Initially students brainstormed a list of careers and occupations they believed were unattainable, ones that they thought were out of their reach. This was done to challenge perceptions about what is achievable and to develop aspirational thinking.
Parameters were set for the class discussion, as we needed to distinguish between jobs that felt unattainable and those that students just didn’t like nor want to do. We titled our brainstorm cloud ‘Jobs, Education, Endeavours’, and the following list formed the basis for identifying community members whom the students would ask to take part in the project:
TAFE/university teacher, lifesaver, ranger, paediatrician, prime minister, motorbike racer, pilot, truck/train driver, detective, dentist, doctor, surgeon, paramedic, professor, soccer player, mechanic, carpenter, electrician, MasterChef contestant.
To quote Vygotsky (1986, page 188): ‘In learning to speak, as in school subjects, imitation is indispensable. What the child can do in cooperation today he can do alone tomorrow.’ This project ensured that all students were engaged in the class discussion so that they could learn how to clarify their understanding of content with peers as the discussion unfolded and develop their interaction skills for a specific purpose (ACARA, 2013b).
Through discussion the students agreed that they could not become some of the things on their list. When asked why, answers varied from ‘I don’t know how to become a ...’, ‘I don’t think I’m smart enough to become a ...’ and ‘I won’t get in to university’ to ‘Other people do that job’, ‘That’s not a job people like us do’ and ‘I must work on the farm, so I can’t’. One student, Brian, argued that ‘We can do anything if we try hard enough’. Other students were not as positive.
The students discussed what and how people might achieve success in a particular career, and I shared my own journey to becoming a teacher, which didn’t begin until after I had worked in various other fields. In considering which community members to involve in the project, the students looked for role models with qualities they liked and whose path to success they felt they may be able to imitate. Discussion and research explored how people can attain different roles and career beginnings.
Together the class brainstormed a list of individuals they would like to see involved in the project. The final shortlist comprised:
- a senior director of a direct selling company, Sue (class member’s mother)
- the school principal, Bernice
- a police officer
- the mayor, Bruce
- a federal MP
- a lawyer
- a Rugby League player
- a famous person
- the owner of a large car dealership (class member’s uncle)
- a doctor
- a dance teacher
- a YouTube personality
- a musician
- a mechanic, Sonia (class member’s sister and a WorldSkills Australia 2017 winner)
- the registrar of a local court, Jimmy.
Sue, Bernice, Bruce, Sonia and Jimmy were the final five community members who were interviewed. The concept was to collect and analyse their stories, and then present the stories to participants in a format similar to the TV show, This is your life (pictured below).