Lessons Learned: When Students Teach the Teacher

By David Veling

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to partner with a teacher of 14 – 18 year-olds in a largely self-contained program. With more than 40 years of Special Education experience between the two of us, we felt confident that we could put together a meaningful, impactful course plan that would develop self-determination and soft skills and lead to increased independence in employment after high school. We had a well-thought-out set of skills, a logical progression in which they built upon one another, and a sincere belief that we could accommodate, modify, scaffold, or otherwise individualize our lessons to engage and support every learner in the room.

For all of our preparation and certainty of success, our first lesson was a disaster. But it led to honest reflection, and a new plan based on three key strategies that been transformative. Continue reading “Lessons Learned: When Students Teach the Teacher”

Agency in Youth: Learning from Challenges

by: Allen Fowler

peers-questioningThe youth’s face testified to a continuing frustration. We were at a job readiness training, about halfway through the summer work program, and taking some time to reflect around how the workplace experience was going. One young person spoke to having to put up with daily ribbing and ridicule, mostly because of their youth and inexperience. They had approached their supervisor to address the dynamic to no real avail, and now they were airing their grievance to a group of peers. I had to fight my impulse to wade in immediately, but I purposely sat back and let the youth offer their advice and insights. Suggestions ranged from answering in kind to approaching the supervisor again to trying to land a new job and then give two weeks’ notice. None of them seemed to provide an immediate solution but all were offered in support and provided grist for the mill. I held my tongue because one of the goals of employability training is to develop in youth and young adults agency, the capacity to navigate workplace challenges independently.

The Signal Success curriculum bases its methodology on the best practices to foster and augment skills development. Some of the key components surrounding the development of agency in youth are: Continue reading “Agency in Youth: Learning from Challenges”

Developing Strong Personal Brands

by Edward Wilson

manny _ claireLet’s say you are an employer and you just interviewed two potential candidates for a position at your company. Candidate X is professionally dressed, is qualified for the position, shows enthusiasm, and asks great questions. Candidate Y is almost exactly the same as Candidate X, except for the fact that candidate Y seems unfriendly and has social media accounts that contain lots of complaints about his school.

Perhaps candidate Y simply had a terrible morning and does really go to a school that merits criticism.  And, candidate Y may in fact be the better person for the job.  However, based on the information available at the time most employers will choose candidate X. In the end the difference between getting a job offer and not getting one is usually very subtle, which is why young people need help understanding how to effectively develop and display a positive personal brand.  Here are some strategies for helping teens and young adults understand personal brands so that they can market themselves to employers. Continue reading “Developing Strong Personal Brands”

Collaborative Learning: The Art of Letting Go

by Allen Fowler

at desk 03I worried the most about the one table, four students – two with cognitive challenges, three with notable social anxiety, all marginalized for one reason or another in their experience of school. Mastering my anxiety when turning over control to students doesn’t come naturally to me.  And they were going to be working as group for the next three days of Signal Success career readiness training. By the end of the first day, however, I started to let go of my concerns. By the end of the third day, after fifteen hours of working around the table together, these youth showed me flashes of collaborative brilliance.  In reporting out, they respectfully offered those needing it a bit more time to articulate their thoughts, one youth visibly softened his demeanor as he stepped into a leadership role during a negotiation exercise, and, at one point or another, all four smiled at having an idea taken down, a suggestion implemented, or a contribution acknowledged.  Collaborative learning provides the space for real time development of the soft-skills essential to success in school, work, and life.  Here are some tips around letting go and capturing the results:

Continue reading “Collaborative Learning: The Art of Letting Go”

Are you a spender or saver?

by Anne Berrigan

credit card 01It turns out that it may not matter to your financial well-being whether you spend or save. But in either case, to manage money well you need to create financial goals intentionally–and track them consistently. And start early. All three strategies are part of a new focus on financial capability in youth employment programs across the country.

The term financial capability is often used now instead of ‘financial literacy’ in an effort to promote practices that combine education and asset building behaviors. Financial capability is defined as the knowledge, skills, and access to resources needed to manage financial responsibilities effectively. With the help of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has outlined examples of how youth employment programs can help participants build financial capability: Continue reading “Are you a spender or saver?”

Exploring Career Values

by Janel Granum

whoamiAnyone who looks at my desk will see that I enjoy an entropic space. When I was a teacher, the drawers of my desk were often brimming with an assortment of lab supplies. As an adult, I understand my values, interests, and needs- from small to large. Having a personal space that I can organize (or not organize) may not be as important as feeling like I am helping others, but it definitely contributes to my workplace satisfaction.  For youth identifying and articulating their values is often a challenge, but the right strategies and activities can help young people better understand their needs and future fit.  Here are some strategies to help students advance their understanding. Continue reading “Exploring Career Values”

The Self-Reflective Tool in our Metacognitive Toolbox

By David Veling

toolbox.04Outside of education, most adults may not talk much about metacognition, but it is likely to be an important aspect in their day-to-day life. If we think about metacognition as a toolbox, containing many different tools to help us understand how our mind works, one of the most important is self-reflection. When done well, self-reflection delves into our motivation and decision-making process and sheds light on misunderstanding and new learning. For many youth, this is a missing or underutilized tool, which often leads to repeated mistakes, misunderstandings, and missed opportunities in life, school and early career development. To help youth effectively apply self-reflection, we need to be able to point to clear applications and strategies of self-reflection. Continue reading “The Self-Reflective Tool in our Metacognitive Toolbox”

Teaching Teens to Take the Initiative

by Jennifer Applebaum

carla01 (c)In Commonwealth Corporation’s 2013 study of over 200 employers, initiative rose to the top of employer identified problems. 49% of employers agreed with the statement that “Teens have less initiative” as compared to other statements like “Teens take longer to train” with which only 9% of employers agreed.  Many employers also raise the specific concern that younger workers are less likely to productively redirect themselves during downtime As such, increasing students’ abilities to demonstrate initiative is an important objective for career readiness programs, and we have developed some strategies to help students build the practice of demonstrating initiative. Continue reading “Teaching Teens to Take the Initiative”

Engaging Employer Partners- Are You the Right Fit?

By Anne Berrigan

dependable02(02)Let’s face it–attracting and keeping employers connected and engaged in youth employment or internship programs isn’t easy, but it’s key to success. Whether you work in a school or community-based organization, your ability to keep employers happy could depend on an attitude shift. You may have to stop asking what employers can do for your students and start learning how to keep partners coming back as customers.  We spent time with industry leaders in hospitality, health care, manufacturing, and retail sectors as part of a state advisory group to find out what employers want out of a partnership with teen/young adult programs. Here’s what we learned. Continue reading “Engaging Employer Partners- Are You the Right Fit?”

Strategies for Effective Co-Teaching

By Janel Granum

associates01On the first day of my second year of teaching I met dozens of new students and one very important and unexpected adult- my new 3rd period co-teacher. And so it went- we were thrown together and told to “make the most of it.” Luckily, we did just that and through careful co-planning and practice we worked together effectively. I quickly assumed this was the way co-facilitation often worked. I have since learned otherwise. Co-teaching is full of challenges, but it is a very powerful strategy for meeting the needs of diverse student groups, which makes it especially useful for career readiness and exploration courses. When your goal is to help students become future-ready, you must address not only the differences in standard classroom variables like reading level, processing and learning style but also the differences in personal awareness and exposure to the world of work.

Here are three important ways to make co-teaching work! Continue reading “Strategies for Effective Co-Teaching”