Mr. Jeff Smith is Hope Hall’s College and Career Transitions Teacher, and he takes a very active role in his students’ preparation for life after Hope Hall. Whether they intend to enter the workforce directly, or plan to go on to college or trade school, it’s important to him that the skills he teaches are practical and useful.
Mr. Smith takes a hands-on approach to helping students from 9th grade through Senior year do a variety of tasks to help them find direction, such as taking career surveys, developing goals, and achieving community service hours.
The Juniors and Seniors who work with him come out with both physical and digital portfolios for use in securing employment, or for acceptance into higher education.
“We try to hit on life skills not taught in other schools,” Mr. Smith noted, explaining that he has the students actually fill out sample job applications, write mock checks, check their credit scores, and explore various aspects of banking and financial management, including financial aid for school, and savings and retirement options.
He focuses on developing important skills that include interviewing, time management and organizational capabilities.
“I also have them work on typing, because I always wish I could do more than hunt and peck,” he laughed.
He went on to say that he tries to make all of the activities he teaches as experiential as possible. When students get out in the real world, they’ll feel more confident, having had actual hands-on experience in many of the tasks they’ll have to undertake to find a job or to be successful in a different academic environment.
For example, in the unit they were discussing on the engineering and manufacturing industries, he had small groups of students collaborate to see who could build the tallest free-standing tower possible out of 20 pieces of spaghetti, three marshmallows and a length of tape. He used the experience of working together on the project to get the students thinking about engineering, but also about team work, and what made the process of working together either rewarding or frustrating.
When possible, he has guests come in and give the students an overview of particular career clusters that are of interest to the students. Because of COVID, in-person visits have been much more difficult to arrange, so Mr. Smith often uses zoom or video footage to bring professionals “into the classroom.”
Following the tower building project, the students “went inside” a company, via video, that manufactures metal buildings, to see an interview with an executive at the company who spoke about career paths within the company, the variety of skillsets needed, and what personal characteristics the company looks for when recruiting employees.
On another day, he had a bridal consultant join via zoom for some of his students who were interested in fashion.
Overall, he wants to expose them to as many real-world experiences as possible to ensure they feel confident entering the career force or their next phase of academic life.