KHS students take advantage of job shadow program

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Tue., Nov. 20, 2012
(L to r) Mike Green, Edwin Lisboa, Anna Stevens, Brianna Lombard and Kaitlyn Wilson try to solve a puzzle. Photos by D. Coffey.
(L to r) Mike Green, Edwin Lisboa, Anna Stevens, Brianna Lombard and Kaitlyn Wilson try to solve a puzzle. Photos by D. Coffey.

When Killing High School junior Mike Green took a visual clues test from social psychologist Richard Harrington, one of the pictures he had to evaluate was of a land line telephone. Green looked at the chunky base and receiver. “Do you even know what it is?” asked Harrington. The 19 students at the Career Center's job shadow program laughed. “What's missing?” he asked Green.

“The connector piece,” Green said.

“That's right, the cord,” Harrington said.

“We have wireless now,” Green offered as excuse for not being familiar with the word 'cord.'”

Harrington's tests were old and outdated ones to be sure. But they were an example of the kinds of testing he does as a social psychologist at the Killingly Middle School. He had come to speak with the juniors and seniors about the demands of his job, the education required for it, and some of the experiences he has had over his 35-year career.

Harrington is one of eight presenters scheduled this fall with the KHS School-to-Career Program. All students must attend at least one job shadow presentation in order to graduate. Many students sign up for more than one job shadow. The presentations are opportunities to listen to and ask questions of someone working in a field they are interested in. This is the second job shadow that Green has attended. His first was with a corrections officer from the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Facility. He intends to look into physical therapy and law enforcement. “I want to expand my knowledge,” he said.

While it's hard to grasp the full details of a career from a two-hour session, presentations can be revealing in many ways. Because of the confidential nature of his job, Harrington wasn't able to bring students on his rounds so they could see him in action. But he gave them as many details as he could, sharing the challenges he's faced and the successes he's been witness to.

Other job shadow opportunities bring students into actual workplace environments. Students have gone to Charleen's Portrait Studio to learn about photography, and the Mystic Aquarium to learn about marine biology. The aim of the program is to give students some understanding of what a job in a certain field entails. It's all about helping students make educated choices, according to program coordinator Karen Lagace. More than 2,500 job shadows have been offered at KHS in the last 17 years.

For junior Amber Warner, the job shadow was a way to expand her understanding of the psychology field. Harrington spoke about income ranges and the job outlook for social psychologists in Connecticut. He talked about his work environment, and what he liked best and least about his job. Working with children was the highlight: pulling cafeteria duty was not. He talked about the job's primary responsibilities. He gave a primer on testing and sampling. The tests he administers are not pass/fail tests. As a result, he finds most students welcome the chance to take his. He tests for visual perception, hand-eye coordination, object assembly, and sequencing skills. Some test a student's ability to read social situations. Some test problem-solving skills. “To me, problem-solving and calming skills are as important as reading, writing and arithmetic,” he said. “It's important to know how to get along with others and solve problems.”

When a student asked him for advice, he said, “The best thing is to keep doing what you're doing. The more people you talk to, the better idea you get of how jobs differ.”

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