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No longer can a student depend on his/her high school education as the launch pad for their future.It’s time to empower students with the skills they need before they leave the nest to fly with confidence and determination.
Most current educators, researchers, and successful business entrepreneurs agree: once students leave high school, math, science and English classes are not enough to prepare them for the next phase in life. And unfortunately, there’s no place in today’s curriculum to teach necessary life skills such as:
- How to write a resume or prepare for a professional interview
- Balance a checkbook, pay bills or how credit works
- Read/understand a ballot in order to make an informed voting choice.
What I discovered was schools and parents failed students when it came to conversations and education about basic survival outside the classroom walls.
Without the knowledge and skills necessary for the real world, juggling a career (maybe even a relationship), paying monthly bills, understanding personal finances and taxes will pose serious problems for high school graduates. It’s time for students to learn how to live in the real world, and less about why participles shouldn’t be left dangling.
I left a career as a teacher after 10 years – did I mention earlier I was often that rogue teacher administrators disliked because my head didn’t automatically nod during staff meetings? I share this so you have some foundation when I talk to you about what I focused on when teaching English to struggling sophomores and writing to college-bound seniors.
Once I started asking questions totally unrelated to grammar and argument writing, I began to learn a few things. Sometimes I’d casually inquire, “Anyone here getting ready to look for a job,” of a 10th grade class. Or change up an entire day on the syllabus during argument writing with a simple question, “Who here knows what an actual day or week of college life looks like?” So I thought I’d share…
What Every High-Schooler Must Learn Before Graduation: 5 Necessary “How-To” Skills
1. How to get a job…and keep it – from cover letters, applications, resumes, interviews, and contacts to accountability and expectations from managers. Most kids don’t have a clue about how to find that first job and work for their paycheck.
2. How to make decisions – work or a friend’s party? Studying or taking on an extra shift because you’re low on cash? Sometimes decisions can be straight forward, but not always. Students need to understand choices are often hard and can have a lose-lose outcome. Determining the least lost is a tough lesson to learn.
3. How to schedule classes/studying/social time – ask any H.S. senior what they think college will be like and they’ll say two things – freedom and parties. Year after year I posed this question and their responses remained consistent. They needed a diagram or spreadsheet of sorts to understand the reality that MWF hour long classes required more attention than just the three hours per week in the classroom.
4. How to create a budget – money may not grow on trees, but students today think it’s readily available just for the asking. This is where that basic math comes in handy. If they only learn addition and not subtraction they’ll find themselves living on a friend’s sofa. Or worse yet, moving back into mom and dad’s house.
5. How to self advocate – otherwise known as “speak up for yourself.” Whether it’s with a college teacher, your boss or significant other, this is a real skill. Practice anonymously first: with a waiter (when the bill is incorrectly tallied) or to a rude grocery store clerk’s manager. Once you feel confident you can clearly ask for what you want or deserve, it’ll open up doors you never thought you could walk through on your own.
Schools expect parents to teach basic life skills, and parents expect educators to tackle the topic. The outcome: students fall through the cracks, struggling to survive with little to no idea about managing everyday how-to’s. It’s time to empower them with the skills they need before they leave the nest to fly with confidence and determination.