Connecting Students to Real World Experiences

After nine years of teaching in Birmingham, Alabama, Ashley Edmonds knows how important it is for her students to experience learning that connects them to career opportunities. Ashley is currently a reading teacher for 7th – 12th grade students at Tarrant High School, a Title 1 school where over 65 percent of the students receive free or reduced lunch. Many of her students come from disenfranchised backgrounds, and Ashley makes an effort to show them pathways to real world careers.

“The school often invites business leaders to come speak to our students,” said Ashley, “but we have a high transient population, so for some students this is the first time they are seeing and understanding what jobs exist in our community.”

Ashley saw an opportunity to increase student engagement in their learning by exposing them to different careers and helping them understand how workplaces function in the real world.

Ashley was first introduced to Read to Lead two years ago during a summer program. She saw that her students were connecting with the job roles they experienced in the game. She found that using Read to Lead improved her students’ literacy skills while laying the foundation for career readiness. Ashley enjoys using technology in her classroom, but is picky about the platforms she selects for her inclusive classroom.

“A lot of my students who are lower-level readers enjoy Read to Lead because it meets them where they are, and gently pushes them forward,” explained Ashley. “When I can use the same content with all of my students they are able to work independently, communicate with their peers, and feel encouraged about their learning.”

She uses Read to Lead at least once a week in each of her classes because her students can work at their own pace and take ownership of their learning process, all while experiencing real workplace scenarios.

For many students at Tarrant High School, Read to Lead has opened the door to potential career paths. Ashley’s students are leading conversations about what it means to be ready for the workplace, and what different job titles and roles mean at different types of organizations like a community center, health clinic, and local newspaper. Students recognize the connections with their real lives, and are deeply engaged in their learning because it’s aligned with their authentic experiences. Read to Lead is also exposing Ashley’s students to topics they will need to understand as adults, like health insurance.

These connections to real world careers are critical for Ashley’s students. Because of the diversity of the representation in the Read to Lead games, students are able to deeply identify with the characters. It’s meaningful for her students to see people of different ages, ethnicities and backgrounds in leadership roles, and the exposure to the variety of careers has opened the door for Ashley’s students to explore their own interests and knowledge, building on their engagement with Read to Lead and resulting in authentic excitement for their future.

“So many students with low socioeconomic backgrounds are often starting out behind, and I want to help them reach and rise above,” said Ashley. “Read to Lead helps them bridge those gaps and gives them a step up in their literacy and career readiness. These are some of the best kids in the world and they deserve so much!”

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Classroom, Inc. is able to bring Read to Lead to Birmingham area classrooms thanks to the generous support of the Max and Lorayne Cooper Foundation. You can join them in supporting this work by visiting www.classroominc.org/donate-now.