One question we are frequently asked in regards to the 8th grade plan in the Iowa Core, which requires students enrolled in the 8th grade to develop a 4-year high school course plan that supports the their postsecondary education and career options, is: “How can you expect an 8th grade student to know what he wants to do with his life.” Our answer to that is “How does anyone, at any age make an important decision?” You identify your goals, you do research and you take into account your past experiences. An 8th grade student probably doesn’t know exactly what he wants to do as an adult. But by identifying strengths, interests and what inspires them, they can hone in on career possibilities that satisfy their individual needs and interests. From there, they can start planning the steps to be prepared for life after high school.
Here are three ways parents can help their students along this planning journey:
- Encourage self discovery – Encourage your student to complete assessments to help identify interests, work values and skills. While they may complete some in school using IHaveAPlanIowa.gov, they can log in at home do further exploration.
- Explore resources and create experiences – Take an active role in the classes and activities in which your student is involved. Look at the class offerings and make decisions together. Learn about activities at your school that can create experiences for your child. Has he or she expressed interest in law ? Check into participating in mock trail. Does your child excel in math, science and technology? Have him get real experience through the Real World Design Challenge. Politics seems appealing? Have him participate in Model UN. Getting hands on experience is the best way for your student to learn what types of work and activities he enjoys. Look into job shadowing opportunities so your student can see firsthand what a career is like.
- Be flexible – There is no one perfect career and people change. Some future job opportunities might not even exist now. Your student’s plan isn’t set in stone – it’s a work in progress and is supposed to be updated as he learns more about himself. Offer your student encouragement and support through the process!