Thanks, Mom: The Finale

To start with something completely off topic, I want to apologize (and continue mourning) for the Buckeyes’ loss this past weekend to VT (Virginia Tech, to all those non-college FB fans out there). I fear we Buckeyes are in for a long season. But maybe Barrett (our unintended quarterback) will grow into his role. Who knows? Well, while for me, the loss was a tragic hit to my pride, for all of you, it robbed you of a freebie. But stay tuned, because this Saturday, we take on the Kent State Golden Flashes at home in the ‘Shoe. To preserve the readership of my blog, I will not knock the Kent State mascot. You might also have noticed that I refrained from making derogatory remarks about the Hokies (for all you non-college football fans, the Hokie is the VT mascot…yes, really, they call themselves the Hokies). You’re welcome. So, anyway, even though we won’t be surpassing any expectations this season, I do think I can confidently assure you that next Tuesday, you will be able to enjoy a Football Freebie! So keep an eye out!

Now, on to the matter at hand: The interesting link from my mother. So far I’ve elaborated on the usefulness and need of teaching students skills ranked 10-5. This week I’ll finish the article with items 4, 3, 2, and 1.

Coming in at number four is something most people could use a bit of instruction on: negotiation skills. Yes, Debate class is sort of-kind of a class where you can learn formal argument structures, and you can even learn the art of rhetoric in AP Lang, but that’s not real-world negotiation. It takes knowledge and skill to successfully maneuver one’s way through the process of buying a car, negotiating a salary raise, or buying cheap tourist trinkets in Mexico. People who naturally excel at negotiation are able to get what they want and are often highly successful. Teaching students how to be good negotiators will pay off for them later down the line.

Number three kind of fits into the same category as number five (survival skills): self-defense. I’m not sure school is the right place for this type of class, but I see no reason why a concerned teacher couldn’t sponsor an after-school club with self-defense as its goal. Everyone needs to know how to defend themselves properly against attackers. In fact, part of this “curriculum” could be to recognize and deal with abusive relationships. It’s a serious problem in high schools and colleges, and especially if it were a mandatory credit in high school, it might help cut down on the number of teens who begin down the path of abuse.

The penultimate topic of necessary, but oft-ignored, life-skills instruction is mental health. With the recent passing of Robin Williams and Simone Battle as a result of suicide, in addition to coverage of school shootings over the years, mental health education is quickly rising as being recognized as a serious need in our society. It’s no secret that surrounding issues of mental health are both stigma and ignorance. It would be a fine line, though, because the attitude toward mental illness is similar to sex ed or religion. In fact, in some religions, it is addressed directly. You’d have to be careful not to advocate medications or certain treatments or therapies. I’m sure you’d have parents refusing to let their kids into that class or seminar or assembly. But the ones who got the instruction would benefit, and they’d find a way to make sure their friends got the information, too.

Last but not least, the number one skill we should make it a point to teach our students before they go off on their own is job skills. Yes, I know, there’s always that one teacher who does a sort-of lesson on how to write a resume. And there are “assistant” courses students can take to “learn job skills” by being a TA for their favorite Freshman English teacher or the like. But even if those were legitimate ways to learn successful job skills, it certainly wouldn’t be thorough enough, and not everyone has access to it. No, every student in grades 9-12 should be required to take at least 2 classes (even if they were just semester courses) on job skills. Many successful people either have innate talent for writing resumes, finding vacancies, interviewing, interning, and performing entry-level position-work successfully. But many do not. And the ones that don’t, generally don’t possess the initiative to teach themselves those skills.

Enter teachers. A job skills class should have a Beginner/Intro level and an Advanced level. In the Intro to Job Skills (or call it “Career” – whatever) students should learn basics like how to write a resume, what information to include on a resume, what language is appropriate for a resume, how to write a cover letter, how to use Word (or similar Word Processing software) to create a resume and cover letter template, use it, and then spell check and edit his/her work. The Intro course should also cover how to actually find a job: learning to navigate employment websites, how to ask for applications, etc. It should also include some information about filing taxes, appropriate work behavior (including sexual harassment), and appropriate work relationships.

The Advanced course should focus on interviewing skills, internships, and ways to succeed in the workplace. Interviews are crucial, and they can be daunting. Students need to know how to approach an interview – from what they wear to how they sit and what they say, it needs to be spelled out for them, because the vast majority of them won’t do their own research to see what they should be doing. Finding internships (and helping them advance a career) is also something that many people don’t know how to do until they are well into college. However, high school is a great time for students to explore different fields and whether it is through interning or just volunteering, finding an organization or business in which they can gain valuable workforce experience is a skill every student deserves to learn.

Finally, students need to be taught how to succeed in the workplace. Think of all the mistakes you made in your very first job (even if it was only serving concessions at the local movie theater [that would be me]). Most of those mistakes could have been avoided if someone had told me beforehand what NOT to do. Then there are schmoozing strategies that they need to know so they can advance their own careers (or at least their paychecks). Long story short: job skills are so necessary, it’s a shame they aren’t a mandatory aspect of every district’s curriculum.

So there you have it: Ten things you can try to work into your curriculum this year. Right, because you have so much extra time. But at least now you have ideas – even if it is how to get these skills taught to your students by some other teacher in some other way. I hope this series of entries has been helpful! Have a great rest of the week, and Go Buckeyes!

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