It’s great to see so many schools proclaiming their values via big colourful posters around the campus on subjects to do with kindness and fairness and honesty and tolerance, and I have no doubt that teachers and principals repeatedly emphasise these values when they address students, but what about actual regular skill development?
What I would love to see is Life Skills taught as a compulsory subject alongside Maths and English. A subject like Life Skills would include practical abilities like cooking but especially subjects like Financial Literacy and Communication Skills. My new book, Quest For Riches, is my contribution to schools in terms of financial literacy, and I’ll speak more about it in an upcoming blog, but right now I want to harp on a bit about Communication Skills.
If we look at the escalating rates of domestic violence, at workplace harassment, at strikes and school shootings and terrorism, it’s clear that many of us need improved communication skills. And yet they’re not taught! Why not?
There are so many brilliant programs out there – what I’d like to see is three or four or more hours a week blocked out for CommSkills training. Those hours could be devoted to a range of different programs – students and staff would soon identify which are the most effective ones.
Here’s how this new subject would unfold in my school:
Term 1) ‘Let’s Bully On Purpose In Schools’
- Students learn about universal laws and the fact that bullying will never be eradicated because it serves evolution – and why, and how;
- students gather in groups of three to act out short scripted scenarios – interactions between a bully and ‘bullied’ plus an observer until each student has played each role;
- students engage in discussion about the scenarios and the three roles;
- as the term progresses, students continue to act out these roles, thus learning to recognise the patterns of abuse (the dovetailing traits of the bully and bullied);
- students begin to receive scripts in which the same scenarios are presented but where the responses are more effective, thus learning to listen, establish boundaries, assert oneself and more;
- students participate in classes promoting resilience, self-worth and other relevant skills;
- students write their own scenarios, thus taking responsibility for and practising better communication.
Term 2) Let’s Respect Ourselves and Others and Maximise Our Potential
- Students engage in various other communication skills trainings that enable them to blitz their skill development in this area. (After all, many of them are so busy texting and snap-chatting that they’ve never learnt how to have proper face-to-face conversations. This is surely a high-priority for our future adults and future leaders!)
Etc. The key is repetition but in lively, fresh, relevant formats. Offering these skills as a year-long (no, 12-year-long!) subject creates the opportunity to invite many experts to present their work, thus offering the students the opportunity to evaluate different approaches. Rather than finding the ‘one best’ course, we’d collaborate with multiple providers.
When I was working with HandsOn Training to deliver JobSkills in schools (interview and resumé-writing skills), I was staggered to learn that some of the expensive private schools were cancelling this program because of parents saying that ‘we don’t send our kids to this school to learn how to get a job’. The reality is that looking for a job at 18 or 22 is already too late – now those unskilled young people are competing with unskilled 15 year olds who will work for lower pay.
Come on, folks! Let’s get Common Sense Skills Into Schools!!!