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Visitors from the World of Work

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It is in society that people must be communicated with and arithmetic applied, where music is heard and sung and art is seen and enjoyed. In that world are the real examples of social problems that the social studies textbook can at best poorly represent and where the technologies and applications of science can make those studies real. Unfortunately, it takes far more imagination and initiative to marshal those experiences in meaningful ways than to prepare a teaching guide from written material-or apply one someone else has written.

It is often more efficient to bring representatives from the world of work into the school than to take students to the work setting itself. Whenever and wherever career education goals are addressing perceptions workers have of themselves and of work-as opposed to the basic nature of the work task itself-it is desirable to use the classroom rather than the work site as the primary learning environment. Several types of class visitors can be considered here:
  1. Community workers and parents can be brought in to serve with teacher groups as participants.

  2. Members of the retired community can be used in classrooms as speakers on careers or satisfying leisure activities.

  3. Members of the working community can be brought in to talk about their jobs and leisure activities.

  4. Members of the community representing alternate life-styles (communal living, welfare recipients, college graduates working with arts and crafts, etc.) can be brought into the classroom to discuss the satisfactions of that life-style.

  5. Parents can come into the classroom with the tools of their trade.

  6. Candidates can be brought in to discuss their political platforms and previous occupations.

  7. Members of the teaching staff can be surveyed as to other jobs they have held or are holding, and can be used as resources.

  8. Each student can spend a day at work with his father, mother, uncle, or neighbor.

  9. Members of local unions can come into the classroom.

  10. Personnel managers can visit to discuss hiring procedures. Video tapes can be made of them interviewing applicants. Students can role-play some techniques.
Many elementary schools have found it valuable to ask parents to come to school for purposes of discussing their occupations with students. The use of parents for such purposes holds many advantages, including:
  1. The spectrum of parental occupations for members of a given class has some relationship to occupations that in fact are most likely to become available to pupils themselves.  There is an element of occupational reality here that cannot be ignored.

  2. For the parent to describe his occupation holds positive potential for enhancing feelings of self-worth on the part of both the parent and the child.

  3. It is often easier to make contacts with the world of work through parents than through strangers in the community.

  4. By involving parents in the career education process, parental understanding of and support for that program will likely be enhanced.
Before embarking on a series of parent visits, students should be clearly aware of the inherent worth and dignity of all who work, that everyone who works is affecting-if not directly helping-some other members of society, and that a variety of reasons exists which lead people to want to work.

The use of parents as representatives of the world of work seems to work best when both parents and class members are given a set of suggested questions or topics to be discussed before the parents arrive. Appropriate questions that parents can be asked to talk about include:
  1. How does your work help other people?

  2. What do you like most about your work?

  3. How did you learn to do your job?

  4. What advice would you give someone who was thinking about doing the kind of work in which you are engaged?
By making both parents and pupils aware of questions such as these, we can often avoid the more direct or potentially embarrassing questions of:
  1. How much money do you make?

  2. What are your chances for advancement?

  3. What is the worst part of your job?

  4. What made you decide to go into this kind of work?
While such questions are essential to consider in the total configuration of the child's career development, they are not appropriate when parents are describing their occupations for members of the class. If the teacher will remember that the goal is to draw out the positive aspects of occupations of all parents, most of these inappropriate questions can be avoided.

"Rent a Kid" was the motto created by North Carolina fathers, uncles, mothers, and friends who "adopted" an elementary school youngster and gained an entirely new look at their own jobs as they spent a week together exploring their jobs and workplaces.0 The community-linked career awareness program has involved the business and parent community to such an extent that parents insist upon submitting to the same interest, aptitude, and attitude assessment inventories which are administered to their children. Moreover, those parents and workers who have free time during the school day are often found reviewing filmstrips, bringing resource materials into the school setting, or becoming absorbed in a class project. The primary purpose is career awareness, but the children are offered exposure to human relations skills as well.

Another useful classroom visitor is the former elementary school student who, after leaving a particular school, went on to complete his education and subsequently attained some success in the world of work. The general approach illustrated by the concept "I came out of this school and made it in the world of work" is a powerful inducement for elementary school students to begin to think about themselves as autonomous young adults. The former pupils most appropriate to use here are generally young people between the ages of 18 and 25 who (if they did not attend this particular elementary school, at least grew up in the neighborhood in which this school is located). With this type of visitor, primary emphasis should be placed on the kinds of experiences the former student encountered between the time he left the elementary school and the present.

Such former students can be very helpful in emphasizing their education preparations, their attempts to enter the labor market, and their probable occupational futures in a positive way. Students listen to them with respect, admiration, and belief. For this reason, it is especially important that former students be carefully briefed by the teacher before they appear in the actual classroom setting. Such briefings should emphasize the goal of giving students an honest, accurate perception of experiences, a minimum exposure to technical aspects of their work, the desirability of avoiding use of language that would confuse pupils, and a willingness to answer questions that pupils raise in ways that avoid to the greatest possible extent the use of direct advice, urging, or persuading.

A third possible type of classroom visitor is the representative from the business-labor-industrial community who can discuss a broad cluster of occupations. Although this type of visitor may be hard to find in small communities, the teacher likely will be able to recruit someone from a neighboring larger city. The goal here is to find an individual capable of discussing, in very broad terms, an entire occupational cluster such as health occupations, transportation, or manufacturing. When one attempts to find a representative from such a broad occupational cluster who is actually employed now, it is inevitable that the occupation in which he is actually employed is considerably more limited than the cluster supposedly under discussion. The only way this approach can work is if the representative is clearly aware of the reasons why he is being asked to meet with the class and has accordingly made considerable preparation for the visit.

In view of the importance of this aspect of career education and the relative infrequency with which qualified members of the actual business-labor-industrial community can be located, many elementary schools will find it rewarding to seek the skills of the elementary school counselor in this assignment. The elementary school counselor who has been exposed in graduate studies to the psychology of occupational choice and career development should be able to discuss broad occupational concepts in a meaningful fashion with elementary school students. When qualified members of the actual business-labor-industrial community can be located as well, a maximum benefit is realized. Where neither is available, the discussion of broad occupational clusters necessarily will fall back on the classroom teacher.

A Maryland school system constructed career "satellites" around a central hub of a kindergarten through twelfth grade school configuration by identifying specific business or industry personnel in each "moon" (career area) who could provide either the work observation or school demonstration appropriate to the age and maturity level of the children.

The representatives are within access of each feeder school. Each satellite group plans with the school's multilevel team a sequential program which neither duplicates trips and visits nor conflicts with developmental and classroom learning activities. Satellites are located through the dual efforts of local civic agencies and a school-based teacher with experience in business and industry.

Retired adults in a Baltimore inner-city neighborhood serve as resources to the teachers in the classroom. Women teach boys and girls the craft of weaving, spinning, and quilt making. The slow, painstaking art of glassblowing, ship bottling, and whittling hand-made tools and musical instruments are shared by grandfathers. These oldsters are former bank presidents, carpenters, shipbuilders, dressmakers, nurses, and one-room school principals who-as they give children a sense of history and of unboxed time, along with career awareness and human relations skills-are gaining a new incentive for living.

The rationality of the distribution of career opportunities among various groups can also be tested by selecting appropriate visitors. Maryland teachers who use the "Calling Careers" television series teachers' manual ask students to collect as many comic strip characters as they can find who seem to represent consistent work roles. They discuss how the artist conveys the qualities and life-styles of these people. Teachers encourage students to find exceptions to visual stereotypes and implied sexual or racial role limitations by their citations of people they know who defy them. Students invite and interview representatives of all media to determine the rationale for the newsman's or the artist's seeming "caricatures" of human beings, acquiring in the process career awareness, academic skills, and human relations skills.

Not just the nature of jobs but the usefulness of academic and other learnings can be illustrated by proper choice of visitors. For instance, a physical education teacher might invite people from the community who exemplify psychomotor skills in their work. Their presence is used as motivation for the acquisition of a wide repertoire of physical competencies, while the students also gain career awareness and human relations skills.

Many speakers from industry are reluctant to speak to groups of children, especially small children, because they feel uncertain as to what to say. A Career Information Center in a California school district gives guidelines to these speakers to alleviate this anxiety. The following list of questions is given to them. They are also told to keep their presentation informal and not to talk more than twenty minutes, allowing the remaining time for students to ask questions.
  1. What special interests or skills do you need for your job?

  2. What other occupations can you do with your knowledge and training?

  3. What ways can I get this job-training, college, or experience?

  4. What type of person do you have to be in order to like and be successful at your job?

  5. What are all the different jobs you've had and which have led to the one you have now?

  6. Do you think that your mistakes have helped you to make better decisions?

  7. What types of things (interests) do you like to do, and how did they help you decide what job you wanted?

  8. What school subjects do you use in your work and how?

  9. How has your particular job changed over the past ten or twenty years? What do you think it will be like in another ten years?

  10. How does this job support your way of living in terms of income, knowledge, working hours, and leisure time?

  11. Are your hobbies like or different from your job?

  12. Why is this job important to you? What satisfaction do you get? Do you know of any common factors a person should possess to be successful in the world of work?
Elementary school children in New York State are often the instigators of the most relevant questions chosen for response by local workers who serve on speakers' bureaus, write monographs describing real work options in neighboring counties, and broadcast on local radio stations.

They also benefit from their teachers' summer work experiences in local industries where these teachers are exposed to various work functions under the guidance of "advocates." These teachers return to write curriculum which translates their experiences into valid schoolwork concepts and gives added credence to discussion of current and future skills of employability. For the children, the project combines career awareness, academic skill acquisition, and human relations skills.
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