By Jessica Tena
“We become the stories we tell ourselves.” – Leslie Marmon Silko
For years, the mantra of making sure students are college and career ready has been extolled and repeated to educators. College and career readiness is, after all, explicitly called out in the Common Core standards, has been the cornerstone of many a professional development day for teachers, and is quite often a staple of school mission statements around the country. For many of us, that has meant being laser-focused on preparing our students for college acceptance. As a first-generation college student, I cannot underscore the value of having educators who promote college in their daily discourse with students enough. The reality is that for many of our students, as was true in my own life, conversations with a mentor about college can be life-changing.
What about the other part of that though? The career readiness component? For Cajon Valley Union School District in El Cajon, California, that has meant launching a groundbreaking K-8 initiative known as World of Work. With the inspirational leadership of their Chief Innovation and Engagement Officer, Ed Hidalgo, Cajon Valley Union has made it a priority to ensure that students are afforded multiple opportunities over the course of their schooling experience to engage with and explore career possibilities. In tandem with that, the initiative also creates moments for educators to help students explore their unique strengths, interests, and values and evaluate how those attributes match careers in the World of Work. However, it is not merely about learning what careers are out there, but in the words of trailblazing Superintendent, Dr. David Miyashiro, “it is also about helping students find a good fit so that they can live happy productive lives.” For more on the specifics of World of Work, check out this article from Dr. Steve Regur , founder and CEO, of Educators Cooperative.
So how do you bring teachers on board? As is true with any initiative that is launched in our schools, long-term sustainability will not simply occur organically. You need teacher buy-in. As part of the professional development support for the first year of the World of Work initiative,Educators Cooperative is partnering with the schools in Cajon Valley to help teachers explore the human side of this innovation. If one of the primary goals of World of Work is to help every child lead a happy and productive life, we have learned in our support of teachers that several elements have to occur first:
- Teachers must be given an opportunity to think about and discuss their own journey into the World of Work.
What does that look like? Cajon Valley Union has set aside several GLO days (Great Learning Opportunities) throughout the school year to help teachers begin to unpack the World of Work. In the first round of professional learning sessions, GLO facilitators asked teachers to share with their colleagues how “they went pro”. Follow up discussions helped teachers think about their career story, their choice of college major, as well as life experiences that helped shaped them into the amazing educators they are today.
2. Teachers need a safe space with their peers to explore the barriers and challenges they faced along the way to becoming an educator.
What does that look like? At one middle school in the district, the principal took a risk and told his own World of Work story to his teachers at the outset of the GLO session. He shared a powerful narrative in which he chronicled his rise out of poverty and hopelessness, while connecting it to the stories of many of their students who are struggling academically. His willingness, not only to be a true leader, but to be vulnerable set the tone for a day in which teachers felt comfortable in opening up to each other.
3. Teachers need opportunities to connect their own story to the stories of their students.
What does that look like? After analyzing their own trajectories, teaching teams brainstormed ways in which their students’ stories mirrored theirs. For teachers who realized that they needed to find out more about the world that their students come from, their teams helped them generate ideas for activities that would facilitate that exploration.
4. Finally, how about some learning through play? Teachers need time to have fun with the resources in World of Work, so that they can begin to strategize how to use those resources in the most meaningful way to benefit their students.
What does that look like? World of Work is not just a philosophy. Thanks to the creative and transformative development work of Amy McCammon, founder of Eddywhere, each teacher in the district received tools and resources to use in a wrap-around context with what they are already teaching. Teachers were given the opportunity to try out the resources they would be using with their students. This meant a lot of game playing, laughing, and shouting in friendly competition (not something you typically hear or see in your average professional development day).
As the district moves forward with the initiative, teachers will continue to receive support and refine their plan for helping students explore the World of Work. The possibilities are limitless and it will be exciting to see what new chapters will be added to the stories of both students and teachers. For more insight, visit www.educators.coop or talk to us on Twitter @educatorscoop.