All those little steps open doors for students

Principal Corinne MacDonald is passionate about giving children in her Jonquière school a head start exploring different career fields, in part because of her own experience as a parent. “I was completely blown away when my mechanical-engineer son announced he was moving to Vancouver to pursue his real passion—acting,” she relates. “I wondered whether I hadn’t allowed him to tap into that part of himself.”

As much as the curriculum is about teaching language skills and math, she believes it must also prepare kids for life. “Children won’t remember how well you taught them grade 2 math, but they will remember if you exposed them to sufficient experiences.”

Every student has a job

In that spirit, every Cycle Three student holds a school-related job, be it cafeteria helper, bus monitor or “guardian angel” to a younger student. Towards the end of grade 5, every child has a mini-interview explaining why he or she would make a good school host—a position reserved for the grade 6s. “I look forward to those two days when we sit down with students to explore who they are,” says Corinne.

The school also organizes an annual Career Week. One year, each class explored the theme “Who is in my school?” Every member of staff—teachers, cafeteria workers, psychologist, librarian, janitor, principal—visited different classes to explain what their job entailed and the education it required. Another time, students at every level researched (in an age-appropriate way) a career that interested them. The week culminated with everyone coming to school in a costume reflecting their chosen career. “It was like Halloween with a purpose,” recalls Corinne.

Students compose questions in class

Cycle Three takes the process further with a day of presentations each year by speakers in fields the students suggest in advance. In class, students compose questions for the speakers; on the actual day, they practise their oral communication by coming up to the microphone to ask their questions. “At this age, it’s all about opening doors,” says Corinne. Or as her son told students last year via Skype: what matters is to keep looking for what is really going to motivate you.

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