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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Where To Begin?


What is it we want most for our children?

"Begin with the end in mind."
Steven Covey

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

When we think about what we desire for our children many things come to mind. We might include happiness, fulfillment, and personal self-actualization. For our children to reach these goals they will need basic understanding and knowledge. They will require skills and experience on how to manage their lives well. Simply focusing on the academic curriculum of the three R's (reading, writing and 'rithmatic), is insufficient in paving their road to success. As evidenced by our study, youngsters are in dire need of learning the basic skills of life that will allow them to manage the inevitable stressors in their lives. If we are going to improve the success and happiness of our children, and ourselves as well we will need to include formal instruction and practice in emotional intelligence. These skills include communication, stress management, conflict management, time management, relationship building, and personal image management. Each of these topics are areas that we often see lacking in our own families, friends and colleagues. But the focus in schools is often on academics with high-stakes testing and competitive admissions to university. How did we come to teach so many things that have little relevance or bearing on that which matters most? It may have come to pass because we forgot to think of the end. We focused on tests, scores, admissions, and competition. We encouraged, coached and counseled. In some cases we threatened, bribed or intimidated to try to get our kids into good schools or on the right career path. We forgot that in the end success would not be measured or improved by the knowledge or the skills we were teaching. While the basics are necessary they are not sufficient in assuring success in life.

This book then, is designed for counselors, teachers, and parents-all those who love children and desire to help them develop life skills and the strategies to the cope with the many stressors in their lives. It presents a collection of group sessions and activities designed to help students to explore these issues and practice these essential skills. These topics build on each other and we encourage you to proceed through this book in order. This guide is divided into six overarching topics (stress, personal alignment, time management skills, communications skills, relationships, and making transitions). Chapters Two through Seven focus on these items and each chapter is divided into five sections beginning with A Case Study illustrative of the identified topic. Next appears Chapter Goals which outlines the concepts and skills selected for the chapter. The chapter continues with a section entitled Essential Information. This Essential Information section is designed to make the teacher/reader a "resident expert" in the specific topic being discussed. It is important to have read this information before proceeding further in the activities in each chapter. These activities are described in detail in the Group Focus Sessions at the end of each chapter. We envision the teacher/facilitator using these activities by conducting weekly seminars or group focus sessions with groups of students as you address each topic. The Group Focus Session provides a format, background information, a series of activities to teach the skills and understandings, and often one or more Activity Sheets. We also encourage the use of a student journal to allow for in depth learning and reflection opportunities learning for the students. Finally, Additional Resources for further exploration in this life skills curriculum are provided at the end of each chapter.

Although you can follow the topics in order or choose the ones most relevant to your students, the chapters do build on each other. Unless you have another compelling reason to go out of order, we encourage you to proceed through the book in the order it is presented.

The accompanying CD contains blank activity sheets and other materials you may find helpful for your use.

We wish you luck and an enjoyable journey.

Bon voyage!!!

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