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Non-Digital, Old-School Skills We Should Be Teaching Our Kids


Non-Digital, Old-School Skills We Should Be Teaching Our Kids

No matter what subject or grade we teach, educators often find themselves teaching things that are not in the job description–things like life skills, manners, and sometimes even hygiene. We often wonder, “Why am I teaching this? Isn’t this a job for their parents?”

While there isn’t always a clear distinction between what falls into the teach-at-school vs. teach-at-home category, there are some things that schools should consider adding to the curriculum.

1. How to Properly Correspond via Email and Handwritten Letters

Does writing letters fall under the category of etiquette (parents) or form (teachers)? The answer is probably a little of both, but since both emailing and letter writing are such important skills, it’s important to be sure kids get them right. When it comes to emails, students should know things like what is (and isn’t) a proper salutation, how and why to BCC, and the difference between REPLY and REPLY ALL. Of course, they also need to understand the importance of using correct grammar and punctuation, and they should know that spell check does not catch every mistake.

When it comes to letter writing, students should know the occasions that require a handwritten letter rather than an email. They should know how to properly format both friendly and business letters and how to address an envelope. But perhaps most important, students should experience the joy of writing and receiving mail–the pleasure of filling a fresh, clean sheet of paper or stationery with one’s thoughts and experiences, the feel of a quality pen or a freshly sharpened pencil, and the anticipation and delight of receiving actual hold-in-your-hand mail!

2. How to read an analog clock

At some point, old-fashioned clocks might go the way of floppy discs and rotary phones, but that time isn’t now. Until all clocks are digital, kids need to know how to tell time on an analog clock. Why? Because it is super embarrassing for a 17-year-old to have to ask someone else what it means when the big hand is on the 12 and the little hand is on the 3.

3. How to read Roman numerals

While it’s not something they’ll use every day, this numerical system has been around since…well, since ancient Rome. So, it’s probably not going anywhere anytime soon.

4. How to read a map

Phones die. GPS’s fail. It’s a good idea to have a backup.

5. How to look stuff up

Even those of us who didn’t grow up with the internet have a hard time imagining a world in which we can’t just Google it. But if the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that the unthinkable can happen. That isn’t to say we need to be doomsdayers or that we need to prepare kids for life off the grid. But giving them at least a passing knowledge of dictionaries and other old-school reference materials might not be a bad idea. While we are at it, let’s teach them how to list and find things alphabetically.

6. Fill out forms properly

There may come a point when no one ever has to write anything by hand again, but even now when so many things are done electronically, many doctors, employers, and schools still require us to fill out forms and applications by hand. While this task might seem simple and self-explanatory, many young people need guidance. They must understand the importance of writing legibly (i.e. in a way that resembles something an adult would write–not a 2nd grader). Not only that, some of them need help to understand what the questions are actually asking. Take, for example, the young man who went to the doctor alone for the first time and responded “mom” in answer to the question, “Who is your primary care provider?”

7. Job and college interview etiquette

Ask anyone who works in HR, and they will tell you. It is astounding- ASTOUNDING- what people don’t know about the interview process. From answering a cell phone during an interview to chewing gum to fidgeting, it seems some basic good-impression skills are missing in our kids’ education. And while it might be a parent’s job to teach things like the importance of eye contact or a firm handshake, there’s more to making a good impression. At the very least, we should be teaching kids what types of questions they might face and how to prepare for an interview.

8. Cursive writing

The debate over cursive writing has been going on for years and the pros and cons of this once-important skill have been debated ad nauseam. But of all the arguments in favor of cursive, perhaps the most compelling has little to do with academics but everything to do with our humanity. People who cannot read cursive risk losing a connection with previous generations. And that’s a shame! For many families, all that is left of their history is a dusty box in the attic full of letters, cards, and personal documents–letters from parents to their children, letters between young lovers, Mother’s Day and Christmas card inscriptions, and notes on the backs of old photos. None of these can ever be “translated” should a generation or two pass without learning how to read cursive.

9. Memorization

Higher-order thinking has been a huge buzzword in education for years. We recognize now more than ever how important it is for students to be able to solve problems, analyze information, and think critically and creatively. Unfortunately, the emphasis on high-order thinking has led some educators and curriculum developers to neglect an important building block in brain development and thinking-readiness–basic memorization. Memorizing is beneficial, even crucial, for children and adults alike. Of course, no one is arguing that education should consist mainly of a set of rote facts and dates. But the ability to memorize information is an important real-world skill and serves as the foundation for high-order thinking.

10. Executive functioning skills

These are the skills we all need to manage our behavior and to succeed as functioning adults or students. There are five basic areas of executive function, and together they enable us to pay attention, move from one mental task to the next, tune out distractions, exhibit self-control, and remember important information. Obviously, executive functioning skills must be developed first and foremost at home. However, while we must be sensitive to developmental and cognitive issues that inhibit executive functioning for some kids, when we fail to hold students accountable for things like due dates, keeping track of their class materials, and following instructions, we prevent them from progressing toward maturity.

Just managing to teach all our standards is a challenge, so it can be tempting for schools to let some of these “fringe skills” slide. However, by mastering these old-school skills, students will be better able to focus and function both in and out of the classroom.

Also Check Out:

Non-Digital, Old-School Skills We Should Be Teaching Our Kids

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Laura Hudgens

Veteran Member

Laura has taught ELA and communication in grades 6-12. She also enjoys writing and taking care of her little flock of chickens. Her little flock of children have all grown or are mostly grown, but she still enjoys taking care of them too.

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