One of our Facebook posts this week is about the failure of colleges to teach students how to write. The Washington Post article discusses why colleges don’t spend as much time on teaching this critical skill, and why it is so needed by employers.
If The Post is correct, it’s a good idea for your student to know how to write before leaving high school.
That thought led me to consider broader examples of what kids need to know before leaving high school. These are not things that can be taught in one hour-long conversation. They take practice and experience, like writing. Identifying them now leaves a whole year to work on them. Some of these things are not rocket science either—but may require some thought and attention.
Even the lowest level executive has to manage their time, plan ahead, set priorities, learn to when to say yes and no, and be sure things get done when they need to be done. Many parents still help their students with many of these tasks. Next year, your student will have to manage his or her own life.
A year of practice will contribute to success, so back away from making decisions and taking care of things for your student. Let him or her handle paperwork needed from school. If asked, offer advice and perspective, but there is a lot to be gained from experiencing the consequences of a bad move or failure to get something in on time.
Many students are fortunate to have parents who can afford a lot of extras for them and some have generous allowances. This can change when students go to college. It will almost surely change when a student finishes college and is living on a starting salary.
It’s important for students to learn now how to budget and plan for the future. If your student doesn’t work, provide an allowance that has to cover things like gas, insurance and other expenditures and monitor how well your student does managing the funds. Are you ready to put a credit card in the hands of your student? First, be sure he or she can balance a checking account and isn’t perpetually overdrawn.
Be Able to Say No
In a college environment it is fun to meet new people and try new things. At the same time, your student needs to have already gotten comfortable managing challenging social situations and saying no. Many parents strictly forbid their kids from being in any kind of situation where they could get into trouble. Others encourage their students to “use your parents as an excuse” to say no. That changes on a college campus away from home. Your student needs to know when to say no and just as importantly, how to say it—in any number of different situations.
Who does your student’s laundry? Does your student even know how to work the washer and dryer in your house? How about ironing a shirt? Sewing on a button? These are the non-rocket science tasks that are essential but mundane, and often taken care of by parents. Let your student take on these tasks—as well as making dentist, doctor appointments and other appointments.
Back to Writing
The Washington Post article ends with a short section of suggestions about writing that are tried and true: plan, edit, and seek feedback. Encourage your senior to take writing assignments seriously this year. While that likely won’t encompass 10,000 hours of writing, at least he or she will be a little closer to mastery. And hopefully will have learned a few other things that kids need to know before leaving high school.