As teachers our jobs often extend well beyond just the academic aspect of education. We find ourselves building students’ leadership skills, supporting their social and emotional development, and teaching them what it looks like to be a civic-minded citizen in order to help them thrive beyond the walls of our classrooms.

It’s not always easy, but here are three simple ways to incorporate essential real-world skills into your everyday classroom.

Take Time to Organize, And Make It Fun!

Think about how much organization plays into different aspects of your life. From our calendars at work to our storage drawers at home, staying organized is an essential daily skill that brings us peace and success. And it can bring peace and success to our students as well. It is important to build in class time for students to clean up and organize those desks and binders. Organizing is a great way to take a structured brain break, while still being productive in the classroom. Thinking of creative ways to make students excited about organizing will help this tedious work seem like fun. You can do it on a certain day each week (Fastidious Fridays!), or even play upbeat music while kids clean. For those students who need a little extra organizing time and support, pair students up with a buddy (a Cleaning Companion!) who can help them feel less overwhelmed. Make the organization of your desks, binders, and backpacks a time to bond, have fun, and build a skill that will last a lifetime.

Keep It Positive

When it comes to having a positive attitude, sometimes the oldest tricks work best. When your students have to do something yucky, teach them the old adage: fake it, ‘til you make it! Help them pretend to be excited about things that might get them down, and then next thing you know...that excitement will become real. This might look like playing pump up music before a standardized test and having the students power pose, encouraging them to smile while tackling a challenging writing task, or even encouraging them to say “yessss!!!” no matter what color marker their teammate hands them. Help students flip their brains to think happy thoughts, and sooner or later, they won’t be faking it anymore. This trick will provide them with a skill to forge through even the most challenging of life’s yuckiest tasks.

Value of Self-Advocacy

As adults, we know that there are many times in this life where the only way to get what you need is to speak up! Whether it’s asking for a raise or asking your family for a little more help around the house, it is essential to make our needs heard. Explicitly teach the word advocacy to your students, and provide examples, so they know what it looks like. Practice identifying examples of self-advocacy that you find in reading passages, movies, group work, and even on the playground. Then, when students begin to speak up for themselves, reward that decision with positive verbal reinforcement.  Creating students who can advocate for themselves will help give them agency in their futures, and make them powerful forces in academia, in employment, and in life.