by Mariam Abodouma
I don’t believe there is a group of students more academically prepared for university than those who have graduated and will graduate from BASIS Independent Silicon Valley. Our students are quite impressive; they are the hardest working students that I have ever worked with, they enjoy being intellectually stimulated, challenged and driven beyond their academic comfort zone.
In the classroom, they’re brilliant and sharp thinkers, they possess an astonishing range of skills such as critical thinking and analysis, interdisciplinary application, problem-solving techniques, creativity and imagination and most of all, a desire to learn more, achieve more, and ultimately become better at what they do.
When I look at any of our students, I see a great emerging generation, the best of the best, genuine future leaders. However, I also see where there might be a small cavity between who they are in the classroom and who they will be in the real world. Thus, I often incorporate life-skills in my classroom as well as encourage my students to engage in extra-curricular activities, clubs, and social interactions with their peers. As teachers, we continuously make an effort to include the real world into our class discussions. For example, we examine the current political landscape from an economic perspective and tie that to past presidential administration policies. As parents, I am sure we all strive to teach our children about the real world.
Much of our work with students in the classroom is enhanced by our ability to spend time with them one-on-one during dedicated office hours. I establish a very open communication channel with my students from the start which makes it easy for them to view me as one of their go-to people in the school. From there, it's easy to assist and advise them on real life issues.
Here are a few skills that are believed to be beneficial for students to acquire and ones which I (and my colleagues) work toward integrating into our classes.
I encourage real, face to face, give and take with other students. It seems that this generation believes that texting, snapchatting, and tweeting are the only means of communication. We must find ways to combat the ‘silence’ that has befallen our children at social gatherings and look for ways to engage them into conversations that doesn’t entail a screen. In the classroom, we do this through peer-to-peer tutoring, collaborative exercises and projects, and lively in-class debates.
Time and Money Management
I’m sure they all know the price of the new iPhone, but I wonder if they know the price of a gallon of milk or a pound of apples. More importantly, have they ever been given a weekly or a monthly allowance and taught how to manage their own budget? Financial skills are vital and an early start is ideal. Moreover, I know of numerous students who have dropped out of gymnastics and dance classes, speech and debate clubs, swimming and fencing practice because they ‘don’t have the time for it’. However, there are various resources on time management that could aid them in continuing those extra-curricular activities that are not only significant to their well-roundedness but vital to their personal growth and social skills attainment. Books like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens and mobile applications like Timeful are an example. Furthermore, encouraging our kids to partake in community service opportunities teaches them to look at the world differently and to not take their lifestyle for granted, not to mention becoming more compassionate and empathetic.
Social Awareness and Celebrating Diversity
It is imperative students are able to conduct themselves with enough cultural knowledge to be able to interact seamlessly in various situations. I believe the more they are thrown into different social situations and cultural experiences, the more enriched they will become. Effectively, this means more time hanging out with their friends, going out for meals at restaurants, organizing movie nights and slumber parties, going on school trips and so on. As for cultural awareness, travelling and exploring different spots in the world ideal, but given that might not always be feasible, there are excellent books like One World Many Cultures and The Culture Map that can give them a good real glimpse of the world, in addition to documentaries like ‘Baraka’ (1992) and many others.
One day, our children will venture out of their protected lives and they will need to be ready to adapt to whatever challenges they may face. They will realize that they cannot google how to deal with the real world (or maybe they can, but perhaps not with the best results!). They will need to know how to communicate and how to put forth a substantive argument, they’ll need to be smart with their money, efficient with their time, eloquent with their manners and knowledge of the various cultures of their classmates. They will need to know how to conduct themselves at parties and dances and how to deal with relationships. They will need to cook, and iron and make their own beds. Most significantly, they need to go out there in the real world and learn how to take things in stride, accept failure when it happens, learn from their mistakes, pick themselves up if they fall, embrace success without becoming complacent, embrace every new and foreign situation because it’ll always be a learning experience for them. They need to be prepared for that and we, as teachers, must respond to the call.