Are we teaching our young people how to live after high school? Can we improve on that teaching? Are we missing some of the main lessons of life? Could it be that we are already making a difference in the lives of high school students? As a matter of fact we are. Just take a look at students who are in the ninth grade, and then take a look at the seniors. Is there a difference? You can be sure that the seniors are indeed smarter, more mature, and because they can now see the light at the end of the high school tunnel, they have set their sights on graduating. Yes, we are already making a difference in their lives. With that in mind, it might be good to focus on just what kind of difference we want to make that might be an improvement upon what is already happening. While it is always stressed that we need to be teaching life skills, for some reason that goal seems rarely to be met. Teaching decision making skills, such as the value of choices, the consequences of choices, and the effects our choices have on others, must take a higher priority than it currently does. We also need to teach, with serious enthusiasm, the real value of money, and how to make it work for us. Our students need to see a realistic picture of the world beyond high school, which includes employment, relationships, the community, real hopes and dreams, and realistic goals. We need to cause our students to express their thoughts about marriage and family, politics, careers, war and serving in the military, responsibility to our fellow man, and how right and wrong really does apply to each of us. DECISION MAKING SKILLS: Decision making skills cover a lot of very significant territory in the lives of every individual. Everyone makes hundreds of choices every day. Choices have consequences, both positive and negative. Making wise choices requires a values standard, if one is to be consistent in their lives, and to prevent having to revisit the same choices over and over. Many of the choices we make will have an effect on people around us. We effect our families, our friends, and even our future by the very choices we make. Life is not the game that many think it is while they are in high school. Life's choices will impact, significantly, every part of these students' lives. Some life choices can be altered or even totally reversed. Some cannot. We need to be teaching our high school youth just how important their personal decisions are in their little world, and even the world around them. We need to be teaching them that they are more than just individuals, they are a part of the greater community. They really do become the hope of the nation. They need to get that picture shown to them in a very real and effective way. VALUE OF MONEY: Until now, most everything a student has was given to them. A few have worked and earned their cell phone, or maybe even a car, but without any other bills they have really not learned the value of their earnings. They have not had opportunity to experience having to have a budget. We must be teaching them how their money doesn't spread around to just whatever they want in life. They need to be taught that some things will take priority over others. They will need to know that with college comes meals, books, entertainment money, and a place to live. If they don't learn what to pay for first, they may find out they don't have enough money to pay the rent, or the car payment. We can teach them how to develop a budget, and how to make it work for them. However, we have to make it a life issue, and not a game. It is a real fact that they will need this teaching for their survival. A REALISTIC PICTURE OF THE WORLD: Somehow we need to be able to teach our students, not only how they can impact the world, but how the world impacts them. Even as we speak world economy is effecting all of us. We need to give them realistic demonstrations regarding employment, how to obtain and maintain it. We need to show and teach them, not only that they can be successful, but also show them that promotions and pay increases are usually related to their performance. We must encourage them, and give them illustrations of how people have moved up the ladder of success, sometimes slowly, and even sometimes quickly. We also need to teach them that sometimes their job will be terminated if they don't perform properly, if the company downsizes, or sometimes just because the boss makes the decision to let you go. Life is not always what we might call fair. We need to teach them what a good work ethic looks like, and how important that is. As with behavior, and decision making, we our personal standards will determine our success or failure in most cases. PERSONAL IDEAS, OPINIONS, AND SELF-EXPRESSION: Throughout high school we need to teach our students that they are not like everyone else. They are individuals, with personalities of their own, beliefs of their own, and hopes and dreams of their own. At the same time they are a part of their community. Their community includes family, friends, the city and state, the country and the world. While they are indeed individuals, the world is not build around them. They are a part of the big picture as well. Students need opportunity to express their own ideas, opinions, and beliefs. They need to know that their vote counts, their voice can be heard, and their ideas may be fresh and new and valuable to the community as a whole. While their ideas, and opinions don't necessarily have to be accepted, they may contribute to overall community success. Yes, we can and do make a difference in the lives of our high school students. To take it just one step further, I would like to add that we must hold the standard high. We must not allow, for the sake of our own generation, the standards to be lowered. We prepare a better world for our youth when we maintain an anchor hold to a solid foundation, and at the same time a firm grasp on the standard that will help keep the next generation from sinking and smothering in chaos. We have to try harder to lead the way. We must teach what is so often left out of the curriculum in our schools, values as related to decisions, finances, and the greater picture in the world that our youth will impact either in a positive way, or a negative way. We hold the reigns right now, lets hold tight, and keep on the path to what is right and good, and will prove to be a blessing to the next generation. Just a few thoughts.