Making students college- and career-ready is the most buzzworthy goal in education. Schools post college flags in elementary school hallways and provide college shirts for students and staff. Teachers constantly reinforce the importance of meeting grade-level standards. These strategies get students thinking about their academic futures early.
Apart from hanging flags and donning T-shirts, though, we can prepare students for college and beyond by incorporating character education into our curriculum. Addressing things like decision-making, time management and maintaining a good public image will give them a chance to practice the productive thinking they’ll need once out in the world.
We make decisions constantly. Show students that a careful consideration of facts before making decisions can benefit them in the long run. Provide real life, grade-level appropriate scenarios to show how hasty decisions can hinder future success. For example, explore what can happen when you start working on a big assignment ahead of time. Then, contrast that with the experience of until waiting until the last minute to do that same assignment. Thinking through the different positive and negative outcomes of each decision is a habit we want our students to have.
Time management is another crucial skill for college and career readiness. Have students create weekly schedules that cover when they wake up to when they go to bed. When students realize they have a finite amount of time each week, it can compel them to reflect on what they spend that time doing. Help them create goals to use their time effectively. They can even collaborate with one another on time management goals, which gives them a chance to inspire others and feel a sense of accomplishment. At the same time, show the consequences when time management fails and assignments aren’t turned in on time. There are many important things in life that have non-negotiable deadlines and students must be aware that penalties do occur.
With the internet making us more visible than ever, it’s critical for students to understand the importance of their public image, both online and off. People monitor our actions and make character judgments both in person and on social media. Have daily or weekly conversations about the power of words and respectful ways to use them. Ask students to examine how an action might impact others. Social-emotional learning can happen in these moments, along with demonstrations of how to show empathy, self-control, honesty, problem-solving, forgiveness and kindness. Encourage them to think about what is best for them and those around them, about how they have something to contribute to the world. Let that be what sparks their passion for college and future careers.
Displaying colleges and careers on posters is a fun way to remind students of their potential. Helping them build good character will better prepare them for the life ahead.
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