Courses To Careers: Connecting curriculum to the real world

Yesterday I had the opportunity to lead a guidance seminar called Courses To Careers. During their lunch period, students came down to our meeting room to hear about the wide variety of courses offered in the building. Now this is important from a scheduling perspective because students need to know what is available to them before signing up for next year’s classes but Courses To Careers aimed to do something more than just layout options.

The real goal of our lunch seminar was to show students the connection between the classes they take in high school and the occupational world they’ll be entering after graduation. This is true whether a student is looking at entering the workforce immediately after throwing their cap in the air or if they are pursuing an advanced degree. Both types of students can acquire future employability traits by taking the right classes now.


Connections are easy to see in the more vocational based departments such as business, technology/engineering, and family & consumer science. If you want to go into business, you should probably take a business class in high school. Specifically if you want to be an accountant, you should seriously consider taking accounting. And yet each year as students fill out college applications I am surprised by how many of my students plan on majoring in a field that they’ve never taken a course in during high school. With the cost of college skyrocketing, doesn’t it make sense to take more exploratory electives in high school?

When I counsel students I encourage them to take a variety of courses in and around their predicted college major. Do you want to be an education major? Why not take Intro to Education next year? You’ll either confirm your desire to be a teacher and head off to college with piece of mind or you’ll discover teaching isn’t your forte. My students will then say, ‘but then I’ve wasted a semester elective’, and I remind them that in college they still would have wasted a semester and about $1500 in tuition. Wouldn’t you rather make that mistake now, for free?

On the road to a long a satisfying career, it is equally important to know what you don’t want to do, as it is to know what you do want to do.  Taking a chance on a course now can prevent students from a long-term commitment and mistake later.

However, Courses To Careers, isn’t all about picking out the perfect career oriented elective course, its also meant to connect core content as well. How often as teachers do you hear, ‘when am I ever going to need _____?’  I’m sure you even hear that from parents. All too often our days are filled with missed opportunities to connect our curriculum to the real world.

An English teacher’s love for debate may be thrilling for the teacher, but to the student who is afraid of public speaking or is unengaged in the argument, that teacher’s passion is seen as another obstacle or hoop to jump through. But it doesn’t have to be. How many careers go a day without verbal interaction between a colleague, supervisor or customer? Show students the connection to life after school and suddenly the assignment makes sense.

The connections to the world are all around us if we choose to look for them. Don’t become so insulated in your discipline that you forget the skills you’re teaching can be applied beyond your four walls. Today’s students, more than ever before, are looking for a connection. They’re already asking, why not give to them an answer and an experience.


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