Academic journal article Language Arts

Career Dream Drawings: Children's Visions of Professions in Future Workscapes

Academic journal article Language Arts

Career Dream Drawings: Children's Visions of Professions in Future Workscapes

Article excerpt

Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation (Kennedy, 1961, n.p.).

President John F. Kennedy, Jr. spoke these words more than fifty years ago, yet they still serve as a clarion call for today's language arts teachers. As educators, we know many things about the children who sit in our classrooms- their reading scores, their writing abilities and challenges, their academic strengths and needs. But do we know our students' private hopes and dreams, especially as they relate to their careers? Do we know what these children dream of doing, and who they aspire to be in their futures as working professionals? Do we know how our youth see themselves as literacy users in the future?

These are critical questions for language arts teachers to consider, for the mission of schools is to prepare children for college, career, and life success (Turner & Danridge, 2014). Yet we know that many children are not mastering the kinds of literacy competencies and skills valued by the workforce (Achieve, 2012). Significant gaps in literacy achievement emerge for racially diverse children in elementary school and persist through high school, translating into limited skills and knowledge for postsecondary life (American College Test, 2012). Due to low literacy proficiency in the K-12 years, fewer than 40 percent of African American and Hispanic students are ready for college-l evel reading (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2009). Struggling readers also experience challenges in attaining academic literacy; 16 percent of children who are not reading proficiently by third grade will not graduate from high school on time-a rate four times greater than that for proficient readers (Hernandez, 2012). In light of these statistics, some teachers may erroneously believe that children of color, as well as those struggling with reading, do not value education and have limited understandings of the roles that literacy can play in their future careers (Turner & Danridge, 2014). However, President Kennedy's words emphasize the importance of acknowledging and understanding children's career dreams: if teachers know the private career hopes and dreams these young people hold, they may be able to leverage them for literacy learning in schools. After all, "the sense of possibility, of what might be, what ought to be, what is not yet, seems to be essential in moving the young to learn" (Greene, 2008, p. 17).

This article highlights career dream drawings as a tool for language arts educators to learn more about children's professional aspirations. Career dream drawings are visual renderings of the professional identities and literacies that children envision taking up in their futures as adults. In what follows, I take a sociocultural perspective to situate the concept of career dreams in relation to literacy, identity, and multimodality. Next, I focus on the career dream drawings created by 37 children in a university-sponsored summer reading clinic, illustrating how the career dream drawings served as multimodal spaces where children could imagine themselves as future professionals who use particular literacies effectively in a variety of imagined workscapes. Finally, I conclude the article with lessons that language arts teachers can learn from examining children's career dream drawings.

Sociocultural Perspectives on Children's Career dreams

Children's career dreams have often been examined as cognitive characteristics, including career aspirations, interests, ambitions, and goals (Archer, DeWitt, & Wong, 2014; Gottfredson, 2002; Trice & King, 1991; Trice & Knapp, 1992; Watson & McMahon, 2005). From this research base, we have learned that: a) children's career dreams change over time, from fantasy occupations (e.g., princess, superhero) in early childhood to more realistic careers in the elementary and middle school years; b) children's career dreams are shaped by personal characteristics, such as gender, race, and parents' occupations and socioeconomic status; and c) career dreams may be durable for some children and provide a probabilistic indication of future occupational choice. …

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