Dreamworker has taught in schools nationwide for 26 years in grades 6-12; including blind, handicapped, at-risk, and ESOL students.
These days our schools have become so involved with teaching to the test and cramming technology into student’s heads that they have forgotten the importance of teaching basic life skills to students.
Kids can pass all the tests in the world and be proficient with computers, but if they lack the ability to socialize, think, analyze and develop common sense, they will not function well in society or do well in life.
The public likes to blame teachers for such issues, but the truth is that it is the politicians who keep them from doing what should be done.
Furthermore, once a generation or two of teachers passes through the educational system, they likely no longer know enough about life skills to be able to share them with students.
However, the good news is that they can learn these skills fairly quickly through proper training, and all school systems should make sure that they do!
1. Social Skills
If you wonder why our young don’t behave as well as they used to, it’s because they have been taught that playing on computers or watching TV are acceptable activities.
Furthermore, most schools have eliminated recess and cut way down on physical education.
If kids spend all their time in front of electronics instead of people, the chances that they will somehow automatically know how to properly socialize with their peers are pretty slim.
One might think their parents would teach them these skills, but many adults don’t have them, either.
Thus, if the adults in a child’s life are ill equipped to show them the importance of having these skills, then it is up to the schools to do so.
I used to teach in a special program for poor and traumatized children in country school that was isolated from any community. My students had little proper home training,
The teachers in my program spent a good deal of time trying to teach them the basics in addition to the academics,
For example, every year we would hold a Thanksgiving dinner for them because we knew they likely would not have one otherwise.
We spent weeks teaching them good etiquette, the proper way to hold silverware and other similar things.
The cafeteria cooked the meal, and the teachers put on chef’s hats and served them.
Kids learned many lessons from this activity that include but were not limited to
- finding out that their teachers cared about them,
- learning the meaning of Thanksgiving,
- learning how to behave properly in a formal dining setting and
- taking a new view of their fellow students.
They found out that there are other ways to eat aside from being crowded into a noisy cafeteria and eating substandard food or grabbing a piece of pizza in front of the TV at home.
We see few such activities in today’s schools, but they are important for emotional and social growth.
Today’s laws prohibit having food in classrooms, but there is no reason why teachers can’t use cafeteria facilities to provide meals or tale students to restaurants to create similar opportunities.
2. Basic Civility
Basic civility in young in this country has declined rapidly in recent years, mostly because they have learned that they do not have to respect their parents, teachers and other adult authority figures.
Laws such as the Individuals With Disabilities Act have given kids the power to have the adults in their lives arrested simply by stating that they ‘touched them improperly, abused them in some way or violated their rights, even though these things might never have happened.
My own husband almost got arrested because he pointed his finger at a student who then turned quickly around to face him. Another student saw this, thought my husband had turned the student around forcefully and reported him for abuse! The policeman believed the accuser, and it took quite some time to find other witnesses to support my husband’s side of the story.
While child protection laws clearly are necessary, those enforcing them need to show some discretion so that kids learn they cannot intimidate adults.
However, this is not reality.
It is one of the main reasons why schools no longer discipline in meaningful ways, and students feel free to do as they please.
The kids then grow up and carry these uncivil behaviors with them.
As a result you see people crushing each other underfoot to be “first” at Black Friday sales, killing one another in road rage situations and ignoring the needs of people they are supposed to serve when working.
Alligators fear men, but if man feeds them, man eventually becomes dinner.
This is what has happened because our politicians decided to provide immature minds with powers that can damage and destroy the very adults who are trying to help them.
A child should never be permitted to use vile language towards any adult, let alone physically abuse another person, regardless of a child’s personal issues.
If Schools had the legal authority to incur swift, decisive discipline for these behaviors, they would stop, but as now stands, this is not the case.
I have seen kids bite teachers, throw chairs at them and knock them into lockers only to learn that not one thing was ever done by school administrators to discipline them.
If we want a civil, peaceful society, we have to create it by training our young properly and being legally permitted to do so without fear of retribution.
3. Critical Thinking Skills
When I taught composition in middle school, I would ask students to think of a topic about which to write.
Hardly any of them were able to do this.
It amazed me that such a simple thing would be so difficult for them to do, but the problem was that it required a skill they did not possess. They did not know how to think!
Teachers no longer are able to share these skills with students because they are forced to spend most of their time following standardized teaching criteria or preparing students to take state authorized tests.
There is little time for teaching children how to research and analyze, know the difference between fact and opinion and similar skills that show them how to use their minds in productive ways.
As a result, we have produced a society that is made up mostly of individuals who do not know how to think for themselves. They get their information from the TV or internet and make decisions based on what other people tell them.
As a result, they open the way for people to manipulate and use them for their own purposes.
Critical thinking is a skill anybody can learn, but if schools do not teach them, people won’t have them.
4. Job Skills
To find decent jobs, people need to have all of the above skills. In addition, they must know how to
- dress properly,
- have a good work ethic,
- maintain good hygiene and
- be good at what they do.
Schools teach few of these skills because
- parents and students don’t want dress codes,
- students don’t like having to do any kind of work,
- schools shy away from dealing with hygiene problems and
- students think that as long as they throw some words on a piece of paper they should get credit.
The result is a society of children who only show up to class randomly, do the least amount of work possible, are often late to class, whose parents lie for them on excuse notes, dress as they please and sometimes smell bad and are dirty.
These are not people who will go out into the world and get good paying jobs. If schools had the authority to insist that they follow rules without fear of lawsuits, it would be a different story!
Years ago schools got rid of classes such as shop, automotive repair, secretarial work and other vocational types of learning situations.
Thus kids leave school without any real job training, other than knowing a few things about computers.
Schools should go back to offering classes in these subjects because not every child goes to college, and these courses can make the difference between being able to find jobs or doing without.
5. Daily Living Skills
Many of our young people know things that help them to get through life such as how to
- open a bank account,
- change a tire,
- cook a meal or
- sew on a button.
Schools need to teach these and similar things, but aren’t doing it. Therefore, it will be up to students to learn them as they go, which is a tough way to get these skills.
Is There An Answer?
To live in a civil society where people are productive and successful, we must do all we can to make sure that all citizens are given the opportunity to learn what they need to know in order to live well.
Right now, this is happening in some places, but this is not enough.
Children learn from other kids, their parents and their schools. The most stable of the three is schools. This is because the worst source of learning is from other children, and many parents do not know what needs to be taught because they never learned these skills themselves.
If politicians would stop trying to manipulate the schools and also change some of the restrictive laws they have instituted, schools would have a chance to teach kids what they need to know.
However, this is not likely to happen.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2018 Sondra Rochelle