Career Awareness in the Primary Grades
Some of this information is from the teacher's guide for Careers for Me (Junior).
I can remember many years ago when I showed my oldest daughter's kindergarten teacher the catalog I had just developed promoting elementary career awareness products. I was very pleased. To my surprise, the teacher laughed.
In California, career awareness at the elementary level is practically non-existent unless a teacher takes a particular interest in it. And to think that we had products for children as young as kindergarten – well, it was just a little much for this teacher. I couldn't blame her. She was a wonderful teacher who somehow managed to provide an excellent education and a wonderful experience for 34 five year olds. How I still wished there was some time to teach something about careers.
There has been much development in elementary career education over the years since I had that conversation. Teaching career awareness in primary grades is not so uncommon nowadays, at least outside of California.
If you are teaching career awareness to primary grades for the first time, here are some tips for introducing the subject of careers:
- First, feel comfortable using the word career. It is appropriate at this age to introduce children to terminology that they will use during their career awareness journey.
- Ask students why they believe school is important. Go around the class and ask each student to share their answer to the all-time question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Tie in school subjects with the careers they share.
- Ask the class to name the workers at their school (principal, janitor, cafeteria workers, etc.). Expand it to other parts of their community: the grocery store, the gas station, and so on.
- Explain the concept of clusters. Demonstrate the variety of ways jobs can be grouped into families, or clusters, depending on the criteria. A good way to demonstrate this is to talk about jobs that work with animals. Have the class brainstorm with: jobs that work with animals; jobs where one works outdoors; jobs that work with food, etc.
- If you choose to do some kind of interest assessment with the, explain to them that it is not a test. There are no right or wrong answers. Make sure the assessment does not "pigeon-hole" them at this young of an age. Remember, at this age the goal is awareness of careers, as well as self-awareness.
- Discuss with the class the importance of goal setting. Setting up small goals is essential to reach the bigger goals. For the young student, turning schoolwork in complete and on time is an important goal.
Having something the student can put into a portfolio, or take home, is a good way to not only communicate with the family, but gives the student a reference point. Getting a parent signature is optional, but there are good reasons to do so. It encourages student-parent discussion. Encourage parents to discuss goal setting, school, dreams, hobbies and their own line of work with their children. Parents can be introducing their young children to careers on a regular basis -- everytime they run errands, go to the doctor and travel, for instance.