Learning Beyond Academics

This past week sure has been busy and a good microcosm of the school year as a whole so far.  Wednesday in the High School was PSAT testing for the 10th and 11th graders and Group 4 project time for the Seniors.  I was lucky enough to spend my time working with the 9th grade class during this time and we had a blast working as a whole grade level group!  Our 9th grade class is certainly a strong bunch but they are also very nervous about what the future holds for them.  As they look to the future and see college looming they begin to quake ever so slightly.  What are they most worried about?  Academic success?  Yes, certainly.  However, they’re beginning to realize that they’re going to have to make it in this big, scary world on their own and they’re curious about what they have termed “life-skills”.  This revelation has made me step back and think, “what are we doing to prepare our kids to become ‘free-range’ adults?”

Our 9th grade students, when asked what they’re most interested in for mentor time lessons, overwhelmingly said ‘life skills’…but where to start?  And, is four years really enough time to teach them all they need to know?  So we started here, close to home, in our community.  The focus was on community building and the importance of communicating effectively with those around you.  We had lessons on introducing yourself professionally, engaging in conversation with new acquaintances, and discussed the importance of understanding differences (cultural or otherwise.)  Our aim was to start working through some of the things that just don’t seem to get taught within the course of a normal workload during the school day.  This all culminated in a huge pot-luck brunch (life skill: following a recipe and cooking) which allowed them to practice and improve their conversation and community skills, it was awesome and the feedback from the kids is that they really enjoyed and took a lot away from this opportunity.

Take a moment, no matter what level you teach, and think back to your days in school.  Think back beyond university or high school if possible.  Who was that teacher who had the biggest impact on your time in school?  Maybe there are a few names that come up.  Now, WHY did their name come to you so quickly?  What was it that they did to make you remember them after all of these years?  I have a strong feeling that it wasn’t something academic, they may have had a huge impact on your academic success but I would guess that their impact wasn’t specifically academic in nature.  They probably influenced you in more of a ‘life skills’ sense.  In your classroom there are plenty of opportunities for teaching students skills that will transcend your subject area and stay with them further on in their lives.  

Have a look at this article, it’s an interesting view on some things that we may or may not explicitly teach our students during their academic time (some may be more relevant to our context than others.)  How can lessons like these be incorporated into the things you do on a daily basis?  I would also suggest that there are a lot more ‘life skills’ being taught every day in your classes…what are some of those skills?  I’d love to hear from everyone about the amazing opportunities that our students have to grow beyond the classroom!

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