The classroom as a life skills lab

BEYOND BOOKS

Classroom learning

All of us are not born with the best of manners and some of us hate to even conform to the norm of greeting or exchanging niceties. However, even in the age of social networking – team work, mutual respect, communication and stress management are very important for success. That is why, it is imperative, we all arm ourselves with these skills.

There are no definite skills that can be categorised as life skills. Different people call various talents as skills that are required for an individual to lead a good social life. UNICEF, categorises life skills as coping, critical thinking, communication and interpersonal skills. However, are these so important that schools today have to include them into their curriculum?

Neeta Shetty, an ex-banker and a mother of an eight-year old, from Mumbai, couldn't have put it better, “We didn’t learn any of these in schools but we turned out just fine. But, education today is a lot more than the teaching of the 3 R’s. It is about grooming individuals.”

Children spend a lot of time in school. So, it is only fair that we incorporate certain life skills into their daily classroom routine. Life skills prepare our children for life. They become responsible and confident adults who can deal with all the things life presents them with. Life skills teach kids to adapt to the ups and downs in life and make them better human beings.

Teaching life skills in schools has to be a constant and ongoing process. Children learn by examples and the day-to-day situations that present themselves. But, sadly, there are not many schools that keep these in mind. Our education system is result-oriented and so, all these take a back seat.

Here is a list compiled by talking to a number of parents and taking their suggestions. These are skills that our education system can incorporate in the daily classroom sessions.

Social Skills: Social skills teach kids to live in society with ease. It teaches them respect for peers and themselves. It improves their social interactions and enhances team work. For decades we believed that sports is the only way our children can learn to work as a unit. This is not true. Even classroom situations can teach our kids to work together. By forming study groups, project teams, and by putting children together after closely watching their dynamics, teachers can stimulate team work and help build the child’s social interaction.

Individual skills: It is important to make children responsible, help them take decisions, and allow them to solve problems. Helping a child realise that he is responsible for his actions is the greatest lesson any school can teach. For example, when a child forgets to bring his school book, teachers should be able to impress upon him that it is his responsibility to bring his work.

Through debates and discussions, teachers can not only encourage the development of critical thinking but can also help the child to freely express his thoughts. Rather than result-oriented teaching or telling the class what to do, presenting them with problems and then looking for solutions can actually help children look at problems differently.

Emotional skills: Handling emotions, showing self control, possessing self confidence, coping with stress – these are essential tools required in life. Teachers, by not antagonising or intimidating, but by listening to the many arguments, can instil a lot of confidence in children. By not reprimanding and with positive re-enforcement, many times, children learn to cope with stress and emotions a lot more easily.

Communication skills: In the classroom, children must be encouraged to listen avidly, to use the right words to communicate, to show restraint about certain topics, to express themselves better verbally, orally and in writing.

How many teachers do we see today, who have the patience to listen to what the child has to say? To enhance communication one has to first be a good listener.
Creative writing, debates and free speech can be encouraged in the classroom. During these sessions, children can be shown the right use of words and encouraged to express themselves better. By inspiring rather than imposing, a classroom can become a very responsive and expressive place for children.

Organisational skills: When they complete their classwork in the required frame of time, children unconsciously learn the value of time and about time management. By being organised themselves teachers can encourage their wards to become more organised.

Is it possible to develop these skills in classroom sessions? Yes. Are they important? Absolutely. But, how do we go about developing these skills in children? By planning, and by taking one small step at a time. According to Neeta Shetty, “Many of us, gain these skills through real life situations. However, with some foundation, we may be able to deal with life situations better.” So, what are we waiting for? Let us join hands to teach some important life skills to our children.

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