Life Skills: The Class Some Students Are Asking for

After teaching the art of communication to some high school seniors, I turned them loose to apply what they’d learned. In groups of three, students stood up front to speak on a topic they felt passionate about. One group specifically caught my attention.

The group members spoke about how much they wished for a class on life skills.

Respectfully, they praised their faculty for teaching calculus, literature, biology, and history. They recognized the need for academics. They felt, however, woefully lacking in the skills that would help them apply for college, handle a job interview, negotiate a loan, change a tire, and rent an apartment. I think their request makes sense. Horace Mann, the father of our modern school system, said the purpose of school is to prepare able citizens to be people of character and to make a contribution to society. Somehow, learning algebra or geometry isn’t enough. I think if Horace Mann were to visit us today, he’d immediately get involved in CTE–Career and Technical Education. Life and career readiness was the name of the game in his mind, in 1837.

In times past, one could argue this was the job of parents. Today, however, too many parents I talk to are either overwhelmed with the demands of work and home or feel they lack what it takes to even pass on those life skills. More and more moms and dads want to delegate teaching ethics, career skills, and leadership to teachers.

I no longer believe Generation Z has a short attention span. (They can binge-watch a series on Netflix for hours.) They have a hypersensitive, eight-second filter. Our job is to make content relevant. And I agree with the teens–we need content on life skills.

If I Were to Teach a Life Skills Class

Imagine you and I are commissioned to create a course on life skills. We can’t teach everything, so what are the most important priorities to cover? Here’s a start:

  1. Building a Good Attitude: Stay positive, hungry, humble, and do whatever it takes.
  2. Taking Initiative: If you’re willing to go first, others will see you as a leader. 
  3. Capturing Vision: See the big picture and pursue something bigger than you.
  4. Communicating Effectively: If listeners don’t get it, you haven’t communicated. 
  5. Teamwork: To go faster, travel alone. To go further, learn to travel together. 
  6. Creativity: Learn the art of combining two existing ideas to generate a new one.
  7. Grit: Resilience and work ethic can replace what you lack in talent or personality. 
  8. Emotional Intelligence: To connect with others, understand yourself and them. 
  9. Resourcefulness: Searching and finding new answers keeps you relevant. 
  10. Critical Thinking: Seeing all sides of an issue enables you to act intelligently. 
  11. Problem-solving: The best way to influence is to serve people and solve problems.
  12. Getting Over Yourself: The clearest sign of maturity is focusing on others.

From these dozen topics, almost every micro-skill can be covered, like changing a tire, interviewing for a job, or laying out a budget. Question: could this fit into an advisement period or a class?

NOTE: These kinds of discussions can be found in Habitudes  For Career Ready Students. If you’d like, you can check them out HERE.

Life Skills: The Class Some Students Are Asking for