One of my favorite sayings that has come through me when writing is “You are never stuck. Your child is never stuck. You always have options with everything.” From the moment I received the quote from Divine, the word option was forthcoming from my lips…often. I used and still use it regularly in my parenting life, as an Empowering Relationship Coach, and for myself. Personally, I love knowing that when I seemingly come to a brick wall, I have options.
Options definitely apply to the subject of one’s career. Middle schoolers are beginning the deep search into their future livelihoods, their careers, their means to make a living. The most important piece of advice I can offer, of course, is to consider all options because there are many. And, this is something that will need to be an intentional act because so much of American education is solely focused on college-bound careers. Schools and school districts are compared to other schools and other school districts regarding percentages of students who graduate with college plans. A high percentage is highlighted. It is celebrated. It is cause for bragging rights. People want to purchase homes in neighborhoods within a school district with high academic college-bound students.
Two Specific Options
All this hype and focus creates an imbalance, however. Other very lucrative, enjoyable, and viable options are not as strongly encouraged. At times, these career paths are downplayed and even ridiculed…until a plumber is needed. Or an electrician. Or a mason. Or a strong military to both protect and deliver humanitarian supplies on a huge scale.
I’ve seen the students who would be better suited for trade education or military life. Sometimes, it is quite evident who these students are. It would be a wise parent, family member, peer, teacher, or guidance counselor to guide such students toward a non-college or partial-college career path.
One time, I was observing a student having NO interest in my lesson, but was constructing the most creative objects from an eraser stub and paper clip. I watched with great interest because I recognized this student’s talents, his aptitude, his intelligence forthcoming from the two miscellaneous objects becoming something more with the aid of his adept fingers. This wasn’t his first time ignoring regular education instruction to focus upon what really wanted to ooze out of his brain. No, this was him claiming his true self on a regular basis while college-bound based education was all around him…which really didn’t suit him at all.
Not surprisingly, he caused behavioral issues many times. He was suspended many times. He was known as a troublemaker. His creative genius just didn’t fit in with the type of education that was being offered. I suggested to him to learn as much as he could in school and to focus on a career that would allow him to work with his hands. I’ll tell you this…I’d like him to be the mechanic who works on my car!
My husband served in the military for over 30 years. Having been a military wife now for a decade, I now know what this career path has to offer. It is a definite viable option that could have equal exposure, focus, and promotion just as college-bound options are.
Many students don’t know what they’d like to do even by high school graduation, and this makes the military a very good option. The five American military branches are very adept with providing structure, discipline, focus, education, dignity, morals, travel, organization, and career paths, which may include free or nearly free formal education.
In my master’s program, I took a course on exposing us teachers to many non-college education careers. We visited these places in our community: a car dealership, a culinary school, trade schools, a military base, and more. It was so thought-provoking, but what made it even more interesting was the professor’s son. At 16 years old, he was allowed to stop attending high school, obtain his GED, and enter mechanic school. The professor stated that her son was now making more than she was with multiple degrees! Her parental wisdom knew her son would do well in a different educational environment so she agreed. She gave him the gift of options.
I understand the security a college education offers. I do think, however, job security for all career paths has improved. We must rid ourselves of the educational timeline. One can always return to college later if it’s deemed important.
The main point I’m trying to make is to consider all options because there are many. What will suit your child best? Where do your child’s talents lie? What have you observed your child doing best? What annoying trait does your child have that is really a career path in disguise? Hopefully, a lightbulb will go on or you’ll have an ah-ha! moment and share it with your middle schooler. Ultimately, it’s his or her decision, but you can be a wonderful guide in the process of career deciding.