A long time ago, the classroom was occupied by white males only. It was a bland world of black and white, and sadly, the untapped potential of women and all other ethnicities fell through the cracks.
But times have changed. Culture, perception, and experience have transformed the curriculum into a vibrant burst of colorful courses to match the equally vibrant variety of students.
Today anyone can hold positions of power or influence within career fields, from politics to medicine. While times have changed, this does not necessarily mean mindsets have. Students (especially those in the minority or marginalized groups) can still feel limited to the paths of those who have gone before. This results in students avoiding certain classes because they do not feel they belong. Those classes, more often than not, are Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses.
According to the Association of Career and Technological Education, the goal of CTE is to prepare students for the workforce through an applicable curriculum and hands-on experience. CTE courses encompass various clusters that branch into different job markets. These classes provide wonderful opportunities for students to gauge their interests and find their passions for future careers. Each student should be provided with activities that explore their interests as well as opportunities that permit them to utilize skills needed for their desired profession.
Since pupils vary in gender, race, health, and intrigue, it may seem difficult, if not impossible, to meet the needs of every student and ensure a welcoming environment for all. Don’t stress. This task is easier than you’d think. Here are some ideas to explore.
Gender Roles and Race
One way to combat the intimidation of CTE programs is to first tear down antiquated gender roles and racial stereotypes. Now, we’re not asking you to abolish all the prejudice and hardship these parties have endured since the beginning of time. That is unreasonable and frankly impossible. Rather, we encourage you to reinforce the truth of equality in society, particularly in the many career fields that CTE courses target, such as agriculture or law.
Try highlighting well-known male and female executives of various races who have succeeded in their professions. This can be introduced as a weekly study or an assigned research project as part of the class. Seeing role models in fields that students are studying allows them to envision the reality of their dreams.
Similarly, you could contact school alumni of different genders and races who have paved their way into CTE career fields. Invite them to come to speak in your class about their experience, education, and achievements. These visits can be drop-in greets or a question-and-answer seminar. Remember, it’s helpful for classes to meet previous students who are succeeding in their CTE field. It helps them visualize the possibilities attainable if they work hard, regardless of race or gender. Seeing that their peers are succeeding will help students stay or get motivated to pursue their own interests and dreams.
Don’t be afraid to address race and gender as their own lesson. Students may be more open in your class if you are willing to discuss the opportunities available to all as well as how to battle discrimination in old-fashioned workplaces.
Disability is a state of being, not a roadblock. Remember that people impacted by disabilities are not defined by them, just like gender or race. In fact, mentally or physically disabled individuals are capable of accomplishing just as much as able-bodied individuals, if not more. As such, they should be permitted various opportunities to apply themselves.
Unfortunately, futures in CTE careers can seem daunting to those who don’t feel they fit the common image of a successful professional. With few publicized role models to follow, it can be easy for feelings of interest to diminish, and in turn, people will avoid these careers altogether.
It’s your job as an educator to disbar doubts of belonging and provide activities that any student can complete. If they are unable to follow along with the curriculum based on their situation, offer the necessary accommodations for them to not only pass the course but ones that encourage them to utilize their learning in the real world.
You can do this by ensuring the school system’s standards for CTE enrollment oblige to the needs of the disabled population and review your curriculum. An article called “Four Strategies to Address Equity in CTE” revealed that CTE program administrators in Maryland held their enrollment based on excelling grades, performance reviews, recommendations, essays, interviews, and more. These lengthy requirements prove tedious and unjust toward those who cannot meet the same standards as students with more opportunities.
Assess your class requirements and evaluate the students registering for your course. If a majority of registrars have outstanding GPAs and high achievement levels, there may need to be an adjustment in enrollment requisites. No student should be withheld from a chance to participate in a class that will benefit them in their future careers.
For the Common Man
We are now clear that gender, race, and health should not play a factor in enrollment or involvement in CTE. As such, it’s vital the curriculum used keeps the learning accessible to all. This could be completed through assignments that incorporate the student’s hobbies, pastimes, and interests.
For instance, if you are teaching a web design and development course, you could assign the project of developing a website about the students’ favorite movie. Or, suppose you are an educator for a health science class, you can propose classwork that delves into the nutrition of their favorite food. Activities of this kind provide an umbrella that excludes no one. Each student has an opinion and a preference.
While crafting your class curriculum, avoid activities that require extensive financial investments. Whether it be field trips, projects needing materials, or professional competitions related to the course, the cost of learning should not overshadow the lessons. Evaluate initial and future costs in your class to cut the chances of isolation among less wealthy pupils.
Remember, keeping education inclusive and affordable is a massive keystone in making CTE clusters more equitable.
The main target of CTE is to invite all. There is no one-shape-fits-all for students in CTE programs. Whether they be white, black, male, female, disabled, or otherwise, it is the prerogative of teachers to ensure all feel welcome. In order to do this, there must be an enthusiastic buzz of CTE throughout the school.
The best way to tap into the diverse spectrum that makes up the school’s population is to advertise the advantages of CTE to social or academic groups. Pictures, posters, awards, and socials could be used to make the students aware of CTE’s success and inclusion. It could also introduce participants to contacts for future networking.
Dip your resources into contacting societies, clubs, and movements to boost support of CTE as a whole. Reaching the vast groups of a campus is a great way to increase diversity and show that CTE is accommodating, rewarding, and welcoming to all. Make sure you tailor each invitation to the group you are focusing on. For example, if you are targeting a Spanish club for recruitment, emphasize the positions available in career fields that utilize multilingual employees.
By doing this, an educator increases the diversity within their own classroom as well as open experiences to any student desiring to enter a CTE profession, using the skills they already hold.
Career and Technical Education should incorporate a diverse curriculum that involves all types of learners and their needs. Regardless of physical characteristics or monetary capability, one thought-provoking school lesson with hands-on experience can help the students feel accepted and welcome. This will not only bode well for your future CTE registration due to recommendation, but progressing students who are looking to acquire jobs in CTE fields will be more prepared from your course load and inspired by your class’s atmosphere.
At the end of the day, keep in touch with your class. Post surveys for a class evaluation to see how you can adjust your course. Do your best to keep everyone involved and ensure all participants can complete the work you assign. With these extra steps, you will create the ideal equitable environment for learning in CTE.