We assumed that traditional career planning guides would adequately prepare students for adult life. As we learned more about adolescents and the difference between the kind of help they need and the kind of help they were getting, we realized that our assumptions were false. Traditional sources were not doing nearly enough to help young people learn about what makes them unique or what will make them happy. Available texts were apparently not interesting enough or relevant enough to convince students that they need to stay in school. We found few that touched on such important topics as excellence and the work ethic, overcoming fears and/or obstacles, dealing with rejection, learning to tolerate anxiety, finding mentors, developing traits that will be needed to succeed in the twenty-first-century work force, and so on.
That's when we decided to write Career Choices. Some of the theories behind the book and its format follow.
- Students who can project themselves into the future and understand the consequences of their present actions are far less likely to drop out of school, become teen parents, or use harmful substances. Career Choices challenges students to project themselves into the future with activities throughout the book. In addition, it offers exercises that encourage students to take responsibility for their actions, demonstrate the rewards of delaying gratification, graphically illustrate the economic benefits of staying in school, drug-free, and more.
- As an old proverb says, "Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. But involve me and I understand." Repeating the successful format of its predecessors, Career Choices emphasizes discussions, interactive learning, exercises, and projects which involve the learner as participant in his or her education.
- Adolescents are motivated to learn when they see the relevance of a subject to their own lives. The skills they pick up in this way, however, can easily be transferred to other topics. Interestingly, these topics become relevant, too. This course allows students to develop and practice language arts skills and math skills in a very personal way. Once they have done this, they become more willing and able to apply composition and reading comprehension skills to more traditional language arts materials and to gain the computation skills necessary to be a productive adult in our increasingly complex society.
- It's difficult for adolescents to make wise decisions about the future until they give some serious thought to their own values, passions, abilities, and goals. Traditional career education materials have omitted or neglected this essential part of the process. Career Choices is based on the theory that figuring out who you are and what you want is more important and more difficult than learning to fill out a job application or choose a college. Therefore, the major portion of this book deals with questions of identity, the key task of adolescence according to most developmental psychologists.
- As a society, and as parents and teachers, we have been guilty of pigeonholing our youth. Gifted students receive a lot of academic attention but little help with the social or practical skills that will make their lives more satisfying. Students who are seriously at risk may receive time and attention, but tend to be written off as having little or no potential for future success. The "average" student may fall through the cracks, even though he or she may have problems, too - or talents and dreams that will go forever unrecognized. All students need to feel successful, and they all have some strengths that can allow them to feel and be successful. This curriculum is designed to help the student identify those strengths and translate them into a future plan that will provide the life satisfaction we all seek.
- Few schools can afford enough guidance counselors, and few guidance counselors have sufficient time to provide the individual attention every adolescent needs in order to consolidate identity and make quality decisions about education and potential careers. By making these processes an integral part of the core curriculum, Career Choices assures that each student will get the comprehensive guidance that is so necessary during this crucial period of development and, at the same time, demonstrates the importance of learning to speak, write, and compute as well as he or she possibly can. When we started this project we intentionally set out to do something different. This is not a typical career education course. Career and life planning are so essential to the educational experience of every young person that they should be integrated into the core curriculum of all secondary schools. The Career Choices curriculum is a competency-based, interdisciplinary course that could be the most valuable learning experience of a student's high school career.