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Adapting In-Service Experiences

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The teacher must be involved in the process of developing creative career education experiences and integrate the teaching of their academic subjects in the way that suits them; so must school districts design their own in-service programs. Also counselors, teachers, and administrators intent upon changing their training programs to include skills of integrating career education into each of these levels must design their own programs. Career education integration must begin with the teachers who are already teaching before training institutions will seriously consider including it in their training programs.

Any school district which wishes to change teaching practices must work with people who are willing to change at the administrative, counseling, and teacher levels. If an administrator wants to move into career education and the teachers are not ready, no amount of coercion will provide a relevant program. On the other hand, teachers who wish to integrate career education into their teaching practices will soon be stymied with red tape if the administrator is not supportive. A counselor's feeling about the program is yet another gauge on which to predict its success.

Since administrative support and counselor (if there is one) support are important, anyone who seeks to become a change agent should begin at this level. These two groups must first understand what career education is. This is best accomplished through an informal meeting where all aspects of the program are clearly defined. Administrators and counselors should be allowed to ask questions and react during this meeting.

After this has been accomplished, those administrator-counselor teams who are interested in the program should volunteer to have their entire staffs exposed to the same type of meeting. Then, those teachers who wish to take the risk to teach their subject matter in a different way will become involved in in-service training. From this evolves a very practicable team from the school which not only will work together, but will reinforce each other's efforts. The administrator and the counselor become completely involved in the in-service training.

A group of four or five teachers in a school is an ideally sized group. If there are more teachers involved, then two or more groups should be formed. Administrators who would like to get their entire staff involved can be reassured that in consecutive years, other groups of teachers will want their turn. Eventually, 80 to 90 percent of the staff will be teaching subject matter through the vehicle of career education.

In Sonoma County, California, a project beginning with six teachers in each of three schools mushroomed to 150 teachers in 15 schools, with 100 teachers and five schools on a waiting list for the following year. In this same county, the counselor education department of the local state college asked to be able to put counseling interns into the career education schools to train counselors to work with teaching staffs and community resources as part of their counseling role. Two other state colleges have also made contact to use the schools for interning purposes.

In a career education program which failed, compiled sets of career education activities were placed in a book and given to the other teachers for their use. These books were placed on the shelf by teachers; they had no involvement in their development and therefore had little motivation to use them. Those teachers who were involved in the writing could not understand why the other teachers were not excited about it. Many curriculum revisions have been stifled this way.

The key of course is that as teachers become involved in development, they grow excited about implementation. Yet few teachers will have the built-in initiative to undertake development of their own career education materials, unless that development occurs within a structured in-service training and curriculum development program. Even within such a structural program, many will lack the imagination to develop wholly new materials, but they can be helped and inspired to adapt materials that others have developed to the particular needs of their classrooms and students. There will be some teachers in each staff who may never get involved, yet pressure will not encourage these students to integrate career education into their curricula. In other words, career education involvement has a spiraling effect. It begins with a core of interested, energetic teachers and begins to widen out year after year until most of the teachers in the school can no longer avoid the excitement generated by the students of those teachers.

Another pitfall has occurred where programs have attempted to have teachers write terminal objectives before getting involved in the program. This had a stifling effect on teachers interested in career education. Although objectives are needed, these can best be prepared as the teachers are involved in the program. Objectives that are written up before any involvement in actual implementation are no more than a frustrating exercise.

A third pitfall occurs when administrators force teachers to become involved when they are not ready, or force them to provide without adaptations career education experiences that have been developed by someone else. It is necessary for school staffs to decide on a minimum number of experiences, but this is best done as a cooperative measure.

An in-service teaching program should be based on the educational need of the learners in the school district, the needs of the working communities surrounding these schools, and the creative endeavor of teachers, counselors, and administrators working together to initiate a program. The experts on whom exploratory activities are appropriate for each grade level are the creative teachers in the classrooms. These teachers, working with someone to stimulate them to think about the world of work and to acquaint them with the resources available, can come up with the best program for their classrooms. Teachers, if provided the time, can create a career education program which is superior to any prepackaged plan in that it reflects the needs and resources of their communities and their students.   Yet, since all teachers will not and cannot do this, it is useful to collect or develop tried career education learning experiences which can be adapted to particular needs.

Model for In-Service Training

The following model of in-service training is presented as a workable method used in some districts in California, Washington, Maryland, and New York.

A minimum of three days should be scheduled to thoroughly acquaint teachers with the group process itself. It is also suggested that a parent be included in each group for these in-service days. Parents not only can provide good creative ideas, but can also be used later to implement the experiences created. They also act as informational leaders for other parent groups.

Group process can be conducted from one day to five weeks (one-half days) to help each teacher work out plans to be implemented in the classroom, and also work out a role definition for the administrator, the counselor, and the parent in career education. If the school has paraprofessionals, they should also be involved in this group process.

There are many activities that can be planned to provide career education experiences. Teachers generally think first of entire class field trip and speakers to come into the classroom. However, creative teachers have planned plays, pantomimes, role-playing exercises, bulletin board displays, collages, parent and business speakers, leisure-time demonstrations, charts, small investigative teams of students with cameras and recorders who then report to the entire class on what they have learned, mock interviews, value games, interest aptitude games, student reports, student interviews, student-and teacher-made media, art activities, and many others.

Teachers may initially have difficulty in getting started. Groups representing different grade levels are more creative and productive, and groups made up of men and women are more creative than those consisting of all women or all men. It is best for a leader to be appointed by the group.

It follows that if the public relations of good programs are as successful as the programs themselves, responsive educator training institutions will become involved by using career education schools as intern locations and by asking career education practitioners to teach courses in the training institutions. Concerned educators can hasten this logical alliance by contacting the teacher training institutions and working out an arrangement whereby academic credit can be given for in-service workshop time. It is then but a short and rewarding step to the recognition by teacher education institutions that such in-service experiences can be incorporated within a pre-service sequence.
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