Students will be able to compose a basic resume.
Today their assignment was to put together all the information they would need for a basic resume. The majority of my students had never done this before; it isn’t technically taught in the curriculum until senior year, so there wasn’t anything in the tenth grade English textbook. Instead I just put together a worksheet and we went through various components together. We listed paid, unpaid, and extracurricular activities, as well as school achievements (they were shocked when I told them they could list two years of Spanish and all their agriculture classes) and “Qualities and Skills” (i.e. social networking, basic Microsoft Word, able to lift 100 pounds…).
At 16, most have zero “paid” work experience…but many have cleaned houses, babysat, mowed lawns, or put up fences and been paid, so we figured out ways to convert that to resume material. There were quite a few Katie Smith Cleaning Services and John Crawford Mowing Companies. I told them that, to a manager at McDonald’s, all 16-year-olds without work experience look the same, so it is crucial that they find something that differentiates them – and dressing up to turn in an application with a resume is one way to do it. My young man for whom we did a resume on Tuesday came in proudly this morning to tell me how impressed the manager at Bush’s chicken was, and that he planned to stop by after school to inquire about his application. He thanked me multiple times; I hope he gets hired. This student had pretty much paid zero attention in my class all of first semester; today, he told his class proudly how his resume and dressing up were received when he applied for his first job. Suddenly he has buy-in to school. Putting together a resume is something real; it’s not busywork, it’s not literature they don’t understand, it’s something that actually applies to their life. If their English work gets them hired, I’ll bet many would start paying better attention in my class.
Many students who didn’t have paid work found themselves able to write down things for unpaid volunteer experience, from working the concession stand at school to watching kids in the nursery during church. I had to tell a few kids that sadly, court-ordered community service does not belong on a resume. I missed a teachable moment near seventh period when one of my very hard-working students (he’s got over a year in at one of the local fast food restaurants) asked why on earth anyone would work and not get paid. My focus was on getting involved to help them get jobs and get into college, to show potential employers and admissions officers that you are willing to do something other than just be selfish and play video games all day. I should have added that we don’t do community service primarily because it helps us in the end – we do it because we are members of the community, and it feels good to give back. I’m kicking myself for not bringing that into the discussion.
The last thing I asked them to do was to list three potential references and their relationship to the students. They could not be anyone under 18 (no friends) and no family members, unless the family member was involved in one of the paid, unpaid, or extracurricular activities (many worked for family businesses). I suggested teachers, coaches, pastors, or supervisors. I also suggested they check with their references before actually putting them on an application. Many immediately wanted to put me down; I had to tell a few in each class – in front of their classmates – that I would prefer not to be listed as a reference. I explained that if a potential employer called me to ask about their classwork, I would have to say that the student in question slept through my class, played with his phone, and turned in very little work. This information would not get the student hired. The students who heard this information were quite taken aback, though none of their classmates seemed to be. They couldn’t believe I would single them out like that! I told them if they went on a two-week probationary period and were model students and got their grades up, I’d consider being listed as a reference. For these few students, and for a few who discovered that they literally had nothing to list on a resume (paid, unpaid, or extracurricular), today seemed to be a wake-up call of how their behavior at 16 suddenly affected their lives a lot more than their behavior in middle school. I suggested to those blank resume kiddos that they find something extraordinarily productive to do with their summer that did not a) involve playing video games for 12 hours a day or b) anything they could smoke. I guess time will tell if they follow my advice…