Guest blog by LeighAnne Tamplen, Teacher at Ben Barber Innovative Academy in Mansfield ISD.
If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times… “how are high school kids supposed to know what they want to do the rest of their lives.” This was a common sentiment that was expressed by parents when the Texas state legislature passed House Bill 5 requiring incoming freshman to choose a career pathway and create a four-year plan that would help them narrow their focus to a particular field of study. While this requirement resulted in some panic and anxiousness among high school bound students, many parents stood on the sidelines with raised eyebrows while scratching their heads wondering whether or not the career pathway model was something they should embrace. Fast-forward 6 years later and I can report that parents, teachers, and students are reaping the benefits of this educational model.
Let’s start with the most important part of the equation…the student. The greatest benefit to the student is that they get to start high school with an introductory course within the field that helps them explore careers within a broad area. In my program, education and training, students are introduced to various career areas found within the school system. While most of the students in the program are interested in becoming K-12 teachers, they are exposed to other opportunities that might interest them as well. From there they move to the intermediate course where they gain a theoretical knowledge of the growth and development of children from infancy all the way to adolescence. This class is an integral part of the course sequencing because it prepares them for their junior and senior years where they get participate in a work-based internship at a school of their choice found within our district. As part of the internship experience the students get to work one on one with students, lead small group activities, teach a prepared lesson to the class as well as perform administrative tasks like grading papers and making copies. By the end of their senior year, the most exciting thing I hear from my students is “I love teaching and can’t wait until I have my own classroom.” Having the real world experience helps them build confidence in themselves and in their decision to pursue a career in education…this is what makes the parents very happy. I have had numerous parents tell me they wish they’d had the opportunity to participate in a program like mine when they were younger so they would have had a chance to try out a career before they decided to major in a subject only to find out later on that the job wasn’t what they thought it would be.
There is no greater joy in teaching than to help a young person find his or her passion and guide them in the pursuit. The number of young men and women who are graduating high school with a strong focus and the knowledge and resources to pursue their dreams is truly inspiring. Whether you are a K-12 educator, parent or caring member of the community, reach out to your district’s career and technology program to see the exciting and innovative things our schools are doing to help young people make their dreams come true.