So last week’s entry was on some ideas about teaching actual practical skills to our students. These are things that don’t get covered in your traditional curriculum. I discussed items 10, 9, and 8 last week. This week, I’ll tackle 7, 6, and 5.
Sliding in at number seven is study skills. Teachers tend to be very good test takers. We excel at all things education. We taught ourselves how to study successfully for not just classroom tests, but standardized assessments as well. The problem is that so many of our students are expected to just know and use these skills. Will they figure them out eventually? Some of them, yes. But for many students, this issue is similar to the time management skill – the ones that don’t have that intrinsic motivation to teach themselves how to study (or have other people in their lives – parents, mentors, etc.) will just continue to fail until they fade away out of the educational system. I know that when I was a teacher, I expected my students to just know things. There was this sort of expectation that “by the time they get to me…” they’ll know whatever skill it is that I’m expecting. This isn’t a content issue – I’m not talking about the math teacher who continually gets 8th graders who can’t perform multi-digit subtraction. I’m talking about the things like creating flashcards for vocabulary mastery; turning class notes into a study guide or even a practice test; scheduling study/homework time for the same time every single night, regardless of how much (or little) actual homework he/she has, and if there is extra time, to use it for reviewing notes. Students just don’t know these things, because every other teacher they’ve had must have taught them this. Other times, I just think teachers forget that studying is a skill that must be taught and practiced. Giving students study skill tips and teaching them how to use these skills to be successful on tests can make a huge difference not only in their performance, but also their motivation.
Arriving at number 6 is basic money management. This is something that might be difficult for teachers of non-math courses, but certainly for math teachers this is something that is woefully neglected in students’ lives outside the classroom but could be used in conjunction with various lessons. This is especially important for upperclassmen in high school, who go to college wholly unprepared for the onslaught of credit card applications coming at them from every angle the day they step onto campus. I have a friend who ended up declaring bankruptcy before she turned 21 due to credit card debt. My own brother, who is nearly 30, has a full-time job, and several part-time jobs and still struggles to meet his monthly minimums for his credit card payments he is so in debt. Teaching our students basic money management skills is something that will prevent major future problems for them.
The only one on this list that I think is a bit silly is number 5. It’s “survival skills.” We’re not talking like, life skills here: resume writing, interviewing skills, getting a loan…no, they’re talking about serious zombie apocalypse style survival skills. This isn’t something I think should, or can, be taught in the classroom. I think the closest we might get is teaching students basic nutrition facts like how much water they should be drinking. That’s kind of useful if there were ever a natural disaster and they had to know how much water to buy to supply themselves beforehand.
Next week, I’ll expound on numbers 4, 3, and 2!
Also, don’t forget! The Buckeyes won Saturday, so check back tomorrow for my football freebie!