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Teachers, Are Your Students Ready for College or a Career?

Eight signs that your students will make it next year!

Senior year- Many students have already checked out. They have their college admissions letter or maybe even a job lined up after school lets out… or maybe they don’t! Whatever their plans, what makes students successful after high school is how well you’ve prepared them for the next phase. Getting accepted into college or landing the job is only the first step for these young minds. How can you prepare them to have success in this next major endeavor? More importantly, does your curriculum even support it?

Standardized tests, state rankings, college acceptance rates and district polling requirements are clouding the real reason we got into this profession. With all of this noise, are you still able to prepare your students for the real world? Can they adapt to a life of responsibility, communication, collaboration, and creative thinking after high school? Let’s hope that the answer is yes, but just to be sure, take a look at the signs that your students are well on their way to a successful life after school lets out in June.

1. GPA is A-OK

It’s no surprise that grades do tell a lot about the student. Study habits, work ethic, rate of responsibility and stewardship can all be inferred by a single letter: A or B. In general, A or B students have greater success post-secondary school because it takes a lot of effort to maintain those grades throughout high school. These students generally have good interpersonal skills, are successful at thinking on their feet, can adapt to many situations and will have a stronger drive than other students. Anything less than an A or a B tells a different story. Administrators and bosses alike will choose the A/B student expecting a certain caliber of worker. However, grades don’t always show the full picture. This is where the other variables come into play:

2. Can your students make inferences?

In other words, can a student hear one idea and use it to draw conclusions about another idea? This is a great indicator of intelligence. It shows curiosity and the ability to think creatively. Both skills are crucial for navigating a life with more freedoms. Whether you are discussing a modern day Hamlet or the college basketball players’ union, do your students form opinions based in facts and observation? If so, well done! They have a good shot at success in their college or career path.

3. How are their comparing and contrasting skills?

How often do your students get to really compare and contrast content they are learning? The world is filled with conflicting stories and information. How well can your students evaluate the facts and compare and contrast opinions to determine their own? What lessons do you teach that affords them this opportunity? If your students can find common themes across texts and make connections easily to their own lives, these skills are sharp enough to propel them into the next phase of their life!

4. Can they utilize a variety of technology to present findings, communicate with peers or market themselves?

Nowadays, early on in a child’s education, students

 learn how to use the computer. At some point, a switch happens and they begin to use the computer to learn. In other words, they have the ability to accurately choose and execute a computer program based on its ability to either calculate, organize or present desired data. Students with this type of technical expertise not only have an advantage in the career and higher-learning sector, but are stiff competition for older candidates without this experience.

5. Are they comfortable speaking in a crowd… under pressure?

The ability to think on their feet is one of the most useful skills your students can acquire. Formal presentations are an effective way to achieve this goal. However, for an even more authentic experience, consider allowing students to present in front of a board of teachers, parents, or professionals in an environment that is unfamiliar to them. The experience will not only allow them to experience “being on” but will also help them to realize the real-life implications of their words.

6. Do they know how the stock market works and how world trends affect it? Do they even care?
While the developmental life skills mentioned above are the key indicators of potential success, giving your students a few extra tricks will give them an advantage in the world. Most schools offer a finance course as an elective which many students overlook. Unfortunately, many students graduate without any real understanding of “The Market” and the integral role it plays in world events. Giving them the fundamentals of this system will not only allow them a greater understanding of the world, but will also help them to plan their financial futures. Your students, our future leaders, will thank you for it.

7. Do they have a resume?

Even if the top three elements are Dog Walker, Soccer team and After-Care helper, students should go through the experience of creating their own resume. Taking the time to look back at their contributions and reflecting on the positives promotes drive and confidence. It’s also an incredible way to boost morale, teach life skills and work on good ol’ fashioned grammar. Not to mention, resume-writing skills are paramount to basic inter-personal communication that can be easily integrated into any curriculum model. Once students understand the basics of resume writing, teaching them the crucial role that resumes play in finding employment and what it takes to stand out from the rest of the crowd are invaluable tools.

8. Are YOU familiar with College and Career Readiness Standards?

The Common Core State Standards initiative, although a bit controversial, provides anchor standards for college and career readiness. We can debate the effectiveness of the Standards initiative all day. But let’s not! Buried in this website are key skills that prepare students for college and/ or a career. These readiness standards are divided into the following groups: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language. Integrating these standards into your planning will amount to a greater learning experience for your students and hopefully, prepare them for what the world is expecting of them upon graduation.

Colleges are designed to deepen a knowledge base and provide an opportunity for students to specialize their interests. The work force is willing to provide job-training skills, but only the truly prepared will be able to make the most of those experiences. Empower your students with the skills they will need for true future success… while teaching them what’s going to be on the next standardized test! 😉 Seem impossible? We’re teachers…There’s always a way.

Perhaps you are worried that teaching the stock market doesn’t fit in your curriculum or that standardized tests don’t test public speaking. Instead of seeing these things as obstacles, think of them as an opportunity to get creative and integrate these skills into your classes. The Teacher’s Academy’s course, College and Career Readiness helps you find areas in your curriculum that may lend themselves to teaching these life skills. Learn the basics of finance and the stock market and how you can deliver that information to your students. Encourage your students to start their own businesses and explore the preparation and planning that goes into it. Dive into Prezi as an alternative presentation software, update your resume, and hone in on your interviewing skills in The Teacher’s Academy professional development course, College and Career Readiness.

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The Teacher’s Academy offers affordable professional development for busy teachers. Courses range from 3-18 hours and are approved in most states. Get your PD from home, or on the road. Let The Teacher’s Academy help. We celebrate teachers. We love teachers. We are teachers.

January 2016 Teacher Feature: Brian Blair

“Life is the hardest teacher, she gives you the test first and the lessons after.”

-Anonymous

 Hey teachers!  The Teacher’s Academy is excited to kick off 2016 with an introduction to a high-tech, innovative 9th grade modern American history teacher from PA.  (Yes, I used high-tech and history in the same sentence!)  You’ll be inspired by his out-of-the-box approach to teaching and motivated to create your own digital lessons.  It doesn’t matter what subject you teach or even the age, grade or ability level of your students.  Mr. Blair’s custom learning experiences are cross-curricular, engaging and adaptable to a variety of academic levels.

Get ready, because this is not your typical history class and Mr. Brian Blair from Bucks County, PA has no interest in being a typical history teacher…

Teacher Brian BlairThrough innovation, experimentation and communication, the lucky students in Mr. Blair’s classroom are obtaining the skills necessary for success in college and career while having a blast… in the past!  Images of modern American history cover the walls of classroom 501.  Louis Armstrong plays soft jazz music over-head as students file in and get settled.  The 1920’s culture is the theme for today, and to bring them back in time, Mr. Blair begins class by allowing students to observe and discuss a political cartoon from that era.  Even though they are separated by almost five generations, these savvy students are able to quickly observe striking similarities in the 1920’s culture and politics with our own 21st century society.   Students are given time to discuss the fear and symbolism in the cartoon while connections are made to a current events article.   The feel in the classroom is easygoing, safe and positive.  His students seem to know what is coming and are excited to begin their exploration of the 1920s.

 Innovation

Exploring history does not happen merely in books in this classroom, rather learning occurs in a digital realm.  Mr. Blair and his team of teachers have worked together to create digital learning experiences for students in grades 7 through 9.  Using Web 2.0 tools, students have access to the “Course Site” where videos, advertisements, pictures, articles and teacher-created questions related to the content have been posted.  (Teachers can also post questions or additional information while the students are working.)  There is a “comments” section for student responses, and they can also access the videos and articles from a home computer.  Students now have the freedom to review on their own or spend more time on an area they found interesting.

Creating an online curriculum takes planning and collaboration, but once the process is in place, the content comes to life.  This method is certainly a major change in the way teachers can deliver curriculum, but it in no way diminishes the role of the teacher.  In fact, the teacher becomes a crucial piece of the learning process by creating an environment that supports and challenges all students.  In this environment, the teacher has more time to coach one-on-one or clarify misconceptions and enrich learning.

Back to the ‘20s…

As his students gather their laptops and head-phones, Mr. Blair directs them to digital “stations” that he created so his students can experience history in a whole new way.  In Station #1 students are able to witness the popular roaring ‘20s dance craze “The Charleston.”  A picture of the actual dance steps is posted in this station for adventurous students who want to get out of their seats and try a few steps.  (Several do, to the delight of the rest of us!)

Station #2 introduces the dynamic changes in transportation that occurred in the ‘20s by allowing students to watch and/or read about Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight and understand how the assembly line allowed Henry Ford to build his Model T at the rate of 1 every 93 minutes!

“Oh my gosh!  There is a kid doing The Charleston on the wing of a bi-plane!”  Click on Station #3 and you get to see “barnstorming” the very real and death-defying entertainment of the 1920s.  (Thank goodness for Steven Spielberg!)

As the students begin to immerse themselves in the videos, the classroom becomes more vibrant and exciting.  Mr. Blair encourages the excitement by posting a few new pictures and tempting his students to check them out.  “I think I just found my favorite barnstorming image and I’m posting it on the Course Site.”  Frantically, the students search for the image.  It’s a picture of a few men playing cards while flying on the wing of the plane.  Hilarious?  Well, his students think so!

Experimentation

Since 2011, Mr. Blair has been the department coordinator and catalyst for introducing Web 2.0 tools into the classroom.  This has encouraged digital collaboration between teachers.   He is a proud member of a talented team of 7-9th grade teachers also possessed with the ambition for creating amazing learning experiences for their students.

“I work with an incredible team of teachers in my department, in my building and in this Mr. Blair's studentdistrict as a whole.  They are all great collaborators and expose the students to high quality teaching and learning daily.  We even have a member of our department here that is getting published and has a fledgling career as a historical rapper on iTunes.”

His decision to become the department coordinator did not come without some apprehension.  With the support of his principal, his new roll allowed him to completely redesign curriculum delivery using the latest technology which has had lasting effects on the department and, more importantly, the students.  He has incredible confidence and does not hesitate to take risks or experiment with ideas outside of the teaching “comfort” zone.  He is aware that things will not always go perfectly, but taking risks is important for growth and change.

“I think the best advice for anyone in this profession is to not be afraid to try new ideas or experiment with new technology.  I know at times we have a tried and true approach and we may not want to deviate from the norm, but some of my greatest moments as a teacher have evolved from trying a new digital platform or creating a screencast of content I used to stand in front of a class and deliver.  We sometimes need to refine who we are and what we do.  Sometimes it works and sometimes… it is dynamic…”

Communication

Mr. Blair has a natural read for middle school learners.  He has an easy smile and makes Brian Blairthe whole class feel comfortable communicating with each other.

“The students need to be comfortable talking in this class,” he says with a wide smile.

I know exactly why he’s smiling.  Student chatter can be quite uncomfortable for some teachers to accept, but learning to communicate effectively is a key skill that students will not learn by staying quiet.  Of course, anyone who works with 13, 14 and 15 year old students can also understand the challenge to get any kind of valuable response!  No doubt, these students were very comfortable discussing ideas with Mr. Blair, but most of the discussion happened between the students.  Discussions about the political landscapes, the differences in the cultures, and the similarities in our hopes and fears were happening in small groups all around me.   Mr. Blair supports students just enough so they are able to succeed independently and challenges others to dig deeper.  Some students formed strong opinions based on the new information gathered from the videos but also from listening to their peers’ reactions.    Many were practiced in the art of persuasion and used those skills to change minds.  His students are expert communicators already.

Mr. Blair mentioned his team of teachers more than once and, to an outsider looking in, it is clear that this team of teachers has created an effective, fun way to accomplish many academic goals.  Through collaboration and effective communication with each other, no one loses site of the end product.

History in the Making

Mr. Brian Blair began creating his own history in his junior year of high school.  As a teenager, he would sit in his favorite class (social studies) and imagine ways of using different types of visuals or primary sources to make the lessons even more interesting.  After graduating from Penn State, earning a Masters degree from Villanova and years of teaching experiences, Mr. Blair still imagines news ways to make his social studies class even more interesting!

He has been awarded by his district for in-house assessment services, worked for ETS, The National Board and currently contributes to Learning Bird.com.  (As part of Learning Bird, he creates short educational videos to increase student engagement and keep education moving in a digital direction.)  He runs a Claymation Camp with a fellow teacher at Bucks County Community College and has coached tennis and track for years.  Like any respectable Pennsylvanian, he is an avid participant in fantasy football and could be considered an originator of that great pastime considering his family involvement since 1972.  (Respect.)

Most importantly, Brian is the proud father of two little aspiring rock-star girls and a brand new baby boy!  I must mention that he happens to be married to another fantastic teacher who was featured in our 2015 line-up of amazing teachers. J

Back to the 21st Century

The time flew by and I seemed to have been lost in the super fun, “roaring” ‘20s, because class was about to end and I was not prepared.  I jumped to get my notes and continue my observation, but most of the students had filed out.  So, I thanked Mr. Blair and started to leave.

Just before I walked out the door, I had a chance to ask one of Mr. Blair’s lingering students about the class.

“What do you think about your history class?”

“It’s pretty cool,” she responded.

“Well, what do you think about your teacher?”

She too gave me a wide, easy smile, “He makes class really fun!”

I’d have to agree, Lexi!

Thanks Mr. Blair, for being The Teacher’s Academy January 2016 Teacher Feature! You are truly making history!

For more information about technology courses, social studies courses and professional development in your state, visit The Teacher’s Academy. It’s where teachers go to learn!