by Ken DeSieghardt
Everyone reading this can probably remember working their way through Crime and Punishment (or a similar tome), solving a difficult calculus challenge, or learning more than they ever wanted to know about President James K. Polk in history class and thinking, “I’ll never use this stuff in real life.”
Guess what? The parents are saying it, too. Sort of.
In the last three or four years, research by Patron Insight with parents (and students) asking about their expectations for their school district has resulted in a not-so-subtle call for more teaching in areas that fit neatly under the Life Skills umbrella.
The list of such skills offered as examples is varied to say the least. A recently completed survey included balancing a checkbook, changing a tire, applying for a loan, money management, what to do when your car breaks down, how to look for a job, and how to understand a lease for an apartment, before you sign it. And that’s just a sample.
The codger in me says that these are skills that I was taught at home. But we all know that students come to school with many more life challenges than they did back in the so-called “good old days.” Free and reduced lunch is only one measure of the challenges these students face. Clearly, Life Skills may be another.
So, what’s a school district to do?
First, review your current programming that could fit under the Life Skills banner. What do you already have in place that could be expanded, from a curricular standpoint, to include additional skills?
Second, find ways to tackle the low-hanging fruit first. Don’t try to become the Life Skills leader overnight. Instead, if you think you can add a course or two, start with that. Figure out if you have teaching talent on the staff with the skills and the interest to take this on.
Third, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Community colleges or companies with a hefty employee training program, for example, may already offer programs that you are interested in adding. Look into a partnership.
Districts that respond to this call will get the halo effect over the rest of their programming. Giving the people what they want, while you are also giving them what they need, is a great formula for success.