Five New Year's Resolutions for Teachers (part 5)

After a few days’ hard teaching (end of semester plus high school applications plus school musical plus, etc.), I’m back to finish up my list of teacher’s New Year’s Resolutions

Resolution #5: This year, I will search for stories with protagonists from a variety of trades and professions.

At one Common Core leadership training, I saw a chart which blew my mind. I really wish I still had a copy, but this chart is similar:

Shares-of-employment

The speaker at the training explained the issue this way.

Basically, the “high skill” professions, (doctors, lawyers) those choices frequently pushed by parents, schools, media, and society, provide only 15% of job opportunities. If 50% of students train for these positions, the number of positions available does not increase, but unemployment increases because 35% of these young people will not find positions. This 35% is NOT trained at all for the “middle skill” careers, essential careers such as plumbing, welding, HVAC, mechanics, machining, nursing and teaching. Thus, the 35%, (and their student loans) end up competing with others for the “low skill” type positions which require little training such as food service and cashier positions.

If, the presenter postulated, 68% of available employment falls in this “middle skill” range, why do we, as a society, tend to revere the “high skill” positions and marginalize the essential “middle skill” positions, to the detriment of our students' future?

I have been mulling this dichotomy for a few years now, especially as my children are growing up and beginning to make their own career choices. How can I, as a teacher, present a more fair and unbiased view of the various career choices instead of elevating certain professions over others?

One step I can take is to consciously include short stories and novels with protagonists from a greater variety of backgrounds. I love teaching the novel, Bud, Not Buddy, in which one of the most positive and admirable characters is a porter. The other novels I teach either have “fantastical” heroes, such as Hobbits and dogsled mushers, or they have prominent, positive characters who are lawyers, federal agents, and college professors. I need to find some more age-appropriate literature to diversify my curriculum.

To read my resolution #1, click HERE.

To read my resolution #2, click HERE.

To read my resolution #3, click HERE.

To read my resolution #4, click HERE.