What Works Career Choices
Go with What Works: Career Choices & the 10-yearPlan - Classroom Ideas

North Dakota Students Find Learning Can Be Fun, Relevant



"I've never had even one student ask me, `When am I going to use this, Mrs. Paulson?'" reports Linda Paulson, ninth grade language arts teacher in Grafton, North Dakota. Using the Career Choices curriculum as a springboard for working closely with other teachers and for letting her own creativity fly, Paulson has earned a reputation for making education both relevant and fun.

The fame of her "fantasy tuner-inners" or "visualizers," for example, gets younger students planning and anticipating the day they begin her class.

Paulson, who began using Career Choices in her classes after attending the first two-day training workshop in Santa Barbara four years ago, likes the program because "you don't have to fit it in. It fits itself," she says, "and works easily into a wide variety of classes." Paulson decided to use Career Choices because she wanted students to see how what they learn in one class relates to others. She also wanted to teach thinking skills, planning ahead, and "to get kids excited about learning in general."

The results have been gratifying: Students "don't see [education] as something to memorize and forget, but something to learn, apply and remember."

Credit for the program's success must also go to the other members of Paulson's team, as well as to a supportive-if sometimes bewildered-administration. Preparation for the program actually begins in grades seven and eight, when some of the concepts are introduced in language arts or tech prep classes. The ninth grade team consists of teachers from language arts, life skills and tech prep, as well as a guidance counselor. While this group gathers weekly to discuss and plan, Paulson says they have also had cooperation from teachers in other disciplines.

The Grafton program, we think, is an exciting example of how enthusiastic teachers can stimulate imaginations and facilitate learning which will serve students well throughout their lives.

This program was funded by the North Dakota State Board for Vocational Education, from Carl Perkins Equity Funds.
HOW TO: Linda Paulson's "Visualizer" Activity

The idea for "visualizers" or "fantasy tuner-inners" came to Linda Paulson one day in class when students couldn't seem to grasp the meaning of James Thurber's story, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (Possibilities, pages 11-18). Clearly, the class needed a way to get in touch with its own hopes and dreams.

Paulson asked each student to bring a wire coat hanger to class the following day, and the first "visualizers" were born. The hangers were bent any way the students chose, so long as they could be worn on their heads in order to receive visions of their future. Today, class members plan ahead and bring all sorts of materials to school to decorate their vision receivers, which have become much more sophisticated. Paulson's only stipulation is that only found objects can be used. Nothing can be bought.

Students wear their contraptions for an entire day (they get points for doing so). In Paulson's English class, they get time to fantasize about possibilities for their own lives-living somewhere else, holding a particular job, or whatever-and then write about that fantasy (Career Choices, page 14). In other classes, teachers allow five or ten minutes on that day to pose a question related to their subject, and students again imagine a solution and write it down. They receive credit for their work in every class.

Although the hats are formally used only on this day, Paulson keeps them in her classroom, and students have permission to wear them "whenever they feel the need." It gives them "a right to be playful," Paulson says, and also breaks down barriers that can hold a young person's imagination in check.

What a wonderful way to help students begin to get in touch with their own visions of their future. Congratulations, Linda, on a fabulous idea!

If you have developed a special activity for your Career Choices class, please let us know so we can share it in the next newsletter and on our home page.

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