In the spring, I took the Guidance Part I additional qualifications (Ontario qualifications) as I thought I may have an interest in being a guidance counselor. The course allowed me to explore the major areas of career education: government guiding documents, ethics, counseling, career guidance, and cooperative education and trades.
There was a great deal of discussion about the required grade ten Career Studies 1/2 course that has been a required course since the curriculum reform that began about 12 years ago. It seems that there’s been a high failure rate in the course across the province, so the question was raised as to whether grade ten is too early to be exploring a career path. At first I believed it was too early, but after studying the Choices into Action document that outlines the purposes of our public education system, I believe that career education begins in Kindergarten. Students should be thinking about the end result early on and throughout their education because we are educating them for the purpose of determining and preparing for a vocation, trade or profession of some sort. Grade ten shouldn’t be too soon to ensure that students are appropriately preparing their remaining high school courses for their chosen vocation or post-secondary program.
The reasons for why students, generally as a group, don’t pass this course:
- They don’t complete the required portfolio to represent their personal career education exploration.
- They seem to be lacking in maturity. For instance, they state boredom or that they don’t care about the subject.
- They dislike the high frequency of required self-reflection in the process.
Before I took the Guidance Part I course, I was of the opinion that the Career Studies course was useless, but now I believe it’s the most important course in high school. Our purpose as educators, regardless of what subject we teach, is to prepare students for life after high school…life in the world of work for some and life at a post-secondary institution for others. Determining careers is our primary purpose!
I have been thinking about how to achieve more success in this course. I have never taught the course, but I am aware of the curriculum requirements and how the course is delivered in our school. I look at the lessons and wonder, What’s the problem? The teachers are diligent as well. The problem isn’t readily apparent. One thing that is clear: The approach that is currently being used is not working and it needs to change.
I have had the opportunity to read a proof (not yet published) of a novel that develops seven key ideas for career success. Reading this novel has given me an idea. What if instead of getting students to begin by explore their aptitudes and interests and relating them to career possibilities, they studied these concepts for success in life after high school. Now, granted, these concepts can be applied to other aspects of a person’s life or even to life in high school, but getting students to focus on what they would like their adult life to be may be more motivating to want to explore their career planning options. This novel could be an excellent starting point for getting students engaged in the process of determining their career path.
The novel The Millionaire Lifeguard was written by Brian Harris, a leader in career education in Canada. He is a retired teacher and guidance counselor who continues to be active in teaching Guidance additional qualifications to teachers, developing several career education publications, writing this novel with a career education message, and also pursuing his artistic endeavors. (Visit the Millionaire Lifeguard Career Education Blog.) At first I was a little surprised because I thought that a novel for teenagers would contain teenage characters; instead, the male protagonist, Rick, and the female major character, Kate, are adult friends who are dissatisfied with their lives for different reasons. They go to Hawaii at Kate’s prompting to meet the ‘millionaire lifeguard’ who she believes holds the key to solving her financial problems that are affecting every aspect of her life. Although Rick also has financial issues of his own, his problems are more related to his lack of action or commitment; thus, the two characters represent common dissatisfaction in adulthood because of a lack of career (and financial) planning. I won’t outline the seven concepts because they are best expounded by reading the novel and having them illustrated through the narrative.
In reading the novel I was reminded of two other books I’ve read and one other that I’ve recently seen on the bestseller book stand. First, The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach contains similar concepts that I applied to my own finances that is quite practical financial planning for living a life that is ‘bad-debt’ free. Also, The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss inspires one to live within ones means but also to live the life of the ‘new rich.’ Living the ‘new rich’ life doesn’t mean having riches but making the money you need to live the life that you want! It also gets one thinking about ways to become an entrepreneur without high start up costs.
What if the concepts of these books were taught instead to inspire students to think about their future in a different way? How about getting them to consider what they expect in their adult life and to determine how much such a life costs. How about determining if their chosen career will support the desired lifestyle?
The Millionaire Lifeguard novel uses fictional narrative to develop meaningful career education concepts. It wouldn’t surprise me if the author has developed a study guide to accompany the novel and that would be another useful tool to use in the classroom. I’ve noted that the last few teen novels I’ve read have had a study guide at the back of the novel which is an option that the author may wish to consider. As well, this novel would be paired well with an online discussion board where students in the class discuss the concepts that are developed in the novel as one of the course assignments.
I may be prejudiced in my approach, being an English and literature teacher, because I love to learn from the thematic messages of stories; however, I believe that using some narrative in this course may be a way to engage readers if the teacher can use the novel to get students excited about planning for their future.
Finally, the last non-fiction novel that I believe could be meaningfully included in a Career Studies course of study is The One Week Job Project by Sean Aiken. This young man decided to try one job a week for a year with the purpose of finding his passion. He explores 52 different jobs during his journey, and his personal project turned into a book deal, website, interviews, and a certain amount of fame! A teacher could have each student in the class present on Sean’s experience with one of the jobs; this exercise could be an introduction to their job shadow day.
What ideas do you have for how to use this book in a Career Studies class? or What other ideas do you have for engaging students in a Career Studies class?