importance of attending even one semester of community college full time has been shown to dramatically improve student engagement in persistence[ii]. As a result, the CCSE is advocating for major changes... read more
Start your New Year with Some Great Reads

Start your New Year with Some Great Reads

New Year’s is always a time when we set new goals, clean out old thinking and start new. It’s also a time when some new reading can help to shift thinking to the future. There’s lots to choose from!  To help, we have a couple of fascinating books to recommend that are sure to present some new perspectives. Our first recommendation is Why We Sleep – Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, by Matthew Walker, PhD. Despite the title, this book is not about dream interpretation; it represents the latest learning about sleep and its importance to humans and our general health. The author explores the latest understanding of the mechanics of sleep while also explaining the importance that each phase of sleep plays in developing our short- and long-term memory, making sense of the experiences we have during our waking hours, especially traumatic stress. Walker also explains how we are not meeting our daily sleep requirements (at least eight hours per night for adults), and how our need for this amount of sleep has evolved over the millennia as a means to optimal wellbeing. He presents compelling evidence, arguing that not recognizing our need for sleep, or sleep preferences, can lead to serious personal health problems and loss of productivity in society. As educators we’re already aware that sleep deprivation is a real challenge for adolescents, who require more sleep than adults—ideally nine to 10 hours—to promote brain development and wellbeing. In fact, the author found the research around the negative impact of sleep deprivation in adolescents so compelling that he advocates moving start times for K-12... read more
Integrity – It Matters

Integrity – It Matters

I was inspired to reflect on this very timely subject when I saw it displayed on the marquee at the high school close to my home. Given our world’s current events, it could not have come at a better time and prompted me to do some deep reflection. Formal education is all about teaching you to think critically and evaluate information, facts and situations with an objective point of view, then sifting through your subjective perspective to find what you understand as truth. Your views and behavior on ethical values influence your personal integrity and the legacy you are building! If you want more details, examine this list from Texas Tech University where they teach applied ethics. I think of it as an expanded version of the “Golden Rule”: http://www.depts.ttu.edu/murdoughcenter/products/resources/recommended-core-ethical-values.php Every day we are bombarded with examples of human behavior through media and other sources. An awareness of the degrees of variance in personal, corporate and political integrity is critical, so sharpen your skills of discernment and be prepared. Let this awareness be an opportunity—a catalyst—to create or review your personal framework. When asked, it is imperative that you communicate your beliefs and how they guide your behavior. Using real-life examples that illustrate your motives, as well as a personal mission statement that clearly articulates your views, can have quite an impact. If you want to develop a personal mission statement, select your top three values from the Texas Tech list mentioned above. Use those to design a brief statement (that could be expanded when necessary) about why you believe they are essential. For further guidance, check out this... read more
Intensify Your Productivity Zone

Intensify Your Productivity Zone

If you have ever gotten into a “zone” when studying or performing a task, you probably felt like the stars had aligned, the ideas and energy were flowing and you were working at a highly productive pace. You might even have lost track of time, because you were so into what you were doing. At times like these, it feels like you are at the top of your game and you are on a roll! When I accomplish a lot in a condensed timeframe, I feel satisfied, like my mind is working as well as it can. Like a finely oiled machine! I can’t wait until I can replicate that feeling and experience another high-performance output again. Knowing and maximizing your learning style can help you achieve this. I know it’s true. I’ve observed the results personally and have also seen it work for clients and professionals. Let me start by sharing a simple example from my life experience. I have always been drawn to areas that have a lot of natural light, like windows, as well as interior areas with bright artificial light, as opposed to dimly lit areas. When I don’t have bright light I feel like my brain is not running on all cylinders, so I intuitively search out areas where those options are provided. I’d never seen that reported in black and white until I reviewed my AchieveWORKS Learning and Productivity report. A second example that may seem rather trivial is that I gravitate toward a traditional desk and chair when I want to concentrate, study, read or write. I’ve learned over the years that... read more
Internships Can Be Your Secret Weapon

Internships Can Be Your Secret Weapon

Internships are the best-kept secret to bridging the world of work. Once you get on campus, check out the internship program so you can start planning. Every college should have a well-oiled program offering appealing internship opportunities related to your major and career field of interest, but you can always bring one you develop for consideration. Imagine how cool it is that as a student, you can intern in an organization that could someday sign your paycheck! Keep in mind the impact of being immersed in the industry of your interest: the marketplace exposure offers you a tremendous edge over others who do not have this learning opportunity. You’ll gain real-world experience: it’s priceless, whether or not the internship offers monetary compensation. The bottom line is, internships provide built-in, top-notch knowledge and networking that you would never have access to any other way! While some internships offer compensation and others don’t, even those that do not provide payment feature other benefits that make them invaluable. If you desire employment at a competitive agency or firm, the networking and experience alone often lead to an inside track for job offers.  Informal methods, such as personal recommendations and word-of-mouth referrals are easily tapped when you have solid experience as an intern. Remember, interns are typically privy to inside information, including internal openings, as well as upcoming plans for expansion and hiring. So, what if your school does not offer internships, or at least not any in the organizations you like?  Forge a relationship with a professional contact and take it back to the college. Most colleges are happy to formalize the... read more