Most educators will agree it’s never too early to encourage students to begin thinking about their careers and planning for the future. At Jefferson Middle School in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, I use Kuder® Navigator with sixth graders to get them thinking about the direction they may wish to pursue in education and occupations. With Navigator, they can start building education plans that will carry through their middle school and even high school years.

Due to changes in the education system of Tennessee, I began using Navigator as a way to develop an intervention plan to help all students make gains on tests and in school. I looked at the system’s Education Planner available to all 7-12 grade students in Tennessee and adapted it to be used by our sixth grade students. The Education Planner template asks the student to identify a career goal as well as academic goals for each subject during each grading period throughout the year.

The Individual Learning Plan (ILP) also incorporates identified Learning Style(s) for each student. In addition, the ILP helps students set goals as they register for classes in the seventh grade. Their ILP is set up as an assignment on their personal Blackboard account with links to their Skyward (Student Information System software) account. By creating my own individual learning plan worksheet, sixth grade students can make the connection between their future plans for life after high school with their academic success in sixth grade.

To implement the process, students complete the interest checklist and investigate different career options within Navigator, finally deciding on a career goal. Next, they review their grades on Skyward and set academic goals for each subject. As part of the process, our guidance counselor directs them through an exploration of learning styles which can be included in the student’s ILP. At the end of each grading period, the students revisit their ILP to update the actual grade they achieved in each subject and analyze what they need to do to reach their goal for the next grading period.

In addition to using the checklist and education planner, I also try to get parents involved in their students’ planning process as early on as possible. By modifying the parent letter that is available for download through the system’s Administrative Database Management System, I encourage parents to talk to their students about education options, explore different career paths, and login to the parent dashboard available through Navigator.

The Tennessee College & Career Planning System helps students learn about themselves, explore career options, make a plan for education, prepare for the world of work, and more. Sponsored by Edsouth, most every Tennessee school can access the system free of charge. The system features Kuder Navigator for middle and high schools and Kuder Journey® for colleges.

About the Author

Greta Hensley is a sixth grade teacher at Jefferson Middle School in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.