One of the core services of guidance counselors in schools is career guidance. But as we continue to look at the entire scope of career guidance and how best to make it effective for students, it continues to become more obvious that guidance counselors alone cannot handle the task.
Career guidance, just like every other service of the guidance counselor in the school, can only be effective through the collective efforts of all stakeholders in a school— the government, the school administrators, parents, teachers, and the students. Even including the community in which the school exists.
In this article, I’ll be focusing on the roles of teachers to see to the effectiveness of career guidance in schools.
Roles of teachers in career guidance and counseling in schools
1. Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of students
One of the pillars of career guidance is identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the students because students can only be placed in best-suited careers when their strengths and personalities are understood and they are placed in careers that best match their strengths and personalities.
Teachers play a vital role in identifying students’ strengths because, compared to the counselor, they spend more time with students and have enough time to monitor the behavior of the students.
Students can put up their best behaviors and pretend to be something else when they are with counselors.
But as the students relate with their friends and classmates during play, work, and conflicts, and also relate with school work, their strengths and weaknesses (like leadership skills, arts, critical thinking, etc) are revealed and those are important data for effective career guidance.
2. Relaying information to and from the counselor and other stakeholders
This is a build-up to the first role. As much as they spend more time with the student, career guidance cannot be done by the teacher alone. The purpose of gathering information about a student’s weaknesses and strengths is to relay them to first the counselor, then other stakeholders (e.g parents) for effective use.
The teacher also receives information from the counselor. For example, if the teacher notices some untapped leadership capability in a child, he can relay such to the counselor who can schedule a one-on-one session with the students and communicate with the teacher to continue monitoring the student’s progress.
3. Assisting students in coping in class
A major crossroad where career guidance is strongly needed is when students are moving from junior to senior secondary school and are faced with subject selection.
For a student who wanted to follow his friends to the Science class and the intervention of the career guidance program has placed him in the Art class (his strength), such a student might not give his best if he still feels he was forced into what he doesn’t want.
The teacher must come to play to ensure that the student actually gets the best from the class, maximizes his strength; then help him adapt to members of his new class and make new friends.
If the teacher does not come into the scene at this point, the career guidance program will become counterproductive because rather than doing well the student will perform poorly because he wouldn’t give his best.
4. Assisting parents in understanding their children
It is very common in Nigeria for parents to try to enforce a career choice on their children without considering if it’s the best fit for the child or not. As teachers work hand in hand with other guidance personnel, they can forward their findings to the parents and help the parents see how forcing the child into a particular career path can be of disservice to the child.
5. Relating school subjects to the world of work
Teachers must ensure that they make students see how what they’re learning in school actually applies in real life. This way, the teacher is bringing students into the consciousness of the world of work and making them aware that they aren’t just gathering irrelevant knowledge.
When students begin to pair certain concepts with certain careers, they also begin to identify careers that catch their interest based on what the teacher is teaching.
Another approach is citing examples of current happenings in the world of work to explain the subject content. This makes the activities of the counselor even easier because the students are more conscious of the world of work and their minds are already making identifying careers they would prefer.
6. Serving as a reference point for guided career selection for student
The teacher is someone who has already gone through the stage that the students are currently going through and has made several career decisions. These experiences— the choices they made and the effect they had — are vital information to students that can help them see that career guidance is not just some theories.
When the teacher shares how he or she was pressured by their parents and opted for the wrong career and how they weren’t satisfied with it or how they navigated through it, it provides students with more insight as to what to expect and do.
This is not only possible if the teacher is satisfied with teaching. If the teacher is in the profession because of wrong choices, being honest with the student and letting them learn from such a mistake is also highly beneficial.
7. Responding encouragingly to career-related questions from students
As the teacher makes teaching related to the world of work, questions will rise in the minds of the students about career choices, work expectations, job descriptions, and so on.
The teacher at that point will serve as a great guide in giving them adequate information to answer the questions in their minds. It should be noted that the purpose of education is to cause a change in the life of the learners, not just to cover the course content.
Therefore, the teacher should be open to answering the questions when the students are really open to listening (when they ask questions), even if it might take some time from the time allotted to cover the course content.
8. Assigning students tasks that develop their skills
This is also a build-up on the first point. After the teacher has identified some personality traits, abilities, and interests in a student and relayed the information to other stakeholders, the teacher should also begin to assign tasks in-class activities to the students to help them develop that discovered ability.
For example, a child who has been discovered to have a better ability in mobilizing people should be intentionally allowed to play such roles when there is a class group activity that needs the mobilization of students towards a particular goal.
This hones the child’s skills and makes him or her more comfortable in performing that role, thereby having lesser friction in entering into a career needing that trait.
The role of teachers in career and vocational guidance and counseling cannot be sidelined if the career guidance program of the school must be effective.
Teachers serve as role models to students of someone who has made career decisions; they spend more time with the student and can easily spot special abilities and flairs students have; they also shape students’ view about the world of work through their teachings.
These are all tools that can be used to help students make informed decisions regarding their careers.
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.