Counselors find hands-on learning is best for studentsFourth in series It’s one thing to propose how to make a difference in a student’s future, but it’s another thing to do it.
By: Stefanie Briggs, The Dickinson Press
Fourth in series
DICKINSON - It’s one thing to propose how to make a difference in a student’s future, but it’s another thing to do it.
Many schools look into the traditional job shadowing and internship route, with the thought that hands-on learning experiences of a potential job or career helps the student most.
For Scranton Public School counselor Pam Fisher, part of the process is getting started early in school.
“We run a comprehensive curriculum (program),” Fisher said. “We begin career awareness in the lower elementary grades and move on to career exploration, understanding job skills and where to look for that information in upper elementary.”
Scranton has job interviewing in seventh and eighth grades to show students that aspect of future career-building skills, she added.
“Then twice in high school, as freshmen and juniors, there are job shadowing opportunities,” Fisher said. “Also, we have a career fair twice while they are in high school, which is done with Bowman County High School. We do it every other year.”
Similar to many schools, Fisher uses the Bridges.com Web site which Dickinson High School counselor Sue Larsen agrees is a valuable resource.
The site provides information and further resources, not just for students and counselors, but also for parents.
Larsen has done training sessions in the summer and during the school year for counselors and others on how to use the Web site.
“That particular site is something our state has gotten onboard with,” Larsen said. “The Bank of North Dakota pays for that for us with the planner section of the program which helps kids explore different careers.”
You can also look at long range goals and skills needed for a particular career, the potential earning power in that job sector and what classes in high school to take for it, she added.
At DHS, Larsen and the other counselors have instituted some new changes this year, including involving teachers more in students’ academic planning by being advisors.
“Every teacher has about 15 to 16 students they will have throughout their four years,” Larsen said. “The teacher gets to know each student better and their interests to help them select classes.”
Students and their academic advisors met for the first time in February and Larsen hopes to have them meet a few more times before the end of the school year. The new program only involves grades nine through 11. Seniors are split among the three counselors at DHS.
Implementing the expanded 16 career clusters was tackled last summer for DHS and is becoming a big part of career counseling at the school.
“There used to be only five career paths and going from five to 16 clusters has been a challenge, because five is easier to get through with a student than 16,” Larsen said. “Change is difficult for adults and kids. It took some adjustment at first.”
Larsen had the counselors go through each cluster to see how the classes at DHS matched up.
“We kind of revamped it to fit our courses,” Larsen said. “Plus, we looked at the classes students can’t get here that they could get online or through Dickinson State University. We don’t want to close any doors.”
Class registration time is now for the school. The counselors have been busy getting the registration guide ready for next year.
“There are just a lot of careers for students to look at and prepare for; some careers haven’t even been created yet,” Larsen said. “I think if you get a good, solid background in math, science and communication you can pretty much do anything. If you have the ability to learn and take advantage of a rigorous schedule, then you can do anything you put your mind to.”
Classes aren’t the only part of school. Extracurricular activities that run the gamut from sports to science club are important in a student’s development.
“The different kinds of extracurricular activities will enhance their career skills and opportunities,” Larsen said. “The biggest piece of (it)…filters between career paths and extracurriculars with learning things like leadership skills and teamwork.”
Career counseling begins right away at the school. Freshmen are introduced to how to use career help software and resources such as Career Outlook.
“Many teachers use Career Outlook in the classroom,” Larsen said. “We try to get teachers to do career development within their curriculum because it’s important for students to know what careers are for their particular interests.”
Job shadowing is one thing that has gone well for Schaible.
“I’ve instituted it in Richardton and New England for juniors and seniors. I give them a list of questions to ask those they shadow,” Schaible said. “I’m just getting it started in Killdeer, but the program has just taken off like a grass fire.”
Schaible highly encourages college visitations, meeting with the academic advisor in the student’s area of interest and asking questions.
“I list about 90 questions for them,” he said. “Formal tours are helpful, but you really want to sit down and meet with an advisor, not only for a contact person, but to talk about class schedules and career advisement.”
Schaible is hoping to offer a class called “Career Education 101” through Williston State College with credit opportunity on an independent basis in the near future.
(Next: Discussing future of career counseling)