Developing social skills and being community-minded

Annie Manning

Annie Manning is a qualified NLP Life Skills Coach and Counsellor including; spiritual healing, bereavement and cognitive behaviour therapies. Annie fully values the importance of a student’s wellbeing, positive intervention and uses these additional communication skills to help coach tutors, parents and students. She runs a blog with tips on mindfulness, avoiding exam stress and promoting support charities in mental health, bereavement and anti-bullying.

She is an experienced freelance report writer, marketing and quality consultant working within Commercial and IT markets, Health, Education and NFP Sectors. Her quality projects have included speaking with schools, universities and researching protocol and purchasing patterns within the LEA nationally. As a marketing manager within IT she dealt with, schools and IDPE members on a daily basis for many years.

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My previous articles on advice for writing personal statements have touched on the importance of students developing their social skills, as well as proving their ability to be responsible by working on community or charity related projects.

As I frequently discuss, or, should I say, debate with professional colleagues from within the education sector...

Not all students are born academics or are necessarily all A* achievers.

These students may not be headed to University, but they all have something to contribute to society and can develop social skills to help them achieve their personal dreams - given the opportunity.

However, the A* students “A local charity’s Christmas party for the elderly has been greatly enhanced by a group of teenagers.”will of course be competing with other equally talented and gifted A* students, so developing social skills and being proactive in their community will certainly be advantageous. Indeed, it is imperative.

Fellow life coach Lorna Chiverton-Hunt and I readily acknowledge that all students are bright with something of value to offer in their own right. What parents and teachers alike soon recognise though is some students will need more encouragement to take on a challenge than others, which may turn out to be the making of them in terms of increased confidence and feeling of self-worth.

Worthwhile schemes

This summer I will be working with teenagers on the National Citizen Service scheme, which is gathering popularity within Secondary schools. The added bonus with this particular scheme is that participants also devise a community project during their four week stint, and get to deliver it too.

As with other schemes, such as the highly successful Duke of Edinburgh Award, students become more motivated and learn to be proactive as part of a team, as well as obtaining something useful to add to their CV and enhance their existing social skills.

A stressful time

We are all aware of the various stresses that students are faced with nowadays, which sadly sometimes culminate in self-harming, anxiety attacks and eating disorders, to name just a few. I was pleased to hear a positive story recently, though, of a young female student who had suffered from anorexia for many years. Her health was in a serious “Developing social skills and being proactive in their community will certainly be advantageous.”condition and her grades were naturally suffering. She started to join in with community activities, and her life has been turned around by enjoying extra curriculum activities - both inside school and externally. Her health improved, grades have now picked up and she is on her way to university this Autumn…excellent!

I guess some would call the above one positive example ‘occupational therapy’, but if we can encourage our students to become involved and contribute, they can not only expand their friendship groups, but start to experience life outside of the school environment. This all aids the huge step they will sooner or later have to take into adult education or the working world.

There are so many charities that can be of use in this area. Not just national organisations, either; there are plenty of smaller, local ones who will happily come into school and discuss their aims and objectives and welcome the opportunity to help shape young minds. The earlier students can ‘participate’ the better and often voluntary work in a connected field to their chosen career path may well help to secure them their week’s work experience placement.

Bridging the age gap

The past few years our local charity’s Christmas tea party for the elderly has been greatly enhanced by a group of teenagers performing musical numbers and, believe it or not, the two ends of the age spectrum have really enjoyed the event. Learning to interact in an environment outside of their comfort zone can be far more rewarding than the students imagine. I congratulate those schools that already encourage students to fundraise and enter into the community spirit in similar events.

As I often post on my blog, I think people can be too quick to judge and criticise the younger generation / young adults. In my opinion, they are less prejudiced, more accepting of others and far more confident than a lot of adults. They certainly seem willing to take on challenges, and as one extremely confident young man known to me states on a regular basis:

“Believe achieve”

Anything we can do to help the next generation reach their potential and fulfil their dreams should be a high priority. They will be making decisions in the future that will affect us too so mould them well.

How do you help your pupils to develop such qualities? Let us know below.

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