When I graduated college and began looking for my first teaching job, I was drawn to Career Path High’s blended learning flex model. During my student teaching experience, I became frustrated by the limitations of the traditional classroom. I rarely had the opportunity to collaborate with other teachers, and working one-on-one with students was next to impossible. Logistically, it was difficult to individualize instruction for the diverse learners in my classroom, and I quickly became aware that the traditional school setting was not the ideal learning environment for many of my students.
As an English Instructor at Career Path High, I have had quite the opposite experience. Our school’s learning model attracts those seeking a personalized education and a head start down a valuable career path. We have created a school environment that offers flexibility, individualized instruction, and early college opportunities for all types of learners. As a teacher in this model, I feel empowered to help students on an individual basis. Rather than managing full classrooms on a bell schedule, I can work directly with each student through a variety of tools. Instead of being isolated in my own classroom, I collaborate daily with other teachers to create a more cohesive education for our students. The best thing about being an educator at such an innovative school is watching students take ownership of their education and pave their own unique pathway to success!
The Power of Self-Paced, Competency-Based and One-on-One Instruction
In a traditional bricks-and-mortar school, students are expected to learn the material in teacher-mandated timelines. At Career Path High, the blended learning model gives my students the flexibility to work on their courses at their own pace. They can spend as much time as necessary on difficult concepts, receiving personalized assistance from their instructors along the way. Our data-driven curriculum platform allows me to pinpoint the exact areas in which each of my English students are struggling almost instantly. I can easily identify when a student is stuck on a particular activity or assessment, which allows me to reach out and offer individualized assistance. While one student may benefit from curriculum supplements like instructional videos or online flashcards, another may require a live mini-lesson via FaceTime.
I have a large variety of online education tools at my disposal, and I love figuring out what works best for each student as I get to know them on an individual level. Career Path High is a competency-education model. Students can only move on in the curriculum when they have proven mastery of the learning objectives, often through individualized assessments. If my students fail a quiz or a test, they cannot continue in the course until I have provided data-directed assistance. I can also give them differentiated assessments based on targeted concepts until I am satisfied they have accomplished mastery. As an instructor at Career Path High teacher intervention is not just a luxury, it’s a requirement. By allowing students to work at their own pace through a competency-based curriculum, we are ensuring that they have the time and resources they need to achieve content mastery and build a strong foundation for their future education.
Much More than Just an Instructor
At Career Path High, I am not just an English Instructor. I also have the opportunity to be a Success Coach. In addition to a regular course load, each instructor at Career Path High is assigned a small group of students to guide throughout the school year. While I closely monitor the progress of my English students on a regular basis, my role as a Success Coach goes even further. I continuously evaluate the overall progress of each student as a whole, and work collaboratively with my colleagues to address their specific learning needs. I also work with each of my Success Coach students to create personalized learning plans. Together, we identify strengths and weaknesses, set goals, and create strategies for achieving academic success.
My job at Career Path High is two-fold. As an English Instructor, I teach important literacy skills. As a Success Coach, I help students develop time management and personal responsibility. In both roles, I get to know my students and their learning styles through meaningful interaction. The technology behind our model allows me to frequently communicate with each of my students one-on-one, which gives me a stronger understanding of their unique interests and learning needs. Using a variety of communication tools, I can differentiate both the instruction and the way in which it is delivered. This personalized approach to student-teacher communication regularly informs my teaching practices by helping me identify what learning strategies work best for each student.
Fostering Early College and Career Readiness
One of our mottos at Career Path High is “High school can be so much more!” We believe students can simultaneously earn a high school diploma and become certified in a technical field that is relevant in the current workforce. While our students enroll in programs at the Davis Applied Technology College as Juniors, we start fostering their career interests as Freshmen. Students tour the various DATC programs available to them through a monthly Career Series. Additionally, each core class at Career Path High includes a cross-curricular DATC project. I design the projects for my courses specifically to help students discover the connection between their high school education and possible future career paths. We also encourage student collaboration and educational ownership with project-based learning activities.
As an instructor, it is exciting to create projects that take students out of the school setting and into reality. By asking them to work together and interact with members of the college staff, the workforce, and the community, I can encourage them to gain more than just a grade from their coursework. At Career Path High, we strive to enrich our students’ high school education with meaningful, real-world applications.
I Feel Empowered
Perhaps what I love most about being a teacher in a blended learning model is the challenge to be a better educator every day. The model not only empowers our students, it empowers me as a teacher. Because I work with students on such an individual level, my job is never static. I am continuously growing and trying new techniques to help students reach the next level on their unique learning paths. As educators, our input is both valued and sought. Administrators, counselors, and teachers collaborate together as a team regularly. Iteration is the constant. My colleagues and I share best practices in a constant flow of ideas, and we are always working together to tweak the process and create the best possible learning environment for our diverse student body.
At Career Path High, we have the unique opportunity to teach more than our respective subjects—we are cultivating student responsibility and educational ownership. We understand that one size does not fit all when it comes to post-secondary education and career opportunities, so we encourage our students to acquire the skills necessary to build their own future in any number of directions. As an educator, there is nothing better than seeing a student find personal success through self-motivation and an intrinsic desire to learn – or in other words, become a GenDIY student!
Young people are taking control of their own pathway to careers, college and contribution. Powered by digital learning, “GenDIY” is combatting unemployment and the rising costs of earning a degree by seeking alternative pathways to find or create jobs they love. Follow their stories here and on Twitter at #GenDIY.
For more, check out:
- Reconsidering Liberal Arts, the Gig Economy, and Global Trends for Generation DIY
- Creating Your Career: Why Millennials are Re-thinking Full-time
Jessika Chandler is a full-time English Instructor, Success Coach and Student Leadership Council Advisor at Career Path High. Follow Career Path High on Twitter, @.