Students learn a lot in high school. They discover how to solve complex equations, critically analyze classic novels, and understand the basics of biology. However, while subjects such as algebra and physics are important, many students would benefit from a high school curriculum with more of a real-world application. While some of these skills are best taught by parents, many can be incorporated into lessons in the classroom.
Here are some of the things I wish I’d learned in high school:
1. Basic Study Skills
In high school, students often receive review sheets for major exams and are told what information to look over in the textbook, but few take the time to really learn how to study. In college, study skills become a must. Students are expected to take in, process, and retain more information than ever before. The same is true if they apply for a job or join the military and must pass certification exams. Students who don’t have strong study skills are less likely to perform as well on those exams.
2. Time Management
Many high school students find themselves flitting from one activity to another while adults help them keep everything organized. If they miss a homework assignment or need an extra day to complete an assignment, it’s not that big of a deal. However, when they get a job or start to juggle multiple courses in college, it becomes a bigger deal. High school teachers and parents can help teach good time management skills to high school students and hold them responsible for failing to manage their time effectively. This also includes teaching students about prioritizing activities and making difficult choices about what is most important.
3. How to Practice Self-Care
Typically what happens in high school is students run themselves ragged until they finally burn out. Then they have a bit of an emotional breakdown, take a couple days off, and start the cycle again. High school is a great time to start teaching students about self-care. Teachers and parents can encourage students to listen to their bodies to avoid burnout, take regular time to relax, and learn how to manage stress in healthy ways. Many adults could stand to learn that lesson too.
4. Simple Household Tasks
How many high school students does it take to change a light bulb? A task that simple may not sound like a big deal, but high school students should get the opportunity to purchase a light bulb and change it. They should also learn other tasks, such as how to hang a picture, how to turn off the electric breakers, or how to unclog a drain.
5. Healthy Habits
This has become less of a problem with new programs that have been put into place, but many of these programs focus on eliminating foods from teens’ diets instead of teaching them healthy habits such as eating foods in moderation and exercising regularly. The best way to teach teens healthy habits is to model healthy habits. Teach them that it’s okay to indulge every now and then, but that pizza and soda every day is not ideal.
Setting and Achieving Realistic Goals
Schools encourage teens to set goals for the future, but they often stop there. Instead of just telling teens they can be anything they want to be and encouraging them to set their sights high, schools should encourage them to set realistic goals, and then help teens develop plans to reach their goals.
6. How to Handle Failure and Rejection
As adults, we often want to shield our children from failure and rejection, but the fact is, they’re a part of life. High school is a great place to let students experience a bit of failure and rejection in a controlled environment and teach them how to develop resilience so they can bounce back and keep moving forward.
7. How to Protect Yourself
As teens gain their independence, they start to stay out later at night, broaden their social circle, and take more risks. As they do, they may put themselves into dangerous situations. Knowing basic self-defense skills and having a plan for whom to contact in an emergency can help teens when they get into trouble.
8. Choose Joy
Life is stressful and comes with its fair share of challenges. It’s easy to become negative and feel like things will never get better. However, you don’t have to let the struggles of life get you down. Teens should be encouraged to choose joy, to look for the bright side in every situation and figure out a way to get ahead rather than being mired down in negativity. Joy is not the same as happiness. You may not be happy all the time, but you can choose to look beyond your circumstances.
9. Negotiation Skills
Whether you’re buying a car, discussing the salary for a new job, or making a big decision for a company, negotiation skills are important. Negotiating doesn’t simply involve making a demand and insisting that everyone accepts it. It involves looking at both sides and coming up with a rational solution. Teachers can help students develop negotiation skills by allowing for some negotiating in the classroom, be it determining the consequences of a rule violation or choosing a due date for a large project.
10. How to Use Social Media Properly
It only takes one inappropriate photo or internet rant to ruin a teen’s reputation or a young adult’s career. Privacy settings give teens a false sense of security on social media. Schools and parents should remind teens and young adults that they never know who can see what they’re doing online. They may think only their friends can see an inappropriate post, but if a friend shares the post or tells someone else about it, it could soon be out there for the entire world to see. There are real consequences for improper social media use. Teens need to make sure that when they post online they’re doing so safely and with their future in mind. A half-naked duck lips pose may be cool now, but an employer might not think it's so great five or ten years down the road.
While schools may not implement many of these lessons into their curriculum parents and teachers can take time to impart them to students in other ways so that they’re better prepared to face the world after high school.