Sunday, May 17, 2015

Life Skills with a Humanitarian Twist

Grocery shopping for our Autumn Feast
    Don't ask me why, but sometimes, the course name "Life Skills" is associated with a negative connotation. I don't know why exactly. I mean personally, I think most of us could have probably benefited from a life skills course in high school. I mean how many of us actually properly knew how to handle money, do laundry, cook, grocery shop, bargain shop, sew, coexist with others,...etc. when we first graduated from high school? My first frantic phone call from my daughter during her freshman year of college was, "Mom what buttons do I push on the washing machine? I don't want to ruin my clothes?" I took shear enjoyment in this. She didn't see the humor in her crisis but I was certainly relieved that this was the worst of her problems!  

    So then, why does the course, "Life Skills" bring up so many negative reactions? I think sometimes parents get upset because to be honest, these are the types of skills that parents can teach at home. In today's society though parents are so overwhelmed with their busy lives, some life skills have to go on the back burner! Students get upset because they look at Life Skills Courses as lower level courses which perhaps they are but they come with big benefits! Being prepared for life, allows new graduates to focus on career, technical school, the armed forces, or college. Knowing how to live independently gives the newly graduated the opportunity to devote their complete attention to the new roles they pursue as young adults. 
   So, I proposed an old course with a twist to my employer which I want to share. I am currently writing the course description and curriculum to begin teaching it in the 2015-2016 school year. I teach self-contained middle school children. The best career choice for me! I'm beyond excited to plan and teach this revamped course!
   Many students who have special needs, fall into a cycle of learned helplessness. A condition where two separate but related things can happen: 1) A person gets so used to others helping him/her that s/he no longer tries on his/her own. 2) A person gets so used to failing at controlling things in his/her life with no rewards that they no longer try. These people become dependent on others for most everything. I do not want any of my students to fall into the trap of learned helplessness! 
   So we will learn life skills in a very positive way, by helping others! It is said that those who help others, help themselves. I believe this to be true. When teaching others or helping others the skills being taught are driven home. 
     This year, my 7th/8th self-contained students got a taste of  helping others through the “Not Perfect Hat Club” and flourished. For a little while they had their spotlight in the sun! They designed, measured, cut, sewed, and sold not perfect hats to raise money for global literacy. They then taught others how to make hats through Skype. Look at all the life skills gained in just this one project!  This got me thinking, why can’t we do this all of the time? My kids need life skills. Organizations and regular people need help all of the time! It’s a win- win situation! Life Skills with real life purpose! 
Damien showing the Northeast Hamilton Students in Iowa how to sew a not perfect hat!

We are currently working on raising money to help those devastated by the earthquakes in Nepal to build new schools. We have connected with Sunny Thakral a teacher at The British School in Kathmandu. We are taking donations of any amount as low as a penny for paper bricks to build a paper school in our school! Each brick will bear the name of the contributor. The proceeds will be sent to Nepal. I can't wait until my students have to count the money and figure out the exchange for Nepalese Rupees! 
The outline of our paper school thank you to Miss Badger M. S. art teacher and Mrs. Faryniarz our classroom aide for your help!
Mrs. Aubin laying the second brick by the door!

   We have already lined up a Special Olympic project for the fall. We will lead the Icon sales Initiative for the Special Olympics. The Paper torches that we sell and the posters we make for the athletes will be hung at the Glens Falls, New York Civic Center for the October Games. I'm hoping that we'll be able to attend the games!
    The sky is the limit for teaching life skills and serving others at the same time. My students will be learning needed skills, helping others, gaining self-respect, and earning community service hours needed for graduation all at the same time. They will have the skills, achievement, and giving humanitarian heart that is needed to be a well rounded thriving adult. 
5/25/2015 Our paper school for Nepal is growing daily! We have a foundation!