Beaconsfield High School teachers Rosemary Hill and Louise Adam are taking part in the pilot project of 27 schools that are sharing strategies for introducing compulsory GOAL content into the curriculum. Their enthusiasm is all the more appealing because their feet are planted firmly on the classroom floor.
Up until they joined the pilot project, Rosemary Hill and Louise Adam weren’t really sure what GOAL was. “When I heard the word ‘GOAL,’ I thought ‘POP,’ ’’ says Rosemary. “Through the pilot, we discovered we’re already incorporating GOAL into our program. GOAL is an awareness—a mind shift—that we need to integrate career and academic awareness into our teaching.”
It can be as simple as tweaking the language teachers use to communicate with students. “In math, we had a situational application that referred to bursaries,” recounts Rosemary. “Some students didn’t know what a bursary was. Before the pilot, I would have said: ‘If you go to university, you can apply for a bursary.’ Now I’d say: ‘If you take vocational training or go to university…’ ”
The teachers recently brought their classes to a workshop on identity given by the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts. “Before we went, we asked students to pay attention to the different employment opportunities that exist in a museum,” says Rosemary. “Next time, I would ask the animator to share information about her education and career path.”
In her French class, Louise does a unit on multiple intelligences that incorporates the identity element of GOAL. Among other things, the students write about their multiple intelligences and discover things about themselves that they may not have known before.
Students can try on roles
The two Cycle One teachers have been partnering for six years. Both teach an enriched program that requires students to participate in an entrepreneurial project. “The projects provide many opportunities to include GOAL and the students are excited to participate,” says Rosemary. “Every year they come up with innovative ways to meet a need within our school or community.”
She describes one project that arose from a math problem that used golf scores to explain negative numbers. “The kids who didn’t know the scoring system in golf were having trouble grasping the concept. One student suggested building a mini-putt course in the classroom so that everyone could learn to play.”
The opportunity this gave students to try on entrepreneurial roles also allowed them to show others what they were good at. They used various materials including wood and drain pipes to build the course. Students with an inner engineer who loved to create were busy adjusting the angles of the pipes and wood planks to increase the ball’s momentum. One boy also discovered he was really good at recruiting students from other classes to play the course at lunch time. Another student had an aptitude for managing the team and organizing equipment.
Helping kids find their passion
In collaboration with filmmakers from Arpent Films, Louise and Rosemary also involve their students in an annual, bilingual movie-making project. In late fall, each student writes a short script and then, in small groups, they pick one script that they will pitch to the whole class in February. From those pitches, the class selects one script for production.
“It helps us to step back and see the big picture of why kids are in school.”
Students learn about different roles in movie-making that, down the road, could lead to a career path. Some gravitate to the camera; others are interested in costume or makeup. Some want to act and some take care of logistics and feeding the crew on set. GOAL content included, the entire project—with a little tweaking—meets the requirements of the curriculum.
“What we do is cross-curricular,” says Louise. “It helps us to step back and see the big picture of why kids are in school. There is a tendency to teach to exams—and I understand that—but we also need to help kids find their passion, or at least what they are not passionate about.”
“Our classrooms can be very noisy,” adds Rosemary. “There is a lot of communication between students—not just the teacher talking. When you put something in the hands of students, it can be messy. But that’s also when they may be the most engaged.”
It doesn’t have to be perfect
“We didn’t create these projects to accommodate GOAL,” notes Louise. “But being in the pilot project has validated what we are already doing. It’s a matter of fine-tuning how we incorporate these projects into the curriculum to include GOAL content.” Their experience in the pilot has also expanded their sense of their role. Explains Rosemary: “We are conscious that, as teachers, one of our objectives is to help students understand the educational and career pathways available to them.”
When they step outside their comfort zone to try something new, they also know not to expect perfection. “We give ourselves three years to work out the kinks,” says Louise. For teachers new to GOAL, Rosemary offers this advice: “Seriously, it’s not complicated. Start by taking a look at which GOAL elements you are already including. Then consider adding one or two. Keep in mind you don’t have to include them all. Have fun and enjoy exploring the possibilities!”