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Talking about Future Professions with Young Adults.

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Planning a broad outline for a sequence of lessons may be highly motivational!

Post by NinaMK

The future professions, the choices and the challenges, the importance of having the basic ICT skills and speaking English in today’s world is practically a must if you are teaching senior classes and young adults. It does not mean that they are ready and willing to talk about their hopes and aspirations, their worries and uncertainties. Some students are always open while others prefer to keep their wishes to themselves. We need to find a balance, a safe way to discuss those important issues, to help them formulate their thoughts and ideas, and to cope with their worries.

School children are eager and yet scared or apprehensive of stepping into the wide world. Adults who need to acquire some basic new skills may not be very confident in their abilities. We may build up a series of lessons, starting with some non-traditional exercises which help students develop their critical thinking and thus overcome their very natural worries.

• In the beginning was the Word.  Let us write a few words on the board and suggest that students check their meanings. Here is a minimum set which helps me: professions and occupations; work and job; hours. Discuss the difference between professions and occupations. List a few examples, for instance tell them that even a few years ago people would use “housewife” for a woman who did not go to work while now “homemaker” became widely used. What is the difference? Let them find the answers. In any language, the dictionary would give the same translation for “work” and “job”. Again, let them formulate the difference in meanings. Write down the popular idiom “ a job of work”, ask for interpretations. Why include “hours”? In my language, for instance, the usual expression is “working day”. While the students usually know the noun “hour” they do not understand the simple question, “What are the hours”, or the expressions “long/short/regular/irregular hours”. These few words help begin a discussion of the new vocabulary and then of the notions each noun carries.

• The mini- glossary may help launch a proper discussion.  You may suggest that students work in pairs or small groups and develop lists of various professions and occupations, paying attention to the hours. Even if at first they come up with just a few items they are enough for a good speaking exercise. Encourage them to produce full sentences. “Policemen do not have regular hours. Doctors may need to keep long hours. Office workers have regular hours”.

• Have your class produce a list of Pros and Cons for any profession they choose. You may start by listing Teacher as a familiar example. What are the usual pros? We share our knowledge; we work with young people; we have a long summer leave. What are the usual Cons? Let us try not to name too many! Long hours, unexpected situations, stress... you may need to help out, to give a nudge for the professions they choose. “A doctor helps sick patients but he cannot cure every disease. A mailman has to make his route in any weather.” And so on.

• Every class may produce their own list of professions and occupations, depending on whether you are teaching city or country dwellers, the local children or newcomers. Our goal is to teach all of them how to speak, to discuss this subject. They all need to be able to talk about their future work, to understand the requirements and the demands.

• The next lesson may be devoted to a Round Table. You may prepare a set of cards, let students pick one, give them a few minutes to prepare and then have them talk to each other. This goes well if every student plays the role of a family member or if they act as a group of friends. Allow them to express any opinions and use their own notes. Be sure to observe certain rules: no disrespect, any choice should be accepted. They should be free to fantasize. I had students of various ages talk about becoming movie stars, astronauts, software specialists, veterinarians an bakers, to name but a few, all of them around the same table.

• Mutual respect and tolerance towards opposing opinions are very important. No matter which job they choose, the main thing is, they want to do something useful, beneficial for the society they live in.

• The next lesson may be used for extension and consolidation. Students may create web pages, either class sites or individual or group ones. They may choose a profession, find illustrations, list their preferences. They may write, draw pictures, use photos, create real or virtual posters and diagrams.

• A sensible conversation conducted in the classroom may be a great help with your students’ future choices. Treat them as equals. Remember the golden rule: never criticize, always encourage.

Nina MK, Ph.D.