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Career goals change students’ motivation

New York Teacher

My most recent academic experiences have been as an English teacher in institutions where students are being trained for employment in the medical and technological fields. Teaching young people who have career, money and personal responsibility on their agenda has been a revelation.

There’s a certain seriousness and maturity in the manner in which such students approach their work that was often missing in traditional academia. When students see employment and financial possibilities as their goal, they are innately motivated. 

The traditional structure of schooling has coercion as its primary method of educating students where extrinsic rewards and punishments are the prime motivators; when employment is directly attached to learning, the motivation takes on an intrinsic quality. Such students see lifelong learning as an essential component of their education since the technological and economic landscape of their careers will certainly undergo transformation. 

Having secondary education connected to employable skills (in addition to the core academic subjects) as an option would improve the overall tone of the academic atmosphere. Not all students are college-bound. We still need electricians, plumbers, construction workers, medical assistants, etc.

If the academic institutions could also help to find such students employment, we would positively alter the very nature and purpose of secondary education. 

Letting students know that there are career alternatives to traditional academic study is a change that is long overdue. When students see a specific career as a consequence of their education, teachers will see a renewed interest in language, ideas, government, history, economics and the sciences.

Larry Hoffner, retired

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