This One Thing Can Transform a Student’s Future
You’ve done everything you know how to do. You’ve tried tutoring, reasoning, nagging, bribes, family rules, consequences, time outs, and nothing seems to work. You wonder when your child is going to start pulling in the grades you know they are capable of. Meanwhile, the end of the term is looming, along with a disappointing GPA, and you wonder if your child is going to consistently fall behind their peers. Will they have the same college and career options you hope for them?
You Do Not Have to Live in Fear of This Outcome.
The good news is that a more hopeful scenario is available. If this has slipped through your radar of possibilities, you are probably like most parents and don’t know what has been missing. Here’s the truth: students don’t automatically encounter real world applications of their personal interests in a school context. Because of this, young people with learning differences are often not able to draw a connection between the academic skills they are learning in school, and how they will matter later. They don’t foresee how they will need some of these problem solving tools when looking to advance academically and professionally.
Yes, this gap in perspective matters even at the middle school level. Why? Because young people need to visualize themselves interacting in a real world context, ideally with people who are doing things they find interesting.
How Can You Help Your Child Do This?
Whether your child is obsessed with designing skateboards, raising birds, weaving tapestries, tinkering with machinery, or sketching, hands-on career exploration gives a student concrete exposure to passions that can later grow into real world occupations in unexpected ways. A sketcher may end up designing computer games, a weekend gardener may end up majoring in environmental biology, and a jazz drummer may earn tuition money playing gigs in Vegas in between semesters of college.
A young explorer may ultimately go in a completely different professional direction, but the skills they hone while engaged in these activities - networking, creating, collaborating, testing, troubleshooting, refining, etc. - may translate into academic or professional capabilities they will need later on. They will practice applying a variety of cognitive tasks in a joyful context, and may later call up these abilities when tackling assignments.
The act of doing something engaging in itself can motivate a student by surfacing ways in which their school work might prove to be relevant in the long run. Hands-on career experience helps a student's focus and motivation by providing a much-needed reality check: they can finally visualize themselves years from now, and begin to understand how the skills they are developing while mastering academic challenges may in fact be a key that allows them to achieve personal and professional goals.
What Can Hands-On Career Exploration Look Like?
Perhaps your child would like to attend a performing arts camp, sign up for an outdoor adventure for students their age, or design and build a treehouse? Or, would they prefer a work experience that would allow them to delve into a special interest, such as a part time job at a game store, a bike shop, an art gallery, or a plant nursery?
If they are not quite ready to plunge headlong into an experience, fear not. Students can conduct career research by interviewing family contacts who work in an industry they are interested in, by browsing job postings to see what kinds of tasks, education and experience are associated with a desired role, or by searching for videos that show a day in the life in a work environment they are considering.
Specifics may vary student to student, but hands-on career exploration can consist of internships, guided internet searches, volunteer stints, interviews with professionals in their desired field, shadowing a potential mentor, visits to work environments they are interested in, classes, independent projects, online portfolios that showcase their talents, etc. There are a variety of ways a student can investigate whatever makes them curious!
When Is My Child Going to Find the Time for More Activities?
If you are concerned that your child is already busy with a variety of activities, consider that they can integrate hands-on career exploration into their schedule after school, on weekends, or during school breaks. Many teen programs are available during breaks, and this is also an ideal time for students to pursue an independent project. Most students are eager to carve out time during the week to do something inspiring.
The idea is for them to find ways to manageably enhance their school routine and round out their life experiences, without taking on anything overwhelming. While academics come first, and your child may also be active in sports and other activities that demand much of their time, it is often possible to fill slower times of the year with an enriching experience that will usher in a new perspective.
Why Does Hands-On Career Exploration Work?
Many students are peer driven and benefit from being surrounded by people who share similar passions. They also need like minded mentors who think the way they do, who care about the kinds of things they also find interesting, and who can help the student envision a successful future path. They thrive from interactions with professional role models and advisors who know the lay of the land and ideal training programs in a particular industry.
How Does Hands-On Career Exploration Work?
Concrete interaction with their passions can provide a welcome contrast to theoretical and abstract content young people are constantly bombarded with in a school environment. For a learner who struggles with attention challenges, applied learning opportunities are especially vital.
When students have fun, challenge themselves by tapping different parts of their brain, and apply concepts in practical ways, they are more easily engaged. They have opportunities to practice connecting a wide variety of cognitive dots. This translates into better concentration and focus.
Being creative, solving problems, and engaging with others who share their interests boosts their brain chemistry in beneficial ways. They will be absorbed and make associations between what they are being asked to do in school, and how they might need to use these skills later on.
What Makes YOUR Child Happy?
Playing board games, writing songs, raising dogs? It makes no difference. You may not personally enjoy these pastimes, but it is important to allow your child to find their own way.
If your child is encouraged to have in depth exploration of something that gives them joy, and become truly engrossed and inquisitive, this will exercise the parts of their brain that know how to stay focused on a challenge or task. It will also help them understand why what they are being asked to learn in school might become relevant when it comes time to translate their goals into academic and professional activities.
Want help creating hands-on career exploration opportunities for your child? Book a free no-obligation session now!