I am the mother of two college-age students. My son is in an undergraduate program in South Carolina and my daughter is in medical school in Virginia. I am constantly reminded by these two of all the life lessons that young people must learn as they navigate the world. How do you open a checking account? What is a bank routing number? (Their father is a banker, and yet they ask these questions!) Why do rental companies require a deposit AND the first month’s rent? Which fork do I use when there are two? What is the appropriate response to someone who just gave me a truck full of used furniture to furnish my rental rather than selling it for a profit?
I call these navigational skills – skills that young adults often have to learn to successfully navigate the world. These two were successful in high school, and they are successful in college. Yet, there is so much that they need to learn that goes far beyond academic learning to successfully navigate an adult, professional world. I think I had forgotten that young people have to learn these things, and that a twenty- year- old may not have ever been exposed things like filling out a direct deposit slip. Now as a parent of two young twenty somethings I am constantly reminded of this. I also now recollect that I once had to learn these things, too!
Today I had the chance to participate in an event at Myrtle Beach High School where ninth grade students were learning skills for success while learning academic skills. Ms. Julia Fullwood invited me into her classroom to be an adult participant as students presented their first project for the year in her New Tech Academy classes. I participated in several small group settings where students shared their learning, and I then got to ask questions for clarification.
The unit was on lab safety and every group that rotated through my table shared they all preferred learning about lab safety via this project than sitting through a slide deck, listening to a lecture, or reading handouts and filling out a worksheet. These students were given chemical hygiene safety checklists for science labs and asked to work in teams to assess their school’s science labs for the necessary requirements and compare recommended items to safety essential items. They also had to price the items and total up the costs. They also had “playlists” of activities loaded in ECHO, their learning management system (LMS).
When they were asked questions that required them to consider other options besides their initial recommendation or to defend their findings, they were able to think on their feet. They also were learning a lot about working in and contributing to a team while practicing conversation skills. I watched them as they praised peers or gave credit for an idea to a team member. These are certainly skills that will serve them well in the adult world.
Ninth graders are not usually overly fond of presenting in class; however, these students knew what the expectations were for their oral presentations. I asked. They told me the rubric criteria for a successful presentation. They were learning how to interact with adults, how to overcome shyness, how to make eye contact, have the body language of a listener, and how to form an impression within the first thirty seconds.
They were polite, bright, inquisitive, and very engaged in the learning. These students had a great interest in stories about friends and family who work in fields where they need to know safety requirements, and I shared that my daughter worked in a neuroscience lab during her undergrad time and loved how she looked in her safety glasses. These teens agreed that at first they thought lab glasses were not cool, but they were really necessary in order to be safe. I told them that lab safety glasses were considered cool in college. They had big smiles in response to that statement.
Ms. Fullwood, thank you for inviting me into your classes today, and thank you for all the skills you are teaching that far exceed the skills learned in a traditional lecture setting! Go New Tech students and teachers! You are awesome!