Wednesday, April 6, 2011

There Are Other Ways

detourWhen I first started teaching high school, many of my students attended the vocational center. They learned a trade such as welding, building construction, agricultural science, automotive repair, automotive body work, and brick masonry. Even though my students did not earn a high school diploma, many of them learned a skill that enabled them to become employed after they graduated from high school. These skills helped them find a career doing the things they loved to do. That is what everyone should hope to do with their life.

When I transferred to another school, my students wanted to learn skills that let them work with their hands and I thought the vocational center was the perfect place for them. Unfortunately I found out that we no longer have a vocational center and now it is a career and technology center. Many of the courses had tests for licensure that my students would have difficulty passing. So, needless to say, many of my students were not welcome here.

It was so disappointing to me from a teacher’s point of view and from the student’s point of view. But I decided rather than wasting energy complaining about it, I needed to find another way. My main goal was trying to teach my students the skills they wanted to learn.

I first invited speakers to come talk to the class about their jobs using these skills. We asked what prerequisites the students needed before they could get a job like this. Then my students asked how they could learn how to do these skills. Some of the speakers actually took down information and invited the students to their shops to look around. Many required a minimum age of 18 because of liability. Some of my students ended up spending free time observing and learning and eventually found jobs with these companies when they became of age. All of this was important networking for my students and they needed someone to teach them how to network.

When the class wanted to learn basic woodworking, we decided to build some birdhouses. Somebody donated the wood and we bought some inexpensive saws for cutting. We also had sandpaper, nails, screws, and paint for the birdhouses. One of the parents came in and held a class on building these birdhouses. We ended up making a bunch of them and donating them to nursing homes.

When one of my students was interested in learning how to install a car radio, I was unable to find anyone who could teach him. Finally one of my students mentioned that he knew how to do this and would be glad to show him how to install one if there was a car and a radio they could work on. Luckily I had an old car with a broken radio and I bought a new radio at a flea market. After getting permission from the administration for them to work on my car in the parking lot, I let them go for it. What is the worse that could happen? They couldn’t hurt the radio already in the car because it was already broken. The only problem was that I didn’t give them a note and left them alone to work on the car. In a little while, there was a knock on my portable door and there were my students with a policeman. He had driven by and thought the kids were stealing my radio! They tried to tell him that I gave them permission but he didn’t believe it because no one would ever do this! Imagine his surprise when I told him it was true. Then I went on to complain about why we were doing this and he was unaware of the dilemma my students faced. . He offered to find other adults who might be interested in coming to my class to help train my students (another great networking opportunity!).

These are just a few examples of how I tried to find another way. I didn’t accept that my students could not be trained and tried to think outside the box. I brainstormed and talked to others, including other students. Anyone who would listen was welcome to give me advice and it really helped. It was up to me not to give up on my students and to let them give up on themselves.

Pushing forward in this way helped my students be more successful in the classroom and in life. I hope it taught them not to give up and look for another way to reach their goals.

Have you had to find another way of doing something? If so, please share!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Detour ---->' by: Joshua Davis


Sioux Roslawski said...

We have trouble getting apartment-dwelling parents to come to the "Back to School" night, so this past fall, all the teachers drove to the two apartment complexes, we had a database of all the addresses of our kids, and knocked on doors and invited the parents to come. I think the families were impressed.

I've also encountered a couple of families who NEVER have come to a parent-teache conference. (One was a mom who owned a nail salon, spoke only Vietnamese, and worked constantly.) Going to their home/apartment, or in this case--their nail salon--and having the conference on THEIR turf really paves the way for a great parent-teacher relationship. (Thankfully, my student served as translator; she was happy because her mother had never made it to a conference!)

Pat--I gave you an award. Check out my post today...

loonyhiker said...

@Sioux Thanks for sharing your other ways of connecting with parents. Sometimes we have to go the extra mile but it is so worth it! Thanks so much for my award!!

Anonymous said...

I read your blog as an assignment for my Intro to Educational Tech class and I found it to be inspiring. I will definitely follow your example and show my students there are other options in life to achieve success. Congratulations on your work!

loonyhiker said...

@Toddler Mom Glad you liked the blog. If you (or anyone in your class) would like for me to write about a specific topic, feel free to send my your suggestions! Thanks for reading my blog!