Monday, April 27, 2015

The Apprentice

            Education has maintained the same model for years. Over a hundred and fifty of them. Some things in education need to be updated, but in other instances, maybe it’s time to revisit the past, take a successful model, and update it for today’s learner. That model? Apprenticeship.
            A recent article by Ron Bethke of eCampus News explores the growing movement toward apprenticeship in higher education, noting in his article the increase of federal funding for this program.
            In my opinion this is good. But it could be better. How? By moving some of the funds from higher ed to high school and allowing students the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience in a career or trade they are considering.
            If the clarion call is out that students need to finish college in four years, what better way to prepare them for post-high school life than expose them to their potential career? By giving them this opportunity, students could find out if their intended career is a fit for them.
            Critics will respond that high school kids are too young to make a choice with such long-lasting implications, stating that many of them will change careers and may not even stay in their apprenticed field. So what? How many people are in the career field they started in? Many, but not all.
            According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most people change jobs every 4.4 years, but for the Millennial generation, that span is cut in half. This generation loves change and trying new things. Including jobs and often time new careers. Since they are going to change anyway, why not expose young people to as many career choices as possible? This could potentially reduce the amount of job hopping done, leading to happier employees and employers both. This would be a win-win situation.
            Any time we can offer students hands-on or real-world opportunities, we increase student engagement. When engagement goes up, so does learning. When learning increases, so do test scores. And isn’t that what everyone is after anyway? Better test scores? So bring on the apprentice programs but don’t stop at higher education. Filter them into the secondary level and see what kind of changes we could bring to a successful old school model.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Dealing with Discouragement

Sometimes, I’ve tried everything I know. All the little tricks. Every strategy.  I’ve used all the tools in my tool box and I come up short. My student, lacking engagement, departs from school and goes...? Nothing discourages me more and makes me feel more like I’ve failed  a student. It’s those days I try to figure out how much longer I’ll be able to keep it up as a teacher. I’m sure everyone has those days when they wonder about retirement or a career change. So the question is this: How can we stay motivated as educators?
                Just like I have different strategies for reaching hard-to-reach students, I have a go-to list of things I do when I’m feeling a little down or lack the gumption needed to keep up a “can-do” attitude. One thing I do is search out my favorite blogs and reread them. There’s nothing like reading words from colleagues, sharing their successes and failures vicariously, to bring a little inspiration my way.
                Another tried and true method is pulling out the letters and cards of kids I HAVE reached. Students in whose lives I deposited something. Something minute, maybe, but something. I try to fill my mind with the good I’ve done rather than focus on the failures.
                Sometimes I just look the failure straight on and evaluate what I could have done differently. Maybe I failed to really connect with that student. Or maybe I came across too callously or noncommittal. Maybe I didn’t pay enough attention to the student or maybe I paid too much attention to him or her. Evaluating myself helps to avoid making the same mistake twice.
                But my favorite motivator and righter of all wrong in my life? Talking with colleagues.  Interacting with fellow trench dwellers who understand the battles I face because they face them too. They are the people I turn to for support, advice, more tricks and more techniques to utilize in my fight against losing students. Nothing bolsters my confidence like interacting with colleagues and discussing with them their own fights. It helps me remember, I’m not alone in this fight to educate. And that’s comforting.
                If I can’t talk in person with fellow teachers, the next best bet for me is an edchat. One of my favorites is #gfedchat on Monday nights. Although I know some of the educators involved, I don’t know everyone personally. Yet I still feel a connection to those I don’t know. I recognize names and monikers and have come to value insights they all have.
                So the next time, if there is a next time, I feel down or discouraged, I’m going to take my own advice and use one of my own “coping” techniques. Maybe I’ll  seek out colleagues, either in person or online. For me, it really does make all the difference. How ‘bout you?