So no one told you life was gonna be this way? Well, neither did school. These are the vital life skills I think schools should teach.
Sure, I know how to solve x with y. But how much of what I learnt in school do I apply in my daily life other than the fundamentals? Our primary and secondary school years play a substantial role in moulding us academically and socially. But I wish I’d picked up nifty life skills as part of my school curriculum – perhaps it’d have spared me some of life’s hard knocks! Here are the life lessons I think schools should teach. (Disclaimer alert: these are all based on my own personal experiences.)
Life skills 101:
1. Financial security is more than just saving money
If you’re anything like me and can’t seem to wrap your brain around math, managing finances is probably your most mundane activity. Putting a dollar or two into my piggy bank was the extent of my financial knowledge as a kid. I’d make purchases left and right without keeping track.
Yes, the importance of saving money emerged naturally with time and guidance from my parents. But I wish the concept of budgeting and planning (plus financial jargon!) was explained in layman terms at school so adulting wouldn’t feel like such a culture shock. After all, personal finance is an inescapable aspect of life. It’s essential to have at least a basic understanding of it at an impressionable age.
2. Junk food or healthy lifestyle?
Confession: I live for fried food (cue all the crunching). Having that in excess didn’t matter when I was younger because I thought being healthy meant going to the extreme end of following meatless, vegan or keto diets. The basic health lessons in class didn’t exactly encourage me to take on a healthier diet either.
It didn’t dawn on me that learning how to read and identify food labels, eating smart and understanding what I put into my body were simple steps to a nutritious lifestyle. Those lessons would’ve definitely made a change more than colourful infographics and bulletin board nutritional information at school canteens.
3. Being in tune with your emotions
Some of the pressing social issues today like racism and sexuality can be chalked up to emotional intelligence. Becoming in tune with my emotions came with a lot of effort. Controlling “weak” emotions like crying was constantly drilled into our psyche, preventing us from acknowledging and expressing our raw emotions. Truth be told, the effects are never favourable.
Here’s where empathy comes into play. I’ve always felt that understanding others’ emotions was as crucial as understanding my own. Being able to read the room and being aware of the emotions at play are social skills that can help diffuse conflicts.
4. “Mind” your health
Mental health is the overarching umbrella of self-awareness and emotional intelligence skills. Long overlooked in schools and only talked about when things escalate, there’s still a stigma surrounding it. The recent River Valley High School case encapsulates the importance of mental health. Despite the attention it gets today, it’s still a taboo subject amongst many.
Practising mindfulness and knowing how to identify when things take a toll on me are some of the essential life skills I wish schools taught. Today, I’ve realised that being comfortable with sharing my feelings lightens my mental load. Just imagine a world where everyone is open with their feelings at a young age without feeling judged!
5. Are you aware of yourself?
Do you really know who you truly are? Perhaps developing a strong sense of self-awareness would’ve helped me battle my self-esteem adversities while growing up. I remember reflection homework days from school. But let’s be real, they didn’t encourage a deeper look for a better understanding of my personality and issues.
We were told to obey rules way more than listen to ourselves. There was no other location that challenged my self-worth more than school. Being more self-aware as a student would’ve helped us set boundaries, say no when necessary and save ourselves from the trap of “fitting into a clique” just to be liked.
6. It’s not all about sex
Was the sex ed we learnt in school enough? Those abstinence-only lessons often took a shaming tone instead of emphasising the importance of knowing when to make that mature decision. Besides, there’s so much more to learn when it comes to forging romantic relationships.
I’ve had enough experiences watching friends having their hearts broken countless times in their efforts to find “the one”. Sure, life doesn’t come with a manual. But teaching us how to identify red flags, toxic traits, misogyny, and toxic masculinity can help us figure out when a relationship is worth the fight and when it’s not.
7. Be the karate kid of your life
Safety is a basic human need. But I’ve noticed an innate need to depend on others for that feeling before I trust my own reflexes. Learning self-defence can be a life-saving skill along with other non-physical benefits like being more assertive, confident and alert. Aces Day was fun and all but having a little situational awareness and mastering a move or two would’ve made standing up for myself a lot more instinctive.
8. All work and no play makes you dull
Remember the “work hard, play hard” mantra? They told us that, only to give us endless homework after a long day of school. Co-curricular activities were regulated to avoid distractions from studying more than reinforce the need for leisurely breaks. To be honest, even now I find myself feeling guilty for taking breaks (that I deserve!) despite having a pro work-life balance culture here at Honeycombers. Hitting pause really does refuel me to get back on track.
9. The art of negotiation: let’s agree to disagree
No, this isn’t about bargaining to purchase your favourite fish for a lower price in the market. It carries a greater purpose of being able to meet people halfway. There are so many sticky situations we face that can be resolved if we’d just allow a little constructive negotiation. Classes would’ve been an ideal setting for that. It’s a skill to build relationships that strengthen despite our differences, don’t you think?
10. Relax, it’s okay not to have everything figured out
Aren’t we all guilty of that? I know I am! I wake up every day trying to be a better person, looking forward to having it all mapped out by a certain time in the future. Schools always encouraged such thinking. But who am I kidding? You’re not supposed to have it all together by the time you hit 21 or 30 or 40. Life’s a process and so is growth. Sometimes, we just need to gently push ourselves to do our best and learn to accept the outcome. ‘Cos at the end of the day, (say it with me) everything happens for a reason.
DM us @Honeycombers if you have other life lessons you think schools should’ve taught you!