by Leanne Merkowsky

Just like the ‘chicken and the egg’ debate, the ‘Coke and Pepsi’ war and the ‘under or over toilet tissue’ dilemma, choosing a career path will always be an area of great contest with teachers, students and parents.

Students are “standing on the threshold” of their future. They have tough decisions to make. Will they choose to enter the workforce, travel abroad, continue schooling, support a family business or become entrepreneurs? They are entering unknown territory filled with challenges, obstacles and hurdles. How are we preparing them to deal with the barriers they may encounter, or applaud the successes they may celebrate? Have we exposed them to the wealth of opportunities that lie ahead? Have we encouraged them to identify the skills learned at school and explore how they ‘fit’ into the ‘real’ world?

Through the ‘new and improved’ high school science curriculum, students make connections between what they are learning and why it may be important for their future. They are challenged to find the ‘careers in science’ and the ‘science in careers’. Is chemistry/physical science important for a hairdresser? How does knowledge of the environmental sciences help firefighters? Do hockey players benefit from taking biology/health science? Is knowledge of soil composition and chemical combinations important for farmers? A career planning unit integrated into the science curriculum appears to be a rather bizarre juxtaposition, however, its implications are vast.

Through personalizing teachings and indicating relevancy, students are more engaged and likely to see the importance of what they are learning and how it is applicable to their futures. Both academic performance and attendance increase when students are motivated and interested in the subject matter. They can see the light at the end of the tunnel – understand the purpose of the class – relate to it. Through career exploration, they acquire a better understanding of themselves (skills, interests, talents), and make decisions “that are based on their personal realities rather than the social realities imposed by their friends and families”. They understand how their prospective fields of work may have specific science requirements and how these classes may effectively impact other dimensions of their life, such as their hobbies, friends and family. Science fits into all aspects of life – we just have to help students piece the puzzle together! Although they may change their passions and career paths often, one thing remains constant . . . . the answers to the opening questions: chicken, Coke and under!


For great ideas and resources, check out . . .

May 29, 2014Permalink

New Year . . . New You

By Leanne Merkowsky

As 2014 swooshes in, it is time to look back at 2013 and reflect on the wealth of challenges we’ve overcome, struggles we’ve encountered and successes we’ve accomplished.  No year is complete without a moment of ‘looking back’.  Sometimes, we reflect on these moments with pride and honour, while at other times, we frown at the projects unfinished, the lengthy list of ‘things to do’ unscathed, and the growing pile of miscellaneous papers and ventures teetering on the corner of our desks.  Time never stands still, although we sometime wish it would just so we could ‘catch up’ with life.  It is the one constant in our lives.  How are we going to deal with pressures, deadlines and changes differently this year, so that when 2015 rolls around, we will embrace it and jump in with a feeling of triumph and happiness, rather than guilt and resentment at the tasks and dreams left untouched?

A resolution is not just the degree of sharpness of a computer-generated image as measured by the number of dots per linear inch or number of pixels on a display screen, but it is also the degree of sharpness, focus, concentration and effort one places on a personal goal.  Creating a resolution is a good starting point in helping to determine a direction for the new year.  It guides our thinking and renews our determination, in the hope that we will ‘stick with it’ to the bitter end, overcoming all that stands in our way.  The first step is creating a plan!

 “A vision without a plan is just a dream.  A plan without a vision is just drudgery.  But a vision with a plan can change the world’” – Unknown

In the article, 30 Things to Start Doing for Yourself, Marc Chernoff presents a positive ‘to-do’ list for the upcoming year.  He includes such ideas as: spending time with the right people, creating your own happiness, proudly being yourself, living in the present, giving dreams a chance, helping others, listening to your inner voice and noticing the beauty of the small moments.  Incorporating some of these ideas into your plan will help steer you in the right direction.  Writing your goals down and reviewing them periodically will also assist with keeping the drive and inspiration alive.

I hope this list helps motivate you and propel you forth into 2014 with renewed spirit, enthusiasm and love of life!  It is time to break the mold, go out on your own, try new things, not be afraid of failure . . . . learn from mistakes and never stop trying!

Happy New Year!


January 5, 2014Permalink

Career Education . . . Where Does it Fit?

by Leanne Merkowsky

“Why should I teach it?  It isn’t my responsibility!  I teach Math!”

“There just isn’t enough time!”

“I don’t know anything about careers!”

The reactions are many when a teacher is first asked to infuse career education into their subject area, and although it may seem a daunting task at first, it is really as simple as 1, 2, 3.

1.  Career education belongs in every subject.  It belongs in every grade level.  It belongs in every school.  Early exposure to career options affects students’ credit choice, work path and personal life.  Addressing pertinent skills and abilities in school and helping students make the link eases the transition from education to work.  The English skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking are cross-curricular and are vital skills to possess when entering the workforce, whether it is to study safety manuals, complete application forms, understand contracts, fill food orders, listen to news reports or read a recipe to make a chocolate cake in hope of getting rid of excess, unwanted zucchini.  Math inevitably follows us through life as we measure a home’s foundation, purchase a vehicle and calculate interest, determine how much fertilizer is needed for the crop, or compute the 10% off sale at Nutters during the last Thursday of the month.  Biology is mandatory for nurses, veterinarians, and blood spatter-pattern analysts like Dexter, as is Physics for engineers and rocket scientists.  Chemistry lovers may become pharmacists or may even solve Cadbury’s Caramilk secret.  Whatever the subject interest of the student, there is sure to be a career link.  As a teacher, it is your job to provide these insights, encourage exploration, garnish interest in students and cultivate a curiosity that will lead them to further studies in an area that best fits them.

2.  What better way to introduce careers in a relevant, engaging and interesting way for your students than to camouflage the learning in regular teaching routines!  Take time to talk with your students and create a positive ‘career culture’.  Connect activities and learning to local labour market statistics and personal interest.  This eases the school to work transition and helps calm the nerves of those who are anxious, yet afraid of what their future holds.  Choosing a career is no longer a single choice . . . it is a life-long, exciting and dynamic choice.  Be supportive!

3.   Enhancing the ‘soft skills’ of getting along with others, punctuality, reliability and a positive attitude are beneficial for students now and in their future.  Make a point to acknowledge these behaviours in students, explain their importance and encourage continued ‘good’ practices.  They may not be aware of how these skills fit into their future, but through informal conversation, personal experiences and sharing of values, it is easy to share ‘the secrets’ of a successful future.

Career Education is everyone’s responsibility and whether we know it or not, what we say, what we do and how we act greatly impacts the decisions our students make for their future.

What kind of impression are you making on your students?

In Kathy Cassidy’s article, “Career Education in First Grade” (thanks for sharing Donna), she points outs how the concept of ‘careers’ has changed over the years and what we, as educators, can do to help accommodate these changes.  Careers, much like our students, are evolving.  Are we adequately preparing our students?  I invite you to read her article, and reflect on your practices. 

How are you infusing career development in your class?


September 30, 2013Permalink