To engage students, education must be relevant
There is an ancient parable that tells the story of a seed falling on rocky ground, among thorns and on a fertile field. It’s no surprise that the seed only thrived in the fertile soil, because that was ground ready to receive the seed; in all of the other instances the seedling was unable to grow.
I think this parable provides a wonderful illustration of what happens in the classroom. The seed in the parable can be compared to the instruction of an excellent teacher, in and of itself the instruction is good. However, just like the seed and the soil, it depends on the receptiveness of a student to ultimately bear fruit.
This is the challenge that our teachers face every day. We have wonderful educators in Clovis Unified, and while they excel at engaging students in their own learning, a child’s educational success is ultimately up to the child. In order to meet this challenge, we must find ways to build relevancy for students so that they understand the value of what they are learning in our classrooms.
Career Technical Education (CTE) courses are one excellent tool to build this relevancy for students. And, for many years Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) have been the avenue by which we help expose students to various career fields, and the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful in those fields.
In Clovis Unified, we have close to 950 students currently enrolled in the 23 different ROP courses offered at our schools. Every day, ROP students are exposed to hands-on training and realistic experiences in a variety of career fields; sometimes leading to their decision to enter a particular field, and other times allowing them to know that a given field is not the right career choice.
In order to provide students with a relevant career experience, we partner with more than 350 local businesses to bring the world of school and the world of work together. These partnerships are invaluable in allowing students to apply the “book learning” that they get in a traditional academic classroom to the workplace.
For many students, grappling with math and English language concepts can be frustrating, and sometimes appear purposeless. In fact, I would hazard a guess that many of you reading this article at one time or another muttered to yourself, “When am I ever going to need to know this?!” when engaged in some type of academic study.
That’s the “Aha!” moment that career tech classes offer – that moment when a participant experiences the hands on application of math, science, language arts or social science lessons in a career field. Suddenly, what seemed like a waste of their precious time becomes vitally important to their future success. That’s the moment where our students move from “rocky soil” to a “fertile field,” ready to take personal responsibility for their learning.