My high school history teacher used to say to us after each class, “Remember, you ARE the future!” Though he was met with eyerolls, he inspired us to prepare for our futures and to have the grit to keep moving forward, no matter the setbacks, by relating historical lessons to our realities. Though it may not be your core curriculum, teaching life skills and career readiness skills are a must for every student.
Regardless of the subject or grade level you teach and shifting school district priorities, as educators, we have to ask ourselves three questions:
- What does it mean to be career ready?
- What is my role in preparing my students to be career ready?
- How can I integrate teaching life skills into my instruction?
Preparing Future-Ready Students
In every field, employers seek candidates with critical thinking, problem solving, and interpersonal skills. Teaching “soft,” or non-cognitive skills, such as empathy, initiative, and impulse control, are instrumental in increasing student performance and their capacity for success in the real world.
Teachers can encourage the development of these “future-ready” skills by developing interactive group projects centered around problems that are true to life and related to your curriculum. If you’re focused on bringing personal finance and marketing to life, what better opportunity than designing and pitching a small business idea to the sharks? Project-based learning activities allow students to operate in a similar environment to the workplace, while building communication and project management skills independently.
Review and Reflect
In any job, a good manager helps encourage employees to take ownership of their role and reflect on opportunities for improvement. Incorporate self-assessments into your projects and lessons so students can evaluate their successes and failures. While looking back on their performance, students begin to understand how overcoming failures is equally as important as being successful.
Bracing for Turbulence
When I helped students research future jobs, most were focused on established careers like those of lawyers, doctors, and engineers. With the increase of contract work and freelancing, now more than ever, students should be able to at least imagine themselves in uncertain financial circumstances.
It’s important that we tell them there will likely be moments where they’ll need to create their own stability, and they can with planning. Teaching “soft skills” brace students to deal with the challenging tasks they may face in the future, such as:
- Finding or losing a job
- Unexpected bills
- Navigating a difficult relationship
- Experiencing defeat
- Striving to achieve a challenging goal.
To wrap their heads around this concept, offer up a short opener modeled off Hasbro’s Game of Life, having students pull paychecks randomly, and throw a few curveballs their way.
Turning Knowledge Into Action
Collaborate with your grade-level team to brainstorm the best ways to make life skills a part of your curriculum in natural, authentic projects. What ties to the real world will have the greatest impact on your students success in their future careers.
Leila is a K-12 Senior Implementation Manager in Calgary, AB. She works with schools across the Canadian prairies in AB, SK and, MB. Prior to working at EVERFI, she obtained her M.Ed and taught elementary school in Baltimore, MD and Laramie, WY. Leila also served as an online instructor for Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth.