When I went to high school in the 1980s, almost everything was designed by and orchestrated by my teachers, from what learning activities I was assigned each day to where I sat in class. When the bell rang, I moved from one subject to the next and waited to be told what to do again.
It was mostly outside of school that I experienced the need to think for myself and make decisions without someone telling me what to do each step of the way. In my part-time job on a local ranch, I had general tasks assigned to me, but a lot of the time, I had to figure out what needed to be done on my own. I learned building skills by helping my father with projects at home and then experimented with my friends, and I constructed tree forts and a variety of contraptions in the woods behind my house. But during school hours, my friends and I mostly waited to be told what to do. Except when I went to my woodshop or agriculture classes. It was in these classes that I was allowed to explore a bit and have some fun with my learning, and my teachers came alongside more as experienced guides than as academic sages at the front of the room.
To this day, I love the smell of sawdust and the high-pitched whine of power tool motors applied to the transformation of simple rectangular wood into the various projects dreamed up by my classmates and me. It was actually in the woodshop where I believe I finally began to really understand and master the manipulation of fractions, not in my math classes. In my ranch management class, my friends and I came up with small Ag. business proposals, identified potential markets, calculated costs and profit margins, and then actually worked together to implement small businesses.
Today, more than ever, our students need to be able to adapt, anticipate people’s needs, and think in creative ways. Students need to understand how they can actively look ahead and apply knowledge to creatively solve real problems instead of waiting to respond to less complex questions with predetermined answers.
Career Technical Education (CTE) classes at Ukiah High School allow students to learn career skills and knowledge and apply their learning in authentic, hands-on ways. In the 17 different CTE pathways at Ukiah High School, we provide our students with more opportunities to think for themselves, problem-solve, and prepare for the future. Students have access to courses in the following career pathways: Administration of Justice, Animal Science, Automotive Repair/Systems Diagnostic Service and Repair, Child Development, Emergency Response, Fashion Design and Merchandising, Film Production, Machining and Forming Technologies, Ornamental Horticulture, Patient Care, Photography/Arts Media and Design, Residential and Commercial Construction, Software and Systems Development, Sustainable Agriculture, Welding, and Materials Joining.
Next year we will add two new pathways, Production and Managerial Arts and Video Game Design. We will also bring back the Woodworking, Millwork, and Cabinetry pathway, totaling 20 career pathways at Ukiah High School.
The Career Technical Education classes we offer today do so much more than simply prepare students for jobs. Regardless of whether students are headed for college or the workforce, these courses will help them prepare for the future. And they might just have some fun along the way.