Since life skills fail to seep into children by osmosis, Greg Lanners teaches life’s basics to his middle school students.
“I see every kid in the school,” Lanners said.
The required class, called Choices and Challenges, teaches expectations, advises against drugs, and imbeds social values.
Lanners focuses on decision-making, conflict resolution and responding to peer pressure. His students punctuate roll call with “sirs.”
“I ask my sixth grade students what, and I ask my seventh grade students why,” Lanners said. By eighth grade, he expects students to “show me.”
One recent morning, sixth-graders and police officers gathered for a Project Alert Class. The police, acting as student resource officers, educated children on the perils of vices.
True or false? It takes at least one year of smoking cigarettes to become addicted. The answer: False. One can become addicted after four or five days of smoking one cigarette each day.
Beyond traditional peer pressure, Lanners said he must teach students about resisting internal pressure. For instance, if a student is standing around with a group of friends who are smoking, the student may wonder, “everyone else is doing it. Should I?”
“If I teach them to stop and think for 30 seconds, then I’ve done my job,” Lanners said.
The classes engage in role-playing, and are generally required to discuss how they make decisions or why something is right or wrong.
During another class period, high school peer counselors quizzed Lanners’ students on the definition of self-esteem — “the way you feel about yourself,” one student responded — and different modes of communication — eye contact among them.
For the high schoolers, teaching the youngsters similarly imbeds the life lessons, Lanners said. Teaching allows a deep learning experience.
Another day, life skills students engaged in a true or false test of knowledge — this time about handguns. With yes/no questions concerning whether the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to possess a gun or if strong federal gun control laws will reduce gun death and injury, Lanners says the goal is to educate students on the potential severity of guns.
“We don’t want these kids to be snitches,” Lanners said. However, students can help officers avoid disaster by alerting an adult if another student brings a gun on campus.
Lanners said the benefits of his life skills class are non-quantifiable.
“It’s my opinion that it does not only help the school, but the community,” he said.
By urging discussion, Lanners wants to engage his students in a high level of learning.
With school funding an ever-present issue, Lanners fears for the program’s future because the results are non-quantifiable.
“I see it more in the child than on paper,” Lanners said. But for Lanners, the skill of life, quantifiable or not, is the most important of all.