Every new high school student must focus, from the very start, on the transition to the “real” world. Parents play a vital role in this quest for self-sufficiency as a young adult. As a teacher of academically challenged teens, I have the great responsibility, established and supervised by the State, of making sure my students are placed in the right career path. I need the constant cooperation of the mother, a times the father is able to participate, in order to give these young people a chance to survive the challenges of getting a job, founding a family, and setting goals for constant self-improvement. What am I going to do after high school?
Parental Essential Role
Parents must be an integral and fundamental part of this process as even children with severe disabilities should have a chance to get a job. One mentally challenged girl graduated and is now making tacos and tamales for sale, a skill she learned while in high school. Another special student discovered he had talent for carpentry and is now making cabinets for new homes. A recent graduate who had great difficulties reading and understanding academic texts is now working as an air conditioning assistant in a local business. These success stories are, unfortunately, not the norm. Some special students fail to reach their goals and are still dependent on their families to survive according to the one-year-later survey conducted by a state agency.
From the Beginning
The process of becoming a useful and positive adult starts with the first day of school. We, as teachers and parents, have the sacred duty of building self-esteem and self-confidence in children by complimenting them when they act well and refraining from punishing them when they misbehave. Having conversations one-on-one can take place as soon as they show the ability to understand the rules of society, which should occur at the age of 6 or thereabouts. Teachers know very well that individual development varies from child to child, and between girls and boys. Thus we must adjust our behavior according to the stage they have reached mentally and emotionally.
Focusing On A Career
More often than not, a 14-year old has not yet focused on one career or occupation; teachers and counselors can apply vocational surveys and advise the teen, but again the parents’ cooperation is essential. The best way to discover the young man or woman’s future career is to: 1) Examine all the existing skills and preferences 2) Give the teen the opportunity to see first-hand what professionals do, from burger flippers to engineers, from cops to office workers. If the child has already shown a certain skill, he likes to read, he makes superb drawings, he fixes dad’s car, she makes her own dresses, she takes wonderful photos, he looks like an NFL linebacker, she handles animals like a pro, and so on, try and see whether the teen is aware of all the existing occupations that may require his or her abilities.
A good school district will offer several choices: Special schools will be set up to cover the needs of willing students; right now, we have a great amount of demand for the medical and engineering fields in our district, which has recently increased the capacity of such training. In some areas, additional vocational formation will be necessary after high school to obtain a license or a diploma. Again, parents must be in contact with their school where all the needed information is available: scholarships, educational requirements, names and addresses of local vocational schools, colleges, and financial aid data.
The preparation for a successful future begins in elementary school but it takes its final shape in high school.