GENIUS & HANDS-ON WORK

Williamsport, PA, vocational class, early 20th century
Williamsport, PA, vocational class, early 20th century

Labels — descriptive or identifying words or phrases — can change our perceptions and impact our life choices.

Vocation – a word that originated from the Latin “to call” – describes, according to Oxford Dictionaries, “a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation.” Over time, lawmakers and educators assigned a more narrow definition to this word, which once carried the dignity of a calling into one’s chosen career. Today, “vocational” is a term used to describe the teaching of technical or trade skills.

I would like to suggest that, while the origin of the word “vocational” was inclusive, this label now is divisive. Educators too often divide students into “academic” versus “vocational” categories and assume the students have different needs. In fact, all students benefit from a combination of hands-on learning and academic study.

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OLD TALE, NEW STORY

How can we — as parents, educators and adult mentors — inspire students to stay on course for greater job satisfaction?

I recently read an American Psychological Association article that relates an old tale to a report that suggests only 30% of Americans feel engaged at work, while the other 70% “are more likely to steal from their organizations, negatively influence co-workers and drive customers away.”

bricks

As the tale goes, three bricklayers are asked to describe their work. The first says, “I’m putting one brick on top of another.” His focus is on the task. The second says, “I’m making six pence an hour.” His concern is pay. The third says, “I’m building a cathedral.” He is invested in the outcome of his labor.

timeclockboy

Like the bricklayers who described work as a task rewarded by pay, people whose jobs do not connect with their personal interests often end up adrift in a sea of negativity.

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