Perhaps it matters less what we plan, but more what they see.
Kids are always watching us. No matter how they feel about us (like us or hate us), students notice everything about their teachers down to how often we cut our hair.
If we can assume this, why not try to intentionally infuse some important life skills that will serve them well once they leave our care?
In each of our classroom spaces, opportunities for intentional, implicit learning exists. Consider the working environment skills inherent in collaboration: problem-solving, conflict resolution, creativity, balance, active listening, team building, respect, honesty, patience, reliability, punctuality, commitment, and dedication, just to name a few.
Sometimes we need to point out to kids that all of this is happening.
Consider how you handle a complicated personal situation or conflict between students. Do you step in right away or do you allow the students to find their own solutions, knowing you can step in if necessary? By observing what is going on, perhaps asking if help is needed, but allowing students to work out their own conflicts (provided it isn't physical of course) is another chance to instill valuable life skills.
As educators, we can't put blinders on and accept responsibility for only the content we are charged with teaching; we have a duty to help make better citizens and people who can potentially change the world.
Perhaps my view is idealistic, I'll give that, but I believe that teachers are powerful mentors and conduits for real change. We mostly do our heavy lifting through the relationships we develop and our ability to communicate necessary lessons that can't be learned from textbooks. We must be both human and flawed, but conscious and conscientious about many everyday situations.
For example, I make mistakes constantly. Some are small and easy to shake off, others are fueled by emotion, sometimes stemming from what is before me and other times from invisible outside factors. Acknowledging my mistakes publicly and apologizing where appropriate, teaches my students that it's okay to make mistakes, that there is an appropriate way to treat people when they happen and there is an important lesson to be learned and hopefully not repeated.
So today as you approach your classes or your school communities, ask yourself, "what am I consciously or unconsciously teaching my students? What lessons can be taught through my content or literature or behavior about being a better person?"
What will you choose to adjust after considering these questions? Please share a time when you were able to successfully help students develop important life skills.
*This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in March 2015