My previous blog “Let’s stop this madness of sending students to college right after high school.” had a lot of reaction to it. I feel I struck a nerve with many of my readers. I enjoyed reading and interacting with all the people who contacted me about it. Telling students not to go directly to college immediately after high school is a mindset change for many of us including myself. I see many students blindly walking into college not having a clue in order to figure out what they want to do. Add in unbelievably high costs of education and you end up paying extreme amounts of money to “figure out” your life and the return on your investment diminishes rapidly. There has to be a more economical way right? There is. My next few blogs are going to highlight ways you can gain experience and find out about careers and educate yourself before throwing down mass amounts of money you don’t have.
In order to look at authentic opportunities that a student can gain access to, I had to look into what a 12 to 18 year old person actually do. The old adage was “get a job.” In my opinion, we have kids who are 12 and 13 years old who are ready to learn more and work, it’s just they can’t legally do it. So how do we get students into more authentic experiences?
The first opportunity in this series is Job Shadowing.
What exactly is Job Shadowing? It is observing or “shadowing” someone doing their job. Timeframes for shadowing can last from a few hours to a week or more. The longer the shadowing opportunity, the more exposure the individual could get interacting with the boss, staff and seeing more procedures in any industry.
The benefits of job shadowing are numerous for both parties involved.
For the shadower, they get to actually see a possible career target they may be interested in. Seeing day to day operations can help the shadower make wiser decisions regarding their paths to that particular career. The shadower actually sees someone doing the job they are interested in. They get to see the spaces the job is being done in. While shadowing, one can pick up the workplace culture, norms and dynamics. The shadower can build their network by meeting people and talking with them. Finally the shadower can find out about the daily joys and struggles of that particular profession.
The employer can learn a lot from offering a job shadowing experience as well. The employers can learn from the shadower. This can lead to newer, innovative ways of doing things within your business. The employer is actually building their future employee network when they offer job shadowing. Finally, an employer who offers job shadowing can help out youth in their communities by teaching them about an industry in general.
So how do we implement this in the high school realm?
High Schools should have job shadowing intertwined into the schedule of students. Schools need to work with their community to fit job shadowing times and opportunities into daily, weekly, or quarterly times during the school year.
That work needs to be with local businesses, government, and professionals. Guidance counselors are constantly working with students to hear their interests and guide them accordingly. Interaction with community and counselors with students should be a priority in high school. Job shadowing can fill that void of students not knowing anything regarding a possible interest or profession before they graduate and go on to their next learning experience.
Let’s get job shadowing into the high school curriculum!
I received an email this afternoon reminding me that next Tuesday is “College sweatshirt day.” Teachers are supposed to wear their college sweatshirts to celebrate the fact they went to college and show their students they should go too right after high school.
I’m not going to wear my college sweatshirt Tuesday.
There are several reasons I refuse to take part in this madness. First of all, my college got enough of my money. It was a lot. They actually owe me a sweatshirt.
Secondly, this sends a terrible message to our students as a whole. We are basically saying to all our students that if you don’t go to college, you will be a loser. Actually, you will likely go to college, try to find something you are interested in during the first few years while spending thousands of dollars that you have loaned from the government. Oh, and that loan is not forgivable either. They should wear an old torn up sweatshirt instead to protest the terrible return on investment of many college degrees.
That torn up old shirt should represent the reality of huge debt these kids are getting themselves in.
The reality is that we are sending seventeen and eighteen year olds to college without ever experiencing any sort of real life at all. Most of them have been shuttled around on sport teams and to test taking tutors. They have no time to actually experience a job. They have no time to experience curiosity. They can’t understand what it is like in virtually any career. They have been too busy studying for exams and doing mindless homework sheets. High school graduates should be experiencing mentor relationships. They should shadow professionals in many different areas. They should experiment with volunteerism and helping others.
Shoving them immediately into college after high school is not the answer.
Still need convinced? Ask any Junior or Senior high school student what they want to do as a career. Most of them answer something like “I don’t know… maybe (enter major here)?” They have no idea. Why buy the Ferrari when you don’t know how to drive? Why buy the major before you know what it is really about?
No, I won’t be wearing my college sweatshirt on Tuesday.
I will be wearing my Disrupt Education shirt.
My son came home last evening and was complaining about a sore shoulder. I asked him how he injured it. He explained how heavy his backpack is. I grabbed his backpack and picked it up. It was about 35 pounds! What? A I probed with questions, and had him clean the thing out, he mentioned more astonishing things we should be looking into as an educational community which are being ignored.
Let’s go to the backpack first. It is a simple thing right? Carry stuff from one point to another. As my son cleaned out his extremely messy backpack, we talked about each piece. While there was a lot of old paper he should have thrown out months ago, there were books in there that were unused due to the text being on technology. I told my son to promptly take them out and not carry them around. I was slightly perturbed that the school and parents spend money on useless materials. I then asked my son why he didn’t stop at his locker between periods. More interesting answers…
My son mentioned they have 2 minute passing period. Before you go into your “in my day we had 1 minute passing periods” speech, think about what the heck is going on. I visualized students rushing through the day without ever deeply learning anything other than their schedule and where to go next. My son mentioned that so many students were asking to use the bathroom during the day that many teachers told them to go during the passing period. Are you “bleeping” kidding me?!
Let me paint the picture for you.
We have students rushing through their schedule with 30 to 50 pounds on their backs having to rush to take a piss in a two minute passing period trying to learn something in all of this mess.
I’m surprised that my kid doesn’t come home sore and smelling of urine every day!
We as educators need to take a serious look at the environment our kids are learning in. So many articles are coming out on how students are disengaged and stressed out these days. Stop and look what their actual learning environment is and you will understand it’s not always a lazy kid. We are setting up our students for sore backs and kidney problems! Think about if your job environment was like this. You would quit. Why do you think our students are?
Share this with your local school board members and administrators. They need to realize what we are doing to our students. Show them what harmful environments they are in and demand change. Maybe our future generations won’t have to “walk 20 miles uphill in 12 inches of snow both way to school everyday” like we did.
In my 15 plus career in education, I see plenty of lost students wandering the halls every day in their high school. I usually probe the situation with these students. I like to ask them why they are not engaged in their classes at that moment. Some of them think I am accusing them of doing something wrong and not answer. A few will tell me their truths. Those few will tell me they are bored. They say are not getting anything out of the class. Answers like the subject has nothing to do with what my interests are given a lot. “I get A’s on the tests and I can learn it on my own.” is one I also get a lot.
I work with a sophomore who is not enjoying school at all. He is focused on a few things including becoming an entrepreneur. He told me he skips his math class a lot. I asked him why and he told me that he gets A’s on all the tests while never doing homework. He showed me his online grades and it was clear this kid was acing tests while his homework grade was low. I have trouble with this type of grading. You may be asking why is this kid not going into the next level of math (which in this case would be Trigonometry)? I see that thinking and want to ask, does one really need Trigonometry? I know what this kid wants to pursue, he won’t need it at this time of his life.
I did some research as to why a Sophomore in high school wouldn’t just take a General Education Development test. The reason is because they can’t. I want to ask why not? States have different rules and regulations for taking a GED exam. Most say a student has to be 18 years of age. In some cases a person who is 17 and has permission from that state Superintendent of Education can take it as well.
Why all the red tape? Wouldn’t it serve a large portion of our unengaged students well to have them take the GED earlier in their high school years and finish out in elective courses such as the arts, music, business, or anything which they can learn more while being more engaged? I realize it would be a difficult thing to change but that is no excuse for not trying at all. Think about how much more our students could learn who are not built to learn in a traditional system.
Here’s what future employers, venture capitalists, and customers for entrepreneurs look for…and none of them require a college degree.
1.You can get things done. You are able to start a task and finish. You have the self discipline to look at something, identify the problems, and do something about it.
2. You have experience. You have found opportunities to gain experience in everything you seek out. No matter your age or education level, you are able to find people, subjects, and things to do that will gain you some experience in your craft.
3. You are curious. You have a keen sense of finding observing things and asking why. You are interested in how things work and the history behind it.
4. You have the ability to work with others in diverse environments. You know how to disagree with people and still accomplish a goal together. You are able to put your differences aside and empathize with others.
5. You are open to new ideas. Status quo sucks in your mind. You are not afraid to experiment with new ideas that could make processes, products, or services better for everyone.
6. You have a commitment to continuous learning. You are humble enough to know you don’t know everything yet you remain driven to learn more every day.
So the question is… how do we fix school to teach these six items? I’m sure these six items are not all measurable by test scores and grades or even a college degree. #disrupteducation
I appreciate parents who care for their kids. I know because I am one. I also know that my kids are not living in a time anything like my time when I was their age. As a teacher for almost 20 years, I have seen the helicopter parent, the parent who wants their kids to not make the same mistakes they did, and the “my kid is going to Harvard” types. I have also seen the “you have to go to college right after high school or you will fail in life” parents as well. Parents, please listen to what I have to say here…
Your kids are not living your life.
They are in a different time and place. Listen to them. See what is actually going on in the world today.
I have a student whose father is pushing her to get a division I scholarship. He is pushing hard. So hard that this student is already burned out from her sport. He has stated he had a chance when he was in high school to make it to D1 and excel but chose a different path. He regrets that decision and doesn’t want his daughter to mess her life up by not trying for the scholarship he never went for. Let’s take a minute and let that sit in. Pal, your daughter is not you. She will mess up in life. It is inevitable. This is a different time. She doesn’t want to live your life. She is only doing it to make you happy. In the end, she could be miserable. Layoff. Listen to her. Stop pushing.
I have another parent who has a 19 year old son who has started a gaming group online. It is something the parent doesn’t understand. He thinks his son is not doing anything worthwhile.
Recently, his son raised a couple hundred thousand dollars for his venture online. That’s right…over $200,000.
I recently saw his father and asked him how he was doing. He said he was doing okay. Okay? Really? His kid is 19 and doing awesome things! The father stated he and his wife are worried sick because his son’s experience is not like theirs in college. He then asked me what will happen when the money runs out? I looked at him in disbelief. This man’s son has been working at his craft for years and made a name for himself online and raised over $200,000 for it. Was he kidding!? I asked the father what he was doing when he was 19. The man thought for a second, then smiled and realized that his son was excelling. He looked at me in the eyes and said, “you are right… all I was doing when I was 19 was smoking weed.”
Times have changed. I tell all the parents of my students that their kids will be fine whether they go to college right away or not at all. Life works itself out. The best thing they can encourage their kids to be or do is not the old Lawyer or Doctor spiel… it is they should be creative problem solvers and adaptable to change. Keep loving them while acknowledging the individuals they are.
It was Sunday morning and my 9 year old daughter had a friend sleepover the previous night. As they came downstairs to eat some breakfast, they were talking about how Monday’s are terrible and they are glad that today was Sunday. That got me thinking. What the hell is so bad about Mondays? How did my daughter get the idea?
I see it every Monday in schools across the nation. Students “hate” Mondays. Why? It’s just another day in our extremely lucky lives we have. Aren’t we blessed to have another day? The answer is yes. Here’s why Mondays suck for so many. They are taught to not like it. When teachers come in and say Monday sucks the students learn to say Mondays suck. When our parents hate Mondays, our kids hate Mondays. That is bullshit. Stop it.
Hating Monday is a mindset.
Think about it. Why do you hate Monday? It is a day like any other. The sun comes up and sets like all days. We are just as alive on Mondays as we are on Fridays. Here is why you hate Mondays. Hating Monday is just letting everyone know around you that your life sucks and you are not trying hard enough to change yourself and others for the better. You are saying you are lazy. Honestly, nobody cares about your Monday or any day. If you change your mindset to realize the opportunity any day brings, no matter what day it is, you win. If you look into the odds of you being in the great situation you are in with a roof over your head, food in your belly, and people around you who support you, Monday is great. It is freaking great! Mondays are outstanding!
Instead of complaining about Mondays in front of the youth around you, teach them that there is opportunity in every single day you are alive. Mondays included. Teach them to look for positives every damn day. Stop the status quo of Monday sucking. It is you who sucks if you continue to bring down any day in your life that is a gift.
Today I was invited to talk to my daughter’s 4th grade class about being in business. They are doing a market day project where the students come up with a product or service. They design and create a booth to sell them in as well. As a father and teacher, I love this project. I wish I had a project like this when I was in 4th grade. As I began speaking about what I do in education , I felt the need to ask them what their ideas were for their products or services. The class consisted of 2 4th grade classes and there were about 45 kids in the room. Every last one of them was eager to share their product or service. They didn’t care how silly, goofy, funny, great or bad it was. They shared like they were going to succeed. They were confident.
This was amazing to me because I teach high school and a lot of kids become embarrassed or quiet by that age because they’ve been silenced by the critics. As I listened to the ideas of each student I realized they had guts. The kids didn’t care about what people thought of their idea. They didn’t think that it was going to fail. The 4th graders were full of optimism and looked for opportunity.. I try to teach my students this everyday at the highschool level. Too often we let others push our ideas and dreams down until we don’t even believe in them ourselves. We become scared because of what other people think. Sometime between 4th grade and High School all this occurs. As I continue to seek out my dreams and passions about changing education, today was a reminder to me to be like a fourth grader in my pursuits. The passion these kids had learning some business education without any fear was moving. This day will stay with me as I continue my journey disrupting education. The bottom line is these 4th graders had a ton of guts.
This past week I had the privilege to serve as a moderator for an outstanding group of entrepreneurs for our students. The evening was put together by members of the Oak Park and River Forest Community Foundation and the OPRF School of Business. One of the panel members was the former CEO, Chairman of the Board and Founder of Vasco Data Security, Mr. T. Kendall Hunt. Mr. Hunt shared his humble upbringing in a small town in Illinois. He described working hard and playing football. Eventually he earned a scholarship and played at the University of Miami. He went on to explain his venture working at IBM and jumping ship to start Vasco.
Mr. Hunt obviously has a lot of experience in life. It was amazing how the 73 year old held our students captivated during his discussion. He spoke softly and purposefully. After I asked the panel their first question, Mr. Hunt started by giving his 10 rules to live by. In the crowd, several students scrambled for a pen and paper to write down this wisdom about to be spoken. The list was powerful. Over 50 years worth of life experience put into simple words on the list. I emailed Mr. Hunt following the panel discussion and he was kind enough to send me the list. I wanted to share it with my readers in this blog. Here they are:
Ken Hunt’s 10 Rules To Live By
1. Never give up. Almost nothing works the first time it’s attempted. Just because what you’re doing does not seem to be working, doesn’t mean it won’t work. It just means that it might not work the way you’re doing it.
2. Stay out of your comfort zone. Not much happens of any significance when you’re in your comfort zone. Always move forward. Never stop learning. Never stop improving. Never stop doing something new
3. When you’re ready to quit, you’re closer than you think. The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.
4. Take things a day at a time. No matter how difficult your situation is, you can get through it if you don’t look too far into the future, and focus on the present moment. You can get through anything one day at a time.
5. Measure everything of significance. Anything that is measured and watched improves.
6. Never let anyone push you around. In our society, with our laws and even playing field, you have just as much right to what you’re doing as anyone else.
7. Never expect life to be fair. Life isn’t fair. You make your own breaks.
8. Solve your own problems. By coming up with your own solutions, you’ll develop a competitive edge.
9. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Lighten up. At least half of what is accomplished is due to luck.
10. There’s always a reason to smile. Find it. We’re not here on earth for long, so live your life, love others, and laugh often.
This list represents the world to me. I still get goosebumps when I read it. It is so true in my journey. Thank you Mr. Hunt for sharing your wisdom!
I am still astounded at the whole high school straight to college route the majority of our students are being forced into. Whether their parents, school counselors, or teachers are doing it, the norm of this absurd idea still exists in our system. A Forbes article form 2014 stated “College isn’t the time to find yourself… it’s EXPENSIVE!” I totally agree with this statement. It’s over three years old and still evident.
“College isn’t the time to find yourself… it’s EXPENSIVE!”
I have seniors in my class asking me if they can use the bathroom everyday. Within a year they will be in a college situation paying exorbitant amounts of money and expecting to be on target for their lives. They are STILL ASKING TO GO TO THE BATHROOM!!!! Many students do not know what the hell they want to do in life. I find it amazing in my classroom when I ask several of them what they want to do after high school. A large percentage of them will say they want to go to college. I then ask why. They say because that’s what you are supposed to do. I then ask who said that is what they are supposed to do. They state it was a parent, counselors, faculty, and society. I ask what they want to study and most of them have no idea. The ones who do have an idea will state a major without ever experiencing the actual industry they could end up being in. For example, someone may say they want to major in business. I will probe further and ask what area of business do they want to study. I always get the answer of , “I don’t know, just business I guess.” This seems absurd to me. The students have never been exposed to the realities of their “majors” of study before the jump into the college realm and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to be taught in them. They don’t even know if this is right for them!
I equate going to college to find your interest to buying my 12 year old son a $200,000 automobile before he even knows how to drive.
Recently this reality came to light as one of my teammates in my department assigned students to create resumes in a financial literacy course. One senior stated she wanted to go into marketing as a major in college. Her resume was essentially blank. My colleague asked her why she hadn’t gained any experience yet. She broke down and didn’t know she should have any experience. She was in tears.
She thought you just keep your head down and study and get good grades and test scores and you will succeed.
This lie is too evident in today’s world. It’s all about experience and a journey within real authentic learning. Businesses don’t care about your grades and test scores. They want to see what you have actually done in the field you want to be in.
High schools need to open the door to students to let them outside the walls of school in order to give them a better idea of possibilities of education. After high school, students without any idea of what they want to do should not go straight into college. It’s a waste of money. My advice for this type of student is to go get a job. Network with a whole lot of people in many industries. Check out ways to shadow professionals. Create products and services in the field they may find interesting on their own before going into college. Let’s face it, technology and the internet can pretty much teach you anything out there. For example if you are interested in the clothing industry, start designing T-shirts and selling them online. Be prepared to fail and learn from it. Be patient. Watch what happens when you try it out. Pivot! Get real life experience before you go to college. The fact is that if you don’t go to college right after high school, you will be fine! In fact, if you find out your passion and what you want to really excel in life before you step foot in a university, you will be way more focused. You will be more engaged in your learning. You will not WASTE YOUR TIME AND MONEY.
Stop and think to ask WHY you are going to college as an 18 year old. Your answer may surprise you.