It was the Friday before the Holiday Break, one of the most dreaded teaching days of the year. Always difficult to command student attention or get them to engage in high quality educational activity. But, there I was. Invited to engage high school Geometry students on the topic of math in STEM careers for 72 minutes!

I was excited to be back in the classroom. After nearly 30 years of teaching and 1.5 years into retirement, I really missed the personalities, the humor, and the “us against her” atmosphere. When I say “us against her” I rarely felt that as confrontational. It was always students challenging me to prove what I was saying was true. I loved that kind of banter because they were thinking and I had to think quickly, too!

I enjoyed preparing for this presentation. I often wondered myself, when teaching quadratic functions or sophisticated probability, “When are they ever going to need this?” So, I loved the research and the validation of my long-held belief that the learning was not about the facts. Math is a way of thinking, a way of solving problems and confronting issues, the same as science, the same as a successful life. Now, how to get that into my presentation.

I talked about math careers and careers that value mathematical thinking. I spent some time on soft skills. We played a game. I was so encouraged by the level of engagement on part of the students. They were responsive and interactive. They were polite. Yup, they really were. Of course, I brought treats and rewards. I did say that I was not new to this game, right?

My hope, and I told them this, is that they will not throw away the resource packet I provided, but if they are not ready for the information yet, they will put it in their junk drawer in their room at home and bring it back out when they are ready to move on with the career prep.

The best evaluation came on the Monday following when I got an email from one of the students who wants to know more about health careers. I am thrilled to be working on a couple of connections for her which she can use as email mentors. Of course, I am advising her about keeping herself safe and secure (I personally know the contacts so I have a very high level of confidence in the safety of the contacts!) and that she should never set up a shadow or a meeting without the guidance of her parent or school counselor! This kind of mentoring is exactly what we are hoping to get from Xello (formerly Career Cruising) within the next year. Students should be able to connect with local mentors through the service provided at school monitored by their counselors and Career Navigators.

School folks: I am happy to provide these presentations to teachers or students!

Businesses: I have set up a couple of very successful business panels to speak with students and would be happy to help with more if that is your interest! The message is more meaningful coming from you!!