Beyond RMS and on to a Career Path
By Annette McLoughlin
Pullquote: Over the past 15 years, guest speakers have included authors, artists, politicians, and a member of the Secret Service.
There’s a course at Rye Middle School that has nothing to do with the curriculum and yet everything to do with life. It’s called Beyond RMS and for the past 15 years, it’s been one of the most popular electives at the school. As the name implies, the course is an exploration of the world outside of the school walls. Dr. Michelle Haiken, a Social Studies teacher who helped design the course and taught it for the first ten years, explains the gist of it. “The class is about building world knowledge about careers and life skills while at the same time boosting literacy skills.” Principal Dr. Ann Edwards has supported the course enthusiastically since its inception, “We wanted to open the world of work and professions to middle school students. The future holds endless possibilities.”
Peter Gouviea, the Middle School English teacher who also wrote the course curriculum, and who currently teaches the class, is enthusiastic in describing the objective. “The course is an opportunity for students to explore a variety of careers that may be of interest to them once they leave high school. It provides them the chance to examine the educational and job requirements, and skills needed to engage in a variety of professions.”
This is not to say that the course explores only the academic or professional worlds. Gouviea explains, “It’s also an opportunity for kids to open their eyes to the possibilities of non-collegiate avenues once they get out of high school. We discuss part-time jobs, internships, study abroad opportunities, gap years, and volunteer experiences.”
While the course structure is conventional in some ways, it’s also meant to engage the students with a varied style and format. Gouviea describes the dynamic curriculum. “The class is a mixture of individual assignments and reflections, small group work, presentations, and projects.”
Before they contemplate the “Beyond” part of the course, the students are tasked to look inward, and examine their own strengths, talents and abilities and the way that they learn best, which they do through various personal assessment tools. Following that reflective segment, they are taught the fundamentals of basic life skills including time management and basic personal finance. Next, the course gives students an overview of what they can expect from their upcoming high school years and it’s at this point that the RHS Guidance Department spends some time helping the students to understand the high school’s academic requirements.
Like a natural timeline, the course culminates with two projects relating to post-secondary paths. One requires each student to thoroughly investigate and report on a college of their choice, its’ course and degree offerings and social opportunities. The second project requires each student to research a career of their choice, which they showcase at an end-of the-semester expo.
Throughout the term, students are treated to what is a highlight of the course — a circuit of guest speakers, who under Gouveia’s tenure have ranged from veterinarians and professional hockey players to food bloggers and firefighters. He is always on the hunt to recruit new ones.
Haiken also invited a wide variety of people when she taught the course: writers, politicians, magazine editors, a comic book illustrator, a film makeup artist, clothing designers, and someone from the Secret Service.
The first speaker this fall was Brandon LaBella, a 2013 Rye High School graduate who experienced many ups and downs in college and is a motivational speaker and the author of a book entitled “The Journey to Failing Freely”. Gouveia said, “Brandon regaled students with his accomplishments as a video blogger, world record holder (fastest time running a marathon on crutches), and world traveler.”
Recognizing that the job market is continuously evolving with the rapid changes in technology, Gouveia said, “So many of the career’s students will have when they finish their undergraduate educations are not yet popular or haven’t even been created yet: alternate energy consultant, genetically modified farmer, elderly wellness consultant, and climate change reversal specialists, to name a few.” He added, “When we first offered this elective in 2003, careers such as app developer, social media consultant, Uber driver, and automated driving engineer didn’t exist.”
The common takeaway from the class and particularly the speakers, is for students to point their compasses in the direction that makes them happy. Gouviea said, “The kids realize through class discussions and presentations from experts in the field that no matter which career path they choose, they are always told to find something they are truly passionate about.”
<Beyond RMS is always on the look-out for new speakers. The time commitment is very short and flexible. Interested volunteers who would like to share their professional experiences and the avenues which they took to get to their current position should reach out to Peter Gouviea at firstname.lastname@example.org or by leaving a message at 967-6100, ext. 2901.>