Recently, Education Week published an article written by A.M. Hangan titled, “How Do I Prepare My Students for Jobs That May Soon Disappear?” A.M. Hangan has been teaching high school for twenty years, and in this article, he addresses how the number of jobs available to high school graduates is decreasing steadily due to the automation of several different types of jobs. At first glance, this may seem like something straight out of a sci-fi film, but these are legitimate concerns that are worth talking about with our students. Hangan is right; as educators, we are “ethically obligated to explain the challenges they may face in being gainfully employed.”
In some cases, the odds are already against some of our students with the most potential. Despite the innate talent a student may have, there may be an extreme lack of resources in their school districts or homes, making it very difficult for them to graduate school, let alone find a job post-graduation. According to Hangan, the trend of automation has really accelerated over the past year. He states, “According to a 2015 study from Citi Research and the Oxford Martin School in 2015, up to 47 percent of current U.S. employment is at risk of being automated.” These two factors combined seem to predict a bleak outlook for students.
Fortunately, though, not all hope is lost! Hangan also cites some brighter statistics in his article: “According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for high school graduates declined from 11 percent in 2009 to 7.7 percent in January of this year.” This helps show that our students are more than capable of rising to this new challenge. The question that we now need to ask is, “How do we inspire our students to overcome this adversity?”
Showcasing Careers of the Future
Genius Plaza features many Learning Champions who have faced challenges as and more difficult than the ones facing our students today! Take, for example, a man named Victor Santiago. Growing up in Caguas, Puerto Rico, Santiago always knew he wanted to have a career in television, despite several people telling him “no” at different stages of his life: his mother wanted him to be an engineer, his guidance counselor did not believe he should attend college in the United States, and because he did not know much English, it was very difficult for him to get into the specific program he wanted to study in college. Santiago rose above these challenges to attend school in Florida, become fluent in English, and work through the ranks at Univision to become a TV producer. In fact, he is so well-known at Univision now that when he gives presentations, he is introduced as “the intern who became an executive”!
If our Learning Champions are used in the classroom, it serves two purposes, the first of these being they help students achieve the Common Core College and Career Readiness standards. In this particular instance, if teachers use two Champions to teach a lesson about persevering against the challenges life presents us, it would cover CCRA.R.9: “Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.” Our Learning Champions come from all walks of life and have each been challenged in their own ways, and it’d be great for students to compare how the Champions got to their current positions in life.
Ensuring Students See Themselves
This leads me to the second purpose our Champions can serve in a classroom. Our Champions are very honest about the struggles they have faced in life, and how difficult it was for them to persevere, even when the cards were stacked against them. With students now facing the loss of potential jobs due to the automation of factories – amongst other things – it simply isn’t enough to tell them they can be successful if they try hard enough. Students need to be given real-life, relatable examples to prove success is attainable.
There is definitely a Champion for each student to relate to: along with Victor Santiago, we also have microbiologists, dentists, doctors, venture capitalists, and regulatory affairs associates! Once students finish learning about the Champions, they can create their own eBooks and videos about their personal challenges using our “Re-Teach” function. This not only inspires them, but also gives them the chance to inspire other students who are going through similar struggles.
High School – A Life-Changing Time Period
High school is possibly the most life-changing time period a student goes through. This is when students begin to make decisions that will impact the rest of their lives, and as young adults, they deserve to not only be educated about the challenges and obstacles they will face, but also about how they can overcome those obstacles and persevere. As educators, this is a topic that we need to face head-on in order to give our students the most opportunities possible.