Reading, writing, and arithmetic – students definitely need more than just these three skills in order to succeed today. Computer literacy, graphic design, health and wellness, government, psychology, geography, economics, foreign language, trade field studies – the list could go on and on.
But often overlooked are the so-called soft skills. You’re not likely to find an entire class focusing on them, but students will need these soft skills to succeed in the workplace and use other hard or technical skills.
Below, we will discuss several of these skills you can help your students to master. Though we will focus on high school and college environments, the principles apply to any educational or training situation.
Table of Contents
Dealing With Rejection and Setbacks
Are your students asking themselves, “Why is my resume getting rejected? Am I ever going to find a job?” Life and work are both inevitably populated with setbacks and even outright rejections.
The school environment is a good place for students to learn healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with these situations. They may not make the team or the cast, win the award, or capture the heart of their crush.
How can you help? Cultivate a safe environment where students can express themselves. Validate the experience. It may sound trivial to an experienced adult, but it may be the biggest setback that a young person has yet encountered. Encourage them to try again. Don’t try to intervene and solve the problem for them, and then encourage parents to do the same.
Teach Them How to Learn
Lifelong learning contributes to brain health, job success, and feelings of motivation and fulfillment. Students who learn to love learning at a young age are more likely to pursue lifelong learning.
Instead of just teaching students a curriculum, teach them how to learn. Guide them to effective means of doing their own research. Introduce them to libraries, different types of print media, and online resources. Give them assignments that require observation, interviews, and deep dives. Let them explore topics that interest them, Montessori-style.
Students also need to know how to distinguish reliable information from misinformation. Twenty years ago, this education mostly consisted of “.org sites are the most reliable, except for Wikipedia – you can’t trust Wikipedia because it’s crowd-sourced.”
Today, the informational landscape is more complicated and even toxic. Teach them to recognize sources that have an agenda and those that may have been generated by AI or posted by non-experts.
Good organization is a life hack everyone needs in their toolkit. Organization doesn’t stop with “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” Organizing one’s thoughts and time can be even more important.
Empower your students by providing them with calendars or planners, and requiring them to use them – at least for a time.
Also, show students how to effectively use to-do lists, breaking large tasks and long-range goals into smaller, more attainable tasks. Use methods like Scrum in the classroom to prepare them for future workplace methodologies.
Economic Life Skills
In junior high, I took a personal finance class. We learned to make a budget. We didn’t learn how to do taxes, read a 1040 document, negotiate a payment plan with a hospital, understand compounding interest, or any of the other financial tasks I found myself burdened with as an adult.
And I wasn’t alone. While working in a university scholarship office, I was shocked to find that more than half of high school graduates did not know what a 1040 or W2 was.
Introduce your students to these topics, and strive to inject a little fun along the way. Teaching taxes may seem as intimidating as filing them, but the IRS offers free teacher resources.
Empathy – understanding the emotions of another and taking action to support them – is sorely lacking, but it is a sought-after soft skill.
Teaching empathy requires a number of steps. First, the student needs to develop strong and secure relationships with others.
Next, set the example by empathizing with the student. As discussed in the section on setbacks above, recognize and legitimize the student’s feelings. Talk about others’ feelings – real situations, hypothetical ones, or those found in fictional stories. Suggest and set an example by acting on behalf of others.
Your example can be the most important teaching strategy of all when it comes to empathy. When your students observe your respectful relationships with others, they learn without you ever saying a word.
Remember, a person is never too young or too old to develop empathy.
Your students can grow up to be productive and healthy adults, especially if they master essential soft skills early on. When you guide them through dealing with rejection and setbacks and teach them how to learn, get organized, budget, do taxes, and display empathy, you have given them the tools they need. Get out there and help your students become skill masters today.