May generates an enthusiasm that infects the entire school. Students and staff alike can all feel the momentum increase. Seniors begin wondering about their college schedule, roommate and schedule. Other students begin thinking of next year’s schedules. AP teachers start tutorials before they administer AP Exams. Secretaries finalize orders to insure next year’s materials will be delivered in the summer. Principals work with counselors to insure next year’s master schedule will work, and students try to adjust their fall schedules to get the best classes they can fit in their school day.
If bees are known for being busy, then May is the hive where they nest in our school calendar. May is both the end of the year as well as the planning session for the next year. It’s a continuum that can be a conundrum. It is commenced with a large pad over the main entry so each day a new sheet is pulled down revealing the number of school days remaining for graduating seniors—just in case they lose track (not likely).
FINALS, LAST DAYS AND GRADUATION
Finals are the most anxious of the spring activities. Test anxiety abounds. Our AP teachers commonly host evening study sessions to prepare them. Our regular education teachers have a finals week with two scheduled per day.
Some colleges will offer improvements in testing arrangements that most high schools do not offer. Future college students at some universities have self-scheduled exams that students arrange during an open test window the schools make available. High school students should not expect that flexibility in high school or all future colleges, but it is worth inquiring as seniors speak with future advisers.
Because students run on their stomachs like the armies for which we care, parents are asked to bring foods that students can access between the two finals scheduled each day. Study sessions are available for last minute cramming the 30 minutes preceding each final exam.
So much for the most stress inducing of the year-end activities. Many celebrations are also available. Our in-school activities include a schoolwide Awards Assembly. Teachers are all asked to select Top Class Award Recipients. Athletic programs find and identify their superstars. Advisors are asked to select the students who have made the school a better place for all.
Scholarship Assembly is an evening event scheduled close to graduation. It allows visiting relatives to attend and applaud the senior achievements. Planning requires gathering university issued awards as well as contacting local scholarship groups. After scholarship donors are selected and speakers familiar with students have been identified, a program is arranged to highlight all the financial awards that will make college educations more affordable for students.
The last week of senior classes is full of events sure to be long-lasting memories for graduates. We host an organized Senior Skip Day. Seniors don’t know the exact day, and weather plays a factor in its selection. Buses, chaperones, food, treats, and games gather at the local lake to make it special. Everyone goes into the lake or is thrown into it and scenes become highlights in the graduation video.
The last day of senior classes is a unique assembly. A small band is selected to set up in our Commons. Five minutes before the final bell, they begin playing Alice Cooper’s hit, “School’s Out.” At the sound of the last bell, the senior Paper Toss begins as they throw all their papers over the railing to the floor below before frolicking in the paper trail below.
But the biggest celebration is always the actual graduation. Younger National Honor Society students escort the seniors in and staff the band that plays the tunes selected to create the right tone for the big event that’s been 12-13 years in the making. Videos and slide shows of special moments are always a great introduction to the big event.
I have been given the honor of addressing the Senior Graduation once and felt one book captured the sentiment needed. Dr. Seuss wrote a book called Oh, The Places You’ll Go. After reading relevant verses to the graduates, stanzas dedicated to the students and staff was created in the same rhyme scheme to personalize the journey. It seems fitting that an author who welcomes beginning reader in kindergarten might have the honor of wishing them well in their next chapter of life.
LEARNING HOW TO SHAPE A CAREER
Donald Super, a career development expert, once declared that a vocational role model is the single greatest factor involved in identifying a career pathway that not only fits, but excites. Centuries ago, a career path was determined by the father. If your father built wagon wheels, better get your planes and shavers sharpened.
Times have changed, but not excluded previous options. How many superstars in the NFL find they have a son running for touchdowns? Coach Dunleavy of Duke coached the Olympic U.S. Basketball Dream Team. As a father, I would suspect his biggest dream came true when he got to coach his own son at Duke and as he watches his son play whether he’s shooting for the Los Angeles Lakers or against them. Parents still hold a lot more power than they may realize to influence their offspring. Ample room exists for others to impact pathways as well.
Ketchikan High School has a few classrooms that have seen significant numbers of students follow a path their curriculum pursues. They are unique in that they place students in situations in which they are working with others in that field. Many end up pursuing it in college and career.
One class is called Medical Terminology. It is a dual enrollment class that introduces students to all the various medical professions that are available. Students study rigorous coursework and learn sophisticated vocabularies that make medicine a serious subject. Of the 20 students per year who take the class, nearly all end up pursuing something in medicine.
All of our doctoral level students have been in that class. All our future doctors, vets, dentists, opticians, and more have taken it. They spend one semester following a professional holding that career. The class has not only been successful, but popular as well. Well over the maximum accepted try to sign up for it. A waiting list is formed each year after students sign up, apply for and pray for acceptance into it.
At the bachelor’s level, similar results follow another dual enrollment course. Applied Educational Psychology attracts many students. It has attracted many who go on to become future educators of all sorts: classroom teachers, counselors, specialists of all sorts come out of it. Out of our 120+ graduating seniors, up to 15 at least start college with aspirations of becoming an educator who impacts young minds. Experiences in which they all have real classroom responsibilities in our local elementary schools help them find if they have the aptitude or passion to manage their own class one day. They do so by developing, conducting, and evaluating their own lessons while working with our own district staff.
At the associate’s level, we have a culinary program and automotive set of classes that appeal to several each year. Some go on to complete either an associate’s or earn a certificate to stay in that field. We have many dedicated college scholarships that have evolved and are available to students choosing this path. Whether learning to repair your auto, keep your diesels running or feeding those in the mess-halls or restaurants of tomorrow, students do real repairs and feed our students with hands-on experience that gives them a real taste of life in that field. They leave it knowing what to expect and how to enter the schools and training programs that continue their education.
At the skilled level, we have a construction program that does likewise. These students spend a two period block learning construction skills and earning points that make acceptance into a skilled trade union much easier and more likely. Welding has that same format as they have real experiences working with real employers and doing real work in the field. Several get referred for paying jobs allowing them to not only earn extra money on the side, but start to feel like professionals in the field.
When students work with professionals in the field and do “real” work in the field, transferring skills become automatic. They need not wait to see if the classroom work will simulate the career. More importantly, they actually focus upon the career options directly related to the field of study while still in high school.
ROLE OF PARENTS
Parents need not rely upon high school programs. They can take matters into their own hands. A parent of a graduate of our school described how they intervened. They had brought their daughter to a children’s museum in the Chicago area as a child. It had a pretend dentist’s office. They noticed she had donned a dentist’s smock for dress-up, and she did pretend extractions on her younger sister. They had fun doing so and pictures taken reminded the eldest how much fun she had while only in fourth grade having that professional role.
Playing dress-up dentist in a small museum exhibit made for children planted a seed. At her next dental appointment, the parent asked the dentist if he would mind letting the daughter spend a portion of a day watching to see how he conducted his work to see how it compared to the pretend version she tried. He was pleased to do so. Another dentist who had appointments with her later was less supportive. He said that as a girl, she should focus on dental hygiene so she wouldn’t have so many professional responsibilities associated with running a lab. I mention that because the latter could have been persuaded to let her spend a day as well. Fortunately, the job visit was made in the office of a supportive dentist.
That girl found out how much science was required, and she found a reason to exhaust the science dept. courses and excel in them. She went on to American University and earned a BS from their Honor’s Biology Program. She ended up in Harvard’s School of Dental Medicine and completed a DMD. She is now doing a residency at UCLA in Pediatric Dentistry while completing an MPH. All this took dedication, drive and commitment.
That one chance incident to a museum and pursued with a job shadow by someone who encouraged dentistry and invited her in to make teeth molds and organize pre and post pictures of clients of an orthodontist have created an entire life path. I wonder if she would have still labored to pursue the dental path she spent the day with that dentist who thought that as a woman she should instead opt to be a hygienist.
Donald Super is right in my opinion. A supportive, encouraging role model who encourages someone and takes an interest in them and their career can make a world of difference. If a student sees someone enjoying their career, and they invite the child to pursue the path and opens the doors to do so can change their entire future. Parents and educators alike are in positions to be that agent. Like a seed, once planted, nurtured, watered and fertilized from time to time can result in a budding career that came about because of a singular intervention. That seed can be planted at any time, but remember some plants take longer to grow.