Thinking back on courses during the middle and high school years, why are those within the Life Skills curriculum often the ones with standout memories? Because they were the classes that had students doing and interacting. Students were often creating a tangible, and sometimes edible, final product that allowed them to showcase their efforts, or they were being exposed to experiences that could drive their future hobbies or careers in some cases.
Yes, there has been a transition to a more active learning and hands-on pedagogical approach, but maybe it’s the student engagement and long-term retention from these methods that were grounded in life skills courses that prompted the realization of the benefits. Why douse the flames on an originating spark? While there may not be a high stakes, standardized test for these curriculums, they all contain elements that affect personal productivity long after diplomas are awarded. In a society where young people are being touted as lacking in self-reliance and independence, many schools have sadly pulled the very courses that offer students an introduction to these imperative life skills.
Teachers of curriculums that have not found themselves on the budgetary chopping block need to find ways to incorporate some of the adaptable takeaways from life skill lessons into their planning. While an ELA, science, or math teacher could never replace the content that has been eliminated, they can work to foster the skills that will lead students to being more resourceful and self-sufficient. The approaches and activities may look different than those broached in the Family and Consumer Science classrooms, but the lessons learned can still be lasting.
Problem-solving- Tackling issues of the real-life variety is essential. Building a student’s repertoire of practical reasoning skills is never time wasted. The lenses for teaching problem solving may look different from subject to subject, but the thoughtful process is transferable to situations well beyond the classroom years.
Communication- More opportunities for written and verbal communication need to be incorporated. Working together through team-building activities and/or group projects, building resumes, composing formal written correspondences, etc. Students need more opportunities to speak and interact within formal and informal settings/scenarios.
Conflict resolution- The exposure to healthy and constructive means of conflict resolution can have profound effects on students who may not find themselves living in environments where positive role models are the norm. Allowing students opportunities to use the reasoning, coping mechanisms, and interpersonal skills that are necessary for peaceful conflict resolution allows them to carry these over to their lives outside of class.
Resourcefulness- If students never have to experience any struggles, they will never gain the ability to be resourceful. With challenging lessons and activities that require students to raise their personal bars to achieve mastery, a component of self-reliance and pride in accomplishment is achieved.
Nothing can replace the lessons and experiences found within a Life Skills classroom. Until these curriculums can be restored, educators need to be purposeful in planning lessons within their own curriculums that incorporate some of the key foundational elements from these lost courses. While students may not get to practice all the facets of the Family and Consumer Science realm, they can be given exposure to some of the life-changing takeaways that were found within these curriculums.
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